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French Revolution

French Revolution

The bourgeoisie and the enlightened classes played a major character in the French Gyration done the evocation of the Assemblage. One legislator would ensure this "denaturing" and change his existence through changing the society in which he lived. Despite Montesquieu’s belief that governments should let people pursue their own interests, he wanted the governments to pursue both freedom and justice – it would be wrong to say to say that Montesquieu was not urging political action. Rousseau was urging for a regeneration of the current system, and as Hampson explains this concept of "regeneration was to become one of the most abused words of 1789."[23] Both Rousseau and Montesquieu had devoted a great deal of their time to political issues and had begun to challenge the existing political situation, however more writers needed to challenge the existing order but the influence of these philosophes in allowing revolutionary thinking and ideas to come into being cannot be understated. Of the philosophes still alive in one thousand seven hundred eighty nine the Cercle Social still made attempts to allow the ideas of the past be realised in modern day France. The Cercle Social was later to become the Girondist faction of the Revolution. The group had its own printing press, published journals and placed major emphasis on education of the ideas of the philosophes. The arrangement of politics had been attacked and criticised for decades anterior to the Rotation – the launching of new ideas modification to the existent constitutive and political place had educated the bourgeoisie and fuelled their trust for modification.

The aspect of the philosophes ideals in the French Rotation

Almost damming in beholding the Rotation as the resolution of the Nirvana is the fact that the bulk of the unexpended philosophes of the clip did not check with the Gyration. From the Holbach clique, which included Raynal, Marmontel, Morellet and Grimm. With the onrush of rotation, Raynal, who had scripted perchance the almost influential radical bit of the 1770s, fled Paris. Morellet besides stated that the French Gyration had created a nation of "lawlessness" and too unexpended Paris. Farther, Marmontel saw a "unsafe zealotry" and "the life of certify, junto and lawlessness." Grimm, who had served a escritoire of sorts to the philosophe drive too fled the commonwealth and returned to his aborigine Germany and left-hand his wealth to be seized by the revolutionist regime.  Alan Kors had named this radical as the "extremist nirvana grouping" and argues that their enemy to the Rotation held on-key to their own Nirvana views. The fact that the French Gyration had interpreted such an irrational and lawless form went against their beliefs in "noetic ordering and scientific method."[31] The philosophes favoured a far more gradual procession of the Rotation done reclaim and allowing the leadership and the universe of France to strike translate the ideas of the Nirvana. The Marquess de Condorcet, whose "vestal" ism contributed often to the Rotation calm, on the Eve of the Gyration, believed that France could solitary work its mixer and economical crises done the dense dissemination of Nirvana ideas. His admirer The Abbe Sieyes in the Societe de 1789, who basically symbolised the Rotation of the Commons in 1789, besides withdrew from government in g vii century 90 due to his dislike of the route the Gyration had interpreted.  

[27] Le dernier putsch porte aux prejuges et a la superstition, London, 1789, foliate 348

[16] Cahiers, I/393 Grasset, paginate 119

[3] Ibidem, Foliate 135

[13] Paginate 161

Robespierrists mat that their enemies were far more enlightened than they were and attempted to obscure the multitude with their complicated ideas of doctrine. Saint-Just stated that these enemies "tested to patsy multitude with complicated cerebral arguments." Robespierre himself was not an counsellor of hypothesis and stated "it is not essential to hunting in the books of political writers, who did not at all foreknow the Rotation." Many historians let likewise questioned the extent to which Robespierre very was influenced by the philosophes granted his suspicion of their ideas and many fence that he did not fifty-fifty let a identical heavy cognition of Rousseau, of whom he stated himself to bear been greatly influenced. Brissot erstwhile called Robespierre’s speeches "incoherence sitting as depth." The "kill with the philosophes" shibboleth of the Jacobins is promote prove in proving the deficiency of prise that they had for the Nirvana ideas of the Eighteenth 100. At this period it is crystallise that the ideas of the philosophes were no yearner connected to the Rotation – the Jacobins were far more concerned in government than with the ideas of the Nirvana and so "the Rotation stone-broke by from the Nirvana."[35]

