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French revolution and Napoléon Bonaparte
from several English websites
Assembled by Eijiro Hashiseko
1: Today I would like to talk about French revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte
because I think it is the real beginning of democracy and he was the real hero of
France at that time and ever since. One more reason, the most fundamental
element to change the world is surely the human being’s thoughts or ideas, such
as Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Another interesting person is Maximilien de
Robespierre, who was so-called extremist but a French revolution’s brain child.
Please watch these three big figures.
2: The most important event in modern European history, the French Revolution
began in 1789 and ended in the late 1790s with the ascent of Napoleon
Bonaparte. During this period, French citizens destroyed and redesigned their
country’s political landscape, uprooting centuries-old institutions such as
absolute monarchy and the feudal system. Like the American Revolution before
it, the French Revolution was influenced by Enlightenment ideals, particularly
the concepts of popular sovereignty and inalienable rights. Although it failed to
achieve all of its goals and at times degenerated into a chaotic bloodbath, the
movement played a critical role in shaping modern nations by showing the world
the power inherent in the will of the people.
3: Prelude to the French Revolution: Monarchy in crisis
As the 18th century drew to a close, France’s costly involvement in the American
Revolution and extravagant spending by King Louis XVI (1754-1793) had left the
country on the brink of bankruptcy. Not only were the royal coffers depleted, but
two decades of poor cereal harvests, drought, cattle disease and skyrocketing
bread prices had kindled unrest among peasants and the urban poor. Many
expressed their desperation and resentment toward a regime that imposed heavy
taxes but couldn’t do it by rioting, looting and striking.
4: The three estates; clergy, nobles and common people.
In the fall of 1786, Louis XVI’s controller general, Charles Alexandre de Calonne
(1734-1802), proposed a financial reform package that included a universal land
tax including the privileged classes. To garner support for these measures and
prevent a growing aristocratic revolt, the king ordered the Estates-General –an
assembly representing France’s clergy, nobility and middle class–for the first
time since 1614. The meeting was scheduled for May 5, 1789; in the meantime,
delegates of the three estates from each locality would compile lists of complaints
to present to the king.
5: The French Revolution at Versailles: Rise of the Third Estate
France’s population had changed considerably since 1614. The non-aristocratic
members of the Third Estate now represented 98 percent of the people but could
still be outvoted by the other two bodies. In advance of the May 5 meeting, the
Third Estate began to mobilize support for equal representation, they wanted
voting by head and not by status. While all of the orders shared a common desire
for fiscal and judicial reform as well as a more representative form of government,
the nobles in particular were loath to give up the privileges they enjoyed under
the traditional system.
6: By the time the Estates-General convened at Versailles, the highly public
debate over its voting process had erupted into hostility between the three orders,
eclipsing the original purpose of the meeting and the authority of the man who
had convened it. On June 17, with talks over procedure stalled, the Third Estate
met alone and formally adopted the title of National Assembly; three days later,
they met in a nearby indoor tennis court and took the so-called Tennis Court
Oath, vowing not to disappear until constitutional reform had been achieved.
Within a week, most of the clerical deputies and 47 liberal nobles had joined
them, and on June 27 Louis XVI grudgingly absorbed all three orders into the
new assembly.
7: The French Revolution Hits the Streets: The Bastille and the Great Fear
On June 12, as the National Assembly (known as the National Constituent
Assembly during its work on a constitution) continued to meet at Versailles, fear
and violence consumed the capital. Though enthusiastic about the recent
breakdown of royal power, Parisians grew panicked as rumors of an impending
military coup began to circulate. A popular insurgency culminated on July 14
when rioters stormed the Bastille fortress in an attempt to secure gunpowder
and weapons; many consider this event, now commemorated in France as a
national holiday, as the start of the French Revolution.
8: The wave of revolutionary fervor and widespread hysteria quickly swept the
countryside. Revolting against years of exploitation, peasants looted and burned
the homes of tax collectors, landlord elites. Known as the Great Fear, the farmers’
riots hastened the growing exodus of nobles from the country and inspired the
National Constituent Assembly to abolish feudalism on August 4, 1789, signing
what a historian later called the “death certificate of the old order.”
9: The French Revolution’s Political Culture: Drafting a Constitution
On August 4, the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of
the Citizen, a statement of democratic principles grounded in the philosophical
and political ideas of Enlightenment thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau
(1712-1778). The document proclaimed the Assembly’s commitment to replace
the ancien régime with a system based on equal opportunity, freedom of speech,
popular sovereignty and representative government.
10: Drafting a formal constitution proved much more of a challenge for the
National Constituent Assembly. For months, its members wrestled with
fundamental questions about the shape and expanse of France’s new political
landscape in vain. Perhaps most importantly, how much authority would the
king retain? Adopted on September 3, 1791, France’s first written constitution
echoed the more moderate voices in the Assembly, establishing a constitutional
monarchy in which the king enjoyed royal veto power and the ability to appoint
ministers. This compromise did not sit well with influential radicals like
Maximilien de Robespierre (1758-1794), Camille Desmoulins (1760-1794) and
Georges Danton (1759-1794), who began drumming up popular support for a
more republican form of government and the trial of Louis XVI.
