A Day in the History of the French Revolution
The French Revolution put an end to the Ancien Regime. The French monarchy ceased its existence and the French people established a new state formation, which was called a republic. It brought the rise of democracy, which turned into terror. Finally, Napoleon Bonaparte seized the power turning the republic into the French Empire. The French Revolution opened a new page in the world’s history changing the way of the development of the human civilization. A day of the storm of the Bastille became the crucial event in the French history, but any manipulation of the public opinion posed a danger to the country leading to disasters, wars, and disgrace. From the very beginning, it was a real manipulation made by some politicians and writers for turning the old fortress of the 16th century into a symbol of the French absolute monarchism. They spread rumors and encouraged Frenchmen to organize riots. Finally, economic crisis turned into the political one, because the absence of the proper state informational policy and underestimation of political rivals by the French king led France to great disasters, wars, and disgrace in the 19th century.
In the result of the French Revolution, the French absolute monarchy turned into the constitutional one, which became the FrenchRepublic, the most democratic state formation in the world. However, it turned into the French Empire because of the state terrorism of the Directory, which was overthrown by Napoleon, who began exporting the revolution in Europe. It was the most tragic period in European history, because the most of the European monarchic countries were conquered by Napoleon with establishing new orders in social and political lives. On the one hand, the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th century introduced a new progressive form of the state to the peoples of Europe, but, on the other hand, they brought real tragedies, sufferings, disasters, and multiple deaths to them. Therefore, a day of the storm of the Bastille became a crucial event in the French history marking the beginning of the French Revolution. In order to find the real reasons for the French riots in 1789 and the beginning of the French Revolution, it is necessary to analyze all movers, driving forces, factors, and the manipulation by public opinion.
As Frey and Frey state, King of France, Louis XVI, faced a heavy financial crisis when spending outpaced revenues and dealing with bankruptcy that threatened France (The French Revolution, pg.3). The participation in the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolutionary War caused a very heavy economic situation in the country. At the same time, the French military aid helped the United States to gain independence from Britain. To make things worse, a failure with harvest was the other reason for the aggravation of the situation. As the British Ambassador, the Duke of Dorset, reported to the Foreign Office, the deficiency of corn was observed at the distance of fifteen leagues from Paris, and the government had to take some measures to provide markets with the capital food supplies, but other regions of France had a sufficient quantity of corn (“The Old Regime and the Revolution”, pg. 193). At the same time, a famous British traveler, Arthur Young, states in his notes about France that there was a great deficiency of bread, and riots began in provinces, which were depressed with military forces. The population could not buy bread because of lack of money. The price of wheat bread was 5s a pound, and from 3.5s to 4s for the lower sort bread (Travels, pg. 130). According to Godechot, the price for 100 liters of wheat in France increased twice in 1790 compared to 1750, and it was about 22 F (The Taking of the Bastille, pg. 13). At the same time, George Rude (1953) states that the price for 100 kg of wheat in Paris was 30 F in 1789. It increased almost twice compared to 1780 (Economic History Review, pg. 248). Analyzing all the abovementioned, we come to the conclusion that the poorest population lived in provinces, and there were multiple riots there. At the same time, they could take part in the storm of Bastille, but, according to George Rude (1959), the most active participants of the storm were locksmiths (41 people), sculptors (20 people), boot and shoemakers (28 people), cabinet makers (48 people), joiners (49 people), gauze (22 people), shopkeepers (22 people), and traders (56 people) (The Crowd in the French Revolution, pg. 246-248). As a rule, they were self-employed people. According to Rude (1953), the price for bread in Paris was 14.5s in 1789 as compared to 9s in 1788. Builders and wallpaper workers were spending 80 and 97 percent of their wages respectively on bread, while sculptors were spending only 24 percent (Economic History Review, pg. 248). According to the abovementioned facts, we came to the conclusion that people who took part in the storm of the Bastille were not the poorest ones. Therefore, the poor social condition of people was not the main reason to join the storm of the Bastille. Furthermore, according to Levy et al., there is a document about a woman, who participated in the storm. It was Margueritte Piningre, an owner of several wine shops (Women in Revolutionary Paris 1789-1795, pg. 29-30). This fact proves that the participants of the storm were not poor people.
Christopher Hibbert states that Jacques Necker, a foreign Protestant at the governmental service of France initiated a tax reform to improve the economic situation of France (The Days of the French Revolution, pg. 35-36). Thus, he considered that unfair tax system aggravated the social condition of poor people while nobility and clergy did not pay taxes according to their incomes. Necker proposed not to increase taxes but restrict the privileges for the nobility and clergy and reduce the power of the parliament. As Duke of Dorset states, the Necker’s removal on July 12 was the major reason for the storm of the Bastille, because he was a favorite politician of the Frenchmen. The Estate-General was the next reason to aggravate relationships between the representatives of both sides. It took place in 1789, but last time, the Estate-General gathered in 1614. After a 3-hour speech of Necker, the contradictories between ordinary representatives, nobility, and clergy increased. Necker was considered to manipulate public opinion. Thus, Louis Philippe Joseph and Duke of Orleans decided to oppose the King.
Duke of Orleans did not agree to approve a new tax policy. Therefore, he suggested the various meetings of dissatisfied with the royal tax policy to take place in his Palais Royal. There were a lot of agitators for returning Necker to his office in Paris, but Camille Desmoulins was the first who called Frenchmen for arms. Therefore, Duke of Orleans, Camille Desmoulins, and Necker were among those who organized a crowd for the storm of the Bastille.
The Bastille was a symbol of the French absolute monarchism. This idea was implemented by Linguet in his Memoires, where he described the Bastille as the most evil looking place in France (Memoires, pg. 67, 96). He narrates that many prisoners were put there without any trial. They became prisoners only because of the bad will of the king. Of course, such information could make the Frenchmen hate the king. About 20 percent of all printed production of France was made by Linguet. Therefore, 20 000 Frenchmen could read various Linguet’s articles every day. At that time, the Frenchmen had a free primary school education, and they were considered as one of the most literate nations in the world. Of course, only rich people could buy Linguet’s works. The meetings in Palais Royal were attended by men of means also. Moreover, only self-employed people could attend such meetings, because other employees were engaged in enterprises. As it is seen from the plan, the ground floor was a site for manufacturing facilities. Workers lived on attics or higher floors. Thus, they could meet only at wells in the yards (Neighborhood and Community in Paris, 1740-1790, pg. 222). Of course, the working day was about 12 hours, hence the poorer workers could not attend the meetings and buy a newspaper with Linguet’s works.
After analyzing the facts from various documents, we came to the conclusion that the storm of the Bastille was made by people with means, which were manipulated by Duke of Orleans to seize the power from the King of France. The old fortress of the Bastille was turned into a symbol of the French absolutism. Actually, the Bastille was a prison for seven men, but there was a sufficient quantity of the needed munitions for rioters. It was the major reason to storm the Bastille. Manipulation of the public opinion was the main method to seize the power. Duke of Orleans voted for the execution of the king, but he was killed as well at the time of terror. Thus, manipulation of the public opinion will never bring any use for a country. On the contrary, it is the main reason for disasters, wars, and disgrace. Of course, some political parties wanted to appropriate a piece of the victory for developing their own program. For instance, Marxists stated that the poorest people of France made the Revolution establish a new fair society. Of course, it was not true. In addition, it became the reason to reveal the truth about the French Revolution.