Which Holds Greater Responsibility for France’s Radical Revolution: Internal or External Forces?

FRENCH REVOLUTION ESSAY By Lauren Green Which holds the greater responsibility for France’s radical revolution: internal forces or external forces? Internal forces in France’s Revolution were those factors that affected the radicalism from within France. The external forces were those that impacted this massive event in history from outside France, though the internal forces far outweigh those that affected France externally. The radical revolution was based on the Great Terror, the emotional trauma that had been brought about and the fear that reigned throughout France during this time.

One of the internal forces that fuelled the Revolution was the Sans-culottes and the revolutionary unrest amongst the political clubs, such as the Jacobins and Girondins, about the poverty engulfing France at the time. This led to the Champ de Mars massacre on 17 July 1791 [1], which was important for revealing a crucial event in Parisian politics that would shape the future of the French Revolution. [2] The Monarchy was another internal force, contributing to this radicalism.

As King Louis the 16th wouldn’t provide for the third estate, the French began this Revolution, fighting for a change, which would benefit them and take out the opposition. He was often unable to decide what he should do, anxious to avoid confrontation and gave his backing to whoever had the last word. [3] The Monarchy was a symbol of opposition against the new regime. It didn’t care for those under it and when King Louis the 16th was executed, this caused a stirring within France, beginning the radical revolution.

The Committee of Public Safety was called the “government watchdogs”. France was a one party dictatorship from 1793-1794, run by this Committee and Robespierre was the virtual dictator, filling the Committee with ideas and plans for the future. It was created to defend the nation against its enemies, through terror and oversee the existing organs of executive government. [4] It relied on the support of the Jacobins from the Convention and they passed laws to further their ideology. [5] Robespierre used a policy of Terror to rule France.

He guillotined those who were suspected of opposing the revolution to ensure that nobody got in the way of the change that the government was trying to create, which would ensure a freer France. Also, it imparted deep seeded fear into people, making sure that the rest of the population would follow them into what they thought would be a better future for the nation. As well as physical terror, Robespierre used economic terror, too, passing the Law of the Maximum General, which controlled the price of food.

Peasants were freed from debt, but hoarders and speculators were guillotined and emigre land, confiscated. This was a huge internal force, causing people to stay in line through fear. [6] He also passed the Law of Suspects, which stated that all suspects who opposed the revolution would be executed, such as the Left Opposition – extremists – and the Right Opposition – pacifists. Robespierre also introduced the Levee en masse, where the country was mobilised to overcome the enemy.

There was conscription for all men to join the army, the women made uniforms and tents and children made bandages to advance Robespierre’s ideas. The external forces of the radical French Revolution included the war between Austria and Prussia against France. As revolutionary fervour consumed France, the assembly went into conflict with Austria in 1792. The Declaration of Pillnitz came out of this, which promised to place the king back on the throne, as he was of common interest for all of Europe’s sovereigns. [7]

The Flight to Varennes is seen as an external force to this radical revolution. King Louis the 16th ran off with his family on 20-21 June 1791 because of upheavals, due to an anti monarchist sentiment, which began during the reign of the King’s predecessor. [8] He attempted to escape France, but when caught, the people saw him as a traitor, trying to dessert them. This caused issues in France, turning the nation against the king even more so than before. This was linked to the Austrian war. Fears of invasion led to the September Massacres.

This was one of the external forces, consisting of attacks on prisons in France. This lasted 5 days and 1200 prisoners died – half of the prison population in France. These were horrific killings, involving mutilation, rape and people having to drink the blood of victims to save family members. It was referred to as “simply a pretext by eager men to kill those who disagreed with them”, by Olivier Bernier. The French felt as if they had to protect France from those who might oppose the Revolution and so took matters into their own hands, destroying traitors. [9]

Another external force was when the policy of terror was used against the enemies of the state because of foreign invasion by Britain, Austria, Prussia, Spain and Holland. Because of the fear of Royalists plotting to overthrow the constitution and to put the King back in power, uprisings were caused in Vendee and Toulon – also an internal force. The radical Revolution had many factors contributing to it, both internal and external. The internal, though, held the greatest responsibility for the radical French Revolution, as they far outweigh the external forces.

The internal forces included the Sans-culottes, which were part of the different political groups, causing unrest; as well as the monarchy, which was consumed with itself, but was overthrown; the Committee of Public Safety controlling the country; Robespierre using the Terror to take over France, all large, significant forces, whereas the external forces weren’t as important – the war, which didn’t have as big an impact on France as some of the internal forces; the Flight to Varennes, which was merely an attempt to escape a dangerous situation; the September Massacres, which was large, but not as significant as the Terror; as well as when the enemies of State were targeted, too, out of fear.

The internal forces caused the French Revolution to be so radical and, arguably, changed France for the better. 998 words. ———————– [1] http://www. enotes. com/topic/Champ_de_Mars_Massacre [2] http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m2005/is_1_36/ai_92587345/ [3] The Terror by David Andress, published in 2005 by Little, Brown, Great Britain, page 11-12 [4] http://www. britannica. com/EBchecked/topic/482481/Committee-of-Public-Safety [5] http://www. 123helpme. com/view. asp? id=23442 [6] http://everything2. com/title/Law+of+Suspects [7] http://chnm. gmu. edu/revolution/d/421/ [8] The Terror by David Andress, published in 2005 by Little, Brown, Great Britain, page 9-10 [9] http://www. thenagain. info/webchron/westeurope/septmassacres. html

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