Why do some reject the French Revolution?

Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
Yes, that's correct. But this was a side effect, not the original cause.
The French people remained attached to the king for a long time, and the Revolution became anti-monarchy only after 3 or 4 years, when the insane "Montagnards" took power and started cutting everybody's head off.

In my city of Bordeaux, there is a monument to the memory of the Girondins, the moderate revolutionaries who opposed the blood-thirsty and violent propositions of the Montagnards and who were then all executed.

The Bourgeoisie saw an opportunity to change the system to their advantage, and confiscated the momentum, but in the beginning, people were just asking for bread, there was no desire to revolutionise the political system whatsoever.
Yeah, the Montagnards really seem to have been quite mad. The whole affair with the Girondins is tragic, and I think people, at least in Sweden, have a far too optimistic assesment of the Revolution overall. I remember my elementary school history teacher sneering at the Girondins for being "naïve", whatever that meant given what actually happened...

At what point do you think the Revolution could have gone differently? What was the latest possible turning point at which the Ancien Régime or the Girondins could have stopped things from going off the rails - and why did they fail, in your view?
 
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Jun 2016
1,843
England, 200 yards from Wales
Looking back a page or two, I have my doubts about comparisons between the French and American Revolutions.
That the French one, after a more promising start, was diverted by a faction into violence and chaos, which derailed the more progressive aims many began with, ( until those better ideas could reappear much later), is undeniable I suppose. However is it not true that something of the kind was far more likely to happen in France than in the US, because they were trying do something far more fundamental and therefore disruptive, and liable to attract hostility from their neighbours?
The US had a successful war of Independence, but in comparison with France was it really a revolution? Did it fundamentally alter political or economic power structures within the country, once the foreign rule was disposed of? The local elites (commercial or landed) stayed in place didn't they, so did slavery?
That's not to criticise the US 'Revolution', it produced a pretty liberal result (for the time), but was not making the radical social and political changes France did, and thus was maybe less likely to arouse the passions and opposition that can lead to the sort of violence that France suffered?
 
Likes: Frog33inUK
May 2018
782
Michigan
We shall have to disagree. The French Revolution descended into barbarity and rivers of blood and ended with - wait for it - an emperor! That;’s commonly referred to as a Failure. A massive one, I might add.
Not to mention the fact that the American Revolution played a part, however large or small, in starting the French Revolution.

I think I echo the sentiments of many fellow posters when I judge the French Revolution in the following terms:

-The initial spark of the Revolution was not only justified, but necessary. France was suffering from severe financial mismanagement, and French people were starving in the streets as married women prostituted themselves to feed their families.

-The Committee of Public Safety, the regime of Maximilian Robespierre, and the Terror they created, were undeniably evil. The genocide of over 40,000 people, most were innocent aristocrats or commoners who could only be peripherally described as "aristos."

-The Directory which replaced the Committee was a corrupt, tyrannical regime. Napoleon Bonaparte was morally justified in abolishing the Directory and replacing it with the Consulship.

-Napoleon's actions up to this point, could be largely justified to history. However, like Beethoven, I take serious issue with his decision to declare himself Emperor. While this led to immediate French success (Austerlitz and Jena/Auderstadt were a few years later), Napoleon did not become "another George Washington", established a secret police under Fouche, and launched warmongering campaigns, imposed Carthaginian peace(s), and launched military adventures into Spain and Russia. Russian Generalship (and the climate/terrain) prevailed in Russia, as did Wellington in Spain.

So the French Revolution culminated in the following:

-Temporary dominance of Europe for France between roughly 1806-1812.

-The final decision of Anglo-French Rivalry was decided at Waterloo with a British victory, but Britain abandoned all claims to the French throne (this was much earlier than Waterloo, however)

-The murder of 40,000 innocent French civilians.

-The slaughter of millions of French soldiers in some very pointless or ill-advised campaigns/wars.

-Britain was established as the pre-eminent naval power until WWII.

-The establishment of the Napoleonic Code and its fairly positive legacy, as well as many historical discoveries in Egypt.

-The aura of divine right of rulership was seriously challenged, and would never return to its pre-Revolution level of acceptance.

-France was basically ruined by the affair, in spite of being strategically dominant in Europe for a brief period of less than a decade.

-Britain gained considerably from the conflict, in spite of its great cost in terms of blood and treasure. Their naval dominance was ensured, two of Britain's greatest heroes rose (Wellington and Nelson), and the 19th century would be "Britain's Imperial Century."

Overall, I can agree with starting the French Revolution, but the course it took with radical, extreme left-isim (something we suffer from today in the form of the neo-progressive and the Social Justice Warrior...and I was a Democrat until 2017), murder, unnecessary wars, police state tyranny and Napoleon Bonaparte etc...the Revolution was generally a bad thing, led by leaders who were no where near as wise, or good people, as the American Founding Fathers. What the Founding Fathers lacked in military brilliance, they compensated for in wisdom in guiding a young Republic.
 
