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The Cockroach
Topics: French Revolution, Estates of the realm / Pages: 5 (1837 words) / Published: Jun 24th, 2014

My Account of the French Revolution

I stood there amongst the crowd not knowing what was happening; it seemed to me like some sort of gathering of some sorts. I had guessed that it was some sort of plot against the king or something of the sort because when people saw me they backed away or went immediately silent. Being one of the soldiers probably scared them. I wasn’t sure how this all started and I definitely did not know which side I would be on because I was sympathetic towards the Third Estate and their problems, I guess that I would’ve been edging towards the republic’s side because on several occasions Louis and his royals abused their power such as the innocent arrest of many by the Lettres de Cachet, the Lettres de Cachet was a sealed letter that orders the arrest or exile of a person without a trial or any sort of hearing. Millions feared these letters especially the third estate even though I opposed such unfair methods I was very indecisive about which side I would be on because if the revolution succeeded and I was on the king’s side then I would probably be killed in the conflict or afterwards for opposing them. On the other hand if I was on the revolutionary side and we lost then I would be executed for treason and being a traitor, I feared The Wheel and I was not about to be broken to pieces for a lost cause. I was a very careful and cautious person and I needed to gather more information for me to pick a side. A few weeks later the king decided to raise the taxes of all three estates. However this tax raise was never set in motion because in order to do this the king needed the permission of the Parlements of Paris and the Parlements completely rejected the tax raise, they said that the 3 estates needed to elect an Estate’s General to attend to meetings and if they agreed then this tax rise will proceed. This rejection angered the king so much that he exiled the entire Parlements of Paris. I guess this was the main reason why the Day of Tiles occurred since on the 7th of June 1788 a riot took place. Tiles were thrown from roofs and 4 people were killed. My friend was amongst these that died and it was then that I decided to oppose the revolution. In a desperate attempt to save France from financial collapse the king allowed the Estates’ Generals to meet in Versailles.
I travelled to Versailles on the 5th of May 1789, to hopefully view the very first meeting of the Estates’ Generals since as long as I can remember. Although our King, Louis XVI, reluctantly agreed to the meeting I had a feeling that he didn’t like the power slipping from him towards the public. At the meeting the king ordered the Estates’ Generals to split into their respective estates and meet in separate halls. I guess this was Louis’ attempt to control the meeting, however the Third Estate objected quite strongly. They feared that if the Meeting was split up the First and Second Estates could easily out-vote them. The Third Estate declared that if the Estates’ Generals do not all meet in one National Assembly then they would carry out the work of the Estates Generals themselves. This notion defied the king but the king was not allowed to exile or execute them because I didn’t think he wanted a revolution besides he needed to save France from this financial decline. Eventually though the second estate joined the third estate in their cause. I still wished to oppose them because I knew a revolution was near but I cannot forgive them for the death of my friend.
Sometime later the First estate also joined the Second and Third Estate and with all 3 estates on one side they began to meet in secret. I was amongst the Estate General for the Second Estate so I hoped to ruin any plans of revolution before it begins. However things escalated quickly and before any real decision was made the King’s forces were moving closer to the place where the Generals met. The Estates’ Generals fled the hall and into an indoor tennis court for shelter from the wind and rain also to meet in secret. They were afraid the king would break up their meeting by force. It was there that we spoke an oath. The oath was for the ‘Estates’ Generals to carry on meeting until France changed the way it was governed’. Now we were all bound by this oath and I didn’t want to side with the third estate but I guess some of my sympathy in their problems and the fact that with all 3 estates opposing the king, there is no way the king can possibly win.
So on the 23rd of June when the Royal Session took place and the estates were told to split up; nobody moved. One of the other leaders said: ‘We will only leave at the point of Bayonets.’ This was a victory for the third estate but they still feared that the king will flush the National Assembly out by force and forbid any reforms to take place.
