Friday, February 25, 2011
I've been busy this week because I had a lot of homework but I got you guys a weekend-long article special. The French Revolution! This is one of my favorite subjects in History. I'm gonna write several articles about the French Revolution this weekend, hope you guys like it.
In the 1770's the feudalism system, called the Old Regime, remained in place. France was divided into three large social classes, or estates.
The Privileged Estates
The Roman Catholic Church, whose clergy formed the First Estate, owned 10 percent of the land in France. The Second Estate was made up of rich nobles. They made up only 2 percent of the population.
The Third Estate
About 98 percent of the people belonged to the Third Estate. The first group- the bourgeoisie were merchants and artisans. The workers of France's cities-cooks, servants, and others-formed the second group. Peasants formed the largest group within the Third Estate-more than 80 percent.
The Forces of Change
New views about power and authority in government were spreading among the Third Estate. The people began questioning these notions about the structure of society and started using words like equality, liberty, and democracy.
Louis XVI, who became king in 1774, inherited part of the debt from his predecessors. He also borrowed heavily in order to help the American revolutionaries in their war against their long-time enemy, Great Britain.
A Weak Leader
Louis married his wife Marie Antoinette. As queen, she spent so much money on gowns, jewels, and gifts that she became known as Madame Deficit. Louis put off dealing with the emergency until France faced bankruptcy. Then when he tried to tax aristocrats, the Second Estate forced him to call a meeting of the Estates-General.
The National Assembly
Abbe Sieyes, in a dramatic speech, suggested that the Third Estate delegates name themselves the National Assembly and pass laws and reforms in the name of the French People. On June 17, 1789, they voted to establish the National Assembly, in effect proclaiming the end of absolute monarchy and the beginning of representative government. Three days later, the Third Estate delegates found themselves locked out of their meeting room.
Storming the Bastille
The king stationed his mercenary army of Swiss guards in Paris, since he no longer trusted the loyalty of the French soldiers. Since rumors that foreign troops were coming to massacre French citizens, people gathered weapons in order to defend Paris against the king's foreign troops. The angry crowd overwhelmed the king's soldiers, and the Bastille fell into the control of the citizens. The fall of the Bastille became a great symbolic act of revolution to the French people. Even since, July 14 has been a French national holiday, similar to the U.S. Fourth of July.
Anyway, this is only the beginning of the French Revolution, tomorrow I will write another article about the beheading of Louis XVI and what not. Throw comments about this article, don't hesitate to ask questions, I'll try to respond.