Essay One: Three C's

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  1. Intro
    The French Revolution was an event that shook the world of history in all aspects. In a way, it ushered in a new era in European history, through both political and social aspects, when the institutions of the “old regime” were destroyed and a new order was created based on individual rights, representative institutions, and a concept of loyalty to the nation rather than the monarch. There are numerous causes—both long-term and short-term—that led to the French Revolution. The course of the French Revolution was also very convoluted; and the consequences were even more complicated. Finally, historians consider this event one of the most important for numerous reasons.
  2. Long-term cause: structure
    The biggest, long-term cause of the French Revolution was the social structure of the old regime. Before the Revolution, French society was a large believer of the idea of privilege rather than right. There were three major categories, or Estates. The First Estate consisted of the clergy and about 130, 000 people holding about 10% of land and being exempt from taxes. 
  3. Long-term cause: structure: second
    The second estate was divided into the nobility of the robe, who derived their powers from office holding, and nobility of the sword, whose roots traced back all the way to the original medieval nobility. Nevertheless, they all had the same aim: expand their privileges at the expense of the monarchy. They also held leading positions and controlled industry. The nobles were very hostile towards newcomers, as is evident with their Segur Law, which banned the newly arrived aristocrats from the bourgeoisie from receiving military officerships. The nobles were characterized by their privileges, which only extended to them since they tended to marry within the Second Estate. They were also exempt from taxes.
  4. Long-term cause: structure: third
    The Third Estate was the largest estate, with about 98% of the population owning about 35-40% of land. Although serfdom did not exist, many still had feudal obligations to their landlords. Furthermore, within the Third Estate, there was a hierarchy of its own. There were skilled artisans, shopkeepers, etc.  who were discontent and played a major role in the Revolution. About 8% comprised of the bourgeoisie and included the merchants, bankers, lawyers, etc. These people sought security and status through land purchases. They complained about the exclusion by the nobles. After all, the nobles and bourgeoisie were very similar. 
  5. Long-term cause: structure: third, example
    For example, the bourgeoisie could enter the nobility by obtaining public offices. Furthermore, they both shared the same ideals. Finally, both aristocrats and bourgeois elites were frustrated by a monarchical system dependent on the privileges based on an old and rigid order. It was these political grievances that really added fuel to the fire that would begin the Revolution. Essentially, the government’s neglection of the new social realities and problems was the dominant cause of the Revolution. 
  6. economy
    Another cause was the economy. In this time period, bread prices greatly fluctuated. Although there was great economic prosperity, bad harvests and periodic economic crises occurred, leading to depression in food shortages, rising prices of food, and unemployment. One fluctuating price was the price bread. However, people relied on the government to keep these prices steady. They grew desperate when the prices rose, and their only method was mob action. 
  7. Ideas of philosophes
    • The ideas of the philosophes also contributed to this. Increased criticism of existing privileges as well as social and political institutions dominated this period. Their ideas of liberty, freedom of speech, religious toleration, etc. influenced people to make these ideas a reality.
    • One more cause was the French Parlements’ refusal to make reform. The 13 courts, which were responsible for registering them, blocked royal edicts that did not appeal to them.
  8. American Rev
    Also, a minor factor in the French Revolution was the effect of the American Revolution. This circulated to people in Europe through newspapers, soldiers returning, etc. It also showed people that the Enlightenment ideas were not just ideals, but actually possible. 
  9. Finances
    Lastly, finances were greatly mishandled in France. After the collapse of government finances, the government was drastically sort of money due to costly wars and extravagances. The government, as a result, constantly borrowed money; but, even that turned out to be a fail as other powers stopped letting France borrow due to fear of not being paid back. Total debt had reached its height (40 billion). 
  10. Charles de Calonne
    IN 1786, Charles de Calonne, who controlled finances, tried to borrow, but could not. He tried to create an assembly of notables early in 1787, but this did not cooperate. As a result, he was forced to call the Estates-General, which had not met since 1614. It was this meeting that led to the beginning steps of the Revolution.
  11. Course
    The course of the Revolution was very winding. The Estates-General had representatives from each of the estates—300 for each class, until the Third Estate pushed for double representation due to their very large number of people. These 600 representatives consisted of people with legal training and even more people from towns. Furthermore, the nobility contained people who would willingly support the oppressed Third Estate as followers of enlightened ideas. 
  12. activists
    These activists pushed for reforms and created cahiers de doleances, which were local grievances drafted during elections to the Estates-General. They wanted a regular constitutional government that would abolish the rights of the first and second estates. One of these problems, which erupted at the very coming together of the Estates General, was the inability to agree on whether they should follow the old rules and vote by order or by head. 
  13. Parlement of Paris
    The Parlement of Paris (nobles of the robe) wanted the old—where they voted separately and had veto power over the other two, granting aristocratic control over reforms. However, reformers, such as the Society of Thirty, opposed this. Due to the government’s inability to provide leadership, the Third Estate pushed its demands (partly due to its double representation.)
