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Tag Archives: Declaration of the Rights of Man

The French Revolution and Napoleon

french revolution

The year is 1789; the place, Versailles, France. Several hundred delegates representing the people of France sit sullenly in the palace hall. When an officer of the King orders them to leave the hall and return to their proper meeting place, one delegate rises to his full height and thunders, “Tell your master that we are here by the will of the people, and that only bayonets can drive us forth” A meeting of representatives of the French people? Defiance to the commands of the powerful king of France? In view of what you have read earlier about royal authority in France, all this sounds strange; but it actually happened in one of the opening scenes of the French Revolution. The French Revolution swept the King of France from his throne and abolished the special privileges of the French nobles and clergy. It also spread ideas of liberty and equality over most of Europe and even overseas. Both Americans and Frenchmen sought liberty and both took up arms to win it, but conditions in America and in France were quite different. (1) The English colonists in America were pioneers in a vast new land. They had brought with them the traditions of English liberty and because they were separated by great distances from their home government, they had grown used to handling their own affairs. France, on the other hand, was an old monarchy. It had a population in 1789 of 25 million people who lived in an area that was smaller than the present state of Texas. These people were divided into fixed classes. The great mass of people had few rights and no voice in government. Liberty to them was a new experience. (2) To the east and south of France were powerful nations, in which people suffered …

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