French Revolution: Causes, Highlights, Obscure Events and Commentaries

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            The French revolution (1789-1799) viciously transformed the monarchial state comprising of rigid hierarchical structures into a contemporary nation in which the social structure was slackened and power passed to the bourgeois. The French revolution is a major turning point in French and world history and has major implications on the ideology of revolution, system of governance, social conflicts, and most importantly, democracy. While some historians contend that the era plays a positive role in the development of democratic ideals in the French community, still there are many who would say that the period capitalizes on democratic mockery. Such democratic mockery was washed or masked in several literatures and historical writings; hence most people would have a positive outlook regarding French revolution. Here, we try to investigate the social conflicts and ideals in French revolution as well as relate them to necessary events and personas which would clarify or point out the socio-political effect of French revolution. Also, we try to pinpoint the efficacy of the several movements that redounds during this intermediate period.

The Cause of French Revolution

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            There is considerable controversy regarding over the causes of the French revolution. The Marx followers stresses on the material aspect: the direct relation between food and population ; the division of land into smaller parts/parcels such that most French countrymen lived nearly the subsistence stage; the 1776 agricultural depression enforced the landlords to abuse their system of taxation and profiteering[1]. Additionally, Marxists said that that commercial affluence had stirred the development of a moneyed middle class or the bourgeoisie that placed the position of established landed aristocracy or the gentry in jeopardy. Other social historians highlights the significance of the mounting difference between actuality and the officially identified societal formation, which differentiates men by the inbred wealth or  the obtained/purchased rank and acknowledged business than individual privileges and rights. They also acknowledged the intricacy of French culture and the value of free enterprise.

            Political historians look upon the monrachial system of governance’s flaw as the driving proponent of the insurgency of the French revolution. Technically speaking, the munificent Louis XVI (1774-1792) was the supreme ruler of the unified kingdom. In reality, the so many privileges, civil liberties, were maintained by the subdivided kingdom—provinces, towns, cities—corporation/business, the clergy, and the landed gentry that the monarch had minimum autonomy of action over the land. Moreover, since the offices in the officially authorized and the organizational system —and the noble position that accompany them—could be procured and acquired as a property, a new upper class genre of ennobled group was formed. These men were able to dominate money-making service, to annoy royal reforms, and to avoid the monarchy from increasing the taxes to meet up the ever escalating expenditures of the regime and of war. But there are numerous historians, who would articulate that the epoch was enthused by the inspiration of Enlightenment and the assertion of America for reforms and participatory governance[2].

            The active French involvement in the American Revolution made the financial reform or the increased taxation essential following 1783. Since no auxiliary proceeds could be raised from the poor overburdened by levies and tenancy dues, the royal ministers, specifically Charles Alexander de Calonnem tried to tax all property-owner not considering the constitutional rights. When this scheme met with the opposition in the judiciary courts and local assemblies, the ministers endeavored to change those bodies with delegates. In 1788 this paved the way to the Aristocratic Revolt, an act of government disobedience and a defiance of authoritarianism that obliged the ministers to consent to organize the (first) States General of 1614.

Highlights of the Course of Revolution

            The first chapter of the revolution was marked by ethical and physical aggression. The States General convened in the 1789 in (Treaty of) Versailles but was forestalled by the rebuff of the Third Estate/House of the Commons to convene disjointedly as a separate lower body. On June 17, the Commons affirmed their assemblage as the National Assembly thus annihilating the States-General. This foremost assertion of monarchial authority of the country encouraged the raid of Bastille on July 14. Concomitantly, the town and bucolic insurrection transpired all the way through France. Qualms spawned by the political predicament had provoked the discontent stirred by the letdown of the 1788 harvest and an extremely harsh winter. The peasants plundered and burned up the estates of the nobility—an incident identified as Grande Peur or Great Fear obliterating the accounts of their tenancy dues.

            The National Assembly devised the Declaration of Rights in the 26 of August denoting the King merely as the chief executive and denying him of legislative rights excluding a the right of veto for suspension. The disinclination of the King towards the approval of these decrees almost immediately directed the second rebellion in Paris identified as the March of Women. On October 5, the rabble protest marched to Versailles and enforced the King to yield. France was transformed to a constitutional monarchy with the legal difference between the Frenchmen dissipating; Louis was all but a hostage, and lots of citizens were permanently estranged by the affectation of the Assembly and the existing disarray[3].

