July 14, 1789 - The French Revolution

By Mark Youssef

 

The French Revolution was one of the most important eastern revolutions in all of history. The state of France before the Revolution was horrible. They were deep in debt from the Seven Years’ War, the American Revolution, and with France not being in a good financial state before these wars did not help them that much either due to King Louis XVI’s careless spending sprees. Aside from the financial problems, there were years of bad harvests which led to the bread prices growing exponentially, cattle disease and a drought. With the people revolting against the government’s heavy taxing, very little money, and poor necessities needed for survival, France is on the brink of collapse. The way that King Louis XVI got out of this was not the best either, taxing the wealthy which caused all of the classes to want to revolt. King Louis eventually had a meeting with the Estates-General, who have not convened in about 170 years prior. He wanted to get support from them for his financial reforms. When they met in May of that year, it was a debate on how to apportion representation. After about 2 months of debate, the King ordered delegates to be locked out of the meeting hall. Their response was to meet in June on the royal tennis courts. At this meeting, the bourgeoisie had declared themselves the new government body of the nation, who were backed up by most of the clergy and nobles. They called the government the Nation Assembly and they said that they would write a new constitution. King Louis had agreed to the new constitution, but he secretly planned on undermining the Estates-General. He placed soldiers throughout the country which began to freak out the peasants and middle class. This caused them to attack and take over the Bastille Prison in protest, which marked the beginning of the French Revolution.

In September of 1791, France had its first written constitution. It established a constitutional monarchy where the King had royal veto power and the ability to appoint ministers as a compromise. Influential radicals such as Maximilien de Robespierre did not agree with the compromise, and this slowly began the support for a more republican form of government as well as for the king to be tried in court. Soon after, as the tension between Louis XVI and the National Assembly grew, France had been in a unique state. In April 1792, the Assembly declared war on Austria, which backfired massively. Austria’s ally Prussia had joined Austria, and troops from both nations had occupied France. Later that year, King Louis and Queen Marie-Antoinette were tried and found guilty. Both were eventually beheaded, and the National Assembly were in charge. Around this time, the Reign of Terror had started. The Reign of Terror was a time where a radical group of politicians had gained control of the Nation Assembly and implemented reforms, some of them being a new national calendar and the abolition of religion. In September of 1793, many middle and upper class citizens were arrested and executed, specifically the Jacobins’ opponents, the Jacobins being the people in charge. It lasted until July when the Jacobins were overthrown and executed. This caused the surviving former members of the National Assembly emerged and created a conservative backlash to the French Revolution.

August of 1795 marked the decline and end of the French Revolution. The French Revolution had changed France tremendously, rewriting their entire government. It led to some of the most important historical points in French history, and even led to history that changed the entire world. The French Revolution had started Napoleons rise. The government would soon establish a new constitution and a representative system of government. This caused the government to become corrupt, have a weak economy, an ongoing effort of radicals and monarchists to seize power, and more. Napoleon Bonaparte did not like this, and on November 9th, 1799, he overthrew the National Assembly and declared the French Revolution over. Napoleon then went on to gain power as he led France in a series of military victories. He soon declared himself emperor of Europe. This eventually led to France conquering more and more of Europe. The French Revolution led to many important parts of France’s history, as well as the world’s history, sowing seeds for the end of monarchical rule, which created modern-day Germany and Italy, as well as WW1.

 

Delacroix, Eugène. La liberté guidant le people. Illustration. Culture Trip.
January 15, 2018. Accessed May 25, 2020. https://theculturetrip.com/europe/
france/articles/10-facts-about-the-french-revolution-you-need-to-know/.

 

History.com Editors. “French Revolution.” History. Last modified February 21,
2020. Accessed May 25, 2020. https://www.history.com/topics/france/
french-revolution#section_5.

 

Singleton, Henry. The Storming of the Bastille, French Revolution. Illustration.
Alamy. Accessed May 25, 2020. https://www.alamy.com/
the-storming-of-the-bastille-french-revolution-painting-by-henry-singleton-1766-1
839-image238416690.html.

 

Wilde, Robert. “The French Revolution, Its Outcome, and Legacy.” ThoughtCo. Last
modified May 24, 2019. Accessed May 25, 2020. https://www.thoughtco.com/
consequences-of-the-french-revolution-1221872.