Were people of Third Estate rich?

Were people of Third Estate rich?

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Till now I had the view that Third Estate was of mostly peasants and small tradesman and consequently had low economy but today I found these lines in Interpreting the French Revolution by Francois Furet

Was the French Revolution indeed inevitable? In order to view it as such, all one has to do is reconstitute the flow of the movement toward it and that of the resistance it encountered and then set up, precisely in 1789, the shock that resolved the contradiction. On one side one places a stupid monarchy and an egotistical nobility, linked by common interests as well as by reactionary policies and ideologies. One the other, the rest of civil society, led, indeed carried along, by a rich, ambitious and frustrated bourgeoisie.

I have assumed that by “bourgeoise“ he meant the Third Estate, but were those people rich?

The Third Estate was basically everyone except the clergy and the nobility. Therefore it also had rising merchants in it who became rich by their trade. These are the people who are commonly called the bourgeoisie. The lower classes often choose them as their leaders during rebellions.

You have to understand that in the early middle ages, wealth didn't determine you status. Herritage and social prestige did it which expressed itself in the classes of nobility and clergy. Money was not that important and making a lot of money with trade was often condemmed as fraudulent by the church. The activities of the merchants were heavily regulated and kind of suppressed. That they became politically powerful only evoled over time as culture began to change together with commercialisation and the development of money, trade and the banking system.

Off the top of my head, three well known leaders of the Jacobins are:

  • Maximilien Robespierre: Lawyer

  • Georges Danton: Lawyer

  • Jean-Paul Marat: Physician (informal) and Journalist

Having sufficient means as to allow extended stays in Paris during the Estates General was not common; so yes, in general the representatives of the Third Estate tended to be both men of both social standing and good income.

The financial means necessary to attend varied of course with distance from Paris, but as today those selected to represent the third Estate tended to be those of greater than average social standing, in turn generally associated with being well-off and well-known.

Watch the video: The Estates General of 1789 French Revolution: Part 2