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.  Thus power was subsequently moved away from absolute rulers, nobility, and clergy and towards the third estate.

One of the most profound demonstrations of this shift was the change from the state following Catholicism to supporting more general Deist practices.  Revolutionaries saw the clergy as a corrupt entity created to justify a Monarch as well as being a way to neutralize the common man’s power in the estate system.  Therefore, revolutionaries aimed to reduce its power by shifting France’s religion to Deism.  This meant that the clergy and nobility would have less power over the third estate.  Likewise, it meant that the third estate now had control over their own religious preferences and would not have to pay to the church.

Another shift away from the past Absolutist ways of France was the general condemnation of royalty.  Children were prohibited from receiving names of past kings such as Louis, Francis, or Henry.  Kings and queens where removed from games such as chess and cards.  The general attitude of disapproval of royalty was promoted by members of the third estate as they realized their power as their society’s majority.

France underwent a shift away from absolutism towards democracy.  Much of the government supported by the revolutionaries had roots to the Greek concepts of equality and free thought.  These ideas mixed with the third estate’s desire to have political input and led France in its modernization and ultimately its rejection of Absolutist practices.