If history has taught us anything, it is to be smart and unwavering, and take heed of the vital events that are occurring. This is, of course, with great regard to who is behind the events, who is involved in participating in the events, and who will be directing the events in the future. In this respect and many more, the French Revolution was truly transformative. Not only was the French Revolution an amazing time in our historical makeup, but it actually changed the way that the world has moved forward, and weirdly, it is not spoken about very often in modern times. And, the question remains, why not? The French Revolution included an immense amount of bloodshed, death, and destruction, but also led to change and tremendous progress. It was the monarchy v. the populace exploding in unlimited discourse, and the result was nothing short of horrible and extreme, as well as mind-blowing and transformative. In a lot of ways, studying the French Revolution can tell us a lot about what is happening today, why they are happening, and what the probable result will be. This is especially true in the case of politics, when it comes Democrats versus Republicans. Two sides of the very same coin that keep arguing and fighting, over and over and over again, and with no clear resolution in sight. The French Revolution is not only one of the most important periods of our history, but it is something to take note of in regards to how things will potentially turn out in the future, and how our behaviors and attitudes will direct that flow to a necessary and, perhaps, frightening degree.
What Exactly Happened During the French Revolution?
In France, starting in the year 1789, there was an incredible political and social upheaval that lasted for ten years, until the year 1799. During this span of time, the people of France, who were taking part in the revolution, essentially overthrew the monarchy. Of course, it was a lack of food and rampant poverty that was the catalyst. Along with the resulting injustices, some wondered how long they wanted to watch one of those nice, well-guarded, carriages go by. Marie Antoinette, a Belgian beauty, who was the symbol of opulence, seemed oblivious to any peasant concerns whatsoever, along with her King, who could barely manage his own affairs. But, nobility was a forceful and well-maintained leader of European affairs. It had the final say, good or bad, in all affairs of state. With such power, how could these wretched poor hope for any kind of change? Unfortunately, for people, change comes about as a matter of last resort. A taxing system was put in place to help France with its empty coffers. But, there was already two decades of massive debt sitting on the table, much of it was from helping America in its own revolution, as a way of stopping Britain from spreading its wealth and power. Anyway, this feudal tax had the extraordinary ability to turn people on one another. It led to price gauging and hording among many of the businesses. And-that led to violence. Business owners who were accused of such things had their businesses raided and their money and goods stolen and parceled out. The nobility, the well-to-do from inheritance and previous monarchies or religious orders, exercised authority over the individual states and communities, but they were losing control. Oddly enough, around the same time, a system introduced as “fair,” a system known as “laissez faire,” was also destroying the economy. It was known as a “free market economy.” It was a system which said businesses will handle their own affairs and governments shall stay out of it. It is still lauded today by many on the conservative side, even though it led to even worse conditions. Why? Obviously, the businesses that already had considerable wealth, used it to put smaller businesses out of business. It was a deal agreed to by Britain, and France and Spain, a way of maintaining peace between their warring countries. Perhaps France didn’t know, though it should have, that England was a very rich country. Spain should have known as well. The English Navy was vastly superior to either of their navies and their colonial conquests yielded much to British businesses. As a result, many relatively strong businesses in France were put out of business. (Side note: laissez fair is also blamed for the potato famine in Ireland.) There was utter turmoil throughout the country. It all eventually trickled up to the monarchy. Unbelievable though it was, they were oblivious to all this. As more and more control was lost, there were reorganizations of communities, with lofty speeches and plans to overthrow the monarchy and put a republic in place. Loyalties and friendships were tested. Fearful families and farmers didn’t know who to side with and, Austria and Prussia threatened war if the Royals were harmed in any way. To shorten this lengthy, varied, convoluted, and ever-turning affair, I shall summarize, though a full reading is encouraged.
The castle had been taken, and the King, (Louis XVI), and Queen, (Marie Antoinette), were made prisoner in their home along with their children. The Royals snuck out one night, in a carriage and tried to make their escape. They were re-captured right at the border with Austria. Of course, this greatly angered Austria and Prussia. The Revolution called on all citizens to bear arms for this war and armies were formed. However, there were many whose loyalties resided elsewhere. Accusations flew and swift justice (?) was dispensed to many via guillotine, a bloody invention and tool of the Revolution. It still was not enough to break the will of those who turned on the Revolution. Lo and Behold! Their method of breaking that resistance? (Which was also copied in Russia); they executed the King and Queen by the guillotine and masqueraded their heads, and spread the news throughout the country. They also just started murdering people not in with the resistance. They had a choice to make.
Even in a synopsis, this is a lengthy subject, because so many actions and facts are critical to explaining how it relates to today. So many events, characters and countries make up this epic piece of history. Is this taught at all? It could be the subject of an entire course. So! Another piece is on the way. Thanks for reading! ..stay tuned.