French Revolution And Nationalism Essay

1624 words - 7 pages

“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” From 1789 onward, this was the basic guideline of the French Revolution. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, and the French Directory that correlates to the Napoleonic Code, established this statement of liberalism throughout Europe. These factors, combined with Napoleon’s beliefs in liberalism and unity, lead many European nations – including the Germanic and Italian states – to develop a strong sense of nationalism.
The French Revolution was the beginning of not only French nationalism, but nationalism across Europe. Based off of Enlightenment thought, the passing of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789 was the beginning for this nationalistic movement. From the Declaration came the Reign of Terror, led by the National Convention. Enlightenment thought and the idea of equal rights were warped and mislead during the Terror. After the execution of one of the Convention’s main leaders, Maximillien Robespierre, France entered into a period of well-needed recovery and regrouping. This period of recovery was led by the French Directory. Though not often credited, the Directory was essential for Napoleon Bonaparte to take over as the first Consul of France. With Napoleon’s rise to power, his beliefs in liberty, equality, and the formation of the Napoleonic Code, France became one of the most powerful empires of the period. He spread these beliefs by conquering various European countries with his armies. Amongst these countries were the German states, as well as the Italian states. The spread of French nationalism, and pressing of a new government under the Code arose nationalism within these countries.

In May 1789, King Louis XVI summoned the Estates-General, which was to discuss matters such as imposing new taxes (1, pg 443). Represented by the three distinct classes of people in France – nobility, clergy, and the third estate (8, 657), the King addressed the first two classes to discuss the matter, not including the third class (1, pg 443). Infuriated by the lack of respect shown, the National Assembly was formed in June. With this, and the Tennis Court Oath following shortly afterward, it was evident there was a rise in the middle class (1, pg 443-445). Their actions inspired people from the first and second classes of the Estates-General to join the Assembly’s movement (8, 657). The Assembly wanted a constitutional monarchy, one that had equal rights for all citizens of France (8, 659-660). Shortly after their formation, they passed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen on August 26, 1789 (1, pg 448). The following quote is one of the key ideas of the Declaration:
“I. Men are born, and always continue, free, and equal in respect of their rights. Civil distinctions, therefore, can be founded only on public utility.” ( )
The Declaration was created as a foundation for the Assembly’s beliefs, making it the first major movement towards France...

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