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French Revolution and Napoleon The French Revolution occurred in France between 1789 to 1815. This period in French history was considered violent, yet necessary toward the evolution of France. Before the revolution, France a monarchy ruled by Louis XIV. Though his absolute control, the words spoken by Louis XIV became legal law in France. The autocratic classes society of France caused the majority of its people to live in poor economic conditions. The people s discontentment with their way of life led towards an uprising and fight for liberty.
The people involved with and who fought during this revolution are forever remembered as heroes for freedom and new government. To this day, the French Revolution remains as one of the most dramatic and memorable events in western history. There are several causes that made the French Revolution happen, which brought about good impacts for Europe most of them in the Nineteenth Century under the Napoleon control. The antagonist of the French Revolution was the American Revolution, the Constitution of the United States, and the prior government under Louis the XVI. The American influence brought the ideas of Human Rights and check and balance in Government. Louis XVI reign coupled with the personality of his wife, Marie Antoinette, created a disdain hatred of the monarchy.
The three social classes in France were the Clergy, Nobles and Commons. The biggest impact of the revolution was changing the government from a Monarchy to a Republic. This change was followed by the rise of Napoleon that brought several good changes for Europe. The impact that Napoleon cause for Europe included an increased level of education, the Industrial Revolution and the sense of nationalism throughout Europe. The American Revolution with its Declaration of Independence inspired the French Revolution in 1776.
During the American Revolution (1756 - 1763), France helped fight against Great Britain alongside American soldiers. Those French involved in the war were inspired with the American ideals such as hard work. French soldiers brought many of the ideas of the US Constitution back to their country and it influenced many French philosophers. There were two important ideas that were adopted from US Constitution, the Bill of Rights and checks and balances in government. The Declaration of Independence stated that all men are created equal, have natural rights of liberty, and security and property.
Checks and balances of government is the separation of legislative, judicative and executive branches of government. Another cause of French Revolution was the Enlightenment, which encouraged criticism, freedom of thought, speech and religion. This was seen as the end of man s self-imposed at the hands of the Church. As Voltaire said, If God doesn t exist, he wouldn t to be invented (Roger 62). As a result of enlightenment, the grow of nationalism occurred in French.
Nationalism had existed in French when French was a strong religious country, but the monarch and church had controlled over all idea of philosopher. With the grow of nationalism, people become more fanaticism toward revolution. They wanted to be free from the system government that sovereignty was from God because the government failed to do their job. This was marked by high inflation and financial problem. In early 17 th and 18 th century, Louis XVI was supposed to rule French with his absolute law and unlimited power. Critics of the government could be arrested via a royal writ (a letter de cachet) without trial.
However, Lois XVI s characters did not support the monarch system in French. Louis XVI was not overly concerned with government rather he was more interested in his hobby such as hunting animals. Furthermore, He wasn t a strong monarch like his grandfather, Louis XIV, because His power to rule French Country was largely under the influence of his wife, Marie Antoinette who always failed to grasp the political situation at that time. Most of the government s money was used by Marie Antoinette to buy expensive jewelry, gamble, party, and for a frivolous lifestyle. In long-term period, The Old regime was also responsible for the outbreak of French revolution.
Before the French Revolution, there was an old system rule / government . The French society was divided into three estates or social classes: Clergy, Nobles and Commons. Clergy were representatives of the church and served as judges. Nobles were people in militaristic background and Commoners were divided into Bourgeoisie (third estates), which were the wealthy people and the poor.
The Clergy and Nobles classes were rich and owned the larger proportions of land, which comprised nearly three fifths of France. They also had the privilege of not paying taxes. The third estate was the ones who needed to pay taxes to the government. They were taxed in almost every conceivable way from a vingtieme tax, to a capitation tax, to custom taxes. The high taxation and poor living conditions gave incentive to the common people to strive for freedom and a better way of life in their own country.
The revolution occurred when third estates people realized they wanted to have a better life. Commoners made up nearly 70 80 percent of the population (Spielvogel 556) and in June 17, 1789 declared itself the national Assembly. These action on June 20 constitute the first step of French revolution (Spielvogel 559). Unfortunately, the third estate could not meet their desire to create new government because other representative classes in Estate-General didn t support them. One of the most significant impacts of French Revolution was the fall of absolute rule and the rise of a New Constitution professing Republicanism. The Constitution of 1795 established a national legislative with two chambers: the lower house and upper house (Spielvogel 572).
Lower house consists of 500 Council members with responsibility to initiate legislation and the Upper house consisting of 250 Council of elders with responsibility to accepted or rejected the proposed laws. This period was known as the period of directory (1795 - 1799). The directory was created in order to fill status quo in French government. However, in reality the Directory only created uncertainty and instability since this period was marked by corruption, bankruptcy, inflation and a fatal dependence of the army. Finally, The Directory period ended when Napoleon took controlled of the French government and established the Consulate. Ten years after the outbreak of French Revolution, Napoleon took control of France and proclaimed himself the son of the revolution (Spielvogel 572).
Napoleon was a civil executive of enormous capacity, who changed the French institution, reformed the society of Europe, and gave the Continent a common law. He was never secure and satisfied with his life, Power is my mistress, (Spielvogel 573) he said. When Napoleon took control, he brought many improvements to French society. Firstly, Napoleon built schools to educate the country, which would enhance the economy of the nation. Secondly, he created the Napoleonic Code for the lands that he conquered which included in end to social distinction, no more class privileges, granting of peasant s freedom from serfdom and guilds, and loss of power by local oligarchies. This Napoleonic Code was used to rule over people he conquered and also lead to the Industrial Revolution on the Europe.
The biggest impact that Napoleon did was to influence Europe toward Industrial Revolution with a continental system. He used the continental system to hurt the English economy and cut off all trade to create an unbalance in law of supply and demand. Because of this imbalance, the European Country started to industrialize the goods that they needed for their country. Another hero in French history was Louis Napoleon Bonaparte who was son of Napoleon Bonaparte. Louis helped to unify Italy by helping Sardinia Piedmont to acquire the land of Lombardy and Parma from a war with Austria. The unification of Italy, Germany, and the split of the Austria-Hungry Empire are the result of Louis s involvement.
The last and most important aspect that changes Europe was Nationalism, which changed the shape and character of Europe in the Ninetieth Century. Nationalism helped European countries develop a national language to replace local dialects. The unification of the language within a country helped the economic and political aspects of European Countries. Nationalism was the main cause of change throughout Europe and the cornerstone for creation of the nation-states in the nineteenth century. In conclusion, the French Revolution and Napoleon were the main catalysts for change in Europe during the Nineteenth century. Wars between people and established government system led to the change in government from Monarchies to Republics.
The industrial revolution was the result of Nationalism in Europe and the development of uneven levels of supply and demand. The French Revolution and Napoleon changed the shape and state of Europe and influenced the Western way of thinking, working, and living in the Nineteenth century.
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