The Revolution . You say you want a Revolution …. . A Crisis Begins. Republic Government – A government in which all power rests with the citizens who vote to elect their leaders. (USA is a republic government)
Republic Government – A government in which all power rests with the citizens who vote to elect their leaders. (USA is a republic government)
France was in serious problems – King Louis XVI (the do nothing King) had seen all the money in the government coffers disappear.
Louis XVI started to listen to some of the Aristocrats (albeit to late) while Antoinette was steadfastly involved in keeping nobles and the heredity in power – i.e. the palace was split between husband and wife.
While the royals were split on how to deal with the calls for change, the middle class (bourgeoisie) and the lower class (peasants) and a few of the upper class (aristocrats) demanded some sort of a democracy – much like the one in Great Britain.
Many French soldiers and officers had taken part in the American Revolution (a revolution involving the British and the USA). These people felt that the Americans were doing it right by creating a form of democracy that protected individual freedom.
Philosophers were still calling for democratic freedom and liberty.
Most of these calls were being shouted at Louis XVI and Antoinette because citizens in France were beginning to feel that they were backwards – if G.B. and USA can get a form of democracy, why were they unable to obtain such a feat?
Ultimately, people saw the USA republic government and the G.B. constitutional monarchy as being a much more advanced civilization.
Problems did not stop there – by the 1780’s France was hit hard by a series of famine where thousands of French people were close to starvation, laying in the middle of the streets, on the road.
To make it even worse, parents could not take care of their children and more than 40,000 children were being abandoned each year.
It gets even MORE WORSE – Britain was going through the “Industrial Revolution” where it was cheap to make clothing, products and goods.
Thus, clothing and products made in France, were not being bought throughout Europe and hence people were being fired left, right and centre – HIGH HIGH HIGH unemployment was a huge problem.
When you have a society that has seen the government split (Louis XVI and Antoinette), citizens are feeling backwards compared to the USA and GB, people are starving, out of work, no money, no food, no family, absolutely nothing to lose – THEY RIOT and REVOLT.
France had a quasi parliament called theEstates General.
Itwas made up of three groups (estates) – The First Estate was the Clergy (the Kings people), The Second Estate was the Aristocrats, and theThird Estate was made of Bourgeoisie.
In 1789 King Louis XVI called the General Estates together to discuss the rioters and the potential revolution.
The Estates rarely meet, in fact the last time the Estates meet was in 1614!
Louis XVI called the Estates to discuss a way to solve the riots in France. He was prepared to give the Estates a small portion of power – like fixing the tax system, and in return the Estates would allow the King to create a federal tax to help solve the problems in France.
Recall – King Charles I wanted to negotiate with parliament and here we have Louis XVI negotiating with the Estates General.
Louis XVI thought that he had the support of the Clergy and the Aristocrats…
… what he found out was that he had very little support from anyone. In fact the Estates General asked for an increase of democracy and less power in the hands of the monarchy.
Outside the Palace of Versailles – where the General Estates were meeting – crowds were optimistic that change, democracy and freedoms were coming to the people of France.
After six weeks little progress had been made. People in the streets were getting frustrated and angry.
It was at this point when the Third Estates broke from the meetings and its members declared that they would form a new government called the National Assembly.
The Third Estates delegates went to the Royal Tennis Court and created the Tennis Court Oath – a pledge that they would continue to meet in the Tennis Court until France had a new government.
Louis XVI ordered the other two estates to meet and join the National Assembly. The Third Estates were joyed with this victory.
While the Third Estates were joyful, the people in the streets were fed up with the slow progress and on July 14, 1789 they stormed the Bastille – a local prison with weapons.
The mob took over the Bastille, freed the seven prisoners, took over the weaponry room, and cut off the head of the governor.
They marched down the streets of Versailles, victory in hand and the governor’s head on a stick.
This mob would form the revolutionary army called “The National Guard,” which was lead by Marquis de Lafayette– a hero in the American Revolution
The revolutionaries now had an army (The National Guard), a leader of this army (Lafayette) and word spread through France into the countryside.
Peasants knew that enormous change was coming. They thought that the Aristocrats and the King’s armies would put an end to the revolution and they did not want this to happen.
As such, they stormed the Chateaux of the aristocrats and burned them to the ground. They killed hundreds of Aristocrats.
They raided political offices and burned the feudal certificates that recorded the peasants obligations to the aristocrats.
The National Assembly, fearful of how out of hand the revolution had gotten, called an emergency meeting on August 4, 1789.
They meet in Versailles and in one stroke it abolished all feudal rights and privileges. They declared all people were equal before the law.
By the end of August the National Assembly created “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.”
This document sets out basic human rights that government cannot overlook.
It guaranteed freedom of thought, speech, religion, security and property and put limits on the power of the government.
This document steamed from The British Bill of Rights and The American Declaration of Independence – note that both of these documents were created via the ideas of Philosophers like Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu.
Once the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen was passed, the National Assembly quickly put together a constitution.
In it they swept away the monarchy, all the noble titles were declared obsolete and every was given the title “citizen.”
The National Assembly seized control of all the Churches property and sold it to build up their coffers.
Because of all these changes, Louis XVI, Antoinette and their children tried to escape from France.
His goal was to get aid from Austria and Prussia and try to restore the Monarchy in France.
The Royal Family was recognized, captured, imprisoned and forced to sign the new constitution.
October 1, 1791 the National Assembly met with the Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen in one hand and the Constitution in the other hand.
The National Assembly would not last, however, as theRadicals in the National Assembly called for a true Republic, the Moderates wanted a Constitutional Monarchy and the Monarchists wanted to restore the King’s power.