Causes of the French Revolution of 1789
The French Revolution of 1789 had many long-range causes. Political, social, and economic conditions in France contributed to the discontent felt by many French people-especially those of the third estate. The ideas of the intellectuals of the Enlightenment brought new views to government and society. The American Revolution also influenced the coming of the French Revolution. The Philosophes planted the seeds for the French Revolution. Their goals were to expose and destroy the inequalities of the ancient regime (old order).
The political discontent of France was one of the causes of the Revolution. In the 17th and 18th centuries, France was ruled by an absolute government. The king had all the political powers. Anyone who criticized the government could be arrested and put in prison without trial. Louis XVI was king at the time of the French Revolution. He was more interested in hunting than governing France. He and his Austrian queen, Marie Antoinette, lived an extravagant life at the Palace of Versailles. They did not really care about the state of their country. The excerpt from the cahiers mentioned in document 3 shows that the votes in the assembly were not taken by head. The people of the 3rd estate felt a sense of betrayal when the king supported the block voting over the head voting. The first two estates worked together to outvote the large third estate to keep them from becoming a threat to the power. Lord Acton, an Englishmen, states that the monarchy being overthrown wasn't the spark of the Revolution. He recognizes the American Independence as the spark of the French Revolution. The French government was inefficient, unjust and corrupt. There were numerous government departments, different laws in different parts of the country and officials. Many people became livid at the way France was governed. The people couldn't do anything to bring about a change. The French Parlement was called the Estates-General. It had not met since 1614 and couldn't without the consent of the king. It basically had no power.
The economic problems created by the French kings also contributed to the Revolution. During the 18th century, the French government spent more money than it collected in taxes. By 1788, the country was bankrupt. Arthur Young, an Englishmen and observer, who traveled to France from 1787 to 1789 angrily describes the living conditions of the peasants in his book Travels in France. The amount of...