In the 18th century like other countries of Europe, France was also ruled by the autocrats of the Bourbon dynasty who had faith in autocratic rule, central administration, privileged nobility, exploited commoners, the corrupt church etc.
All these symptoms of Ancient Regime were present in France before the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, and they could be held responsible for contributing to this significant event of the history of Europe.
The following defects in the administration of France made the outbreak of revolution all the more inevitable.
Defects in Ancient Regime
1. The administrative system of France was very defective. The king of France enjoyed unlimited power under his autocratic rule. By 1660, there was no control upon the rights of the king by the nobility, church or any institution of the state.
The only institution of Medieval Age, the Estates General, had also become moribund as no meeting of the Estates General had taken place after 1615.
2. The king regarded himself to be representative of God on earth and believed in the theory of ‘Divine Right’. He did not consider himself responsible to anybody for his actions. His will was law.
He had the absolute right to appoint any person on the highest or the lowest post. Only the judges of Parliament were free to give their decisions.
Even the ordinance issued by the king could not be executed without the approval of the Parliament of Paris; but if he gave any order in the court by his own presence, then the judges had no right to oppose it. Thus the Parliament of Paris had a slight control on the unrestrained powers of the king.
3. The king used to take help of his ministers and the allied committee for the smooth running of administration. The most famous of these committees was the financial committee.
The king used to decide the annual tax in consultation with his officers and get the taxes realised by the contractors.
He had a right to spend any amount according to his will out of the collected revenue. Power of waging war or concluding treaty with any country was also vested in the king. Thus, the king wasomnipotent.
4. The king had the fullest control over the subjects. He could imprison or punish any person with the help of letters de cachet. Any individual could be imprisoned for indefinite period with the help of these letters.
These letters generally remained in possession of the minister and faithful officials of the kings; and they generally misused these warrants for their personal hatred and quarrels. Thus, the entire administration of France was autocratic and corrupt.