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On July 14th the French celebrate Bastille Day.
This day marks the end of monarchy and the beginning of the French Revolution.
Several factors led to the Revolution. France had the largest population in Europe and not nearly enough food to feed it. The wealthy and growing bourgeoisie (the middle-class, merchants and businessmen) were allowed no political input or power. The poor were in a bad situation and it was getting worse. The country was nearing bankruptcy. By the late 1780s the people of France were fed up and began speaking out. Assemblies were held and demands of a constitution were made. When King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette, tried to quiet the unrest the people rebelled.
On July 14, 1789 the masses banded together and stormed the Bastille prison, a symbol of the corrupt political system. This began the Revolution. The following year on July 14th delegates from all regions of the France gathered in Paris to celebrate the Fête de la Fédération and proclaim their allegiance to one national community. This made France a paragon for the rest of Europe and established them a nation of liberty.
The First Republic was established in 1792. This period is known as the Reign of Terror. The leaders (like Maximilien Robespierre) rejected the idea of federalism and enforced their own ideas upon the people. They held mass executions by guillotine, closed churches, and repressed religious freedoms among other things. They claimed their acts were justified because of the European monarchy allegiances just outside of France and the growing number of uprisings within the borders. In the end, in an ironic twist of fate the leaders of The First Republic found themselves under the blade of the guillotine.
The Revolution lead to the tricolor flag of blue, red, and white. Blue and red are the colors of Paris and white is the color of royalty.
Bastille Day was proclaimed a national holiday in 1880 and in 1848 the motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” was reinstated. In France, most folks take Bastille Eve off and celebrate with festive balls and brilliant displays of fireworks. The day that follows is filled with parades, bands, dancing and general good times.
The French Revolution of 1789 — Its Legacy
At the end of the 19th century the French considered the enduring gains of the Revolution to be the idea of the nation, one and indivisible, based on a voluntary union and incorporating the principles of human rights and national sovereignty, the rule of law and a republican form of government. As they are associated with France, these concepts are symbolized by the “Marseillaise,” the anthem to national unity composed in 1792 by Rouget de Lisle. Except for the period between 1815 and 1830, the tricolour flag has represented France since the Revolution; it marries blue and red, the colours of the city of Paris, with the royal colour of white. Bastille Day, 14 July, was officially proclaimed the national holiday in 1880 and the motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” was restored in 1848.
The French Declaration of 1789 is not simply a copy of the American Declaration of Independence, it takes as a starting point the the reflexions of the philosophy of the Enlightenment and in particular of authors like Locke, Voltaire, Montesquieu and Rousseau. Admittedly, the US document had a great influence on the French. But the originality of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was conceived to recognize eternal and universal values. It thus had, after its publication, a great repercussion on the Western thought.
Moreover, the powerful aspiration to equality, inherited from the Enlightenment philosophy of Rousseau, stands out as the most resonant principle of the Declaration and following revolutionary movements. Unfortunately, because of the troubles during the Reformation and its repression supported by the Catholic powers, the “enlightened ones” had in France an anti-religious fervor. Never-the-less “equality” is the most enduring, original characteristic of the French Revolution, within the great sweep of political change which first radiated from the shores of the United States. ( funmunch.com)