The French revolution of 1789 was a period of intense upheaval in French history. Its discardment of not only societal structures but even ruling powers of the time, showed the discontent of an oppressed nation. A nation confined in the workings of social injustice. With the rise of new and inept ruling powers as well as the collapse of an already wavering economic system, social tensions become high. Previous thought upon societies framework and orchestration became questioned, causing the outbreak of new Enlightenment ideals. These changes repressed an active nation, removing the ease of their everyday life. This clear social injustice, ingrained within the social, economic and political hardships of the time was inevitably the main spurring cause of the French Revolution.
The economic hardship experienced by French society, prior and leading to the French Revolution, was a clear driving factor to its eventual development. With the rise of new and callow king, Louis XVI, France was held deep within an already failing financial system. King Louis, seen as an inadequate and juvenile leader by citizens of the time, reflected his label when handling the nation’s economy. France, already holding little wealth following the seven year war of 1754-1763, was in desperate need of a capable ruling power to restore them from impending financial jeopardy. Expenses used on weaponry and the like in the maintenance of a sizeable army and navy, significantly drained already deteriorating finances. These supplies although deemed necessary expenses at the time, damaged the French economy, making the French people solely dependant on the prospect of a new and competent ruler coming to reign, to bring prosperity to France once more. This ruling power, however hoped for, was not seen in King Louis XVI. King Louis along with his wife Marie Antoinette were not noted to be conscientious concerning financial matters, rather figures of extravagant and incautious spending. King Louis, participating in numerous foreign wars, not unlike his grandfather Louis XV, continued to drain the royal finances, increasing Frances already growing debt. It would seem to the people, that with King Louis’s continued funding towards the American war of Independence, he was showing no immediate sign of rectifying their financial situation, however he did take steps to appoint a minister of finance in 1774. Jacques Turgot, a nobleman and famed economist proposed numerous steps to improve the French economy. His suggestions, to cut back government spending and impose a uniform land tax, while proffering clear economic benefits, were not favourably received by the ruling powers. As Turgot’s economic prospects became more radical with him desiring to remove all noble privileges and benefits, he unsurprisingly lost all royal favour and was consequently dismissed. In 1777, with no action having been taken to improve the economy, France was forced to declare Bankruptcy. This economic decay consequently made great impact on the lives of the French people. With taxes and bread prices steadily increasing as well as a constantly fluctuating agricultural sector, French people fell deeper and deeper into impoverishment. With the obtainment of food and finances constantly uncertain, French society especially the peasantry grew fast disheartened. King Louis XVI, recognizing a demoralized people, and a fast decaying nation took action through calling a meeting of the three estates generals, representatives of the clergy , nobles and commoners. This meeting however hopeful, only resulted in a string rift between the commons and other comprising estates. The third estate felt only they had necessary insight to represent the nation and consequently made movement to separate themselves from the other estates, forming their own national assembly. They expressed their distaste at the clear disregard they were experiencing when it came to the value of their input, and highlighted the corruption within the estate system of the time. Rumors circulated of King Louis’s plans to suppress the third estate, which enraged a potentially unrepresented people. The official storming of Bastille on 14th July 1789 while noted as the beginning of the French revolution, highlighted the inevitable revolt of an unrepresented nation repressed in economic indigience. It was this social injustice, stemmed in economic hardship of the time that drove a tired people to their limits, allowing movement for much awaited change.
The weak governing power of Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette imposed on French society had clear influence on the commencement of the French revolution. Louis XVI, being only 19 when initiated as king was often described as a naive ruler, confined in a role beyond his capabilities. It is said he relied heavily on his advisory members and while taking much of their sound advice to heart was unable to bring about the extent of change necessary to restore a fast toppling nation. To the French people, this only reutilized the fact that their hopes for a strong and ambitious ruler were not satisfied in the new King.
France having suffered under many years of ineffective ruling, had means of optimism with the rise of new King Louis XVI. Despite his youth, they were hopeful at the prospects of him initiating change, both economically and socially. His rise to power however proved only to exhibit a nation’s vain expectancy. King Louis as well as his wife Marie Antoinette seemed to show little prudence concerning the future direction of the nation. Marie Antoinette encompassed a figure of extravagance concerning the royal treasury. She was often seen attending operas and many social events, dressed in evidently costly attire. This no doubtedly enraged a nation living within the clutches of poverty. It highlighted to them the injustice they were experiencing at the hands of an ineffective ruling duo. This lack of public support was only heightened with King Louis’s clear disregard of hs obligatory duties. Perhaps a result of his youth, King Louis would often choose to indulge in activities such as hunting and lockmaking, which while held no great concerns prior to his kingship, begin to be seen as frivolous later on, as they underlined a clear ignorance of his duties. The people felt that with the state of the nation, the king hardly had place to engage in profitless activities. This in turn only made clear to the people the inept ability of young King Louis XVI to govern a delicate nation. As well as this outwardly immature approach to the ruling of France, King Louis also lost much respect through his financial decisions concerning the nation. His ongoing funding towards the nations own army and navy, while perhaps entailing some importance with the volatile nature of the times, did still greatly contribute to France’s ever amounting debt. His financial support towards even American colonists throughout the American revolution, while leading to a foreign policy success did not owe any thought to his own nation’s economy. To the French people, this only highlighted the ineffectiveness of King Louis when it came to major beneficiary decisions. This inability to produce sound and wise resolutions when it came to the welfare of the nation, maddened the French people resulting in social revolt. King Louis’s weak and somewhat disengaged methods of governing only gave opportunity for rebellion. It was this social injustice, imposed through a people denied the effective ruling they so rightly deserved, that was a clear spurring factor of the French Revolution.
