Napoleon Bonaparte: The French Revolution Essay

1974 words - 8 pages

When observing our history, it is common to see in numerous cases, the outcomes of an upheaval do not match the motivations or reasonings behind it. Take in account the American Revolution, for an example. Though the patriots preached of equality for all, slavery still existed in America for nearly a century and women remained remarkably oppressed even to this day. In order to judge and determine the extent of which Napoleon represents the ideals of the French Revolution, we must understand the revolution itself, the meaning and causes of the revolution, Napoleon himself, and what he believed in. In other words, we will delve into the smallest details possible in order to accurately create a conjecture.
The French Revolution was fought from 1789 to 1799 and was perhaps one of the bloodiest turmoils in its contemporary time (French Revolution., N.P). Though precise figures are unknown, it is estimated that over a million died in the battles of the French Revolution (Statistics of Wars, Oppressions and Atrocities of the Eighteenth Century. N.P). The Reign of Terror itself, a period lasting fifteen months in which people who were merely speculated to oppose the revolution were beheaded, had a death toll of nearly forty thousand (The French Revolution., N.P.). What caused all this dissent and paranoia? To be clear, there was not one simple cause of the French Revolution. It was a number of causes and we’ll begin to analyze that background now.
The conditions of France before 1789 were poor. Society was divided into three classes called Estates, (Napoleon himself reports that almost ten million acres of uncultivated land belonged to the government, smaller states within France, or in the hands of individuals (“Extinction of Pauperism”, 12) Among this imbalanced ownership of land was the immense imbalanced demographic makeup of France, which resulted in deficit. Roughly ninety-eight percent of the French population represented the Third Estate, the lowest possible class in pre-revolutionary France (French Revolution., N.P.). Under the law, the Clergy and Nobility paid no taxes, meaning the Third Estate, many of whom owned little land, had the heaviest taxes imposed on them. Unable to pay these taxes fully, the Monarchy found itself with insufficient funds to run. On top of this was the Agrarian Crisis of 1788-1789 brought about food shortages, furthering the amount of discontent and disorder especially among those in the Third Estate. (The French Revolution: Causes, Outcomes, Conflicting Interpretations, N.P.) Unfortunately it was not only the Third Estate who was unhappy with France’s conditions.
According to Robert M. Schwartz, the conflict between the Nobility, the Clergy, and the Monarchy itself (over the reformation of the tax system) led to bankruptcy and paralysis. Specifically in this situation, the Monarchy attempted to impose taxes on the First and Second Estates but were met with dispute.
Social and cultural motivation also stood...

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