French Revolution – UPSC GS1


Philosophical Influence
  1. Voltaire
  2. Rousseau
  3. Montesquieu
  • AR laid foundation while FR constructed building of modern world
  • Liberty, Equality, Fraternity
  • FR gave inspiration to many movements to rise against tyranny and misrule – like 1857 Freedom struggle of India
  • Economic Causes: Financial crisis (1756-1763 war with Britain over Canada), Louis XV, XVI wasted state money in War of false ego and prestige against Britain like support to USA in War of Independence(Lafayette) , and political and financial support to the enemies of EIC. Ex. Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan, Scindia etc.
  • Social Crisis: 3 classes
    First estate: AristocracySecond estate: Clergy and PriestThird estate: common manFirst two estate out rightly rejected to share the financial troubles, so burden fell on 3rd estate i.e. commons, which were already suffering from misrule of incompetent ruler.
  • Intellectual Class:
    Voltaire: Creativity is the biggest force, Freedom of expression, supporter of Parliamentary system of government, attacked dominancy of catholic church. God resides in the heart of each one of us,Montesquieu: Separation of Power between JELRousseau: Social Contract State is outcome of contract between people and ruler. Rulers have to respect what people are demanding.These three gave fundamental principles of modern state
  • Role of Organisation:
    Parlma: Judicial bodies in France used to register the royal orders, published them, so it created awarenessCardiliea: Ideological centres were established in different parts of France, creating awareness among masses
  • Immediate Cause: Louis XVI failed to analyse the situation and created a suffocating atmosphere where revolt was the only option
Important Events
  • Political Deadlock:  France already in financially in crisis, then sent French army under Lafayette to assist Americans, created financial bankruptcy in France, people wanted reforms, leading to political deadlock
    Turgot gave 4 point proposal – No more loans to state, no new taxes, no bankruptcy to France, reduction in the expenditure of Royal Household and the state. He was dismissed.Lantobill, counsel of aristocracy out rightly refused to share the burden of Louis XVILouis XVI tried to rule France via ordinance, provoked people rioting ensured, people demanded invitation of Estates General
  • Estates General : Common Assembly, 3 chambers ~ 3 estates, voting was done on majority of group basis
    So, with this hidden agenda Louis XVI invited EG which proved to be the turning point in French History because 3rd estate was enthusiastic and demanded “One person one vote”Louis XVI committed blunder by closing gates of Assembly Hall, people gathered in Tennis Court, declared themselves as National Representatives and formation of Nation Assembly occurred for framing constitution of France.Louis XVI committed last mistake by gathering troops in ParisThese were construed as steps taken to suppress the voice of common peopleSo in retaliation, they attacked a fort-cum-prison to release political prisoners
  • Fall of Bastille – Not simply fall of fort but beginning of FR as:
    Inspiration of direct action in France against FeudalismFormation of National Guards under Lafayette i.e. army under common manBeginning of common administration structure-Municipal Corporation of ParisVictory of People’s movement upon Aristocracy
So, Fall of Bastille shifted power from Louis XVI to common man.
Future of Monarchy, for the first time, was in serious danger.
Taking the advantage, people’s own National Assembly made revolutionary proposals.
  • National Assembly Proposals:
    Constitutional Monarchy in France: with House of Representatives having 700 membersLaw of Clergy under which religion was subordinate to the stateCivil and Human Rights declaration. Ex. Equality before law, Freedom of expressionEconomic reforms: Introduced the new currency called Assignate and nationalised the confiscated lands of Church and feudal lords
  • Problems with proposals
    Ideally – Awesome, but practically did not succedd. Why? Because France of 1790s was backward, weak, orthodox  and with feudal mindset
    So instead of strengthening the FR, it created confusion which was followed by:
    Louis XVI tried to escape from FrancePilintz declaration: Under leadership of Austria, important nations of Europe declared war against France with motive of protecting the royal family, but hidden agenda was to crush NA and its proposals, so they cannot become threat to existing European order
  • National Conventions: As signing authority i.e. king tried to escape, constitution of 1791 became illegal, turning NA as the ruler of the France, facing number of challenges. So, NA gave way to NC, whose proposals are:
    Constitutional RepublicReligion of Reason: Secular stateSocial Reforms: Dressing and etiquettesEconomic Decision: Communism was promoted, capitalist were declared as enemies, abolition of compensation, prices of every commodity was fixed.
