The French Revolution

Timeline

Through historical buildings in Paris, impact of the French Revolution can be well seen. No other country must have faced such a bloody upheaval related to politics like the French Revolution. Monarch ruled France once upon a time and enjoyed an aristocrat and privileged life, while the slaves were peasants in the area. When people of France realized that this was enough, they made a decision to rise against the monarchs and even execute anyone who could try to claim the throne. It was at the Palace of Versailles where Louis XVI and family stayed during The October March better known as the Women’s March on Versailles that a stand was taken by the French people.

Timeline of the French Revolution ranges from October 18, 1598 to 1799.

October 18, 1598
Edict of Nantes, a law that allowed tolerance towards religions was made by Henry IV. 1661

The Versailles Palace was constructed at a cost of over $100 million dollars by Louis XIV.
April 13, 1685

Many of the Huguenots fled from France after the Edict of Nantes was abolished by Louis XIV.
1715

Death of Louis XIV took place with the country being in enormous debt due to money utilized in support of arts.

1774
During the reign of Louis XV, France was left with a bigger debt resulting from the wars that took place. Louis XV died in 1774.

1789
In 1788 the harvest was not very good. Besides this, the tax system was completely unfair which led the peasants in France to go mad at this.

May 5, 1789
For approving the tax plan, Estates – General was called for a meeting by Louis XVI.

June 17, 1789
The Tennis Court Oath was made after the declaration of the Third Estate as the National Assembly.

July 14, 1789
Bastille was stormed by the Paris people

August 4, 1789
An announcement to end serfdom and feudalism in France was made by the National

Assembly.
August 27, 1789
Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued by the National Assembly.

October 5 1789
Versailles was invaded by the women of Paris.
1790

Passing of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy took place.
1791

The Constitution was adopted.
June 20, 1791

An effort was made by Louis XVI and family to flee France, however, they were arrested.
April 20, 1792

War was declared on Austria by France.
September 1792

First meeting was held by the National Convention.
January 21, 1793

Sentencing of Louis XVI to the guillotine
August 1793

Men with able bodies were called to join the army as per the national draft.
September 1793 to July 1794

Around twenty to forty thousand people were sentenced to death by the Reign of Terror Court.

July 27, 1794
Robespierre was arrested by the National Convention

July 28, 1794
Beheading of Robespierre.
1795

Adoption of the new Constitution took place.
1799
Fall of the Directory and the end of the French Revolution.

Different Social And Political Causes

There was a lot of economic and social unrest during the major part of the historical French Revolution. Economic condition deteriorated immensely in France along with stagnant political and social condition and intellectual development. Social position of the Bourgeoisie or the middle class people was the worst, ever. The educated class had to pay very heavy taxes while the clergy and nobles who ruled were exempted from paying any kind of tax.

Social causes

Many people belonged to the working class. Their hard earned money was being utilized for various extravagances of the court, filling up the treasury, financing wars with foreign countries, and repayment of the country’s debt. Absolute monarchy had been well consolidated by the King who should have actually, ended feudalism. However the poor peasants continued to remain bounded with the feudal lords who adopted contracts that were extremely unfair. The working class people were completely oppressed and frustrated with the rule of monarchs. Even if the monarchy proved to be successful in providing adequate defense to France from invaders, and helped in sorting disputes and religious issues internally, it was not very fair to the general public.

Economic causes

Due to rising costs of basic necessities including bread, it was difficult for the French people to afford a sustainable and respectable lifestyle. To finance and run the government, the working class was forced to pay very heavy taxes which caused a heavy burden on them. Within the bourgeoisie or the working class people, there was a lot of resentment. Their main aim was to have an equal governance system in France. In the entire French Revolution, the working class people can be termed as the forerunners, actually. This social awakening also had another side and that was, the importance of believing in God too was gradually decreasing.

Different Religious And Financial Causes

Religious Causes

During the French Revolution, the Christianity religion played a major role. Under the banner of Christianity the Christian priests and the nobles persecuted the French ethnic and religious minorities. Principles of Christianity were distorted by the priests and nobles in France for the sake of powering over the people. At the same time they wanted to have their nobility maintained thus jacketing the French government. This in turn made France’s monarchist regime a backward one. Christianity religion was blamed in the process of being unjust. The movement was seen as one against God due to dealings of the priests. Under the banner of Christianity, injustice was practiced by them prosecuting the French people and this in turn gave the French Revolution an atheistic spirit.

