2. How the French Revolution Worked.honors.docx - How the French Revolution Worked Based on an article by Candace Keener

2. How the French Revolution Worked.honors.docx - How the...

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How the French Revolution WorkedBased on an article by Candace KeenerSince the Middle Ages, France had been divided into a three-class system. The nobility made up the first class, the clergy the second and the peasantry the third. There was no room for social climbing: Kings gave birth to kings, paupers gave birth to paupers. For centuries, the Old Regimeheld all the power in France. The nobilityand clergymade up only 3 percent of the French population, but governed the entire country. By the 18th century, the Enlightenmentphilosophers like Voltaire and Rousseau promoted the ideas of equality and reason. Meanwhile, the American colonies had gone to war to claim their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While French nobles pondered the universe, peasants went hungry in the streets of Paris.A small part of the enlightened equal rights movement sweeping through France was the invention of the guillotine. From medieval times, common criminals were brutally executed: burned, drowned, tortured and maimed while the French nobility were entitled to execution by decapitation. While it seems a grisly way to die, decapitation is relatively swift, a real gentleman's death. Dr. Joseph Guillotin proposed that all criminals sentenced to death be decapitated, and in 1791, the guillotine was appointed France's national death-sentence machine.While Guillotin advocated for equality in death, the French people were fighting for equality in life. But what turned a group of loyal subjects into a bloodthirsty mob? The movement that began as a reformation steadily developed into a full-fledged revolution, lasting 10 years, from 1789 to 1799. Once Upon a Time at Versailles: Before the French RevolutionThe Palace of Versailles was built by Louis XIV in 1682, 12 miles away from the squalor of Paris. The reign of Louis XIV was one of extravagance, followed by the reign of Louis XV, when France got into some serious financial trouble and nearly drained the treasury. The population was growing and clamoring for food. The cost of breadincreased more than tenfold.When Louis XV died in 1774, the crown went to Louis XVI and his young wife, Marie Antoinette, two royal teenagers. While the court of Versaillesate to excess, the people of Francewent hungry. Food shortages sent mobs into the streets, lynching bakers and looting precious loaves from their shops. Louis appointed a finance minister who set out to reform government finances. His boldest move was to call a meeting of the Estates General,a legislative body made up of representatives from each of the three estates: The clergy, the nobles, and the commoners. Maximilien Robespierre, lawyer and incendiary speaker, went to Versailles in 1789 to serve at the Estates General. He incited unrest when he proclaimed that allestates, including the
nobility and clergy, should pay taxes. At that time the clergy and nobility did notpay taxes. (In Britain, however, everyone paid, even the nobles and clergy.)

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