The Ideologies of French Revolution


The French revolution from 1789 – 1793 is the greatest revolution that changed the history of French and built a new system of state based on the popular sovereignty, that’s mean the lower estate of the social layers in French started suffering from the unlimited or absolute power of the king Louis 16th, and the political condition which made unequal dealing with the social estates, thus the turning point in the revolution started with very important events to change the old regime which contained the structure of royal government, the structure of French society and the taxation system which existed before 1789, also the causes of the revolution divided on four dimensions political, social religious, economic and intellectual, and each cause used for a lot of events to shape the whole picture of successful revolution in new French, moreover, the revolution stand on some ideologies/ideas which appeared from the evolutional states like America and British, and through this research we will focus on these ideologies and elaborate some events in each ideology in French revolution.

Sources of ideas/ Ideologies

Before start talking about the French revolution ideologies, we need first to know what is the ideology concept? “ideology is a set of ideas by which men posit, explain and justify the ends and means of organized social action, irrespective of whether such action aims to preserve, uproot or rebuild a given social order “(Alexander, 2014, p.

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2). French revolution ideologies inspired from other political systems and places like the American model during the American revolution between 1775-1789, and English revolution, but the French revolution in compared with other revolutions, it was complex, more violent and more radical because it tried to start anew social and political order, on the other side there were many French revolutionaries (Montesquieu, Rousseau, Voltaire, Mably and other) admired to the British government and society, which had some ideologies like separation of power, constitutional basis, individual rights, tolerance and freedoms, these ideologies were the beginning of the French revolution against the political and social persecutions specially for the middle class in social estate, and when we go in-depth we found the French revolution ideologies focused on Liberty ,Equality, Fraternity, Popular sovereignty, Constitutionalism, natural right and, and each ideology passed in many events to get the successfully result against the dominant French society before 1789.

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French revolution liberal ideology is the main ideology that leaded to political participation for the third estate in the French society, who shaped 98% of the total population, this ideology was translated to a lot of events and action to get the targeted results during the French revolution specially in the period 1789 – 1792, during these years the changing from ancient regime which considered all power was centralized with king because the king in the part and representative of god, and nobody can challenge him, also judges were from the upper class and royal family, that’s mean there wasn’t judiciary, but these action forced the third estate seeking for their right, and the result of these actions leaded to national assembly to write constitution for nation, after that, members of upper class were joint assembly in palace for meeting , at the same time the third class people gathered on tennis court and they took oath to work unitedly till the completion of liberal constitution, then struggle between assembly and king grew, people awakened all over nation and organized public meeting to support national assembly, but the king tried to crush assembly by gathering military, the result of this crush was arrested the leader of the revolution, and the revolution was now spread all over the nation to fall of Bastille, it was social revolution because the feudalism was destroyed in one night, this action ended in arrested the king Louise 16th and queen in Tulriz palace in pairs.


Social causes behind the French revolution focused on the social structure of the ancient regime with regard to taxation and political participation, because it was unfair and uneven, to understand the inequality between the three estates through talking about each estate and what was the privilege and power which had before the French revolution.

Clergy estate

Roman catholic was the national religion if French and had a great influence on people and the king, clergy numbered about 130.000 people in percentage 0.5 % of the total number of population, and they were owners around 10% of the land of the nation, with free tax, but they collect their tax from common people, also they had a respect and rights like living luxuriously as feudal/noble.

Feudal Estate

The feudal estate was called nobles, and because they were rich and defended aristocratic privileges, they played an important role in French society like held a lot of leadership position in state government, law courts, military, and church offices, their population was 1.5% of the total population percentage, and they were holding 25% of the land also with tax exemptions like the clergy class, according to Montesquieu description of feudal, “ who can talk to the king, communicate to minster, has a pension, loan, and hereditary rights is feudal “.

Common People Estate

The commoners made up the majority of French society, the highest population of common estate shaped 98% of the total percentage, and were hold 65 % of the land of the nation, this class also contain craftspeople, bourgeoisie, and peasants, but the problem was the common people were forced to heaviest obligations because they had to pay taxes, although the 90% of this class were facing starvation, the turning point was the opportunity to raise voice against the inequality, and they got it during the French revolution on 1789.


Fraternity in the French revolution was one of the three slogans that appeared during the revolution period especially at the beginnings because the third estate unity led to force another estate to accept their demands, these demands were the changing unequal ancient regime and the all power which came from king without any discussion or negotiation, and all people should obey to any design, in addition, by fraternity common people forced the French government to write liberal and equal constitution after they took an oath to stay together till complete the constitution, furthermore, the declaration of the rights of man and citizen was the grate result of the common loyalty and unity, finally, the other estate ( clergy and nobility) started their movements to join the lower class people because they respected their rights in popular sovereignty and the effectiveness of fraternity.

