Assess the connection of absolutism to the French Revolution.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most intriguing aspects of the French Revolution is the role that absolutism played in its development and in its overall lesson.  On one hand, the French Revolution was a direct response against absolutism.  The Tennis Court Oath and outward rejection of the French monarchy's powers absent a written constitution was one of the strongest statements that could be made against absolutism.   The idea of demanding a government with limits was a strong statement against absolutist power.  At the same time, one can see how the pure nature of freedom, or life after absolutist power, actually encouraged absolutism to rise again.  The development of the Committee of Public Safety with its increased authoritarian powers along with the use of the guillotine helped to further the cause of absolutism.  This phase of the Revolution helped to enhance the idea that political power that cannot "ensure domestic tranquility" is more likely to embrace the ends of absolutism.  The "special dictatorial powers" of the Jacobins were not much different from the absolutist rule of the French Monarchy, the precise reason for the revolution in the first place.  The emergence of Napoleon at the end of the Revolution helped to ensure that absolutism was embraced at the end of the long and bloody conclusion of the revolution's path.  It is here where one sees that the French Revolution demonstrated how if there is a divergence between declaring freedom and establishing it, absolutism is never that far off.

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