The French Revolution: New Political Ideas and Revolutions

The French Revolution was a necessary revolution that gave the people of France their independence and a new form of government that was much needed. Before the French revolution, France was going through the Renaissance, which sparked some causes for the French Revolution. The government before the revolution was very unequal to the people of France, which sparked the revolution. One of the government issues to the people of France was the unequal Estate System. The Estate System represented three social orders of within French society: Estate-Clergy, Second Estate-Nobles, and Third Estate. The majority of the population of France was in the third estate and were forced to pay most of all of the taxes that came towards France. This being a problem was enhanced a ton when France’s debt came along because of participation in wars and the American Revolution. This lead to a massive debt which really angered the third estate. Also, this was when the Enlightenment was happening, a major part of the Renaissance. Many Philosophers wrote and spread many ideas of equality and voting rights. This further enhanced the movement of the third estate rebelling and causing the French Revolution to occur. The French Revolution was not just battling. There were several events leading up to the big battles and bigger events. The revolution took action when the National Assembly was formed. The starting events such as the Estates-General in May 1748 and the Storming of the Bastille caused the revolution to take action. Then the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen gained more support for the revolution by gaining the attention of the lower class which was the majority of France’s population. All of these smaller events lead to battles and war and played a major role in the revolution. The revolution permanently affected France in many ways such as social order and daily life. The French Revolution was most necessary for the people to fight for equality and justice.

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In the time period, 1750 to 1900s, the Industrial Revolution had started and spread rapidly. There were many new inventions such as the steam engine, cotton gin, and factories. As states industrialized over this time period, they expanded their existing overseas colonies in need for raw materials. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, there began an intense period of revolutions and rebellions over existing governments. One of these Revolutions was the French Revolution. The French Revolution had many causes leading up to this revolution such as France’s economic crisis and unfair taxes, Enlightenment ideas, and the Estate System. The French Revolution was necessary in order to help the people fight back to gain their equal rights, to create a new fair and just government, and so the people of France can live freely.

Before the French revolution, the social structure of France was very noticeably unequal with its estate system. The estate system divided France’s society into three categories, First estate-Clergy, Second Estate-Nobles, and the Third Estate. The first estate owned an enormous amount of power-about a ruler’s amount of power, and they also owned a ton of land. The second estate didn’t own as much power, but enough to be in the high-class range, and they got all of the good paying jobs, like military and politicians. The third estate consisted of many subcategories and made up 98% of the French population. Some of those subcategories went from the bourgeois (highest) middle class,(middle) middle-class peasants, and (lowest) city workers. The sans-culottes however, (city workers) got the most work, were underpaid for it, and started to spread the unfairness of getting the most work and taxes.(The French Revolution 1789-1815, 2015) Now, the other two states had no taxes to pay and most of them lived the life of luxury and did not want anything to change. They didn’t want to change simply because of the fact that they are on top and do not have to go through any pain like the third estate is in right now. All of this inequality contributes to the fact that the France revolution needed to happen. These differences are gonna influence the French revolution in that it is showing clear separation of power with the unequal distribution of power. The Second Estate will soon want to be with the First estate, but not want to change the third estate because they do all of the work. This means that they want more power and land because of the greedy need but don’t want the lower classes to change the state that they’re in right now.

Now with their estate system at the state that it is currently at right now, (unequal) France will be going into economic debt and will need a way to pay it off. So just as essential knowledge, Europe is going through the Renaissance (rebirth) which will lead to a larger population; which created a greater demand for food and products. The discovery of new gold mines in Brazil had led to a general rise in prices throughout the West from about 1730, indicating a prosperous economic situation. However, from about 1770, this trend slackened, and economic crises, provoking alarm and revolts, became more frequent. (History SparkNotes, 2018) France was accompanying the 13 colonies with helping their American revolution. Which lead to France’s heavy military expenditures during the American Revolution, and were also involved in the Seven Years War; (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018) resulted in a national debt of approximately four billion books in 1789. The country could not afford to meet its loan payments nor could it obtain more credit (History SparkNotes, 2018). When the French needed more money they started to tax the lower class, only the lower class they got 99% of the taxes. As if the lower class didn’t pay all the taxes but now they have to pay even more, and even Loui Xiv thought this was pretty unfair; so he decided to go to assemble the nobles which he called “The Assembly of Notables”. So Loui Xiv gathered the nobility and wanted to make a system in where they would have a nice balance in the taxation system, and it backfired on Loui. The nobility questioned their authority and they didn’t fix the government. All of this debt incoming towards France is a necessary cause for France because this just helped the Third Estate gain more rage. This supports why the French Revolution needed to happen because this inequality within the taxes and debt are all incoming towards the poor city workers. So with this economic debt at hand, with the lower class paying for it, and the nobles rebelling on Loui this just lead into the Enlightenment.

So to start, the Enlightenment caused big changes in Europe, because of the philosopher’s ideas conveying throughout Europe. The Enlightenment was a development of thought, which led to increasing criticism of absolute monarchy and an interest in republican ideals. Philosophers like John Locke, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, where just of the few that really influenced ideas like liberty, freedom of slaves, no more monarchies and more. John Locke emphasized contributions to modern theories of limited, liberal government; “He argued that all of our ideas are ultimately derived from experience, and the knowledge of which we are capable is therefore severely limited in its scope and certainty.”( By Individual Philosopher >John Locke, 2008). Also, Voltaire found inspiration in their ideals of a free and liberal society, along with freedom of religion and free commerce. (Julien Josset, 2008) Adam Smith as well believed in no slavery, wanted free religion and equal rights. Adam Smith devoted most of his time towards the economic ideas of the Enlightenment Era, as the idea of laissez-faire and the law of supply which created the basic concepts of modern economics. (Modern Economics) Jean-Jacques Rousseau strongly believed in the goodness of man and in basic human rights founded upon universal natural law; he also believed that both rulers and the citizens have natural human rights as well as obligations to each other which should be bound in a social contract. (Julien Josset, 2008) Basically saying that people should have a say in government. Even though some of these philosophers didn’t originate from France, this just supports how many philosophers ideas were getting spread and where affecting revolutions. The reason why this really helped make France go into the Revolution. These philosophers posed many different, and also similar ideas, influencing France’s population to really think about absolutism. This “development” of Enlightenment thought led to increasing criticism of the absolute monarchy, an interest in republican ideals, critiqued the monarchy and the Catholic Church and examined democratic forms of government.

