The Enlightment Caused the French Revolution

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Prior to the revolution, King Louis XVI was at the top of the ancien régime, the social, economic, and political structure in France, which means he had absolute power. When he received the throne in 1774, it came along with insoluble problems. The people were split into three estates which divided social class. The first estate consisted of 100,000 tax exempt nobles who owned 20% of the land. The second estate consisted of the 300,000 tax exempt clergy who owned 10% of the land. The third estate consisted of the remaining 23.5 million French people who were 90% peasants. The third estate was the only estate that paid taxes. Their taxes ensured the financial well-being of the clergy, state, and nobles (French Revolution Overview 6). The Enlightenment was a major influence of the French Revolution. The Enlightenment caused the revolution in three ways. First of all, the Enlightenment made people see how France was not a perfect society. It opened their eyes to the fact that France was helping other countries more. For example, the French government gave money to support the American Revolution while the people in their own country need money. Also, Voltaire who was an Enlightenment thinker caused uproar by the peasants upon his return to France when he announced that England was superior to France (Voltaire 7). Second, it made people skeptical about whether the government was there to fulfill their duty of protecting the people’s natural rights. The Enlightenment encouraged people to question divine right, the God-given authority rulers claimed to have (Enlightenment, Its Origins and the French Revolution 15). Finally, it made the third estate realize how the taxation was simply greed. It made their eyes open to the fact that... ... middle of paper ... ... corruption of the government in many countries including France. It stated what was reasonably correct not just what was traditionally taught to people. It allowed the French people to gain a surfeit of power and have a say in the government. However, their work was obliterated once Napoleon Bonaparte declared himself dictator of France in 1799 (French Revolution 13). Not only did the Enlightenment cause the French Revolution by allowing the people to see how inferior France really was, making them question divine right, and opening their eyes to the injustice between estates occurring, but it also described the United States which is the epitome of an ideal society. While the Enlightenment criticized monarchy governments, it influenced democratic forms of government. Without the Enlightenment and the help of France, the United States wouldn’t be what it is today.

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