French Revolution Enlightenment Ideas

In the work 'French Revolution Enlightenment Ideas' we will talk about the causes of the French Revolution, its ideas, and what they led to. The French Revolution began in 1789 and ended in late 1790, with the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. During this period, the French people destroyed and reconceived the country's political landscape, uprooting centuries-old institutions such as the absolute monarchy and the feudal system. Like the American Revolution, which had taken place sometime before, the French Revolution was influenced by Enlightenment ideals, especially by the ideas of popular sovereignty and inalienable rights. Even though it failed to achieve all its goals and sometimes things degenerated into a bloodbath, the movement played an extremely important role in shaping modern nations, showing the world the power of the people. The French Revolution did not have a single trigger. Years of feudal oppression and poor fiscal administration contributed to the creation of a society only good for revolt. Realizing the precarious economic situation, King Louis XVI brought in several financial advisers to review the very weak French treasury. Every counselor came to the same conclusion: France needed a radical change in the way it taxed its people. As a result, each counselor was fired. Eventually, the king realized that this tax problem needed to be resolved, so he appointed a new Comptroller General of Finance, namely Charles de Calonne in 1783. Calonne suggested that, among other things, he would those exempt from taxes until then, namely the nobles, must be taxed. The nobility, as expected, vehemently refused, and financial ruin seemed imminent. In a last act of despair, Louis XVI decided in 1789 to convene the Estates General, an old assembly of three different categories that represented a portion of the French population. If Estates-General could agree on a tax solution, it could be implemented. However, given that two categories (church and nobility) were exempt from tax, reaching such a solution was unlikely.

Moreover, the outdated rules of law of the Estates General gave the right to one vote to each category, despite the fact that the third category was made up of the French people, being much higher than the other two. As expected, the discussions that followed immediately proved to be irreconcilable. Realizing that his numbers gave him an automatic advantage, the third category declared itself the Sovereign National Assembly. In just a few days since the announcement, many members of the other categories have changed their loyalty to this new revolutionary assembly.

Shortly after the National Assembly was formed, they took an oath that they would not give up until a new constitution was adopted. The revolutionary spirit of the National Assembly took over all of France, manifesting itself in various ways. In Paris, the citizens stormed the largest and ugliest prison in the city, the Bastille. In rural areas, peasants and farmers revolted against feudal contracts by attacking mansions and estates. Nicknamed the 'Great Fear', these attacks in rural areas continued until the beginning of August when the 'Decrees of August' were issued, by which the peasants were released from oppressive contracts. Shortly afterward, the Assembly launched the 'Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen', which established a correct legal code and granted autonomy to the French people.

The factors that caused the French Revolution are various and multiple, being characterized by deep political and social unrest, the critics of the Enlightenment being quite opinionated about the subject. The philosophers of the Enlightenment, without being republicans or democrats (except Rousseau), reject absolute monarchy. In their works, they denounce the excesses of the long authoritarian reign of Louis XIV and affirm their preference for a controlled monarchy in the manner of England. Philosophers agree to demand that sovereignty be granted to the people. These ideas are spreading among the cultured elites.

The monarchical state suffered from a serious weakness: it seemed incapable of solving the financial problem which arose throughout the 18th century. France is deeply in debt, and this situation worsens under the reign of Louis XVI, because of the participation in the War of Independence of the United States. The solution is to reform the tax system, but the privileged do not accept it.

For several years, the monarchical power has had to face opposition from Parliaments, and in particular that of Paris. Originally a simple court of justice, the Parliament of Paris is made up of nobles who would like to have real political powers as in England. They are responsible for registering the edicts (that is, the decisions) of the king, but they do not hesitate to oppose the king and refuse the registration of these edicts.

Under Louis XV, the Parliament of Paris revolted in 1770 and went on strike; this coup was repressed by the king and his minister Maupeou, who suppressed the Parliaments. But the new King Louis XVI reconsiders this decision and re-establishes the Parliament of Paris. However, he did not have the same authority as his ancestor and the conflict turned to the advantage of Parliament in the years 1787-1788.

