Sunday, October 19, 2008

French Revolution


The base layer for the powder keg known as the French Revolution was the three estates.
One of the three estates was the king and lords who lived extravagantly, was unconnected from the people, their cries for reform were met with being locked out of the national assembly, and they heavily taxed them for food and money. The land owners or lords who paid an extremely small amount of taxes and didn't pay any attention to the people and took their land and took foodstuffs as well. Lastly was the Clergy who owned 10% of the land paid almost no taxes and as the others were they also were indifferent. All this and the fact that the almost unrepresented little people floated the taxes by at least 70% lead to unrest. But, beside that the people were also drafted into service and unable to use game on your lord's land or his machines without paying tribute if not you get imprisoned.
Some of the other explosive unrest was political cartoons such as one in which the King and a Priest symbolizing the 3 estates sitting on top of a emaciated peasant. The caption offers hope and conciliation in the form of saying "One hopes this will end soon" but at the same time it implants the seeds of rebellion. Some others from different countries came to France and saw that any chance for prosperity was crushed by immense taxes and required tribute of 20kg o' wheat and 60kg o' oats to the lords and King. They also saw that because of this they couldn't even provide for their families and were extremely poor. So all and all its a story of giving and getting nothing in return.For example a farmer would make 200 livres while others would make 10s of thousand of livres. Partial salvation came in the form of Rousseau a writer and the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was an idea of thinking where it emphasizes human reason plus freedom and equality for all men. Rousseau wrote a pamphlet called "Man is Born Free". He preaches against Divine Right, and supports from the ground up democracy. The pamphlet was later on banned.


Robespierre and the Reign of Terror

The Reign of Terror became possible through the Enlightenment writings especially of Rousseau and others who talked about equality and freedom for all men rich or poor. They wanted "Liberte, Egalite, and Fraternite" (liberty, equality, brotherhood). Some people became obsessed with the ideals and wrote the "Declaration of the Rights of Man" in 1789. They gathered support to create a National Assembly that wrote France's first constitution in 1791 making it a republic with its own legislative body with less power for the king

By 1790 the Catholic clergy were made into state employees that had to take a oath of loyalty to France vs. the Pope. Churches were confiscated and sold to pay for wars and debts. In 1791 the new constitution gave more power to the Legislative Assembly but the old problems of poverty, food shortages and debt remained so the Assembly split into three groups: radicals, moderates and conservatives.

The people panicked in 1792 as the Prussians and Austrian armies came close to Paris to put Louis back in power. The peasants put Louis and his family and other royalists in jail in protective custody to show the Prussians the king would not be harmed. Later they changed their minds because of the fear they would be defenseless against the royalists as their soldiers went to war far away and stormed the jails and killed 1,000 royalists.

On the political front the Assembly gave in to the radicals and deposed the king (back to a commoner) paving the way to his trial and execution by guillotine in January 1793. Also, the limited monarchy and Assembly were dissolved and the National Convention was started as a way to preserve the revolutionary government just as the French finally had a victory against Austria and Prussia.

The National Convention made the Committee of Public Safety in 1793 in response to the need to raise troops to defend France against some European powers and also those home-grown enemies that didn't agree with them. Peasants that were especially upset when Catholic churches were closed and sold and priests were taken away earlier in 1790 and now that the king was murdered it was too much. There were mobs taking over in reaction to things even though they were originally for the revolution. Two other political factions/clubs also were formed at this time: Jacobins who wanted violent radical change and to purge France of the aristocracy and old ways and the Girondins who were more conservative and didn't want the revolutionary government or the Committee of Public Safety.allowed Robespierre power to do radical measures which suspended the non-revolutionary government "until the peace" against all perceived enemies was realized

The Jacobins gained control and Robespierre became the major leader in the Committee of Public Safety in Sep 1793 and his influence lasted until July 1794 with his execution. Jacobins also allowed Robespierre and the other revolutionists power to preserve the revolutionary state of France until all the changes they wanted were made or "until the peace" against all perceived enemies was realized. Since they saw the old monarchy and privileges of the nobles as taking away from the rights and prosperity of the peasants and some of the middle class they saw they had to go.

In Dec. 1793 Maximilien Robespierre said their revolutionary government must protect the nation through the death of all its enemies. He wanted to lead people by reason and enemies by terror. Again in Feb. 1794 he said, "Terror is nothing other than prompt, severe, inflexible justice" and "Liberty cannot be secured unless criminals lose their head." It was he who decided who would live and die because he felt justice was a virtue but it was powerless without terror.

The Reign of Terror came to the nobility, peasants, clergy as their freedoms originally promised by the National Assembly then the First French Republic disappeared by the following: not allowed to dissent, being forced to join the military/draft in 1793 (to help fight the First Coalition of Great Britain, Holland and Spain who had just joined Prussia and Austria), give grain (not sell) to the government, having to have fixed prices for goods and wages, and not being allowed private worship when public forms removed. Also, after the oath and church closings, clergy were forced to marry or leave the priesthood, get deported, and mostly prevented from offering public worship. Finally the revolutionary governement under Robespierre forced a new religion on the people of France: a goddess of Reaason then they switched to a religion of Virtue with a Supreme Being.

