The French Revolution

The French revolution dates back to 1789. The French people changed their form of government during 1789 revolution.  These people were determined to eliminate the excess privilege that was associated with the royal family. Eradicating obnoxious privilege became the most underling slogan to the French revolutionalists. These revolutionalists had avowed to sacrificing everything with a view to acquiring equality. For them to achieve this equality, they had to give up their political liberty.

There has been, however, a lack of consensus about what led to the French revolution exactly. In same context, different historians have come with different theories that explain what really caused the revolution. Gorges Lefebvre, for an instance used his Marxist interpretation to explain the cause of the revolution. For him, the French revolution was rooted in the bourgeoisie rise (Burbeck 18-19). Another Marxist writer, Albert Mathiez, was of the notion that the French revolution stemmed from class conflict (Duvall 13-14).

Majority of historians and students of the French revolution hold the notion that this insurrection was a bourgeois revolution, fueled by class conflict. For a long time, inequality reined supreme in France. In ancient French, the clergy and nobles led privileged lives. They were, for instance, exempt from paying tax on their incomes. “The taxes were mainly paid by the Third Estate.” [1] Third Estates consisted of artisans, peasants, professionals and merchants.  Political and economic inequalities also existed in France. Furthermore, despite the Third Estates paying their dues to the king and nobles, they were still required to pay dues to the church. Paying the dues to the church was seen as pointless obligation because people were coming to terms with the age of reason. The writers and poets of this time also played a critical role in sparking thought and dissatisfaction among the French people (Burbeck 18-19).

Before the revolution, France was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. This bankruptcy was caused partly by the wars of Louis XIV and by the royal family spendthrift indulgence and that of his predecessors. Even the so, the 250 million dollars that America was lent to fight for their independence also contributed to the bankruptcy.

France in 1789 in presumption was a supreme monarch, a progressively more disliked form of government at the time. In reality, the King’s ability to assume on his supreme powers was edged by the equally disliked power and rights of the nobility and the clergy, the surviving scions of feudalism.

The massive and growing population of French middle class, and a section of the nobles and working class, had embraced the ideology of equality and liberty of the majority of people. Similarly, philosophers and intellectuals like Voltaire, Turgot, and Didero influenced this type ideology. Little, however, is attributed to the theorists of Enlightenment. Additionally, the French had been influenced by the American Revolution, which portrayed that it was possible to implement Enlightenment ethics about the organization of the government. The French revolutionalists ganged up against the less democratic government (Orlando 121).

Taxes rates in France were relatively high. Taxation was based on a mechanism that targeted internal tariffs that Balkanized some regions of France. This regional separation led to a slow economic growth. For instance, taxes like gabelle were taxed on farmers, whereupon the private collectors signed contracts for the collection of taxes. This mechanism led to unfair collection of taxes. Similarly, royal taxes were collected as mandatory labor. Furthermore, this method also exempted the clergy and nobles from paying taxes on their pay perquisites. The weight of the tax burden was placed on the shoulders of merchants, peasants, and business classes. These classes of people were denied government positions, causing insurrection (Tocqueville 111).

For a century, the French monarch operated without the intervention of the legislature. Kings managed their monetary affairs by doubling the fiscal burden of the prehistoric and discriminatory system of taxes. The kings too managed their fiscal affairs by selling noble titles and or by borrowing money. This privilege thus led to multiple monetary crisis of the France government. Before the revolution, France was steeped in debt such that it was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Obnoxious extravagances of King Louis XIV and his wife on luxuries led to France being heavily indebted. Food scarcity was something that compounded all other challenges that faced France. Crops failures in the 1780s caused these inadequacies. Similarly, these shortages led to hiked prices for bread (Tocqueville 112).

The disparity between the monarchy and nobles is brought to the limelight in the Marxist hypothesis. “The nobles had hired members of the Third Estate with a view to removing the monarchy from power.” [2] The Third Estate began to formulate ideas of their own, and started to view themselves as capable of threatening the power of the clergy and nobles. These classes of people sought after civil equality; they clamored for the abolition of obnoxious privileges of clergy and nobles. Similarly, the bourgeoisie wanted to establish a mechanism where all men adhered to the rule of law, and paid taxes despite their social status.

According to Orlando (100), the revolution ushered in a new order. The new order came along with the declaration of rights of man. The majority of the French now enjoyed equal rights and freedoms without exclusion. Liberty came with right to property, to resistance, to worship, to expression and press, amid others. Equality that was realized after the revolution abolished vestiges of feudalism and the obnoxious privileges of nobles and clergy.

Similarly, the French revolution introduced the notions of nationalism and democracy across the globe. The philosophy of notable intellectuals and philosophers like Rousseau and Locke sparked a new awakening in the people of the world from their sleep of ignorance. Furthermore, the French revolution brought together the people of the world with a view to resisting any oppression by clamoring for nationalism (Burbeck 18-19).

Conversely, the French revolution abolished the monarchy for once and for all. It thus provided a platform for the exercise of democracy. Revolutionaries formulated the idea of a partial monarch. The new laws that were enacted by the French National Assembly ensured that Negro slavery was abolished. The new laws also recognized the right of women to own property as their male counterparts. In sum, the French revolution, as we see it, played a crucial role by offering a modicum of hope and inspiration to the oppressed and suffering humanity (Duvall 13-14).

Work Cited

Burbeck, James. “The French Revolt and Empire.” The War Times 50.2 (2003). 18-19. Print.

Duvall, James N. “Causes of the French Revolution.” French Revolution 45.2 (1999). 13-14.     Print.

Orlando, Figes. Citizen: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. New York: Vintage, 1990. Print.

Tocqueville, Alexis. The Old Regime and the French Revolution. New York: Anchor Books,      1995. Print.

[1] Figes Orlando, A Chronicle of French Revolution ( New York: Vintage, 1990) 120

[2] Alexis Tocqueville, The Old Regime and The French Revolution ( New York: Anchor Books, 1995) 117

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