Perspectives on the French revolution.
This essay will examine the ideologies of the French revolution of 1789. Two perspectives on the French revolution were held by the conservatives’ elite and the educated philosophers. The educated philosophers believed that a revolution was the only way that the middle and lower class were to have a say in matters of state, and obtain their rights. Their goal in the revolution was to turn the absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. The conservatives believed that the absolute monarchy should stay intact to preserve their heritage, and that the revolutionary changes brought more problems than they solved. The French revolution started in 1789 and officially lasted 10 years, finishing in 1799. Although according to public opinion, many events after the official end of the revolution are considered to be included in revolution for example the rein of Napoleon Bonaparte. The revolutions started as a result of rising food prices and the states bankruptcy. The rising food prices were primarily caused by an immense and volatile hailstorm. The food shortage may have ended there, however the hailstorm was followed by a long drought, likely caused by the El Niño effect. After the drought there was an uncharacteristically cold winter rivers and roads froze over, stopping flour from being ground by watermills, and the little food that was produced couldn’t get to the market because the roads were blocked. When spring came around and the snow finally thawed it caused floods destroying an abundance of farmland. There is also speculation that volcanic activity of Laki and Grimsvöth had a hand in the food crisis. In addition to rising food prices, the states bankruptcy, caused in part by Frances involvement in the American revolutionary war, put the monarchy in a difficult financial position. To pay its debts the state would either have to borrow money or raise the already high taxes on the third estate (Adcock, pg. 40). Both decisions were unfavourable as they would cause upheaval in civilian life. The taxes were already high, having been raised to pay for the many wars King Louis XIV had waged, leaving the state in debt (Neely, pg. 29). In august 1786 king Louis XVI’s minister of finance informed him of the seriousness of the financial situation. France had been in debt for about 100 years. They waged 4 separate wars between 1733 and 1783, and borrowed more than £1250 million since 1776. These were the major contributions to Frances debt (Adcock pg. 41, Brooman pg. 19). The king had two options, either borrow more money or raise the taxes higher than they’ve ever been. He soon discovered he couldn’t borrow more money because he was in too much debt, so he tried to introduce a new tax. This tax was called the land tax, all land owners had to pay this tax to keep the land they owned. This included the first, second and third estates land but excluded the king. All new taxes and laws had to be registered and approved at the law courts, or parliament in Paris. King Louis tried to pass the new tax without the estates generals’ approval. When the law courts wouldn’t allow him to introduce the new tax without their approval he exiled the entire parliament from Paris. People everywhere in France protested against this, sometimes violently, for six months until King Louis gave in and reappointed them. As a result of these main problems the people felt that the monarchy was not doing its job and that the French people needed a constitutional government to rule over them fairly. Although the philosophes did not always agree on political issues they did agree that the scientific discoveries made in the 17th century were important to all aspects of life (Neely pg. 16). Most philosophes were not traditional Christians, but rather deists. Deists believed that “knowledge of god came through study of the nature that he created” and did not believe in things such as miracles (Neely pg. 17). Before...
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