Causes of the French Revolution Essay

3440 Words Aug 26th, 2013 14 Pages
The French Revolution was a watershed event that changed Europe irrevocably and ended a century of slowly increasing opposition to absolutism and the supremacy of a decadent aristocracy. The causes of the French Revolution are difficult to pin down. Therefore, we will divide them into long-term and immediate causes. Within long-term causes, we will also define intellectual, political and economic causes.
Long-Term Intellectual Causes
Before a movement can reach the proportions of an actual revolution, it requires a body of ideas that provides a programme of action and a vision of the new order to be achieved. The intellectual causes of the French Revolution are a direct result of the Enlightenment. This
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More significantly still, Montesquieu also developed his theory of the separation of powers. He believed that man has a natural tendency to abuse power and, consequently, every government is likely to degenerate into despotism. He stated that the authority of government should be divided into its three natural divisions: legislative, executive, and judicial. Moreover, the only effective way to avoid tyranny is to enable each branch to check upon and control the other two. Thus, the executive should have the power to veto arbitrary laws. The legislative should have the power to impeach the executive. Finally, the judiciary should be independent and have the power to protect the rights of the individuals against the illegal advancements of either the executive or the legislative.
On the other hand, the founder of democracy was Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). In its original meaning, democracy is inseparable from the idea of the sovereignty of the masses: what the majority of the people wants is the supreme law. Democracy also included the belief in the natural equality of men, the opposition to hereditary privilege, and an unfaltering faith in the wisdom and virtue of the masses.
Rousseau’s political thinking is basically contained in his Social Contract and his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality.Rousseau believed that men had originally lived in a state of nature. However, in contrast with Locke, he regarded this as

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