11: The French Revolution Turns Radical: Terror and Revolt
In April 1792, the newly elected Legislative Assembly declared war on Austria
and Prussia, where it believed that French refugees were building
counterrevolutionary alliances; it also hoped to spread its revolutionary ideals
across Europe through warfare. On the domestic front, meanwhile, the political
crisis took a radical turn when a group of insurgents led by the extremist
Jacobins attacked the royal residence in Paris and arrested the king on August
10, 1792. The following month, amid a wave of violence in which Parisian
insurrectionists massacred hundreds of accused counterrevolutionaries, the
Legislative Assembly was replaced by the National Convention, which
proclaimed the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of the French
republic. On January 21, 1793, it sent King Louis XVI, condemned to death for
high treason and crimes against the state, to the guillotine; his wife
Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793) suffered the same fate nine months later.
12: Following the king’s execution, war with various European powers and
intense divisions within the National Convention ushered the French Revolution
into its most violent and turbulent phase. In June 1793, the Jacobins seized
control of the National Convention from the more moderate Girondins and
instituted a series of radical measures, including the establishment of a new
calendar and the eradication of Christianity.
13: They also unleashed the bloody Reign of Terror, a 10-month period in which
suspected enemies of the revolution were guillotined by the thousands. Many of
the killings were carried out under orders from Robespierre, who dominated the
draconian Committee of Public Safety until his own execution on July 28, 1794.
His death marked the beginning of the Thermidorian Reaction, a moderate phase
in which the French people revolted against the Reign of Terror’s excesses.
14: The French Revolution Ends: Napoleon’s Rise
On August 22, 1795, the National Convention, composed largely of Girondins
who had survived the Reign of Terror, approved a new constitution that created
France’s first bicameral, or two parliaments, legislature. Executive power would
lie in the hands of a five-member Directory appointed by parliament. Royalists
and Jacobins protested the new regime but were swiftly silenced by the army,
now led by a young and successful general named Napoleon Bonaparte
15: The Directory’s four years in power were riddled with financial crises,
popular discontent, inefficiency and, above all, political corruption. By the late
1790s, the directors relied almost entirely on the military to maintain their
authority and had ceded much of their power to the generals in the field. On
November 9, 1799, as frustration with their leadership reached a fever pitch,
Bonaparte staged a coup d’état, abolishing the Directory and appointing himself
France’s “first consul.” The event marked the end of the French Revolution and
the beginning of the Napoleonic era, in which France would come to dominate
much of continental Europe.
16: Napoleon di Bonaparte; (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French
military and political leader who rose to prominence during the latter stages of
the French Revolution and its associated wars. As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of
the French from 1804 to 1814 and again in 1815. Napoleon dominated European
affairs for almost two decades while leading France against a series of coalitions
in the Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He won the large majority
of his battles and seized control of most of continental Europe before his ultimate
defeat in 1815. One of the greatest commanders in history, his campaigns are
studied at military schools worldwide and he remains simultaneously one of the
most celebrated and controversial political figures in European history. In civil
affairs, Napoleon implemented a wide array of liberal reforms across Europe,
including the abolition of feudalism, the establishment of legal equality and
religious toleration, and the legalization of divorce. His lasting legal achievement,
the Napoleonic Code, has been adopted to varying degrees by dozens of nations
around the world.
17: Napoleon was born in Corsica to a relatively modest family of noble Italian
ancestry that had settled on the island in the 16th century. Well-educated and an
earnest reader, he spoke French with a heavy Corsican accent. A supporter of the
radical Jacobin faction, his military skills led to very rapid promotions under the
Republic. He became the leading figure of the Revolution after his celebrated
military campaigns in Italy and Egypt from 1796 until 1799.
18: Napoleon took power in 1799 and installed himself as First Consul with few
restrictions on his control of France. In 1804 he was crowned emperor of the
French people. He made peace with the pope and the Catholic Church, much to
the relief of the religious element. He launched a new aristocracy for France
while allowing the return of most of the aristocrats who had been forced into
exile by the Revolution. He fought a series of wars—the Napoleonic Wars—that
involved complex ever-changing coalitions against the French Empire. With his
victories at Ulm and Austerlitz in 1805, he put an end to the Third Coalition,
then he dissolved the old Holy Roman Empire and created the Confederation of
the Rhine. However, his navy was destroyed at the Battle Trafalgar in October
1805 and Britain imposed a naval blockade of the French coasts. In revenge, he
established the Continental System to cut off all European trade with Britain. A
Fourth Coalition was set up against France, but it was defeated at the battles of
Jena-Auerstedt in 1806 and again at the Battle of Friedland in 1807. These
French victories resulted in the dismemberment of Prussia and the resurgence of
a Polish State. At Wagram in 1809, Napoleon dissolved a Fifth Coalition and
secured a dominant position in continental Europe.