Financial Causes

During the period 1715 to 1774, under Louis XV’s reign, many of the ministers, Turgot, Jacques Necker and the Controller General of Finance, tried to revise the tax system of France to a system that was much more equitable, but unsuccessfully. Fiscal crisis was also faced during the reign of Louis from 1774 to 1792. Law courts resisted the measures taken consistently. National debt and poor financial condition had gone completely out of control. Poor financial management, a spiraling national debt, the grossly unfair taxation systems, the spendthrift ways of Louis XVI, the wars that took place in the 18th century, a desire for political reform that gave more power to people, the discriminatory land ownership pattern and the dissatisfaction of the bourgeoisie all played their part in causing the uprising.

Important Events During The Revolution

It was in the late 1700s that the stage for the French Revolution was set. The economy was deteriorating, the fiscal management was not efficient and the people were suffering from the feudal regime’s oppressive rule. The oppressed French people were not able to take oppression anymore and hence staged the French Revolution. Economy was degenerating and a decision was made by the King to tax the nobles who were exempted previously but this was not taken easily.

To reach a resolution the king turned towards the ancient assembly representing the society’s three bodies but this would bear any fruit since the nobles and clergy didn’t want to have taxes enforced upon them. Besides this, the third estate considered that one vote system for every estate was unfair. Their belief was, that larger the numbers, greater the strength and accordingly the third estate declared itself the assembly’s new sovereign. In the French Revolution, formation of the new sovereign constituted as one of the major events. From the rest of the three estates, a large number of people joined further.

The revolutionaries’ purpose was solidified by the oath of the Tennis Court. This oath was needed to overthrow the monarch rule and in the process have a new constitution established. In pursuit of ammunitions and arms, the largest prison existing in Paris called Bastille, was stormed by the people which paved the way for civil disorder further in France. Estates owned by the landlords were attacked as revolt against their feudal contracts that were very unjust. By the August Decrees, they got freedom eventually. Declaration of the Rights of Man was released by the assembly after these events took place. This declaration was for establishing the French people’s autonomy.

Since efforts were made by the Jacobins to have the king ousted and Girondins were keen on retaining the monarchy, within the public, further deepening of disputes took place. Under the assembly led by the Girondins, war was declared on Prussia and Austria by France. Against France this was a hostile declaration which led to the war. On Guillotine, the French King was beheaded. France was declared a republic and abolishment of monarchy took place. Jacobins overthrew the assembly led by Girondin since they were not capable of managing wars with Prussia and Austria. Under Robespierre’s rule, the country seemed as it was being restored, however extreme actions were taken by Robespierre due to fear of counterrevolutionaries. The reign of terror was the name given to this time period. Under Guillotine’s rule, the same fate was met by Robespierre eventually. Under the Thermidorian Reaction, another restoration was initiated for France. The Thermidorian Reaction was a movement against the bloodshed seen during the Reign of Terror. This movement declared Robespierre, who controlled the Reign of Terror, an outlaw and executed him. Soon after, Napoleon Bonaparte, the young general came to power following a coup by the military. Napoleon Bonaparte put end to the French Revolution, and declared himself as France’s supreme leader.

Leaders Of The Revolution

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte was an important figure towards the end of the French Revolution which ended with his accession. In the history of the modern world, one great conqueror was Napoleon Bonaparte. When France was faced with chaos, he rose into power during the French Revolution. During the French Revolution’s latter stage he rose to prominence. He was a political and military leader in France and has been associated with all the European wars. On many of the world’s civil law jurisdictions, Napoleon has been a major source of influence. To the Peninsula of Italy he led a number of invasions that were successful.
A major part of the European continent was conquered by him during his reign with a perfect mix of cold bloodedness, military ingenuity as well as ambition. People in France were not very happy about the monarchy and were fighting for democracy. Against the British he achieved a number of victories. At a very young age he had become a brigadier. In the Moscow campaign he faced a downfall, when on his journey back to Austria, the Russian army defeated him. This was actually the beginning of his end. In the battle of Waterloo his military career ended. He was sent to exile to the St. Helena Island, kept prisoner there and on 5th May 1821 he died of suspected stomach cancer while other think it was due to poisoning.

Charles de Calonne

In 1781, Jacques Necker was forced out of his office and after which King Louis XVI appointed Charles de Calonne as France’s controller general. To shift the burden of French tax to the wealthy businessmen and the nobles a daring plan was proposed by him. This plan suggested tax on land area that was proportional to the value of the land. For the peasants the burden of tax was lessened. French nobles were not willing to pay the taxes however.

Jacques – Pierre Brissot

Jacques Pierre Brissot was a member of the National Convention and the Legislative Assembly. He believed in having a monarchy that was constitutional and had a moderate stance. Brissotins was the name given to his followers who later became the Girondins. War was declared on Prussia and Austria but was unsuccessful. Like other Girondin leaders, the National Convention removed him as well. In 1793 -1794 during the Reign of Terror at the guillotine he lost his life.

