Why did the French Revolution turn so radical? Support your answer with specific evidence.
The French Revolution turned radical because it was taken over by the common people, such as the sans-culottes. They did not have the same civility and patience that the richer bourgeoisie had. They used action and violence to negotiate rather than cover and documents.
What about people like Robespierre? He was upper class (bourgeoisie, to be precise), but definitely a radical, who went on to lead the terror.
Robespierre was backed by the sans-culottes and the Jacobins. If Robespierre didn’t have the support of the sans-culottes, which was massive in number, he wouldn’t have gone anywhere, he would simply be another radical revolutionary.
The sans-culottes were used as tools of Terror by Robespierre. He used them to enforce his government, and got them to kill anyone he disagreed with.
Where do you think the Girondists and The Mountain play a part in all of this? While the sans-culottes were important, you don’t mention Robespierre and his Mountain, who was arguably one of the most influential men of the early 1790s.
The sensible men who wrote the constitutional monarchy decided not to govern the new nation in order to win public favor, and instead let young, fiery members of the Jacobin party take over. They inspired the citizens with patriotic, revolutionary zeal through speeches, overhauling many systems, such as the calendar and iconography, taking “out with the old, in with the new” to the extreme. Anti-monarchy feeling was inflamed by a series of really bad PR events by the royal family, which spread in rumor throughout the countryside. The new France made enemies of the church and the rest of Europe’s nobility, and defiantly declared war on most of Europe, snowballing further into radicalism.
So if you have to pull out a few, key, general causes, what would they be?
The appointment of the Jacobins to the National Assembly, and their subsequent speeches throughout the country. The royal family’s flight from Paris, seen as the monarchy trying to abandon its nation; the storming of Tuileries and subsequent execution of Louis XVI; the Declaration of Pillnitz/wars that followed.
Also massacre of possibly innocent prisoners and creation of republic, which led to multiple overhauls.
The French Revolution turned so radical because of Louis XVI’s tyrannical ways. He was a very poor ruler and very unfair to the citizens of France, which caused them to revolt. For example, Louise XVI sent troops walking through the streets of Paris, and instead of the troops attack enemies, they attacked innocent citizens. Louise XVI also spent money on his wife, Marie-Antoinette, instead of spending it on the people of France’s needs.
The newly appointed members of the National Assembly firmly believed in the revolution and what it stood for, and were vehemently against the monarchy and the actions of the foolish king Louis. The revolutionists decided to war against the different monarchs of Europe, ignoring the warnings of a few men, such as Robespierre. When that failed, the king was quickly turned on, and he was imprisoned. Because of the death of monarchy (for the time being) in France, the conflicting ideas of the men who wanted to run it caused violence and pressured radicalism within the country.
So what is it that’s driving the radicalism? War? Divisions within the country? Leadership?
I like how you highlight the fact that the Revolutionaries were always blaming their own fault on others, usually the monarchy or a group with different ideas then their own. When their war with Austria, Prussia and the others monarchies of Europe, they took out their anger on the king, who had nothing to do with it, and once he and the rest of the monarchy were dead they blamed each other. This shows how divided the Revolution was and why, after the Revolution, France became an empire rather than a democracy.
The revolution turned so radical because men like Robespierre were able to take leadership in the country. Robespierre was a radical who was bloodthirsty and wanted to achieve his goals by any means necessary. In his speech to the National Convention in February of 1794, he defends the reign of terror where he has tens of thousands executed. He says that ‘Terror is nothing else than swift, severe, indomitable justice; it flows, then, from virtue.” He was saying that because the revolution is justified, all his actions were justified because they came from virtue. He believed in what he was saying but without that type of radical taking hold of power, the French Revolution would not have gone down the bloody path that it did.
But what enabled a radical like him to come to power in the first place?
The failure and end of the monarchy left a gap in leadership that Robespierre filled. Rather than having a reasonable leader come to power, the people turned to someone like Robespierre who had provoking ideas
The French Revolution was one of the most radical revolutions in history, and this is particularly because of the sans-culottes and mobs in France at the time. The general public wanted to take part in the political reformation of France’s government, but they didn’t understand what they wanted to reform, and how to go about this change. The sans-culottes had, essentially, one speed: violent. They bypassed attempts for discussion and mild-mannered debate about political reform and instead overthrew, stormed, and attacked. For example, in the National Convention on June 22, 1793, the sans-culottes were unhappy with the direction and speed at which the Convention was reforming certain policies, and instead of allowing the deliberation to continue, the sans-culottes surrounded the meeting halls where they were debating and ordered the arrest of the Girondins, who were the opposition of the Jacobins, allies of the sans-culottes. The Girondins argued against what the sans-culottes wanted, and the sans-culottes essentially bullied the Girondins into an arrest or death situation for disagreeing with their opinions and beliefs about politics. The sans-culottes were a large part of the violent force behind the Revolution, and they fueled the fire to incite rebellion and violence. With such an angry, violent force driving and propelling the Revolution forward, the revolutionaries had no choice but to comply and turn violent. Before the sans-culottes knew what they were doing, the Revolution had spiraled out of control, out of their power, and soon, 40,000 people ended up dead.
