The French Revolution

Seoyoon Kim, Megna Rao, Alex Herrera

Jack Powers 14

La Marseillaise, French National Anthem (FrEn) by Jack Powers 14
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1st Estate-Megna

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.

2nd Estate-Alex

The French revolution abolished many of the privileges of the upper two estates through the spread of Enlightenment ideas, including an increasing desire for more representation and equal taxation(2.1.IV). The second estate was composed of the nobility, who enjoyed many privileges and direct power over the third estate. While the third estate sought to evenly distribute representation within the government, the first estate sought to maintain its power. The second estate would have supported Rousseau's idea that while citizen participation was necessary for the functioning of the social contract, representation was not. This would have reinforced the second estates desire to maintain power over the third estate for their personal profit. Rousseau's ideas on representation would have allowed them to continue to underrepresent the third estate, despite the fact that they were larger than the second estate (2.1.IV.A). The conflicts between the estates that lead to the French Revolution were similar to those present in England, exhibited in Voltaire's "The English Constitution". The upper social classes of England were abusing and extending their powers over the lower estates.In France the second estate enjoyed the right to tax the third estate for their own personal profit, the right to require unpaid labor from the third estate throughout the year, and the right to hunt on the land of the third estate. These privileges which were hereditary for the second estate throughout the history of France, were abolished through " The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen" (2.1.IV.B). Through this declaration equal taxation and property rights were established by law, consequently eliminating the previous rights of the second estate. While there was great tension between the estates due to social inequality, women from all three estates were viewed as inferior to men and did not hold the political rights that men were given. Thus, women from all three estates benefited from the ideas behind Olympe de Gouges' "Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen" (2.1.IV.E). The emphasis on civil rights overall gave women, of all estates, greater rights in areas such as divorce and property, however they were still not equal to men. Thus uniting women from different estates in their battle for equality, though economic differences still existed. The violence from the revolution would have been used as justification from the second estate to support the clergy and reinforce their power. The second estate would have wanted to support the church in order to try and preserve the estate system and thus also protect their power. The violence that took place during the revolution could have been used to support the idea that the values of the enlightenment and the revolution were dangerous and a threat to France (2.1.IV.G).
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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).

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Personal Analysis-Seoyoon Kim

France initially began as an absolute monarchy (2.1.I), with a Valois or Bourbon monarch, a strict social hierarchy with the clergy and nobility at the top, and a powerful Catholic Church that possessed much of the land and wealth. However, Locke's emphasis on equality questioned the privileges that nobles possessed (2.1.I) and the social contract theory questioned the king's power and abuses, especially financially (during the American Revolution (2.1.III). Thus, the 3rd (lowest) estate rebelled against this unfair social system, initially intent on creating a constitutional monarchy, but ultimately attempting to create a republic (the Jacobins)(2.1.II). The Enlightenment philosophers therefore encouraged the French public to question traditional ideas that favored the upper classes while burdening the lower classes, providing a rational and just explanation for the revolution. The new government created a new system that promoted popular sovereignty (Hobbes) and liberty (Locke), as well as the government's responsibility to the governed through a social contract (The Social Contract)(2.1.IV). By placing the church under the state, this new government emphasized politics rather than religion being the primary focus of a country, as Enlightenment thinkers had suggested. Montesquieu's theory of separation of powers led to a government with various departments (Civil Constitution), with bishops (who were now government officials) required to be responsible to their dioceses (part of the social contract (Rousseau)). The enlightenment concept of equality also encouraged women to pursue more rights for themselves, especially in comparison to males, yet women did not gain equality to men as revolutionaries primarily viewed them as wives and mothers, not citizens (DOROWAFC).
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personal analysis - Megna

The French Revolution was a result of increased economical crisis and a heavy tax burden on the third estate. In retaliation, the third estates, influence by the revolutionary sentiment if Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Diderot, formed the National Assembly and overthrew the absolute monarchy. The first and second estates' power was weakened as a result of secularization and the movement to allow the third estate to have a proportionally equal voice in government. The lack of coordination from the upper class led to the downfall of the established social hierarchy (2.1.IV.A - 2.1.IV.C). The third estate used enlightenment ideas of unalienable natural rights and social contract to produce the fundamental document of the revolutionary movement including the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, and the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the female citizen. The movement away from church teaching toward logic and reasoning sparked the support of women and encouraged the creation of these declarations (2.1.IV.E). The French Revolution increased the public's involvement in politics, creating a constitutional monarchy (2.1.IV.B). Overall, the rising socioeconomic crises including uneven tax distribution and an "impoverished government" caused the third estate to revolt under the influence of revolutionary thinkers such as Rousseau, Voltaire, and Montesquieu. The revolution reflect the rising notion of questioning traditional authority and secularizing politics. The recent American Revolution influenced the French people to overthrow absolute monarchy. The increased awareness of human rights was reflected in revolutionary articles. However, although the rights of women did advance, the enlightenment ideas mostly dealt with the rights of men (2.1.IV.E). Although the revolution only changed an absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy, the secularization and modernization that characterized the French revolution marked a time of political advancement and democratic progress not only in France, but for all of Europe.

Personal Analysis-Alex

The French revolution dismantled the previous social and economic structure present under the monarchy that placed the clergy and nobility in power, and also brought forth new ideas as well as enlightenment principles (2.1.IV). The ultimate causes of the revolution were the economic inequalities more so than a desire to abolish the monarchy. Originally the third estate only sought to eliminate taxing inequalities and establish a constitutional monarchy, However, the lack of cooperation from the monarchy and the upper two estates, all whom sought to hold onto their power, caused the revolution to turn violent and more radical (2.1.IV.A(2.2.IV.B)(2.1.IV.C). The third estate drew upon Enlightenment ideas of liberty, property, and natural rights as well as the role of government in order to produce "The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen". This declaration eliminated the economic privileges and power that the first two estates had enjoyed by establishing equal taxation among all citizens regardless of social status. This idea of universal taxation was new and greatly increased the power of the third estate. However in spite of the emphasis placed on human rights, women of all estates remained inferior to men, though their rights did increase with the revolution. The ideas of political equality between the sexes brought forth by women such as Olympe de Gouges and Mary Wollstonecraft were revolutionary and completely radical for their time, their efforts helped advance the fight for women's rights.The idea's of the revolution also caused people to question the traditional authority of those in control of society, supported by the works of Enlightenment thinkers. As the public became more conscious of the inequalities in society they sought more rights and became upset with the government. This sparked many debates about the role of the church and government, ultimately resulting in a government never before witnessed in France.
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