The French Revolution
Seoyoon Kim, Megna Rao, Alex Herrera
Jack Powers 14
La Marseillaise, French National Anthem (FrEn) by Jack Powers 14
Enlightenment ideas influenced the French people to invoke secular ideas to pursue freedom from the absolute rule of King Louis XVI. The ideas of Rousseau, Voltaire and Diderot influenced the public to replace faith in the Church and deities with faith in reasoning and logic. A troubled economy led the Third estate to retaliate using revolutionary sentiments from Enlightenment ideas (2.1.IV.A). The peasant classes gained power over the course of the French revolution, which the power of the First and Second estates was deeply undermined. The power of the First estate, which consisted of the Church and clergy members, was decreased as the faith in religious authorities diminished. Before the start of the French Revolt, the first estate was a non-taxpaying estate that owned 20% of all land in France. The heavy tax burden on the peasants and heavy influx of enlightenment and revolutionary ideas influence the third estate to lose faith in church and create the National assembly. The secularization that began in this time period greatly weakened the power of the Church. Rousseau introduced the idea of a social contract that guaranteed that the ruler protected the people and that an implicit contract between the ruled and ruler maintains peace (Doc 4.5). This concept undermined the explicit oath that the French people swore to the church. Before the Revolution, France was an absolute monarchy with a strict social hierarchy and powerful Catholic Church (2.1.I). The movement away from religious matters and towards secular politics disrupted the power of the first estate. Legislature such as the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen limited the power of the church and clergy by secularizing the rights of man and citizen. These common rights were listed without confirmation from or reference to religion (Doc 4.3). Although the French Revolution drew upon enlightenment ideas, critics, such as members of the first estate, argue that the revolt brought on violence and a disregard for traditional authority (2.1.IV.G). The Church condemned the revolt as an attempt to subdue the power of the Church. This split the church into refractory clergy (clergy who believed in the malicious intent of the French Revolution), and other priests. The secularization of politics is exemplified by the creation of a new calendar and the conversion of the Notre Dame Cathedral into “Temple of Reason”. The modernization of the Church decreased church power as enlightenment ideas influenced the secularization of France (Doc 4.4). The Civil Constitution of the Clergy weakened the power of the church. Locke’s natural rights also diminished the power of the church as people relied less on the teachings of the church and more on the secular explanation of natural, unalienable rights.
3rd Estate-Seoyoon Kim
The French Revolution drew upon many Enlightenment ideas, leaving the majority of people better off economically, socially, and politically. Rousseau’s idea of a social contract found its way into the revolution, as the monarch (2.1.I)(initially) then the National Assembly was expected to not merely rule over the people but also meet they basic needs-particularly regarding nutrition. John Locke’s “natural rights” were evident in the French Constitution and “liberte, fraternite, and and equality” became the cornerstone of France. The 3rd Estate, which had previously been disregarded despite its large size in government, now had a voice in the new French government, which represented the people more accurately. Popular sovereignty (DOROMAC) was supported, as people from the Third Estate could now participate in their own government, which replaced absolutism (2.1.II). Louis XVI’s financial unsoundness, especially after supporting the American Revolution (2.1.III) contributed to the people’s woes, as crippling French debt was dealt with by increasing taxes on the Third Estate, which could barely afford to feed its families. The Enlightenment idea of Constitutionalism reminded the government that individuals were granted certain rights and freedoms that the government could not infringe upon. As Montesquieu had suggested, political power was separated among parliament members instead of being concentrated solely in the hands of an absolute monarch, like the tyrannical Louis XVI. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen prevented aristocratic abuses of power and granted equality for all 3 estates (DOROMAC)(2.1.IV). Anticlericalism, another Enlightenment idea prevalent in the French revolution, prevented clerical abuses and privileges, such as the ability to collect tithes which debilitated the Third Estate financially (Civil Constitution). National control of the Church enabled popular sovereignty to be present in religion, not just government, as priests and bishops were elected(Civil Constitution). The general will, that is, the Third Estate, gained control over the government (Social Contract). However, women of all estates often felt ignored, as they were considered passive citizens and were not given the same privileges as men (DOROWAFC). The oppression and injustices of the Ancien Regime were replaced with a more fair system of government with equal taxation and less privileges for the upper classes and the Catholic Church (2.1.IV). However, after the Jacobins took power of the National Convention under Robespierre and supported by the sans culottes, instability emerged due to mass executions of those whose ideas slightly differed from the radical Jacobins (2.1.IV). However, the Maxim provided economic stability by placing price ceilings to prevent inflation, making products and food more affordable to the middle class. After the Thermidor Revolt, the removal of the Maxim led to price inflation and thus mass hunger. Thus, while trying to uphold the Enlightenment ideal of equality, France failed to uphold peace throughout the country (2.1.IV).