French society in the 18th century was divided into three orders: the clergy, the nobility, and the third estate. The clergy and the nobility represent only 2% of the population, but they hold the wealth and have honorary, judicial, and above all fiscal privileges: they escape the payment of most taxes. This situation is criticized by the philosophers of the Enlightenment; it is more and more badly experienced by the third estate, which bears all the financial charges.

Peasants represented 85% of the population. Their demands were multiple: they would like in particular fairer taxation and the abolition of certain feudal rights such as the seigneurial monopoly of hunting. The peasants were vulnerable because the harvests are subject to the vagaries of the weather; and even when the crops were good, the profits were small, once the taxes owed to the king, the lord, and the clergy had been paid. In the countryside, disturbances are therefore frequent and the peasants regularly revolt against their lords. The noble and bourgeois elites are turning away from the regime and no longer have confidence in the absolute monarchy. The nobility aspires to certain aristocratic liberalism. Gained by the spirit of the Enlightenment, she would like to participate more in political power. The upper middle class, enriched and conqueror, saw its rise stopped by the noble reaction. This noble reaction is characterized by the refusal of the nobility to see bourgeois access to places reserved until then for nobles. The bourgeois thus cannot have access to the great jobs of the State and to the great commands in the army. Thus, for different reasons, the bourgeois and noble elites aspire to reform. On these fragile political and social bases, a strong crisis breaks out, which precipitates the country towards Revolution.

The reign of Louis XVI corresponded to a difficult economic situation: a fall in agricultural prices, a slump in the textile industry. The rains and floods of 1787, the drought, and then the hail of July 1788 resulted in a very bad harvest in 1788. The winter of 1788-1789 was very severe. In the spring of 1789, the poor cereal harvest of the previous year caused a surge in prices throughout France. In Paris, the price of bread doubles. This surge in prices forced the French to devote all their income to buying bread. Craftsmen and factories fail to sell their goods. Textile production fell by half in 1789. Bankruptcies increased, creating unemployment. Wandering and begging is on the rise. Troubles are breaking out all over the place. In this particularly troubled period, Louis XVI did not present the qualities of a great monarch. Weak in character, he does not like his role as king and assumes it without enthusiasm. His contemporaries criticize his hesitations. As for Queen Marie-Antoinette, of Austrian origin, she is very unpopular with the French, who blames her for her expenses and frivolities.

The monarchy is therefore weakened. She fails to cope with the revolt of the nobility in the Parliament of Paris. The reforms before 1789 to face the deficit of finances which plagues the reign of Louis XVI, it would have been necessary to make important fiscal reforms, in particular, to make pay for the privileged ones. This is the meaning of the projects submitted by Calonne, Controller General, in 1787. But the nobles refused the project and Calonne was dismissed. His successor Loménie de Brienne also faces opposition from the Parliament of Paris. The latter invokes an unwritten law which prohibits the king from raising a new tax without summoning the States General. Louis XVI tries to resist and exile the parliamentarians to Troyes. But faced with the dispute, the king gives in and recalls the Parliament of Paris. The latter does not disarm and continues to challenge the king. The nobles assert themselves as the defenders of freedom against royal power. The unrest spreads to the province, where unrest and riots take place. Yielding to pressure, Louis XVI resigned himself to convene the Estates General for May 1789. The Parliaments were restored to all their powers. The absolute monarchy has capitulated. However, it was privileged who dealt the first blows to the Ancien Régime.

The year 1789 began with the effervescence of the elections and the drafting of grievance books. At the origin of the French Revolution is the conjunction of several crises: first a structural crisis which is characterized by the weakening of the monarchy, and by a questioning of the structures of society; a cyclical crisis then because of the bad harvests of 1788, and financial problems. Faced with these crises, Louis XVI failed to impose the necessary reforms.