  • Both NA and NC failed to give adequate solution, combined with lack of mature and pragmatic leaders in France led to division of NC into:
    Girondist and JacobinsPower came into hands of cold-blooded Robspierre, believed in violence as solution to every problem, reign of terror, intellectual void
  • So, France was suffering from conflict, confusion and intellectual void and this became background for emergence of Napoleon in France
Evaluation Rise of Napoleon
  • Napoleon was the son of Revolution
  • Napoleon was the destroyer of Revolution
  • Napoleon was short lived, showed its radiance and then faded away
  • Born in Corsica island
  • Army officer during revolution
  • Rise
    Turlon to Josephine: He protected Turlon(port) as an army officer, then his marriage to Josephine elevated his status in political elites of France. So given charge of Ist Italian Expedition
    Treaty of Campoformio: NB compelled Austria for ToC
    River Rhine became natural frontier of FranceFrance got Lombardy and NetherlandNB as guardian of new Italian republicDiverted attention of Austria by giving them to VeniceNB gifted resourceful areas to France (free of cost), no new taxes, so he bacame hero of FranceEgyptian Expedition: Though he was defeated by Admiral Nielson in Egypt but he became extremely famous back home. Organised Sainklu convention and became first counsel of France for 10 years in 1799
  • Reforms by NB:
    Peace with Europe: Wrote to Austria and England, Treaty of Amiens between England and France, leading to peace and followed by similar treaties with other European nationsEducation: Separated education from religion and started secular educational institutions: Primary, Secondary and Higher Education. However in Primary school, “Napoleanism” was taught to children in concealed manner. Established Normal schools for training of teachers for higher education where they were taught devotion and dedication towards Napoleon state and religionEconomic Reforms: Superficial, to improve income of state, fertility of soil, neglected IR, established Bank of France to improve currency system, but it became safe haven of Napoleon’s wealthCultural  reforms: Emphasised on construction of Palaces, started Legion of Honour award to satisfy the sentiments of his supportsReligious Reforms: Concordat Agreement with Pope: Pope was declared formal head of religion in state, Catholic religion as religion of majority. Separated education from religion. Nastradampt event: Misbehaviour with pope.Napoleonic code: Took law out of hand, Civil code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Penal Code, Commercial code etc.
  • France wanted growth and development but Napoleon instead of emphasising on nation and Nationalism, he prompted Napoleonism. So, he is termed as “Destroyer of FR” and because of this he created internal enemies  in France
Blunders of Napoleon:
  • War with Europe: Premature step, limited resources got invested in useless wars rather than in growth and development of France. Ex. Battle of Iaana, he defeated combined armies of Prussia and Austria
  • Continental Policy: NB was defeated in Trafalgar square, in retaliation he adopted CP, commercial war against Britain, and by Berlin, Milan and Fontabaillo declarations, ended trading relations with Britain. Also compelled his allies to follow this policy
  • Peninsular war aka Spanish ulcer: Ally Spain turned into enemy of France
    Attack on sovereignty of Spain: French army expedition of Portugal without Spanish ruler’s permission. Interference in internal affairs: Replacement of Ferdinand by Joseph Reforms of Joseph: Land reforms, against the interest of feudal lords, NB labelled aggressor and raised issue of Spanish nationalism
  • Final blunder was war with Russia: Earlier, friendly relations with Russia through treaty of Tilsit, later Russia left the alliance over Continental Policy, grand Durbar in Warsaw, Poland so clash of interests and finally he attacked but Siberia proved to be graveyard of NB
  • European alliance defeated NB in Battle of Leipzig and finally in, Battle of Waterloo (Belgium)
  • So, he is termed as meteorite of France, because like his immediate emergence in power class, his failure was equally rapid.
Evaluation of FR:
  • Principal of Modern Polity and administration: Freedom of expression, religion, equality before law etc.
  • Victory of Humanism: National Assembly abolishing slavery in France and its dominions
  • Democracy promotion: Elected head of state, 2 houses, legislatures, voting patterns
  • Attack on supremacy of religion: Law of clergy and religion of reason
Vienna Congress
  • Changing EU conditions were threatening to European order
  • Organisation of “Vienna Congress” in 1815
  • Regain control over EU polity, society etc.
  • Establishment of old order
  • Under leadership of Metternich (Chancellor of Austria)
  • Outcome: Principal of legitimacy: Strengthened and re-established old ruling houses like Papel states under pope and Louis XVIII as new ruler of France Principal of Compensation: Venice and Lombardy – Austria, Finland, Poland to Russia. Beginning of Alliance System: Precautionary measure to prevent revolution, Quadruple alliance – BARP (Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia)Suppression of Nationalism. Suppression of revolt of Naples in 1820 for unification of Italy. Halted the progress of European revolution with minor revolts in 1830, 1848

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