French Revolution

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The French setting the stage for democracy Revolution

France in the 1780s Around 1780, France fell upon hard times.Bad weather caused many crops to fail. With so little wheat from the crops, many of Frances people could not afford bread. Many people starved to death. The ruler of France was King Louis XVI. King Louis was a weak king who borrowed large sums of money from his nobles so that he could have riches and palaces. He often chose to play games and go hunting rather than govern France. The poorest people in France had little power and paid half of their income to the nobles. People wanted more liberty and were interested in democracy and equality. Because France was in severe debt, the nobles forced Louis to call an assembly of the nobles, priests, and peasants. This meeting was called

The King of France, Louis XVI

The Meeting of the Estates General The Estates-General wasmade up of three groups, or estates. The assembly was called to solve the financial crisis and pass a new tax law. Each estate was a social class. The First Estate was made up of the priests of the Roman Catholic Church. The Second Estate was the nobles, and the third was the representatives of the The Estates-General assembly in 1789 peasants. Each estate had one vote and met in a separate hall to decide what Although the peasants had their voice, they were not happy. The Third their vote on the issue was Estateto be. going represented most of the people in France. For every nobleman or priest in France, there were a hundred commoners. But the Third Estate together got just one vote, meaning their opinion had no value if the noblemen and clergy disagreed with them. The Third Estate tried to change this by suggesting that the estates get one vote for every delegate

The Tennis Court Oath When King Louis turneddown the commoners request for a more equal assembly, many members of the Third Estate grew restless. A priest named Abbe Sieyes sided with them. In a passionate speech, he urged the Third Estate to name themselves the National Assembly, and rule the country on behalf of the French people. After announced the end of the French Third Estate pledges the Tennis Court Oath a long night of debate, the The Monarchy and the beginning of a representative government. Three days Third Estate decided and later, the priests and nobles shut them out of their meeting room. This was the last straw for the Third Estate. They broke into an indoor tennis court and wrote the Constitution of 1791 for their new government. They pledged that they would remain in the tennis court until it was finished. To this day, the Tennis Court Oath is known as the beginning of

The Storming of the Bastille When the King heard whathis subjects had done, he became afraid. He finally gave into the peasants demands, and ordered the nobles and priests to join the National Assembly. Then, he ordered his Swiss Guard, the most loyal troops, to protect him at his palace in Paris. But the peasants of Paris heard of the new arrivals too soon. Rumors began flying about the city. that the soldiers were coming to massacre them! So, on July 14, believed The citizens of the city 1789, a mob stormed the Bastille, a prison in Paris where hundreds of prisoners were locked up for petty crimes, never to be seen again. The mob seized control of the Bastille and its entire armory and gunpowder, throwing Paris into anarchy.A French mob storms the Bastille

The March on Versailles But the peasants were notcontent with the liberation of Paris. King Louis lived in a palace in Versailles, to the west of Paris. Angered over the rising prices of bread caused by the wheat shortage, 6,000 women marched to the palace. Upon reaching it, they broke down the door and killed two guards. Then they demanded that the Royal family return with them to Paris. The women of Paris march on Versailles Three hours later, King Louis XVI household, left their magnificent of France, along with his familypalace and returned to Paris as prisoners. For entire and four years, they were kept under armed guard in the Tuileries, the kings palace in Paris. But in 1792, the people of Paris declared France a republic. In a bloody demonstration of the end of the monarchy, radical revolutionaries beheaded King Louis XVI for treason to his country.

The Reign of Terror With the execution of the king,all government collapsed. Many rival leaders fought for power. Slowly, a man named Maximilian Robespierre took power and ruled France as a dictator. Robespierre and his followers created an office called the Committee of Public Safety. In theory, this office was supposed to find enemies of the new republic and kill them. Instead, Robespierre used the The execution of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, October 16, 1793 commission to eliminate his political enemies, one by one. of Public Safety had executed about 3,000 people. By 1794, members of the Within a year, the Committee Robespierre was too dangerous. They turned National Convention felt that on him, and had him beheaded. The period of Robespierres rule has come to be known as the Reign of Terror for the terrible happenings of that time. After his death, the leaders in the National Convention created a new form of government with powers separated between the legislature and the

The Rise of NapoleonOnly six years later, in 1799, thepeople of France received yet another powerful leader. Napoleon Bonaparte, who some consider the greatest military leader of all time, seized power in a manner called a coup detat or blow of state. Just a single day after being granted control of the entire French army, Napoleon marched his troops into the chamber of the national Napoleon grabs the crown in his self-coronation legislature. He then forced them Once he rose to consul, or leader had more ambitious plans. He sold his to proclaim him power, Napoleon North American holdings to the United States so he could have more money of the state of France. to take control of Europe. Napoleon was a brilliant military strategist and won most of his battles. By 1813, he had controlled half of Europe. However, Britain, Austria, and Russia formed an alliance to oppose him. Then, people in conquered countries began to oppose Napoleon as well. His luck started running out when he fought a disastrous campaign in Russia. The European allies finally defeated the French armies near the village of Waterloo, in present-day Belgium. Napoleon was exiled to the island of St.

The Growth of Democracy After the fall of Napoleon, the leaders of five countries, Prussia, Russia,Austria, Britain, and France, met in Vienna, the capital of Austria. They called themselves the Congress of Vienna. Their purpose was to redraw Europes political map and decide the fate of France. They adopted a plan proposed by Prince Klemens von Metternich, the foreign minister of Austria. In effect, the brother of the old king, Louis XVIII, became the new King of France. Wisely, he chose to pacify the people by creating a constitutional monarchy, a democracy with a king as the head of state. Also, the countries in Europe agreed to never expand at the expense of others, and this prevented war for the next 50 years. Some actions in the French Revolution contributed to democracy, while others did not, such as The Reign of Terror. Although the French Revolution ended with a victory for conservatives and restored the monarchy, enlightenment ideas lived on. The ideals of the French Revolution helped create many other democratic revolutions around the world in the 19th and 20th century.

Image SourcesThe Meeting of the Estates General The Tennis Court Oath The Storming of the Bastille The March on Versailles Reign of Terror The Rise of Napoleon