The Causes of the French Revolution


The ideas that were promoted by the philosphes were defiantly a contributor to The French Revolution, but they were not the cause. Nor was the political turmoil that was taking place in France in the time. Although the political factors did tie in to the social and economic factor they were not the cause, only fuel to the fire. The cause was the economic and social problems that faced France in those years of turmoil. The French Revolution was caused by The Social and Economic woes that were taking place in France in the eighteenth century.

"The rule of the aristocracy lasts as long as the rural population continues to ignore or neglect the crafts, and the ownership of land continues to be the soul basis of wealth." "When handicrafts and commerce take hold amoung the people and create a new source of wealth benefiting a new class of working people, this paves the way for a revolution in political structure. A new distribution of wealth opens the way to a new distribution of power. In the same way that the possession of land creates an aristocracy, industrial property increases the power of the people; it provides the means to achieve its freedom." Antoine P. J. M. Barnave also believed that without the economic tribulations that were pending in France there would have been no need for change. Barnave believes that there would have been less of a social and economic problem if the rural population were not blinded by the aristocracy for as long as they were. As long as there was rural ignorance to the distribution of wealth the aristocracy was going to be able to keep their pronouncement over most of the population of France.

The third estate could be broken down into three parts: the rich (bourgeoisie), the middle (lawyers, doctors, businessmen), and the poor (the peasant, farmer). There was much change in the economic world of the third estate. For instance the bourgeois were gaining land and therefore making money. 35% of the land was left to the 22 to 23 million peasants, the bourgeoisie held about 30% of the land, the 350 000 members of the nobility held about 20% of the land, and left with an unequally shared 10% the 130 000 member of the clergy. This shows how much land the bourgeois actually had. They were making large amounts of money off this huge percentage of land. Like those today who make money they needed to be taxed, there was only one difference between now and then, they [the third estate] were the only ones being taxed. Being the only ones taxed the bourgeoisie were carrying France on their backs for the greater part of the 18th century. For this they wanted to gain ground into a better life "one associated with royal power" . According to the aristocracy there was to be no hope for the bourgeoisie, they could not gain ground, ever. One had to be born into their social class, for them this was too bad. The Aristocracy believed that one could be as prosperous as they wanted and as prosperous as they could get but there was no way to socially climb the ladder. Because of this the bourgeoisie decided to look to the other members of the third estate, the peasants.

Many other economic woes plagued France during the 18th century. There was much poverty throughout the country, but only within the poor part of the third estate. The first and second estates were well off and could not lose their fortunes to the taxes that only the third estate paid. There was much turmoil between the rich and the poor. When the poor were getting prosperous the rich would not let them climb the social ladder. Privilege was something that every man, woman, child wanted in the 18th century desired. This was never going to be possible without some sort of change in the political system that was in place. "But in the eighteenth century the nobility like the aristocracy tended to close its ranks." This did not allow for a prosperous person in the third estate to climb up to the second estate. After the enlightenment, social mobility was