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French Revolution

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Jason Siegel

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The French Revolution

The French Revolution was set in motion in 1787, as the aristocracy refused to surrender their privileges in the face of a growing financial crisis. The nobility would not accept taxes without accompanying governmental reform, limiting the excessively authoritarian crown. When the Parlements of Paris and Grenoble refused to register new taxes, Louis convened the Estates-General. It was this act that transformed the "noble revolt" into a revolution of the bourgeoisie. Debate raged over who constituted the Third Estate, and public opinion coalesced into support for the commoners. With the abolishment of feudal rights by the National Assembly in 1789, it appeared that a constitutional monarchy was at hand. However, in 1992, defeats to the invading Austrian army and rising bread costs created an atmosphere of panic, leading to the overthrow of Louis XVI. The Jacobin extremists thrived on the general fear, garnering more support than the more moderate Girondins. It was the radical Jacobins, reacting to counter-revolutionary forces within France and military defeats from without, who led the revolution into tyranny.

The Committee of Public Safety set aside the Constitution of 1973, a hard fought prize of the revolution, so that it could more easily execute insurgents. Moreover, the Committee intervened in the economy to set a ceiling on the price of bread. The Jacobin government went so far as create a new calendar and declared September 22nd 1972, the first day of the first year. Eager to sweep away all remnants of the Ancien Regime, radicals attempted to de-Christianize France, but were unable to overcome popular sentiment. Robespierre's rule was merely an extension of these ideas, forged in desperation.

The revolution had promised to eliminate popular ills, but in 1973, France was at its worst. Peasants who had been inspired to act against the crown and nobility out of hunger were now facing ever greater food shortages due to military requisitioning. Rather than establishing a sense of unity and brotherhood, civil war raged. The Jacobins could not maintain the status quo, so they attempted to apply the ideals of the Revolution through force, undermining those very ideals. Dissident who didn't believe in equality were executed without trial by jury.

In conclusion, the French Revolution began as a fight to destroy the Ancien Regime and replace it with a constitutional monarchy. Rising fears of foreign invasion and economic difficulties led to the ousting of the king and rising fanaticism. When the revolution failed to yield its promised fruits, the government felt the need to take ever more extreme actions. The result was Robespierre's tyranny.



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