Enlightenment and the French Revolution Essay

Pages: 2 (902 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World

Then something went horribly wrong.

While the new French Assembly was transforming French society, they failed to deal with the fiscal crisis which the old King had originally called them together to deal with. The economy collapsed, lawlessness ruled in the countryside, famine spread, and those in power were too busy transforming society to deal with the problems of everyday life. In response to this seemingly lack of concern, the people revolted again, only this time it was against those who had overthrown the King. By Sept. Of 1792 the radicals, led by Robespierre, Danton, Marat, and the Duke of Orleans, seized control of the government and created the "Committee of Public Safety," an organization which gave themselves dictatorial powers. (Kennedy 1989, 299) These radicals felt that the old revolutionary government had not gone far enough to transform French society; and this was the cause of all the problems. To deal with this perceived problem, the committee embarked on number of tyrannical reforms in order to create a society where every person possessed high moral standards and were dedicated patriots. Any violence, however extreme, was justified in order to create the perfect enlightened society. Anyone who disagreed was considered to be an enemy of the people, an enemy of the Enlightenment, an enemy of the Revolution, and a danger to France. (Viault 1990, 190) The result was the deaths of more than 16,000 French citizens in a wave of senseless violence that still disturbs people.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Essay on Enlightenment and the French Revolution: Assignment

The ideals of the Enlightenment gave birth to the French revolution. Ideals such as the rights of man, or the contract between the government and the governed, were the inspiration to transform the fabric of French society. However, the realities of the world intervened in the manifestation of the Enlightenment's ideals, causing a collapse of those ideals. Those in power failed to realize that ideals make for poor dinners, and a person cannot eat an abstract idea, and they paid the price for it, as well as all of France. Because of this failure, radicals took control and embarked upon a tyrannical, fear-induced, violent period of wholesale slaughter, and thousands of people were killed, all in the name of the Enlightenment. This is a perfect warning that even the most well-intentioned individuals can unleash social forces beyond their control causing devastation and destruction on a grand scale.


Kennedy, Emmet. 1989. A Cultural History of the French Revolution. New York: Yale University Press.

Rosner, Lisa, and Theibault, John. 2000. A Short History of Europe, 1600-1815. New York: M.E. Sharpe.

Viault, Birdsall. 1990. Modern European History. New York: McGraw-Hill.


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