Enlightenment Essay, Research Paper
There are a number of profound reasons that caused the French Revolution.
Prevailing reasons include social inequality, economic downfall, and the
introduction of new ideals into society. This introduction of new, radical ideals is
what is known to historians as the Enlightenment. Enlightenment ideals provided
a major foundation of motivation for change in France. These ideals stimulated
absolute monarchs to apply reason to statecraft, a search for useful reforms, as
well as a philosophe-shaped public opinion in order to spread their radical new
Absolutist monarchs customarily managed the state in their own interest;
that is, whatever allowed them to remain absolute. Enlightenment ideals radically
changed the monarchs into thinking with reason and not personal will. Colossal
changes were implemented economically and socially. Noble power was
re-asserted yet new taxes were implemented to compensate for the enormous
national debt. Nobles would tax the peasants more, peasants would have less
money to buy from middle class businessman. These ideals initiated a
comprehensive social upheaval.
The 3 Estates all had class specific reforms. The clergy and nobility fought
for more power while everyone else, the Third Estate, fought for class
representation. In order for a reform to be made or law to be passed 2 of the 3
Estates needed to approve it. The case was usually the clergy and nobility
conspiring against the Third Estate. This causing the majority of France’s
population to remain uneasy while the powerful minority sat comfortably
oblivious to the Third Estates buzz of disapproval.
French philosphes asked questions in accordance to the significance of life,
God, human nature, good and evil, and cause and effect. Their driving force was
not to influence provincial society, but to influence the social elite. Their was the
“enlightened public” and the “blind multitude”. The elite emphasized intellectual
and philosophical ideas and reforms; while the subordinate class focused on social
and political manners.
The Enlightenment provided a huge influence to the French Revolution. It
gave reason to all the Estates to fight for their cause. As history has suggested, the
provincial Estate claimed their identity and stripped the Elite’s class position.
Absolute monarchy went to a constitutional monarchy which then preceded to a
dictatorship and on to a Republic, all due to a Revolution caused in major part by
Essay written from lectures given by Mr. P.J. O’Conner. AP U.S. History IB Teacher at Stanton College Preparatory High School, 1149 W. 13th Street, Jax., FL, 32209