French Revolution Discussion Questions Essay

French Revolution Discussion Questions Essay.

1. After the Sun King died in 1715, France’s financial status was bad. As the 18th century progressed these problems were never fixed and the problems continued to worsen. The Bourbons faced a variety of socio-political problems during the 18th century. After supporting the American Revolution and getting nothing in return because of the Treaty of Paris, France was left with insurmountable amounts of debt. To try to decrease the amount of debt facing France, Louis XVI tried to raise taxes but was met with a resounding protest throughout the country.

The government could not inflate their currency because they did not have a central bank or paper currency. It seemed this financial situation was next to impossible to overcome. The general population was upset because the cost of living was skyrocketing; they were unable to provide for their daily needs and the monarchy was wasting money on unnecessary luxuries. 2. When the French Revolution began the French people were divided into three estates.

The first estate consisted of the clergy, the second the nobility, and the third estate was the rest of France. Each estate had problems with the monarchy and wanted reform. The clergy was upset that the church’s income was being depleted from the local parishes to political appointees and worldly aristocrats the sat at the top of church hierarchy. Because of this, the economic position of local parishes were poor. The rest of the French population had simple problems but for some reason were not being solved. The third estate wanted bread to be attainable for all so they could feed their families. The price of bread was very high and the economic position of the country was terrible because of the debt caused by their support of the American Revolution, which caused widespread hunger.

The three estates blamed the monarchy for their problems because no one else had enough power to come up with a solution. Unfortunately, the King couldn’t make decisions and was influenced by the people around him in his decision making. Marie Antoinette and the court nobles did not care about the third estate, they just wanted to be able to maintain their frivolous lifestyle of luxury and ease. 3. The main goal of the Revolutionaries was to create a new constitution which they did in August 1789 when they issued the declaration of the rights of man. This stated that mankind’s natural rights are liberty, property, security, resistance to oppression and that every man is innocent until proven guilty. It also stated that the law would express the feelings and the opinions of the general will. The Revolutionaries in 1789 attempted to create a constitutional monarchy.

The Enlightenment philosophers, especially Montesquieu, influenced the type of government the French would become. Montesquieu believed in a separation of powers or a series of checks and balances so that there would not be tyranny. France wanted their government to follow that example. 4. The goal of the revolution was to reform France’s government and bring equality to all people. The revolution took such a radical turn because of political and social factors. People knew that the National Assembly was working on reforming the government and the economic situation of France. They started to become impatient and decided to take matters into their own hands. The Great Fear is one of the ways the peasants tried to free themselves from manorial rights and peasants invaded the palace as an attempt to be heard by the monarchy.

The inter-conflict of the National Assembly caused the revolution to take a radical turn as well. Some people believed bloodshed was the only way to solve the problems of the revolution. They believed the monarchy needed to be disposed of which resulted of the execution of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Some revolutionaries were determined to put an end to tyranny throughout Europe and declared war against Britain, Holland, Spain in addition to Austria and Prussia whom they were already at war with.

5. One of the most controversial phases of the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, was a step backwards in terms of the ideals developed during the Revolution. During the Reign of Terror, the Constitution previously implemented was suspended and the rights of sovereignty that the Revolutionaries had fought for all was revoked. The Reign of Terror was a political tool to scare all who might oppose the new revolutionary government. The goal was to initiate an ideal democratic republic where justice would reign supreme and there would be no differentiation between the rich and the poor. 6. Robespierre was one of the main leaders of the revolution and considered himself a disciple of Rousseau.

I believe this is true because he follows the same beliefs about the general will as Rousseau does. Rousseau believes that in society everyone should be dependant of each other in all aspects of life. This dependency would prevent individual achievement, and everyone would be equal. Robespierre wanted there to be no difference between rich and poor. Rousseau also believed that nothing could be done without the consent of all people. One person could not make decisions independently and could not be without the consent of all.

French Revolution Discussion Questions Essay

Short and Long term Causes of the French Revolution Essay

Short and Long term Causes of the French Revolution Essay.

The French Revolution beginning in 1789 redesigned the country’s political landscape and uprooted century old institutions. The movement was a result of a combination of various factors and played a critical role in shaping and showing modern nations the power inherent in the will of people. The Monarchy’s absolute rule and ancient regime were tested by the growing influence of the Enlightenment, which challenged traditional ways and ideas. Lavish spending and irrational mistakes made by the royal family worsened the nations ongoing economic debt, installing fear and famine in the lives of French citizens.

In the face of a changing world, the old order succumbed to its own rigidity, falling to the ambitions of a rising bourgeoisie. These significant long-term causes created an atmosphere of discontent and confusion in France, allowing an angry and frustrated Third Estate to utilise the Estates-General meeting to their advantage. It was this event that lit the spark for the Revolution of France.

The inequalities and inefficiencies seen in the ancient regime contributed to the French Revolution.

A social and political structure, the Old Order created imbalances in French society. The nation was divided into three strict “Estates”, where the king was at the top and three distinctive social groups were under him. The First Estate consisted of religious leaders and clergy, and accounted for 0.6% of the population. They mainly existed to pray, keep the kingdom free of evil and collect the tithe from the Third Estate, which was equivalent to 10% of a person’s income. An archbishop earned about 400,000 livres while most priests received 700 livres annually. There were huge disparities between the wealth of high-ranking officials to the lowly priests and many understood the plight of the French peasantry.

The Second Estate comprised of the nobility, which held prominent positions in religion, politics, and the military. They made up 0.4% of the population but owned 30% of the land, and along with their title came wealth, power and privileges such as exception from military service, special feudal rights to hunting and the ability to be tried in special courts. The first two Estates were exempt from paying most taxes such as the taille (land), gabelle (salt) and vingtieme, putting the entire burden upon the Third Estate. The Third Estate were considered ‘everyone else’ even though, being 99% of France, they were the majority of the population. They consisted of artisan workers, farmers, professionals and businessmen.

Peasants made up 80% of the country. The Third Estate were unsatisfied with having no voice in government and being unfairly overtaxed, especially the Bourgeoisie and the middle class. Not only was the tax system biased, the ways laws were arranged were unjust too. The states had to vote for an equal number of representatives and meet in the Estates-General. Each state got one vote but as the First and Second Estates normally voted together, the Third Estate could never win. William Doyle debates, _”What was inevitable was the breakdown of the old order”_. It was these discrepancies in social class and the endless unfair treatment of the Third Estate in particular that inescapably led to the Revolution in France.

