From Enlightenment to Revolution

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How did Reason lead to Revolution?

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About Eric Voegelin. Eric Voegelin.

German-born American political philosopher. He taught political theory and sociology at the University of Vienna after his habilitation there in While in Austria Voegelin established the beginnings of his long lasting friendship with F. In he published two books criticizing Nazi racism, and was forced to flee from Austria following the Anschluss in After a brief stay in German-born American political philosopher. After a brief stay in Switzerland, he arrived in the United States and taught at a series of universities before joining Louisiana State University's Department of Government in His advisers on his dissertation were Hans Kelsen and Othmar Spann.

He was a member of the Philadelphia Society. Books by Eric Voegelin. Trivia About From Enlightenmen No trivia or quizzes yet.


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Although the most democratic of the Enlightenment writers, Rousseau said relatively little about rights. In fact, one of the most enduring criticisms of his work is that he failed to guarantee individual rights under the social contract. The community apparently took precedence over the individual in Rousseau's view. Other Enlightenment writers stepped into this gap. Voltaire made his reputation defending those who had been persecuted for their religious opinions.

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As yet, however, there was more talk about rights in general than about specific rights. Writers often referred to rights as if everyone knew what they meant, but in fact many ambiguities remained: Should Protestants or Jews have the same rights as Catholics in France? Should poor men have the same rights as property owners? Should women enjoy the same rights as men? Despite the strong efforts of the French monarchy and the Catholic Church to ban the works of Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Rousseau, their influence soon spread, even to the highest echelons of the state that originally opposed them.

Other monarchs in Europe eagerly sought the friendship and advice of Enlightenment writers, and it was only a matter of time before leading French bureaucrats also took up their ideas. His memorandum to the King of shows that talk of rights had permeated the highest levels of government.

From Enlightenment to Revolution I

Before the Revolution broke out in , most discussion of rights in France focused on the plight of religious minorities. After years of criticism and discussion, the French crown granted certain civil rights to Protestants in , but not political ones. Once civil rights had been granted to Protestants, it was perhaps inevitable that the question of Jewish rights would be raised. But the French monarchy did not offer any reforms in the status of Jews. A particularly contentious issue in the s was that of slavery. Raynal denounced slavery along with most European commerce with the colonies.

His work had great impact in the British North American colonies as well as in Europe. Writers, philosophers, and clerics had long debated the question of a woman's role in society, but this discussion did little to inspire government action before , or to prompt the formation of clubs or societies concerned with improving the status of women.

From Enlightenment to Revolution by Eric Voegelin

Enlightenment writers interested in the subject focused on the education of women, rather than on their civil or political rights. Most people in France, men and women alike, believed that a woman's place was in the home, not in the public sphere. This widely held view helps explain the absence of organized women's groups in France before the outbreak of the Revolution. Once the King convoked the Estates-General in , however, women took the opportunity to submit their own petitions, thereby helping place their own concerns on the revolutionary agenda.

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As the notion of rights spread, it became increasingly radical. When King Louis XVI called the Estates-General to meet in , he inadvertently released a torrent of complaints about the future of the country in the form of pamphlets. In "What Is the Third Estate? In short, he attacked the concept of a hereditary nobility. Before the revolutionaries could establish the Declaration of Rights as the fount of governing authority, however, they had to tear down the ancient edifice.

They did not immediately abolish monarchy itself; instead they tried to put it on a different foundation of constitutionalism. But they did abolish the old system of special privileges.

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In one long session throughout the night of 4 August , the deputies to the new National Assembly voluntarily renounced the privileges of their towns, provinces, and various social groups. Nobles, clergy, judges, and even ordinary taxpayers lost whatever special standing they had gained over the centuries. From now on, everyone was to be identical before the law. This concept of equality became one of the cardinal principles of the new declaration, passed only three weeks later.

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  6. The declaration gave birth to the famous revolutionary triad: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. In all images of the time, these principles were represented by female figures—but that did not mean women were about to gain equal access to the rights the triad embodied. The declaration said nothing about women, or about religious minorities, or men who did not own property, or slaves. Not surprisingly, the moment the declaration passed, the status of all these groups became the subject of heated debate.

    The first issue taken up was the question of property qualifications for full citizenship. The National Assembly instituted property qualifications only to rescind them in and reinstitute them after When the question of religious minorities came up, the assembly readily agreed to grant full rights to Protestants but hesitated to do so for Jews.

    Jews petitioned for full rights and finally gained them on 27 September The question of slavery was more complicated still, if only because a large proportion of French commerce depended on the colonies, whose agrarian economy rested heavily on that institution. In the French colonies, mulattos and free blacks had begun agitating for rights, but any such move was fiercely resisted by white planters, who feared it would undermine the entire slave system.

    The National Assembly tried to take a middle course, still supporting the slave system but granting rights to certain free blacks and mulattos in May Some deputies wanted to abolish the slave trade and slavery itself. When a massive slave revolt broke out in the largest French colony, Saint Domingue present-day Haiti; see Chapter 8 , the deputies rescinded the rights of free blacks and mulattos, only to reinstitute them a few months later March The assembly originally tried to suppress the slave revolt, but rather than lose the colony altogether when the slaves threatened to ally with Great Britain and Spain, the National Convention, on 4 February , finally abolished slavery in all the colonies.

    It would be reestablished under Napoleon in Once the French Revolution got under way, it sparked the first explicit feminist movement in history.

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    Members of both sexes were now arguing that women should enjoy the same rights as men, but they were definitely in the minority. The prevailing view was still that women were fundamentally different from men and should confine themselves to domestic concerns. Nevertheless, a small number of women set up their own clubs and, though they hesitated to ask for the vote and other political rights, they insisted that women should be educated to be good republicans and should participate in the Revolution as much as possible, whether by ferreting out counterrevolutionaries, watching the marketplaces for infractions against the new price controls, making bandages for the war effort, or even on some rare occasions arming themselves to go to the front.