May 2018
782
Michigan
This is true. We Americans owe a great deal to the French (and Dutch and others) for their aid in making the American Revolution’s success. But I don’t know what this has to do with this discussion.
Yeah, French assistance to the American Revoultion was done under the ancien regime of the Bourbons. It was not, I repeat not, a genuine "love of democracy' that motivated Louis XVI, but a desire to get revenge for losing the Seven Years War. Although some French generals who fought with the Americans (such as Lafayette), were fighting for a genuine belief in democracy. But Lafayette opposed the excess of the Revolution, and even opposed Napoleon's government.

Lafayette, a man who fought in the American Revolution literally alongside Washington, recognized the evils of the Revolution and Napoleon himself.
 
Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
Overall, I can agree with starting the French Revolution, but the course it took with radical, extreme left-isim (something we suffer from today in the form of the neo-progressive and the Social Justice Warrior...and I was a Democrat until 2017), murder, unnecessary wars, police state tyranny and Napoleon Bonaparte etc...the Revolution was generally a bad thing, led by leaders who were no where near as wise, or good people, as the American Founding Fathers. What the Founding Fathers lacked in military brilliance, they compensated for in wisdom in guiding a young Republic.
Pretty much agree with much of yout assesment: I'm not very big on the Code Napoléon, but that's another matter.

I think it will always be more difficult for people to remain emotionally detached, wise, stable - let alone for people with that original disposition - to maintain order in great upheavals. Revolutions seem to have a mind of their own. Once something like that starts it's quite difficult to contain, that's what my meta-historical gut feeling says anyway.

This is why I am somewhat skeptical of the Girondins winning out - but perhaps I am wrong.
 
May 2018
782
Michigan
Pretty much agree with much of yout assesment: I'm not very big on the Code Napoléon, but that's another matter.

I think it will always be more difficult for people to remain emotionally detached, wise, stable - let alone for people with that original disposition - to maintain order in great upheavals. Revolutions seem to have a mind of their own. Once something like that starts it's quite difficult to contain, that's what my meta-historical gut feeling says anyway.

This is why I am somewhat skeptical of the Girondins winning out - but perhaps I am wrong.
No doubt keeping a revolution 'on track' is a difficult task. Given the chaos right after the American Revolution, it is a credit to the Founding Father's that the Republic didn't fall apart.

Which isn't to say the Founding Fathers did a perfect job. During the ACW, we lost an entire 'Grande Army' worth of soldiers due to the unresolved issue of slavery and the meaning of American concepts of liberty and all men being endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights
 
May 2018
782
Michigan
Pretty much agree with much of yout assesment: I'm not very big on the Code Napoléon, but that's another matter.

I think it will always be more difficult for people to remain emotionally detached, wise, stable - let alone for people with that original disposition - to maintain order in great upheavals. Revolutions seem to have a mind of their own. Once something like that starts it's quite difficult to contain, that's what my meta-historical gut feeling says anyway.

This is why I am somewhat skeptical of the Girondins winning out - but perhaps I am wrong.
As far as the moderate Girondins winning out, was that even plausible? I genuinely dont have a position on the issue, will check previous posts by members on the topic. But it's an interesting thought experiment.
 
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pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,270
-The Directory which replaced the Committee was a corrupt, tyrannical regime. Napoleon Bonaparte was morally justified in abolishing the Directory and replacing it with the Consulship.
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Napoleon was equally corrupt and tyrannical regime. Perhaps more corrupt. (the continental system was the on going ocnscription were such amenable to corruption)
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,270
One of the essential problems is the war. The Revolutionaries rushed to a war to solve all their problems, rid them of the monarchy. Once the war was not going so well , the royal army being unable to effectively wage war they turned to mass mobilization the levee en mass. With no money as the currency had more or less collapsed. no real effective government structure, they turned to terror, naked force mobilization of the nation's resources for the war. And them occuptying other countries turned into the solution for their financial problems.
 
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royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,490
San Antonio, Tx
American revolution was not a true revolution like the French was. French revolution just about destroyed the old system which was not the case of the American revolution.

French revolution gave women and ethnic and religious minorities many rights.To me the French revolution was the true revolution.
Total nonsense! A revolution does not require rivers of blood and hundreds - thousands? - of chopped heads. Gore and torture do not a revolution make, but it does make for a great, unreasoning Terror. The French Revolution went from one failure to another until it ended where it began - with a new tyrant who crowned himself. Give me a break, it didn’t need to be such a shameful affair and it didn’t need to end up with a new king, for heven’s sake.