France’s deepening economic crisis and heavy expenditure was responsible for French Revolution. France was bankrupted by three highly costly, successive wars, made possible by borrowing large sums of money from wealthy noblemen, at high interest rates. The first was the War of the Austrian Succession from 1740 to 1748, which cost the French 1 billion livres. If this wasn’t enough, from 1756 to 1763, the Seven Years War cost the country another 1.8 billion livres. Bitter from losing most of their colonial empire, France immediately began an expensive project of improving the army and rebuilding the navy. In 1778, France entered the American Revolution (War for Independence) as an ally of the colonists. By the time of the American victory in 1783, France had spent an additional 1.3 billion livres, pushing them further into debt. Since the 1760s, the French government had consistently tried to inflate its way out debt.

The French clergy and nobility, which were the wealthiest Estates in French society, held 90% of the national wealth, but they were practically exempt from most forms of taxation. So when Ministers raised taxes to pay for foreign wars, the entire burden fell on the Third Estate, causing great popular resentment. Poor grain harvest further damaged the economy when, in 1787 and 1788, a cycle of drought followed by fierce hailstorms and flooding destroyed most of the nation’s grain crop. This led to soaring prices, high unemployment, and conditions of near-famine by the spring of 1789, leading people to go on rampages in the countryside. The king and his court continued to spend lavishly despite the serious economic crises, and used 40% of the nations income into paying off the debt.

Marie-Antoinette’s excessive spending during times of financial hardship only heightened the growing revolutionary fervors, as enraged people of France felt that the royal family bought its luxurious lifestyle at the poor people’s expense. It was this point of supreme crisis- a matter of life and death for working people- that they had pinned their faith in Necker, who favoured control of grain production. Francois Furet states _”The Dismissal of Necker was interpreted as a double unlucky omen: bankruptcy and counter-revolution.”_ Upon learning of the King’s decision to release Necker on the 11th of July 1989, the Third Estate already in a revolutionary mood began arming themselves, setting fire to the customs houses and tearing down the tax wall. France’s economic turmoil ultimately led to the French revolution.

The Enlightenment era opened new doors for humanity and paved the way for the French Revolution. Beginning in the 1720’s, the intellectual movement criticised the old regime, causing changes in public perception. Called philosophes, these critical thinkers used human reason and science to examine society, identifying its injustices and suggesting a more enlightened way of organising humanity. They gave people the opportunity to think for themselves and discover self-worth, while preaching separation of Church and State, equality for all, freedom of association and ‘social contract’. Voltaire expressed his revolutionary ideas through numerous poetry, plays, historical works and philosophical works. He attacked the church and aristocracy, and advocated freedom of religion, freedom of expression and separation of church. Political philosopher, educationist and essayist Rousseau argued for the natural rights of life, liberty and property.

In 1754 he wrote the _Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality_, which re-emphasized the natural goodness of man and the corrupting influences of institutionalized life. 8 years later saw his masterpiece, _The Social Contract_ which attempted to solve the problem posed by its opening sentence: _”Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.”_ With its slogan, “_Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,”_ it became the bible of the French revolutionaries. Montesquieu was also a French social commentator and political thinker who believed in separation of powers, that is, the state is divided into branches, each with separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility so that no branch has more power than the other. This greatly rivaled the concept of the monarchy as he suggested for the end of absolutism.

The Enlightenment period reached its peak by the 1770’s and by the time of the revolution in 1789, French citizens had read the great works of the Enlightenment and had learned to think critically about their own society. The influence of these philosophes allowed people to gain confidence and optimism to believe a better world was achievable. Revolutionaries claimed that they were inspired by the ideas of the enlightenment, confirming Denis Diderot’s belief in the power of subversive ides. Although only few philosophes were alive in the 1780’s, revolutionaries adopted their principles to give authority to their reforms. Albert Soboul, a Marxist, claims, _”The Enlightenment undermined the ideological foundations of the established order.”_ The critical spirit of the Enlightenment seriously weakened the old regime and authority, damaging the conventional monarchy and helping follow through the French Revolution.

The Estates-General was the trigger that instigated the French Revolution. Called upon by Louis XVI on May 5th 1789, the meeting set in motion a series of events, which resulted in the abolition of the monarchy and a completely new socio-political system for France. The country was in a state of crises because of the King’s incompetence and several clumsy mistakes made over the years. Thus Louis XVI had no other choice but to call for the meeting of the Estates-General, which had not gathered since 1614. This assembly, made of representatives of the three estates, met to try and find a solution to the severe political, military and economical issues of the time. For the Third Estate it was a huge opportunity for the poorest people of France to finally be heard by the King. The double representation, initiated by Necker and granted by royal decree in December 1788, was seen as a huge victory and advantage for the Third Estate and a hope that change was growing.

Yet in the meeting, voting was conducted by estate, not by head, so the double representation was a fallacy. Seeing that neither the King nor the other estates would acquiesce to its requests, the Third Estate began to organise within itself and recruit actively from the other estates. On June 17th, 1789, strengthened by community wide support, the Third Estate officially broke away from the Estates-General and proclaimed itself the National Assembly. In so doing, it also granted itself control over taxation. Shortly thereafter, many members of the other estates joined the cause. Seeing a threat to his monarchy, Louis XVI responded by locking the Third Estate out of the meeting houses. This poor decision would ultimately change the course of the French political system forever. Led by Robespierre, Mirabeau and Sieyes, the Third Estate relocated to a nearby tennis court.

Liberal clergy member Sieyès wrote a pamphlet titled _”What Is the Third Estate?”_ In response to his own question, Sieyès answered, _”The Nation”,_ and articulated the pervasive feeling in France that though a small minority might be in control, the country truly belonged to the masses. Sieyès’s pamphlet compelled the Third Estate to action, inciting the masses to take matters into their own hands if the aristocracy failed to give them due respect. So they formed the Tennis Court Oath on June 20th, and decided to write the constitution of France.

Louis XVI had no choice but to acknowledge the authority of the assembly, which renamed itself the National Constituent Assembly on July 9th, 1789. Jill Fenwick & July Anderson argued that _”The decision [the declaration of the national assembly] marked the beginnings of the real revolution and it was largely as a result of the indecision of Louis XVI.”_ William Doyle agrees; _”The Founding of the National Assembly was the founding act of the French Revolution”._ When news of Louis’ plan to use military force against them reached Paris on July 14th, mobs stormed the Bastille. The power of the King was severely affected and in a very short time, the Revolution of France occurred.