Marquis de Lafayette

In the French Revolution, Marquis de Lafayette led the French forces. He was a liberal nobleman and referred to as an idealistic person by the French people. He was dedicated to the French Revolution principles and liberty. For protecting the Revolution from the King’s attack, the armed forces National Guard was organized by him.

Jacques Necker

Born in Switzerland, he began serving the Director General of France in latter part of the 1790s. In instituting reform, he had very high hopes. However, in eliminating the inefficiencies that were very costly, only small efforts were proposed by him. For the first time in the history of France, a government budget was produced by Jacques Necker.

Maximilien Robespierre

In the National Assembly, Maximilien Robespierre was the radical Jacobins leader and a political tactician who was really brilliant. He pursued the French War mobilization vigorously and worked towards having a planned economy. About the opposition that was counter-revolutionary, he began growing extremely paranoid. During the 1793 – 1794 Reign Of Terror, he made a decision to silence all the Revolution’s enemies. He did this to save the country from being invaded. On July 28, 1794, he was executed when the Thermidorian Reaction was initiated and power was regained by the moderates.

Georges –Jacques Danton

He was a noble man but a traitor. He helped the king to flee the country but stated that he supported the people. At the time of voting he wrote that he voted for the death of the tyranny. He was executed on 5th April 1794.

Lazare Carnot

In re-organizing the war that was failing between Prussia and Austria, the Committee of Public Safety appointed Lazare Carnot a French soldier. In a very effective manner Carnot reorganized the failing war, earned name for himself and as the Directory’s first members, he earned a seat. During the September 4, `1797 overthrown, he was asked to leave this position but went ahead to hold a number of post in governments of the future.

Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès

Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyes was one of the main leaders of effort of the Third Estate’s at the French economic and political reform. He was a Third Estate supporter and the clergy’s liberal member. ‘What Is The Third Estate’ was a 1789 fiery pamphlet was authored by him.

Jean-Paul Marat
Jean- Paul Marat was a famous journalist in France. Against the hoarders and the traitors he advocated measures that were most extreme. In 1793, he was assassinated.

Consequences Of The Revolution

An order of a new world altogether was laid down by years of the Revolution in France. This order of the new world seemed quite contradictory and distinct as compared to the trend that existed in France before. The French Revolution causes are very easy to single out, however effects of the revolution spilled out of the country and affected a lot of changes all over the world. Before the Revolution took place, the country was considered a nation that was quite backward, which had a situation with improper balance. As compared to the social change the intellectual and economic development was not at par. Middlemen in France felt that a big change was needed and accordingly took efforts so that the country was taken altogether to a new direction.

French Revolution – Government Effects

The National Assembly to enrich itself and to suppress religion seized all lands of the Church during the year 1789. All kinds of monastic vows and religious orders were put an end to. All proceedings of religion were taken control of directly by the government through the Clergy’s Civil Constitution. The National Assembly also took over control of selecting the Bishops and the Pastors who under the new government were to take oath. Operation of underground chapels by priests was completely banned and they were arrested if under the new government, any of the priests refused to take oath.

French Revolution – Secular Effects

In 1789 after the Bastille stormed, one common scene was the civil disorder. A Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued by intellectuals in France a few years later. These intellectuals rode the liberalization banner and were the French Revolution’s forerunners. Main aim of having the Declaration of the Rights Of Man was to shift the authority of issuing rights of humans from the Church to the state government. The state of authority was represented by the liberty cap in red a Catholic Christianity symbol and Crown of the King.

French Revolution – After Effects

When the monarchy was overthrown by the revolutionaries, the French Revolution took a full swing. This was in addition to the Church’s suppression. Consequences of this revolution were to be seen by not only by France but by many of the countries of the world. Owners of land and the bourgeois or the working class people or the middle men, were a social class that was very dominant in France, now after the French Revolution. Feudalism saw death and ‘Code Napoleon’ was implemented. Contracts in France were consolidated and the country was now able to attain some kind of order, socially. French regime was ungodly after the French Revolution and stood as a unified country. It gained more authority and power to influence affairs of the world. Progression was further seen in the idea of nationalism after the wars that took place during the era of Napoleon Bonaparte. Many of the historians, amongst themselves have many differences on whether or not the French Revolution had any benefits. However one thing is for sure that the French Revolution did play a major role in shaping the world’s future course.

A universal agreement is that France’s administrative and political was completely altered. New institutions were elected and replaced monarchy of the nobles all across France. Effect was seen on the culture as well to a certain extent for a short term. Some changes were also seen in the European region. France gained some client states like Switzerland and Belgium which had reforms of similar kind as that of the French Revolution. In other words, the French Revolution has been termed as a beginning of a new modern world. This event was an epochal one which played a major role in changing the mindset in Europe. In the minds of people, instead of mass warfare and monarchy, now devotion and patriotism towards the state became solidified instead.

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