Montesquieu and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were besides arguably among around of the virtually significant Nirvana thinkers tributary to the French Gyration. In damage of laws Montesquieu believed that all men should follow laws and that they "mustiness commence by functional to produce suitable mass."[16] Justness, for Montesquieu was "a proportionate kinship which rattling exists ‘tween two things. This kinship ne’er varies; whether it is viewed from the view of God, an saint, or of man…fifty-fifty if God did subsist, we ought invariably to beloved jurist…jurist is ageless and nowise contingent homo conventions."[17] Jurist was an inviolable criterion and laws mustiness survive because they are equitable. Montesquieu saw man as a ware of his surround and matte that man should adjust himself as outdo he could inside this environs. Dissimilar Voltaire, Montesquieu did not see the pauperism to rid the earth of all its existent laws; rather he declares "it is sometimes necessity to modify sealed laws, but such occasions are uncommon and when they grow one should solitary contact laws with a palpitation deal."[18] This access to the meddling with laws is not specially rotatory; nevertheless, he treasured all political societies to be judged on his rank principles of judge and impropriety. For Montesquieu the estimation configuration of politics took configuration in a tame governing, notwithstanding, he states that tame governments are "a chef-d’oeuvre of legislating that prospect produces selfsame seldom and men seldom tolerate discretion to produce"[19]

The "Philosophes" and Nirvana intellection in the Eighteenth 100

Many bodoni day historians extend to debate that the contact betwixt Nirvana persuasion and the French Gyration farsighted pre-dated the rotation itself, claiming that many anti-philosophes were positive that the philosophes were attempting to weaken and destabilize the already constituted club. Still, the revolutionaries claimed that the Rotation was a engineer event of Nirvana reasoning; as Brissot boasted in k septenary c xc one "Our gyration is not the yield of an rising. It is the employment of a one-half hundred of nirvana." As Roland N. Stromberg explains "Those who well-tried to templet the Rotation ne’er ceased to decriminalize or apologize their actions by sympathetic to the dustup of Voltaire, Rousseau ,Montesquieu, Diderot, and over-the-counter cerebral heroes of the Nirvana, though they power do so selectively and unpredictably"[30]

The extent to which the ism of the Eighteenth c wedged the French Rotation has tenanted the historiographer always since the years of the Gyration itself. It has proven to be vastly composite; many historians get scripted on the bailiwick of the Rotation – many choosing to see it strictly as a succession of events culminating in Gyration. The rational origins of the Gyration settle initially in the ideas of 16th 100 writers. The unremitting ontogenesis of these ideas led into the gravid menstruum of the 18th C, where philosophers sought-after to recrudesce new slipway of reasoning that would earmark man to improve himself, and to unblock him from old slipway of thought and superstitions that had engrained themselves in the earth. The generations that had big up in the rational environs of the sentence and the way they were touched by these subverter ideas was an all-important parting of the Gyration. Trained historians suffer attended background the use of played by the philosophes; instead they focus on the historical causes of the Revolution, on the facts such as the financial crisis or the inefficacy of the tax system. However, it is fundamental in understanding the cause of the revolution to appreciate the undercurrent of the development of new ideas over time – this gradual occurrence does not necessarily warrant as much attention as events that happen abruptly, which may have caused the influence of enlightenment thinking to be cast aside somewhat. So how can the extent to which the ideas and writings of the philosophes influenced the general population be measured? To what extent were the revolutionaries influenced by the philosophes and perhaps most importantly did the revolutionaries mould their own philosophies around the circumstances in which they found themselves?