            France was generally peaceful from1789-91 when the King accepted the Constitution of 1791 hence the dissolution of the Assembly in September 30. However, the hard won constitution soon collapsed in 1792 due to religious and political strife. The new assembly prohibited for revolutionary battle against Austria. Military units of Austria and Prussia assaulted France. Insurrection broke out in Paris and the revolutionary Commune of Paris imprisoned the King. The aggressors captured Verdun, and the counterrevolutionaries were executed in garrisons.

            The National Convention horrified Europe by establishing a republic (September 22 1792), installing a guiding principle of revolutionary war and transporting the monarch to guillotine on January 21, 1793. In the meantime France was frayed apart by internal clashes. A radical minority, the Montagnards— popularly the Paris representatives— and the left-wing genre known as the Jacobins, insisted forceful radical procedures. Their adversary, the Girondist leaders of the vague majority, distribute themselves among the provinces/districts and anticipates to merge the revolution. The Montagnards advanced in position in 1793, as the armed forces and trade and industrial situation deteriorated which was mollified by the royalist uprising in the Vendee area.

            The Montagnard Convention had problems regarding raids, wars and extensive local upheavals against the autocracy of Paris. Danton attempted to rectify this by democratic Constitution of 1793. Robbespierre sent armies to subdue rebellious cities. On September 5 the National Convention established the regime known as the Terror. An apprehensive time arise: the Committee of Public Safety struggled to systematize the financial system and the hostile front; the Revolutionary Tribunal launched captives, together with the Girondists, to the execution; and the negotiators of the Convention branded as the Representatives of the Revolution imposed gory tyranny all over France. A crusade of dechristianization, distinguished by the Revolutionary schedule calculated from September 22, 1792 led to the closing of all churches on Novemeber 23, 1793[4].

            As soon as the Republican armies began to triumph, the Terror happens to be known with brutal but centralized system of governance. Moderate Montagnards and Hebert, a leader of dechristianization was sent to guillotine. The consolidated acts of tyranny also brought forward countless revolutionary victims by the Revolutionary Tribunal whose occupation was accelerated by the Law of Prairial. As a consequence of Robespierre’s persistence on connecting Terror and Virtue, his pains to create the country that is patriotic and ethically united, become equivocated with carnage. He was ousted by the scheme of the some affiliates of the National Convention on 9 Thermidor. On July 28, 1794, the Robbespierrist deputist and most members of the common were guillotined.

            During the subsequent time (1794-1795) of the Thermidorean Reaction, the administration was so destabilized that disorder and price increase or inflation nearly besieged the republic. In the southeast the royalists assembled the white terror and in Parisian bunch of draft-evaders, termed la jeunesse doree or golden youth, victimized the nationalists. Twice in the Germinal and the Prairal there were desperate risings demanding “Bread and the Constitution of 1973.” Devoid of the Montagnards and Jacobins whose alliance was stopped in November 1974, the sansculottes could attain naught, and the Convention ruined the trendy movement enduringly with the assistance of the military. The death (1795) of the incarcerated King Louis XVII and an ineffective landing in Brittany confirmed the response toward monarchial system, allowing the Convention to conclude the 1795 Constitution. This liberal settlement took effect after a reactionary uprising in Vendemaire had been stopped by Bonaparte with what he indicated as “whiff of grapeshot”[5].

            The constitution convened a  supervisory Directory, two assemblages and grant of properties.  Several stipulations, together with the first derivatives of the two-thirds of the second-in-command from the Convention secured the state not in favor of reversion to Terror. The only effort to restore the brutal revolution, Babeuf’s Conspiracy of the Equals was with no trouble thwarted but the administrative flaws and the annual plebiscite of a significant part of the totality of deputies made state firmness impossible[6].

