What Caused The French Revolut Essay, Research Paper
What Caused the French Revolution?
France had a large population and prosperous trade during the 1700’s. It was considered to be the most advanced country of Europe. However, when high taxes and disturbing questions about the Enlightenment were sprung upon the French citizens, mainly the Third Estate of the Old Regime, the people needed a change. King Louis XVI left these problems of France unresolved and contributed to new dilemmas. Thus the French Revolution was started by such causes as the thoughts of Voltaire and Rousseau in the Enlightenment, weak leadership by King Louis XVI in his incapability to solve France’s financial problems, and the sudden power felt by the French radicals.
The once powerful economy of the French was ruined as taxes corrupted their trade and production industries. As the population rose, the price of living did as well. While the French people reached a stage of starvation, King Louis XVI reached a large debt. As Louis’ weak leadership qualities increased their debt, which doubled after the financial costs of helping the Americans in their war against the British, he and his wife spent more on extravagant indulgences. The crisis was put off until France faced bankruptcy when a meeting of the Estates-General was called approving for a tax reform. However, this tax reform lead to a reform dictated by the people of France.
The Old Regime remained in place in France in the 1770’s excluding the third estate from any form of equality. As this group, making up 98 percent of the population, was educated about the Enlightenment ideas of equality, liberty, and democracy their resentment began to build. Great philosophers such as Voltaire and Rousseau used the success of the American Revolution to wet the appetites of the Third Estate for freedom. The merchants, farmers, and peasants of France needed a guide or spokesperson, which they found in Abbe Sieyes, a sympathetic clergyman for the radical’s cause. With the powerful words, “What is the Third estate? Everything. What has it been up to now in the political order? Nothing,” by Sieyes it gave the Third Estate delegates a will to change into the National Assembly. This assembly passed laws and reforms for the people of France. The final step of this series of reforms was the pledge to make a new constitution, called the Tennis Court Oath. The rebellion set up by the Third Estate set their foot in the door for their revolution.
Radicals felt power in France and used it to take control. As King Louis XVI tried to make a peace offering to the now powerful radicals, he made the mistake of bringing in foreign troops for protection since he didn’t trust his French soldiers. This act by the king sent rumors through the French citizens and created a “wave of senseless panic called the Great Fear”. The outnumbering radicals became mobs and riots waving pitchforks and torches. They gathered weapons and on July 14 they overwhelmed the king’s soldiers, who were protecting gunpowder, and took control of the Bastille. Six thousand Parisian women contributed to the rioting. In October 1789, these women broke into the king’s palace over the price of bread. Louis and his wife were quick to leave signaling “the change of power and radical reforms about to overtake France”. The Declaration of the Rights of Man was formed along with a new government for France.
Resentment by the Third Estate, remaining debts of great size, and power felt by the rising radicals were all preventable problems, yet as they stayed unresolved they became the major causes of the French Revolution.