The French Revolution It was a great political and social movement that took place in France in 1798 and that led to the end of the absolutist monarchy in that country, establishing a republican government of a liberal court in its place.
Guided by the motto of “freedom, equality, fraternity” The citizen masses opposed and overthrew the feudal power, disobeyed the authority of the monarchy and in doing so they transmitted to the world the signal of a future to come: a democratic, republican one, in which the fundamental rights of all human beings are made visible.
The French Revolution is considered by almost all historians as the sociopolitical event which marks the beginning in Europe of contemporary times. It was an event that shocked the whole world and spread the revolutionary ideas of the Enlightenment to every corner.
Causes of the French Revolution
The causes of the French Revolution begin with the lack of individual liberties, the enormous poverty and social and economic inequality that existed in the France of the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Along with the Church and the clergy, the aristocracy ruled with unlimited power, as positions on the throne were announced by God Himself. The king made arbitrary and uncontested decisions, creating new taxes, disposing of the goods of the subjects, declaring war and signing peace, etc.
Is great inequality of men before the law, which even though the same sanctioned the rich and the poor in different ways, in the same way that the monarch’s total control over freedom of expression through censorship mechanisms, kept the majority population in a state constant boredom and unhappiness. If we add to that the amount of social and economic privileges that the aristocracy and clergy enjoyed at the expense of the people, it is understandable that during the outbreak they were the object of popular hatred.
It is estimated that of the 23 million inhabitants of France at the time, only 300,000 belonged to these ruling classes that enjoyed all the privileges. The rest belonged to the “common people”, with the exception of some merchants and a timid bourgeoisie.
Consequences of the French Revolution
The consequences of the French Revolution are complex and have a global reach that is still remembered today.
- The feudal order was ended. By abolishing the monarchy and the privileges of the clergy, the French Revolutionaries dealt a symbolic blow to the feudal order in Europe and the world, sowing the seeds of change in many countries and regions. While the rest of the European countries contemplated with horror the beheading of the French kings, in other places, such as in Hispanic America, the colonies will nourish themselves with that libertarian ideology and years later they will start their own Revolutions of Independence from the Spanish Crown.
- The French Republic is announced. The emergence of a new political and social order will change the economic and power relations within France forever. This will involve various times of change, some bloodier than others, and will eventually lead to various experiences of popular organization that, however, will plunge the country into chaos. In the early stages, in fact, they must face a war with their Prussian neighbors, who wanted to restore the king to his throne by force.
- A new distribution of work is implemented. The end of the state society will revolutionize the way of producing of the French and will allow the introduction of the laws of supply and demand, as well as the non-intervention of the State in economic affairs. This will configure a new liberal society, protected politically by census suffrage.
- The rights of man are proclaimed for the first time. The slogan shouted during the initial stages of the Revolution, “Liberty, equality, fraternity or death”, gave rise during the National Assembly to the first Declaration of the Universal Rights of Man, a prelude and inspiration for the Human Rights of our time. For the first time, equal rights were legislated for all people, without distinction of their social origin, their creed or their race. The slaves were freed and the debt prison was abolished.
- New social roles are implanted. Although it was not a feminist Revolution, it did give women a different role, more active in the construction of the new social order, along with the abolition of mayorazgo and many other feudal traditions. This meant re-founding the foundations of the social and economic order, which also meant eliminating the privileges of the clergy, expropriating the assets of the Church and wealthy aristocrats.
- The bourgeoisie rises to power in Europe. The merchants, the incipient bourgeoisie that much later began the Industrial Revolution, began to occupy the vacant place of the aristocracy as the ruling class, protected by the accumulation of capital and not land, noble origins or closeness to God. This will cause Europe to transition to modernity, during the years to come when feudal regimes begin their slow decline.
- The first French constitution is proclaimed. This constitution, guarantor of the rights acquired by the revolutionary force and which reflected the liberal spirit in economy and society of the new order of the country, will serve as an example and a foundation for the future republican constitutions of the world.
- The separation between Church and State is announced. This separation is fundamental for the entry into modernity of the West, since it allows a politics free of religion. This happened through the expropriation of the assets of the Church and the clergy, the reduction of their social and political power, and above all the transfer to the State of the rents that the Church collected from the people for public services. The priests, thus, would receive a salary from the State like any official. The lands and goods of the Church and the aristocracy were sold to wealthy peasants and bourgeoisie, guaranteeing their loyalty to the Revolution.
- A new calendar and new national dates were imposed. This change sought to abolish all remnants of the previous feudal order, found a new symbolic and social relationship that was not marked by religion, and thus build a more republican culture for the French.
- The rise of Napoleon Bonaparte as Emperor. One of the great ironies of the French Revolution is that it culminated in monarchical rule again. Through a coup known as Brumaire 18, General Napoleon Bonaparte, returning from Egypt, will assume the reins of a nation in social crisis, after times of bloody revolutionary persecution at the hands of the Jacobins. This new Napoleonic Empire would initially have a republican appearance but absolutist procedures and would launch France to conquer the world. After a series of wars, the empire would come to an end in 1815 with the loss of the Battle of Waterloo (Belgium) against a European coalition army.