Why do some reject the French Revolution?

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
6,160
Only American Revolution was worthy it. French and Russian Revolutions were bloody scum.
Much better to stick to absolutism and rule by the Grace of God then...

Makes sense for a Spaniard I guess. The revolutions in Spain were defeated, and who wants to associate with losers, right? Better stick with Franco then as well. Why Spain dabbles with democracy at all these days is clearly a mystery? Just restore the Bourbons...
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,782
Sydney
French and Russian revolution were not exactly vague agitation by far off colonials facing an under-powered military campaign
there was a lot of flack flying around , like grand scale war
 
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Jul 2018
566
Hong Kong
Here comes my personal viewpoint after reading a small portion of Stephen Clarke's work.

The Sun King Louis XIV turned the fabulous Versailles Palace into his "game-of-throne-center" for imposing the efficient control over nobles, offering them lucrative jobs (such as tax-collectors, judge...), licenses and other privileges in exchange of their allegiance. Ironically, this only greatly aggrandized the power and influence of nobles who could feed themselves with such favour, enabling them to pass on their "privileges" to the future generations of their families, ended up too powerful to be curbed. Hence, when Louis XVI attempted exerting the financial reforms and cancelled the tax exemption of nobility, he was powerless to carry them out since the power of nobility had been so overgrown that nothing could be done.

Louis XIV's overconfidence in "enslaving nobility" sowed the seed of the downfall of the Bourbon Dynasty. Louis XVI's tragedy in late 1780s was his dilemma : forcing reforms would offend nobles and clergies, declining reforms would offend the "third class" (including the bourgeoisie, craftsmen, merchants, city dwellers, peasants) ; he was too weak-willed to backup the "radical financial reformist" Jacques Necker, and too merciful to suppress the revolution by armed force. As a result, nothing could be accomplished except some benevolently trival measures like improving the state prisons' conditions....

Why was the British able to transform the absolute monarchy into the constitutional monarchy in the 17th century ? Why the French failed to copy the British success and ended up racked in turmoil with disastrous "reign of terror" headed by the radical Jacobins ? In AD 1789, no French thought about overthrowing the monarchy, but the domestic situation was increasingly losing control and turned into bloodshed that took away the life of 300,000 souls, why people would backup the radicals like Robespierre and his faction ? How those political opportunitists incited masses to sparkle riots and revolutions ? Because of immense poverty among low-class citizens so they could be easily stirred to violence and hatred by passion and propaganda ?
 

robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,281
Lisbon, Portugal
Why was the British able to transform the absolute monarchy into the constitutional monarchy in the 17th century ?
France was also successful into transforming the absolute monarchy into a constitutional one. France never got back into an absolutist and ancien regime society after the Bastille takeover.

Why the French failed to copy the British success and ended up racked in turmoil with disastrous "reign of terror" headed by the radical Jacobins ?
The French didn't fail to copy because they didn't even want to copy the British success. And the British "Glorious Revolution" was the culmination of more than a century of political conflict between the British monarch and the high aristocracy and the lower aristocracy and the rich bourgeoisie - that conflict caused turmoil and a disastrous civil war.

In AD 1789, no French thought about overthrowing the monarchy, but the domestic situation was increasingly losing control and turned into bloodshed that took away the life of 300,000 souls, why people would backup the radicals like Robespierre and his faction ?
This is a very myopic view of the British revolution. The English civil war killed more British people per capita than the revolutionary wars in France. Britain couldn't possibly turn into a constitutional monarchy in the 17th century without the political turmoil that happened half a century earlier. Depicting the French Revolution as one bloody mess while the British depicted as a peaceful one is extremely misleading and falls right into the false narrative of the "failed and bloody French revolution" that is so promoted in Britain and Anglo-speaking countries.

How those political opportunitists incited masses to sparkle riots and revolutions ? Because of immense poverty among low-class citizens so they could be easily stirred to violence and hatred by passion and propaganda ?
Why you call them "political opportunists? Aren't all politicians opportunists? Weren't the Founding Fathers opportunistic as well?
 
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Sep 2016
1,378
Georgia
How those political opportunitists incited masses to sparkle riots and revolutions ? Because of immense poverty among low-class citizens so they could be easily stirred to violence and hatred by passion and propaganda ?
Couple of people can't incite masses to Revolution, that would change whole society and have such big influence on others as well. Western historiography loves to overestimate importance of historical figures.

