Samples Cause and Effect The Revolution of 1789-1792 in France

The Revolution of 1789-1792 in France

736 words 3 page(s)

The Revolution of 1789-1792 not only transformed France, but much of Europe and, in some ways, the course of Western history. A nation that, in 1788, was a stable monarchy with roots reaching back hundreds of years was, a few short years later, turned upside down: the royal family was dead, the church was severed from the state, the clergy and nobility were in large part replaced by a rising bourgeoisie, an entirely new form of government and constitution was created, and Napoleon was rampaging across Europe on a crusade for the common man. Despite some later conservative backpedalling and an attempted autocratic restoration, nothing would ever be the same. The causes of the revolution and its development were in some ways spontaneous and opportunistic and in others long-simmering and tinged with inevitability.

The ultimate causes for the Revolution stem from increasing political and economic frustrations in the lower tiers of French society and the monarchy’s inability to contain them. The so-called Second and Third “Estates” – the nobility and the common people (each with its own, internal stratifications), respectively – were discontent with monarchical and clerical limitations placed on their pursuit of enlightenment ideals and personal fulfillment. The existing order, which was based on long-standing, inherited privilege and rigid institutions, chafed against emerging values of equality, freedom, universal rights, and other ideas espoused by the 18th-century philosophes and recently realized in the American Revolution. Many nobles, bourgeoisie, and peasants alike resented the fact that a tiny portion of the population were born into or appointed a life of luxury and entitlement, while they toiled in the bureaucracy, workshops and offices, fields and proto-factories.

Need A Unique Essay on "The Revolution of 1789-1792 in France"? Use Promo "custom20" And Get 20% Off!

Order Now

The more immediate cause of the Revolution was a financial crisis. While the nation took on increasing debt and the common people suffered food shortages and inflation, “government expenditures continued to grow due to costly wars and royal extravagance” (Spielvogel 577). Much of what followed in the summer of 1789 – the convening of the Estates-General, formation of a National Assembly, fall of the Bastille, imprisonment of the Royal family, secularization of the church, and the stripping of social and financial privilege – followed from this crisis.
As the Revolution progressed, France became immersed in both internal and external conflict. Infighting among the various factions struggling for control of the new government and dissent from cities outside of Paris began to destabilize the nation politically. After the monarchy was abolished in 1792, other European nations began to mobilize against France, worried about the spread of revolutionary, republican influences. The more radical factions – the Jacobins, sans-culottes, the Paris Commune, and, finally, the powerful executive committee known as the Committee of Public Safety – came to dominate debate.

Riding the revolutionary tide, and in the name of the French people, the radical leaders of the new Republic undertook an indiscriminate internal cleansing of its perceived enemies. From the Queen to the peasants, thousands of French who were suspected of being in any way “supporters of tyranny,” “enemies of liberty” – or who were simply not vociferous enough in their enthusiasm for the revolution – were put to the guillotine or the firing squad under order of the Committee of Public Safety (Spielvogel 586). Counterrevolutionary movements in cities such as Lyon, Marseilles, and Nantes were brutally put down to bring the nation into line with the new republican ideals. This “Reign of Terror” continued through 1793 and 1794 until less radical factions in the new government worked together to reduce the Committee’s influence and have its leader, Robespierre, himself guillotined (“Guillotine”).

While the Terror reigned internally, a vast French army was mobilized and directed towards the Republic’s external enemies. This army, the largest that Europe had ever seen (Spielvogel 586), pushed back the nations who had allied against France and conquered new territories. However, the stress of financing these military ventures and the continued economic difficulties that plagued the now (somewhat) more cool-headed government left the nation politically precarious. With wars both internal and external, the state had come to rely more and more on the support of the military to maintain power and order (Spielvogel 592-593). This increasing reliance gave military leaders more and more political influence and, ultimately – combined with a growing dissatisfaction among the public as to the outcomes of the revolution – set the stage for the coup d’état led by the popular general, Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1799 (“Napoleonic Reforms”).

  • Rusnak, Robert. “Guillotine”.
  • Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2009. Print.

Let's stand with the heroes Ukraine

As Putin continues killing civilians, bombing kindergartens, and threatening WWIII, Ukraine fights for the world's peaceful future.

Donate Directly to Ukraine