The of aristocratic privileges. France’s population had
The French Revolution: A Time of Changes The French Revolution lasted from 1789-1799 and was a time of political and social changes where the society abandoned the ideas of the “old regime” and created new institutions of government. Before the French Revolution, society was grounded in the inequality of rights or the idea of privilege. The population was divided into legal categories known as the three estates. The church or the First Estate consisted of the clergy, the Second Estate was the nobility and the Third Estate, which constituted the majority of the population, were the commoners. A new order was created based on individual rights, representative institutions, and a concept of loyalty to the nation rather than the monarch. The rule of the French Monarchy was being proved ineffective, so much that even the women of France began to revolt. This was largely seen during the economic crises that occured in 1787 and 1788. Additionally, In the fifty years before the French Revolution, France had experienced a period of economic growth with expansion of foreign trade and an increase in industrial production. However, many people, especially the peasants, failed to share in this prosperity, thus leading to revolt and discontent among lower classes. The French Revolution challenged traditional European values to a near-full extent because although some historians may argue that the creation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen did not challenge the traditional European value of the inequality of rights between men and women, other historians may argue that the abolition of feudalism and the secularization of the church did challenge the traditional European values of The Estate System and a non-secular state.The French Revolution challenged the traditional European value of the three orders or estates because it destroyed the relics of aristocratic privileges. France’s population had been divided into estates since the Middle Ages, making it a symbol of the old regime. Before the beginning of the Revolution in 1789, King Louis XVI called for a meeting of the Estates General and requested for a list of grievances to be drawn up by each estate. “The Cahiers: Discontents of the Third Estate” reveals what was bothering the people of the Third Estate before the French Revolution. It says, “The due exacted from commoners should be abolished, and also the general or particular regulations which exclude members of the Third Estate from certain positions, offices and ranks which have hitherto been bestowed on nobles either for life or hereditarily” (Chair from the Third Estate). Although the idea of a society based on privilege had been around since the Middle Ages, the Third Estate had begun to reject these norms. They believed that they shouldn’t have to pay taxes that the First and Second Estates were exempt from and also that they were entitled to the same jobs as the other classes. Because the Third Estate was finally speaking out and trying to make change, the traditional European value of feudalism was challenged. The Third Estate also played a critical role in the abolishment of feudalism due to their economic discontent and struggle for survival. This was, in part, due to the ineffective leadership of the French Monarchy. In “The Flight of the Royal Family” written by Jean-Paul Marat, a rare perspective of someone that supported the Monarchy during this time is seen, Marat was even outlawed for his radical beliefs. He states “Citizens, the flight of the royal family was prepared from afar by the traitors of the National Assembly… In a few days Louis XVI, taking again the despot’s throne, in an insolent manifesto will treat you as rebels if you don’t head off the yoke” (Marat 4). In this quote, the vast impact that the National Assembly had is shown because they are being blamed for the overthrow of the Monarchy. The National Assembly allowed the Third Estate to voice their discontents and on August 4,1789, they voted to abolish seigneurial rights as well as the monetary privileges of nobles, clergy towns and provinces. This proves that the Third Estate no longer had the minimal amount of authority and privileges as they did before the revolution. They had more of a voice than ever before. Thus proving that the French Revolution challenged the traditional European value of feudalism. The French Revolution challenged the traditional European value of a non-secular state due to the reforms on the church during the revolution. The Catholic Church had great influence in pre-revolutionary society. The church owned up to 10% of the land and the clergy, people ordained for religious duties in the church, were exempt from France’s chief tax, the taille. The political, social and economic influence that the church had can be seen through the artifact titled The Processional Cross. It was made around 1150-75 out of gilded silver on a wood core with pearls, semi-precious stones, glass, a sapphire and a garnet. This piece supports the idea that the church had wealth and power at this time. The jewels and expensive material used to create it suggests that it was made for people of wealth. The Clergy were at the head of the social class and held many privileges. Due to this, the church was wealthy and often times places of luxury. Because the Catholic Church had such a prominent and influential role in society, it can be seen as a traditional European value. However, the ample amount of power that the church had came to an end during the revolution as the church was secularized. In July 1790, “the new Civil Constitution of the Clergy was put into effect. Both bishops and priests of the Catholic Church were to be elected by the people and paid by the state” (Spielvogel 50). Nonetheless, the pope prohibited the Clergy to swear an oath of allegiance to the civil constitution. The Civil Constitution, created by the National Assembly, was a symbol of the revolutionary aspirations that many possesed. Because of the Church’s refusal to swear an oath of allegiance to the Civil Constitution, the Catholic Church became an enemy of the revolution. As a result of the National Assembly’s efforts to change the policies of the Church, the traditional European value of a non-secular state was challenged. Some historians may argue that the French Revolution did not challenge the traditional European value of women having less rights than men because women were still excluded from political rights. On August 26, 1789, the National Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen which abolished aristocratic privileges and stressed the ideal of equal rights for all men. But the matter of if the equal rights included women was called into question. Olympe de Gouges was a playwright and pamphleteer during this time. She “refused to accept this exclusion of women from political rights. Echoing the words of the official declaration, she penned a Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen in which she insisted that women should have all the same rights as men” (Spielvogel 49). This attempt and her demands for equal rights, however, were ignored by the National Assembly which is why many historians argue that the inequality of rights between men and women weren’t challenged. However, women did have political influence during the French Revolution. On October 5th, eight to ten thousand women marched to Versailles in order to confront the king about the lack of bread for their families. The crowd forced the royal family to return to Paris. In Changing Lives by Bonnie G. Smith, the role of women in the revolution is seen. The women’s “personal need for bread for their families no longer brought them simply to riot until the price fell or until they had confiscated enough to see their families through bad times. Instead they sought to influence policies permanently by bringing the king to where they might supervise his actions” (Smith 99). This reveals that the women recognized their ability to have a voice in political affairs. Although they didn’t actually have political rights, the stigma around women and politics was changed. Women were starting to have a bigger role in national politics. Therefore, although some historians may argue that the French Revolution did not challenge the traditional European value of the inequality of rights between men and women, the idea of women having no say in political affairs was challenged. The traditional European values were challenged in many ways during the French Revolution, especially politically and religiously. The Catholic Church was no longer a major institution in French society and the aristocratic privileges of the First and Second Estates were abolished. Due to this, the Third Estate finally got a response to all the discontent they held. Although, the women did not gain political rights, their role in politics increased. This reveals that the French Revolution made great advances in French society. The immense amount of changes that the revolution made the people of France realize they had a voice and power, instead of the Monarchy.