The French Revolution of 1789 to 1799 was the result of great class disparity and an increasingly dire economic environment. While the majority of those involved in the French Revolution were merely frustrated and irate peasants, these peasants were not acting without provocation. These key figures are responsible for both aggravating and inspiring the masses into action.
King Louis XVI
King Louis XVI was crowned the King of France in 1774 at the age of 20. While his predecessors and peers moved toward a capitalistic economic model, King Louis XVI sent France into retrograde with his exorbitant business and land taxes. Additionally, Louis stood for everything the peasants despised including an all-powerful, centralised government and an indifference to poverty. Eventually King Louis met his demise at the hand of his people in 1793.
In the late 1770s France found itself in dire financial trouble. In response, King Louis XVI appointed Swiss financial wizard Jacques Necker as France's general of finance. In an attempt to grow the wealth of France, Necker implemented land taxes throughout France. However, this plan was disorganised at best. Most of the new taxes were carried by the peasants alone. Additionally, each province had different taxes leading to confusion, frustration and growing poverty. According to the Washington State University Department of History, nearly all of a peasant's income was spent solely on bread during this time. Needless to say, the peasants grew wearier under these policies.
Marquis de Lafayette
Lafayette was regarded as a sort of hero of the downtrodden during the French Revolution. The Marquis was one of the few noblemen who united with the revolutionaries in the name of political change. In an effort to protect the peasants from their government he organised the National Guard of Armed Citizens. While Lafayette helped mobilise the peasants in the beginning of the French Revolution, he later recoiled as the upheavals grew more chaotic.
Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyes played a crucial and quiet role in the French Revolution. In the first months of the French Revolution, Sieyes helped organise the National Guard of Armed Citizens. He also wrote a brochure entitled, "What Is the Third Estate?" This brochure aided in informing and recruiting peasants into the National Guard. Finally, in 1799, Sieyes organised the coup d'état that ultimately ended the French Revolution.
Napoleon Bonaparte adamantly supported the revolutionary cause. As the French Revolution spread across Europe, General Napoleon led his troops to victory against Austria and Sardinia. In 1799 Napoleon returned to Paris to settle a coup over a new French constitution. This constitution laid out three consulates, one of which being that Napoleon would have complete and total control over France. This coup ended the French Revolution and began the Napoleonic Era.
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