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French Revolution

To a great extent, Louis XVI contributed greatly to the French Revolution due to mismanagement. That is, he did not lead his nation in an effective way. There are numerous reasons to support this. One of the most obvious would be the fiscal crisis he brought upon his nation. France’s support of the American Revolution ate at it finances. This alone was problematic but Louis XVI’s decision to take poor economic advice from his advisors exacerbated the problem. Specifically, his decisions led to a worsening of the economic crisis that precipitated the revolution.

With Jean-Jacques Rousseau, we discover the origin of the concept of a social contract. That is, Rousseau’s writing promoted the notion that a government must care for it people and promote liberty. Such writings raised the awareness of the people that the monarchy was not delivering in this respect at all. Jacques-Louis David was a brilliant artist whose work resonated a populist theme among the French. Specifically, he was a promoted of the concept of the Social Contract and a republic form of government. This was clearly expressed in his artwork.

It is important to point out that during this time period, artists often understood the pulse of the populace. In other words, artists knew the sentiments of those in France and when an artist such as Jacques-Louis David used his artwork to promote political unrest, the effect was enormous. Maximilien Robespierre was a somewhat infamous figure who promoted republican ideals, the social contract, and an anti-monarchy position. He supported the execution of Louis XVI and supported the Reign of Terror. Needless to say, his approach to reforms was not exactly a moderate one. In a way, he was a radical revolutionary.

However, his over the top and unrepentant revolutionary ideals were acceptable during a time period which was marker by significant turbulence. Question Number Two The coup of the eighteenth of Brumaire brought Napoleon to power. He had been considered a child of the French revolution and a military genius. His success in the Italian campaign solidified this belief in the populace. This was no minor point. The French population was looking for a legitimately strong leader. Napoleon’s prior success in his military campaigns provided a great deal of confidence in his leadership abilities.

Napoleon solidified his role as a leader in the First Consol. Part of the reason he was perfect for the office was the notion of public acceptance. He had demonstrated his role as a leader and the people understood his achievements. No one else would have been credibly accepted by the public for this office. In time, Napoleon would consolidate his power and become emperor. Part of the reason for this is that he knew how to placate France’s domestic population by avoiding common problems such as facilitating religious quarrels. Also, his success at military expansion fueled his popularity.

It also led to his demise. Napoleon was simply too fond of military overreach. He expanded his conquests into Russia and elsewhere overextended his military. The invasion of Moscow was a debacle. Much of the territory he gained was eventually lost. In time, his battlefield largess would led to his demise at Waterloo. Question 3 Napoleon’s failure and collapse led to the development of the Bourbon Restoration. Looking to correct the decline of France, the restoration sought to re-establish the Roman Catholic Church as a pre-eminent power in France.

Also, the movement brought a return to classical conservatism that had been absent in the years following the revolution. The leadership during this period mainly comprised of Louis XVIII and Charles X. This was not an absolute monarchy as a written constitution was employed. However, it did grant exceptional rights to those who were landowners above those who were not. The legislative make up included the Chamber of Peers which was an appointed branch and the Chamber of Deputies which was an elected branch. The seeds of failure in this regime were planted at the onset.

It is next to impossible to keep the populace happy when certain segments of the population are granted certain rights while others are not. Additionally, when those rights are broken down on socio-economic grounds, there will be anger and discontent slowly building. Then, when certain legislatures are promoted with lifetime appointments, there comes a propensity for corruption and complacency. However, this time period was essentially a stable one for the first few years. But, no political movement survives for an eternity and the Bourbon Restoration eventually collapsed during the reign of Charles X.

The Bourbons soon found themselves out of favor with the population as economic prosperity began to collapse. This led to significant electoral losses which eventually undid the powerbase of the Bourbons. The Chamber of Deputies became more and more liberal and the Bourbon Restoration eventually collapsed. Question – Four The July Monarchy arose after the collapse of the Bourbon Restoration under Charles X. After the July Revolution, Louis-Phillipe became the ruler of France. What was unique about his rule was the fact he attempted to rule from a centrist perspective.

This proved popular at first as the concept was rooted in an earthen populism. However, he understood he needed to maintain good relations with the bourgeoisie who helped him achieve power. This led to the root of political turmoil both with right wing and left wing political factions. While his rule was aided by Prime Minister Guizot, Guizot’s influence was not enough to stop the eventual demise of the monarchy. This was also a period marked by numerous conflicts. Many of these conflicts centered on unrest between France and its neighbors.

Additionally, territorial conquests also put France into conflict with other nations such as Algeria. Due to the strength of the French military, many of these skirmishes provided favorable outcomes. However, perpetual military interventions can quickly erode the finances of a nation. As with the political structure that preceded it, the July Monarchy did not last forever. The 1848 French Revolution essentially brought about the demise of the July Monarchy. The factors contributing to such unrest including voting rights limitations and political censorship.

Wishing for reform, the population eventually rebelled against its leaders and deposed them. After the King had been removed from his throne he was exiled to England. There were, however, loyalists that wished to see him returned to the throne. There were attempts to start counter-revolutions but this proved futile. The July Monarchy was never returned to the throne. Question Five There was much disenfranchisement among the people of France. Many were denied voting rights due to not owning land. Political activism was heavily regulated and a feeling of “top-down” rule disenfranchised the population.

The middle class and the working poor began to feel their government no longer represented them. Such sentiments fueled popular discontent with the monarchy. Such discontent would also be fueled by widespread unemployment, a propensity of the monarchy to cater to elitists, and the elimination of a free press. When a monarch is not catering to the population, the population becomes discontent. They understood the Social Contract was not being adhered to and rebellion was born. After the resignation of Prime Minister Guizot, a provisional government was formed.

This would eventually lead to the Revolution of 1848 and the election of Napoleon III. The Revolution of 1848 should have been avoided. One of Louis Philippe’s greatest mistakes was not recognizing the needs of his people were not being met. Refusing to expand voting rights sowed more discontent than he could ever imagine. He shockingly did not see the seeds of revolt that were being planted by his indifference to the people. In short order, the government botched handling a small uprising. This led to a full fledged revolution that ousted the King.

The story of the election of Napoleon III is quite intriguing. Napoleon III was a rather active political figure prior to his election. He had published numerous works promoting his political leanings and ideologies early in his life. He tried to portray himself as both an erudite intellectual as well as a supporter of the working class. On two occasions, he delved into radicalism with two attempts to overthrow the King. He was eventually sentenced to life in prison although he would eventually escape. Ironically, King Philippe would eventually be overthrown.

This allowed Napoleon III to seek the presidency in an election he would ultimately win. However, this was not a government without problems. The aftermath of the revolution was not a period of prosperity. Instead, France slipped further into turmoil. The Royalists would eventually win a number of seats in the 1849 elections. This led to Napoleon III staging a coup which would install him as a de facto dictator. Once again, France would slip into turmoil and political unrest.

References A History of Modern France- Third Edition – Jeremy D. Popkin, chapters 6-13 Early Modern France 1560-1715 – Robin Briggs

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