French Revolution


The French Revolution was (1788-1799) a great struggle between the Old Regime, marked by a society organized in estates, and its opponents. The conflict transcended beyond the borders of France, spreading to Europe.

This historical event marked the end of the absolutist monarchies and gave way to a society in which the leading role was given to the bourgeoisie.

Precisely the outbreak of the revolution and its subsequent success meant the end of Feudalism, while his ideas served as inspiration for modern democratic systems.

When was the French revolution?

The French Revolution has its origin in the late 18th century. A moment in history in which France was going through a very turbulent time. Society was divided into estates and most of the people were excluded.

Which led to the development of the Revolution between 1789 and 1799. While it is true that some authors date the movement's end date to the year 1804, when Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France.

Characteristics of the French Revolution

Before talking about the causes and consequences of the Revolution, it is convenient to know some of the characteristics that defined it:

  • It was very bloody, churches and castles were burned.
  • It was caused by a multitude of factors: political, economic, moral, religious ...
  • It put an end to the Old Regime.
  • It laid the foundations for the Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Feudalism came to an end and the bourgeoisie began to gain relevance.

Causes of the French Revolution

Among the main causes of the outbreak of the French Revolution we find the following:

  • Deteriorated political situation: Only the nobility could occupy the most important political and military positions, while in 1789 France was going through a serious economic crisis. For their part, the French lived under an authoritarian regime (absolutism) in which the nobility and high clergy dominated wealth.
  • Economic crisis: To add insult to injury, poor harvests caused supply problems for basic foods such as bread. Droughts and frosts caused supply problems that affected the health of the underprivileged population. Thus adding greater discontent to the social climate. Furthermore, only the third class (the bourgeoisie and the peasants) was the only one who had to pay taxes. All of the above, ended up causing a vicious circle at the economic level. Production shortages pushed prices up, people stopped spending elsewhere, and unemployment rose. All of this caused a vicious cycle that affected the State's ability to face its debt, leading to a notable financial crisis.
  • Limited freedoms and rights: The absolute monarchy under Louis XVI gave no choice of sovereignty other than God. Therefore, there was no division of powers. Because of this, the rights and freedoms of the French were very limited. As a consequence, the bases of the Declaration of Human Rights were developed, which are based on the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. In French, Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.
  • Moral and religious crisis: At the same time, an intellectual revolution developed in parallel, questioning the regime that reigned at that time. The distrust of citizens in the government regime grew by leaps and bounds and new figures of reference emerged such as Voltaire, Montesquieu or Rousseau.

Thus, in view of the difficult situation in France, the States General were summoned. Which represented the three estates. To solve the economic crisis, it was proposed that the nobility also pay taxes. However, as the vote was carried out by estates, the proposal was doomed to failure.

Stages of the French Revolution

Next, we show as a summary, the most important stages of the French Revolution:

  1. End of the absolute monarchy.
  2. Beginning of the constitutional monarchy (1789-1792).
  3. Republican stage (1792-1799).

1. End of the absolute monarchy

From the third estate, it was demanded to go from a division by estates to a National Assembly in which the vote was individual. The National Assembly met with the rejection of the monarchy. But despite this, the deputies of the Assembly, agreed to give a constitution to France.

However, the social outbreak of the population culminated with the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. This event had great significance, since that prison was a symbol of monarchical oppression.

2. Beginning of the constitutional monarchy (1789-1792)

Endowed with constituent power, the Assembly put an end to feudalism, while passing a Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Subsequently, it was legislated to carry out the separation between the Church and the State.

Already in 1791, France had a Constitution that established a division of powers and that limited the power of the King, which would be controlled by the Assembly. In other words, France ceased to be an absolute monarchy, becoming a constitutional monarchy.

Regarding the State model, at the administrative level, France was organized into departments. While, economically, monopolies and unions were prohibited.

3. The republican period (1792-1799)

Within the Assembly it is possible to distinguish between two groups:

  • The Girondins: They were moderate in character. They wanted a peaceful revolution, limiting the right to vote and defending a parliamentary monarchy.
  • The Jacobins: They were radical revolutionaries. Defenders of universal male suffrage, led by Robespierre, who argued that France should be a republic.

The Convention (1792-1794)

Thus, the Jacobins prevailed and the Assembly became the Convention. Thus, the Convention became the body that held the government and the ability to legislate.

This era was marked by what became known as the "reign of terror." During which, the Committee of Public Salvation persecuted all those opposed to the French Revolution, thus executing thousands of French. Among the members of the Public Safety Committee, it is worth highlighting Robespierre.

Under the auspices of the Convention, it was decided to execute King Louis XVI, while universal male suffrage was approved and, among other peculiarities, the decimal metric system was implemented.

If before the French Revolution, the Church and the clergy had hoarded wealth, with the Convention, their assets ended up being confiscated. Slavery was also abolished and reforms were introduced in the countryside so that the revolution would transcend the peasantry.

However, the French Revolution was taken against the opposition of the European powers. And it is that, the ideas of the revolution were contrary to what the European monarchies represented. Despite going to war with various European powers, the Republic of France managed to survive international harassment.

Towards 1794 Robespierre and the Committee of Public Salvation fell fruit of the internal fights. In fact, both Robespierre and the other members of the Public Safety Committee ended up being executed by guillotine. Thus, the most radical wing of the French Revolution fell to lead to a more moderate stage known as the Directory.

The Directory (1795-1799)

Leaving behind the most radical elements, the French Revolution entered a phase marked by moderation. The new Constitution reversed part of the rights won by the Jacobins, since the right to vote was restricted. On the other hand, the legislative power was divided into two chambers: the Council of the Five Hundred and the Council of the Elders.

The body that held executive power was the Board of Directors, made up of five members, which was henceforth reduced to three. However, with Napoleon's coup (November 9, 1799), it would become only one person who formed the Directory.

With the seizure of power by the then young military genius Napoleon Bonaparte, France entered a new historical stage. The French Revolution ushered in the Napoleonic era.

Consequences of the French Revolution

In summary, among the consequences of the French Revolution that stand out the most are:

  • End of the absolute monarchy: From the beginning of the Revolution, the Old Regime came to an end. As it developed, the consequences were getting worse for the crown, until the execution of Louis XVI.
  • More rights and freedoms: One of the goals of the French Revolution was to have more rights and freedoms. Although it should be noted that it is a process that has been winning integers over the decades, this event set a crucial precedent.
  • The privileges of the Church and the nobility were abolished: The estate society as it was structured in Feudalism ended. Furthermore, at the same time that the Church and the Nobility fell in the social scale, the bourgeoisie began to grow.
  • Extension of the principles of the French Revolution: The principles of liberty, equality and fraternity crossed the borders of France and spread throughout Europe. History has shown that even these ideals influenced Latin America.
  • Coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte: Despite the fight carried out, which resulted in many benefits for French and European citizens, the absolute monarchy of Louis XVI ended up being replaced by Napoleon's Empire.

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