By themselves, neither the philosophes of the High Enlightenment nor the muck-rakers of Grub Street could have toppled the old regime. Once the regime had begun to totter for other reasons, however, they did get the chance to make their presence felt. It came at the end of the 1780s. On 20 August 1786 the luckless controller-general of finances of the day, Calonne, went to tell Louis XVI that the financial situation was critical. There was an annual deficit of about a hundred million livres on a total revenue of just 475 million; the third vingtieme, established with considerable difficulty in 1782, was due to expire in 1787; 1,250 million livres had been borrowed since 1776 and it had become very difficult to raise more, even at prohibitive rates of interest. Only radical reform could stave off total collapse .
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- Impact: the Revolution
T. C. W. Blanning
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