Great French Revolution - history, reasons, events

Almost all peoples have had revolutions in history. But today we will talk about the French Revolution, which came to be called the Great Revolution.

The largest transformation of the social and political system of France, which led to the destruction of the absolute monarchy, and the proclamation of the First French Republic.

We will tell you about the Great French Revolution from various sources.

Causes of the revolution

The beginning of the revolution was the capture of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, and historians consider the end of the revolution on November 9, 1799 (the coup of the 18th Brumaire).

France in the 18th century was an absolute monarchy based on bureaucratic centralization and a regular army. The socio-economic and political regime that existed in the country was formed as a result of complex compromises worked out in the course of a long political confrontation and civil wars of the XIV-XVI centuries. One of these compromises existed between the royal power and the privileged estates - for the renunciation of political rights, the state power by all means at its disposal protected the social privileges of these two estates.

Another compromise existed in relation to the peasantry - during a long series of peasant wars of the 14th-16th centuries. the peasants achieved the abolition of the overwhelming majority of monetary taxes and the transition to subsistence relations in agriculture. The third compromise existed in relation to the bourgeoisie (which at that time was the middle class, in whose interests the government also did a lot, preserving a number of privileges of the bourgeoisie in relation to the bulk of the population (the peasantry) and supporting the existence of tens of thousands of small enterprises, the owners of which constituted the French stratum. bourgeois). However, the regime that emerged as a result of these complex compromises did not ensure the normal development of France, which in the 18th century. began to lag behind its neighbors, primarily England. In addition, over-exploitation increasingly armed the masses against the monarchy, whose vital interests were completely ignored by the state.

Gradually during the XVIII century. At the top of French society, an understanding was ripening that the old order with its underdevelopment of market relations, chaos in the management system, a corrupt system of selling public offices, the absence of clear legislation, an intricate taxation system and an archaic system of estate privileges needed to be reformed. In addition, the royal power lost confidence in the eyes of the clergy, nobility and the bourgeoisie, among whom the idea was asserted that the power of the king was usurpation in relation to the rights of the estates and corporations (the point of view of Montesquieu) or in relation to the rights of the people (the point of view of Rousseau). Thanks to the activities of the enlighteners, of whom the physiocrats and encyclopedists are especially important, a revolution took place in the minds of the educated part of French society. Finally, under Louis XV and even more so under Louis XVI, liberal reforms in the political and economic fields were initiated. The granting of some political rights to the third estate, along with a significant deterioration in its economic position as a result of reforms, inevitably led to the collapse of the Old Order.

Significance of the French Revolution

Accelerated the development of capitalism and the collapse of feudalism

Influenced the entire subsequent struggle of peoples for the principles of democracy

Became a lesson, an example and a warning to the transforming people of life in other countries

Promoted the development of national identity of European peoples

Characteristic look

The Great French Revolution is the largest transformation of the social and political systems of France that took place at the end of the 18th century, as a result of which the Old Order was destroyed, and France from a monarchy became a de jure republic of free and equal citizens. The motto is Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood.

The beginning of the revolution was the capture of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, and various historians consider it to be the end of July 27, 1794 (Thermidorian coup) or November 9, 1799 (Coup of 18 Brumaire).

Marxist historians argue that the Great French Revolution was "bourgeois" in nature, consisted in the change of the feudal system to the capitalist, and the leading role in this process was played by the "bourgeois class", which overthrew the "feudal aristocracy" during the revolution. Most other historians do not agree with this, pointing out that feudalism in France disappeared several centuries before the revolution, the French aristocracy in fact included not only large landowners, but also large capitalists) it was the French aristocracy that imposed capitalist (market) relations for 25 30 years preceding 1789, the revolution began with massive uprisings of peasants and townspeople, which were of an anti-capitalist nature, and they continued throughout its course, and the bourgeoisie, representing the French middle class, also actively participated in them) Those who came to power after of the first stage of the revolution, especially in the provinces, most of them did not come from the bourgeoisie, but were nobles who were at the helm of power even before the revolution - they collected taxes, rent from the population, etc.

Among non-Marxist historians, two views on the nature of the Great French Revolution, which do not contradict each other, prevail. The traditional view that emerged in the late 18th - early 19th centuries. (Sieyès, Barnave, Guizot), considers the revolution as a popular uprising against the aristocracy, its privileges and its methods of oppressing the masses, whence the revolutionary terror against the privileged estates, the desire of revolutionaries to destroy everything that was associated with the Old Order, and build a new free and democratic society ... From these aspirations followed the main slogans of the revolution - freedom, equality, brotherhood.

According to the second view, which is shared by a large number of modern historians (including I. Wallerstein, P. Huber, A. Cobbo, D. Guerin, E. Leroy Laduri, B. Moore, Huneke, etc.), the revolution was anti-capitalist in nature and represented is an explosion of mass protest against capitalism or against those methods of its spread that were used by the ruling elite.