The French Revolution was the consequence of a series of mistakes made by Louis and could have been avoided, but not made finally possible until the Estates General. Widespread poverty, misery and starvation from a nation burdened with enormous debts, as well as the ineptitude and continued decadence of the aristocracy made for a country in need of change and upheaval. As the ideas from the Enlightenment spread across the country, people started to vision a new government that could be the solution to the on going class struggle. French citizens saw the opportunity to put an end to the persistent inequalities of the ancient regime and economic troubles, which unavoidably led to the fall of the French monarchy.


France, _The Causes of the French Revolution_, Britannica Online Encyclyopedia, Available:, Last accessed on 9th September

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Short and Long term Causes of the French Revolution Essay

A Stitch In Time Saves Nine Essay

A Stitch In Time Saves Nine Essay.

There is no doubt that a stitch in time saves nine. It means that man must do something at the very early stage. This proverb in its literal sense applies to holes in our clothes which may be easily mended at first, but, if they are left unmanned, grow bigger and bigger, until they cannot be repaired without a great deal of sewing. What is true of torn clothes is true of boots, boxes, houses, ships, walls, bridges, in a word, of everything that needs mending, I may quote a striking illustration of the truth of the proverb from my own observation.

A beautiful pier was built at great expense by Government many years ago on the stormy west coast of Scotland, to defend the harbor of a fishing village. The great stone of which it was composed were bound together by clamps of iron, and it looked as if it could defy the utmost fury of the waves. Nevertheless, in one of the violent storms that visit that iron bound coast, as little damage was done to the most exposed part of the structure.

When I first saw the pier there was to be seen in it only a hole of moderate extent, that could have been repaired without much labor. But somehow the breach was left untended, and naturally grew bigger year by year until, on the occasion of my last visit to the town, half of the pier had sunk in ruin under the waves, and it was evident that to repair it would cost as much as the building of a new pier. The expediency of the stitch in time is exemplified not only by the destruction of material fabrics, the rents in which are neglected, but also in medicine, politics, and in intellectual and moral education. How often has a doctor to tell his patient that, if he had been consulted earlier he might have affected an easy cure, but that now more drastic remedies must be employed.

A literary man, for instance, suffers from indigestion due to overwork and wasn’t of exercise. A short holiday in the country might restore him to good health if only he took it in time. But he has important work to do and is averse to taking any rest before he has finished it. So he goes on working until the symptoms become so threatening that he finds himself compelled to consult a doctor. To his surprise he finds that entire change of diet and absolute idleness for a long period of time are now needed to cure a disease, the progress of which might have been arrested with every little trouble at an earlier stage. It is the same with the body politic.

The best politicians see in good time evils which, if allowed to go on unchecked, will swell to alarming dimensions. Thus the just discontent felt by the people of France on account of the privileges enjoyed by the clergy and nobles might have been appeased by remedial legislation, but, as the cure was delayed, the feeling of disaffection went on gathering force, until at last it could no longer be extinguished and produced the horrors of the French Revolution. That no revolution has taken place in England for the last two hundred years is due to the fact that English politicians have been willing to anticipate rebellion by timely reforms. The same is true in our daily life. If anything is done at the very early stage, much energy can be saved for the same purpose.

A Stitch In Time Saves Nine Essay

Was Napoleon a hero or a tyrant? Essay

Was Napoleon a hero or a tyrant? Essay.

The great Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “The art of government is not to let me grow stale.” Napoleon meant that his leadership could protect France’s advancements of eliminating the “old regime” but only if the French could keep him in power. Bonaparte grew up in a noble Italian family and attended some of the most prestigious military academies throughout France. His military education proved beneficial in the long run as he went down in history as being one of, if not the, most honored military leaders in the world.

His military skill gave him the ability to establish a strong political government, where he had absolute power, which was what the people were looking for. Due to his meritorious military strategies and early revolutionary advancements as the First Consul and Consul for Life of France, Napoleon Bonaparte can be seen as a hero in history.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s military skill and acts prevented France from being invaded during their construction of multiple governments to aid in the Revolution.

Bonaparte entered the French military as a second lieutenant and won his first battle against the British at Toulon. This came as his first step in the fight against Louis XVI as he would then rise in rank and his image would become well known (Napoleon Bonaparte Biography). Bonaparte would always praise those who fought for him and never took full credit sharing it with those who truly put their lives on the line to protect their French nation. After his military career took a hiatus, due to an accident in a battle, he was moved to the mapping department for the military. His next major step came when several Emigres were attempting to overthrow the French National Convention (Napoleon Bonaparte Biography). Using military supplies his goal was to protect them from being overthrown.

If those loyalists succeeded King Louis XVI could have risen to power so as result Napoleon was appointed as the Commander of the Army of the Interior (Cawthorne 146). Napoleon is also known for creating the Army of Italy and gaining the country of Italy as a territory of the French government. His soldiers were kept in incredible and immaculate conditions for soldiers which kept them fighting harder and morale increased tremendously. The morale increase proved beneficial when Napoleon and his army invaded Austria. His success kept them from invading France and disrupting the advancements of the French Revolution. Finally, due to all of the previous mentioned accomplishments, Napoleon rose to power after he executed a coup d’etat on the Directory with the assistance of Abbe Sieyes (Kreis).

There are many reasons that Napoleon’s political career and reign of France can portray his heroism for his nation. During his reign, in power his first act was to create a new legal system, called the Napoleonic Code, or the Civil Code, which preserved the ideas of the Revolution such as: freedom of religion, equality for all, and no more feudal ideas or privileges (Kreis). The Napoleonic Code fortified the rights and privileges gained during the French Revolution. Hundreds of thousands of French civilians had sacrificed their own lives for these rights Without the Napoleonic Code they would of simply vanished with the restoration of the monarchy. By doing this he pleased many people in France as the majorities were revolutionaries.

Another important and heroic act that Napoleon achieved was the Concordat of 1801 in which Napoleon revived Roman Catholicism into the majority religion of France (Cawthorne 146). He gained the support of the peasants and gave them the land that was confiscated by the church during the revolution as gratitude for their support of not only him as a ruler, but for their sense of nationalism.

Another lionhearted act was the resolution of the growing economic crisis in France. He instituted the Bank of France which was able to start getting money flowing throughout France as well as fixing the problem that workers were being taxed unfairly, and not being able to achieve better jobs in society. By taxing at an equitable rate for all and paying back money to society, they were able to live in better conditions. This reform resulted in many bourgeoisie, and other middle and lower class, becoming educated which would give them opportunities to rise up the occupation ladder.

