The French Revolution

The French revolution can be separated into three distinct phases. The first phase is characterized by the First Revolution, which began in 1789 as a result of a weakening monarchy and a political vacuum. The Second Revolution, which followed proved to be much more radical and volatile in its manner of reforming and the reforms themselves. The thermadorian reaction constituted the final phase. A more moderate climate, especially concerning social reform, prevailed during this phase as many began to feel that the revolution had become too radical. The weaknesses of the French Monarchy revolved around its inability to utilize, through taxation, the resourses and wealth of its people to support the government. The attempt to utilize these resourses led to conflicts with the aristocracy and the wealthy middle class. These conflicts, in turn, led directly to the formation of a number of assemblies which eventually wrested economic and political power away from the monarchy. This new government had a difficult time succeeding due to the numerous quarrels between the first and second estates with the third over individual freedoms and economic rights. The second revolution of 1792 occured because of the growing dissatisfaction of groups such as the Jacobins toward the constitutional monarchy. These groups were interested in forming a republic, allowing for more radical reformation at the hands of the people. The Jocobins themselves soon became divided, however, between the Girondists, who wanted a representative and more conservative republic, and the Mountain, who wanted a more direct repuplican government and who worked with the sans-culottes to achieve their goals. The sans- culottes were influential because they were comprised of the masses and wanted immediate economic reform. In the Terror they served as an important catalyst in speeding and influencing the government through their terrorism and rioting. Although the French Revolution's motto was "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," It failed to include the rights of women and disregarded the non-property owning class in participation in the government.