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Liberalism In French Revolution Through Enlightenment

1619 words - 7 pages

"Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!"-Kant


“Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed nonage… Sapere Aude! Dare to Know! Have the courage to use your own understanding is therefore the motto of the Enlightenment.” Immanuel Kant (
The eighteenth century Enlightenment proved to be a movement of the intellectuals who dared to prove all the aspects in life scientifically. These individuals ...view middle of the document...

Personally the man was free, but all this network of dues and exactions, still clung round the peasant. The French society was ripe for a revolution that would change the course of history. The intelligentsia of the French society was at the same time becoming enamored by the ideals of liberty and liberalism as defined by philosophers like Kant and Locke. (Kropotkin)
Perhaps the first great success the revolutionaries achieved in The French revolution was the establishment of the National Assembly in 1789. Soon after the national assembly was established the King was immediately made a constitutional monarch and a few years after, both the King and the Queen were executed which started a wave of bloodshed.
The Assembly was established by the representatives of the Common people and was born out of the need of the common people for more rights. One of the first acts of the National Assembly was to pass the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The Declaration provided the rights of liberty to French Citizens.
The declaration defined liberty as:
“Liberty consists in the power to do anything that does not injure others; accordingly, the exercise of the rights of each man has no limits except those that secure the enjoyment of these same rights to the other members of society. These limits can be determined only by law.” (Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (August 1789))
The original strain of liberalism was not entirely evil and was concerned to protect and to grant rights to ordinary men, women and their offspring in an often harsh and cruel age. This original strain is referred to as Classical Liberalism- which supports individual rights as pre-existing the state and a government that exists to protect those moral rights, ensured by a constitution.  The early liberal figures rejected many foundational assumptions which dominated earlier theories of regime, such as the divine right of kings, traditional status, and established religion, and strongly focused on individual freedom, reason, justice and tolerance. However the irony of the revolution remains that it itself took birth out of brutality and bloodshed.
But not everybody was happy on what was happening in the French society due to the enlightenment thoughts.
Burke is famous for his great support for the American Revolution and his fierce opposition to the French Revolution.  He expressed his opposition in 'Reflections on the Revolution in France' (1790). Burke emphasized the dangers of mob rule, fearing that the Revolution's vehemence was destroying French society. Burke appealed to the qualities of continuity, tradition, status and property and opposed the Revolution to the end of his life. (History)
All circumstances taken together, the French revolution is the most astonishing that has hitherto happened in the world. The most wonderful things are brought about, in many instances by means the most absurd...

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