2/12 The French Revolution
1789- “beginning of rise of mass politics”, “invention of human rights”, “beginning of modern
Conditions of Possibility
Immediate implications, esp. Brit and Ireland
Conditions of Possibility
Ideas of Radical Enlightenment . Doesn’t matter if average peasant has any idea what the
philosopher is talking about they have a clue about what thinkers are doing, constantly
discussing inadequacies of French Gov. and how it is ceasing to function
Louis XVI loved locks. Unfortunately, not a good ruler, so the locks didn’t help him much when
the people storm in.
1750-France has been constantly @ war for a century. France gains, the starts losing territory.
Can’t tax church, though it’s the single largest landholder. Land=money. Peasants, who have
barely any land, owe all the taxes.
1748/68 Crown tries to call on local parlements to change tax code and charge the nobility.
“No.” nobility had power to block reform. Peasants have no political power. Nobility annexes
common land, bars them from hunting without permission. Under the middle class part of the 3
estate trade in france increases fivefold. On back of nascent manufacturers they build overseas
empires. Having all the new money and no power, they are very vulnerable. Cost of living is
rising so is taxes,so the money they make is not going as far.
Had France kept its territories after the war of Spanish Succession they would have formed an
empire. But Britain took it, grew wealthy and dominated the seas while france declined.
American War for Independence- essentially a civil war w/ Brits over taxation, representation.
Seek help. Ben Franklin goes to France, charms the ladies. France declares war in 1778 on Brits,
militarily it’s a big success as the Brits are humiliated, but fiscally the French national debt
doubles and they are on the brink of bankruptcy.
Louis 16 calls estates general. Each estate gets 1 vote. Had not been called since 1614. 3 estates
reps are often educated lawyers, and they demand their vote be doubled. He gives this, but leaves in a small loophole not specifying exactly how voting was to be done. The Panpleteers are
furious! Complain of corruption and conspiracies.
5 May 1789- Estates G meet @ Versailles. King wants them to agree on taxes. 3 estate wants to
address its grievances, but the estates are separated to avoid negotiating.
June - Louis “Can’t we just talk about taxes?”
June 21- 3 estates finds doors locked, and enraged they storm out to an empty tennis court. Agree
In Tennis court oath not to disband until there is a new French constitution,
June 27-King declares all 3 meet together