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DBQ on the Causes of the French Revolution Essay

Change is feared. It is often heard that people simply fear change. Sometimes, however, thats not always true. Some claim that they fear the change, when they merely like the way things are and refuse to see things in another way. When discontent spreads throughout the majority of the population of French, a forced revolutionary war is the only way to convince that change is necessary. Three main things contributed to this desire for change, and those include taxes too intolerable to pay and survive, ideas encouraging change that were inspired by the Enlightenment, and the success of the American Revolution.

Before the Revolution, France was divided socially in a structure known as the Old Regime. It consisted of three estates. The First Estate was the clergy, who owned ten percent of the land but comprised of only one percent of the population. The Second Estate, with nobility, included two percent of the population but owned thirty-five percent of the land. The largest was the Third Estate, which was made up of the middle class, peasants, and city workers, owned only fifty-five percent of the land but made up ninety-seven percent of the population (Doc. 2).

The Third Estate was taxed in extreme proportions so much so that bread, which was a necessity and the base of all meals, became very difficult to pay and obtain. It was becoming increasingly difficult to survive on so little (Doc 1). However, the first two Estates lived easily with no taxes. Even the bourgeoisie, the middle class, became as wealthy as the preceding Estate, but because of where they were born, they were still burdened by taxes. This led to restlessness in the Third Estate. Since they comprised most of France, they joined together and planned a revolt.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to storm in and expect alterations without a plan. To prepare for this, the ideas from the Enlightenment helped to alter the path France was taking. After freshly coming from this new age of thinking and analytical studies, the middle class could easily use the ideas of government, economy, and social structure to command a variation (Doc. 4). One main contributor to the Enlightenment was Monsieur Rousseau. He believed in the will of the majority; that is, the bulk of a group determines the final outcome. This appealed to the Third Estate because they did make up the greater part of France. It was a beneficial theory to them. Another contributor to the Enlightenment was John Locke. He believed that all people are born with three natural rights: life, liberty, and property. No matter what class a person was born into, these rights should not be taken away. If the governing system abuses these rights, then the people have a right to overthrow the government.

Halfway across the globe, another revolution was taken previously. That was the one of colonies, known as the American Revolution. The colonies there, too, were upset by the heavy burden of taxes and their lack of say in the matter. This applied to the French Third Estate, as well. After the underdogs of America finally pulled from behind and conquered the all-powerful Great Britain, this led to inspiration of another Revolution (Doc. 5). That spark was used as a motivational tool to overthrow the lumbering French governmental system. The win in the American colonies encouraged the French to do the same. The first two Estates failed to see the problem with the matter, and they were not at all pleased to be overshadowed by their own people.

With the disgruntled First and Second Estates strained to fight once again, this time against their own people, change was brewing, and it could be seen in the eyes of all. Armed with the anger against the heavy, unbearable taxes, the brilliance of the enlightened ideas, and the confidence from the American Revolution, the Third Estate prepared to battle and seek the transformation they so desperately desired.


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