Pierre Boulat

The french revolution


When getting up on that very morning of July 14th 1789 to walk towards Bastille, the people of Paris probably had no idea that they were going to set ablaze not only all of France but all of Europe.
The action, unimportant in itself, could have remained a « rebellion » amount others, as Louis XVI had first thought. But the whole process had for long started which was to transform it into a revolutionAt first, the principle of monarchy was not challenged: the middle class people were trying to get access to the privileges the nobility was jealously hanging on; the people was asking for food; the inefficiency of the king, the unconcern of the foreign courts, then war rang the knell of royalty.

For ten years, the whole world kept a close eye on France, having a t first a favourable reaction. Little by little, the financial and economical difficulties, the political anarchy, brought to power a gang of bloody « Enraged ». The Proclamation of Human and Citizens Rights was preaching Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for all; with the « law against suspects » they enforced the principle of Equality… in death and for two years ruled through « Terror », threatening « all those who having done nothing against Liberty had not either done anything for her. » Fear evidently turned back against them.

Their successors proved unequal; outrageous libertinage followed after Robespierre austerity, White Terror follow after the Red, civil war got to its full, bankruptcies were succeeding in between two coup d’état and people remained hungry. The Revolution had deceived all the calculations and disappointed all the hopes. Ten year after its burst, France, weary, was ready to fall into Bonaparte’s hands.

Nature, growing urbanisation have in 200N years rubbed out the prints left by the most memorable decade in French history. Monarchy, back to power, has consciously turned away the facts to its own profit, emphasizing the slaughters and a useless regicide and many French people today object to the heritage of the Revolution setting forth the horror of the guillotine.

Despite all the blood shed (it is said that 1 million people were killed or disappeared during the French revolution) the Convention accomplished a considerable social work. Society having been tumbled down, everything was to be rebuilt and in a few years she laid the foundations which were to last up to now: she has suppressed all feudal rights and slavery; created a well-fare system for all needy categories; re-organised education and established numerous schools including a school for health, Polytechnic, civil engineering, arts and crafts, the Institute and the central astronomical office; she has elaborated a civil code, initiated the decimal metric system and encouraged the only invention of the time, the optical telegraph. But most of all she saved France form invasion and built a Nation.

The leaders in 1789 had been willing to regenerate human being and rebuilt the world. They had started a crusade for the Liberty of People. The ‘Immortal principles » of 89 crossed the borders and the Marseillaise has since became a rallying song for many oppressed people. But it needed another two emperors, three kings and two revolutions for the French people to know about democracy.

When celebrating the bi-centennial of their Revolution, on July 14 1989, the French will commemorate the day when, heading for Bastille, the partisans leaded for them the way, may be not towards Equality and Fraternity, but at least to Liberty.