The French Revolution
The French revolution occurred in the late eighteenth century. It took place from 1789 to 1799 (Blanning, pg26). It culminated in Napoleon Bonaparte, who was the first consul of the new regime. The revolution had far-reaching effects in not only France, but the entire Europe as well. It was a period characterized by great social and political changes. At that time, France was under a monarch leadership. The head of this leadership was King Louis XVI (Rude, pg5). This leadership imposed absolute aristocratic rules on its subjects.
The revolution led by a left wing that resented the monarchy’s rule in France. Traditional ideologies applied by King Louis and his government angered many people. The church was at the forefront in almost each government policy. The revolutionists were led by the ideals of enlightenment (Blanning, pg34). They wanted a government that would respect equality and citizenship. It took only three years for the monarchy, which had ruled for hundreds of years to end. King Louis was executed in September of 1792 (Gilbert, pg7). Several factors led to the rise of this revolution.
Prior to the revolution, France experienced lengthy periods of low agricultural productivity. Hunger was prevalent in most parts of the country. In the destitute parts of the society, malnutrition was rampant. High food prices, especially for bread were in the country. A hailstorm destroyed crops leading to the country experiencing the leanest farm produce in over forty years (Blanning, pg64). The following winter was harsh and did not help matters.
Coincidentally, volcanic eruptions occurred and thus aggravated the situation. The government under the stewardship of King Louis did not offer relief to the hunger stricken residents (Johnstone, pg22). This greatly contributed to the revolution, as the citizens sought a way out of the hunger predicament. During this period, a majority of city dwellers suffered greatly by the famine as well. Huge populations in cities could not access adequate food supply due to the reduced productivity. Poor infrastructure compounded the problem since it hindered bulk haulage produce to cities (Rude, pg42). Because of this, residents in cities suffered from starvation as well. This contributed to the revolution as residents fought for leadership that could ensure sustained food security for its people.
The country’s economy was in the condition of the prevailing hunger. Various sectors in the economy in France were on the downturn (Gilbert, pg85). Businesses were being closed down and workers being laid off. Construction workers, particularly in cities, were continuously becoming jobless. The populace had formed a habit of consuming bread as a major part of their diet (Blanning, pg67). With the harsh economic times, its price became increasingly unaffordable. A major fraction of most families spent their incomes on bread alone.
Many families’ incomes were constrained and it increasingly became more difficult for many families to pay rent. People were being evicted from their rental homes and the situation was getting out of control (Gilbert, pg73). This greatly contributed in many people joining the left wing calling for revolution.
King Louis took power at a time, when France was in great financial problems. The income by the government was not enough to fund the expenses incurred by the government (Rude, pg90). The country was almost bankrupt and various financial crises took place. These financial problems emanated from her role in the seven years war Gilbert, pg 112). This led to a major part of the budget funding the war. This crippled the country’s economy and thus contributing to the crisis. France had also participated in the American revolutionary war and this increased its outlays (Rude, pg14). King Louis’s government favored the noble in all its decisions. Along with the clergy, they were exempt from taxation.
The responsibility of shouldering the tax burden was left to ordinary citizens. This led to them being overtaxed in an attempt to finance the government’s expenditure. The church owned a most of the land and since they had difficulties paying their taxation, income from land taxes was minimal (Blanning, pg76). In an attempt to stop the financial crisis, King Louis fired Turgot. He was the Minister of Finance by then and Necker was appointed to take charge. However, his appointment was not official, since he was not a catholic.
Upon assuming his duty, Necker realized that there was a need of reforms in the taxation system. He pointed out that people have paid high taxes, while the noble were exempt from tax (Gilbert, pg61). He proposed for the taxation of the tax-exempt group. This angered those in government and this led to the subsequent dismissal of Necker. The citizens greeted the news with considering Necker as pro equality in the country (Rude, pg83). This led to more people joining the revolution against the monarchy.
Roman Catholic Church
The fall of the monarchy coincided with the fall of the Catholic Church in France (Blanning, pg26). This was attributed to the strong links between the church and the government at that time. Almost all policies, which the government adopted, required the approval of the church. The general populace resented the involvement of the church in government. Radical ideals brought about by enlightenment against traditional rules led to strong sentiments against the church. This led to an upheaval aimed at alienating the church from government (Rude, pg74). The citizens argued that the church had a hand in all the crises that had befallen the country. This led to the revolution against the aristocratic rule, which was largely influenced by the charge.
