French Revolution Research Papers Example

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Revolution, French Revolution, Politics, Democracy, Bourgeoisie, Jacobin, Government, Dictatorship

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2021/02/22

During the adoption of the new constitutional order and the democratic principles of organization of state power a special role played the French Revolution of 1789-1799. It is often called the Great. It was really such, because it has become a genuine popular revolution as on a broad range of its participants as for far-reaching social consequences. The French Revolution, starting in the spring and summer of 1789, is the biggest transformation of social and political systems of the state, which led to the destruction of the old order and the monarchy in the country and the proclamation of the republic de jure (September 1792) of free and equal citizens under the motto "Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood. The beginning of the revolutionary actions was taking of the Bastille July 14, 1789, and ending was considered by historians November 9, 1794 (coup of the 9th Thermidor).
France in the XVIII century was a monarchy, based on bureaucratic centralization and the regular army. Existed in the country socio-economic and political regime emerged as a result of complex compromises worked out in the course of a long political confrontation and civil war of XIV-XVI centuries. One such compromise existed between the monarchy and the privileged classes - for refusing political rights state power by all former at its disposal means guarded the social benefits of these two classes. Another compromise existed in relation to the peasantry - during long series of peasant wars in XIV-XVI centuries farmers have achieved the abolition of the overwhelming majority of cash taxes and the transition to natural relations in agriculture. Third compromise was with regard to the bourgeoisie (which at that time was the middle class, in the interests of which the government has done many things too, maintaining a number of privileges of the bourgeoisie in relation to the bulk of the population (peasants) and supporting the existence of tens of thousands of small businesses whose owners formed a layer of French bourgeois). However, formed as a result of these complex compromises, regime did not provide the normal development of France, which in the XVIII century started to lag behind its neighbors, especially from England. In addition, the overexploitation more and more armed the popular masses, the most legitimate interests of which were totally ignored by the state. (Sylvia Neely 2-16)
Gradually during the XVIII century at the highest levels of French society matured understanding that the old order, with its lack of development of market relations, the chaos in the management system, the corrupt system of selling government positions, the lack of clear legislation, "Byzantine" system of taxation and archaic system of class privileges must be reformed. In addition, the royal power was losing credibility in the eyes of the clergy, the nobility and the bourgeoisie, among which were approved the idea that the king's power was usurpation in relation to the rights of classes and corporations or in relation to the rights of the people (point of view of Rousseau). Thanks to the activities of enlighteners, from which the most important were physiocrats and the encyclopaedists, in the minds of the educated part of French society occurred a coup. Finally, under Louis XV and to an even greater extent under Louis XVI were initiated reforms in the political and economic fields, which inevitably had to lead to the collapse of the old order. The leader of this struggle was bourgeoisie, which was at that time a progressive and revolutionary class.
Basic contradictions that predetermined the inevitability of revolution have been exacerbated by state bankruptcy, which began in 1787 with commercial and industrial crisis, poor season’s years that have resulted in famine. In 1788-89 in the country was developed a revolutionary situation. Peasant uprisings that engulfed a number of French provinces were intertwined with performances of the plebeians in the cities (in Rennes, Grenoble, Besancon in 1788, in Saint-Antoine in Paris in 1789, and others). Monarchy, being unable to retain by the old methods its positions, was forced to make concessions: in 1787 notables had been convened, and then the Estates-General, which have not met since 1614. In May 5, 1789 in Versailles the meetings of the Estates-General have begun. In June 17, 1789 meeting of the deputies of the Third Estate declared itself the National Assembly; in July 9 - the Constituent Assembly. The training of the court to disperse the Constituent Assembly (resignation of J. Necker, contraction of forces, etc.) was the immediate cause for a national uprising in Paris on July 13-14. (Sylvia Neely 16-28)
The first stage of the revolution (July 14, 1789-10 August 1792). In July 14 the rebellious people stormed the Bastille - a symbol of French absolutism. Capture of the Bastille was the first victory of the insurgent people, the beginning of the French Revolution. The king was forced to acknowledge the revolution. In the weeks that followed the revolution spread throughout the country. In the cities, the people shifted old public authorities and replaced them with new bourgeois municipal authorities. In Paris and in provincial towns the bourgeoisie created its armed force - the National Guard. At the same time in many provinces (especially in the Dauphine, Franche-Comté, Alsace et al.) were developed unusual in strength and scale peasant uprisings and speeches. Powerful peasant movement in the summer and autumn of 1789 expanded and consolidated the victory of the revolution. A reflection of the enormous revolutionary upsurge that swept the country in the early period of the revolution, when the bourgeoisie boldly went into an alliance with the people and all third estate acted against the feudal-absolutist system, was the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen adopted by the Constituent Assembly in August 26, 1789.