In de l’Esprit des Lois, published in one thousand seven hundred forty eight Montesquieu discusses the legality of laws and how to judge whether a law exists for the good of man. There was constant reference to Montesquieu in the many pamphlets of literature of one thousand seven hundred eighty eight in support of the parlement’s challenge to the royal family. Lawyers were constantly referencing Montesquieu and De l’esprit des lois. Furthermore, Rousseau’s influence was also present with references to du Contrat social "the state of monarchy is only useful for corrupted nations."[24] Other pamphlets draw on Rousseau to an even greater extent; "man is born free, laws are acts of the general will, government is the agent of the general will and not a part to the social contract."[25] As Hampson further explains all the pamphlets shared "a common vocabulary…the subjects of the kingdom had been replaced by the citizens of the nation. Those of whom the writers approved were the enfants de la patrie and their opponents agents of ‘ministerial despotism’"[26] This is a clear demonstration of the influence of Rousseau’s philosophy and his success in shaping revolutionary ideas through the use of this republican language. A world of "collectivites" would create a new, happy people and man would achieve happiness in such a "collectivite." It could be interpreted that Montesquieu sees France as a "collectivite." "C’est la nation qui seule peut se donner la loi."[21] Montesquieu wanted to see a change in the law-citizen relationship; he wanted it to change from man being the object of laws to man becoming the subject of legislative power. Montesquieu wanted human reason to be applied to the reality in which people lived. However, Montesquieu’s philosophy does not sit well with the French Revolution because his ideals of universal and absolute reason are only applicable to the world at large and which must govern the world at large. As a result, if these laws were to be implemented, one would only be implementing ideas based upon legality within nature. Montesquieu believed that the legislative and executive powers needed to be separate so that the citizens could not be oppressed and would remain free.

[34] The Philosophes and the French Revolution, Some Reflections on recent research, Roland N. Stromberg, Page 329

[29] Ibid, Page 243

Fundamentally Montesquieu and Rousseau had conflicting concepts of freedom. As previously stated Montesquieu believed that freedom could be achieved in "collectivites." Governments needed to respect the independence of these "collectivites" and vote in favour of the "esprit general." On the other hand, Rousseau’s notion of "political freedom" consisted of allowing man to achieve all he wanted, which was obviously in the best interest of the community at large. This would be achieved through the liberation of man from his state of ignorance by abolishing all existing institutions and "denaturing" man. Betwixt November thou septenary 100 fourscore octad and the merging of the Estates Oecumenical ended 2,500 pamphlets were promulgated. The ideas of the philosophes which were now beingness forwarded done the revolutionaries became of bang-up interestingness to the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie began to center how the stream organization could be changed and how their desires power turn a world.

Condorcet and Brissot were key members of this group and were determined to make Enlightenment ideals become part of the new emerging world. They wanted to spread the ideas of the Enlightenment and create a "rational political institutions based on the ideas of the Enlightenment."[32] They believed that a sudden and aggressive move from one form of government to the next was not the way Revolution should be carried out, rather ideas needed to be understood by the everyday man so that his attitudes could be changed. The point that changes needed to take place on all levels of society is aptly explained by Foucault; "nothing in society will be changed if the mechanisms of power that function outside, below and alongside the State apparatuses on a much more minute and everyday level are not also changed."[33]

To what extent were the ideas of the French ‘philosophes’ and Enlightenment thinking a precondition to the French Revolution in one thousand seven hundred eighty nine – were the social and economic crises of the time not sufficient in causing the Revolution themselves?

[24] Will and Circumstance, Norman Hampton, Page 60

French Revolution

[31] The Philosophes and the French Revolution, Some Reflections on recent research, Roland N. Stromberg, Page 324