The changing outlook on social and political systems, due to new Enlightenment ideals was a main driving factor to the French revolution. French society, having endured many long years of social oppression, were not ones to ignore the fast influx of modern views, springing forth in different places around the world. These enlightenment ideals, being ideals of secularism, individualism and equality gave perfect opportunity for uprise as they clearly opposed governing powers of the time. With the ‘old order’reexamined and the notion of rulers being anointed by higher unseen powers questioned, French society began to undergo rapid social modification. The unattainable auras surrounding governing powers began to corrode as the nation gave rise to secularism ideology. The common man suddenly held its own compared to great and mighty powers, which in turn proffered great confidence when it came to the notion of revolution. Through philosophical writings of the time such as the works of Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau, enlightenment ideals were readily absorbed by society and used as core motivators to revolutionary movement. The works and writings of Rousseau were perhaps the most poignant of these new enlightenment models. His works, showing his clear disdain for royalty, aristocratic powers and religion while creating immediate controversy, seemed to engross generations of the time. His writing, which clearly argued against the suitability of monarchs to govern, while carrying much deeper tones (most unintended for revolutionary motive) did resonate with the people. It gave them reason and justification as to why governing powers of the time were unsuited to their role. With French people already in great distrust over the effectiveness of the royals to govern, Rousseau’s works gave great stimulus to an already desired revolt. With the vehemence of years oppressed behind them, French society threw itself into the manifestation of these new ideals, using them as means to undermine authority powers. The base notion that all men were created equal did still remain the spurring factor behind the revolutionary movement, and was used in combination with Rousseau’s works, as means to explain and justify their plans to overthrow ruling powers of the time. The consequential storming of Bastille on July 14th was perhaps the first real indicator of a new ‘enlightened people’.The third estate comprised of middle class members, urban workers and the peasant class were most influenced by enlightenment ideals, as they stood to gain most benefit from their instillment. These ideals, offered the working class chance at social advancement, which would not only better their social standing but assist in a better obtainment of wealth and freedom of ideas. It was the relevance that these ideals held to the third estate, that undoubtedly encouraged such interest and manifestation. The third estate being the majority class in the storming of Bastille only highlighted the social relevance these enlightenment ideals held. This complete capsizing of social and political order as a result of changing individual perspective, being labelled the ‘enlightenment model’, was a clear determinant of the outbreak of the French Revolution.
Social injustice and its hold on a tired and defenceless nation was the main driving factor concerning the initiation of the French revolution. French society being denied privileges, wealth and basic human requirements for many years had strong means to initiate rebellion against constricting systems of the time. Clear disparity between class systems especially, owed greatly to the eventual revolt of the people. Privileges and wealth pertaining to the nobles and members of the clergy were vastly superior to anything experienced by the common class. Even with tireless work, class systems were not designed to allow any sort of social progression. Those born in the common class were inevitably confined to its repression for the span of their working life, while nobles were given means and opportunity to steadily add to their wealth. This clear inequality pressed hard on the French people. It’s injustice smothered a working nation offering no window to better living. As well as this, the commoners, represented under the third estate were outnumbered when it came to political and economic decisions of the state. The first and second estates, being comprised of nobles and clergy members were clearly sided concerning majority of political decisions. The peasant class, despite representing around 98 % of French society, were disregarded and outnumbered when it came to voting, being constantly opposed by both the first and second estate. This clear preferential government system meant that despite commoners being the largest represented people, they really had no voice concerning matters of the nation. Privileges boasted by the nobles and clergy members of the higher estates, also highlighted the clear injustice between class systems. The royals and noblemen experienced considerable benefits in the way of food abundance and choice shelter and clothing. They indulged in the highest form of lavish living, which infuriated an impoverished people living within the third estate. While the common class suffered under the weight of France’s financial debt and agricultural instability, the noble classes continued to enjoy the luxuries of their ranking, in blissful ignorance of the lower class’s suffering. When noting these clear inequities, it is not hard to comprehend the motive behind the French people’s eventual revolt. The French class structures were not the only aspects of society greatly disadvantaging the greater population of France. Land ownership had been crafted to again profit only the nobleman and members of the clergy. An estimated 1% of the population, being comprised of the higher classes, were said to own approximately 40% of the farming land within France. These members of the higher societies would then hire out peasants of the third estate to work their land. If the laborious hours spent toiling the land were not discriminatory enough, members of the first and second estate were also exempt from paying the tax pertaining to their portions of land. This injustice was by no means unnoticed by society. A common French maxium “the nobles fight, the clergy pray, the people pay”highlights the peoples pragmatic understanding of the way in which their society functioned. With such blatant social injustice present in French societies, class systems and every day conduct, there is no doubt that the rebellion, that was the French Revolution, was predestined in its outcome.
The social injustice and oppression experienced by 1789 french society was the main clear stimulus of the revolt that was the French Revolution. Through the repression of the French people, by means of economic hardship, class disparity and weak governing powers, an underlying yearning for change began to develop. With the dispatchment of new enlightenment ideals and the rise of a nacholant and ineffective King, French society was handed perfect opportunity to initiate their desired change. When examining the age long inequity suffered by the working class and base majority of French people, we can hardly assume a stance of surprise at the Rebellion that consequently eventuated. Social injustice and the oppression of a people, as highlighted in this historical event,will habitually result in a long pent up desire for change. The eruption of this desire however, as noted in the French revolt that followed, is unmeasurable in its timing and impact. This uncontrollable variable is the inevitable risk involved in the repression of a people. Nonetheless it is clearly evident that the French revolution was undoubtedly spurred from the effects of social injustice, deep rooted within the bones of society itself.