            In 1797, the directors eliminated the parliamentary government mercilessly, marking many deputies as royalists and condemning them to the harsh French Guiana or dry guillotine. This event at Fructidor devastated the moderates. Thereafter, even though the government improved and the French influence augmented in Europe, coup d’état against conformist or radical revivals happened per annum until 1799, when the Abbe Sieyes, decided to build up central power, procuring the support of Bonaparte to achieve the coup of Brumaire. The Constitution of 1799 launched the Consulate with Napoleon Bonaparte acting as the First Consul. He used his power to affect a central government and restore Catholicism by the Concordat of 1801. Constitutional reins and the republican traditions were progressively removed until the conception of the First Empire (1804-1815) finished the cataclysmic French revolutionary era[7].

The Ignored and Obscure Events of the Revolution

            The highlights of French Revolution are sufficient to drive the thought that the period was marked by several social conflicts with many societal upheavals stemming from the lower classes and a fragmented country stratified by political chaos. The events may have led to the ratty development of democracy (which will come several years later after Bonaparte’s reign) but nevertheless there are many events and persons that have been significantly ignored because of “summarizing”, an event that is of common occurrence in historical textbooks. This events will placate the idea of French revolution as “moral defamation” series of parricide and mass killings, justice ambiguity and dissonance and lastly, democratic mockery.

            The French people have a thwarted and misguided idea on the concept of democracy which was popularized in the America during that time. Liberty and Fraternity was completely mocked when the idealist, hoping vying for democracy, led the lower classes into a series of revolts and insurrections, thus creating mobocracy instead of the ideal democracy. It has been mentioned in the previous pages that bloodbath coupled with bloodlust were the common themes of the revolutionary and the left-wing idealist. This certainly proved to be true.

            Here we expound on the revolutionist Robbespierre and Sade and explore their vindictive and undemocratic methods, that of which, cause more harm than good effect. Marquis de Sade’s name does not normally fall under the heading of French Revolution but instead more on pornography or sexually explicit literature. Sade incited the storming of Bastille while he was in prison by communicating through a megaphone, asking the lower classes to free the prisoners. He became an active Jacobin after his release from the mental hospital but eventually managed to get back inside when he quarreled with Robbespierre[8].

            Governor de Launay, during the storming of Bastille was butchered and marched throughout the city. The invalids were torn piece by piece due to crowd fervor. The de-christianization, the storming of the churches, was attributed to their aristocratic bearing and thus many churches were pillaged. Added to this is that the priest and the nuns were beheaded; a removal of Christianity indeed. The killings were based on the idea that if the “Lordly” fellows were removed, then similarly there would be reduction and brake in the Holy Christianity.

            One neglects to mention that genocide was effected during the time of French Revolution when the Alsatians, or the German speaking group, was exterminated because of the language difference, owing it to unifying the community by removing all barriers including language barriers and in this case, the act was literally carried out.

            September 1972 marked the frenzy killing of prisoners and of those who refuse to bow under the Constitution by mob killing or public killing. Not only were the guilty persecuted but also the innocent children and women. Manslaughter was capitulated as evident by the killing of Princess the Lambelle. Prostitutes were also slaughtered because they were vectors of diseases. The Swiss Guards were openly mutilated and chopped to pieces.

            The difference between the French mobocracy and the Hitler’s communist methods would be the presence of concentration camps. The French mobocracy was crueler and what is most devastating and uncalled for is the delivery of public mass killings under the idea of democracy. Mockery is yet taken to another level. The aristocrats and the rich comprised a small part in these public killings and most ail from the peasantry. City inhabitants of Toulon and Bordeaux were decimated in an act revolutionary movement of the Girondist against the Jacobins[9]. Bloodlust was prevalent and the crowd cheered when inhabitants were slowly bled to death by shotgun or by drowning. Morality was also drowning with this dead people.

            The living did not just suffer but also the dead; the heads of known counterrevolutionaries were decapitated, take for instance, Marquis de la Rouerie.The atrocious double-dead acts was also announced extensively in Paris. The double dead acts occurred in Huesca cemetery. If the literatures for this horrendous act were true, then there is a large possibility that much gruesome information has been withheld.