  14. Large amont
    Because of its large amount of people, it could turn the three estates into a single-chamber legislature that would reform France in its own way. However, many delegates did not advocate the same ideas of the Third Estate; they just wanted to make changes within the framework of respect for the authority of the king
  15. Therefore, the First Estate
    Therefore, they—the First Estate—voted for voting by order. Deeply discontent, the Third Estate responded in a significant way by constituting itself into a National Assembly in 1789 and decided to draw up a constitution. However, due to this impulsive action, they were excluded from their meeting place.
  16. Tennis Court Oath
    As a result, they created the Tennis Court Oath that dictated that they would continue to meet until they produced a French constitution. This was the very beginning of the French Revolution since the Third Estate had no right to act as the National Assembly. However, the revolution was not efficient.
  17. Interventionof the Common people
    Although it was inefficient, it was the intervention of the common people that kept the course of the Revolution going strong through their uprisings led by revolutionaries. However, these common people made the revolution much more destructive as they decided to use it to wage war against the rich. This necessitated the formation of the Permanent Committee to keep order.
  18. Fall of the Bastille
    . One of these was the fall of The Bastille. Although there were barely any weapons or prisoners, their attack on the Bastille represented their success and was due to the desire of the guard, due to the garrison, de Launay’s, desire to compromise. Of course, he surrendered. This led to the collapse in royal authority and the inability to rely on royal troops. 
  19. This fall
    Furthermore, this fall encouraged peasants, who were repressed by the economic and fiscal conditions, to revolt. Some burned charters while others forced their lords to renounce their dues and tithes. The French Revolution would be dominated by these revolts as militias formed as a result of rumors of aristocratic plots. 
  20. National Assembly
    The National Assembly was also a contributor to sustaining the French Revolution. They engaged in numerous reforms, such as destroying the relics of feudalism and also creating the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (reflected ideals of the philosophes and also restricted the monarchy and destroyed aristocratic privileges). 
  21. Reforms
    These reforms restricted women, however, which would remain a problem until the 1840s and 1850s. However, women did not let this exclusion stop them. In fact, they led their own rebellions, such as the Women’s March on Versailles, where Louis XVI remained inactive. They demanded bread and did not stop until Louis promised them bread. This incited other marches, such as that by Lafayette, who also fought in the American Revolution. This resignation of Louis XVI to the National Assembly affected national politics. 
  22. Catholic Church
    The Catholic Church was also affected during the course of the Revolution. Their debt caused them to have to sell their land for money. Assignats were issued based on the collateral of the church property. Furthermore, the Revolution secularized the Church by making the clergy swear an oath of allegiance to the Civil Institution. Not only did this make clergy more reluctant to join, but it also greatly impacted the Revolution since the Church was an important pillar of the old order. It undermined the attempts of the National Assembly. 
  23. A new constitution
    A new constitution was also created by the National Assembly that greatly limited the power of the monarchy and created a new Legislative Assembly elected by electors. They also restructured France, dividing France into departments and districts supervised by elected councils. 
  24. Opposition
    However, even though the National Assembly assumed to be doing well, there was great opposition from the clergy discontent with the Civil Constitution, lower classes, peasants, and political clubs, such as Jacobins. Not only were these groups undermining them, but finances were still troubling them. Nevertheless, they put their faith in Louis XVI, who betrayed them and tried to escape. After being discovered, however, he was forced to return under the claim that he had been kidnapped.  Meanwhile, the Legislative Assembly met. The Legislative Assembly, however, was composed of people who had gained power from revolutionary politics. 
  25. Other powers
    Not only was opposition from within creating turmoil, but other powers were concerned about how the French Revolution would affect their own countries. As a result, Emperor Leopold II of Austria and King Frederick William II attempted to unite with other monarchs to restore order through the Declaration of Pillnitz. 
  26. Faillure
    However, this failed due to their discontent in each other. Furthermore, the Legislative Assembly declared war on Austria. This just confirmed the weakness of the French state as they were terribly uprooted in many battles. This was coupled with economic shortages. As a result, radical Parisian political groups declared themselves an insurrectionary commune, forced the dismissal of the monarchy, and decided on future form of government. These sans-culottes ushered in the more radical phase of the Revolution.
  27. Paris Comune
    This course of the Revolution was led by the Paris Commune, whose leader was Georges Danton, in the beginning, who wanted revenge on those who aided the king. This period was characterized by massacres and executions. Furthermore, the newly elected National Convention became the ruling body of France dominated by lawyers, professionals, etc. 
  28. They wanted
    They wanted to abolish the monarchy, but, once again, disagreement ensued and the Girondins (wanted to keep king alive) and Mountains (interests of city) were formed. The Mountains got their way and executed the king, which created new enemies and strengthened the old. The Commune continued to dominate, organizing a demonstration to get rid of Girondins and allowing full control of the Mountain. 
