Research On How Governments Gain Citizen Support
What causes an individual or group to stand up to a leader or government? History is proven that when people want a change, they will fight to get it, no matter the cost. And there are many similarities in the motivations and causes of these revolts and uprisings. The three main reasons people or countries such as the United States, France, and Haiti have stood up to their leader or government in the form of uprising and revolution is because of the lack of control and say in economics with taxes, politics, and social laws.
Firstly, governments are not able to succeed without a stable economic system, where many countries’ governments use taxes on its citizens as a means of achieving economic growth. But revolutions such as the American revolution, French Revolution, and Haitian Revolution were motivated by the misuse of taxes and aggressive prices that citizens had to pay; where they felt they didn’t get anything in return.
In 18th century colonial America, Britain needed money to pay for its war debts from the 7 Years’ War, and the King and Parliament believed they had the right to tax the colonies. But numerous high priced taxes became too much for the American colonists who were already struggling to make ends meet in a demanding and unfamiliar land. For example, the Stamp Act passed in 1765, required the use of a special embossed tax stamp for all legal documents. In addition, there were the Townsend Acts, passed in 1767, which required the colonists to pay taxes on imported goods like tea that were very popular among colonial citizens. Moreso than the taxes themselves, speaking out against the injustice of too many harsh taxes only brought the colonies more debt as Britain continued to pile on more Acts. It is understandable to want change when you voice your financial concerns in hopes of being able to afford to live in a new country, only to have your problems worsen without any consideration being taken to what you say.
Similarly, in the 18th century, France was one of the highest-taxing states in Europe. Taxes varied based on your social class; with more harsh taxes being placed on lower/middle class citizens who made up the majority of the population. According to alphahistory.com, “the Ancien Régime’s taxation regime was excessive, inefficient and unfair. Peasants paid a land tax to the state and a 5% property tax.’ In addition, according to lumenlearning.com, “Peasants were also obligated to their landlords for rent in cash, a payment related to their amount of annual production, and taxes on the use of the nobles’ mills, wine-presses, and bakeries.” Focusing the largest part of taxes on citizens who already struggle to make a living in the country not only hurt the economic growth of that country, but also frustrate the largest part of the country’s population who is having to pay the price. People don’t feel like it is worth it to pay a tax, or follow a government at all, if they feel they are being treated unequally. Citizens of nobility should not take priority over lower class citizens who make up more of the country’s population, yet France treated its citizens in that manner, inspiring revolution and change that eventually came to its citizens that fought for years to reach it.
France never learned the consequences of forcing harsh taxes on lower class citizens following its own nation’s revolution, imposing very similar, and sometimes worse, taxes on the citizens on Haiti in the late 18th century who were owned by France at the time. It became a parallel relationship to that of the United States and Britain, where requests were going unanswered and the treatment and taxing of citizens was only getting worse. For example, France held control over the most prosperous colonial economy of the world, Saint Domingue, which produced over 60% of the words coffee and 40% of the world’s sugar. Both products had become cash crops, as in crops exclusively made for profit as nobody lived on either of the products. But little to no money was being brought to Haiti from the hard work it takes to produce coffee and sugar and was instead being given to France who had complete control over the economics of the Haitian population. Between all three examples of extreme taxes and unfair economic control of these country’s citizens, it is apparent that there was a lack of communication from a financial aspect between the governments and their citizens that resulted in extreme tensions.
In Haiti’s case specifically, not being rewarded for hard work is justifiable for the want of revolution. With a country that consisted of a large portion of slave citizens who would work to the brink of death in some cases, watching all of the profit of that work being given to people who did nothing to earn it is justification of the desire for uprising and revolution.
Secondly, an aggressive hold on the political world of countries such as the United States, France, and Haiti acted as another major motivator for uprising and revolution. In the pre-revolutionary colonies, the British monarchy had control over the laws and decisions made for the colonists. Therefore, when people started to desire making decisions for themselves, the King saw that as a threat and began to impose more control which only made matters worse. A clear example of this political constraint on the 18th century colonies is the creation and enforcement of the Intolerable acts, specifically, the Quartering Act. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Quartering Act required “colonial authorities to provide food, drink, quarters, fuel, and transportation to British forces stationed in their towns or villages.”
