The Anatomy of the French Revolution


Thomas Jefferson, the U.S. Ambassador in Paris, passed on much of the ideas that spurred the American Revolution to the people of France. As a well known Enlightenment thinker, Jefferson promoted the questioning of political authority and the relationship between the government and the people. These new ideas from Jefferson helped to start the symptom stage of the revolution as French people started to recognize that their government was not efficient.

Estates General


King Louis XVI summoned a meeting of the Estates General (comprised of the first, second, and third estate) in hopes of preventing France from falling into bankruptcy after its involvement in the American Revolution. This could be considered part of the symptom stage of the revolution as the French government did not have an effective taxing system in place and was on verge of a huge financial crisis.

Storming of the Bastille


The Storming of the Bastille was a battle to take a medieval fortress and prison known as the Bastille, which represented royal authority. It was a symbol of the abuses of the French Monarchy and its fall was an important event in the French Revolution. The Storming of the Bastille was part of the Rising Fever stage in the revolution. It was a climactic battle that was crucial in overthrowing the oppressive monarchy and led to a transition to the Crisis stage of the revolution.

Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen


Representatives of the third estate soon broke off from the Estates General and organized themselves into the National Assembly. Inspired by Thomas Jefferson's own Declaration of Independence, this group wrote the Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen. This document proclaims that "men are born and remain free and equal in rights." This document was written at the end of the fever stage and helped transition France to the crisis stage of the revolution, which began with the writing of the French Constitution.

The French Constitution


The French Constitution was the first constitution in France. It was written shortly after the fall of the Ancien Regime and was based off the American Constitution. The French Constitution established popular sovereignty and established a new regime. However, the Constitution was poorly written so the new regime was just as bad as the old regime and was quickly overthrown. This document was part of the Crisis stage in which a new regime is established that is just as bad as the first one and is quickly overthrown and radicals start to take drastic action, which leads to the Reign of Terror.

Execution of Robespierre


During the Terror of 1793- 1794, the Committee of Public Safety (lead by Maximilien Robespierre) began to manage France by executing tens of thousands of enemies of the revolution with the guillotine. Accused of leading France into a dictatorship, Robespierre was soon executed himself in 1794. This was a major turning point for the French Revolution as it signaled an end of the bloody stage of violence and a beginning of a convalescence in which the country entered a period of recovery.

Napoleon Bonaparte


Napoleon Bonaparte was a crucial leader in the French Revolution and was a brilliant military leader. He was Crowned the emperor of France in 1805 after the first attempt at a new government failed in 1791. Napoleon was part of the crisis stage in the French Revolution. He was the dictator that took control after the failure of the first government and he helped transition France into the convalescence stage where France begins to recover.

Thomas Jefferson


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