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Safar 1433 A.H.

The Oblivion

January 2012

History Corner
The French Revolution
Background: France

was the
most powerful country in Europe.
The absolute power of monarch was
not broken as easily or quickly as it
was in England. The French had an
assembly called “States General”
which consisted of 3 groups. This
assembly did not meet for 175 years
[1615-1789]. The problems started
when Louis 14 came to throne in
1643 and took power in 1661 after
the death of his Chief Minister,
Mazarin [who ruled the country until
his death]. Louis 14 made a huge army which was equipped with latest
weapons of that time. The nobles and
clergy did not pay taxes. Louis made
a palace at Versailles which was for
luxury. After 1687 France was constantly at war with its neighbors. The
treasury was nearly empty. Taxation
was very high. France was desperate.
The French Revolution was still 75
years away but it was now inevitable.

States General:
The French assembly was known as

States General which had not met for
175 years. This assembly had been
captured by the king years ago and
left out of power. It consisted of 3
Estates which were of:
Clergy,
Nobles,
Ordinary people and Middle class
professionals.[which were left in the
lowest class]
As there was no power of the states
general there was absolute king and
no reforms were made.

The storm breaks:
The resentment increased in
France as in 18 century against the
nobles and clergy. The nobles and
priests were not paying taxes while
the ordinary people had to pay 3
types of taxes:
To local land lords.
To government
And to the church
Now the people were left without
money and there were no resources
given to them. The tax they gave was

used for the luxury of the king
and nobles. The serfs and peasants alone had to serve the army.
Now the educated middle class
people [these were lawyers and
merchants] thought that this unfair treatment was wrong.
France was constantly at war
with Spain, Germany and Netherlands in 1687 but the war with
England totally drained the treasury. France was bankrupt because of the extravagancy of the
court and the several wars [it was
bankrupt by 1780]. The resentment increased and people became angrier because of a series
of bad harvest. Many people were
starved to death. It has been told
that a group of people went to
the king Louis 16 of France and
asked him what to do now there
is no bread. The king joked and
said that eat cakes. The people
were very angry and this reaction of the king increased resentment and became a cause of
French revolution.
When the situation got worse the
weak king tried to make reforms
but it was too late. Now there
was only one hope so the advisors advised him to call the States
General.
The first and second estate outvoted 3rd estate which represented 95% of the population. The
people became angry and refused to help and they said that
their parliament should be modeled to the English one and that
they were the real rulers of the
country. They still had little power and the king arrested many
educated middle class professionals and drove out the other people. People refused to obey and
met in an indoor tennis court
where they were joined by some
nobles and clergymen. They
vowed that they would not disperse until a proper government
was set up. This was just the start
of French revolution.

The Fall of Bastille
(14-July-1789)
The national assembly had little
control over people. Rioting

7

mobs roamed in the streets of Paris. On 14th July 1798 they attacked
and captured the king’s fortress
called Bastille. They broke the
doors and windows. Although they
were only able to free 7 prisoners
but this incident was a symbol of
revolution. The national day of
France is still celebrated on 14th of
July. In the next two years the National Assembly with the help of
other 2 countries where revolutionaries had seized power made
sweeping changes. Serfdom was
abolished and everyone had to pay
taxes. They however issued the
most important document called
“Declaration of the Rights of Man”.
This document contained the following points:
All power belongs to the state
through parliament.
All people are born equal and have
equal rights.
All people have freedom of speech,
expression, thought and religion.
No one can be arrested except for
breaking the laws of the state.
Everyone is innocent until proved
guilty.

The execution of the king

The king, Louis XVI of France tries
to escape with his wife, Marie Antoinette, to Belgium but was caught
by Revolutionaries and brought
back to Paris where they were executed. France was declared republic in 1793. Austria and Prussia
were afraid that the revolutionaries might break among there own
people so they invaded France but
were driven out by Revolutionary
armies but after the execution of
the king Britain joined them.

The Reign of Terror
[1793-1794]
The revolutionaries wanted revenge for the problems they had
faced before the revolution. The
extremist
revolutionaries
like
Robespierre [The main leader], Marat and Danton took control of the
government and abandoned The
Declaration of Rights of Man. They
started executing people.
The
country fell into an age of killing
and terror. Tens of Thousands of