  29. National COnvention did not rule
    The National Convention did not rule all of France and many cities began to break away from central authority. Not only that, but much of Europe was against France, which was welcomed by many, who desired a return to the old order. To counter this, the Committee of Public Safety was formed, with Maximilian Robespierre, who mobilized its nation and engaged in numerous executions that came to be known as the “Reign of Terror.” 
  30. executions
    These executions did not discriminate and executed people from royalists to revolutionaries, as well as entire cities that broke away from the National Convention. The Committee of Public Safety also began sending “representatives on mission” to explain the war emergency measures to implement the laws dealing with the wartime emergencies, as well as establishing price controls. 
  31. Opposition to Committee
    Opposition to this Committee, however, arose. For example, women founded the Society for Revolutionary Republican Women against the Convention when they refused to listen to their cries for bread. Despite the Committee of Public Safety’s attempt to centralize power, eventually it turned against its revolutionary Paris Commune leaders, alienating an important group. They were still successful against their foreign foes, showing the success of the Terror. Eventually, the Terror abated when Robespierre was guillotined by an anti-Robespierre coalition. The National Convention in totality was successful, however.
  32. After execution of Robespierre
    After the execution of Robespierre, the National Convention curtailed the power of the Committee, shut down the Jacobin club, and tried to provide better protection. Economic regulation supported laissez-faire
  33. New COnstitution
    A new Constitution of 1795 also established a two-house legislature, with the Council of 500 (initiated legislation) and a Council of Elders (accept or reject the proposed laws). The executive power, the Directory, consisted of five directors. Still, violence was present when the National Convention ruled that 2/3 of the new members of the National Assembly, leading to disturbances that ultimately brought Napoleon Bonaparte to power in 1799, officially ending the Revolution. In a sense, he was the Revolution. 
  34. Consequence: Napoleon
    The ultimate consequence of the French Revolution was Napoleon Bonaparte coming to power. As leader, he enacted multiple reforms that were both good and bad for society. In terms of his domestic reforms, he brought great change to France. He enacted a bicameral legislative assembly elected indirectly as well as an executive power in the new government that was vested in the hands of three consuls, although the First Consul held the most power. Through him, the Catholic Church in France was reestablished by Pope Pius VII. The Concordat established allowed the pope to depose French bishops, but not regain their land. This however appealed to the people who acquired church lands.
  35. Code of Laws
    The best consequence of the French Revolution through Napoleon was his Code of Laws that recognized the principle of the equality of all citizens, rights to choose professions, religious toleration, and abolition of serfdom and feudalism. Women were disadvantaged, however, because their land went to the males and it made it harder to divorce. 
  36. departments
    He also kept the 83 departments of France but replaced the assemblies with new officials responsible for supervision. Taxes were also collected by professionals and positions were established, not based on right or privilege, but on talent and abilities. In terms of his foreign policies, he was disadvantaged as he attempted to build a grand empire. 
  37. peace
    After making peace with the enemies created during the French Revolution, war was renewed with Britain with Britain, and later Austria and Russia. Still, he was successful throughout defeating Austrians and Prussians, as well as Russians. However, his despotism, such as demanding obedience from everyone, and destruction of the old order, were greatly disliked. Not only that, but also his desire to defeat British navies and his decision to invade Russia after their defection from the Continental System led to defeat and the removal of Napoleon from office. He was forced to return to France, called the "Great Migration."
  38. Ultimately
    Ultimately, the consequences of the French Revolution through Napoleon were a growing sense of nationalism both within France and against France. Also, the revolutionary fervor spread throughout Europe to numerous other areas, leading to a series of revolutions throughout the nineteenth century.
  39. Conservatism
    Furthermore, conservatism also resulted from the French Revolution, as people like Edmund Burke looked down on the radical republican and democratic ideas. Another consequence was great de-Christianization occurred, in which the cathedral was transformed into a temple of reason, a new calendar that removed holy days and Sundays was instituted, etc.  This was greatly opposed and Napoleon (who came into power later) restored the old calendar. 
  40. Historians
    • Historians regard this as one of the most important events in history because of its bringing about of great change. For example, it led to the creation of modern nationalism. Previously, wars were fought between governments. However, now, it was about “people’s” governments and wars. The entire nation was involved. 
  41. preservation
    Also, during the French Revolution, the National Convention and its committee of Public Safety preserved the French Revolution and prevented its destruction. It also provided examples for the use of violence in domestic politics. Lastly, it was important because the revolutionary calendar during the de-Christianization phase served to mark the Revolution as a new historic beginning. Revolutionary upheavals project millenarian expectations and a hope for a new age. This revolution led to an age of great battles between nationalists and conservatives who will fight to restore the power. 
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Essay One: Three C's
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