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Reflections On The Revolution In France Essay

Revolution in France in 1789 Essay

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Revolution in France in 1789

The causes of the revolution in France can be divided it to long-term causes and short term causes. The main long-term cause was the way in which the country was run. The 'ancien regime' was the period in France before the revolution of 1789. There was royal despotism, heavy taxes, the parlements had no real power and the church was also exploiting the peasants. The main short-term causes were the American war of Independence, the financial crisis in France and the unwillingness for the King and church to change.

During the 'ancien regime' the country was divided into estates. The first estate was the clergy, the second estate were the nobles and the third were…show more content…

They new that they had no real power, and they also knew that the King was an absolutist ruler. This combined with the 'enlightenment', which was produced by the Philosophers like Rousseau, may have been considered to form the base of a revolution, but it would have never flourished without other factors. Many members of the nobility also held seats in Parlements, which were up for sale. This resulted in the important seats on the councils not being filled by people that are competent, but by people that have enough to please the monarch and their extravagant lives.

The third estate made up approximately 98% of France. Most of them were peasants, working on increasing small pieces of land that they rented from their 'lord' from an extortionate amount of money, or they worked in the factories in the cities, were the working and living conditions were atrocious. Although in the present day state of mind, were it is uncommon for somebody not to be educated, it is hard to realise that these people were contempt in life. As I explained earlier, the 1st estate had extreme power over the 3rd estate. The Peasants went to church and believed that there current life was insignificant as long as they obeyed God and were guaranteed a place in heaven. The peasants were also very badly educated and the ideas of the philosophers were

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Edmund Burke, an Anglo-Irish political thinker and philosopher was the chief framer of conservatism.  His most influential work, Reflections on the Revolution in France, opposed the core values of his contemporary revolutionaries and predicted that the French Revolution would cause anarchy and bring about terror. Reflections, published in 1790, was written in the wake of the Bastille storming; at the height of the French Revolution.

Embedded in his writing was a concept popularized by a prior philosopher, Thomas Hobbes; that men must surrender themselves to an established authority, in order to protect against the savagery of the natural world. With this in mind, the thought process behind Burke’s claim, that the incapability and corruption of the traditional monarch is unimportant because it has “an edifice which has answered…for ages” can be understood.  For, if he shared in the French citizens’ faith of human goodness, a government steering towards an unknown port would not be such a terrifying prospect.

In searching for equality, France had uprooted the very institutions holding order, and with that had become wildly chaotic.  Burke speaks of this chaos spreading the corruptions “that usually were the disease of wealth and power” to “all ranks of life”. Supposedly, this was the equality the French were in search of; they were now all “[unhappily] corrupt”.  Burke’s negative twist on the supposedly positive right of equality demonstrates an obscure position that, complex societies were meant to be unfair/unequal.  This can be extended in that both, tradition and the spirit of religion, as it had been practiced support this inequality. As Burke puts it: “fear God…look up with awe to kings…with reverence to priests, and with respect to nobility”.

In light of the acceptance of an unequal nation, the acceptance of the nation before the individual is not surprising.  Burke’s agreement with this notion is made clear when he states, “the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages”, rather than “trade his own private stock”. This is significant because it is a major belief of conservatism.  Essentially, he advocates the preservation of the old regime because despite the heavy taxation, the lack of political power and the general despair facing a vast number of individuals, the country as a whole, the more important body, was maintaining sufficient success.

At the outset of his writing, Burke was nearly one of a kind as he presented unique arguments that were unheard of at the time.  His impact would be felt both immediately and for decades to come. The ideology he shaped; conservatism, gained much popularity after the Reign of Terror ensued and proved him right.  He forged the ideas of those repudiating the Revolution and, although conservatism peaked in the period following 1815, his ideas have been used by numerous social commentators and politicians as justifications ever since.  Burke’s insurgent ideas will continue to play an essential role in the shaping of governmental ideologies for years to come.

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