French Revolution 1789-1791 Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

French Revolution was the greatest revolution of the 18th century. It was the revolution that started the modern era of politics and had its origins in the financial problems of the government.

In the 1770s and 1780s, a protracted war with England left the government of France depleted of money. France's national debt was high and bankruptcy and increased tax rates became inevitable. "The government's yearly income from taxation and other sources was, quite simply, less than its spending. By 1788, fully one-half of the annual budget went for ever-increasing interest payments on the ever-increasing debt."

Another financial burden on the people of France was the lavish lifestyle of King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette at their extravagant home of Versailles. The king and his ministers could not print money and create inflation to cover their debts. France had no central bank, paper currency or means of creating credit. French money was gold coin and when severe economic times hit, the government would beg for funds from the country's population.

French society was divided into three separate groups called estates. These groups, called the Estates General, met at irregular times for the purpose of contributing to the French government.

The First Estate was composed of the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. Extremely wealthy, the group controlled educational institutions and censored the press. It was also divided into two groups: the bishops and abbots who were wealthy and had authority in the church, and the priests and monks who had modest incomes and little say in church affairs.

The Second Estate consisted of the nobility who owned 20% of all French land, which was not taxed by the government. By the 1780s, most political positions were controlled by the members of the Second Estate.

The Third Estate was made up of French commoners, such as the poorer bourgeois, artists, and peasants. The estate was the largest of the three, but held little, if any voting power. That began to change when the Third Estate declared itself the National Assembly on June 17, 1789 in order to gain a greater role in the government. The National Assembly eventually gained the support of the general public of France, thereby making it a force King Louis XVI could not ignore.

Meanwhile, the king tried to reassert his authority. He called for a spring session of the Estates General, which had not met since 1614. The Second Estate expected that the three estates would vote separately, but this infuriated the middle-class intellectuals. "They wanted the three estates to meet as a single house, so that commoners from the third estate would have the greatest voice and be able to prevent aristocratic control."

As the Third Estate struggled for equality at Versailles, France was going through economic collapse. The price of bread, a staple of the working poor, cost half a worker's wages. When the price of food soared to unheard of prices, the demand for manufactured goods fell and by the end of 1789, almost half of the French people were out of work.

While the clergy and nobility argued over what to do about the economic situation, peasants from across the French countryside rose up and became violent in their protests. The peasants were trying to rid themselves of the unfair practices brought upon them by the First and Second Estates. Although the Third Estate made gains in their demands for fair taxation and elimination of feudal dues, it wasn't enough. Unemployment and hunger continued.

Seven thousand desperate women marched 12 miles from Paris to Versailles. Armed with sticks and scythes, the women invaded the royal apartments at Versailles determined to kill the Queen. It took the National Guard to save the royal family, who then fled to Paris.

The National Assembly finally adopted a constitutional monarchy, which King Louis XVI accepted in July 1790. This form of government put all lawmaking power in the hands of the popularly elected National Assembly. By promoting economic freedom, the National Assembly reformed France's laws and institutions.

In August 1792, King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were suspected of treason and arrested. They were tried, convicted, and beheaded.

The French Revolution was inevitable. The majority of the people - the masses - were unfairly taxed, the king and his ministers were indifferent to the people's needs, only concerned for their own lavish lifestyle. When unemployment skyrocketed and families could not afford to buy bread, the people rose up in protest, demanding to be heard, demanding that they be treated equally. Only revolution could change the French government.

The French Revolution, like the American Civil War and the Nazis' rise to power, were all foreshadowed by foreseeable events.

The American Civil War

The very root of the Civil War was the institution of slavery, which had been introduced into North America in early colonial times. Slavery was legal in all 13 colonies throughout the American Revolutionary War, but by 1787, slavery was mainly gone in the northern states.

At the Constitutional Convention there were arguments over slavery. Representatives of the Northern states claimed that if the Southern slaves were mere property, then they should not be counted toward voting representation in Congress. By the end of the convention the institution of slavery itself, though never specifically mentioned, was well protected within the body of the Constitution."

In 1808, Northern and Southern members of Congress voted to abolish the importation of slaves from Africa. However, domestic slave trade continued to flourish in the South. The use of slave labor was a profitable enterprise and slaves became an increasingly important part of the southern economy.

For the southerner, the debate about slavery was in actuality an economic-based question of money and power. Slavery became the institution southerners were determined to protect.

The Northern states became industrialized and soon, power in Congress was focused in the North. Representatives and senators from the South felt their power slipping away and wanted to preserve or make it equal to the North. Southern congressmen began talking of states' rights. If a state or section of the country no longer felt itself represented in, or fairly treated by, the Federal Government, then it had the right to dissolve its association with that government.

Elected to the office of the presidency in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was convinced that the Constitution forbade the Federal government from taking action against slavery where it already existed. However, Lincoln was determined to keep this peculiar institution from spreading.

During his inauguration speech, Lincoln "spoke at some length about the supremacy of the national government, directing his remarks mainly at Southern Unionists."

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina declared its state right and seceded. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas soon followed.

When a federal ship carrying supplies to Fort Sumter, South Carolina, the secessionists or Rebel forces opened fire on the fort on April 12, 1861. It was the first shots in a war that would last four long years and tear the nation apart.

The American Civil War started as a result of wording in the U.S. Constitution, political events, southern pride and the institution of slavery. Our forefathers who wrote the Constitution, especially Thomas Jefferson, knew that slavery was an atrocity that would eventually spell trouble for the country.

The Nazi Regime and its Rise to Power

The goals of the despotic Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers' Party or Nazis were detailed in Hitler's Mein Kampf, a book he wrote while in prison during the early 1920s. In it, he denounced Marxism, Jews, the bourgeois or middle class, liberals, and democracy, referring to them as the cause of all of Germany's ills. He called for a revitalized Germany and a purified Aryan race. Hitler was convinced that he was the destined leader who would turn Germany into a world superpower.

Hitler's view of the Aryan or pure Germanic race as the epitome of goodness became twisted as he himself is consumed with power and evil. And just as the Nazi regime and its rise to power is forecast in Hitler's early writings, the Great Depression in Germany during the 1930s also lent a helping hand to Hitler and the Nazi Party's ascendancy into power.

Similar to the French Revolution, the Germanic people of the late 1920s and 1930s were enmeshed in economic turmoil. Unemployment was rampant and the German monetary system was in shambles. People looked for a strong leader that would take them out of the Depression and provide jobs. They found that leader in Adolf Hitler who took power legitimately in 1933 when he became dictator. As Fuhrer, Hitler used mass terror and violence to establish his goals as listed in his Mein Kampf.

The right to possess soil can become a duty if without extension of its soil a great nation seems doomed to destruction. And most especially when not some little nigger nation or other is involved, but the Germanic mother of life, which has given the…

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