Food prices, especially bread, have risen in price significantly following the freak weather that crushed France’s crops and food supplies. There was a hailstorm that destroyed many crops which was followed by a drought that completely destroyed all the crops in the countryside. In the previous December the coldest winter in the history of France started. Lakes froze over and the ground was covered in snow and ice. In the spring when all the ice and snow had melted things seemed to improve slightly. But then a flood, washed over the countryside and since then the bread prices had started to climb. With the entire third estate using what little they have left to buy bread, the other industries such as clothes, shoes, fuel and candles were shut down because nobody had any money left to buy them. As a result mass famine and unemployment started to take over France. With all of the hunger riots started to occur in Paris. In order to keep Paris under control the king ordered 20,000 troops to surround Paris in an attempt to control the riots.
While all of this hassle was going on in Paris, the finance minister, Necker, published an inaccurate account of the government’s debts and made it available to the public. For this the king fired him and restructured the entire finance ministry at the same time.
The people in Paris were very afraid of the troops and desperately searched for weapons to arm themselves with. On the 14th of July 1789, the Hôtel des Invalides was stormed by the people of the third estate in Paris, led by Amaria Cahila, and gathered weapons. There were 29,000 to 32,000 muskets but none of them contained ammunition or gunpowder. There was a rumour that claimed there was 13,600 kilograms of gunpowder stored inside the walls of the Bastille. On the 7th of July the Bastille was reinforced with 32 grenadiers of the Swiss Salis-Samade Regiment from the troops on the Champ de Mars. The walls were also mounted with 18 eight-pound guns and twelve smaller ones. The people who were originally guarding the Bastille originally were 82 garrisons, soldiers who were no longer fit to be on the battle field. Bernard-René de Launay, the governor, was born inside the Bastille and was planning to defend it against the mob that was to come, after hearing about the storming of the Hôtel des Invalides.
In order to gain the ammunition and gunpowder the rioters needed to defend themselves from the king’s troops, a crowd of about 8000 people stormed the Bastille. Despite the king’s troops being so close, the people of Paris carried on attacking the Bastille. All the garrisons who guarded the Bastille were killed and by midday the crowd gathered outside the Bastille were shouting for the surrender of the Bastille and its contents including the weapons and ammunition. 2 representatives of the crowd were invited into the Bastille for negotiation. A while later a third representative was admitted into the Bastille with definite demands but as the negotiation dragged on the crowd got impatient and spilled into the undefended outer courtyard. It was there that they cut the chains holding the drawbridge and the Storming of the Bastille began. Pierre Hulin offered his services to the Hôtel des Invalides and with 70 troops and 5 cannons he marched over to the Bastille to help De Launay. A cannon was ordered to fire into the crowd killing several women and children, the crowd felt that they have been drawn into a trap resulting in the fighting becoming more intense and violent. The deputies in the Bastille tried to organise a Ceasefire but it was ignored by the attackers. By afternoon the attack was still raging and with a possible massacre on both sides being more and more apparent, Governor De Launay ordered a ceasefire. De Launay sent a letter through the gaps of the gate listing the terms of the ceasefire, was given to the attacking crowd, but the crowd refused the terms and then De Launay realised that his troops can’t hold the Bastille much longer so he opened the gates and the crowd surged in. De Launay was protected by some of Pierre Hulin’s men but after being severely beaten he asked to be killed and kicked a cook in the groin, then the cook stabbed him multiple times and finally he had his head sawn off.
During the fighting Ethis de Corny had returned from the Hôtel des Invalides after leaving the Bastille. He had a trumpeter with him to signal that he does not wish to fire the first shot. But when he got to the Bastille the fighting already started and it was there that he witness the cruel and ruthless act of the firing of the cannon into the crowd.
This was the first act of violence since the Estates’ Generals started meeting, and naturally the rest of France followed in Paris’ footsteps and started to attack the nobles. This stretched all the way to the countryside as people refused to pay their feudal taxes and attacked the nobles in their homes. Many nobles fled France and were called émigrés. Revolution has come.
After the Bastille has fallen the news of it spread quickly around France. Soon people started coming to the Bastille for sightseeing to see the damage and destruction caused during the Storming of the Bastille.
I did not wish any of this to have happened but the king’s ignorance is of such that this was necessary to change the way France was governed. This is the start of the Reformation of France.

Mark Wu

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