Anyone, noble, middle class or peasant, could be guillotined if you disagreed, were suspected of being against these rules, hoarded some commodity, if someone just wanted you out of the way, or if you were less radical than Robespierre. By July 1794 not even the origianal revolutionaries felt safe from Robespierre.

After the Reign of Terror, costs for necessities went up so by 1795 a new constitution was made. it put the upper middle class in power and made a legislature with two houses overseen by 5 Directors who were moderates not idealists who were corrupt. France then had a period of peace until they found Napolean Bonaparte to lead their army.

Simon Bolivar and Latin American Revolutions

Simon Bolivar is famous for his liberative efforts in South America. With pen, powder, and persuasion he rose to become the freedom fighter ("George Washington of South America" or "Libertador") for Venezuela and then all of South America except for the region of Brazil. These accomplishments were due to his early studying of the Enlightenment (Rousseau, Locke, and Voltaire) and his lifelong tutor/friend Simon Rodriguez who raised him after his parents died. He studied in Spain in 1799 after their death (since his parents left him a lot of money) and married there. Unfortunately his wife died shortly after returning to South America (1803) and he left for Europe again in 1804.

He became part of Napoleon I's circle in order to study how one forms a nation after revolution. As a Creole, he could not hold office yet was well educated and he had fallen in love with the ideas of freedom that the Enlightenment era of reason gave and the success of the revolutions in America and in France. At first he loved Napoleon, but then grew to hate him because he felt he had betrayed the ideals of the Enlightenment. Later in 1808 he also resented that a Napoleon had put his brother Joseph on Spain's throne. It was bad enought being a colony of Spain, but under a Frenchman? He made a vow on a mountain near Rome Italy that he would never rest until South America was free.

Simon left Napoleon and returned to South America via the United States studying how they set up their government after a revolution, for by this time he knew his native land would be better off without being a colony of Spain and he could also put his ideals into practice. His idea was to set up a country like the United States where each of the newly freed colonies would ban together as one nation.

Upon his return in 1807 he joined the resistance junta movement in Venezuela and quickly rose up through its ranks. Although it took many years and often exile to other places like Haiti, he accomplished what he dreamed. Simon not only was part of the resistance fighters, he also raised troops and money. All of the colonies were finally freed by August 1824. Bolivia was part of Upper Peru but became a separate country in 1825. It was named after him to honor his untiring efforts to win freedom for South America. He even wrote a consitution for it, but it was never used.

His accomplishments won him the title of "Libertador", but peace was not long lasting. Just as France and Italy had trouble staying united after revolution, the democratic republic of South America broke apart over rivalries between the general of the revolution and into civil war. Also, Simon Bolivar as an autocratic ruler trying desperately to hold the nation together dind't help. He died in December 1830 but is still honored for his role in their liberation.

Nationalism and the Creation of Italy

Nationalism is the belief that people who share a common culture, experience, religion, or language can be bound together under one government. I am interested in listening and reading the news stories about our nation, its politics, its economics, its role in history. Sometimes I react with feelings of pride or sometimes shame since I have a connection with the United States. My peers, family members and I also discuss the history of our nation and its future. We participate in national holidays and commemorations since War Memorials are located near my house and church. Also, when my relatives from overseas visit I expound on the differences between our cultures.

I can understand through my experiences that other countries have nationalistic pride and ahistory of shared experiences. Italy in the mid-1800's was not a unified nation with a common language or local ruler, but they were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Nationalism stirred up feelings within the middle class all througout Europe a distaste for being ruled by people who did not share their culture and language. In 1848 rebellions sprang up in eight Italian states on the mainland. They were hoping to gain some democracy, social justice and peace for themselves and not to be pawns in someone else's empire. The rebellions failed, but Piedmont-Sardinia, the largest kingdom, adopted a liberal constitution which opened the door to unification of Italy into a single nation.

Italy was separated into several city states before it was unified, but it was ultimately ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There were many other ethnic peoples in the Empire: Hungarians, Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, Poles and Serbs, besides the Italians. The people were loyal to their local leader/king/prince. These leaders took their cues from the Austro-Hungarians and the Italians were made to fight empire's battles and support them with their goods and money. Sardinia's King Victor Emmanuel II's prime minister, Count Camillo di Cavour, used alliances with France to bring about a war that made Austria give up Lombardy in the north to Piedmont-Sardinia. Then Giuseppe Garibaldi, head of the Red Shirts (an army of nationalists), fought from Sicily north to Naples winning victories and finally handing all the south over to King Victor Emmanuel II. In 1866 the Prussians won victory over Austria. The last northern region of Venetia joined the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia in 1870. Finally the Papal States were annexed as well. Rome became the capital city of unified Italy, allowing the Papal State a small portion called Vatican City.

Basically war and diplomacy brought the country together even though it started with the ambitions of Count Cavour enlarging Piedmont-Sardinia's territories. Even after unification they didn't have a common language, were politically unstable with policies that were not clearly defined, experienced poverty and revolts among workers in the north and south; yet they struggled to continue into the 1900's and today.

Friday, October 10, 2008