How did it become possible for the French to become radicalized in 1789? Is this the triumph of ideology, or the result of an economic and social crisis? Did the psychological transformation associated with this radicalization take place before the Revolution or only during the events? It is neither possible nor necessary to review all the debates engendered over the past two centuries by these questions, debates launched by several of the participants in the Revolution themselves, and continued to this day in the confrontation between trend historians. “Jacobin-Marxist,” on the one hand, and those who hold fast to an anti-Marxist analysis of the revolutionary phenomenon in its totality, but on the experience and the itinerary of a thousand individuals who have played a particularly important role. Important in this Revolution have been the deputies of the States-General and of the Constituent Assembly.

If we look only at the first phase of events, until At the beginning of July 1789 or so, four possible sources of radicalization must be taken into account: ideology, social antagonism, political learning, and the effects of group dynamics. We are all familiar with the influence of the Enlightenment ideology on the French Revolution. The main writers of the 18th century are so varied, even contradictory, that it is ultimately impossible to speak of a single Enlightenment ideology. The period is crossed by many conflicting traditions, by currents of logic, and more or less opposed methods of approach. All the representatives of the three orders had been in contact with the thought and language of the Enlightenment, in one form or another. But each could adopt, adapt - or reject - the various ideas of the time in entirely different ways. If we take into account all the works published by future deputies before the revolutionary period - written by a total of 116 individuals - we see that very few are directly linked to the reformist and zealous spirit of the great philosophers. For the very large majority, these are literary or scholarly works. Researching the topic 'how did the enlightenment influence the French revolution essay' we have an answer that the Enlightenment have a lot of influence on the representatives of the three orders during the French revolution.

I would rather agree with Roger Chartier's thesis: the concept of the 'Enlightenment,' as a coherent and unified philosophy, is as much a product of the Revolution as the Revolution is the product of the Enlightenment. But as soon as the Revolution is unleashed, in the months which follow the summer of '89, the game of cause and effect which pushes the radicalization of the deputies is transformed somewhat. It is not possible here to continue the analysis of this 'second phase' of the Revolution. But it seems to us that after August both ideology and politics become more important in evolutionary dynamics. Very quickly a large minority of deputies began to adopt some of the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau - and in particular The Social Contract - as texts prescriptive of the goals towards which we must work. Around the same time as the 7th AFSP Congress - Lille, 18, 19, 20, 21 September 2002 9 the representatives fell under the growing influence of faction politics. The political dialectic of action and reaction between 'parties' - parties that come together around personal affiliations as well as ideological commitments - adds a whole new character to revolutionary psychology. Lately, we should not underestimate the impact on the radicalization of deputies of what can be called event contingencies, of a whole series of external events which exert their effect on the decisions of deputies.

The French Revolution had a great impact, its result being characterized by the drastic changes that took place in France in its aftermath. This removed the feudal system, the king distributed feuds to the nobles receiving certain services from them, and the nobles gave smaller plots of land to the peasants, so the king who until then was the master of the country and considered God's chosen, divine right, became a citizen ordinary man who had to account to the people for his deeds. The nobles who until then had enjoyed greater rights than the others became equal with the peasants and townspeople, and the people take power. He decided to elect his leaders as he wished and to hold them accountable if they did not do their duty, thus forming the parliament that gave laws and the government that took measures for the smooth running of society. The land of the nobles was divided to the peasants or sold to the townspeople. Beginning in 1799, France was ruled by Napoleon Bonaparte, who embarked on a long series of wars bringing half of Europe under his control. Everywhere the French armies went, they took with them the ideas of the revolution. Thus, the fall of feudal society in the rest of Europe accelerated. Napoleon's most important achievement was the 'Civil Code.' This was a group of laws regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance, and property. If until then the inheritance was left only to the firstborn boy, the birthright, now the goods were distributed to all the descendants.

10 October 2022
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