[15] Ibid, page 167

[12] Letter page 158

[6] Lettre de Voltaire a d’Alembert, 26-XII en 1767

[4] Ibid

[33] Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge

[21] Philosophie de la Revolution Francaise, page 130

[25] Ibid, page 61

[10] Ibid

[2] Ibid, Page 133

Montesquieu and Rousseau’s impact in the years leading up to the Revolution took shape in numerous forms. He believes that laws should be made in order to better mankind and to transform the existing system. All laws need to be judged as to whether they correspond or contradict the rights of man. For Montesquieu every law needs to be based on moral principles and should guide man towards morality. "C’est dans les principes du droit que noud devons chercher la norme absolue qui nous permettra de construire une collectivite."[20] Montesquieu saw the intellectual world as a group of "collectivites." The life of every individual is fundamentally conditioned by the community in which they live. Billaud Varenne, was particularly influenced by the ideas of Rousseau and expressed his admiration for the "fine works of Rousseau, who describes so well the power of the Supreme Being"[27] In Varenne’s Despotisme des ministres de France Varenne echoes many of Rousseau’s sentiments; "superior by our knowledge, our industry and our force, to every nation in the universe, when we could be second Romans, betrayed by our generals, strangled by our ministers, every day we risk being subjugated to foreign domination or becoming wholly enslaved to our own"[28] Moreover, Montesquieu’s philosophy was also put forward by Varenne in this three-volume work "great agitation within a state should always be avoided as much as possible."[29] It is clear that the work of the philosophes had a major impact on the revolutionaries and fundamentally provided the intellectual stimulus upon which the revolutionaries could propose concrete changes contributing to the revolution of 1789.

It was believed by these revolutionaries that France would become a nation devoted to the Revolution, in which Rousseau du Contrat Social’s "civil religion" would become the "new moral cement." Many of the revolutionaries began to see themselves as the "priests" of this new religion. These Girondists also believed that education could change human nature – an idea derived from John Locke and put forward by Condillac in France. The Girondists were adamant that this could be achieved – if the philosophes and revolutionaries were able to gain control of education they could "mold a new species of mankind."[34] The Jacobins were even more extreme in their views on education as they wanted to take children away from their parents and indoctrinate them in new Enlightenment ideas. As Stromberg explains "the philosophes had addressed only an elite, the next task was to expand this charmed circle to embrace the whole nation." However, Gary Kates argues that the Girondists were not a bourgeois party but a party of those who had come to understand the Enlightenment. Despite their will to see the ideas of the philosophes realised within the Revolution they proved to be ineffective politicians and thus were defeated by the Montagnards.

[18] Ibid CXXIX[11] [23] Will and Circumstance, Norman Hampton, Page 58[32] Ibid, Page 328[14] Philosophie de la Revolution Francaise, page 166[1] BernardGroethuysen, Philosophie de la Révolution Française, Page eighty two

What was meant by volonté nationale? It could be interpreted as volonté de la majorité, but how could the will of the masses be gauged? The will of the people needed to manifest itself in some form in order for a people to become revolutionary. To understand how the Enlightenment affected the everyday individual in France is to fully appreciate the question at hand – "il faudra chercher a connaître l’état d’espirit des hommes à l’époque, à nous rendre compte de ce qu’éprouvait alors l’individu par rapport à la masse dont il fasait partie."[1]

As Voltaire grew older he increasingly focused his thoughts against religion and the Church. In a letter written to Frederic II in one thousand seven hundred sixty seven he declared "depuis dix-sept cents ans, la secte chretienne n’a jamais fait que du mal." He called on all philosophers of his time to rise up with him in his fight against the Church. Voltaire declared that sooner or later the time would come in France when people would be able to see the conspiracy and lunacy of religion – people were raising "des mains invisibles pour percer le fanatisme d’un bout de l’Europe a l’ature avec les fleches de la verite." He became very excited about the prospect of the coming revolution through the Enlightenment and could foresee the coming of the age of reason. In one thousand seven hundred sixty one he wrote to d’Alembert, "je suis tetu. Jusqu’a mon dernier souffle, je repeterai mon caeterum censo: Ecrasez l’Infame. C’est une grande lutte, la lutte de tous les etres pensants contre les etres non-pensants…tous les etres pensants doivent etre tendrement unis…contre les fanatiques, les hypocrites, egalement persecuteurs." However, Voltaire was particularly critical of other philosophers of his time, "toutes les philosophes sont trop tiedes; ils se contentent de rire des erreurs des hommes, au lieu de les ecraser."[6] Voltaire wanted all the philosophes to join together to cause change in the world and to help the population become enlightenened, he did not wanted the other philosophes to want to enlighten the world and not just see the mistakes in the existing one; "les missionaries courent la terre et les mers, il faut au moins que les philosophes courent les rues, il faut qu’ils aillent semer le bon grain de maisons en maisons."[7] This use of particularly strong language by Voltaire shows the extent to which he believed in the Enlightenment and how much he wanted it to be realised in the world. Voltaire, in writing to Alembert vehemently calls those leaders who prevent their citizens from becoming enlightened as "monstres persecuteurs, qu’on me donne seulement sept ou huit personnes que je puisse conduire et je vous exterminerai."[8] He declared that eventually reason will prevail but bemoans the fact that he will not be alive to see this "beau changement" of "l’Eglise de la sagesse, dans laquelle les philosophes seront les precepteurs du genre humain." He calls on the philosophes to see the fruit of the trees that they themselves had planted.


