The French Revolution: Crash Course European History #21Happy Scribe's Favorites
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- 26 Oct 2020
Hi, I'm John Green, and this is Crash Course, European history, so it's 1789 and Europe has been through an endless number of wars. Territory has changed hands. Hundreds of thousands of people have died and crop yields have been pretty bad lately. War is bad for agriculture, for one thing, but also the weather hasn't been too cooperative. Reformers across the Dutch states and the Hapsburg, Netherlands want to be more like the new United States, while Poles are demanding that the partition of their country be undone.
And one kingdom has emerged a hero from all the overseas revolutions because of its support for the rebels in the 13 North American colonies, France has stood up for liberty and democracy and fraternity in North America.
At home, it remained an absolute monarchy and was virtually bankrupt from all the warring. Its countryside was full of beggars, as was much of the European countryside, even as aristocrats grew ever wealthier and the poor and middle class paid virtually all of the tax collected to support those ceaseless wars. All of which is to say that in 1789, France, the strongest and most populous country on the continent, was in crisis.
In 1789, we were the 16th ruled France. He loved to hunt and tinker with mechanical objects, especially locks. His wife, Marie Antoinette, was the daughter of Maria Teresa of the Hapsburg Empire and the sister of Joseph, the second, its current ruler. And in a world where the marriage of two powerful families had long been seen as key to stability and prosperity, what could go wrong? Marie Antoinette was a big spender who had trouble relating to the poor, of which France had many as bad harvests, made the price of bread soar, more families couldn't afford to eat or else were eating bread that was cut with up to 50 percent sawdust.
And in response to unaffordable bread, Marie Antoinette reportedly said KMO de la Brioche, which is a great opportunity to trot out my amazing French accent and also to talk about brioche, which is in the center of the world today. In English, the line is usually translated, let them eat cake. But as you can see, brioche isn't cake. Exactly. It's just a different, fancier, more delicious kind of bread.
Mmm. Delicious, fluffy, eggy, quite light. I don't understand what the peasants couldn't just eat this stuff. Stan says that I'm hopelessly out of touch, to which I say, can I have some more that brioche. At any rate, France as a whole was broke. Now its reform minded ministers did try to revise the tax system so that the church in the aristocracy would have to pay at least some taxes. But you'll recall there was a group of appellate judges called the parliament who had to register royal decrees and they refused to register that one.
And bankers, meanwhile, refused to provide the crown with additional loans, which led to a proper financial crisis.
Let's go to the thought bubble.
In response to this crisis, Louis the 16th was forced to summon the estate's general. That is a group of representatives of the clergy, the first state, the aristocracy, the second to state and ordinary people, the third estate in cities, towns and villages across the kingdom, people met to set up their grievances and Caii or register books for their representatives to take to this historic meeting. Meanwhile, discontent was rising as Marie Antoinette played at being a shepherdess in a pretend farm that was built for her on the grounds of VCI so she could imbibe the air of nature and play at the work that so many were forced to do.
On May 5th, 1789, members of the estates general paraded in great ceremony through her side to begin deliberations.
Louis the Sixteenth wrote of the events that day, quote, Nothing happened when hunting, which just goes to show you that history is about prospective.
Members of the third estate, meanwhile, immediately protested that their one vote as a group would always be beaten by the two votes of the first two estates. So members of the third estate retreated to a nearby tennis court, declaring themselves the National Assembly and claiming to represent all French people better than the estates general did. These representatives swore in these so-called tennis court oath that they would not disband until they had constructed a nation of individual citizens instead of a kingdom of servile subjects?
Thanks, thought bubble.
So the National Assembly's moves toward enacting a reform programme were backed by the muscle of ordinary people, many of them furious about injustice and poverty. On July 14th, the people of Paris seized the Bastille fortress, a prison full of weapons and a symbol of the monarchy's ability to imprison anyone arbitrarily. And in the countryside, peasants took over Chateau and destroyed aristocratic titles to land and peasant services. Terrified aristocrats met on August 4th, 1789, and surrendered their privileges as feudal lords.