This was based on more revolutionary ideas which did nothing but increase his popularity and image of being one of France’s most successful, prominent, and heroic leaders in history (Kreis). As a secondary educational attempt Napoleon stressed the teaching of the new metric system which at first was rarely accepted until the government started to create government run schools called lycees in which he could control the curriculum being taught throughout France. This created a sense of French nationalism and unification as people would begin to understand mathematics on the relative same scale as their neighbors and political and religious officials (Napoleon Bonaparte Biography).

Napoleon led France to its greatest height both internally and geographically. As Napoleon continued his powerful push to gain most, if not all, of Europe he did in fact succeed. Some countries he fully conquered were Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and Italy as well as portions of Portugal (Cawthorne 147). By increasing the size of his empire the French people began to feel superior and call themselves one nation again and they temporarily flew a new flag over France called the Imperial Standard.

This flag had a custom made crest of a bronze eagle with a crown above it, and was surrounded by the French colors of red and blue. The French took great honor to protect any item, especially the flag, as to them it was a sign of commemoration of Napoleon’s efforts. Without his heroism they would not be where they were and would not be a top superpower in the world and time of expansion, imperialism, reform, and creation (Napoleon Bonaparte Biography).

In the end, Napoleon truly was the hero that France was looking for as he brought them out of their dark abyss into the light of their modern day. He gave them a flame of hope by creating the position of Consul for Life because the people were the reason he was leader. They knew that he had led them to this point, their pinnacle, and they felt safe in the hands of the great Napoleon Bonaparte. “A revolution can be neither made nor stopped. The only thing that can be done is for one of several of its children to give it a direction by dint of victories,” said Napoleon.

He meant that revolutions are constantly occurring during life, whether on a small scale or large scale, reforms are frequently being made and fought for. The only thing that could change the path of a revolution is if someone who was influenced by it made their point and continued fighting for more. He in deed gave a direction for the revolution and for the people who trusted him and put them in a great position for the future. Napoleon Bonaparte died on May 5, 1821 and it’s said that all good things must and will come to an end. However, Napoleon was not good, he was great and so he will live on.

Works Cited Page

Cawthorne, Nigel. Military Commanders: The 100 Greatest Throughout HIstory. New York: Enchanted Lion Books, 2004.

Kreis, Steven. “Lecture 15- Europe and the Superior Being,” The History Guide: Lectures on Modern European Intellectual History. February 8, 2006. September 27, 2011.

“Napoleon Bonaparte Biography.” 2011 World Biography. September 27, 2011

Was Napoleon a hero or a tyrant? Essay

Robespierre: Hero or Villain? Essay

Robespierre: Hero or Villain? Essay.

Maximilien Robespierre has always been known to be controversial and misunderstood. He was the face of the French Revolution. In accordance with the Jacobins, they controlled the time known as the Reign of Terror, due to their influence in the accumulation of murders of those opposed to the revolution. Reign of Terror was a symbolic time period within the French Revolution that involved corruption of power and influence and mass executions. With Robespierre at the forefront, he became one of the most important men in the Revolution.

As soon as Maximilien Robespierre decided to react to enemies of the revolutions, mass execution being his choice of force; his implementation of the Reign of Terror was a villainous act striking those who spoke out as traitors with the belief that those people were sinners and were to be killed for the betterment of humanity.

From the time Robespierre became active and prominent in the National Assembly and the Parisian Jacobin Club, he was never considered much more than an average man; he was not regarded as one to sport the face of the Reign of Terror.

With a pale complexion, cat-like facial features and glasses that seemingly never stayed on his nose, he embodied that of a man in the Old Regime (Palmer 6-7). He was described as a talker, not a doer. His rhetoric was excellent; however, is delivery was confusing. He was shy and his voice did carry well. His attributes as a shy and nervous man did not suggest he would take over and lead the Committee of Public safety, serving alongside the ruthless Jacobins.

On the contrary, Robespierre took a firm stand in his beliefs. Individual liberties were very important. He had good morals; he believed that money and birth should dictate how one is valued in society. He defended democracy. He strived to defend the Revolution and wanted “liberation of all of the oppressed-actors, Jewish, Negro slaves in the colonies” (Soboul 55). He continues to go on by stating,

The Republic must guarantee to everyone … the means of

obtaining essential foodstuffs . . .” And the Sansculottes went

on to demand not only the taxation of foodstuffs and wages, but also

a strict limitation of property rights:

“Let the maximum of wealth be fixed;

Let no individual possess more than this maximum;

Let nobody rent more land than can be tilled with a specific

number of ploughs;

Let no citizen own more than one workshop or more than one


Robespierre made the right to vote conditional on whether or not ones taxes were paid.

With all of the chaos and commotion going on with the Revolution, a sense of victory without the people was impossible. Robespierre once said, “The domestic danger comes from the bourgeois; to defeat the bourgeois we must rally the people.” This concept helped to create a defense policy that rested on the Sansculottes and the middle bourgeoisie, this of which Robespierre became that symbol (Soboul 56). The Jacobins and Sansculottes forced this revolutionary of national defense upon the French leadership and upper class. This is where Robespierre’s villainous side begins to emerge. Upon implementation of this strategy, overthrow and mass executions began to appear.

He was one of the most influential people of the French revolution, and was the political figurehead of France after Louis XVI was executed. Maximilien did not believe in forgiving the rioters in the French Revolution and instead executed them and began the Reign of Terror, something he believed was necessary.

There is no doubt that Robespierre was a fantastic leader and had many different and effective ways to solve problems in France at the time; however, his description, “The Incorruptible” was not a name that would soon leave his presence. Mirabeau once said of him, “He will go far. He believes everything he says” (51). His power and incorruptibility eventually led to his downfall and demise. Before his Reign of Terror eventually came to an end, both France and its people felt the Revolution that Robespierre brought; his followers and his power showed his true villainous ways.


Jordan, David P. _The Journal of Modern History_. 2nd ed. Vol. 49. U of Chicago, 0. 282-

291. Print.

McLetchie, Scott. “Maximilien Robespierre, Master of the Terror.” _Maximilien_

_Robespierre, Master of the Terror_. Loyola University of New Orleans, 1 Jan. 1984. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.

Mirabeau, quoted in Jean Matrat, _Robespierre, or the Tyranny of the_

_Majority,_ trans. Alan Kendall (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971), p. 51.

R. R. Palmer, _Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of Terror in the French_

_Revolution_ (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1941), pp. 3-21.

Soboul, A. _Robespierre and the Popular Movement of 1793-1794_. Vol. 5. Oxford

University Press, 0. 54-70. Print.

Robespierre: Hero or Villain? Essay

Causes of the French Revolution DBQ Essay

Causes of the French Revolution DBQ Essay.

