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The French Revolution: Equality and Civil Rights

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The French Revolution: Equality and Civil Rights


According to history, when revolutions occur, people are often tired of their way of life that is a result of governance and policies by the ruling power. In this respect, along with the American Revolution, the French Revolution represents one of the influential occurrences in the west during the late 18th century. Put simply, a significant section of the French were fed up of tough conditions, mostly economic, that were crippling their chances to prosperity and decent living. The feudal system ensured that people paid taxes to the government and participated in wars and other activities as a way to pay homage to the government; it was considered patriotic. Interestingly, the country was divided into three classes, the nobility, the clergy and the third estate, which was mostly peasants and other classes of people. Only the third estate was charged with paying taxes and this put a heavy burden on their financial status. With time, after the king had driven the country close to bankruptcy, it was apparent that the revenue from the taxes could not be enough; for this reason, one of his officials proposed a new tax system that would include the other two classes. After deliberation, the two classes declined to pay the taxes; it was only a matter of time before the revolution began, when the third estate learnt that the other two classes would not be paying taxes. Apart from the third estate, other groups were active in the French revolution; for instance, women had for a long time been looking for ways to improve their status in society and the revolution played a major part in their achievement of this feat. In the same way, black people in France began to organize themselves into groups that would fight for their rights and abolish slavery altogether. Top most of their agenda was equality and the right to be free from the clutches of slave owners and traders. Undoubtedly, it appears that the common goal for all the groups involved was to achieve equality of some kind; in this regard, it is necessary to analyze how they conceived of equality and or civil rights during the French revolution, since they achieved it.

The Third Estate

As aforementioned, before the Revolution, France was divided in three orders or classes; the third estate represented the largest of the population since it consisted of people from different demographics. Mostly peasants, the third estate would later be responsible for the revolution after it became apparent that people from this class would continue to suffer exorbitant taxes from the government, while the other two classes would not pay for their wealth. Members of the third estate did not have any titles like the nobles and the clergy; they were the common citizen and they represented about 98 percent of the French population. About 88 percent of this group were peasants who were relatively poor by their own standards; as a requirement by the monarchy, every member of this group was supposed to pay taxes (Marvin 104). Those that owned land paid sizeable amounts of taxes to the government and those that were members of the church paid yearly tithes to the church. Tough economic times and poor harvest did not often compel the government to lower the taxes; the third estate was still required to pay huge amounts of taxes.


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