The National Assembly then elaborated in a series of decrees declaring feudal society had come to an end. That same month, the assembly passed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, a document that protected property ensured trial by jury and guaranteed free speech. It read. In part, Men are born and remain free and equal in rights, and that included freedom of religion. It's hard to overstate how radical a change that was from a France in which just months earlier peasants were seen as neither free nor equal, and Catholicism was the kingdom's official religion.
On October 5th, Market, women from Paris marched to vesi in the so-called women's march to bring the king and royal family to Paris, where they could be monitored by the people. Although the family was unharmed, some members of the Royal Circle, including the Queen's best friend, were violated, murdered and mutilated. Their heads and genitals were displayed on pikes, and aristocrats began to flee the country. Critically, the Declaration of the Rights of Men also stated that the power of the monarch flowed not from some divinity but from the nation.
And to that end, the assembly proceeded to draw up a constitution, making the monarchy a constitutional one. Then in 1790, they adopted the civil constitution of the clergy, ultimately confiscating church. Property and also mandating the election of priests by their parishioners and then in 1791, the royal family was like, we should probably get out of here and they tried to flee but were caught.
Meanwhile, war broke out between the revolutionary government in France and Austria and Prussia who were intent on crushing the revolution and putting the royals back in full control, partly because, you know, they had a vested interest. Their relatives were on the French throne, but also, as a general rule, monarchs like monarchy.
As the republic began to take shape, so did political parties. They arrange themselves in the assembly hall so that Republicans who wanted to do away with the monarchs entirely sat on the left and the monarchists sat on the right. An array of others grouped themselves as parties across the hall. And from this arrangement, we get the modern idea of politicians ideas being left, center or right. The Jacobin Club, a rising political party, was to the left, but it soon broke into several factions that were on the center, left and radical left of the political spectrum politics where the left has a right and the right has a left, and they both have centers that no one listens to.
Amid these tremendous changes, women were claiming their rightful place as citizens to match the official expressions of equality and rights for all. In seventeen ninety one left, author and daughter of a butcher published the Declaration of the Rights of Women, stating explicitly women's equality with men. Women participated in political clubs and successfully pushed for laws that ended men's power over the family and also ended the practice of men getting a larger percentage of inheritances than women. As war advanced, women also lobbied for the right to serve in the army.
And was war ever advancing? In 1790 to the Parisian masses, threatened by the approach of foreign royal armies took extreme action. They invaded the Parisian palace where the royal family lived and forced new elections for a national convention. Then, in the fall of 1790 to further violence, produced the abolition of the French monarchy altogether and to call for every other kingdom to do the same. All governments are our enemies. All people are friends. Read the edict of fraternity.
Once the convention had declared France a republic in January 17. Ninety three, Louis the Sixteenth was executed after a narrow vote. A new instrument of execution called the guillotine carried out what would soon become a bloodbath against many supposed enemies of the people because it killed so swiftly and allegedly painlessly. The guillotine was considered an enlightened form of execution. And that brings us to Maximilian Robespierre. With the king dead and the church legally abandoned the Jacobins under Robespierre, leadership committed the nation to a so-called reign of virtue and complete obedience to Russo's idea of the general will of the people.
Despite all those freedoms agreed upon in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the Jacobins dramatically transformed French culture. Festivals celebrated patriotic virtue. Churches were turned into temples of reason. Dishware carried patriotic motto's. A new rational calendar was created and clothing was in red, white and blue. The colors of the revolutionary flag. Meanwhile, the Committee of Public Safety, with its Orwellian name and Orwellian mission, presided over the terror in which people from all classes and walks of life, at least forty thousand of them were executed in the name of supporting the nation through purges of enemies of the general will.
Among these, in the autumn of 1793 were Queen Marie Antoinette, Olympe de Gucht, former mistresses of WUI.