The first stage of the revolution was a period of domination of the big bourgeoisie; legislation and the whole policy of the Constituent Assembly were determined by its interests. To the extent to which they coincided with the interests of the rest part of the Third Estate - democratic sections of the bourgeoisie, peasants and plebeians - contributed to the destruction of the feudal system, they were progressive. Such were the decrees on the abolition of the division into classes, the transfer of church property at the disposal of the nation (2 November 1789), on church reform (clergy was under state control), the destruction of the old, medieval administrative division of France and the division of the country into departments, the districts, cantons and communes (1789-90) and other restrictions hindering the development of trade and industry, etc. The desire to consolidate the political dominance of the big bourgeoisie and eliminate the popular masses to participate in the political life was permeated by the decrees (end of 1789) on the introduction of the census electoral system and division of the citizens to "active" and "passive" (decrees entered into the Constitution in 1791). The class interests of the bourgeoisie were dictated by the first anti - labor law - Le Chapelier law (June 14 1791), which prohibited strikes and workers' unions. Anti-democratic policies of the big bourgeoisie, separated from the rest of the Third Estate and turned into a conservative force, caused strong dissatisfaction of the peasantry, plebianism and marching with them democratic part of the bourgeoisie. Peasant uprisings in the spring of 1790 again increased. Expression of aggravated class contradictions within the former Third Estate is the crisis - an acute political crisis in June - July 1791, which arose in connection with the attempt of King Louis XVI to flee abroad.
The second stage of the revolution (10 August 1792-2 June 1793) was determined by a bitter struggle between the Jacobins - Montagnards and Girondists. Girondists (leaders – J. P. Brissot, J. M. Roland et al.) were commercial and industrial and landowning bourgeoisie, mainly provincial, who managed to get some benefits from the revolution. They wanted to stop the revolution and prevent its further development. Jacobins (leaders - M. Robespierre, Jean-Paul Marat, Jean Jacques Danton) were not homogeneous party. They represented the block of middle and lower strata of the bourgeoisie, peasants and plebianism, i.e. the class groups whose demands have not been met that encouraged them to strive to deepen and expand the revolution. This struggle took the form of a conflict between the Legislative Assembly, where dominated the Girondists and the Paris Commune, where the leading role played the Jacobins, and then was transferred to elected by universal suffrage (for men) Convention, starting in September 20, 1792 on the day of victory of French revolutionary forces over the interventionists at Valmy. At the first public meeting the Convention unanimously adopted a decision to abolish a royal power (21 September 1792). In France, the Republic was established. Despite the resistance of the Girondists Jacobins insisted on bringing to justice the former king to the court of the Convention. In January 21, 1793, Louis XVI was executed. The victory at Valmy stopped the offensive of the interventionists. In November 6, 1792 at Zhemape was won a new victory, after eight days revolutionary troops entered Brussels.
