THE MODERN HISTORY of France and its liberal heritage could be said to begin with the revolution in May 1789. For the first time in French history, the middle class and the common people began to mount an effective challenge toward the king, nobility, and clergy who had dominated their lives. In France, the first estate was the nobility, the second the clergy, and the third estate what Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto(1848) called the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the working class. Because of the way that the first and second estates, in alliance with the monarchy, controlled France, the real financial burden for the country rested upon those who could often afford it the least: members of the third estate. Vladimir I. ...

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