Social and economical ( Growth of Bourgeoisie and Capitalism ), cultural and intellectual ( Age of Enlightenment ) developments of society, which are coupled with failures of the government that allowed process to become more violent that it could've been or sped it up. Such things are often not discussed enough or dismissed in favor of explaining everything by ( Bad decisions of the government, Financial debt or bunch of madmen managed to fool people into trusting them and etc.) in British or American historiography from what I've seen.

Same mistake is made when it comes to Russian Revolution of 1917. It also seems that some people forget or don't know about 1905 - 1907 Revolution in Russia and Revolution in February 1917, before Socialist one.
 
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Jun 2016
1,863
England, 200 yards from Wales
The French certainly didn’t “invent” freedom, or self-determination, or constitutions or individual rights on a national scale. Those things came from somewhere else where people spoke the English language. France came later and it took rivers of blood to get there. I’ll take the former.
Some truth in that, but it's rather over-simplified I think. Ideas of freedom, constitutions etc didn't only come from English speaking roots, but from Greek and Latin and Dutch ones too (and others probably), and, as others have said, it took a good deal of blood to establish them, in the Dutch revolt and the English Civil War for instance.
Also, at the time of the French Revolution, English-speakiing freedom had only gone so far, Britain was still essentially ruled by the rich for the rich, the franchise was still very restricted, (plus rotten boroughs, Test Acts still in force etc). It took most of the 19th century for the franchise in Britain to catch up with the ideas of the more enlightened of the French revolutionaries (indeed not until after WW1 to catch up with those who had even conceived of women voting), and can one say that influence from those advanced French ideas had no part in that?
It took even longer to get rid of hereditary aristocratic legislators.
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
You are quite correct that the American Revolution was not, if I infer your meaning correctly, complete in the sense that the Black population basically got nothing from the American Revolution. It was a White Thing. It is noteworthy, however, that all of the underlying principles of equality before the law which runs through all of our rules of jurisprudence required no changes when the Civil Rights movement finally knocked the props out from under the Segregationists. So, it took a terrible and destructive Civil War between the North and the South to begin to change things and even then, it took another century and a Civil Rights Act before the South gave up the ghost. Shameful? Certainly.

The worst disaster for Blacks in our country actually occurred in 1865 with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the accession of Andrew Johnson to the presidency.

The words of the Declaration of Independence said all men, not all just white men, were created equal. It may have taken a while, but it has officially be enshrined into law in no mistaken terms. Sure the US isn't perfdct, but neither is France , France has its share of biases.


The ideals the French Revolution spouted were not unique to them. Slavery wasn't abolished in French possessions until 1848, just 12 years before the American Civil War, and slavery was not as.an essential part of the French economy as in the American South, so it was easier for them to abolish it. But 12 years is not a lot difference in time. The French Revolutionist under Napoleon codnducted a very bloody war trying to reimpose slavery on Haiti.

Pretty much everything the French Revolution actually achieved was already achieved by the American Revolution. Freedom of speech? Check. Freedom of religion? Check. Democracy, and abolishment of nobility? Check. Killed vast numbers of people in the process? No.

The ideals in.proclaimed in the French revolution were achieved in Britain and the US without the bloodshed, and at an earlier date. The French Revolution was was composed of conceited self important jerks. Nothing showed how self important the French Revolutionist thought themselves when they tried coming up with a new calendar with Year 1 starting from the Revolution. Sorry, but France is not the center of the universe. The bloodshed spilled
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,782
Sydney
Slavery was abolished by the convention in 1794 and re-instated by Napoleon in 1802
 
Jul 2018
566
Hong Kong
Stephen Clarke's work is amazingly witty and satirical. I really found that it's 10 times more useful than simply reading Wikipedia on the Internet.
He gave so much insight about the background of the French Revolution. I laughed so hard for his depiction of the "decadent and obscene reign of Louis XV" — particulatly one "bad noble" named Sade playing "sadism and masochism" (known as "sexual abuse") upon a woman he picked up from the street...of course, not everything about Louis XV was negative, he patronized the science projects such as cartography, navigation, "botanical garden", encyclopedie, watch-making (he gifted the one embodded with jewels to his mistress Pompadour)...though just for his personal hobbies, not for promoting its development. But in turn, these "scientific development" aggrandized the power of anti-absolute-monarchy and anti-feudalism.

I really feel why was the public so disappointed, scornful and angry towards nobility and royal house, combined with the lambasts from the "Enlightened" philosophers and satirists circulating all their works and writings implicitly "overturned" the superstitions loved by the church and "questioned" the holiness of monarchy, no wonder even the people from the lowest-class would be awakened to realize that they have right to challenge the church and the royal house (suppose they're really angry and have guts, usually fueled up by famine and inflation), the establishment of public support for so-called "revolution" was gradually built up.

