French Revolution Success & Failures

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M.M
11/9/11
History

Prompt: Why was the French Revolution both a success and a failure? Explain. Be specific.
Like many radical upheavals, the French Revolution resulted in some successes as well as many failures. Even the outcomes that were viewed as positive, however, came at a very high price. Different groups of Frenchmen had varying ideas of what the Revolution should accomplish. The rural peasants and urban sans-culottes were more interested in having enough food to eat than the reforming ideals of revolutionary leaders. Many delegates to the first National Assembly were in favor of replacing the absolute monarchy with a constitutional monarchy. They also believed the system of taxation should be revised and that all men should be treated equally before the law. With these and other competing interests all playing major roles, especially as the Revolution became more radical, the results were decidedly a mixed bag.

One of the most obvious failures of the French Revolution was the Reign of Terror from 1793-94. The Terror, which was orchestrated by Robespierre and his followers, was ostensibly a way to provide for the security of the Republic by exposing traitors to the people. In reality, it was used by Robespierre as a means to consolidate and strengthen his hold on power. Instead of putting into practice the democratic ideals of liberty and equality that he spoke of in public, Robespierre used the Terror to execute or imprison thousands of people who he viewed as a threat. The Terror came to an end only after Robespierre himself was sent to the guillotine.

Violence and chaos were two of the main characteristics of the Revolution. Besides the Reign of Terror, there were revolts by rural peasants against their lords; bread riots by the sans-culottes in the cities; the September Massacres . . . and the brutal handling of the insurrection in the Vendean department. On top of all this, France was at war with most of Europe for all...
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