The revolution started to take action with the National and Legislative Assembly. On May 17, 1748, there was a meeting of the Estates General, where there was a dispute over the voting structure. The nobles of the Second Estate demanded the use of one vote per estate, which would effectively void any vote of the Third Estate and the Third Estate refused to participate (French Revolution, 2018). These actions were necessary because the people of France wanted to be equal and be treated fairly. The cahiers of all three social distinctions saw the need for reform to the judiciary, taxation, and the Catholic church as well as it’s administration. The parish priests agreed with the reforms of the taxes, but they wanted to keep their power as the Catholic church (Mcphee,2006). Then there was a rumor about an aristocratic conspiracy to overthrow the Third Estate, and on July 14th, the uprising stormed the Bastille, and massacred the workers and freed the prisoners (French Revolution, 2018). The take-over of the Bastille helped the National Assembly gain more support by “patriots” started to take over and revolt against local governments (Mcphee, 2006). The Storming of the Bastille was necessary because it was a way for the people of France to revolt against the government and gain more support for their fight for justice and equality. Shortly after, on August 4, the National Assembly, desiring to satisfy the peasants, abolished serfdom and old feudal privileges. The National Assembly codified this as The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. As the revolution grew, Louis XVI allowed the National Assembly to grow and invited the clergy and nobles to join the National Assembly. In addition, King Louis XVI rejected the abolition of feudalism and The Declaration of the Rights of Man (French Revolution, 2018). This declaration was definitely necessary because the lower classes were no longer the lower classes, everyone was equal. This gained support for the fight of equality and justice because it got the lower class involved which was the majority of the population. Eventually on October 21st, the National Assembly declared martial war. Over the next several months, the National Assembly passed a series of liberal reforms which proceeded to simplify France’s complex administrative system. The actions on the complex administrative system was necessary because it simplified the existing government and the people of Frances were making more progress to their fight for justice and equality. Frances On June 20th, 1790, the assembly officially abolished nobility. Louis and his family tried to escape to Paris but were caught and Louis was soon forced to accept the new Constitution of 1791 that provided for a limited monarchy (French Revolution, 2018).

After King Louis was caught he was convicted of treason and was punished by execution. By King Louis being executed, it showed that the revolution was gaining in power and how powerful it was. In 1793, the Convention established the Committee of Public Safety which was a 12 man Committee that worked as the executive branch of the revolutionary government. Girondins and Montagnards were both included in this committee and in May, more moderate Girondins were purged from the Convention, and the more extreme Montagnards took control of the Convention and the Committee of Public Safety. Then the Montagnards used their power to identify their enemy in the revolution. The Committee of Public Safety was necessary because it united all the revolutionists together and progressed towards their goal of equality and justice. Under the direction of Maximilien Robespierre, the Committee of Public Safety executed tens of thousands of people by guillotine in the name of the revolution. At least 300,000 suspects were arrested, 17,000 were officially executed, and many died in prison or without trial (French Revolution, 2018). In addition, the Committee of Public Safety had to mobilize an entire society into a defensive position because they faced internal collapse and external defeat (Mcphee, 2006). The Committee of Public Safety was focused on increasing their size so they established a draft for all men between the ages of 18 and 25, which made the French army increase in size massively. Then the Convention abolished the Gregorian calendar which had Christian associations and replaced it with a more scientific calendar. In July 1794, the Convention overthrew Robespierre and put an end to the reign of terror which is known as the Thermidorian reaction (French Revolution, 2018).

The Convention drew up a new constitution that established the French Directory which was governed by five directors and these five directors were chosen by a bicameral legislature divided into the Council of Five Hundred and an upper chamber of 250 ancients. In addition, the Directory was plagued by the same problems encountered by the Convention (French Revolution, 2018). Napoleon Bonaparte, a young republican artillery officer, who helped in the war overthrew the directory in a coup d’etat and in 1802, he appointed counsel for life and in 1804, he proclaimed himself emperor Napoleon I of France(Mcphee, 2006)(French Revolution, 2018). This war permanently affected France in many ways. For example, every France citizen was judged the same and taxed the same on wealth and more importantly land. Daily life was unchanged and women also remained unchanged with their rights before the revolution. A lot of lands was also changed due to the church’s loss of power, but farmers did benefit from this and were able to farm more(Mcphee, 2006).

The French Revolution was a major turning point in French history in that it was a period where France was in a phase where it fixed itself. It was really necessary as those causation factors really pushed it to the point where it went to into phases during its Revolution. Phase One introduced the rage of the third estate, and how the first estate and second estate had to try to calm them down. However all of the problems were solved, and Phase three solidified it with a new constitution. With this new constitution, it established a new way of rule, a more equal way of rule, and with this new way of government or rule, it will establish a baseline for other societies to follow. When the Revolution ended, France was in a better state then it was than before and this is a great setup for current France.


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AP World History (2012-2013)Effects of the French Revolution Retrieved from

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