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Who really started the French Revolution?
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Author:  Ray [ Sat Aug 09, 2008 6:36 am ]
Post subject:  Who really started the French Revolution?

Dear Adrienne,
I have read a few books about the French Revolution and still wonder who really got it going. I am aware that 18th century enlightenment ideas contributed and, of course, members of the aristocracy itself assisted by turning on their own kind and contributing to the subversive slander and cultural rot. What about the bankers and those of the bourgeoisie who were not permitted entry into the privileged class and thus had an ax to grind? Was the aristocracy itslf personally responsible for the economy of France, which contributed greatly to popular discontent, or was this outside of its realm? I would like to have input on the real culprits behind the revolution, if, in fact, there were any. The mob rarely marches without a finger pointing them in a certain direction. Was there a brain behind the Revolution or did it just happen? In the words of Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has..." How small? Who were they? Whom did the revolution truly benefit? How many different elements composed the causal influence? Let's try to find out!

Author:  Marija Vera [ Wed Aug 13, 2008 3:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Who really started the French Revolution?

At this point, my opinion is that the revolution was unavoidable since many things happened at the same time or there were many factors that combined had lead to the revolution. If you closely think about it, situation was that complex, that there was no other solution than to change the whole system of privileges and, by doing that, change the whole regime.

Enlightenment ideas + huge financial debt + cold winters & starvation + hate towards the royal family + new political clubs + decadence of the society + new conscience of the suppressed estates = The French Revolution.

Hate + Thirst for revenge + Low instincts + Anarchy + Mob + Severe leaders + New gained power and the fear of loosing it …= The Reign of Terror

(Now I’ve noticed that this is addressed to Adrienne, was it wrong for me to reply?)

Author:  dreamoutloud [ Wed Aug 13, 2008 7:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Who really started the French Revolution?

I agree with Marija Vera. The French governmental and social structure had ossified to a point that there was no way to change it without bringing the whole thing down, particularly when you add the pressure of a bankrupt monarchy and Enlightenment ideas that had been undermining it for the past century.

I would also like to add multiple foreign and civil wars, economic collapse, shortage of necessities and factional conflict to the reasons for the Terror. It was first and foremost a war government of sheer necessity.

Author:  DreamersRose [ Sat Aug 16, 2008 5:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Who really started the French Revolution?

I am currently reading a book about Marie-Therese by Susan Nagle. In it, she presents the view held by the king and queen and many of their courtiers that the king's cousin, the duc d'Orleans, was behind most of the Revolution. All of the factors mentioned here contributed, but he put his money behind it and actively fomented the revolution. His intent was to dispose the king and put himself on the throne. He appears to have been the richest man in France next to the king and actually had more personal money than the king did. The king had 24 million livres per year to support himself and thousands of courtiers and of course to maintain all his palaces, while the duc d'Orleans had an income of 7 million livres just for himself and immediate family. This was an entirely new wrinkle on the French Revolution to me. I did some minor online research on this aspect, and there was some corroboration of the theory.

It seems to make sense. The duc was always in the right place at the right time. He actively whipped the crowds up into mob frenzy. It appears that he deliberately caused the bread riots by buying up all the grain and starving the city of Paris. After the riots, wagons full of spoiled flour were dumped in the Seine because they had been held in storage so long.

Sadly for the duc, he ended up going to the guillotine himself during the Reign of Terror.

Another interesting detail in this book identified Thomas Jefferson as the co-author of the Declaration of the Rights of Man at the beginning of the Revolution. I knew he was in France at the time, supported the Revolution, and only reluctantly came home when called. But it was appalling to learn he actively participated in this Revolution, too. It led to so much tragedy and bloodshed, nothing like the American Revolution.

Author:  Marija Vera [ Sat Aug 16, 2008 2:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Who really started the French Revolution?

What do we know about the man who led the mob to the Bastille?
His name was Camil de Mullen; I don’t know how to spell it.

Author:  dreamoutloud [ Sat Aug 16, 2008 8:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Who really started the French Revolution?

Although the Duc d'Orléans was a player at the beginning of the Revolution, there were many, many other factors that led to the storming of the Bastille and the Revolution. He opened the Palais Royal to the public, which allowed revolutionary talk without threat from the police. He no doubt bribed popular figures to give their support in the early days (however, it seems that a fair number of people who were accused of taking bribes from him took those bribes, then proceeded to do whatever they felt like). It seems excessive to say he was responsible for the severe food shortage in Paris before the Revolution, when a poor harvest and skyrocketing prices would take care of that by themselves. He was a popular figure for awhile, but events happened so fast and popular opinion was so fickle that it didn't take too long before he was no longer the darling of the people.

