The French Revolution - Vol. 1

The French Revolution - Vol. 1

The French Revolution - Vol. 1

The French Revolution - Vol. 1

Excerpt

The origins of the Revolution of 1789 lie deep in French history; the basic outcome of the Revolution hastened the nation's development without altering its historical direction. Begun by the 'patricians', as Chateaubriand remarked, the Revolution seemed to be the final episode in the aristocracy's struggle against the Capetian monarchy, and thereby it ended the long history of the kingdom. Completed by the 'plebeians', it made certain the advent of the bourgeoisie. Thus it inaugurated the history of modern France, but nonetheless capped the era preceding it, for the germination of that class within the feudal world it undermined was one major aspect of a long- term development.

Neither of these features sets France apart from Europe. All European states were formed similarly, at the expense of the lords, and all were sooner or later dominated by the rising bourgeoisie. The French Revolution was not the first which benefited a middle-class--before it, two revolutions in England and one in America were landmarks in that evolution.

Viewed in the broad development of civilization, the Revolution has greater significance. After the barbarian invasions ended, a passion for conquest drove Europeans towards domination of the globe, towards discovery and control of natural forces. At the same time a bold determination to govern the economy, society, and manners grew stronger--for the welfare of the individual and the improvement of mankind. The bourgeoisie of 1789 guaranteed freedom of research to the scholar, freedom of enterprise to the producer, and at the same time undertook to rationalize the ordering of politics and society. The French Revolution denotes one step in the destiny of the Western world.

Nevertheless, as its power grew the bourgeoisie could have stepped into government without breaking with the aristocracy.

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