The church enjoyed various benefits under the monarch’s government. The church owned vast pieces of land in the country and was exempt from paying taxes. It had enormous power and influenced major decisions in the government. Some people hated the role of the church in the government. They called for a change of power from the church to the government (Blanning, pg47). Some groups, such as the Protestants felt secluded and called for an anti catholic government. The Catholic Church discriminated against them and this caused great hatred, hence their calls. The clergy in rural areas were also against the church. This stemmed from the mistreatments by the wealthy church leaders (Johnstone, pg19).
The Catholic Church did not allow the freedom of worship in the country. Other religions felt oppressed by the system and yearned for rights to religion (Gilbert, pg97). The revolution was led enlightenment thinkers, such as Voltaire. Their influence led to the Catholic Church breaking down. Consequently, the government weakened and the revolution strengthened (Blanning, pg96). Some of the followers of the church joined the revolution, thus strengthening it.
The government did not consider the ordinary people in most of its policies and decisions. It served to enhance the positions of the nobles in government. The clergy also took centre stage in matters of governance. The pleas of the poor were not given a hearing. The royal court was alienated from the predicaments of the common populace (Gilbert, pg43). It did not take the plight of the poor seriously in its rulings. The citizens saw it as the court for the royal. People resented the court and were angered by its verdicts in cases touching on the poor.
Royalty was paramount in the court’s judgment and the poor had no hope of justice being administered to them by the court. The strong resentment of the court by the people fuelled the revolution. People called for justice and equality in the judicial system. During the revolution, people took part in a march to Versailles (Blanning, pg26). They were protesting against the court and its perceived royalty. They were demanding for justice for all regardless of religion or social class.
Great inequalities characterized the monarch rules.. The noble meted injustices on the poor with no redress by the court, which were partisans. The system in France under the monarchy was divided into three groups (Gilbert, pg24). It was grouped into the noble and the clergy. These two groups wielded immense powers in the government. The third group was considered as the rest of France. To this group, equality and rights were unheard of. Taxation carried out on the rest of France, while the other two were exempt from tax (Rude, pg33). This overburdened the poor ordinary people, while the elite basked in luxuries of tax-free incomes.
Social classes were well defined in the system with the noble and the church atop the pillar. The poor citizens languished in hunger and poverty. The government did not offer relief to them. This led to resentment of the system. Enlightenment ideals led to the people realizing that the system fostered inequality in the country (Johnstone, pg35). They joined the revolution calling for the transformation of the system from a monarch to a republic (Rude, pg67). The revolution was fuelled by resentment by ordinary people in various quarters. People hated the royalty enjoyed by some groups in government. Farmers and workers hated the privileges, which the nobles enjoyed. People joined the revolution calling for a system that would promote equality.
During the time, when the monarchs were on the throne in France, women were not involved in governance. They had no political rights and were denied the right to choose their leaders (Gilbert, pg 73). They could not hold any political post either. Men dominated governments and women had to rely on men in all political decisions. They were not active in political matters and were just observers with no choice of their own. This was according to traditional French male beliefs, which considered a woman as an incomplete man (Rude, pg109). Due the enlightenment ideals, women became aware of their rights. They felt agitated by the domination of the political scene by men.
The law did not allow women to arm themselves or participate in riots. However, women took advantage of the situation during the revolution to assert their course (Blanning, pg 26). Through the revolution, women took the opportunity to demand for their rights. It was hard to keep women out of politics during the revolution. Their participation strengthened the revolution. They swore oaths of loyalty to the revolution and participated fully.
The Enlightenment Ideologies
The enlightenment ideologies furthered their course. They were armed and actively participated in the riots. However, their calls for women to be active citizens did not bear fruit. Gender equality was not achieved since males rebuffed their attempts of equality in politics (Gilbert, pg73). Although they did not achieve their primary goal, the fight for their rights played a key role in the revolution.
The French revolution, which culminated in the overthrow of the monarchs and the subsequent installation of Napoleon Bonaparte as the first leader, arose from several issues (Blanning, pg17). Some of them were present even before King Louis took to the throne. These issues led to the revolution, which culminated in the ousting and subsequent execution of King Louis. The revolution was fuelled by an emergency of enlightenment ideals, which led to people recognizing their rights. This created strong resentments of the monarch leadership. This resentment and the prevailing harsh conditions led to the revolution. People were fighting for a better France where social and political equality existed (Rude, pg14).