Enlightenment Ideals and the French Revolution

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The Influence of the ideals during the “Age of Enlightenment” on the French Revolution

The 18th century was a time of utter turmoil in the streets and villages of France. Though the rich (First & Second Estates) lived, feeding off of the tax income from the poor, rather well-off, all was not well for the poor (Third Estate). The poor of the Third Estate lived in utter frustration and turmoil. Whereas for the First and Second Estates, taxes remained fairly low, this Third Estate was forever showered with taxes on their income, preventing them from purchasing the already sky-high in price bread which was their main food item. Desperate, the townsman were hopelessly entranced, believing little to nothing could be done. However, with the coming …show more content…

Many of the riots and stormings that took place during the French Revolution took a violent turn. Many of the earlier violent riots were from pure and utter “rage” from the lack of care from the government, however after Voltaire, the revolutionary retaliation gained another focal point. This point, was religion. Specifically, the Catholic Church. Few people people truly realized that less than .5% of the population, the First Estate (a.k.a the Catholic Clergy) owned 10% of the land and “extracted substantial amounts of wealth from the economy in the form of tithes and ecclesiastical fees, but paid few taxes” (History Book 615). Voltaire however, who “condemned injustice, clerical abuses, [and] prejudice” was one of these few, and decided to speak up, “frequently [making] use of his works to criticize [the] Church” (newworldencyclopedia.org). And it wasn’t just the financial corruption, no, Voltaire then also brought to light the oppression that was formalized religion. He believed in “freedom of religion” and advocated “social reform” in favor of displacing the Catholic Church (newworldencyclopedia.org). Voltaire’s wit was infamous for its ability to upheave crowds in his favor, in fact, his “fiery condemnation of the corruption of the church bore fruit in the radicalism and violence of the French Revolution… Anti-clerical violence and appropriation of church lands would undermine the church and the role of religion in French life” (newworldencyclopedia.org). As we can see from this statement, with some help from his assertive nature, Voltaire’s ideal towards the church took roots, and impacted part of the focus of the Revolution. This ideal added the want and need for, not only material things like food and shelter, but for religious

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