The French Revolution Causes and Effects Essay

This essay has a total of 1291 words and 7 pages.

The French Revolution Causes and Effects




The French Revolution began in 1789, with the meeting of the Estates General, when the
delegates swore not to disband until France had a constitution. In Paris, the Bastille,
which was a symbol of royal power, was stormed. From 1789-1790 the National Assembly
voted for a constitution, and adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man. Also, during
that time the royal family of King Louis XVI was removed from Versailles to Paris. The
king tried unsuccessfully to flee Paris for Varennes in June of 1791. A legislative
assembly sat from October 1791 until September 1792, when in the face of advancing armies
of Austria, Holland, Prussia and Sardina, it was replaced by the National Convention,
which proclaimed the Republic. The King was brought to trial in December of 1792 and was
later executed, as was Marie Antoinette. The committee of Public Safety began its Reign
of Terror as a political control measure. Interfactional rivalry led to mass killings.
In 1795, Danton and Robespierre were executed and the Third French Constitution set up a
directory government. In 1799, Napolean Bonaparte seized power and ended the French
Revolution.

The first matter to be examined is the immediate causes of the Revolution. According to
Simon Schama, by 1789, many French people had become critical of the monarchy. They
resented the rising and unequal taxes, the persecution of religious minorities, and
government influence on their private lives. These resentments, coupled with an
inefficient government and an antiquated legal system, made the government seem
increasingly illegitimate to the French people. The royal court at Versailles, which had
been built to impress the French people and Europe, came to symbolize the waste and
corruption of the entire regime. Due to financial problems and the conflict of the
classes, the year 1788 proved to be a trying year for France. All classes were discontent
with the ancient regime and wanted change. Louis XVI did not take advantage of the
situation to introduce reforms and gain the support of the people. Under pressure, Louis
agreed to summon the Estates General. A few reforms would have prevented King Louis from
having to summon the Estates General. Instead, the summoning of the Estates General
encouraged further criticism, and provided stronger force against absolutism in France.
This was the beginning of the end for King Louis.

Crane Brinton says that, bitter conflict between the classes over the form it should take
provided further problems. The Third Estate wanted a vote by head count. They also
wanted to double their numbers so they would have a majority. King Louis agreed to double
their representation but not their voting counts. On the 17th day of June, the Third
Estate decided to break the deadlock by voting issue. They decided to declare themselves
the representative body of France (the National Assembly) and to disregard the King's
opinion. Louis was alarmed at that and decided to close down their assembly hall. That
did not deter them; in fact it led to the famous 'Tennis Court Oath'. There they swore
not to disband until France had a constitution. Popular support rose for the National
Assembly and a small group of nobles joined as well; so did members of the clergy,
although mainly the Lower clergy. This ended absolutism and a Constitutional Monarchy
began.

In conclusion, the French government of King Louis XVI was in trouble by 1789.
Significant discontent was evident throughout the country. Intellectuals were
dissatisfied with the scope of absolutist control, the bourgeoisie was antagonized by the
excessive financial burdens that fell upon them and the peasants decried the various
feudal obligations that remained. The financial issues forced the king to call a meeting
of the Estates General. Hopes for change arose from all sides; France would never be the
same.

J.M. Thompson declares that due to overwhelming support for the new National Assembly,
King Louis was forced to recognize it. He therefore issued a decree and stated that the
National Assembly was the parliament of France.

The second matter to be examined is the first event in the French Revolution. It was the
storming of the Bastille. According to Simon Schama, the Bastille had long been regarded
as a symbol of political oppression. People were sent to the Bastille when they had
opposed the old Regime. The Bastille was initially approached for the gunpowder that it
held. In confusion however shots were fired and the huge crowd stormed the Bastille.
This demonstrated that the capital was in the Revolutionaries hands and the King's
Continues for 4 more pages >>




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