There are also other opinions about the nature of the revolution. For example, historians F. Fure and D. Richet consider the revolution to a large extent as a struggle for power between various groups that replaced each other several times during 1789-1799. There is a view of the revolution as the liberation of the bulk of the population (peasants) from a monstrous system of oppression or some kind of slavery, whence the main slogan of the revolution is freedom, equality, brotherhood.

From the taking of the Bastille to the campaign against Versailles

When the preparation of the royal court for the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly became obvious, it was enough to cause an even greater explosion of discontent among the Parisians, who linked the prospects for improving their situation with the work of the National Assembly. On July 12, 1789, there were new clashes between the people and the troops in Paris; Camille Desmoulins called the people to arms by attaching a green ribbon to his hat. On July 13, the alarm sounded over Paris.

On the morning of July 14, 12 cannons, 32 thousand guns and gunpowder were seized in the House of Invalids. Countless crowds of people, armed partly with guns, as well as pikes, hammers, axes and clubs, flooded the streets adjacent to the Bastille, a military fortress and the main political prison of Paris. The officers of the regiments in Paris no longer counted on their soldiers. Communication with Versailles was cut off. At about one o'clock in the afternoon, the cannons of the fortress began firing at the people.

However, the people continued the siege, and the guns captured in the morning were prepared for shelling the fortress. The garrison realized that resistance was pointless and surrendered at about five o'clock.

The king was forced to acknowledge the existence of a Constituent Assembly. In the weeks that followed, the revolution spread throughout the country. On July 18 there was an uprising in Troyes, on July 19 - in Strasbourg, on July 21 - in Cherbourg, on July 24 - in Rouen. In a number of cities, uprisings took place under the slogan “Bread! Death to buyers! " The rebels seized bread, took possession of the local town halls, and burned the documents stored there.

Later, new, elected bodies of power - municipalities - were formed in the cities, and a new armed force, the National Guard, was created.

The rebellious peasants burned down the lords' castles, seizing their lands. In some provinces, about half of the manors' estates were burned or destroyed. (These events of 1789 were called the "Great Fear" - Grande Peur).

By decrees of August 4-11, the Constituent Assembly abolished personal feudal duties, seigneurial courts, church tithes, privileges of individual provinces, cities and corporations, and declared the equality of all before the law in the payment of state taxes and in the right to hold civil, military and ecclesiastical offices. But at the same time it announced the elimination of only "indirect" obligations (the so-called banalities): the "real" obligations of the peasants were left, in particular, land and poll taxes.

On August 26, 1789, the Constituent Assembly adopted the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen" - one of the first documents of democratic constitutionalism. The “old regime”, based on class privileges and the arbitrariness of the authorities, was opposed by the equality of all before the law, the inalienability of “natural” human rights, popular sovereignty, freedom of opinion, the principle “everything is allowed that is not prohibited by law” and other democratic principles of revolutionary enlightenment. which have now become the requirements of the law and current legislation. The declaration also affirmed the right to private property as a natural right.

On October 5, a march to Versailles to the king's residence took place in order to force Louis XVI to authorize decrees and a Declaration, the approval of which the monarch had previously refused. At the same time, the National Assembly ordered Lafayette, the commander of the National Guard, to lead the guards to Versailles. As a result of this campaign, the king was forced to leave Versailles and move to Paris, to the Tuileries palace.

Jacobin dictatorship

On September 21, the Republic (First Republic) was proclaimed in France. The slogan "Freedom, equality and brotherhood" became the slogan of the Republic.

The question that worried everyone then was the fate of the arrested king Louis XVI. The convention decided to judge him. On January 14, 1793, 387 of the 749 members of the Convention voted to impose the death penalty on the king. One of the members of the Convention explained his participation in the voting as follows: "This process is an act of public safety or a measure of public safety ..." On January 21, Louis XVI was executed, in October 1793 Queen Marie Antoinette was executed.

The execution of Louis XVI served as a pretext for the expansion of the anti-French coalition, which included England and Spain. Failures on the external front, deepening economic difficulties at home, tax increases - all this shook the position of the Girondins. Unrest intensified in the country, pogroms and murders began, and on May 31 - June 2, 1793, a popular uprising took place. The third stage of the Revolution starts from this event.

Power passed into the hands of the radical strata of the bourgeoisie, which relied on the bulk of the urban population and the peasantry. The victory of the Montagnards on a national scale was preceded by their victory over their opponents at the Jacobin Club; therefore, the regime they established was called the Jacobin dictatorship. To save the revolution, the Jacobins considered it necessary to introduce an emergency regime. The Jacobins recognized the centralization of state power as an indispensable condition. The Convention remained the highest legislative body. He was subordinate to a government of 11 people - the Committee of Public Safety, headed by Robespierre. The Public Security Committee of the Convention for Struggle and Counter-Revolution was strengthened, revolutionary tribunals became more active.

