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French revolution

French Revolution

French Revolution, one of the major revolutions in

European history. The revolution marks a turning point in

Frence history and in world history in general. Forms of

government, morals, ideologies, and social development were

greatly affected by it in all Europe and even in U.S.

The beginning of the Frence Revolution in generally

dated from June, 1789. But the crisis in political and

economic affairs in France in that period was so great that

social unrest, rioting, a and rebellion were common for two

years before. The end of the revolutionary perios was

marked by the establishment of the Empire by Napolean in


The basic causes of the French Revolution were rooted

in the rigidities of French society in the 18th century.

Lines of distinction between classes were tightly drawn, and

opportunites for social advancement were very few. The

economy was not growing as fast as it should have been.

Then needs of an increasing population were not being met.

Governmet was inefficient and unrepresentative. Economic

problems made the heavy tax exempt but neary so, while the

peasents and middle classes were subjected to greater and

greater burdens. Crops falied, and trade was stagnant.

The people could no longer be taxed, but the government

faced bankruptcy unless new revenues were found. The only

soulution was to tax the privileged classes. But they were

jealoous of their privileged posistion. Altought they were

not completely unwilling to contribute some additional

taxes, they never understood how grave the economis

crisis was. They say the crises as only some form of

financial corruption that could be explained away by firing

the king's finace ministers. The libiral ideas of the French

Enlightenment had been absorbed by some of the clergy and

the nobility but only by a very few. The upper classes

in France in 1789 were more jealous of their privileges then

they had been at any time in the 100 years before.

When the French aided the Americans during the American

Revolution, they only sent men and ships and guns but lent

saubstantial financial aid as well. As a result, the budget

of the French government was thrown out of balance. When

economic depression in France made the every growing debt

even greater, the state seemed on the verge of bankruptcy.

It was necessary to vote new taxes.

The king's power was not as absoulute as he pretended

it was, and no new taxes could be decreed unless the king's

edicts were registered in the district courts, the

parliaments. Their members were mostly members of the

priviliged classes and were always ready to oppose the

king's measures. Becuase of their continual refusal to

register tax and reform edicts, it was necessary for the

king, Louis XVI, to find some other way of legalizing his


France had never had a parliament exactly like the

British, but it had a similar institution called the States-

General. Unlike the British institution it met very

frequently. The last one had met in 1616. The States-

General was called, and it convened in May, 1789.

The States-General was composed of three houses, or

estates, calles the first, second, and third estates. The

first represented the clerfy; the second, the nobility; and

the third, the middle classes. The third estate contained

as many members as the first and second combined.

When the estates met, the third estate wished to vote

with the first two houses. The clergy and nobility and the

king insisted the houses vote separately. But the third

decided that it was more representative of the French people

than the other two estates and that it was not fair to allow

the first two estates so much power. On June 17, 1789, they

converted themselves into a National Assembly, or

Constituent Assembly, and resolved to draw up a new

consitution for France. The king closed down the hall, but

the members went to a nearyby tennis court and there took an

oath (June 20) not to disband until a constitution was

written. The pressure of public opinion was so much in

their favor that Louis XVI was forced to reconize them,

as he did by the end of the month.

Bad crops and famine conditions contributed to the

unrest. During July there were spotaneous peasant uprisings

all over France. On Jult 14 a Paris mob stormed and

demolished the Bastille, and old fortress housing political

prisoners. On August 4, the assembly, led by certain

enlightened nobles, abolished feudal rights and privileges

with compensation to owners. A few years later the

compensation was also abolished. On August 27 a Declaration

of the Rights of Man, similar to the American Bill of

Rights, was issued. The new constitution was completed by

July, 1790, and the king accepted it. But Louis XVI's

behavior was never consistent. In July, 1791, he tried to

flee the country in order to reconquer it with the aid of

Austrain and Prussian armies. He was caught, however, and

popular feeling ran against him. He now accepted a revised

constitution, in September, 1791, and the assembly

dissolved. A legislative assemble was elected, and it met

from October, 1791, to September, 1792.

The legislative assembly was dominated by the

Girondists, who wished to set up a federal republic. When

the war broke out with Austria in April, 1792, there was no

longer any reason for tolerating Louis XVI. He had plotted

with his wife's family, which ruled Austria, and was now an

enemy of the state.

The National Convention, which reigned from September,

1791, to October, 1795, was the government of the Reign of

Terror. It was the one that executed the king in January,

1793. The convention was ruled by two committees under the

domination of Roberspirre from 1793 to 1794. Robespierre

saw to the execution of his enemies and was rampant, war

was at the doorstep, and bread riots were common. The tide

turned in another direction, and a stronger executive power

in the form of the Dierctory (1795-1799) was set up. A

five-man committe ruled the country. Meanwhile, Napolean was

making his name famous by his military success. Napoleon

allied with two directors in the Directory and with his

btoher Lucien, who was president of the Council of Five

Hundred, and assembly under the Directory. On Nov. 9, 1799,

in the Coup d'Etat de Brumaire he overthrewthe government. A

forn of government modeled on the old Roman type was set up.

Napoleon was elected first consul for ten years. By

1804 Napolean assumed the title of emperor, and absoulute

monarachy was revied.


Microsoft Encarta, 1997

Sucdus Som Sibro Universal World Reference Enclopedia


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