The sharp deterioration in the economic and especially the food situation due to the war contributed to the intensification of the class struggle in the country. In 1793 again increased the peasant movement. In some departments (Eure, Gard, Nord et al.) the peasants willfully carried out partition of communal lands. Very sharp forms accepted the performances of starving poor in the cities. On May 4th Convention, despite the opposition of the Girondists, decreed the establishment of fixed prices for grain. The relentless pursuit of the Girondists to impose their anti-people policies of the country, increased repressive measures against popular movements, treason in March 1793 of F. Dumouriez, closely associated with the Girondist leaders, and almost simultaneous bringing to justice of Marat testified that the Girondists began to turn from conservative forces in counter-revolutionary. An attempt of the Girondists to oppose Paris, convergence of the Girondists with openly counter-revolutionary elements made inevitable a new popular uprising on May 31 - June 2, 1793. It ended with the expulsion of the Girondists from the Convention and the transfer of power to the Jacobins. (M. Mignet 167-190)
The beginning of the third stage of the revolution (27 June 1793- 27/28 July 1794) was its highest stage - the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the Jacobins. Jacobins came to power at a critical moment in the life of the republic. Interventionist troops invaded from the north, east and south. Counterrevolutionary revolts spread throughout the northwest of the country, as well as the south. About two-thirds of France was in the hands of the enemies of the revolution. Only revolutionary determination and courage of the Jacobins, who unleashed the initiative of the masses and led them to the struggle, saved the revolution and prepared the victory of the Republic. By agrarian legislation (June - July 1793) the Jacobin Convent gave farmers communal and emigrant lands and completely destroyed all feudal rights and privileges. Thus, the main question of the revolution - agrarian - was resolved on a democratic basis, the former feudal-dependent peasants turned into free owners. This revolutionary suppression of obsolete feudalism foregone desertion to the side of the Jacobin government of the main masses of peasantry, its active participation in the defense of the republic and its social achievements.
In June 24, 1793 the Convention approved instead census constitution of 1791 a new constitution, which was much more democratic. However, the critical situation of the republic forced the Jacobins to postpone the introduction of the constitutional regime and replace it with a regime of revolutionary-democratic dictatorship. The emerging during the tense class struggle a system of the Jacobin dictatorship combined a strong and solid centralized authority with broad popular initiative. The Convention and the Committee of Public Safety, which became actually the main bodies of the revolutionary government, possessed full powers. They relied on organized across the country revolutionary committees and "people's society." (Michael L. Kennedy 53-65)
Jacobin revolutionary government, mobilizing people to fight with the external and internal counterrevolution, boldly using the creative initiative of the people and science to supply weapons to numerous armies of the Republic, created in the shortest term by pushing the lower classes of talented generals and courageously using new tactics of military actions, already in October 1793 has achieved a breakthrough in the course of military operations. In June 26, 1794 the troops of the Republic inflicted a decisive defeat to the interventionists under Fleurus. For one year the Jacobin dictatorship solved main tasks of the bourgeois revolution, remained unresolved during the 4 preceding years. But in the Jacobin dictatorship and in the Jacobin monitoring unit, combining disparate elements of the class were laid deep internal contradictions. As long as the outcome of the struggle against counter-revolution has not been resolved and remained a real danger of feudal monarchical restoration, these internal contradictions remained muted. But since the beginning of 1794 in the ranks of the Jacobin bloc was developed an internal struggle. Supervised by the revolutionary government the grouping of Robespierrists in March - April in turn defeated the left Jacobins, who sought to further deepen the revolution, and Dantonists, representing a new bourgeoisie seeking to weaken the revolutionary dictatorship.
