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Which Key Ideas Led To The French Revolution

The people of France were also inspired by the American Revolution in which the United States successfully gained independence from Britain. This served as an example of a successful revolution, and provided a guideline as to how a country could operate as a republic instead of a monarchy.

Which Key Ideas Led To The French Revolution

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The American Revolution (1775-89), which was concluding as the French Revolution was unfolding, was also significant. The American model provided French reformers with a working example of a successful revolution and a written constitution.

Many philosophes and French revolutionaries were vocal critics of the Catholic clergy. They condemned the wealth and profiteering of the Catholic church, its exemption from taxation, its political influence, its suppression of new ideas and its neglect of the French people.

5. Another important revolutionary idea was anti-clericalism, which sought to reform the Catholic church, particularly the actions of its clergy, reducing political influence, interference and corruption.

Accompanying this was a campaign for war against Austria and Prussia, also led by Brissot, whose aims have been interpreted as a mixture of cynical calculation and revolutionary idealism. While exploiting popular anti-Austrianism, it reflected a genuine belief in exporting the values of political liberty and popular sovereignty.[94] Ironically, Marie Antoinette headed a faction within the court that also favoured war, seeing it as a way to win control of the military, and restore royal authority. In December 1791, Louis made a speech in the Assembly giving foreign powers a month to disband the émigrés or face war, which was greeted with enthusiasm by supporters and suspicion from opponents.[95]

Fixed prices, death for 'hoarders' or 'profiteers', and confiscation of grain stocks by groups of armed workers meant that by early September, Paris was suffering acute food shortages. However, France's biggest challenge was servicing the huge public debt inherited from the former regime, which continued to expand due to the war. Initially the debt was financed by sales of confiscated property, but this was hugely inefficient; since few would buy assets that might be repossessed, fiscal stability could only be achieved by continuing the war until French counter-revolutionaries had been defeated. As internal and external threats to the Republic increased, the position worsened; dealing with this by printing assignats led to inflation and higher prices.[116]

There are various interpretations of the Terror and the violence with which it was conducted; Marxist historian Albert Soboul saw it as essential to defend the Revolution from external and internal threats. François Furet argues the intense ideological commitment of the revolutionaries and their utopian goals required the extermination of any opposition.[130] A middle position suggests violence was not inevitable but the product of a series of complex internal events, exacerbated by war.[131]

Tocqueville emphasized, in L'Ancien Régime et la Révolution, the "immense central power" [158] created by the revolutionaries, and which Mirabeau had early rejoiced. Tallien, in August 1794, to explain the appearance of the regime of terror, said that it presumed a power that was at once "arbitrary", "absolute" and "endless": "The system of terror presupposes not only [...] arbitrary and absolute power, but also endless power..."[159]

Recognizing only the French nation, the revolutionaries sought to destroy the identity of other nations. At the beginning of the revolution, they abolished the provinces, each of which had its own identity and which, for some of them, represented nations, establishing in their place the division into departments, which will be extended to the new conquests made during the revolutionary and Napoleonic eras.

The revolutionaries did not recognize the right to independence, nor autonomy, to the peoples of the French empire. Toussaint Louverture, who emerged during the struggle against the French army as a military leader, nevertheless managed to obtain autonomy by the fact, which was a prelude and condition for future independence.[176]

The song is the first example of the "European march" anthemic style, while the evocative melody and lyrics led to its widespread use as a song of revolution and incorporation into many pieces of classical and popular music. De Lisle was instructed to 'produce a hymn which conveys to the soul of the people the enthusiasm which it (the music) suggests.'[183]

The impact of the Revolution on French society was enormous and led to numerous changes, some of which were widely accepted, while others continue to be debated.[213] Under Louis XIV, political power was centralised at Versailles and controlled by the monarch, whose power derived from immense personal wealth, control over the army and appointment of clergy, provincial governors, lawyers and judges.[214] In less than a year, the king was reduced to a figurehead, the nobility deprived of titles and estates and the church of its monasteries and property. Clergy, judges and magistrates were controlled by the state, and the army sidelined, with military power placed held by the revolutionary National Guard. The central elements of 1789 were the slogan "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity" and "The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen", which Lefebvre calls "the incarnation of the Revolution as a whole."[215]

