European History Pt. 37 — French Revolution, more buildup

Last time we saw that Louis XVI was considering how to dissolve the national assembly, which had broken away from the estates general. He gathered some troops to Versailles, and in his mind, he had more or less allied himself with the nobles, which meant repression.

Then there was a misunderstanding in Paris. Members of the third estate were worried about wandering vagrants and encroaching troops and so crowds began to look for weapons in public buildings, one of which was the Bastille, an old prison that was commissioned to be turned into a park. There were few prisoners there at this point — the Marquis de Sade had been moved from the prison just TEN DAYS before it was seized. Yet, the prison was a symbol of royal power, and when the governor of Paris put cannons on the war and refused to arm the crowd, the crowd became a mob, which stormed the bastille, losing 98 people in the process.

When the bastille was captured the governor and some soldiers were killed and their heads PUT ON PIKES. I emphasize this not because it was particularly gruesome for the time, this was the 18th century! But, it is worth noting because it illustrates how even at this supposedly, constitutional, liberal, constructive stage of the French Revolution, there was enormous anger and mistrust between the various estates. This would become crucial.

The storming of the Bastille convinced Louis XVI to accept the national assembly and not to repress it. The Marquis De Lafayette, a tragic character because of what happens to him, is made captain of the guard in Paris (he helped win the revolutionary war for us).

The National Assembly in Action 

In August of 1789, the Nation Assembly made big moves. On Aug. 4, it flatly declared that “feudalism is abolished” and in one fell swoop unburdened land-owning peasants from paying dues for “eminent property.” Then, later in August, the National Assembly issued “the Rights of Man and Citizen.” Without going into too much detail, the rights of man declared a host of what we would consider core democratic and liberal privileges, such no taxation without consent of the governed as well as the declaration that “men are born and remain free and equal in rights.”


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