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The Climate That Spurred The French Revolution

1884 words - 8 pages

The people of France had been under the rule of an absolute monarch for a long time, so it took a perfect climate of political unrest and the confluence of numerous factors to start the French Revolution. The French Revolution took place in the ideal political, economic, and intellectual climate for a revolution.

Short Term Causes
Louis XVI had created a large amount of debt through bad tax collection practices and funding american revolution. Bad tax practices included not taxing nobles, which put all of financial burden of France on the middle and lower classes. These classes weren’t able to support the high costs of running a nation in addition to supporting a foreign war that ...view middle of the document...

Louis XVI was a less than stellar King of France. He was not especially politically or financially adept which meant that he made unwise decisions like deciding not to tax nobility. Through lack of fiscal responsibility and his inability to come up with a solution other than calling for help from the Estates General, King Louis XVI lost France’s respect.
The Estates General was divided into 3 estates. The First Estate represented the nobility, the Second Estate represented the clergymen, and the Third Estate represented the french people which accounted for 85 percent of the french population. The Estates General hadn’t met for 175 years. When the Third Estate showed up, they demanded that their vote be weighted as more because they were representing a much higher percentage of the population. The First and Second Estate were not about to give up any of their power so they sent the Third Estate away.
After being denied increased voice and vote within the Estates General, the Third Estate rebranded themselves as the National Assembly. The National Assembly invited the First and Second Estate to join them in the National Assembly which some of them did. The first order of business for the National assembly was to create a new Constitution for France which they did. The National Assembly received support nationwide.

Long Term Cause
France was ready for a new political climate. The French people had lost faith in their King, and new ideas about how government should work were seeping into France from every angle. The English Revolution to form a constitutional monarchy seemed very plausible to France because it seemed to be working in England very well. The French people liked the idea because it would mean that there was a written document outlining the rights of the citizens and giving the King clear boundaries and responsibilities.
John Locke’s idea of the social contract also began to pervade France. For a people who had been under the rule of an absolutist king for their entire lifetime, the social contract was a revolutionary way of thinking. The social contract essentially states that man is born completely free, and gives up some of his rights to be a part of society. Even being in a society however man has inalienable rights which Locke states are “Life, Liberty, and Property.”
Intellectually the Catholic Church’s worldview was being challenged by the Scientific Revolution, Reformation, strong european kings, as well as the Enlightenment movement. The classic Catholic way of thinking had already been challenged by Martin Luther, however with new scientific ways of thinking, Reformation and Non-Catholic christian religions beginning to pop up, stronger more powerful Kings that could stand up to the Pope, as well as Enlightenment happening across Europe. Before the French Revolution a lot of the power in Europe shifted from the Catholic Church to the Kings and Nobility of each individual country and is gradually beginning to shift...

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