19: Napoleon maintained the French sphere of influence through the formation of
fluctuating alliances and the elevation of friends and family members to rule
other European countries as belong to France. Napoleon was himself President
(1802–1805), then King of Italy (1805–1814), Mediator of the Swiss
Confederation (1803–1813) and Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine
(1806–1813). In late 1807, Napoleon tried to compel Portugal to follow the
Continental System. The following year he declared his brother Joseph
Bonaparte the King of Spain, which precipitated the outbreak of the Peninsular
War, widely noted for its brutal guerrilla conflict. The war also featured the
participation of the British army and substantially drained French resources
over time.
20: To enforce the Continental blockade, he launched a large-scale invasion of
Russia in 1812 that proved to be a major military failure. Much of the Grande
Armée was destroyed in the campaign due to disease. Most European countries
then turned against him. The Sixth Coalition defeated him at the Battle of
Leipzig in October 1813 and then invaded France. Napoleon was forced to step
down by April 1814, ending up exiled to the island of Elba. Most French
territorial gains since 1792 were reversed and the Bourbons were restored to
power. In 1815, he escaped from Elba and returned to power for roughly one
hundred days, but was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.
21: He spent the last six years of his life in confinement by the British on the
remote island of Saint Helena. He was the great hero of the French people
throughout the 19th century, and his nephew Napoleon III built on that fame to
become ruler of France from 1848 until 1870.
The cause of his death has been debated. Napoleon's physician, François Carlo
Antommarchi, led the autopsy, which found the cause of death to be stomach
cancer. The doctor did not, however, sign the official report. Napoleon's father
had died of stomach cancer, although this was seemingly unknown at the time of
the autopsy. The doctor found evidence of a stomach ulcer; this was the most
convenient explanation for the British, who wanted to avoid criticism over their
care of Napoleon.
22: Gold-framed portrait painting of a gaunt middle-aged man with receding hair
and laurel wreath, lying eyes-closed on white pillow with a white blanket
covering to his neck and a gold Jesus cross resting on his chest. This is the
picture painted by Horace Vernet, 1826
In 1955, the diaries of Napoleon's subordinate, Louis Mrchand, were published.
His description of Napoleon in the months before his death led Sten Forshufvud
in a 1961 paper in Nature to put forward other causes for his death, including
deliberate arsenic poisoning. Arsenic was used as a poison during the era because
it was undetectable when administered over a long period. Forshufvud, in a 1978
book with Ben Weider, noted that Napoleon's body was found to be remarkably
well preserved when moved in 1840. Arsenic is a strong preservative, and
therefore this supported the poisoning hypothesis. Forshufvud and Weider
observed that Napoleon had attempted to quench abnormal thirst by drinking
large amounts of orgeat syrup that contained cyanide compounds in the almonds
used for flavoring.
They maintained that the potassium tartrate used in his treatment prevented
his stomach from expelling these compounds and that his thirst was a symptom
of the poison. Their hypothesis was that the calomel given to Napoleon became
an overdose, which killed him and left extensive tissue damage behind.
According to a 2007 article, the type of arsenic found in Napoleon's hair shafts
was mineral, the most toxic, and according to toxicologist Patrick Kintz, this
supported the conclusion that he was murdered.
23: Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (20 April 1808 – 9 January 1873) was the first
President of the French Second Republic and, as Napoleon III, the Emperor of
the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I. He was
the first President of France to be elected by a direct popular vote. However,
when he was blocked by the Constitution and Parliament from running for a
second term, he organized a coup d'état in 1851, and then took the throne as
Napoleon III on 2 December 1852, the forty-eighth anniversary of Napoleon I's
During the first years of the Empire, his government imposed censorship and
harsh repressive measures against his opponents. Some six thousand were
imprisoned or sent to penal colonies until 1859. Thousands more, including
Victor Hugo, went into voluntary exile abroad. Beginning in 1862, Napoleon
loosened the reins, in what was known as the "Liberal Empire." Many of his
opponents returned to France and became members of the National Assembly.
Napoleon III is best known today for his grand reconstruction of Paris, carried
out by his prefect of the Seine Baron Haussmann. He launched similar public
works projects in Marseille, Lyon and other French cities.
Napoleon III modernized the French banking system, greatly expanded and
consolidated the French railroad system, and made the French merchant marine
the second largest in the world. He promoted the building of the Suez Canal, and
established modern agriculture, which ended famines in France and made
France an agricultural exporter. He negotiated the 1860 Cobden–Chevalier free
trade agreement with Britain, and similar agreements with France's other
European trading partners. Social reforms included giving French workers the
right to strike and the right to organize. Women's education greatly expanded, as
did the list of required subjects in public schools.
24: The tricolor flag is derived from the cockades used in the 1790s. These were
circular rosette-like emblems attached to the hat. Camille Desmoulins asked his
followers to wear green cockades on 12 July 1789. The Paris militia, formed on 13
July, adopted a blue and red cockade. Blue and red are the traditional colors of
Paris, and they are used on the city's coat of arms. Cockades with various color
schemes were used during the storming of the Bastille on 14 July. The blue and
red cockade was presented to King Louis XVI at the Hôtel de Ville on 17 July.
Lafayette argued for the addition of a white stripe to "nationalise" the design. On
27 July, a tricolor cockade was adopted as part of the uniform of the National
Guard, the national police force that succeeded the militia.