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Before and After the French Revolution:
Transcript of Before and After the French Revolution:
How the Second Estate was Impacted
King Louis XVI Calls the Estates General
For the first time since 1614, in August of 1788, King Louis XVI called the Estates General-a gathering of representatives from all three estates. A few months later in May of 1789, the Estates General met at the Palace of Versailles. Of the total 1,100 members, there were three divisions: the nobles (representing the first estate), the clergy (representing the second estate), and the third estate (representing the millions of ordinary French people). Louis called this gathering in hopes that these 1,100 people would approve new taxes; that the nobles and clergy would control the affairs in order to continue their lavished lifestyles; that the middle classes could find an end to English style democracy; that peasants could find solutions to their numerous problems. Louis had little to no control over this meeting, considering he left the members to think up their own ideas and refrained from presenting them with any proposals for discussion.
The Storming of Bastille
July 14, 1789: the Bastille, the prison of the king that symbolized his absolute power and arbitrary power, was attacked. Built in the 1730's to protect eastern Paris, the Bastille served as am effective fortification against attackers and acted as a secure facility into which political prisoners and social agitators could be thrown into with little to no regard for due process. However, this all changed the morning of July 14th, which some consider as the beginning to the French Revolution. This movement was not a spontaneous one made in isolation, but was merely the first explosive outburst of the French society in which anger and disillusionment had been brewing for some time. At the time, the prison was only being guarded by a few guards who were incapable of controlling the quickly growing crowd. Chaos broke out and the guards were given orders to fire, killing dozens. By the end of the night, 800 men began to destroy the Bastille. This movement signified the blow to tyranny that the French people were making-a step toward freedom. At the time, myself (and others of the Second Estate) were gathering and had set our aims towards staving off public unrest by finding solutions to the severe political and economic problems that were facing our country. We continued with this mentality until we were eventually stripped of our authority altogether.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen
Adopted between August 20th and August 26th 1789 by France's National Assembly, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen has served as one of the basic charters of human liberties that contained the principles that inspired the French Revolution. This declaration is comprised of 17 articles, and was established by the National Assembly in hopes of reminding the people of France their rights and duties to their country, whilst engulfed in ignorance and neglect. The declaration of the rights of all individuals: rights to "liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression", as well as the rights to freedom of speech and of the press. This document has asserted the equality of men and of the sovereignty of the people, "on whom the law should rest, to whom officials should be responsible, and by whom finances should be controlled". Although this declaration has had immense effects on liberal thought, it has also had a very adversarial attitude towards those belonging to the second estate, and those of the Roman Catholic Church; it has resulted in some extreme prosecution of those like me belonging to the second estate, deemed by the state to conflict with "public order".
King Louis XVI is Executed
On January 21, 1793, after numerous years on the throne, King Louis XVI was executed. Throughout the last few years of his life, Louis was forced to focus on the prevalent movement of the possible revolution, which prompted him to reinstate France’s National Assembly in 1788. Throughout the following year, Louis and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were faced with an imminent threat as the angry mobs grew stronger and eventually gained access into his palace and were destroying many of his foundations such as the Bastille. By 1792 after a failed attempt of escaping to return to Paris, Louis was brought to trial by the newly elected National Convention and condemned to death. The death of King Louis XVI signified the end to absolutism, and an end to the Ancien Regime. It was a great indicator of the severity that the third estate was showing towards making the theory of a revolution become a reality. After the death of the king, other European leaders realized that they needed enlightenment.
The Reign of Terror Begins
Almost immediately after the execution of King Louis XIV, a period of time known as the “Reign of Terror” began, and focused on tracking down and eliminating those who opposed the revolution. Most of these people were not aristocrats, but ordinary people. The Jacobins used this to get rid of their political adversaries; the first victim to this reign was Marie Antoinette, who was killed shortly after her husband, King Louis XVI. This was another event which was made to spread fear throughout France and the French society, as it signified how members of the first and second estate (myself and my peers included) were losing control over the members of the third estate; in essence, we were becoming scared because of the growing influence of the third estate, which would end in the members of the remaining estate losing all higher positions in society.
Pivotal Events During the Revolution
Before the Revolution
After the Revolution
My name is James William. As part of the second estate, I am considered to be part of the nobility of France and am resented by many belonging to the third estate. Of the entire French population, the estate to which I belong to accounts for approximately 1.5% , or 120,000 to 150,000 French people. Before the revolution, myself, along with my colleagues belonging to the second estate, held the highest positions in many aspects of daily life, including the army, the government, and in the Church. Many considered us to be lucky, due to the fact that we were part of the minority who received special treatment in court and during all judicial affairs. We were also exempt from military service, and we were given the right to carry a sword. We did not have to pay taxes; instead we collected rent from the peasants. Such taxes included old feudal taxes, which we collected as funds towards our personal lives. In the past we as a collective estate have come to own approximately 20% of land across France, of which we previously rented to members of the third estate as a means of funding our extravagant and sumptuous lifestyles. However, although ownership of land was a common trait of noble families, there were many who did not possess this trait and were forced to rely on investments and lived modestly on small estates in rural areas, while others owned no land at all. However, this was not the case with me or my family.
Of the entire estate, there are two divisions: nobility of the sword, and nobility of the robe. Personally, I belonged to the nobility of the sword. This indicated that my ancestors were part of the French nobility since the time of the middle ages. We were considered the men and women with the most prestige, and we served our king loyally in Versailles, as well as appearing in court and taking part in running the provinces. The remaining nobles were considered part of the nobility of the robe, indicating that they were nobles solely because the King made them so. These men and women did not have the same level of prestige that of my segment of the nobility.
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6. Gengembre, Gerard. Napoleon- the Immortal Emperor. New York: The Vendome Press, 2003. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.
7. Bliss, Jim. "14TH JULY 1789 THE STORMING OF THE BASTILLE." Dorian Cope Presents On This Deity. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <http://www.onthisdeity.com/14th-july-1789-%E2%80%93-the-storming-of-the-bastille/>.
Since the revolution has come to an end, there have been pivotal changes that have affected both the people and the country itself. France has now become the first country in Europe to have a republic. Thanks to this movement, the ideals of liberty and equality have been spread throughout the world. However, throughout these changes we have also gained a new ruler- Napoleon Bonaparte. After the execution of King Louis XVI, Napoleon has come into power, signifying the end to absolutism and so the elimination of the class system. However, this did not end well for myself or for my peers that belonged to the second nobility, due to the fact that we have now become peasants.
As a result, all of the classes of nobilities have lost their power and so their previously held privileges that we obtained prior to the revolution. Beforehand, men and women in the same position as I was were granted higher positions in the army, the government, and in the Church. However, now we are forced to work for such titles through tedious labor. The revolution not only diminished our authority in society, but erased all senses of nobility altogether. Now, all people are alike under the law and abide by the same rules and regulations.