Essay about Causes of the French Revolution
After the French had helped the American colonies gain independence from the British, they were left in a lot of debt. Because they used most of their money on fighting in the war, they needed an intelligent and experienced leader to dig them out of the hole that they created for themselves. Unfortunately, all they had was Louis XVI, a lackadaisical and an overall poor ruler, spending France's money on completely unnecessary things. He often clashed with the second estate because of France's unequal tax system. Since most of the income came from the third estate, the nobles needed to change their taxation status, but they refused, leading France in bankruptcy. With the monarchy and nobility causing many economic issues, it's clear why the third estate revolted. On top of that, the Burguosuise was getting frustrated as well because of their lack of privileges compared to first and second estates. However, them being extremely educated, allowed them to notice the Enlightenment ideas that the Americans used to overcome the British and lead them to victory. So, it made them question if they could do the same to overcome their monarchy. Economic issues and Enlightenment ideals both played a large role in influencing the start of the French Revolution in different ways. Both were important in characterizing the development of the revolution as a whole.
In Document 1, there is a report being made to the king concerning his recent spending. Jacque Necker writes about how he predicts that this will result in disaster since this issue can only be solved by taking out loans, to which he believes would worsen the situation at hand. In order to condense the military expenses, public credit was greatly hurt and affected all the people of France. This is a clear representation of how France’s issues economically were present because of the king’s irresponsible decisions. This evidently annoyed Jaque Necker as well as the other citizens of France and played a main role in causing revolts against the monarchy. Jacque Necker being a financial minister adds to this claim because of his experience in the particular field, making his prediction trustworthy and reliable. Document 3 is a political cartoon showcasing the unfairness between the three estates with a member of the third estate slaving away while carrying the first and second estates on their back. This represents how the economic status and social rank of the French determined their rights. Most income came from the third estate and the fact that they were considered a lower class, really shows the economic unfairness that took place. Under the drawing is a caption that translates to “One must hope that this game will end soon” signifying that the third estate were fed up with the nobles and clergy, and that this treatment must come to an end and there would have to be a revolution in the future. In Document 6, Jean-Paul Marat makes a bold statement against the king of France in a newspaper article. In his writings he informs the people that King Louis plans on continuing his reign by causing a famine. He goes on to state that the king is doing nothing about the request for financial reforms except waiting for the public treasury to refill. The document ends with saying that the people of the nation are trapped under the rule of an awful ruler that doesn’t keep his promises, leaving them defenseless. This shows that although the people of France requested economic reforms, the king refused, further putting them into a state of anger and causing them to eventually revolt. Because this document is a newspaper article, it means that it was meant to be released to the public eye to spread a message. In doing this, Jean-Paul had most likely convinced many French citizens to take a stand against the king, showing that economic issues were a cause of the French Revolution.
A decree of the National assembly is shown in Document 4, where they state that they will be abolishing the feudal system. They believed that the ideas put across in the constitution were more important than giving certain classes certain privileges above other people. In doing this, they completely got rid of serfdom. Abolishing serfdom is a completely enlightened ideal and it was being used in France. This connects to Document 5, an address from the Jews of France presented to the National assembly. They talk about how they respect many of the actions taken from the national assembly. They mention how each man should be looked at as the same and they appreciate that because of their previous issues with discrimination. This is an example of religious tolerance being set and is another Enlightened ideal like in Document 4 that led to the French revolution because they were clearly sharing ideals that went directly against the monarchy. The Declaration of the Rights of Man is a document that isn’t given, but still supports the claim. It was approved by the National Assembly of France and it lists a series of rights that the French representatives think should be naturally given. Like most things at the time, this document was in response to the kings inconsiderate decisions and the unfair feudal system. The rights on this document included many personal liberties like freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of property, which all are considered Enlightenment ideas. The Declaration of the Rights of Man’s purpose was to oppose the unfair powers and start a revolution of changes. Document 2 discusses the struggles that the women of the third estate faced, with absolutely no trace of wealth and no education. They state that men shouldn’t be able to take any jobs that should be kept by women. The main idea of this document was the women asking for a chance to be educated and for schools to be made in order to do so. It's important to mention that this letter was addressed to King Louis XVI, meaning that they sent this in hope that the King would make these reforms when in reality he never did, being another reason for possible revolt. Document 7 takes a similar path showing an image of French woman with a spear marked with the words “liberty or death”. This document can be interpreted in many ways but it seems to be a call for revolution, specifically because of the quote and the revolutionary symbols. “Liberty or death” shows how the women and other French people revolted against the monarchy for their lack of liberty and overall freedom. Liberty being an enlightened ideal further proves that Enlightenment ideals were the other cause of the French Revolution.
Overall it is clear that the French Revolution was caused by both economic issues and the spread of Enlightenment ideals. Unfortunately, in the end the French Revolution wasn’t even that successful. This was for a number of reasons, but one is that some of the people who participated in the revolution got out of control and started to go against the laws that they themselves made in The Declaration of the Rights of Man. It had immediate effects like the beheading of Louis XVI, but overtime the absolute monarchy was eventually taken over by the much more restrictive dictatorship of Napoleon. However, the movement was not forgotten, for the progressive enlightened ideals and economic concerns spread throughout Europe, giving more and more people ideas on how to make an overall better government. Louis XVI was an awful leader, and most of the economic issues were because of him, as well as people's need to go against him and spread progressive Enlightened ideals. Looking back, it seems very possible that if France had a better leader, the French Revolution may have never needed to happen.