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Friday, June 15, 2018

The failings of the French Revolution

The failings of the French Revolution - History Extra

[On the Bastille] "'In July 1789 there were... seven prisoners there. And all of those, none of them were political, and all of them were put back in prison by the Revolutionaries anyway.

What the Parisians wanted was gunpowder, because they'd already got a load of muskets and they wanted gunpowder. In order to have an uprising...

Democratic reform was going on and what people wanted was a constitutional monarchy. A British style monarchy where the king was subject to Parliament and he had rather grudgingly accepted that. So when the Bastille was attacked, in fact, democracy was already happening. Not in Paris, but out in Versailles with the king and no one wanted to execute the King. And people just don't admit this for some reason. They don't want to admit this.'

'So the way that we view the French Revolution is very much shaped by hindsight and the knowledge of what came after.'

'Yes, and by a sort of cleanup act, because what came afterwards was for about almost three years, this new democracy was going ahead. They were reforming things. They were writing a new constitution. Now being French, they were doing a lot of talking and not a great deal of action. And some of the politicians when you read the parliamentary archives... they talked almost all day, every day, 365 days a year. No, they're working very hard, but they were pontificating a lot.

And unfortunately what was happening was that these aristocrats who still had a measure of power in Parliament were blocking the most radical reforms, especially as regarding to the taxes they were receiving and being dispossessed of their property. They wanted to be paid the full price with their property. Whereas the King for example gave up some of these policies without asking for the full price'...

History has been totally sanitized by the French historians. They don't talk about these massacres at all, except for saying a few anti revolutionaries, counter revolutionaries were got rid of. But it was practically genocide in the west of France...

She did overspend terribly... She was very young when she arrived. She was only 14 when she married. She was a pre pubescent princess, and at first people loved her... she gave to charity and all that sort of thing. But after that, very quickly, she was buying earrings that would cost about the price of... a million loaves of bread and she would borrow money, and her reputation went down so badly and so quickly...

I found these pornographic plays and sketches that people were writing about her and believing it. How she was sleeping with her husband's brother or other lovers. Incest, and people would believe anything about her and she really dragged the monarch down, and at one point, some of Louis XVI's allies were saying, send her back to Austria and then you'll be able to stay on...

People actually genuinely liked Louis XVI. He was as kings go, as French kings , absolutely monarchs go quite a benevolent fella... throughout his whole career he did try his best to ease the lot of the poor Parisians... He engaged a Swiss economist called Jacques Necker who tried to push through really radical tax reform to make aristocrats pay tax for a start, and also to enable poor people to work and earn a decent living and actually have prospects for themselves and their children and everything. And people actually quite liked him.

On the 14th of July 1790, the first anniversary of Bastille Day, there was a huge celebration in Paris and Louis 16th was the guest of honour and the massed crowds of politicians and soldiers, and ordinary spectators swore an oath of allegiance to him. There was no question of cutting his head off at first, they liked him. It was only when these reforms couldn't get through because they were blocked that populists whipped up opinion against him...

One of the most famous revolutionaries Danton, he has a statue, at Odeon in Paris at the crossroads in Paris. Where he says that bread and education are the greatest gifts that the nation can give to its people. Okay which is a wonderful quote to have on your statue.

But what they don't quote is all the speeches where he said, let's have some blood and the speeches where he was condoning prison massacres where people, just mobs would go into prisons, massacre aristocrats, but also some of them waded into a women's prison, raped loads of women, massacred some of the prostitutes and claimed it as a revolutionary act and people, by this time this was during the terror, Robespierre and co and Danton were condoning this. And that doesn't get quoted these days...

It started out much more peaceful than people imagine, and it ended up much, much more violent"
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