History – Western Civilization
The French Revolution is a series of great uprisings of the French civilians against autocratic rule. In addition to representing people’s rebellion against autocracy, the French Revolution also acted as one of the important landmarks as far as European history is concerned. Importantly, the French Revolution involved three major revolutions – the first and major revolution took place during the years1789-1799, the Second French Revolution also known as the July Revolution 1830, and the Third French Revolution also known as the February Revolution 1848 (De Tocqueville p.7-12). The main issue behind the emergence of French Revolution was public resentments against autocracy rule in France, with an intention of gaining liberty, equality, and fraternity. As a result of these French conflicts, many changes in the political, economic, and social realms took place shaping the course of the French history (Aggarwal Para 1-2). Based on the causes and effects of the French Revolution, this essay argues on the entire worth of the misery this revolution caused.
The first factor that led to the emergence of French Revolution was inequality in all spheres of life experienced. For instance, agricultural revenues were not distributed equally and peasants possessed just a third of the land but were expected to pay rents for most of the lands they worked. During the middle ages, churches appeared to possess huge chunks of land thus the monks who were part of the church engaged in designing regions while owning lands. Equally, members of the urban bourgeois owned almost one quarter of all lands, which created a feeling of resentments from the poor members of the society, who were mostly comprised of farmers. Moreover, the rise of class system in Europe, where the upper class was comprised of merchants and members from the ruling family whereas the lower class was comprised of peasants, propagated immense inequalities between the relatively high number of new billionaires and multi-millionaires at the top and hundreds of millions of impoverished peasants and citizens at the who occupy the bottom position (Andress p.12). In this light of social inequality, I believe that the revolution was worth the misery it caused. The second aspect of inequality was witnessed in the economic sector in terms of taxation where taxation was conducted in a biased manner. In essence, the taxation system in the French society was highly criticized by most civilians and peasants who lamented about oppression since the government used impunity to overtax people therefore affecting the overall economy (Censer p.6). In addition to imposing taxes to peasants and citizens, landowners, monks, and the church were given special privileges as they were either exempted from paying taxes completely or “…opposed any attempt to tax land and income in a substantial way, and defended their privileges” (p.11). On the same note, the church was completely exempted from paying taxes, while given the opportunity to collect tithe on agricultural products and livestock (p.11). Since civilians were growing tired of the corrupt local officials under King Louis XIV administration, who pestered them through charging exorbitant fees while seizing their properties, the French Revolutionary was inevitable. In this regard, farmers, who were also by far the most affected group of this inequality, conducted massive uprisings expressing their resentments.
The other factor that contributed to the French Revolution was the emergence of philosophers who published works addressing the needs of the society such as the need for people to enjoy freewill and liberty without being interfered by external factors. Among these philosophers included Jean Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, and Immanuel Kant who explained various concepts of the society such as social contract, liberty, and enlightenment respectively. In connection with the social contract concept, Jacques Rousseau insisted that that once the societies unite under a certain form of contract, they are likely to develop into complete humans. In relation to politics, Jean Jacque Rousseau believed that once people developed a social contract with the civil society, they were likely to give all and even sacrifice the physical freedom of what they are able to accomplish with a view of gaining civil freedom. Once they attain this civil freedom, they are able to act and fine-tune their actions in a rational and moral way. Equally, Karl Marx concept of liberty and material support as the driving factors for prosperity in the society, while Kant addressed the issue of enlightenment, which acted as an eye-opener for people to realize their rights (The Columbia Encyclopedia Authors Para 3). Based on the need for individuals to be accorded their rights, the misery of this revolution was worth.
The last aspect that contributed to the emergence of the French Revolution was the need for all gender to enjoy equal rights. The rights included the need for equality since both men and women were born free and must were expected to enjoy equal rights to men; the need to accord women liberty, property, and security against any form of oppression; the application of the laws of nature to discourage actions that are injurious to the society; expression of the general will from the law; safeguarding the rights of women, and the need to accord women the freedom to freely express their opinions. During the reign of King Louis XIV, there was no constitution to guarantee civilians their rights, particularly; women were not recognized as active members of the society. As such, mothers, daughters, sisters, and all female representatives such as Olympe de Gouges from the nation emphasized the need for their rights to be addressed by the national assembly (Censer p.59). This acted as an important grievance that had to be addressed if at all the French Revolution was to come to an end.
One of the results of the French Revolution was the fall of Bastille, which acted as the state Prison. This ensured that all prisoners were released hence acting as the beginning of liberty for all people. Following this, the French National Assembly also came up with a constitution that contained the rights of all citizens. The legal system was also restructured to ensure that fair justice was accorded to all individuals regardless of their gender or social status in the society. What is more is that, although women were not accorded political rights, they were given important rights such as customary laws pertaining to marriage, which made marriage a civil contract (History World International Para 14). Through formulation of the constitution, it is clear that the misery experienced during the French Revolution was worth.
The French Revolution was worth all the misery it caused since it unified the French nation, which was important as it boosted the power of the national state. This is important since the ancient monarchy enhanced inequality through social classes, while facilitating discriminations of all kinds. Lastly, this Revolution was worth all the misery since it led to the creation of a new state, ensuring that France was finally an independent state where citizens would enjoy their natural rights and freedoms (Andress p.403). In this regard, I believe that the French Revolution was significant and worth all the misery.
In sum, the main issue behind the emergence of French Revolution was public resentments against autocracy rule in France, with an intention of gaining liberty, equality, and fraternity. Indeed, other causes include the need to address social, political, and economic inequalities. As a result of these French conflicts, many changes in the political, economic, and social realms took place shaping the course of the nation’s history.
Aggarwal, Mamta. “French Revolution: Influence, Causes, and Course of the Revolution.” History Discussion: History of France. 2015. Web. 16 Jun. 2015. <http://www.historydiscussion.net/history/history-of-france/french-revolution-influence-causes-and-course-of-the-revolution/1663>
Andress, David, ed. The Oxford Handbook of the French Revolution. Oxford University Press, 2015. Print
Censer, Jack R. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution. Penn State Press, 2001. Print
De Tocqueville, Alexis. Recollections: The French Revolution of 1848. Transaction Publishers, 1995. Print
History World International. “The French Revolution.” The World History Center. 2006. Web. 16 Jun. 2015. <http://history-world.org/french_revolution1.htm>
The Columbia Encyclopedia Authors. “French Revolution.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed, 2014. Web. 16 Jun. 2015. <http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-FrenchRe.html>