In this episode, we look at France’s integral role in the American Revolution, what caused the French Revolution that happened around the same time, and how if you ever want to get to the bottom of something all you have to do is follow the money.
The French Revolution went on for over 10 years and had an everlasting impact on the way we run society across the world.
In this episode, we look at what caused the French Revolution, the money issues that came out of such an unstable time and how taxes used to work in the British colonies…
“If you want to grow your wealth, understanding tax law and learning how to navigate them the best you can, it will help you give less to the government and keep more in your pocket.” – Ben Jones
00:35 – The true meaning of freedom.
01:12 – France’s independence day.
02:01 – How the French helped in the American revolution.
03:49 – Some strange taxes that used to exist.
04:16 – The tax in the colonies and the issue of taxation without representation.
05:46 – The rise of enlightenment and rational thinking.
07:03 – The money issues during the French revolution.
09:35 – The cost of war and what kings do when they’re in debt.
Connect with Ben Jones:
DAD: Welcome back to Money with Mak & G. Thanks for being here. I hope everyone had a wonderful fourth of July holiday on the lake, in your backyard, at the pool, or just chilling at your house. The weather was pretty fantastic, and the tan continues to keep deeper, darker, and more savage (Roar), whatever that means.
It always feels like the fourth is simply a celebration of summer. But, when you’re old like me, you start to think deeper (or so I think) about stuff. Freedom, what does that mean? I can tell you from all my travels, I have taken our freedom for granted. I remember being in Korea and seeing the DMZ or demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. That’s the line put in place after the Korean war. There’s no military allowed between the two countries. If you’ve ever read stories about North Korea, there aren’t a lot of freedoms going on there. That’s thanks to Kim Jong-un who is a North Korean politician and has been Supreme Leader of North Korea since 2011. But, I digress.
It’s no secret I spent a lot of time in France, where I went to school in Brittany and worked in Paris and Tours, and fell in love with some of the stinkiest and most delicious cheeses (chevre bleu) on the planet. The French with all their flaws, just like us Americans, have a much longer history than we do. But, did you know their independence day actually occurred 13 years and 10 days AFTER ours? The actual day was July 14th, 1789. In French, July is “Juillet”, and the 14th is “Quatorze”, so you say Quatorze Juillet. It always sounded like a cat rowing a boat with oars. Cat oars. It’s also referred to as Bastille Day. We’ll get to that.
Ok, so who cares about the French. They have wine, they have cheese, lots of vacation, they love to go on strikes, and may not always be viewed in a positive light all the time. But, the fourth of July, yes OUR Fourth of July would’ve NEVER been possible without the French. That’s right, those beret-wearing, stinky cheese-eating, amazing art-making French were our friends.
I think we all know a bit about what’s been going on in Ukraine because it’s been the subject or two of a couple of podcasts. We know that other countries, of which America is the biggest financial supporter, are helping Ukraine. Well, guess what the French did in the American Revolution? Yes, they helped US. Without them, yes, without them, there would be no Fourth of July.
France provided the money, troops, weapons, military leadership, and naval support that helped in such a big way that the military power moved in favor of the colonies and paved the way for our ultimate victory. Sounds a little Ukraine “ish” doesn’t it?
So, we talk about money on this podcast. We want to focus on personal, but in my humble opinion, knowing a bit more about money, the economy, and how money plays a role in many things we do, it will all circles back to our personal situation.
Therefore, let me show you the MONEY!!! There was the “shot heard round the world”, and that’s when the lobsterbacks, who were the British dressed in red, and the Minutemen, who were the fighters in the US, known as the colonists at the time, shot at each other in Massachusetts. By the way, who wears bright red in a battle anyway? Talk about a TARGET. Hey, maybe that’s where Target got its red circle logo??
I’ve always found taxes fascinating. Why did a Caesar charge tax on urine? Yes, urine. What about charging a tax on cow farts? It’s out there. Plus, if you want to grow your wealth, understanding the tax law and learning how to navigate them the best you can, it will help you give less to the government. It’s important stuff. It’s not boring, and everybody hates to pay them.
I have read that the tax in the colonies really wasn’t that heavy a burden, but it was a platform of how those taxes were being implemented that actually, excuse my language, pissed off the colonists. The whole cry for “Taxation without Representation” is Tyranny. We talked about the East India Company, and how it had a monopoly on tea and didn’t have the same tax as other traders. It made it impossible to compete with them. That was an issue, but you add the stamp tax and I think a sugar tax and some other items, and now you have a fight.
The king wanted to tax the colonies because it needed money. It expanded the empire’s imperial holding which left it with MASSIVE debt. Hey, this is a personal lesson to learn. If you take on too much debt, it usually causes problems.