The direct cause for the storming of the Bastille was fear of military attack by the foreign troops that the King had stationed around Paris. On July 12, Camille Desmoulins jumped up on a table in the Palais Royal to announce that the King had fired Necker and this was the sign that they were plotting a Saint-Bartholomew's Day Massacre of patriots, they needed to protect themselves from the foreign troops surrounding Paris, to arms, etc. The people stormed the Invalides and found thousands of muskets, but they needed powder, which was at the Bastille. Thus the reason for the storming of the Bastille.

Author:  Ray [ Wed Aug 20, 2008 3:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Who really started the French Revolution?

I just LOVE it! This is what I was aiming for, fabulous and interesting conversation. All people are invited to participate, just for the record. When they stormed the Bastille, is it true that there were only two or so prisoners, making the storming more of a symbolic protest against governmental authority rather than an actual liberation of persons who had been unjustly incarcerated? The more I learn about the French Revolution, the more the myth seems to crumble. It had to have been a grasp for power as all political revolutions, by definition, are. I am aware that the Duc d'Orleans envied the throne and played a large part in fermenting the revolution. Thank you all for contributing to this topic as I find it immensely interesting and useful for true political understanding of events past.

Thanks again,
Ray

Author:  dreamoutloud [ Wed Aug 20, 2008 4:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Who really started the French Revolution?

I would say that when one breaks down the myths of history, the truth (as much as we can ever establish) is just as interesting, nor does it make it unworthy of its place in history.

There were only 7 prisoners in the Bastille at the time. A few forgers, some noblemen who had been locked up by their families with lettres de cachet, and a crazy guy who thought he was Julius Caesar. As I said, the reason why the Bastille was originally attacked was because the people were looking for powder. They didn't storm it right away. They sent in a delegation to discuss with Delaunay, which then went to lunch with him and took so long that people started getting anxious. Then some people managed to lower the outer drawbridge, people rushed inside, Delaunay had the inner drawbridge lowered, people rushed in. Firing started from confusion on both sides, Delaunay raised the drawbridge again and people were convinced that he had lured them inside to massacre them. This is when it turned from "get the powder" to "take the Bastille." The Bastille fell when troops from the newly-organized bourgeois militia (that would become the National Guard) arrived with French Guards that had revolted and new how to work the cannons. It wasn't until after the fact, when people realized what they had done, that it became a symbol of the people triumphing over the oppression of the ancien régime.

Author:  Marija Vera [ Thu Aug 21, 2008 10:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Who really started the French Revolution?

dreamoutloud wrote:
There were only 7 prisoners in the Bastille at the time. A few forgers, some noblemen who had been locked up by their families with lettres de cachet, and a crazy guy who thought he was Julius Caesar.

Was Marquis de Sade one of the prisoners?

Author:  dreamoutloud [ Thu Aug 21, 2008 5:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Who really started the French Revolution?

No. He had been, but was moved out a few days before because he had been causing disturbances (yelling out the window through a pipe that the prisoners were being slaughtered). I'm sure they were looking for any excuse to get rid of him. :wink:

Author:  Marija Vera [ Sat Aug 23, 2008 11:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Who really started the French Revolution?

Thank you, I have read that one sexual offender was set free (among the 7 prisoners) and I thought that he was that man.
dreamoutloud wrote:
I'm sure they were looking for any excuse to get rid of him. :wink:

I can’t blame them. :wink:

Author:  dreamoutloud [ Sun Aug 24, 2008 12:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Who really started the French Revolution?

At least one of the noblemen locked up by lettre de cachet from his family was there for licentious behavior, so that's probably what you read about, though whether that means he was out raping people or whether he was just embarrassing his family by being a manslut or he could have been gay, who knows.

Author:  Ray [ Mon Aug 25, 2008 3:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Who really started the French Revolution?

I just LOVE it! Such titillating conversation. Yes, I forgot about the gunpowder thing. Thanks for reminding me. It seems that the storming of the Bastille was a kind of inadvertent, bumbling mishap on all sides. Maybe it was just meant to be, orchestrated by the Fates themselves and therefore, unavoidable. I also agree that the truth is much more interesting. (What if that guy were a Flasher? Can you imagine? haha You know Voltaire had a passion for that, with a twist even. Oh my goodness.) Yes, the gunpowder explains it all. Thanks to All for responding!

Sincerely,
Ray

Author:  dreamoutloud [ Mon Aug 25, 2008 4:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Who really started the French Revolution?

The people storming the Bastille certainly did not have an idea of the historical significance of their actions.

I kind of want to start a French Revolution Q&A thread now :wink:

Author:  Hellou_Librorum [ Tue Aug 26, 2008 3:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Who really started the French Revolution?

dreamoutloud wrote:
At least one of the noblemen locked up by lettre de cachet from his family was there for licentious behavior, so that's probably what you read about, though whether that means he was out raping people or whether he was just embarrassing his family by being a manslut or he could have been gay, who knows.


Sorry this is off topic but, it was actually his mother in law who managed to get him in Bastille.

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