There is a big difference between willing and forced hospitality. While many colonists would gladly allow their home to a British soldier, many didn’t get a chance to think or decide before it became law that they had to. Forcing someone to live and act a certain way, along with having extra mediums of supervision from an outside government that has already been causing conflict in the past can be seen as justification for uprising and the forming of new government in the colonies. This can be applied to any nation, group, or individual person regardless of who or where they are.
Additionally in post revolutionary France, citizens had little to no say in laws that were created and enforced on the country. France was under the rule of a monarch that viewed itself as the “representatives of God”. According to historydiscussion.net, Kings at the time such as Louis XIV – XVI created laws that no one could push back or try to change such as the Letter de Catchet where “they arrested any person at any time and imprisoned them. They paid no attention towards their subjects.” In some cases such as with Louis XV, “France became bankrupt due to over expenditure in wars and luxury.” A nation’s citizens, or anyone for that matter, won’t follow a leader or group if they don’t believe to have their best interest at heart. In France’s case, they were under the rule of a King who ignored the needs in its citizens, only focusing on the 7 Years War and France greatly suffered for it. Bankruptcy for the country could have arguably been avoided if they had a government that balanced where and funds went toward and when to stop before something bad happened. The only way change is going to occur if action is taken, and this major political imbalance of the monarchy and citizens was valid inspiration to begin the revolution.
Thirdly, Haiti’s political system mimicked the American colonies in that it was completely controlled by an outside nation, in this case, France. With the new government changes in France’s leaders after their revolution, the nation’s citizens gained new rights including the right to vote. According to the San Jose State University Department of Economics, “The colonial administrators in Haiti refused to grant those rights to mulattoes (the black citizens in Haiti which make up the majority of the population) and the mulattoes rebelled in 1790.” Being able to voice your opinions is a basic human right, and France’s exclusion of Haitian citizens from voting is enough reason to fight back. It is incredibly degrading and destructive to treat others as if they have less value because you “claimed their land” and you should stand up if this happens to you or anyone you know, and that inspired Haiti to do the same.
Lastly, our world’s past (and in some cases currently), conflicts and mistreatment based around social issues such as class, race, and gender are definite causes for revolution in countries such as the United States, France, and Haiti and among others as well. While it may be a less extreme case of social conflicts that lead to revolution, the pre revolutionary colonies had significant issues when it came to the social aspect of living in a yet to be independent country. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, the colonies were under British rule, making the colonists subordinates to the monarchy and, especially, the King. While the issue of racism and gender inequality had not yet come to light for the colonies, social class and the mistreatment of citizens by British soldiers was quite evident pre revolution. While there will always be someone who may be better or a “superior”, that does not justify cruel treatment of those viewed as lesser than. But it does justify uprising.
Similarly in 18th century France, the way the country ran was solely based on the monarchy and King, where decisions and laws could be made with no say, as French citizens were all deemed to be a lower class and less important. According to Alpha History, “French society was divided into three estates or orders…and Third Estate (commoners)…Regardless of their property and wealth, members of the Third Estate were subject to inequitable taxation and were politically disregarded by the Ancien Régime.” All citizens do not necessarily have to have the same privileges if they are not deserving of it, but it is at least logical to think that everyone should be treated with basic human rights if they’ve done nothing wrong. Not having a voice in what happens to the country you live in, then to be treated poorly by that same government can be seen in many other instances and is often used as reason for revolution.
Lastly in Haiti, in addition to the social inequalities that mirror that of France and the colonies, there was also the added aspect of racism between the French government and the mainly black population of Haiti. According to the University of Miami essay “Social Triggers of the Haitian Revolution” by David Rand, the mainly black population of Haiti were all considered to be slaves. “Slaves in Haiti were legally considered to be property of the public and with little choice, yielded obedience.” As slavery has been abolished in many Western civilizations including France, it is safe to say they believe that human beings are not property. But it took revolution of other nations, such as Haiti that were under France’s rule at the time, to stand up to that ideology fueled by racism.
In conclusion, you can look at many other examples apart from the United States, France, and Haiti to find that the lack of control and say in economics with taxes, politics, and social laws are almost always the biggest inspiration for political uprising and revolution. An overall mistreatment of a nation’s citizens, or between any two or more people can justify the desire to fight back. While a country does need economic, political, and social stability to survive, it is better to at least listen to concerns made by others and see if compromise can be reached. Currently in the United States, tensions are high between many citizens and President Trump. You can look to this very scenario that is unfolding before our eyes and make connections on what the government is doing and how the citizens feel and decide for yourself if revolution and uprising are just around the corner.
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