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Arguments Against

Page history last edited by Kyung Hoon 13 years, 3 months ago


In 1789, growing discontent with France's feudal government suddenly exploded into an open revolt which drew the attention of all the nations of Europe. The ensuing violence and international involvement triggered more than two decades of nearly continuous warfare as various competing empires sought to reimpose their own views of balanced power. So many related military campaigns were fought over such large areas by so many different factions, that this era has wryly been called the first true world war.

The era itself can be split into two periods; The French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Empire. The Revolution and ensuing republic saw the toppling of the old French monarchy and its replacement by a series of sporadically violent civilian administrations. At the peak of the violent period, known as "The Terror," the former king and queen were cruelly put to death. This act galvanized the other nations of Europe against France, and guaranteed that no matter what improvements might be made later, the resulting nation would never enjoy the cooperation of Europe's other leaders.


The events which followed were typical in the history of revolutions; an army general seized control of the government. This general however, named Napoleon Bonaparte, was of unusual intelligence and charisma, and he had seized control of what today would be called a superpower. The presence of this charismatic military genius as the head of France vastly complicated Europe's political landscape and broadened the atmosphere of confrontation which was destined to continue until one of the two sides was defeated. Napoleon himself was not of a disposition to resist playing the same power games as those around him, and so not until 1815 did the wars end with the battle of Waterloo and the return of a monarch to Paris.


Instead of a democracy the Convention established a war dictatorship operating through the Committee of Public Safety, the Committee of General Security, and numerous agencies such as the Revolutionary Tribunal. Known to history as the Reign of Terror, this period represented the efforts of a few men to govern the country and wage war in a time of crisis. Georges Danton and Maximilien Robespierre dominated the new government, with Robespierre gradually gaining over Danton and others. Price and wage maximums were unevenly enforced, and acceptance of the inflated paper currency, the assignats, was made mandatory. A huge number of suspects were arrested; thousands were executed, including Marie Antoinette. A revolutionary calendar, with 10-day weeks, was adopted.


The French Revolution, though it seemed a failure in 1799 and appeared nullified by 1815, had far-reaching results. In France the bourgeois and landowning classes emerged as the dominant power. Feudalism was dead; social order and contractual relations were consolidated by the Code Napoléon. The Revolution unified France and enhanced the power of the national state. The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars tore down the ancient structure of Europe, hastened the advent of nationalism, and inaugurated the era of modern, total warfare.

Although some historians view the Reign of Terror as an ominous precursor of modern totalitarianism, others argue that this ignores the vital role the Revolution played in establishing the precedents of such democratic institutions as elections, representative government, and constitutions. The failed attempts of the urban lower middle classes to secure economic and political gains foreshadowed the class conflicts of the 19th cent. While major historical interpretations of the French Revolution differ greatly, nearly all agree that it had an extraordinary influence on the making of the modern world.



Meanwhile abroad, early sympathy for the Revolution was turning to hatred. Émigrés incited the courts of Europe to intervene; in France, war was advocated by the royalists as a means to restore the old regime, but also by many republicans, who either wished to spread the revolution abroad or hoped that the threat of invasion would rally the nation to their cause. The Feuillant, or right-wing, ministers fell and were succeeded by those later called Girondists. On Apr. 20, 1792, war was declared on Austria, and the French Revolutionary Wars began. Early reverses and rumors of treason by the king again led Parisian crowds to direct action. 



The French revolution brought no economic advantage for the peasants by many reasons. The effects of the war on the French economy were the greatest downside of the revolution.

Life was becoming more expensive for the peasants and eventually they became poorer. The French revolution brought higher prices on basic food items. Even though the peasants were able to find work, now they had to pay more for their food. The rich that prevailed after the Revolution charged even higher for rent. The legal abolition of feudal dues did not end right away after all the decapitations. Other middle class opportunists decided to buy rights to charge the dues for themselves so the peasants still had to pay up.  

There were still religious conflicts, biased against the Catholics. The Catholics suffered great loss, after the revolution about 50% of the priests were sent to exile.  Those who stayed swore loyalty to the revolution, not to the pope. Peasants still fought religious wars after the revolution against the Holy Roman Empire wars when supposedly there was freedom of religion.

Some claim the only change caused was a decrease in population size due to all the deaths during and after the French revolution. The revolutionists were still determined to kill all opposition even if that included children and women after their gain of power. This mass murder took place in several specific areas in France. Groups like the Chouans and the Girondists were massacred by the revolutionary in power.


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