The late 1700’s were a period of great social and political revolution in Western civilization. The French Revolution was a major part of this sweeping change in the way Europeans (and the newborn Americans) perceived the function of government and the most effective ways of governing. The French Revolution had many long term and short term causes and effects, and was one of the most violent periods in the history of the country. There were many factors that contributed to the spark of the revolution.

There were three main causes of the French Revolution: gross mishandling of governing duties and incompetence in the leadership of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the large and very unjust social and economic gap between the first two privileged estates and the poor third estate, and finally the revolutionary ideas of the enlightenment and their influence on the philosophies of the people.

Louis XVI was one of the most incompetent and frankly idiotic rulers in the history of France.

He would have absolutely nothing to do with his official duties as king, and his horribly decadent lifestyle contributed greatly to the economic plight France was in. The fact that he was married to Marie Antoinette, a native of Austria, France’s sworn enemy, was very detrimental as well. Louis XVI inherited debt from previous rulers, but he made no move of any kind toward paying it off. In fact, he borrowed vast sums of money in order to give aid to the Americans in their revolution, which only worsened France’s already outstanding deficit. In 1786, bankers refused to lend the government any more money, and Louis XVI was in serious trouble. Of course, all of this put Louis in a highly unfavorable position with the people of France, who absolutely despised him and his wife. Marie Antoinette was a major problem for Louis as well.

She gave him poor advice on governing matters, spent large amounts of money on her own vanity, and was generally hated by the people the moment she set foot in France. Louis was a serial procrastinator. He put off dealing with economic troubles until it was essentially too late, and the people were completely fed up. He was finally forced to resort to taxing the nobility, which spelled the end of Louis’s reign, as the Estates-General that he called-the first in 175 years-to deal with the problem was the first step of the revolution. It is also ironic that the American Revolution (which Louis supported) was a major factor to the downfall of the monarchy, as suggested by Lord Acton, “…The American example caused the (French) Revolution to break out…”(doc. 5).

All throughout human history, the wealthy have always been the minority. They have been completely deaf to the voices of the majority of people, who tend to be very poor. France in the late 1700’s was no exception. The social hierarchy of the country was divided into three classes, or estates. The first estate was made up of the clergy, and was the smallest and wealthiest class, consisting of only 1% of France’s population. The second estate was made up of nobles, and consisted of about 2% of France’s population. These two estates combined, making up only 3% of the population of France, owned nearly half of the land in France (doc. 2)! The third estate was made up of the middle class(or the bourgeoisie), peasants, and city workers and was the overwhelming majority of the people.

They only owned about half of the land, however, and had almost no say in government whatsoever. Of course, the burden of taxes was placed squarely on the shoulders of the third estate, while the first and second estates paid essentially nothing. The outrageous amount of taxes like the taille, or a tax on the land and its produce, caused many people in the third estate to live with almost nothing and in filthy conditions, as observed by Arthur Young who traveled through France from 1787 to 1789, “The poor people seem very poor indeed. The children are terribly ragged….The lack of bread is terrible…The price of bread has risen above the people’s ability to pay. This causes great misery,”(doc. 3). It would not be long before the people had had enough and great change was demanded.

The Enlightenment was the third major factor in the French Revolution. Before the ideas of the philosophes became widespread, the monarchy and old ways of thinking were not questioned. It was just tradition and people knew not to question tradition. Then thinkers like Voltaire, Rousseau, and Locke came along and changed everything. John Locke was probably the most important and influential philosophe. His idea about natural rights (life, liberty, and property) being totally unalienable stirred the French people. They realized that they deserved much better than their positions in life. Of course, the bourgeoisie were the first to accept these revolutionary ideas, since they were the most educated and probably the only portion of the third estate who could read, as pointed out by historian Albert Mathiez, “The middle class…was sensitive to their inferior legal position.

The Revolution came from them-the middle class. The working classes were incapable of starting or controlling the Revolution. They were just beginning to learn to read,”(doc. 4). The ideas of Voltaire, who believed in the right of free speech for everyone, also figured greatly in the revolutionary thoughts of the third estate. The people were angry that their opinions were being suppressed by the corrupt government. The Comte D’Antraigues, a friend of Rousseau, said about the ideas of the people, “The Third Estate is the People and the People is the Foundation of the State; it is in fact the State itself; the…People is everything. Everything should be subordinated to it…It is in the People that all national power resides and for the People that all states exist.” The revolutionary seed was planted in the mind of the French people by the ideas of the philosophes.

The French Revolution had three major causes: the incompetence of Louis XVI, the vast gap between the rich and poor in France, and the revolutionary ideas of the Enlightenment. Once Louis called the infamous Estates-General of May 5, 1789, a revolution began when the third estate created the National Assembly to create reforms in the name of the people. Three days later, the Third Estate was locked out, so they broke into a tennis court and created a new constitution. This was the spark the ignited the revolution, and the beginning of a whole new era in the history of France.

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Causes of the French Revolution DBQ Essay

Causes of The French Revolution Essay

Causes of The French Revolution Essay.

A revolution broke out in France in 1789 between the people of first and second Estates and the people of the Third Estate because the people of the Third Estate were treated incredibly unfair so they came together and took matters into their own hands. The three most important causes of the French Revolution were the bad economy and unfair taxes paid by the Third Estate, lack of voice and rights, and the idea of enlightenment and the inspiration of the American Revolution.

The revolution led to the execution of the king and queen of France, Louis XVI and Mary Antoinette.

The cost of food began to rise in the 1700’s because of deficit spending over the years on wars and a building. The government needed to make money so they taxed basically everything possibly available to the people of the Third Estate, which consisted of the middle class, who were landowners, bankers, merchants, manufacturers, and more. Commoners and the poorest peasants are also part of the Third Estate.

The First Estate made up 1% of the people and owned 10% of the land, the Second Estate made up 2% of the people and owned 35% of the land, and the Third Estate makes up 97% of the people and owns 55% of the land. Lands held by nobility were taxed very little but lands held by commoners were taxed heavily. Bad harvests caused the price of food to rise even more, therefore many people cannot afford it and hunger spreads. People began to riot and demand for food.

When the delegates of the three Estates and the king met together for the Estates General the Third Estate argued that the voting was unfair and they were always at a two to one disadvantage, they would always be outvoted by the first two Estates. In order to insure the Third Estate the influence it deserves because of its numbers, it’s votes should be taken by head. This and other requests were not taken into consideration by the king and the first two Estates. No matter how wealthy a person is the best jobs were reserved for nobility, which was unfair to the Third Estate. The middle class…was sensitive to their inferior legal position. The revolution came from them-the middle class.

