The French revolution was on of the glaring events of the world history. The material revolution in 1789 was preceded by a revolution in the realm of ideas. This revolt of ideas in mind, the revolt of the intellect, was brought about by great philosophers/thinkers of the time like Voltaire, John Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau.
Their writings brought about a change in the outlook of the masses. Voltaire was a man who believed in logic, he was dead against the blind beliefs of the religion. He opposed the undue influence and authority of the catholic church.
He encouraged the people to raise their voice against the exorbitant privileges and limitless authority wielded by the church in the name of god. He accorded supremacy to reason and attacked everything which couldn’t stand the gale of reason. His writings undermined the authority of church and helped people to break the chains of slavery to the church.
John Locke, known as the father of classical liberalism was one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers. He refuted the idea of according divinity and absolute rights to monarchs. He emphasized on man’s natural right to defend his life, health, liberty, possessions. He also believed that revolution is not only a right but an obligation in some circumstances.
Jean Jacques Rousseau postulated in his work ‘The social contract’ that government is based on the contract between ruler and the ruled. It is based on the consent of the governed. He said that ‘man is born free and everywhere he is in chains’. According to him, by joining together into civil society through the social contract and abandoning the claim on natural rights, individuals can both preserve themselves and remain free.
This is because submitting to the authority of ‘general will’ of the people as a whole will guarantee an individual the right to not being subordinated to the will of others as well as ensures that he obeys the law because he is part of the whole who authored the law. By this Rousseau indicated that sovereignty should be in the hands of the people. They have a divine right to change their government in case of dissatisfaction.
The economists of the time known as physiocrats vehemently criticized the economic setup and the government policy in force at that time. They made thread bare to the public the flawed policies of the government. They opposed the government interference in the conduct of trade and commerce. They were of abolition of all the taxed and imposition of one single tax called land tax, because they believed, agriculture was the source of all wealth.
The intellectual revolution enlightened the society and masses and woke them out of slumber to the stark realities of the time thus enabling them to transmute their indignation into revolution.