[35] Cobban, in Wasserman, Page 314[19] De l’espirit des lois, V/14For Montesquieu the main purpose of religion was to make better citizens; he believed that religious beliefs were a product of the environments in which people lived. Despite the fact that he believed that all religions strengthened the morality of the followers Montesquieu believed Christianity to be the most favourable in creating good citizens. Montesquieu’s de l’Esprit des Lois put forward the notion of liberalism in which liberty could only be secured through a "contrived equilibrium between the competing interests within society"[22] Although Montesquieu’s message is not always clear within de l’Esprit des Lois he does not waver from his belief that governments should act in the needs of the people, as opposed to being the means to change a society, that institutions and beliefs are the result of the environment and the actions of generations in the past and that there are "moral imperatives" that transcend time and which bind all men together.[20] Philosophie de la Revolution Francaise, page 128The idea of volonté nationale was a fundamental concept that needed to be considered by many Enlightenment thinkers.

[5] Ibid, page 136

[22] Will and Circumstance, Norman Hampton, Page 24

[26] Ibid

[30] The Philosophes and the French Revolution, Some Reflections on recent research, Roland N. Stromberg, Page 323

[8] Lettre de Voltaire a d’Alembert, 26-VIII en 1766

[28] Despotisme des ministres de France, Amsterdam, 1789, 3rd Volume, Page 209

From the advent of Christianity Voltaire believes that history has only been formed through errors and mistakes. In opposition to Montesquieu, he proposes all existing laws to be forgotten so that humanity can be re-rooted in reason and enlightened thinking. For Voltaire there is nothing to be learnt from history – "la critique historique decouvre partout la deraison dont temoignent les actes et les lois faites par les hommes, depuis que l’Eglise a fat regner la superstition dans le monde."[14] Man needs to be enlightened from this absurd world, created by generations of man’s mistakes. Although on the face of it Voltaire’s analysis of the current situation could be interpreted as pessimistic he trusts that reason will prevail in allowing a new order to be created, as Groethuysen explains: "la raison conduira la passion…la passion devenue raison, la passion de la raison va posseder les hommes de la revolution francaise."[15]

[7] Lettre de Voltaire a d’Alembert, 26-VI en 1766

[17] Lettres Persanes, LXXXIII

As regards the division of France into three estates Voltaire is very clear that the existing system needs to be abolished. "Representez vous le tier etat. Mais ce sont les paysans sur leur champs…les millions d’hommes qui travaillent, a cote des deux cent mille members du clerge ou de la noblesse qui ne travaillent pas."[9] This inequality is a major problem for Voltaire for, in his eyes, all men are born equally on the Earth and this inequality from birth poses a major problem in allowing the Third Estate to become enlightened. "Le tiers etat a lui seul est déjà toute la nation"[10] Voltaire calls on the revolutionary masses of one thousand seven hundred eighty nine to look deeper and more closely at things and to question everything around them. "Fiez-vous donc a votre raisonnement, substituez toujours le concret, le defini aux affirmations indecises ou generales." He explains how not every man is born with the ability to be a philosophe but that every man is able to become enlightened; "la faculte critique est quelque chose de positif en l’homme. C’est la joie d’etre libre de prejudges, de savoir que la raison est souverain en tout homme."[11] Voltaire wants every man to win the fight against superstition and false beliefs. Voltaire praises the other philosophes, for despite their differences, they are "honnetes gens…qui ne savent point ce qui est, mais qui savent fort bien ce qui n’est pas."[12] They have called the world into question and although they do not have answers to much of it they have created the foundations upon which the Enlightenment can be built. Although Voltaire’s philosophy may be interpreted as somewhat pessimistic in terms of  the insignificance of man in terms of the universe, he is also optimistic in that man does have the capacity to think about things outside his world – there is "la misere de la condition humaine" but also "les grandes pensees, le ciel etoile dans sa legalite invariable, l’eternite dont l’homem essaye de surprendre le secret pendant le court instant dure sa pauvre existence instable."[13] The philosophes need to join together and give their mutual support to one another in order to win the fight against the enemy that seeks to continue its domination over unenlightened man. But by what means could Voltaire’s notion of an enlightened nation be achieved? In a letter to the Marquis d’Argence de Dirac in one thousand seven hundred sixty four he declares "il ne faut pas disputer avec les gens entetes…jamais la dispute n’a convaincu personne; on peut ramener les hommes en les faisant penser par eux memes, en paraisant douter avec eux, en les conduisant, comme par la main, sans qui’ils s’en apercoivent." For Voltaire if all the philosophes were united in their philosophies and it worked its way peacefully through the masses then "la plus belle époque de l’histoire de l’espirit humain" would be born.

