The French Revolution

Powerful Essays
The French Revolution has gone down in history as an inglorious, unfruitful rebellion, but if one were to trace the actions of the Third Estate, however perplexing and malignant, it is easy to see that everything was stemmed from the—then radical—mantra of liberty, equality, and fraternity. A line from Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, says it best “though this be madness, there is method in’t” (9). The French Revolutionists’ fundamental causes for usurping absolutist political powers and providing basic rights to all men appears all for naught and a paradox in itself; the Third Estate was effective in changing the class, economic and political structures of eighteenth century France.
Until the eighteenth century France was an absolute monarchy—a monarchy in which the king and queen could govern the nation without abiding to any state laws or regulations. Through this absolute monarchy, the traditional French class system of ‘Estates’ was born. The First Estate was composed of bishops and archbishops of the Roman Catholic Church. According to Lin’s diagram, no more than 130,000 Frenchmen were in this class. Though this class amounted to approximately 1% of those living in France, their rewards were most bountiful. Bishops and archbishops were exempted from land taxes, because church property could neither be taxed nor sold, and clergymen also had the right to collect tithes—most of which was pocketed for personal gain. Though some simple parish priests sympathized with peasants, sadly it was apparent that those working for the church were more concerned with monetary and power gain, than their spiritual duties. The Second Estate was the noble class, consisting of the Royal family, the lords and ladies of the courts, and those in govern...

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Nygaard, Bertel. "The Meanings of "Bourgeois Revolution": Conceptualizing The French Revolution." Science & Society 71.2 (2007): 146-172. Academic Search Complete. Web. 24 Feb. 2014. <>
Shakespeare, William. "Act II Scene II." Hamlet. New York: Dover Publications, 1992. 39. Print.
Taine, Hippolyte, and John Durand. "Spontaneous Anarchy." The French Revolution. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1962. 2-3. Print.
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