• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Enlightenment laid the foundations of the French Revolution

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Contention: The Enlightenment laid the foundations of the French Revolution, but it was the political ambitions and dissatisfactions of the bourgeoisie combined with the violent outbursts of protests from the neglected and downtrodden peasants that truly set the Revolution in motion and allowed for change. It is 1789 and the French peasants are deeply unhappy. Famine plagues them, the tyranny of their oppressive landlords keeps them tied to the land as secondary citizens, and crop production has been poor. The urban poor are suffering from a faltering economy and steadily depreciating wages. The middle class bourgeoisie are in the meanwhile unsatisfied with the current state of taxation and the immense privileges that their noble counterparts enjoy. Events come to head in a violent eruption as grievances are aired with the storming of the Bastille and the more diplomatic yet still volatile Oath of the Tennis Court. The seeds for the Revolution had long before been sown with the ideas of the Enlightenment, yet the theories and ideas developed during that period had yet to be put into action for they lacked a driving passion and force behind them. The middle class's frustration over the antiquated class distinctions that dictated society led to diplomatic rebellion, and when a deadlock occurred in the National Assembly, the violent demonstrations favored by the starving and struggling peasant and urban poor help to keep the momentum of the movement going, thus the actions of the middle class play off of one another, combining to set in motion a chain of events only to end with the glorious French Revolution. "The Enlightenment was the belief that men would live with greater happiness and dignity if their social institutions were determined by what was considered reasonable or scientific rather than regulated by prescription" (Norman Hampson 195). This Enlightenment, or belief, challenged many of the traditional aspects of French society, rejected the ideas of religious persecution, and assumed many natural rights such as freedom of speech, and freedom from arbitrary arrest. ...read more.

Middle

So, they tried to improve their status by becoming land owners themselves. By 1789, the bourgeoisie controlled 20% of all the land. They were upwardly mobile, but they felt frustrated and blocked by the aristocracy, an aristocracy whose only interest was that everyone maintain their place in society (Waldman). By 1789, the bourgeoisie had numerous grievances they wished addressed. They sought a Parliament that would make all the laws for the nation. They desired a constitution that would limit the king's powers. They also desired fair trials, religious toleration and vast administrative reforms. They wanted all Church, army and government positions open to men of talent and merit, as politics and the upper offices of the clergy were a closed arena to the frustrated upper crust of the middle class who dreamed of political power and sweeping legislation that would finally break down the now obsolete legal class distinctions that curbed their every desire (Waldman). When Louis the XVI's financial advisors tried to pass new legislation, which would tax the nobles in order to save the country from financial ruin, the nobles vetoed the taxes and proclaimed that in order for such new measures to be allowed the King must call for a meeting of the Estates General. With the planned meeting the bourgeoisie saw a chance to finally have their voices heard as they would refuse to revert back to the old manner of seating when it came time for the Estates General to meet, instead vowing that all should sit together as one house (Palmer and Colton 368). However, the Parlement of Paris paid no mind to the plan of the bourgeoisie when it ruled in September that the Estate's General would in fact sit as it had before, in separate houses. This unexpected action gave rise to an angry bourgeoisie who immediately blamed the aristocracy for this rather unfavorable turn of events. ...read more.

Conclusion

In this legislation, France asserted its right over Rome to appoint its own bishops and priests. As expected, the action angered Pope Pius VI, who denounced the revolution as godless (Palmer and Colton 370). In September, a Constitutional Monarchy was established in France. The King remained the head of state, but all law making power was placed in the hands of the National Assembly which was to be elected by the upper half of all French males. When Maximilien Robespierre, a then obscure provincial lawyer and member of the National Assembly read the constitution he declared, "The Revolution is over." And so it was. The Revolution that followed the dissolvation of the Consituent Assembly, formerly the National assembly was a different Revolution, driven by different ideals and passions than it's predecessor. The first liberal Revolution began with the ideals of the Enlightenment, progressed through the Bourgeoisie Oath of the Tennis Court fueled by discontent within the middle class, gained momentum from the various uprisings of the masses, and ended with the Constitution of 1791. Even in such a short time period, the revolutionaries were able to achieve much while striving to fulfill their ideals of liberty and equality. Feudalism and serfdom were abolished, the church was nationalized, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, called the "embodiment of the Revolution" by Georges Lefebvre was issued, the church property was seized to save the country from financial ruin, the Constitution of 1791 was drawn up and a unicameral legislature was set up, and France was divided into 83 departments to make for easy governance. (Pink Monkey). Robespierre was correct in proclaiming, "The Revolution is over, " for the "most constructive and lasting reforms were in place, and nothing substantial in the way of liberty and equality would be gained in the next generation" (McKay 707). The ideals of the liberal revolution with their foundation in the Enlightenment had expired, and the passion of the discontented members of the third estate had done all it could to further the concepts of liberty and equality. . ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree 1700-1799 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree 1700-1799 essays

  1. Through examining the historians Georges Lefebvre and Alfred Cobban, what are the underlying factors ...

    His interest in the social-pyschological, (the social or collective mentality) element of history is evident in his examination of class struggle. He argued that the abolition of feudalism was brought about by the discontent of peasantry against the remnants of feudalism which took the form of fiefs, attached with countless

  2. Is the Cultural Revolution best characterised as a top-level power struggle or a mass ...

    Those deemed to originate from the bad classes were criticised and accused of being 'white experts, not reds' (Chan et al, 1980, 415). As a result, not only did this atmosphere create serious antagonism between students of opposing class backgrounds but also nurtured urgency to express one's political convictions and dedication to the Communist cause.

  1. Were The Causes Of The French Revolution Mainly Short Term?

    Thus the general assumption had been that the revolution marked the rise of the bourgeoisie and the triumph of capitalism. However this has been downplayed by more recent historians such as Cobban in 'the Social Interpretation of the Revolution'. Cobban disagreed that the bourgeois revolution was driven by the rich

  2. The Bolsheviks did not seize power in October 1917, it fell into their hands

    The working class had decided for itself the way in which it wished to be ruled and unfortunately for the Provisional Government it was on soviet principles. These episodes highlighted how weak and ineffectual dual power was. Huge areas of the country simply governed how they saw fit, with the Provisional Government helpless to stop them.

  1. “The French Revolution was simply a product of Enlightenment thought.” How accurate is this ...

    the scope of this essay but it is can certainly be said that the simplicity of Barruel's explanation may well have been a result of his close proximity to the actual event. The flow of ideas to the masses was also a common theme amongst the next generation of 19th century revisionist historians.

  2. Was the industrial Revolution a good thing?

    Now that I have explored the bad changes that took place between 1750 and 1900, I will explore some of the many good changes that took place in the same period of time. In 1750 Great Britain was a very backward country, compared to lots of others.

  1. Was the French revolution a Bourgeoisie revolution?

    This is where they went drastically wrong, because it gave the Bourgeoisie just the chance they needed to seize power for themselves. The Bourgeoisie rebelled when, under the terms of the 1614 Estates-General it said that they would have to sit separately.

  2. Why did the Industrial Revolution Occur in Britain First?

    While the British had no real advantage over the European continental powers in basic science, British entrepreneurs were better than anyone else in capitalizing on technology through innovating and tinkering.38 For example, the British constantly experimented with how to best use coal as fuel.39 As a result, the British had

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work