            Mass guillotines led by Lebon were obscene and disgusting—decapitated corpses of men and women were arranged such that they resemble the Nights of Sodom, a pedagogic literature of the Marquis of Sade. In Loire, men and women that is tied together is literally thrown to the river in the tossed alive in the river, known as the “Republic Wedding”.  Sadism was prevalent in those times. Women and children were true victims and children, as innocent as they are, were murdered before the eyes of their parents.

            Cleansing the nation vis-à-vis the removal of the patriots and the Girondist community was delivered in a sadistic manner albeit masked by the ideals of the Jacobins. The indifferent individuals were also exterminated for no reason other than this. Aristocracy and priesthood were exterminated because, according to Danton, they pose as a threat to the future existence, Robespierre’s Virtue principle comprises that of a fast, stern and unflinching justice that is parallel with democratic priciples. Robbespiere’s Virtue principle is twisted indeed if one takes into account all the “unconstitutional acts” that he and his mob committed in the name of misguided democracy and a liberating constitution.

            Westermann’s speech on the absence of vendee led him to his fate in the guillotine. His speech comprise of the truth and the decay of the employed system as well as the situation of Savenay. He died with Danton. It is surprising to note that the leaders themselves were guillotined when they had instigated the insurrection.

            Le Mans[10] was a victim of insurrection and children, women and the aged were exterminated under the tutelage of Barbott and Prieure. Rape was common and this act extends to the dead bodies. All cadavers were bounded together as republic batteries except in Angers were the heads of dead bodies were decorated in the city walls. Another sadistic act enjoyed by the revolutionaries were roasting females and children in hot ovens. Children were forked with bayonets and pregnant women were cut open and their children pierced.

            The sadism and the un-imaginable atrocity of this period were certainly popular during those times. What had been a series of revolution designed to formulate a government that is beneficial to the general crowd, becomes a series of crimes and sadism. Such events were duly ignored in the historical books. As such, the celebration of the French Revolution should never be performed because history details as to the reality of the French Revolution.

Commentary on the Revolution

            The most tangible consequences of Revolution were attained in the 1791 when land was liberated from the traditional burdens and the old commercial society was annihilated. Feudal system was abolished which promoted individualism and egalitarianism. Peasant land proprietors increased but due to political upheavals in the Directory and the Consulate, the economy of France, flunked. Much of the reforms were incorporated in the Napoleonic Code.

            The French Revolution was more noteworthy than victorious. The continual change in the system of governance from republic, to parliamentary, and to democratic de-stabilizes the constancy of the system of governance and creates a general discord. It is acknowledge that the ideals of the French Revolution continually inspire the politicians and the social reformers of today but it must also be contended that the democracy which is flagged during this times is nothing but mockery. Such mockery is seen in the sadistic employment of methods and the unjust killings of the innocents during those times. Also, it must not be forgotten that the idealist leaders were nothing but flukes and nymphos who seek out to satisfy their bloodlust by way of others.

            One contends that the French Revolution’s idea in democracy is a complete degradation of humanistic values and implementation of the good constitution which should benefit the general public. The anti-thesis of this is the French Revolution. Just look at how their methods—maltreatment and unjustified guillotine and murders— affected the community at large. True it led to governmental change but at what expense? Quantitaive and qualitative human sacrifice should never be exchanged in the face of the need to change the system.


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[1] Hampson, N. A Social history of the French revolution. Oxford, UP.,1963.

[2] Connely, O., The French revolutionary/ Napoleonic era., ,Oxford, UP.,  1979.

[3] Goodwin, A., The French Revolution, 1966. New York, The Modern Library, 1966.

[4] Manceron, C. ,The French Revolution., New York: Morrow Quill, 1977.

[5] Lefebre, V. ,The French revolution., Paris, Gallimard, 1999.

[6] Soboul, A., The First French Republic, 1792-1804, Penguin, London ,1974.

[7] Soboul, A.,  The French Revolution. Penguin,  London, 1965.

[8] Tackett, T., Becoming a Revolutionary: the deputies of the French National Assembly and the emergence of a revolutionary culture (1789-1790), Chichester, Princeton UP, 1996
[9] Thompson, J. M. the French Revolution,Paris, Larousse, 1944.

[10] Roberts, J. M. ,The French revolution.,  London, Longman, 1963.

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