Term Paper: French Revolution Many People Believe

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French Revolution

Many people believe that the French Revolution in 1789 was a "class" revolution, that is, the workers rising up against those in power to overthrow them and establish a more equitable government. Perhaps because Communism is so strongly tied to ideas of revolution, social explanations for the events that led to the French Revolution are common (Censer, 2003). However, accounts of the Revolution lack the slogans common to Communism, such as "Workers arise!" While the Revolution might be described in terms of class, since the Royalty were over thrown by everyone else, hostility to the "divine right of kings" (Barker, 1993) is a rather incomplete defense for calling this event any kind of class struggle except for the obvious one that the Royals did not want to give up their power.

In fact the non-royal classes of France had an organizational tradition in the Bourgeois Militia (Luckett, 1997). Established well during the Wars of Religion (Luckett, 1997), this militia was to be made up of one man from each household. This it crossed all classes and brought disparate groups together in a common cause. Similar to the "Minute Men" of the early United States (Luckett, 1997), it was sometimes as large as 50,000 men. The existence of the militia gave legitimacy to various classes working together to oppose a common enemy that might not have otherwise been present.

Another indication that the French Revolution was not a class struggle lies in its early events. During late summer and early fall fo 1787 and late summer of 1788, periods of riots occurred in which various government agents and practices became the target (Luckett, 1997). At the time, the government was near bankruptcy (Luckett, 1997) and needed to pass more taxes to raise money. However, the parliament did not want to agree to the increases. Because of this the king attempted to exile parliament. The monarchy still wielded a great deal of power and attempted to force through the taxes at a time when many people in France were strapped for money and near starvation. This angered the crowds of people gathering in the streets at night (Luckett, 1997). Sometimes these crowds stampeded through the streets, going into evening establishment looking for government spies, people who listened in on others' conversations to report those who were speaking out against the crown (Luckett, 1997). This anger soon expanded to anyone who appeared to cooperate in any way with the Royal government (Luckett, 1997) and helped set the stage for a violent revolution.

Marxist explanation, of course, defines these events in terms of a class struggle, but this may reflect Marxist philosophy that everyone is equal. In the view of some Marxist explanations, the riots that preceded the Revolution were caused by the Royalist's actions, an inevitable result, wihte the bourgeois rising up in protest (Luckett, 1997). However, French society was not that simple. In the rural countryside, people were more concerned with equal access to the justice system to settle civil grievances. Before the revolution, rural people who attempted to use the legal system were faced with a bureaucratic system designed to increase the wealth of the judges, lawyers and court clerks. Each one of those individuals knew ways to increase the amount of money charged for their services (Crubaugh, 2000). As a result, residents in the countryside had to find alternate ways to settle grievances. Sometimes those solutions included violence. So, while French citizens experienced violence in the countryside as a way to settle disputes and violence in the city in the form of riots, the causes and types of violence were markedly different. The Revolution did bring equality for all in the courts, but this was not a class-driven action. In fact, during this period France was actively building and expanding… [END OF PREVIEW]

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