The Significance of the French Revolution

Essay by topdogg19High School, 12th gradeA+, February 2004

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Prior to 1789, France was in a dire state of conditions. King Louis XVI's government was facing financial difficulties, and faced with few other options, the king imposed taxes on the people. What ensued was an explosion of rage in the French middle and working class that had been built up over the last hundred years--what we now call the French Revolution. While the French Revolution, like many other revolutions, occurred in response to the government's incompetence, what sets it apart from other revolutions in Europe is that it marked the birth of democracy. This concept, though idealistic in theory and leading to a large number of deaths, misuse of power, and complete terror, gave rise to equality of conditions, power in the people, and largely, the foundation beneath the democracy the world has come to accept today.

One of the greatest examples of the French Revolution's significance was the extent of the unity the French experienced subsequent to the Revolution and Napoleon.

For hundreds of years, the French people knew what it was like to live under the rule of an autocratic monarchy, and they thrived under such rule. Louis XI, also known as the Spider King, as well as the infamous Louis XIV are both notable examples of successful Machiavellian rulers who used their power wisely and consolidated the classes' needs, and in effect, created a unifying nation. What made the rulers of the French Revolution, specifically Robespierre and Napoleon particularly different and successful, though, was truly secular leadership that paid attention to individuals of all classes. Much more so than before, during the French Revolution, Robespierre appealed to the San Culottes, effectively changing price controls so that the working class could afford food at decent prices. In return, Robespierre got an impassioned fight to the death from...