How did the Enlightenment ignite the French Revolution and government reform? Include specific ideas and people from the Enlightenment and where they are demonstrated in the revolution.

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Enlightenment played a significant role in the French Revolution. It inspired French citizens to demand their rights as humans by deposing of their monarchy. There were two important political philosophers that influenced the actions of the French during their revolution.

John Locke spoke of unalienable rights that no government had the authority to abridge. These rights included life, liberty, and what he felt was the most important, property. Locke did not feel that a monarch could adequately protect these rights because kings act in their own self-interests.

Baron de Montesquieu was a French Enlightenment philosopher. He also decried the existence of monarchs in Europe and explained how government's primary responsibility was to protect property and political freedom of its people. Montesquieu pushed for a representative democracy with particular emphasis on an elected legislative body. Montesquieu also proposed a government system divided into branches to balance power.

The idea of a republic that was proposed by the Enlightenment thinkers was a strong influence on the French Revolution. At the conclusion of the struggle, a republic style government was installed in France.