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The French Revolution Introduction The French Revolution, which occurred from 1789 to 1799 had a lasting impact on France, and has helped it become what it is today. Before the French revolution, France had a monarchial state, with a very rigid social hierarchy. Wars started and fought by King Louis XIV, and XV cost the country massive amounts of capital. When King Louis took the throne at age 19, the advocates of the country were becoming increasingly vocal. Trouble was all around him, and his absolute power was becoming too much for the people. Rebellion and revolution was in the air, and when the Estates-General met on May 5, 1789 it all started. Eleven years later, many were dead, but France was transformed into a country with a loose government structure, in which power was passed increasingly into the middle classes. What Caused The Revolution For more than a century before Louis XVI was given the throne, the French government had gone through periods of economic crisis. However, Louis XVI father, Louis XV had indebted the country greatly with his many wars, like the French and Indian War in 1756 to 1763. His generous loans to the American colonies during the American Revolution also helped indebt the country. His financial mismanagement could be linked to his sons problems. When Louis XVI took over office from his father, the government was under an absolute monarchy. With this system, he had almost unlimited authority and access to resources. He used these resources to the full extent, living a lavish, expensive lifestyle. This habit lead to the economic downfall of the country, and because of his absolute power, he raised taxes to pay for his expensive lifestyle. Still, the country fell further into debt. In August 1774, Louis appointed Anne Robert Jacques Turgot to be the comptroller general (finance officer). Turgot instituted strict spending policies for the government. However, 2 years later, he was dismissed, because of force from members of the nobility and clergy. Then Jacques Necker was appointed, but he accomplished little more, and was also dismissed by the powerful upper class, with support from Queen Marie Antoinette. However, he did publish and accounting statement, which revealed to the people how much it cost to for the Kings lavish lifestyle. This just put more wood in the fire of the advocates. The Beginning of the Revolution Come 1788, the French government was almost bankrupt. Strapped for cash, Louis went to the Parliament of Paris. The Parliament said that they would lend Louis the money if he called a meeting of the Estates-General, which had been in adjournment since 1614. Before the Estates-General met, Louis stated that commoners must have as many seats as the clergy and nobles combined. He was backed up by Necker, who was reinstated. However, nobody could agree on a proper way to have a voting system. During the election, censorship was suspended, and France was flooded with pamphlets of ideas derived from enlightenment. The Constitutional Revolution The Estates-General met in Versailles on May 5th, 1789. On the first day, they couldn't decide on a voting system. The commoners had established a system in which they would have a majority, but the whole estate remained deadlocked for 6 weeks. Finally, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes and Honore Gabriel Riqueti proclaimed themselves the National Assembly. They were sworn in on June 20 at a Versailles tennis court. This is now known as the Tennis Court Oath. Here they swore they wouldn't dissolve until they drafted a constitution. The Assembly also ended up having sole power to legislation taxation. To raise some capital, the Assembly immediately raised taxes. This was the actual starting of the violence in the revolution. In the 1788 harvest was very poor, and the winter weather was very severe. This meant that many of the commoners didn't have any money to raise taxes. It was all finally enough for the people. The people thought the government was being morally unfair, and to show their dismay, the peasants got physically violent. Peasants burned down the chateau's owned by the aristocracy, destroying the records of their manorial rights. There were revolts in urban and rural France. The National Assembly established a new legal structure by abolishing privileges, by formulating a Declaration of Rights. Included in this were a section that specified basic constitutional principles that left the king as the chief executive, but deprived him of any legislative power, except an suspensive veto. Under this, Louis would just be a figurehead, not a real power. He objected to these decrees. This led to another Parisian up rising, which is historically referred to as the March of Women. All the turmoil caused Louis to capitulate on October 5. The National Assembly also lost popularity when it seized Roman Catholic Church land. This land was sold to peasants and middle class, and the money went to help pay the debt. In September, the National Assembly thought the revolution was over, and disbanded to make way for a new elected Legislative Assembly. The Revolution of 1792 On October 1, 1791 new Assembly, made up mainly of middle class started. The government faced many problems, one of which was that Louis was opposed to the revolution, and asked for help from other rulers to help overthrow the government. In addition, the people were bitterly divided about many issues, including the a religious policy out to de-Christianize. The mood of revolution was up in the air again. On April 20, 1792 the new Legislative Assembly declared war on Austria and Prussia. Louis, who looked to Austria for succor, vetoed emergency measures, almost immediately, Austrian and Prussian forces invaded France. As a result, insurrection broke out in Paris. Revolutionaries demanded that Louis be dethroned. In August, the people of Paris took custody of Louis and his family and imprisoned them. The Assemly then called for a National Convention in an election which all French males 21 or older could vote for a new constitution. In the following months, thousands were massacred in Paris. Over 1000 prisoners were killed by a small number of Parisians. Finally all of this ended when the French army defeated Prussian forces advancing in on Paris. Louis was placed on try for betraying his country, and the National Convention found him guilty on a slim majority. He was beheaded on January 21, 1793. Reign of Terror In 1793, the dictatorship of Paris was placed. This angrified many royalist's and caused a civil war and revolts against the dictatorship. The campaign of de-Christianization was stepped up. However there was much opposition to this, and once again revolution occurred. In December 1793, the terror became identified with ruth

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