French Revolution Essay

French Revolution In the late 1700’s, France went through a period of time that changed their country drastically. The French Revolution was how France changed the way their government was and how their people lived. Before the Revolution started in 1789, the French used a political and social system called the Old Regime. The Old Regime was the same as “Absolute power. ” Absolute power is when the government controls everything that goes on. In the early 1700’s before the Revolution, the French kings had absolute power. King Louis XVIII started this way of government and it was kept going by King Louis XIV.

The Kings had control over establishing judges, taxation, appointing new bureaucrats and the government. They also followed the divine right, which is a political and religious doctrine of royal right to rule. It states that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, taking away the right to rule directly from the will of god. During this time period, France was divided into three estates. The first estate was made up of all clergy members. These members include people such as priests, preachers, pastors and other religious professionals. The second estate was made up of nobility.

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Nobility are the people who have more privileges and control then everyone else. The third estate, which made up nearly Davis 2 96% of the people, was made up of peasants. Peasants are a lot less fortunate then everyone else. They were required to pay a sizeable amount of their income to the king and a tenth of their taxes to the church. Living conditions for the peasants were terrible. They didn’t have any rights or privileges because the nobles controlled everything that went on. They had no more than 2 sets of clothes. All they had to choose from for food was bread or broth soup.

People were uneducated. All they did was work and whatever money they earned, they had to give most of it to the church or the king. The Bourgeoisie were very unhappy people during this time. They are middle class people, but they were put in the third estate with the peasants. Even though it was made up of the most people, it could easily be outvoted by the first and second estates. The main reason they were mad was because the other 2 estates didn’t have to pay any taxes and left the burden of financing the kingdom to the third estate.

The tennis court oath essentially marked the beginning of the French Revolution. When the third estate was locked out of the meeting by the first and second estates, they moved to a nearby tennis court and declared themselves the National Assembly and swore never to separate until they had drafted a constitution for France. The age of enlightenment was a cultural movement in the 17 and 18 hundreds. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, challenging tradition and faith ideas, and the use of the scientific method to advance knowledge. It questioned the authority of the kings to rule by the divine right.

Davis 3 The American Revolution was actually successful in setting up a democratic government. As a result the idea of democracy possibly influenced many of French to eventually rise against the government, therefore starting the French Revolution. Also, the French had lent money to the American colonies, which played a role in causing France to have a massive national debt. This helped trigger civil unrest within France. The British Revolution resulted in constitutional monarchy. This is where citizens vote for elected members. Louis XIV was also known as the “Sun King. He saw himself as the centre of French life and culture. He built a vast and opulent palace in the village of Versailles and forced important nobles to live there with him. Everything that these nobles did required Louis’s approval. He also got involved in a number of wars that were largely unsuccessful. He involved himself in the politics of the Holy Roman Empire and claimed special rights. He persecuted Huguenots, who were often business people and entrepreneurs. All these conflicts, as well as his extravagant lifestyle almost ruined the French economy.

Twice the government brought in less money than it spent. Louis XV took the throne in 1715 at the age of 5. The extravagances of the court and failure of government to reform economic and social life continued to push France toward disaster. Louis XVI came to the throne in 1774, but didn’t want to govern so he left that to the others living well apart from the affairs of the government. The Cardinal of Richelieu created the Bastille as a prison for nobles and famous people. These prisoners were sentenced there by king’s letters without any other trial. Usually it was because they displeased the king.

At the time of the Revolution, the prison for nobles was no more and Davis 4 the decision was made to close it. On July 14th, 1789 there were only 7 prisoners left. The people of the Revolution stormed the Bastille to take possession of the 13,600 kg of gunpowder that was stored in it. However, the storming of the Bastille remains as the symbol of the fall of tyranny. On this day the monarchy ended and the Revolution started. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen consists of a preamble and 17 articles containing various provisions pertaining to the individual and the Nation.

It spells out ‘natural and indefeasible” rights as liberty, property, security and the right to resist oppression. The Declaration also recognizes equality, notably before the law and justice. Finally, it asserts the principle of the separation of powers. The Reign of Terror was the short but bloody period during the Revolution. It was a movement that resulted in the overthrow of a monarchy. It began in 1793 and ended in July 1794. During this time, revolutionary leader Maximilean Robspierre headed a group called a tribunal that arrested and put to death more than 17 thousand people.

Most of them were killed by beheading them with a guillotine. The most notable people that were beheaded were Louis XVI and Marie Antionette. After the Reign of Terror, the Revolution of France was over. A body of 5 directors were now in control. They called themselves the French Directory. What we now consider the dignity of individuals, the sanctity of human life, civil rights, the equality of all humans under the law, things in other words that we take for granted today were all a result of the French Revolution.

They now follow the motto, “liberty, equality and fraternity. ” http://www. enotes. com/french-revolution-reference-guide/french-revolution Censer, Jack, and Lynn Hunt. 2001. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, Available: http://www. encyclopedia. com/topic/French_Revolution. aspx http://www. publicbookshelf. com/public_html/Outline_of_Great_Books_Volume_I/informatio_bad. html