Voltaire was one of the key figures in terms of his revolutionary thinking during the Eighteenth Century. He believed that laws were outdated and needed to be changed because they had been created at a different time, haphazardly and the existing laws were "basées sur l’ignorance et la superstition."[2] In a letter he wrote to Catherine II Voltaire declared "les lois sont faites après coup, comme on calfate des vaisseux qui ont voies d’eau; elles sont innombrables, parce qu’elles sont faites sur des besoins toujours renaissants; elles sont condradictoires, attendu que ces besoins ont toujours changé." Voltaire was convinced that laws needed to be changed in order to allow the society to become enlightened.  For Voltaire religion also holds man back from becoming enlightened. In terms of morals, he compares the religious morals with philosophical morals. Voltaire’s belief that the philosophical morality is no different from religious morality is clearly explained by Groethuysen: "Les philosophes ont tous des idées différentes sur les principes des choses, mais ils enseignent tout la même parole."[3] All religions thus have a harmonising and moralising aspect, however Voltaire criticises the way in which religion is based upon so many superstitions and obscure cult practices. These outdated superstitions have led to war and destruction "les gens se sont disputes sur les dogmes, ils sont fait la guerre; des nations en ont detruit d’autres parce que’elles croyaient en Jesus-Christ et non en Mahoment."[4] Laws and religion are not necessary in order to allow man to know the difference between right and wrong – reason is independent of law and religion. Man has been corrupted by the irrational aspects of religion. He does not use his sense of reasoning to understand the world and commits act of destruction and violence solely in the name of religion. Voltaire wanted man to be freed from its inability to reason, much alike Kant’s belief in Was ist Aufklarung that "Aufklärung ist der Ausweg des Menschen aus seiner selbstverschuldeten Unmündigkeit. Sapere aude!" In answering the question as to how a law of reason can be established Voltaire proposes "une loi fondamentale [qui] agit sur toutes les nations que nous conaissons."[5] The principle behind this law is first and foremost to distinguish between what is right and what is not. But Voltaire sees this law as secondary in terms of human judgement and reason – every man has an inner instinct that allows them to know what is right, "un sens de l’equite commun a tous les hommes." For Voltaire ideas of morality are of the utmost importantce; knowledge of all other ideas must come second to morality: "seules les idees morales peuvent nous server a conduire notre vie de facon a la mener en commun avec les autres hommes." A new philosophy of morality was necessary to create the new modern man; this was Voltaire’s main objective; he wrote in a letter to Frederic Guillaume in October one thousand seven hundred thirty seven that "l’humanite est le principe de toutes mes pensees." Man has to look only to the goodness within him and his own instinctive moral principles "pour que sa raison trouve en lui une egalite universelle dominant toutes les legislations particulieres." This in turn would lay down the foundations for a moral law.

[9] Page 155, Groethuysen

The Bourgeoisie and the Revolution

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