Moving away from Absolutism

France endured centuries of Absolute Monarchs that spent much of their kingdom’s wealth on lavish buildings, monuments, and other signs of status, while the common people, known as the third estate, remained poor, hungry and devoid of power.  Though the third estate lacked power through the traditional estate system, as the clergy and nobility could overrule their political ambitions, it consisted of 96% of the French population.  Because it held the overwhelming majority of the population, members of the third estate believed that they should hold more power over France’s decisions. … Read the rest here

Heads Would Roll, But That Wasn’t Enough

Just as Louis XIV  created symbols of his power as the absolute ruler of France, such as the palace of Versailles and even himself (he was the “Sun King” and claimed that he was the state/the state was him), so did the leaders of the French Revolution create their own symbols and culture in order to aid their overthrow of the monarchy and subsequent attempts to create a whole  new society.

In a pamphlet entitled What is the Third Estate?Read the rest here

The Cult of the Supreme Being

During the initial stages of the French Revolution there was growing support for the separation of church and state. Many of the contributing members of society from all social strata (the Third Estate), ranging from peasants at the lower end to merchants at the top, began to reject the Catholic Church because it was perceived as a tool of repression and subjugation. Several of the revolution’s leaders initially tried to completely distance French society from any degree of religious inclination.… Read the rest here

Religion in a Revolutionary Context

Religion remained the primary justification of the French Revolution by the citizens of the third estate. Robespierre, the leader of Public Safety, pushed both ideologies of Supreme “Reason” and “Being” in order to provide a more understandable means to motivate revolutionaries. The state religion at the time revolved around a Deist philosophy, the notion that there is no divine intervention and God is a clockmaker who merely wound up the springs of nature and set them into motion.… Read the rest here

Values of Revolutionary Culture

La Marseillaise is a remarkably bloodthirsty national anthem, marking the desire for revenge over those who oppressed the French citizenry. It is interesting that Rouget de Lisle was himself a royalist, not only because he composed this anthem in a revolutionary spirit, but also because of the incredibly violent nature of the lyrics:

Aux armes citoyens!
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons!
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons.

To arms, citizens!
Form up your battalions
Let us march, Let us march!… Read the rest here