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Saturday, 7 March 2015

French Revolution

Before the Revolution, France was divided into three Estates. The First Estate was the Clergy and made up a small percentage of the population. The Second Estate was the Nobility and also made up a small percentage of the population. The remainder, the majority of the population, was in the Third Estate.

The members of the Third Estate were angry that they were being taxed the most when they were the poorest group of people. The Third Estate decided to break away and start their own assembly where every member would get a vote. On June 13, 1789, they started the National Assembly.

Many Parisians thought King Louis XVI, was going to try to shut down the National Assembly. On July 12, 1789 at the Café de Foy in Paris, political journalist Camille Desmoulins while standing on a table brandishing  two pistols, roused his countrymen with a cry of  “Aux armes, citoyens”. Two days later the Bastille prison was stormed and fell, and the French Revolution begun.

Camille Desmoulins, Musée Carnavalet

Just seven prisoners were ‘liberated’ when the Bastille prison in Paris was stormed on July 14, 1789 — four forgers, two lunatics and one sex offender.


After the storming of the Bastille, its main key was given to the Marquis de Lafayette who later gave it to George Washington. The key is now exhibited at Washington mansion at Mount Vernon.



During the French Revolution the revolutionaries set up a Comité de Salubrite, a sort of board of public health. Its president was a Dr Guillotin who advocated the use of a new, supposedly more humane executionary device which was called a guillotine after the doctor.

King Louis XVI was put on trial for treason by the National Convention on December 11, 1792 and guillotined on January 21, 1793.

The National Convention began the Reign of Terror, a ten-month period of systematic repression and mass executions by guillotine of perceived enemies within the country on September 5, 1793. The death toll ranged in the tens of thousands, with 16,594 executed by guillotine (2,639 in Paris), and another 25,000 in summary executions across France.

Nine emigrants are executed by guillotine, 1793

The French Revolution in no way diminished the taste for perfume, there was even a fragrance called "Parfum a la Guillotine.”

During the last few years of the 18th century, fashions were greatly influenced by the French Revolution--the most lasting effect being the substitution of long trousers for culottes by revolutionaries who wanted to distinguish themselves from the aristocrats. Those who wore trousers called themselves sansculottes-- literally, "without culottes."

A popular hair-style in England at the time of the French Revolution was known as “la coiffure a la victime”, in which the hair was cut short and disheveled, and a crimson ribbon was worn around the neck.

The French Revolution was the first attempt to introduce a secular state. As part of the revolutionaries wholesale attack on the Church, religious nursing communities were abolished and charities nationalized. The revolutionaries confiscated the finances of religious organizations, which affected many of the institutions ran by the church for the sick or injured.


One of the major objectives of the French Revolution was to switch all measures of time from base 12 to base 10, including a ten day week. Ironically, the experiment lasted 12 years.

A reformed calendar rid of religious connections was adopted with a 10-day week and
12 months of 30 days. Religious holidays were banned and replaced with holidays to celebrate the harvest and other non-religious symbols. The calendar began on September 22, 1792, the day the republic was proclaimed.

Twelve years later Napoleon was forced to reintroduce the Gregorian calendar as he realized the loss of a 7-day week and in particular the Sabbath was having a detrimental affect on the health of the
nation.

The French Revolution closed thousands of churches, and the Roman Catholic church particularly suffered with many priests being imprisoned and massacred as it was identified with the earlier misgovernment of France. On one famous occasion a group of deputies enthroned at Notre Dame Cathedral an immoral dancer, Thérèse Momoro, as 'the goddess of Reason'.

The revolutionary leader, Maximilien Robespierre, realized that without belief in some powerful being like the Judeo-Christian God, morals would collapse. On May 7, 1794, Robespierre introduced the Cult of the Supreme Being in the National Convention as the new state religion of the French First Republic. This was not the God of the Bible, who enters into personal relationships with men, but a Deist god. Eighteenth-century Deism taught that God created the universe but did not interfere in its operation. Their god could be discovered through natural law and his existence was an inspiration to moral behavior.

The Festival of the Supreme Being, by Pierre-Antoine Demachy (1794).

When Chinese premier Zhou Enlal was asked 180 years later in 1972 to assess the impact of the French Revulsion, he is said to have replied: "It's too early to say."

Sources Encyclopedia Brittanica, Christianity.com.

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