These're the important clues about the context of the French Revolution :

1. The encyclopedie (authored by Denis Diderot, published from 1751-72 in instalments) did not recognize "female" monarchy

Stephen Clarke commented : In the 1750s, supposedly the most enlightened men in France had not seen the light about the equality of the sexes.

2. The encyclopedie audaciously remarked : "If the monarch is virtuous, and dispenses rewards and punishments justly, everyone is keen to deserve his bounty, and his reign is a golden age. If the monarch is not virtuous...it degenerates into baseness and slavery."

And that's not all, it even acutely warned : "if public servants are showing misplaced loyalty to the King rather than to the country ; if a monarch tries to intimidate his people, or encourages them to have children just to provide more taxpapers ; or even if the King becomes too frivolous (lol...taunting Louis XV, obviously)..."

My comment : Clearly, the French intelligentzia had completely shattered the myth of "divine monarchy". And they instilled such "dangerous opinions" (for the royal house and the church) to masses likewise with a surge of all those "enlightening works".

3. The encyclopedia urged the need to question everything around us, including religious faith. (as a result, Diderot outrightly angered the church and was put into the jail for his "impiety")

But unfortunately, Louis XV's government did much censorship over that work under the name of "royal patronage" and distorted its content in large extent, rather than utilizing it as a "beacon" for the new, enlightening world.

4. The French philosopher Montesquieu was arrested by police for writing an insulting poem about the Regent, Philippe d'Orleans. He complained to the police that the Regent deserved it : "He exiled me because I let the public know that his daughter is a whore ! " This earned him 11 months in the Bastile....(no wonder these philosophers're so popular among the populace who hated nobility and royal, their bravery were very inspiring)

5. the even more famous French philosopher Voltaire praised so much about the British superiority (in comparison with France) in various aspects. He lauded the British religious freedom, boasted the British tax system, which was based on income rather than social status (nobility or church was not exempted from taxation), and the entrepreneurial spirit that allowed British businessmen to rise up in society alongside the aristocrats (thanks to the matured political structure ensuring the relatively fair distribution of political power and wealth).

And most importantly, he raised the banner of "constitutional monarchy" just like numerous intelligentzia in the contemporary era :

"England is the only nation on Earth that has managed to limit the power of kings by resisting them, and has finally established a wise system of government in which the ruler is all-powerful when it comes to doing good, and has his hands tied if he attempts to do evil."

He suggested that France should adopt the British-styled monarchy. These lines were quoted from his work Lettres Philosophiques ("philosophy" was regarded as the incendiary word by the church). In AD 1734, this work was published in Paris, with so much publication circulating to masses that even illiterate people could obtain it.

=========================

As you see, Rome was not built in a single day ; likewise, the French Revolution did not begin from the day of 14th July 1789, not even from the reign of Louis XVI, the seeds were planted far long ago. The gradual rise of bourgeoisia, the increasing circulation of knowledge and the ever-explosive scandals about the royal and nobility were steadily dismantling the foundation of the "divine monarchy".

The revolution was not incited by few political opportunitists, but was catalysed by the widespread and extraordinary "outrage" lasting a century. The over-centralization of monarchy and the stagnant political structure favoring nobility could not handle the "increasingly awakening" society. The revolution was unavoidable. But tragedically, unlike England, the Kingdom of France failed to transform the absolute monarchy into the constitutional monarchy based on representative politics by peaceful means in orgies of "iconoclast", guillotines and mob violence, and ultimately lapsed into "corrupted republic" and eventually the dictatorship and monarchy forged by Napoleon Bonaparte...Alas ! Nevertheless, many new systems of meritocracy and jurisdiction were introduced, the idea of nationalism and liberalism were widely spreaded across the Europe. The revolution still had much positive significance and impact, the fact that publicly recognized by the mainstream opinion.

And then in AD 1814, the Bourbon Dynasty restored in France....though its power was largely limited, but then Charlex X attempted "absolute monarchy", and then revolution, then monarchy, then revolution, then monarchy, then republic again, but under constant threats from the "monarchists"....the President Macmahon even waged the "constitutional crisis" by attempting to restore monarchy again (but failed).

The "revolution" really took much long time, effort and energy to complete....The AD 1789 Revolution was neither the beginning nor the end, but it was certainly the "turning point" decided not just the direction of France, but also of the whole tide of Europe.

I halt my typing here. Next time I'll share more of my insight.
 
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