For many people, the French Revolution was the single most important event in modern world history. In a manner of speaking, it's a unique turning point for the ailing French society of the time and Europe. But, the events transpiring in Bastille Fortress in July 1789 are still discussed. The storming is discussed often. Peter Mcphee is an Australian born academic author specializing in modern French history and French Revolution. His book titled "The French Revolution 1789-1799" is a worthwhile reference to the French revolution when each chapter is analyzed.
It comprises of nine chapters beginning with "France in the 1780's." The initial chapter begins with his focus on rural settings of the 18th century. The economic conditions stemmed the French Revolution. Only two people out of ten lived in urban settings for that matter. The French rural society was impoverished and their production was negligible. The population was fast forwarding while demography was retreating.
Migration commenced to urban areas where similar conditions were prevalent. The cities were as poor as the villages and then there was the Seven Years War burdening the French government. It took toll on the people instead. Church had a huge number of real estates for itself in the urban settings. Three fourth of each urban area belonged to the church itself (McPhee, 2002, p. 13). Finally, the monarchy was also affected as the king was solely responsible for the well-being of its populace (McPhee, 2002, p. 13).
In this essay, the focus is on the seventh chapter titled: The Terror: Revolutionary Defense or Paranoia? Chaos ensued all across Europe after republic, military took the major blow. Civil war was becoming imminent as the new constitution was a huge disaster. For ten months, Jacobean took over management which turned out to be a blood period. The revolution had too many different characteristics in common. There were two different groups. Under the leadership of Robespierre, Marat and Mirabeau, the Jacobeans took charge, which were up against George Jacques, Camille Desmoulins as they had separate ideals. They wanted to finish the reign of terror. But, instead they died. Danton was the first with his followers while Robespierre died from the other group. This was the end of Jacobeans. The final chapter titled, "Ending the Revolution 1795-1799" targets the regime of "Directory of France" in between 1795 to 1799. Five Directors constituted the Directory which held executive power. It followed Convention and came before the consulate.
First Directory and Second Directory comprises the Directory period. It is divided by Coup of 18 Fructidor. State government was struggling. Napoleon ended the regime. He became the very first president of republic of France. In May 18, 1804, he additionally became the very first emperor of French republic. In this final chapter, the authors furnish opinions from three authors about the importance of revolution. To signify a story and reach a plausible conclusion, historical events must be taken in context. French Revolution pertains to intellectual structure of Enlightenment process and the fast growing industrial revolution based on supply and demand.
The political consciousness of French population took some effect which was seen in other countries too, the revolution only brought darker times and periods of bloody misery. The community was feeling the heat of pain and poverty as the torchbearers of revolution met their end eventually.
French peasants were feeling the Great Fear living in the French society. So were the officers and nobles of the church. Bands of mob peasants took to streets and attacked the upper French class destroying their properties. In summer of 1789, some months before women's long march to Versailles, members of National Assembly and nobles worked out a plan for the uprisings in a late night meeting (Hazen, 2013, p.222).
All through the night of 4 August 1789, nobility made long lofty speeches declaring liberty and equality as their ideals. They had more fear in mind than idealism as they joined hands with National Assembly in taking away the feudal rights of First and Second Estates enabling common people equal to nobility. At morning, the Old Regime had faded in origin. After three weeks, National Assembly took an approach for new revolutionary ideals with Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. It reflected on Declaration of Independence stating that "men are born free and equal in rights." These rights were "security, property, liberty and resistance to oppression." The signed paper ensured citizens of equal freedom, justice, freedom of speech as well as religious freedom (Hazen, 2013, p. 222).
The revolutionary leaders adopted the new slogan "Equality, Fraternity, Liberty." It defined their principles. These sentiments weren't felt by everyone. A declaration of women's rights was written by a writer named Olympe de Gouge, which was rejected flatly. Then in 1793, she was executed citing her as an enemy of the revolution (Hazen, 2013, p. 222).
The church was the target of reforms by the National Assembly. The National Assembly took church lands and announced church officials and priests as paid state officials. Catholic Church lost its political autonomy and its land both in one sweep. The basis of National Assembly's decisions was purely economic as revenue from church's land was sent to curb down French debt (Hazen, 2013, p. 222).
The National Assembly took common French peasants by surprise who were religious Catholics. They were offended by National Assembly's decision to make church a segment of government. Although, it was in line with Enlightenment philosophy. They believed Pope to run a church irrespective of the state. From then onwards, French peasants renounced National Assembly (Hazen, 2013, p. 222-3).
Louis XVI reflected on his fate while National Assembly fixed the relationship between church and state. His advisers saw imminent danger to him and his family. Monarch supporters deemed France as unsafe and fled France for good. In the summer of June 1791, Louis attempted fleeing from France to Austrian Netherlands. Nearing the border, they were taken in custody and sent back to Paris again. With Louis's failure to flee, the radicals in the government became strong and fate of France was sealed (Hazen, 2013, p. 223).
The National Assembly argued over a new constitution for two years straight. By 1791, delegates had seen to it that major changes had been made in the French society and government. King Louis approved of them. A limited constitutional monarchy was created in the constitution.
The king had been stripped off his highness and powers. The Legislative Assembly was created due to the constitution. It could make and dissolve laws. Also, it could declare war and reject such declarations. The king still had some power to enforce laws (Hazen, 2013, p. 223).
Even with the new government, lack of food supplies and government debt remained steady issues. Therefore, the Legislative Assembly addressed these problems by splitting into three groups; each had their own meetings in same the meeting hall. Radicals didn't like the concept of monarchy and desired new changes the present government. The hall's center had been presided by radicals who wanted fewer changes unlike the radicals. Conservatives met on the right corner of the hall. They held limited monarchy as their ideal with even fewer alterations in the new government setup (Hazen, 2013, p. 224).
Radicals outside Legislative Assembly wanted their own ends from the government. A wish to restore the Old Regime was desired by the nobles and Emigres and many others. Along the way, the Parisian workers and common population wanted Revolution to create substantial changes to France. They were termed as san-culottes, meaning those "who don't have knee breeches." The upper class was a different ball game altogether, who adored fancy length pants while sans-culottes wore ordinary trousers. They didn't have any role in the assembly; they found their own ways…