HS102 Readings

The Liberal Revolution

Causes
Goals
Examples

WHAT IS MEANT BY THE LIBERAL REVOLUTION?

In the traditional world before the advent of the liberal revolution, inheritance was the principle which determined the legitimacy of power.

The liberal revolution was a dividing point.

Afterwords, elections began to become the principle which determined the legitimacy of power.

Beforehand, the monarchy was the institution wielding power.

Afterwords, legislatures began to wield power. They are the institution in which the middle class begins to exercise power.

The purpose of legislatures is to write law.

Constitutional monarchy is a government embodying both principles; i.e., that of inheritance and that of elections.

Law is central to the order of a society after the liberal revolution. No one is above the law, not even the king.

Constitutions define the distribution of power. between the executive, legislative and judicial components of the government.

Ideas of the enlightenment also affected the liberal revolution. The belief that there are natural laws, such as the inalienable rights of the individual, was a part of the new system.
The belief in Locke's Contract theory: people are sovereign and have the right to overthrow  a government if it becomes tyrannical, is another example.

A Bill of Rights also became a part of the new society because of a fear of the power of government and the need to protect the individual from that power.

WHAT WERE THE MAJOR CAUSES?

    Liberal revolutions occurred as the commercial revolution and the industrial revolution created new groups of people with influence, and wealth; particularly, an expanding middle class.
   
Causes for the liberal revolution include:

1. Creation of the middle class

2. Ideas of the enlightenment which bring aristocratic support

3. Threat to the general economy (a depression or recession) which affects the
well-being of all classes , especially the poor.

4. A particular crisis which the establishment cannot deal with, often financial and often related to the enormous cost of  foreign wars.

WHAT WERE THE MAJOR GOALS? WHICH GROUPS OR CLASSES LED THE WAY?
 There was no effort to seek economic equality, hence the liberal revolution, in its first instance, was primarily a revolution by and for people of property; particularly, the middle class. The goal was to establish equality of opportunity in the eyes of the law.

WHAT WERE THE MAJOR EXAMPLES?
 
1. English Revolution (1625-1689)

2. American Revolution (1763-1796)

3. French Revolution (1789-1815)

4. Revolutions of 1848

5. Russian Revolution (1905-1939)