The French Revolution
The fierce fight for liberty, equality, and fraternity
Recipe for Revolution
France was ruled by an absolute monarchy, but because of Enlightenment ideas, such as natural rights, the people realized that the government was unfair. For one, the First and Second Estates could always outvote the Third, even though this estate consisted of the majority of the population. About 75-80% of this estate was made up of peasants, who had little food, land, or money due to feudalism. Workers, craftsmen, and shop-owners were also struggling to survive because of inflation, while the bourgeoisie, or middle class, was simply angry about the nobles' special privileges. These factors, plus
- poor harvests
- increased price of food
- unjust taxation
- government bankruptcy (immediate cause of revolution)
- the ability for the nobles and bourgeoisie to challenge the monarchy
started the ball rolling towards revolution.
The Three Estates
The Estates General
The Revolution Begins
- freedom and equality of all men (no more special priveleges for the first two estates)
- freedom of speech and the press
- public office positions based on talent
- everyone pays taxes
Controversy sparked regarding whether or not to include women in the Declaration; Olympe de Gouges is famous for her own declaration--one for women, that is. Even though women were excluded from it, the Declaration of the Rights of man and the Citizen united France to fight for the unalienable rights their current government, an absolute monarchy, had taken from them.
New Changes and War
The Paris Commune
A Radical Turn
The revolution took a radical turn because the people felt that the conservative methods had shown little improvement in their lives that had been full of suffering for so long. External threats, because the other countries in Europe wished to restore the monarchy, also drove the people to support more outrageous measures to help their country. Violence was widespread, directed not only at the royals, but also at innocent civilians, as seen in the September massacres of 1792. The king was executed on January 21, 1793, and the fate of the nation was left to the Committee of Public Safety, which had to deal with a lot of chaos, including the war with neighboring countries.
The Reign of Terror
The Next Chapter
A Military Hero
- peace with the Roman Catholic Church
- unifying laws (most significant law code=Civil Code, which protected the revolution's principles and made women inferior to men)
- creating a strong administration
- keeping all citizens legally equal
- re-instituting censorship
Another King Louis?
King Louis XVI
From King Louis to the Committee, from the Directory to Napoleon, France went through incredible changes in little over a quarter of a century. The people's unhappiness with the monarchy finally led them to overthrow it, but chaos followed. With Robespierre's control of the Committee of Public Safety came the Terror, which only ended with his death. Then came along the Directory, which its leaders used for profit. Because of this, Napoleon toppled it, and became France's emperor. The legacy of all of these events helped shape France's future and that of the rest of the world.