Popular Sovereignty

The most idea that challenged in the enlightenment was the kings and governments claimed their power and authority came from god, but the popular sovereignty is an idea that government should drive their authority to support the people, and because the government wasn’t able to fit the common people their rights and to help them, the other way around, French government as a sovereign government tried to create unequal rights toward the third estate, which made him stronger to stand against the French government, and what is worth to mention that the population of the common class shaped 98% of the social community and they have the rights to choose the government, after they observed the changes in the British revolution that ended by writing a constitution which cared and protected people rights, the “ social contract” concept advanced by writers like Jean Jacques Rousseau and John Locke, which concentrated on the government and individual should agree in a contract between them to identify the commitment from each party.


The constitutionalism means that the power of government and leaders is limited, and these limits enforced through established procedures, also explains that government should not derive its power form itself, but gain its power from the written laws (constitution) that give the government certain power, which all citizens including government are subjected to. French revolution as we mentioned in the previous ideologies, suffered from the unlimited power of the king Louise 16th, clergy and nobility who had the all the political participation and their rights, but another estate just obeyed to dominant power which created the unequally for the French society, the national assembly completed a constitution of 1791, which set up a limited monarchy power, and a legislative assembly would make the laws. the assembly consisted of 745 active member’s representatives, so the old order had been destroyed and the political participation became accessible for all estate according to the written constitution.

Natural Right

All human has a certain inherent right by virtue of being human, and not by virtue of social status, and according to social contract theory by John Locke in 1690, which described a link between natural law and universal rights, also the government should implicit the social contract rooted in human nature, through this contract, natural law served to protect the natural right like life, liberty, and property. in the French revolution, after the national assembly, the declaration of the rights of man and citizen provided the basis for the government before the constitution, and this declaration laid out a vision of French government especially the legitimacy branch must guarantee of individual rights by the law, on the other hand, it can show the development of the discussion of rights during the French revolution because the debates derived into four categories: the poor and the propertied, free blacks and slaves, religious minorities and women, and these debates focused on the social qualifications necessary for citizenship, and the natural rights that the government responsible for.


“Anti –clericalism is a movement that opposes religious institutional power and influence, real or imagined, in all aspects of public and political life, and the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen” (Matikiti, R,2008, P.6), the French concepts of religiously rooted in a history of Roman Catholicism as the official religion in French. National assembly by joining the third estate (common people) started working on the fundamental pillars of religious freedom and one of these fundamental pillars was the separation of church and state, but the clergy negated this pillar because the state nor the church would have any control over each other. In August 1789 the declaration of rights of man and the citizen gave legal and equal standing for all French citizens, and the result of this separation was the breakdown of the old system of taxation and the necessary step in the reformation of the church and lose its land.


This assignment focused on the ideologies of the French revolution and the events behind each ideology, but through these ideologies, we can notice that there were a lot of relations between these ideologies, for instance, the national assembly on August 1789 included almost ideologies Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, Popular sovereignty, Constitutionalism, natural right, which is the most important event in creating the French revolution. In my point of view, the French revolution was a huge revolution that changes not only French but it changed all European countries after.

List of Reference

  1. Adagbabiri, M. (2015). Constitutionalism and Democracy: A Critical Perspective. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, p. 109-110.
  2. Alexander, J, (2014), The major ideologies of liberalism, socialism and conservatism, political studies association, p.2.
    Carlyle, T, (1837), the French revolution, Chapman & hall, London, Book 3, chapter 2, 1 the deliberative.
  3. Hunt, L, (1996), The French Revolution and Human Rights a Brief Documentary History, BEDFORD BOOKS of ST. MARTIN'S PRESS: Boston New York, p. 1-18.
  4. Hunt, L, Censer, A, (2017), chapter 18: The French Revolution and Napoleon 1789–1815, Bloomsbury Publishing: London, p. 544-554.
    Lefebvre, G, (2001), The French Revolution from its origins to 1793, Taylor & Francis e-Library: Routledge, p. 38-48, 144-147.
  5. Matikiti, R, (2008), Religious freedom and the age of enlightenment: the case of the French revolution, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, p. 1- 10.
  6. McPhee, P, (2002), The French Revolution 1789–1799, oxford university press, p. 1-3.
  7. Kropotkin, p, (1909), The great French revolution 1789 – 1793, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons London: William Heinemann 1909, p. 7-10, 169 – 177, 187 -190.
Updated: May 19, 2021
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The Ideologies of French Revolution. (2020, Oct 02). Retrieved from

The Ideologies of French Revolution essay
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