One of the reasons the French Revolution turned so radical is because the situation was dire. Unlike the American Revolution which was about taxes, the French Revolution was primarily a reaction to the food shortages. Taxes, while heavy were bearable, but the food shortage caused people to starve. From an enlightened point of view, it is natural science, for every action there is an equal reaction. Thus huge problems are the recipients of huge reactions.
Also, France was also not an isolated place, so ideas were flowing through the country not just from inside the nation but also from the outside. Both people and their ideas crossed the border to France, especially because the French sought it out (The Encyclopedia). Thus the French were not left to build up concrete ideals but rather their aristocracy was divided among the many schools of thought that had made their way into the nation.
The French Revolution turned drastically radical due to a weak leader and rapid social changes by the woman and people in the third estate. The people of France wanted to change the monarchy that was in power. King Louis XV was not a strong leader, and changed his opinions often, not standing a firm ground. Having a weak leader affected the limitations that were held because if the leader was weak, they could be broken easily and distorted. The social limitations during the French Revolution were also drastic. Having a distinguished class order, the three estates, limited the rights and responsibilities to be done and held by people. The woman were trying to get more involved with politics, something the men were highly against. They began to turn violent to prove their strength and demand rights, where they used to be quiet and out of the picture previously. The woman were highly involved on the march to Versailles, where they were arguing the new bread increases in price. The bourgeoisie started to buy their way into nobility to become in the second estate, to prove their power and improve their class status. The leadership and social changes that were occurring caused the French Revolution to turn radical.
The young constitutional monarchy rendered the government vulnerable to radical changes, as evidenced by the division of governmental institutions. Although the Estates General and National Assembly were founded on libertarian ideals, these institutions ultimately disagreed in governing, thus the National Assembly disbanded and declared itself a different character when the new representative body convened. Further divisions are also evidenced by the developments of the Girondists and the Mountain, different political “parties” of the National Convention. The idea of developing radical differences as evidenced by these parties bears similarities to that of the parties of the American Revolution. Both the French Revolution and the American Revolution indicate that a newly formed government will inevitably disagree on ideals and thus form divisions, or political parties. The idea of having the ability to pursue or express one’s ideas in politics inspired peasants to express their distaste for being drafted into the army. Thus, divisions within government inspired individuals to express their ideas, therefore the French Revolution continued to be a radical movement even after Louis XVI’s execution.
I believe that one of the reasons that the French Revolution turned so radical, was a lack of leadership among the radicals. The revolutionaries were not organizer, and so acted of mob mentality vs. an organized over through of the government. On e example of this is when the women of paris marched on the royal family at Versailles. They surged into the palace killing guards, and yelling that they were going to rip out the heart of the queen, and fry her liver. If there had been someone leading the revolt, then it might not have escalated that far.
Generally speaking, the radicalism of the French Revolution was a perfect storm. The combination of Robespierre’s vision, the inflammatory works of people like Marat, and the anger of the sans-culottes all came together to result in the Reign of Terror in 1794. The way people shaped and molded the sans-culottes into killing machines really had a lot to do with it. They were told by their leaders to kill and behead people, so that’s what they did.
The French Revolution turned radical due to the profound people that held power within France. Personalities such as Robespierre, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Edmund Burke made people grasp the idea of revolution. Robespierre stated, “The Revolution is over,” in 1791, yet moving forward a couple more years he was one of the main leaders who believed in killing in order to have the revolution continue on. Mary Wollstonecraft targeted the sexism and the inability of women being capable of making differences within society with her writings known as “A Vindication of the Rights of Man”, and “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” This caused people to have such opinions on certain topics, and eventually caused violence to occur due to a person’s strong opinion.
I believe that the French Revolution turned so radical because not only was the rebellion against the tyranny, but also weak leaders could not prevent internal social changes, external conflicts with other countries, and just an overall reformation of France. Unlike other Revolutions such as the American Revolution, the goal of the French was unclear and swayed into many different directions. Firstly, the Assembly imposed radical reorganization of religion. This caused more conflicts and deep religious divides within the country. In addition, the assembly refused to extend safeguards to the colonies, but instead instructed each state to make their own constitution. This in turn angered my planters because they were monopolies over colonial trade. Not only did these conflicts inspire rebellion, but also the leaders at the time were not capable to make proper reforms. Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, the Assembly, and leaders such as Robespierre are just a few examples of weak leaders that inspired even more rebellion. The combination of weak leaders, and many different goals of the french caused the revolution to turn so radical.
The radicalization of the French revolution was marked by the steep sociopolitical changes brought about by the end of the first revolution, and beginning of the second. Most prominently, the fall of King Louis XVI incited a massive social upheaval due to it’s motivating power for the creation of a new system of government. For example, after the king was imprisoned, rumors of corruption spread by panic incited the people to riot in Paris, killing half of the men and women in it’s prisons. Shorty after, the republic was formed with the Nation Convention, which eventually developed two rivaling factions further bringing about more radical behavior as they competed for power and influence.
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