Enlightenment ideas had people questioning the inequalities of the three Estates. People wanted to know why the first two Estates had such privileges
over the majority of the people. The Third estate wanted all of the Estates to have equal treatment and to pay taxes. The spark that changed thought into action was supplied by the Declaration of the American Independence. This example caused the revolution to break out.

97% of the French population had little rights and had to pay high taxes on everything. Many of these people were poor and hunger spread. These people of France were fed-up and they began to rise up and let their voices be heard. Through it all a revolution broke out between the first and second Estates and the Third Estate in France, which led to the execution of the king and queen.

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Causes of The French Revolution Essay

The causes of the downfall of Louis XVI Essay

The causes of the downfall of Louis XVI Essay.

During 1780s to 1790s France was in total chaos. France was ruled by the Bourbon family King Louis XVI from 1754 to 1793, it was an absolute monarch and they had absolute power and did not share it with a legislature. The situation was already bad before Louis XVI began his reign, but situation got worse. In the end, there was a revolution in France and a vast amount changes to the society and the government of France. Louis XVI himself was executed and killed; while France was established as a democratic country.

There were different reasons for Louis’s downfall: social, economic, political conditions. Also reasons such as the Age of Enlightenment when some philosophers had new ideas of how the country should be ruled, the inequalities between estates, the bankruptcy of the government, the attitude and behaviour of Louis XVI, and the bad economic of France. All of these factors had caused the anger of the people. Although Louis XVI couldn’t help with some of the cause that led to his downfall, he was partly responsible for his own destructions.

Louis’s family caused the bankruptcy of the government, and his indecisiveness, his act of treason and his attempt to escape, were all the causes that led to his own downfall. The income of the government mainly came from heavy taxation on the citizens and several incidences led to the bankrupt of government. One of the main reasons was Louis and his family, mainly due to his wife, Marie Antoinette, who spent a lot of money in luxuries such as clothes, jewelry, and gambling. She even spent lots of money in creating beautiful gardens structured like a real peasant village around her palace, in which many people found it pointless and silly. (Brooman, 1992, p.15,16, 19) Louis, as a king, was a bad decision maker and couldn’t control the government and his people. His characters were not suitable to be a king. He preferred the leisure life of a king, especially hunting, instead of attending assemblies and governing the country. (Gilbert, 1995, p.7)

Louis was unable to use force to crush the revolution, and he and his followers only accepted compromise when it was forced upon them, which angered the Assembly who became suspicious of the king’s motives. (Gilbert, 1995, p.18) He angered more radical revolutionaries by repeatedly going back on his promises to accept important new reforms. (Gilbert, 1995, p.7) After people’s protest in Bastille, Louis XVI considered sending his army into Paris to recapture it. But he considered that the soldiers would probably refuse his orders that he had up control of Paris and ordered his army back to its barracks. He allowed the people to set up their own military force, the National Guard; also formed a new local government, the Paris Commune. Towns and cities all over France followed the example of Paris. Rioting crowds attacked town halls, forced out the royal officials, and set up their own communes and National Guard units. (Brooman, 1992, P.33) Louis XVI and his family also attempted to escape from the Tuileries Palace to Austria in June 1791. “It made it clear that he was a reluctant associate at best and would turn his back on the constitution and its system of limited monarchy at any moment.” (Janowitz, 2006, Louis XVI’s Flight)

Louis was deeply unhappy with the Civil Constitution. He sided with the priests who refused to take the oath, which made it look like he opposed the revolution and caused angry crowds protesting. Louis decided to leave France, to get help from Queen’s brother, Emperor of Austria. The Assembly suspected that he might try to escape, there were guards at every door in the palace. They were 50km from the frontier when they were recognized. News of their escape was sent ahead and the local authorities were waiting for them in the little town of Varennes. The King and his family were arrested and sent back to Paris. Crowds shouted insults and spat at the windows as they went. People in France no longer trusted the king after their attempt to escape. (Gilbert, 1995, P.37-38)

Because of the mistrust and the tension that was growing in the country, Louis feared for his life and he sought help from Austria, in which the emperor was Queen Marie Antoinette’s brother. On April 1792, France declared war on Austria. France was easily defeated and this aroused suspicions of traitors. “The Assembly ordered every soldier in Paris to the frontier, put a watch on all foreigners, and decided that priests who refused to take an oath of loyalty should be expelled…” (Brooman, 1992, p.39) The King disagreed with the order given, which angered the citizens. They also discovered that Louis purposely weakened the army of France because he didn’t support the revolutionary war effort and wanted protection. (Gilbert, 1992, p.39-40) Louis indeed was not a good leader of a country. “He was not capable of leading a country in crisis.” (Gilbert, 1995, p.7) People even came to think he was a traitor of the country.

Other than Louis’s own fault other political factors were also responsible. In the 18th century, known as the Age of the Enlightenment, some philosophers spoke of the new ideas of how the government should rule the country. Philosophers such as John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu, and Jean Jacques Rousseau, their ideas influenced the people in France during that time. John Locke’s main theory stated that the government should provide protective services to its citizens, mainly on life, liverty and property. The only reason why the government had the power was because the people entrusted their rights to the government. But when the government was not doing their job, people had the right to withdraw and through rebellion, everything could be restored again. (Landry, 1997-2004, LOCKE’S VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT) Montesquieu was against royal absolutism. He thought that it was very important to separate the power of executive, legislative, and judicial powers of government.

And he suggested that “if one person or body holds several or all of these powers, then nothing prevents that person or body from acting tyrannically; and the people will have no confidence in their own security.” (Hilary, 2003, Liberty) Rousseau went further than Locke. He came up with the General Will, which suggested that instead of focusing on the interest of an individual, the interest of the majority should be the main focus. (Kemerling, 1998-2002, General Will) The ideas of these philosophers had influenced the people at that time which created the people’s desire to fight for their own rights, thus led to the revolution. Also, France wanted to build better relationship with other foreign countries, such as America. In 1780s, France engaged in a war against Britain, helping the American colonists in the War of Independence. Even in peacetime, its large army and navy continued to use lots of money. (Gilbert, 1995, p.8)

This increased the money problem that the country was having. Other than the financial problem, there was also problem in the people of the lowest class. They were unhappy with the ruling of the government that they set up the National Assembly. They encouraged the upper classes to join them. The establishment of the National Assembly was the beginning of the revolution and challenged against the king’s power. (Gilbert, 1995, p.13) Furthermore, in August 1789, from the results of the Great Fear, an incident where rumours was spread about “the nobles were trying to starve the people by hoarding grain,” (Brooman, 1992, p.33) and that led to the anger of peasant. Nobles were afraid and they gave up their rights and dues. Some times afterwards, the National Assembly issued Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen. “It stated that all men were free and equal in rights. The power in France belonged to the entire people, not just the king.” (Brooman, 1992, p.33) This encourage people to fight for their rights and that all should be treated equally.

