This essay will examine and argue whether the Radical French Revolution of 1792 betrayed the ideals of 1789 and the legacy of Enlightenment, or on the other hand, whether the Radical Revolutionaries took Enlightenment and the ideals of 1789 to their logical and inevitable conclusion. These arguments will be ‘centralized’ and will be based specifically on the subject of the French Revolution and Religion.
This essay will address these issues by briefly depicting the scenario of 18th century France, describing the sentiments that aired in France, leading to the Revolution of 1789. Moreover this essay will also contextualise the Enlightenment ‘movement’/’Era’, in particular in France, understanding its ideals and core values. The essay will then take into consideration and discuss the Radical Revolution of 1792.
After having taken all this background information have been explored and described, this essay will go onto discuss the main topic of the paper, which is the conflicting nature of the French Revolution and Religion.
Finally, after having taken all of the evidence and knowledge into consideration, this essay will conclude answering, looking at the French Revolution and Religion, whether or not the Radical Revolution of 1792 has betrayed the ideals of 1789 and the legacy of Enlightenment.
In order to fully comprehend the ‘Enlightenment era’ in France, it is important to fully understand the socio-political situation in France pre-Enlightenment.
Pre-Enlightenment France, end of 16th leading to 17th century, saw a country in continuous turmoil and religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants. These religious conflicts would usually turn the French Monarchy upside-down. The growth of the French nobility was a direct threat to the Monarchy and the Monarchs. For this reason, the Monarchs decided to take parts with either the Catholics or the Protestants to salvage their own political security.[footnoteRef:1] [1: Margaret C. Jacob, The Enlightenment: Brief History with Documents, Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, Introduction, pp. 1–72, 2001.]
These religious conflicts would come to a conclusion with the Catholics winning and taking over the vast majority of power and control, whereas the Protestants were left with enough freedoms and with a significant role in French society.
This would then eventually change with the coming of Louis XIV, as the ‘absolute Monarch’ gained power. Absolutism was the new form of government in France. Louis XIV also centralized Catholicism as the dominant and National Religion of France. The consequent new conflict between the two factions of Catholicism and Protestantism, encouraged by the lack of freedoms of citizens due to the dominant centralized government led to the rise of the French Enlightenment.[footnoteRef:2] [2: Eugen Weber, Movements, Currents, Trends: Aspects of European Thought in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, 1992.]