To what extend was an outdated monarchy the cause of the 1789 French RevolutionThe French July revolution is often regarded as to be the most significant revolution from beneath imposing democratic principles onto a prior autocratic government during the past 300 years due to the impact of Enlightenment. July 14th is officially the day the revolution got going. Not only long- and short-term causes let to the overthrow of the French monarch Louis XVI but also social, economic, government and fiscal problems caused the so called third estate to upheaval against the ??? ancient regime???. Long term causes leading to the French Revolution were essentially the considerable differences among the three contemporary existing estates. The first estate, consisted of the clergy, however there were vast differences in wealth within the estate, in particular among the upper clergy such as cardinals and ordinary priest. The second estate consisted of the nobility to whom many landholdings belonged; they enjoyed tax exemption likewise the first estate. The nobilities??™ landholdings were cultivated by the third estate which made up nearly 96% of France??™s population.
The third estate itself was divided into the peasantry, which were kind of serves and the bourgeoisie who were wealthier merchants. Unlike the other estates, the third estates did not enjoy any privileges at all neither tax exemption (had to pay direct tax) nor any political rights under the rule of absolutism and King Louis XVI. As the bourgeoisie became wealthier they claimed participation in government decisions and more political rights which they were not granted. Even more upheavals occurred among the bourgeoisie and the second estate due to the right of being noble by birth. Simultaneously upheavals within the first estate occurred as priest claimed a rise in wages and more budgets available moreover peasant revolts against the church were a daily given in 1789. The peasantry revolted against the bourgeoisie, the first and second estate due to steady increasing taxes and prices in goods, especially bread which made up 70% of peasants??™ wages. The presents??™ frustration led more and more often to local revolts.
Events portraying these revolts werethe Tennis Court Oath (June 20th), attack on the Bastille (July 14th), burning of churches and attack on aristocrats??™ private estates. The third estate had genuinely an adverse attitude towards the first and second estate. The regime of Louis XVI indebted itself considerably in the decade preceding 1789, due to its foreign policy supporting American rebels against the British in America (revenge for 1763) and failed investments in cotton fields in Virginia which cost nearly 150 million Francs.
The government faced bankruptcy and therefore sought for new measures rising taxes. Moreover bad harvest from 1787 onwards led to rising bread prices and unemployment. This led to many food riots throughout France. However, the failure of reforms in the ??? Assembly of Notables??? and the dismissal of the Calonne, a minister, led to a political crisis which exposed Louis XVI political weakness. The second half of the decade had been accompanied by the so called Enlightenment; essentially philosophers such as Voltair, Decards, Montesquieu , Rosseau spread their ideas favouring democratic principles within a state not autocratic governments led by a monarch. ??? All the powershould be with the people??? this is what they mainly called for. Those ideas certainly prospered amongst the bourgeoisie, who generally were able to read unlike the peasantry. Therefore the rise and need for enlightened principles could not have been any more contemporary; it granted equality, rights and freedom to every individual.
To this end Louis XVI autocratic regime certainly did not meet the recent imposed ideas and therefore was to be abolished. Throughout the next three years a National Assembly had been founded in order to govern the state, Louis was settled back to be a representative and had finally been publicly executed with his wife MarieAntoniett. The dismantling of the ancient regime occurred in different steps, the Great Fear of 1789, the August Deccrees of 1789, the Declaration of rights of man & citizen and eventually the nationalization of church land.
To this end, serfdom, tax exemption and privileges were abolished and due to the declaration all man were, free, equal before law and were eligible to enrol to all offices. Summa summarum it may be argued that not only the structure but also the ancient regime itself was not able to prevail against the forces of revolution it sought to suppress. The third estate had been suppressed for too long and the regime was highly indebted and literally faced bankruptcy. Moreover Enlightenment presented a sustainable alternative to Louis XVI regime.
The outdated monarchy had therefore been thrown over by a revolution it caused itself. .