There were also many social and economic factors, which were responsible for the downfall of Louis XVI. Some of the factors existed for a long time, even before Louis XVI became king, which were known as the long term causes. One of them was the bad harvest. Over years, the population of the people increased, while there was already a shortage of food. But during 1787-1789, terrible weather destroyed many of the crops. As a result, bread prices went up and the farmers had smaller income. “The price of a loaf of bread went up by 50% between a year.” (Mantin, 1992, p.14) Families which spent everything on bread, stopped buying clothes, shoes, candles, fuel and etc. Also, the France government was lack of money for sometime, so they cut down on their expenses. As a result, the factories lost business and workers lost their jobs, which led to difficult living. (Brooman, 1992, p.21-22) Besides, another reason was the inequalities among the people in the country.

The French society was divided into three estates. The First Estate was made up of the clergy, the Second Estate was the nobles, and the Third included the middle class, which were the merchants, lawyers and government officials, and the peasants who formed the largest group and could barely feed their families. The clergy and nobles didn’t have to pay most taxes, while the third estate, especially the peasants, had to provide almost all the country’s tax revenue. The middle class were among the most important people in French society but were not recognized because they belonged to the Third estate. (World Book 2002 F7, 2002, p.525) The First and Second estates also had many privileges and rights. For example, the First estate had their own law courts and the Second estate received special treatment in law courts and didn’t have to do military service. The Third Estate had to pay taxes to their landlord and give the Church a part of their income. (Brooman, 1992, p.7)

The other example of unequal treatment could also be seen in the Estates General. In the Estates General, each estate had only 1 vote, even though the third estate had as many representatives as the other two estates combined. This means, if the first and second estate didn’t agree with the statement, it couldn’t be passed through as well. (World Book F7, 2002, p.525) In 1791, the Legislative Assembly was created to establish laws. It drafted a constitution that made France a limited monarchy with a one-house legislature. France was divided into regions, each with elected councils for local government. But the right to vote and hold public office was limited to citizens who paid a certain amount of taxes, which were called active citizen; and the rest were called passive citizen. (World Book 2002 F7, 2002, P.525-526)

This is especially unfair to those who couldn’t pay the taxes, which was one third of the population. Another trigger was the Storming of the Bastille, which happened in 1789. On July 14, a crowd of 8000 marched to the fortress of the Bastille, which was a prison and where many weapons were kept. The Bastille was a symbol of royal power that they hated. They wanted to destroy and take the weapons inside. They broke in after the governor of the Bastille refused to hand the fortress over. Although there were many soldiers in and around Paris, they refused to stop this attack and the people soon captured the Bastille. (Mantin, 1992, p.17 ; Brooman, 1992, p.30) “Louis was losing control of the army.” (Mantin, 1992, p.17) Not long after the incident, workers and peasants all over France attacked their lord’s home after rumours about nobles trying to “starve the people by hoarding grain, and paying the gangs of wanderers to attack farms and terrorize the peasants.” (Mantin, 1992, p.17 ; Brooman, 1992, p.33) These conditions, bad economic, inequality, and anger of people, affected the society a lot.

In conclusion, it was evident that there were many reasons that contributed to the downfall of Louis XVI. Among them, he was responsible for some of them, such as the wild spending of government’s money, his indecisiveness, act of treason, and coward actions of escapes. But on the other hand, there were political, social and economic causes that was beyond the King’s control: the ideas of the philosophers, bad economic, and inequalities among the citizens. The problem of France was indeed not the results of one person’s mistakes, but of complex causes and no one should be specifically blamed.



– Gilbert, Adrian, (1995) The French Revolution, England: Wayland (Publishers) LTD

– Brooman, Josh, (1992), Revolution in France, England: Longman Group UK Limited

– World Book 2002 F7 (2002). United States of America: World Book, Inc.

– Mantin, Peter. (1992) The French Revolution. Oxford: Heinemann Educational

– Hetherton, Greg. (1992) Revolutionary France. Cambridge University Press

Internet (online)

– Miss Lavelle. (2006) The Causes of the French Revolution. Retrieved 26 March, 2006 from <>

– Janowitz, Neil. (2006) SparkNote on the French Revolution (1789-1799). Retrieved 25 March, 2006 from .

– Landry, Peter. (1997-2004). Blupete – Literature – Biographies – John Locke. Retrieved 25 March, 2006 from

– Bok, Hilary. (2003). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Baron de Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat. Retrieved 25 March, 2006 from

– Kemerling, Garth. (1998-2002). Philosophypages – Enlightenment II – Rousseau – General Will. Retrieved 25 March, 2006 from

The causes of the downfall of Louis XVI Essay

Bread Riots as a cause of the French Revolution Essay

Bread Riots as a cause of the French Revolution Essay.

Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man banned; Paine condemned in absentia (he is in France) for high treason. The British government, headed by Prime Minister Pitt, begins to arrest anyone publishing anything criticizing the government. William Godwin publishes Political Justice, a huge philosophical tract that argues Paine’s case from a theoretical point of view. Godwin is not imprisoned largely because his book’s price (forty times the price of Paine’s) means it is not read by the wrong people.

Wordsworth writes the “Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff,” in which he declares himself “one of those odious people called democrats,” but never publishes it (likely because he feared prosecution). 1793 also sees the passage of the Traitorous Correspondence Bill, which empowered the state to open and read the Royal Mail.

While some peasants could at least hope that they would grow enough grain to cover the money owed to their landlords and the government and provide food for their family, the urban poor– who, if not unemployed, worked primarily in factories and shops–were dependent on the affordability and availability of pre-baked bread.

In the summer of 1787, a four-pound loaf, two of which were required daily to feed a family of four, cost eight sous. Due in large part to poor weather and low crop yields, by February 1789 the price had nearly doubled to fifteen sous. In his book Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution, Simon Schama notes: “The average [daily] wage of a manual laborer was between twenty and thirty sous, of a journeyman mason at most forty.

The doubling of bread prices–and of firewood–spelled destitution.” Urban workers, especially those in Paris, started to protest the price of bread. When two Parisian manufacturers, Réveillon and Henriot, suggested in late April 1789 that the distribution of bread should be deregulated, thereby lowering prices and reducing both wages and costs of production, riots ensued. Laborers–not only those who worked for bakers–took violent action against Réveillon and Henriot because they feared that other employers would use reduced bread prices as an excuse to cut their own workers’ wages.