Coverage of the Revolution in the then Province of Quebec took place against the background of an ongoing campaign for constitutional reform by Loyalist emigrants from the United States. With the press reliant on reprinting articles from British newspapers, local opinion followed them in being generally positive on the aims and objectives of the revolutionaries.[253] This made it increasingly difficult to justify the withholding of electoral rights, with the British Home Secretary William Grenville remarking it was difficult to deny "to so large a body of British Subjects, the benefits of the British Constitution". This led to the "Constitutional Act 1791", which split the Province into two separate colonies, each with its own electoral assembly, the predominantly French-speaking Lower Canada and predominantly English-speaking Upper Canada.[254]

Contemporary conservatives like Edmund Burke and Friedrich von Gentz argued it was the product of a few conspiratorial individuals who brainwashed the masses into subverting the old order, a claim rooted in the belief that the revolutionaries had no legitimate complaints.[259] In the 19th century, the Revolution was heavily analysed by economists and political scientists like Alexis de Tocqueville, who suggested it was the result of a more prosperous middle class becoming conscious of its social importance.[260] Perhaps the most influential was Karl Marx, who viewed the social class nature of the Revolution as fundamental to understanding human social evolution itself. He argued the egalitarian values it introduced gave rise to a classless and co-operative model for society called "socialism", which found direct expression in the 1870 to 1871 Paris Commune.[261]

The French bias includes the white one, but it minimizes or ignores more generally all subjects related to colonies and imperialism, regardless of the question of slavery, which concerned only the black population.The French bias also attributes responsibility for the wars declared in 1792 and 1793 by France to Austria, England, etc., to these very powers. Historians such as Mignet, Thiers and Michelet have adopted this view. Mignet, for example, wrote in his Histoire de la révolution française: "France was threatened by the fate that Holland had just suffered and perhaps that of Poland. The whole question was reduced to waiting or anticipating the war, taking advantage of the enthusiasm of the people or letting it cool. The real author of war is not the one who declares it, but the one who makes it necessary."[269]This view has been challenged, among others, by Blanning, in The origins of the French revolutionary wars, and before him by Michon, in Essai sur l'histoire du parti feuillant. Both blamed the war on France. Michon wrote, for example: "There was no question of an external danger, of aggression by foreign powers..."[270]

Besides identifying dominant themes running throughout the Enlightenment period, some historians, such as Henry May and Jonathan Israel, understand Enlightenment thought as divisible into two broad categories, each reflecting the content and intensity of ideas prevalent at the time. The moderate Enlightenment signifies commitments to economic liberalism, religious toleration and constitutional politics. In contrast to its moderate incarnation, the radical Enlightenment conceives enlightened thought through the prism of revolutionary rhetoric and classical Republicanism. Some commentators argue that the British Enlightenment (especially figures such as James Hutton, Adam Ferguson and Adam Smith) was essentially moderate, while the French (represented by Denis Diderot, Claude Adrien Helvétius and François Marie Arouet) was decidedly more radical. Influenced as it was by the British and French, American Enlightenment thought integrates both moderate and radical elements.

Another idea central to American Enlightenment thinking is liberalism, that is, the notion that humans have natural rights and that government authority is not absolute, but based on the will and consent of the governed. Rather than a radical or revolutionary doctrine, liberalism was rooted in the commercial harmony and tolerant Protestantism embraced by merchants in Northern Europe, particularly Holland and England. Liberals favored the interests of the middle class over those of the high-born aristocracy, an outlook of tolerant pluralism that did not discriminate between consumers or citizens based on their race or creed, a legal system devoted to the protection of private property rights, and an ethos of strong individualism over the passive collectivism associated with feudal arrangements. Liberals also preferred rational argumentation and free exchange of ideas to the uncritical of religious doctrine or governmental mandates. In this way, liberal thinking was anti-authoritarian. Although later liberalism became associated with grassroots democracy and a sharp separation of the public and private domains, early liberalism favored a parliamentarian form of government that protected liberty of expression and movement, the right to petition the government, separation of church and state and the confluence of public and private interests in philanthropic and entrepreneurial endeavors. 041b061a72


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