Sabrina Louis XVI ruling over everything in

Sabrina Ho

Professor Draper

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History 110

28 November 2017

The
Enlightenment and The French Revolution

While
it might be a robust statement, The Enlightenment was the first groundbreaking
intellectual movement in European history. Unlike its other predecessors, this
intellectual movement inspired change for the sake of the social welfare to
benefit the common person. For the first time, the ideals of Enlightenment
caused everyone to apply rational thoughts to justify human existence in life.
This caused many people  in France,  to realize their social welfare
and political environment.  Thus, it lead the French to
questioning the power of the French state, and eventually inspiring a
revolution.  So in simple terms, The reason why The Enlightenment was
groundbreaking was because it the first intellectual movement to transform into
a revolution known as the French Revolution.

Before
the Revolution, the people of France lived in a restricted social and political
system known as the Ancien Regime. There was legislative assembly part
of government called “The Estates General”.1 With the purpose of
representing everyone in France, The Estates General were divided into the
three Estates: The First, the Second and Third. The First and Second Estates
were composed of wealthy nobles and the clergy. On the other hand, the
Third Estate was comprised of commoners, (which was 98 percent of the
population during the time). Now keep in mind that France was still an absolute
monarchy with King Louis XVI ruling over everything in France. Thus the monarch
had overruling control over “The Estates General” despite being a legislative
assembly2.  King Louis XVI
would favor The First and Second Estates because the monarchy deep dependence
from these two class groups for  economical, political, and social support.
Thus, The Third Estate had none power at the assembly and instead became
victims of cruel laws enacted by The First and Second Estates3.

By the
1780s, France had a huge economic crisis by supporting the American Revolution,
hence the nation was racking up a lot of national debt. Because of this, King
Louis XVI and his royal government raised taxes to pay off the national
debt. However, one of the social privileges of being part of the wealthy First
and Second Estates was the fact they never had to pay taxes. As a result, the burden
of paying taxed was left to the common people from The Third Estate4. Moreover, in 1788, a
large famine plagued the entire nation that caused a food shortage5. By then the commoners of
The Third Estate had enough, and the Revolution began with the goal of creating
a new government based on the enlightenment ideals. Thus how the French Revolution
begun.

After
the takeover of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, the “Declaration and Rights
of Man and Citizen” was written by the newly formed National Assembly6. The authors were inspired
by John Locke idea of human rights and Rousseau idea of a social contract.
 Locke believed people were born with natural rights of life, liberty, and
property. Hence the role of the government was to protect one three basic
natural human rights7. Rousseau believed government was an
agreement between the nation and its people8. Furthermore,
Rousseau thought that if the standards of the agreement was not
upheld by the nation, the people had every right to create a new
government for themselves, thus why it was considered it a social contract9. By incorporating these
two Enlightenment ideals, the Declaration and Rights of Man and Citizen”
would end up  making social welfare of people a governmental responsibly.
Thus being so significant because it changed the culture of the way citizens
lived as they were ensured hope for once in their life.

Unfortunately,
The Declaration and Rights of Man and Citizen did not appeal towards the
majority of people.  Thus the Constitution of 1791 was written in replace
and established a constitutional monarchy. Under this new constitution, France
kept its Monarchy but the ruling power of government was given to the people.
More importantly, it declared that the national government would be divided
among individual branches10. This enlightenment ideal came from the great
Philosophes Montesquieu’s who established the idea of limiting ruling within leading
government positions. Montesquieu’s  truly believed that every
authoritarian role had limits on power . Hence he established the
system checks and balances to uphold the separation of powers and ensure a
stable government 11. Remarkable as it was,
this was a time in history where the government did not abused power. In
fact it was the first time the power of government was limited. Hence why this
document was so momentous.

Despite
all these changes from the Revolution, there was still one left one group that
was unsatisfied: the Jacobins, led by Robespierre. The Group wanted a
Republic because they hoped it lead to greater equality and fair representation
to the people and used violence to achived it12.  Nevertheless,
there was one important aspect of  that the Jacobins tackled: the
role of of religion in government.  The
Jacobins also supported  Voltaire’s enlightenment rational of scrutinizing
the authority and power of the church. Because of the influence of these two
ideals, many started to questioned the church authority over people13. This is very important
to note because it was the first time in history the Catholic Church lost
political influence and power after centuries of overpowering Europe. Thus
eventutally transforming into religious institute it is known today instead of
the poltlical powerhouse it once use be.

Certainly,
the enlightenment ideals transformation into the French Revolution was the
first of its kind. Nevertheless as many know it was a very unsuccessful
revolution that ended up with Napoleon. This was because there no game plan to
preserve the revolution. In the case of the French Revolution, too many ideas
came out at once that ended up colliding each other. Thus, ending up in pure
chaos. Sure one could have all these bright ideals that can spark the
emotions and revelations, but is it worth anything if cannot last for
entirety? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Burke,
Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in
France. N.p., 1790.

 

France: Declaration of the Right of
Man and the Citizen, 26 August 1789

 

Kagan,
Donald, Steven Ozment, Frank M. Turner, and Alison Frank. The Western Heritage. New York, NY: Pearson, 2013.

 

Robespierre,
Maximilien. Justification of the Use of
Terror. N.p., 1794.

 

Sieyès,
Emmanuel Joseph. Qu’est-ce que le tiers-état (What
is the Third Estate)?
N.p., 1789.

 

 

1 Kagan,
Donald et al., The Western Heritage (New York: Pearson, 2013) 553.

2 Kagan,
Donald et al., The Western Heritage (New York: Pearson, 2013) 551-553.

3 Sieyès, Emmanuel Joseph, Qu’est-ce que le tiers-état? (1789).

4 Kagan,
Donald et al., The Western Heritage (New York: Pearson, 2013) 551.

5 Kagan,
Donald et al., The Western Heritage (New York: Pearson, 2013) 551.

6 France:
Declaration of the Right of Man and the Citizen, 26 August 1789

7 Kagan,
Donald et al., The Western Heritage (New York: Pearson, 2013)428-429, 557.

 

 

8Kagan, Donald
et al., The Western Heritage (New York: Pearson, 2013) 527.

9 Kagan,
Donald et al., The Western Heritage (New York: Pearson, 2013) 527.

10Kagan, Donald
et al., The Western Heritage (New York: Pearson, 2013) 561.

11Kagan, Donald
et al., The Western Heritage (New York: Pearson, 2013) 527.

12 Robespierre, Maximilien. Justification of the Use of Terror(1794)

13 Kagan,
Donald et al., The Western Heritage (New York: Pearson, 2013) 515-518, 575-577.

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