Our old friend Benjamin Franklin actually went to France in the early part of the Revolution as the official diplomat and ambassador for the thirteen colonies. He was someone who came as a man of maturity, brilliance, and ability as a world statesman. He spent years there and annoyed the British minister. Let’s call it ill-will between the British and French. We needed their help. It was one of those “enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing. So, the French wanted to back us because they often fought with the British.
But, interestingly enough, many people in France, especially the nobility were really engaged in something called the Enlightenment. It was an intellectual movement which means using your brain. It liked logic and deep thinking about stuff. The French were inspired by new ideas about how society SHOULD work, how to be rational, and figure out stuff. They liked the logical insights science gave and just enjoyed how progress within the world worked. They thought the colonies with their new form of government embodied some of these new, enlightened ideas.
Wow, isn’t that cool. And, check this out. Totally new to me. I have to be careful as you can’t believe everything you read online, but this next part seems true. We know the French gave us weapons. There were some colonists who were wearing French-made uniforms, they fought alongside French soldiers, and there were times the French were engaged with the British and we weren’t even there. Isn’t that nuts??
So, money problems, based on debt, pushed the issue with tax, we didn’t have enough money to fight the fight, got help from France, and won. But, what about France having a revolution AFTER ours? Any money issues there? Well, I’m glad you asked.
The Quatorze Juillet, as I mentioned is also known as Bastille Day. It was the beginning of the end of the Monarchy. You know, down with the King and Queen. The Bastille was a jail. You would think they wanted to free those wrongfully imprisoned or to just set free more common people. It WAS a symbol like the Nike Swoosh is a symbol for athletics and a way of life. The Bastille symbolized how crappy the King and Queen ran the country, imprisoned people, and did bad things. It was a call for Liberte, Equality, and a more democratic government, and not running the country as a King and Queen saw fit.
But, the people actually stormed the Bastille because it had ammunition and weapons. Hey, you can’t fight for a revolution with pitchforks, right? You need MONEY. Or, steal what money buys. Supposedly, there were 30,000 pounds of gunpowder stored at the Bastille. You talk about an explosive way to start a revolution. There you have one.
The French Revolution was about changing how the government was run, and how society worked. How do we vote in people to make decisions, and how should we treat people. Should we treat them like dirt, or help them?
The French revolution actually lasted 10 years from 1789 to 1799. I always think of Marie Antoinette for some reason. She was the last queen of France and she was married to King Louis the 16th (the last king). She supposedly said, “let them eat cake”. Her English wasn’t that good, so she said “Qu’ils mangent de la Brioche”. Funny, enough it doesn’t seem like she was the one who said that at all, and it actually means let them eat a bread called Brioche, which you can get today.
It was supposedly said by a “great princess” when this princess was told that the peasants had no bread. Brioche was considered a luxury food that was enriched with butter and eggs. It showed that the princess didn’t understand that those who were very poor couldn’t afford Brioche or that they were starving. So, if King Louis and Marie Antoinette spent all kinds of money on stupid stuff, it’s easy to see why she was pegged with that quote, even though it was traced to being written years before.
Maybe the quote should be “Let them have debt”. To be a bit fair, Louis inherited debt from prior kings, which hadn’t always spent wisely either. There was that 7-year war that ended in 1763. It was essentially France and Great Britain at each other’s throats with allies on each side. Wars are EXPENSIVE. Isn’t that crazy? Lots of money was being spent on this stuff. But, Louis also spent foolishly. He did give his wife Marie a $40 million necklace. He really wanted total power and that cost money to get the nobles in line too. So, what happens when you have debt? You have to pay it back. Note to self, stay away from huge debt. Am I repeating myself?
Taxes had to go up to pay back the debt. The price of basic food, like bread, DOUBLED for the peasants. But, bread was a bit different from today. It was a HUGE part of the poor and working classes’ basic food. It took about HALF of their entire income just for the read. When compared to stuff like fuel to run a fire, that was 5% and bread took 10 times that amount. So, bread was a touchy financial topic.
You have a Queen that wasn’t liked, who may have spent nights dancing, gambling, and having fun. Supposedly, she once bought a set of diamond bracelets that cost as much as a mansion in Paris. So, she wasn’t making any brownie points and the press blasted her. In 1793 with the debt, spending, and problems with the economy King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette lost their heads literally. Dr. Guillotine created the famous Guillotine. It all happened at the Place de la Concorde. Over 1,100 executions happened there. The logistics were interesting. I’ll leave it at that. If you’re ever in France, make sure to walk the Champs Elysee and see the Place de La Concorde. And, you can remember “Louis the last”.
I’ve said it before, follow the money, and you’ll better understand why things happened the way they did. Another lesson to put in your arsenal when thinking about money and how it works.
We’ll see you next week for more Money With Mak & G!!! BYE!!!