For some women, however, gathering together to discuss politics with leading philosophers or writing revolutionary pamphlets was hardly practical. To the poorer women in Paris, access to affordable bread was the most important right. In October 1789 a large group of poor women marched to Versailles, the royal palace situated twelve miles beyond the capital, to demand bread, as supplies were limited within the city. Upon reaching the palace, a small delegation of women was granted an audience with King Louis XVI. The women eventually convinced the monarch to sign decrees agreeing to provide Paris with sufficient stores of affordable bread.

The modest gains by the urban poor also proved short-lived. The decade-long revolution, which coincided with several wars against European foes, wracked France’s already vulnerable economy. Affordable foodstuffs continued to be a problem for urban families. Despite the riots and the efforts of the Convention to guarantee adequate provisions for the urban poor, the high cost of bread remained a problem. In 1792 hoarding caused a rise in the cost of sugar. Levy, Applewhite, and Johnson explain, “Speculators hoarded vast stores of colonial products such as sugar, coffee, and tea in expectation of future profits from depleted sup- plies.” Concerns over unequal allocations of eggs and butter led to riots in 1793. Urban workers lost the economic power they had gained when the National Assembly passed the Le Chapelier law in 1791, which prohibited all workers’ coalitions and assemblies. A September 1793 law placed limits on wages. Freedom from hunger and want had been the right sought most fervently by the urban poor, but it was a right they were unable to enjoy.

For peasants, change came swiftly and violently. In July 1789 France was wracked by what became known as the “Great Fear.” On the fourteenth of that month, a riot at the Bastille, a Paris prison and armory, had resulted in the death of more than one hundred people. The riot began when the citizens of Paris–fearful that troops recently sent to the city by King Louis XVI might decide to attack the populace–began collecting weapons at the Bastille. Similar uprisings against the government followed. Rural citizens began hearing rumors that King Louis XVI was ordering his troops into the French countryside to stanch peasant rebellions. Fearful peasants began burning and pillaging manors, destroying feudal records, and reclaiming what had previously been common land.

On August 4, 1789, worried that these demonstrations would not cease, the nation’s nobles agreed to give up most of their feudal rights. This decision was codified one week later by the National Assembly. Peasants were now free to earn their own wages, unencumbered by feudal tithes; the economic element of human rights was becoming a reality for the nation’s rural poor. The economic freedoms for urban laborers also widened during the revolution. The abolishment of guilds allowed artisans more oppor- tunities to find jobs, unburdened by a complicated hierarchical system. Workshops established throughout cities were sources of employment for poor women. Urban laborers frequently went on strike, with higher wages a common result. Bread became more affordable; in 1793, the price of a loaf was six sous.

The urban and rural poor were also affected under Napoleon’s rule. Napoleon continued the ban on trade unions and introduced passbooks, which limited the ability of urban workers to move freely about the nation. However, he did set maximum prices for bread and flour, thus reducing the threat of either hunger or bread riots. According to Robert B. Holtman, author of The Napoleonic Revolution, peasants did not necessarily fare badly under Napoleon, as he maintained the work the revolutionaries had done (namely, abolishing feudalism). However, other scholars have asserted that Napoleon was largely uninterested in social and economic reforms that would improve the quality of life for his poorer subjects.

Bread Riots as a cause of the French Revolution Essay

Edmund Burke and Jean Jacques Rousseau Essay

Edmund Burke and Jean Jacques Rousseau Essay.

Edmund Burke, who is often regarded as a spokesman for modern conservatism, believed that human rights were based on tradition and could only be inherited. Burke strongly opposed the French Revolution, which in his view, attempted to break from the traditions of France and destroy their contemporary society. On the other hand, Jean-Jacque Rousseau believed that general will would always be correct and that it would unshackle humans from their chains, allowing them to become free. Burke and Rousseau had similar and contrasting views in terms of human nature, the origin of government, and the relationship between the government and the governed.

Rousseau challenged the present state of society around him by questioning the obsession over material possessions and the morality of a society. He stated that it was impossible for humans living in contemporary conditions to achieve moral and sincere lives due to the corruption of human nature. In the state of nature, humans were dignified beings, but civilization and increasing knowledge had corrupted these creatures to pursue their own selfish goals.

According to Rousseau, society was created to nurture better people. In such a society is more important as a whole than its individual members because these members are merely a part of a larger group.

Burke wouldn’t completely agree with such a view on society for he describes society as a contract that is nothing more than a temporary partnership made for profit only to be discarded later when it is no longer needed. However, traces of the partnerships are carried onto the next generation, uniting groups of people for large amounts of time. In this sense, the society in Burke’s view is similar in that it holds the same amount of importance that it does in Rousseau’s.

Burke’s belief is that the creation of government is the result of and is created to achieve human desires. The purpose of such a government is not to preserve natural rights, but to control the passions of people. The opinions, will and passions of men should be limited and controlled by the government to preserve tradition.

Although Burke advocated the American Revolution, he criticized the French Revolution. According to Burke, people’s rights are based on tradition, they are entitled to whatever rights were left over from their ancestors. Burke thought that the revolution went against tradition and would overturn the present state of society. During the American Revolution, institutions were not destroyed, merely improved upon. The colonists were under British rule and therefore under British law. As citizens of Britain, they were entitled to rights dated back to the Magna Carta, they just needed to be regained. In France, Burke saw institutions that did not have to be destroyed, but repaired and worked with instead.

Rousseau would have strongly disagreed to Burke’s view on government. In his view, society created evil and government was created to combat such evil. Selfish governments like the ones suggested by Burke would have produced the evils Rousseau’s sought to combat. He believed that selfishness would have corrupted government, not give birth to it. Government functions to aid the society through popular sovereignty and the “general will” of the citizens, not the individual. Unlike Burke’s ideal government, “general will ” would have been heard in Rousseau’s.

The famous quote spoken by Rousseau, “all men are born free, but everywhere he is in chains” expresses his support for freedom in all his views. On the other hand, Burke looked to keep traditions and condemned everything that would possibly break it. With Burke being a conservative and Rousseau somewhat liberal, it seemed like they would have been opposites. However, they both had similar opinions, such as the purpose of society and its importance.


Hooker, Richard. “The Third Revolution.” Revolution and After. Washington State University. .

People and Nations. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1983. 502-523.

“Reflections on the Revolution in France.” Transmitting the Wisdom of the Ages. 1993. .

Edmund Burke and Jean Jacques Rousseau Essay