The King’s Flight: A Revolutionary Run
When analyzing the French Revolution, the idea of political transformation and citizen involvement play a huge role in actually understanding how the revolution altered from enlightened conversations in salons to its completion, resulting from the French “voice” uniting to halt The Terror that Paris had become. Reflecting back on this event, historians still debate on the specific moment this aristocratic revolution of 1789 turned into the blood-bath radical revolution due to the momentum and contingency that each event has on the overall Revolution. The two authors, Jeremy Popkin, and Timothy Tackett, explain their historical opinion on this period of French history, in which both share a similar standpoint on the event which sparked this radical phase of the Revolution. The clearly highlighted turning point for Timothy Tackett in When the King Took Flight is also represented by Jeremy Popkin’s position in A Short History of the French Revolution, in which this transformation results from the event that occurs on June 20th of 1791, in which, Louis XVI’s action to flee result in, a critical advance to the consequential way of thought in Paris that spreads throughout France, a spark into the ideals of uncharted French political reform, and in social tension that will develop from members of the previous 3rd Estate, which will lead to years of fear and damage the structure of France.
The idea of strong-propelled rumors and logical opinions were unfamiliar to the 3rd estate members of France until the Enlightenment migrated these ideals to Paris, which helped establish the notion of questioning authority. Jeremy Popkin jumps right into the mindset of such bourgeoisie Frenchmen in which they will continue to justify their revolutionary actions from the king’s act, by stating, “They had risen up, they said, against a system of tyranny or despotism, in which all power was monopolize by a single man, the king, and by his arbitrarily chosen ministers.” (Popkin, 1) As this initially shows the means of the beginning of the aristocratic revolution in 1789; it also proficiently explains the republican attitude that was gaining support throughout the country, especially in the influential streets of Paris. The Great Fear that happens as a result of first prosecuting authority is similarly mimicked in 1791 due to the king fleeing. It is this event alone, which brings the idea to the people that the system is not only tyrannical, but, the questions the morality of the individual as well. The fleeing of Louis XVI led people to the conclusion that, “The king’s flight to Varennes forced supporters of the Revolution to consider the possibility that France might be better off without a monarch…and much of the population seemed ready to accept the idea of a republican government.” (Popkin, 55) The idea was very new and many National Assembly officials did not want to put this idea into effect due to their comfort in the newly developed constitution and in the concern of the future of France. This will ironically create additional conflict for the National Assembly to defend themselves from the radicals of Paris. The concept of public opinion plays a huge role in the development of this radical phase of the revolution, and the King’s actions to flee, dishonor his government, and not get away, create this opportunity for the politics in France to change.
The immediate political effect of Louis XVI’s action to flee was important; it showed the ways the National Assembly organized itself without the idea of a monarch, and it also shows the approach the common people of France react with as well. It was right after the news of the king’s departure reached the streets of France when the political system was suitably restructuring away from the needs of having a monarch since Louis XVI was absent. Neighborhoods in France wanted a sense of involvement in this crisis and, “For the first time, more humble...
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