The French Revolution
The French revolution of 1789-1799 had immense effects on the political course most European countries would take after it occurred. Though it started in France, its effects spread to other regions of the world owing to the importance of the ideologies the revolutionists advocated (Jerry and Ziegler 59). Three primary pillars of the revolution that made it so relevant are its call for an end to despotism and the adoption of democracy, abolition of feudalism for the adoption of capitalism and the scrapping off monarchial authoritarianism for the modern state.
1. Outlines of the French Revolution
a).The Estates General
In the last moment attempts to curb the imminent strife the revolution would bring, King Louis XVI resolved to assemble the Estates-General, an early council of leaders that comprised of representatives from three different groupings of the French people.
If this assembly of leaders could settle on a viable taxation scheme, then it would be easy to pass the law and solve the taxation problem. However, two vital sections of the Estates General, the nobility and the clergy, were excluded from taxation. Therefore, they were not willing to pass such a law that would require them to start paying taxes.
In addition, despite the fact that the third section of the Estates General, French public had the largest number of people, it had only one vote in such a vote and could not win with the prevailing conditions. Conflicts erupted due to this technicality and the third estate. The general French republic announced that it had declared itself sovereign. Seeing the popularity of this revolutionary announcement, some members of the other two sections defected to the revolutionary camp.
b).The National Assembly
On August 4th, 1789, the national assembly of the now sovereign French people created laws that scrapped off feudalism and insisted on the freedom and equality of all people. The assembly also prepared a document outlining the rights of all citizens.
Radical members of the National Assembly proposed the execution of the king and other members of the nobility while the moderate members called for tranquility while solving this issue. Later on, the national assembly decreed the execution of many members of the nobility.
Between the years 1789 to 1792, some regions of the country would sometimes be unruly due to discontentment with decisions of the National Assembly. The assembly would then dissolve the parliament and the monarchy consequently making France a state.
c). Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity
This was one of the slogans chanted by revolutionaries during the revolution. Robespierre in 1790 proposed that these terms of the slogan be indicated on flags and uniforms, but his proposal was rejected. Equality was demonstrated when feudal laws were scrapped off. This meant that now the monarchy was equal to the ordinary French citizens. The declaration of the rights of citizens, also emphasized on equality.
Liberty was also demonstrated in the declaration of rights of citizens by emphasizing that all citizens were entitled to freedom by virtue of birth. This statement granted the growing number of middle class people the opportunity to gather more property, and to access resources that were earlier on set aside for the nobility.
Fraternity was also included in the declaration of rights of citizens by the abolishment of the class of the nobility. All citizens were now equal and enjoyed the same rights after the concentration of government inclusivity were shifted from the monarchy to the general citizenry.
d). The Convention
This was a collection of 749 delegates elected by the people and granted the most powerful parliamentary and executive roles between the years 1792 to 1795 after the monarchy was abolished. The task of this convention was to deliver a new constitution for the new French republic. During this process, there were several disagreements between the radical and moderate factions.
These disagreements ended in the moderates, the Girondins being expelled from the convention in 1793 while the radicals, the Montagnards being retained in the convention. For a short period after this occurrence, the activities of the convention were stalled due to the absence of the Girondins. In the third section of the convention, the Jacobins had no particular stance and always backed the faction that appeared to have more powers.
Later, members of the moderates’ faction were brought back into the convention. The constitution making process was resumed, and the draft was formed by 1795. This draft was accepted and was to be later known as the Constitution of 1795. The Jacobin faction of the convention organized the most vital events of the revolution. This included organizing French forces to win over those who opposed the revolution and abolishing feudal laws.
e). The Directory
This was a collection of five men granted executive authority by the constitution created by the National Convention in 1795. These men were selected by the new law-making body and two other councils created under the new constitution. Membership of the directory was equalized by two specialists selected by those who had much property. Economically, the country was bankrupt and the directory had a difficult time salvaging this situation. On making political decisions, the directory had a hard time balancing the consequences of its choices between the Jacobins, on one side, and those considered being royals on the other side.
During the period it operated, the directory put in place several successful financial amendments that helped spring up back into course the agricultural and trading sectors therefore creating the foundations for Napoleon’s renewal of calm, law and order in France. However, the much-desired goal of a complete recovery from the effects of the revolution was unachievable. Apart from the internal disagreements, the directory faced multiple political problems that rendered it inefficient. Corruption was also spread within The Directory and the National Convention.
The directory stifled efforts by some quarters that attempted to expose their wrongs and were linked with the abolishment of election results in 1797 and 1798. Consequently, its inhibitive tendencies led to alienation of France politically sometimes and even resulted in further bankruptcy. Later on, some members of the directory considered conservative would be expelled during a coup.
The directory’s mandate on foreign policy would be forfeited and control taken over by the leaders of French forces in the field, among these was Napoleon Bonaparte. The dissatisfaction of the French people with the directory was highest during the reversal of military territories in 1799 during which the states from Southern Italy up to the Netherlands got under the collective attack of English, Austrian and Russian armies. Despite some of the achievements the directory had, a coup was planned against them, and Napoleon ended up in power. In Napoleon’s reign, The Directory would be substituted by The Consulate.
2. Did The French Revolution Fulfill The Ideals That Began It?
Despite the several discrepancies that would reveal a short while after and during the revolution, The French revolution did fulfill the ideals that started it. Napoleon Bonaparte was seen as the face of this revolution and therefore in analyzing the success of this revolution, the developments and failures during his rule come to question. Napoleon’s style of leadership despite being highly questionable delivered France from the hole of destruction to making France one of the most powerful nations of his time. Napoleon did a lot in reordering the French society and salvaging it from the chaos and bankruptcy before the revolution.
Napoleon delivered equity to the ordinary people of France and insisted on the respect for all people’s rights. Napoleon recovered France’s economy and succeeded in making the franc the most consistent currency in the European continent. Regarding liberty, equity and fraternity, the French Revolution was successful in achieving this. Napoleon granted the people freedom of religion by equally recognizing the different denominations of Jews, Catholics and Protestants across France. He also put in place a standard group of laws that was to be followed by all citizens.
Bentley Jerry and Herb Ziegler. Traditions and Encounters; A Global Perspective on the Past,Vol. 2: From 1500 to the Present, 6th Ed. McGraw-Hill Education publishers. 2010. Print.
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