Adopted in February and March 1794 the so-called Vantozian decrees, which found expression in egalitarian aspirations of Robespierrists, were not enforced due to the resistance of large-proprietary elements in the apparatus of the Jacobin dictatorship. From Jacobin dictatorship became partially depart plebeian elements and the rural poor, a number of social demands of which was not satisfied. At the same time, a large part of the bourgeoisie, who did not want to put up with further restrictive regime and plebeian methods of the Jacobin dictatorship, transited to the position of the counter-revolution, dragging the prosperous peasants, dissatisfied with the policy of requisitions, and after it the middle peasantry. In the summer of 1794 there was a conspiracy against the revolutionary government headed by Robespierre, led to a counter-revolutionary coup of the 9th Thermidor (July 27-28, 1794), which overthrew the Jacobin dictatorship and thereby put an end to the revolution. The defeat of the Jacobin dictatorship was due to the deepening of its internal contradictions and, mainly, by turning the main forces of the bourgeoisie and the peasantry against the Jacobin government. (Michael L. Kennedy 68 - 92)
The French Revolution of 1789-1794 was really a great revolution. It put an end to the feudal system, the vestiges of the Middle Ages and paved the way for the development of new and progressive for its time regime - capitalism. The French Revolution did away with the monarchy, established a new order that promotes the development of the economy and social thought, art, science - all areas of material and spiritual life of French society. Over the next century revolutionary movements in Europe, America used the experience of the French Revolution - its slogans of freedom, equality and fraternity, its practical actions to establish a bourgeois democracy and order. The French Revolution occurred almost half a century later the British. If in England the bourgeoisie opposed the royal power in alliance with the new nobility, that in France it was against the king and the nobility, relying on broad plebeian masses of the city and the peasantry. Participation of the masses left its mark on all of the outstanding events of the revolution; precisely at their request and under their direct pressure were carried out the most important revolutionary acts and events. Revolution was developing, and the most courageous and effective results it achieved in 1793 during the Jacobin dictatorship, when the influence of the masses was the most powerful. Based on this experience, the founder of scientific communism – K. Marx in the middle of the XIX century developed the theory of the necessity of dictatorship of the proletariat in the commission of a socialist revolution.
The bourgeois-democratic content of the French Revolution was to "clean up" social relations (orders, institutions) of the country from the Middle Ages, from serfdom and feudalism. The success of the revolution led to the rapid growth of capitalism and at the same time contributed to the formation and growth of the proletariat. The French Revolution, despite the huge progressive role and revolutionary influence on the majority of countries and peoples, was a bourgeois-limited in its results. It has not abolished the exploitation of person by person, but only replaced the feudal forms of oppression by capitalist.
Revolution swept away all caste barriers and introduced equal social opportunities for all citizens. This has contributed to social mobility, opened up access to education, highly professional activity, entrepreneurship from different layers. Adopted by the Convention, Declaration of Rights of citizens guaranteed freedom, equality, security and property right. All this contributed to the expansion of civil rights in all European countries, the introduction of constitutions where they had not been. It gave birth to a parliamentary republic and implemented the work of elected bodies. These were: the National Constituent Assembly (1789 - 1791), Legislative Assembly (1791 - 1792), and the Convention (1792 - 1794). The French Revolution contributed to the development and strengthening of parliamentary democracy, despite the further setbacks. The new state, born during the revolution, had more power over the lives and property of citizens, it has received a great opportunity to ensure stability, equality of opportunities, social order and act as a guarantor of equal rights for all citizens, controlling social significant areas (such as education, finance, etc.). It acted the guarantor of equal rights for all citizens. Certainly, the results of the French Revolution can not be restricted only by the things that it gave France. They consist in basic principles of political life bequeathed to the whole XIX century and in its covenants to the future for all countries of the civilized world. (Stewart Ross 60-69)

Works Cited

Sylvia Neely. A Concise History of the French Revolution. 2008. Print.
Albert Soboul. A Short History of the French Revolution, 1789-1799. 1977. Print.
M. Mignet (François-Auguste-Marie-Alexis). History of the French Revolution, from 1789 to 1814. 1846. Print.
Michael L. Kennedy. The Jacobin Clubs in the French Revolution, 1793-1795. 2000. Print.
Stewart Ross. The French Revolution. 2002. Print.

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