The position of the new government was difficult. The war was raging. In most of the departments of France, especially the Vendée, there were riots. In the summer of 1793, a young noblewoman Charlotte Corday was killed by Marat, which had a serious impact on the course of further political events.

The Jacobins continued their attack on the Catholic Church and introduced the republican calendar. In June 1793, the Convention adopted a new constitution, according to which France was declared a single and indivisible Republic; the supremacy of the people, equality of people in rights, broad democratic freedoms were consolidated. The property qualification was abolished when participating in elections to state bodies; all men over the age of 21 received the right to vote. The wars of conquest were condemned. This constitution was the most democratic of all French constitutions, but its introduction was delayed due to the state of emergency in the country.

The Jacobin dictatorship, which successfully used the initiative of the social lower classes, demonstrated a complete rejection of liberal principles. Industrial production and agriculture, finance and trade, public celebrations and the private life of citizens were all subject to strict regulations. However, this did not stop the further deepening of the economic and social crisis. In September 1793, the Convention "put terror on the agenda."

The Public Safety Committee carried out a number of important measures to reorganize and strengthen the army, thanks to which, in a fairly short time, the Republic managed to create not only a large, but also a well-armed army. And by the beginning of 1794 the war was transferred to the territory of the enemy. The decisive victory of General JB Jourdan on June 26, 1794 at Fleurus (Belgium) over the Austrians gave guarantees of the inviolability of the new property, the tasks of the Jacobin dictatorship were exhausted, and the need for it disappeared.

Internal divisions intensified among the Jacobins. Thus, from the autumn of 1793, Danton demanded a weakening of the revolutionary dictatorship, a return to constitutional order, and a renunciation of the policy of terror. He was executed. The lower classes demanded deepening reforms. Most of the bourgeoisie, dissatisfied with the policy of the Jacobins, who pursued a restrictive regime and dictatorial methods, went over to the position of counterrevolution, dragging along significant masses of peasants.

On 9 Thermidor (July 27), 1794, the conspirators succeeded in making a coup, arresting Robespierre, and overthrowing the revolutionary government. "The republic has perished, the kingdom of robbers has come, " - these were the last words of Robespierre in the Convention. 10 Thermidor Robespierre, Saint-Just, and their closest associates were guillotined.

The Thermidorian coup and the Directory. In September 1794, for the first time in the history of France, a decree was passed on the separation of church and state. The confiscation and sale of immigrant property did not stop.

In 1795, a new constitution was adopted, according to which power passed to the Directory and two councils - the Council of Five Hundred and the Council of Elders. The universal suffrage was abolished, the property qualification was restored (though small). In the summer of 1795, the republican army of General L. Gauche defeated the forces of the rebels - Chouans and Royalists, who disembarked from British ships on the Quiberon Peninsula (Brittany). On October 5 (13th Vendemier), 1795, the republican troops of Napoleon Bonaparte suppressed the royalist revolt in Paris. However, in the politics of the groups that were replacing in power (Thermidorians, Directory), the struggle against the masses of the people acquired an ever greater scope. Popular uprisings were suppressed in Paris on April 1 and May 20-23, 1795 (12-13 Germinal and 1-4 Prairial). On November 9, 1799, the Council of Elders appointed Brigadier General Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) to command the army. Large-scale external aggression - the Napoleonic wars in Italy, Egypt, etc. - defended Thermidorian France both from the threat of the restoration of the old order and from a new upsurge of the revolutionary movement.

The revolution ended on November 9 (18 Brumaire), 1799, when the Directory regime was "legally" liquidated and a new state order was established - the Consulate, which existed from 1799 to 1804. "Solid power" was established - the dictatorship of Napoleon.

The main results of the Great French Revolution

1. It consolidated and simplified the complex variety of pre-revolutionary forms of ownership.

2. The lands of many (but not all) nobles were sold to peasants with 10-year installments in small plots (parcels).

3. Abolished the privileges of the nobility and clergy and introduced equal social opportunities for all citizens. All this contributed to the expansion of civil rights in all European countries, the introduction of constitutions.

4. The revolution was held under the auspices of representative elected bodies: the National Constituent Assembly (1789-1791), the Legislative Assembly (1791-1792), the Convention (1792-1794). This contributed to the development of parliamentary democracy, despite subsequent setbacks.

5. The resolution gave birth to a new state structure - a parliamentary republic.

6. The state was now the guarantor of equal rights for centuries of citizens.

7. The financial system was transformed: the estate character of taxes was abolished, the principle of their universality and proportionality to income or property was introduced. The publicity of the budget was proclaimed.