On July 14, 1789, as the fortress Bastille was overtaken and destroyed by the people of France, it became a symbol that represented the years of abuse by monarchy. The French Revolution brought many new changes to France, which was one of the most significant powers in Europe at the time. It gave way for new political forces, and questioned the rule of monarchs and kings. It also suggested new ideas and beliefs to the people of France. The French Revolution, a revolt that lasted from the 1789 to the late 1790’s, was caused by three significant factors such as the economic state of France due to the American Revolution, the Enlightenment ideas that spread through the middle class, and the the political indifference between the social classes of France. The American Revolution occurred during the reign of Louis XVI. This was an opportunity for France to help America, as well as defeat Britain in turn for the things they had done to France.
In 1778, under the command of Louis XVI, France officially entered the American Revolution. France had a major role in helping the people of America when they needed it the most. Yet afterwards, it left the country of France in great debt (5). The condition in France economically was already poor, and the American Revolution left France in a great turmoil. To raise money, the government began to tax the third estate, raising prices on bread to ranges that working poor could not afford (1). Yet, the First and Second Estates were not taxed as much, causing a ripple in the Third Estate across France. Though the American Revolution left the French in debt, it also contributed many new ideas and beliefs to France. America created a document, “The Declaration of Independence,” that stated their beliefs and freedoms, and how the government should rule the nation.
This was another major leading point of the Revolution. After years of abuse and injustice, the people of France, particularly the Third Estate, began to question the traditions and rule of absolute monarchs (5). As the lower class began to become more and more educated, Enlightenment ideas also influenced their thoughts (4). The people felt that the nation should be equal, without difference according to class. This understanding brought them to write the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen” (8). The document stated the individual and collective rights of the people of France. Yet, it met the resistance of Louis XVI, who did not want to accept all the reforms of the National Assembly. Again, the people became angry, and anger turned to action. In the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen,” the first point states that all men are born equal, and social classes were established only for the common benefit (8). Yet, this was not the case throughout France.
The nation was divided into three social classes – the First Estate, which consisted of clergy, the Second Estate, which consisted of the nobility, and the Third Estate, which consisted of the bourgeoisie, rural peasants, and urban workers. Of The three classes the Third estate was the poorest. They worked the hardest, and was taxed most among the three classes. Arthur Young was a foreigner who traveled throughout France and observed the lifestyles of the people around him (1). His perspective is important because he is not a Frenchman, but an outsider. He saw that the poorest peasant and workers were taxed the most, were as the nobles and clergy were not taxed at all. Another point that makes him important is the fact that he was traveling through France before the French Revolution, allowing him to see the events that built up to the beginning of the Revolution.
Soon, the peasants began to realize the same thing, and again, anger turned to action. The French Revolution was caused by the debt Louis XVI left France in after helping the Americans, the many new ideas and beliefs influenced by the Enlightenment, and the differences between the social classes of France. Soon, the revolts started to make an impact on the whole of France, and the rulers of each period of time began to make changes for the better. New laws were passed, and gradually, as time passed, social classes were put aside and men were seen as equals. The last line of absolute monarchs was seen, and the monarchy changed to other forms of government. The three causes of the French Revolution – economic, political, and social – eventually helped shape the country into a better nation.