The French Revolution and its Impacts

Throughout class this week, we have looked the French Revolution and how the revolution shaped French culture and politics.  Yet before looking at how the revolution shaped this new France, one must understand the reasons why people started to believe in the revolution in the first place.  One of these reasons was Maximilien Robespierre, author of The Cult of the Supreme Being.  In this piece, Robespierre justifies the revolution for he claims that the Supreme Being “did not create kings to devour the human race” (Robespierre 1), which was what the Crown was doing to the native French people.  Furthermore, Robespierre claims, “O generous People, would you triumph over all your enemies? Practice justice, and render the Divinity the only worship worthy of Him,” (Robespierre 1) and “Frenchmen, you war against kings; you are therefore worthy to honor Divinity,” (Robespierre 1).  Here, Robespierre is trying to fire up the native peoples and explain to them that the Supreme Being would want them to overthrow the King, for if they did they would be found “worthy to honor divinity.”  Lastly, Robespierre does a tremendous job because he is purposefully ambiguous by never mentioning God; for he appeals to both believers (for they think the Supreme being is God) and atheists (for he claims that all people are meant to help one another).  By appealing to both believers and non-believers, Robespierre is able to unite the people of France through his work, firing everyone up about fighting back against the Crown.

Once the revolution was under way, the French experienced many changes involving their culture and politics.  In order to change their culture, frenchmen and women deemed it necessary to eliminate their past and start over.  In order to eliminate their past, one can argue that they took extreme measures.  For instance, children would not be named Louis, Henry or Francis, for those represented old France and the evil rule known as the Crown (this can be seen as both cultural and political change).  Continuing this pattern, the French eliminated bishops, kings and queens as chess pieces and playing cards; for it brought them back to the Crown and their rule.  Furthermore, the French changed their salutations all together and vowed to never say the words, “obedient and humble servant,” for the believed that they were not subject to the King and his rule anymore.  While these actions may be considered somewhat radical of the French, it was deemed necessary for the fact that they have lived under the Crown for so long and this was a way in which they could start over, forgetting about their troubled past with the Crown.

6 thoughts on “The French Revolution and its Impacts

  1. First of all, very nicely written. You do a great job of organizing your thoughts and using quotations from our readings as further evidence. I also think it is integral to almost take a step back, and look at the French Revolution from a bigger picture perspective. Instead of the monarchy extracting FROM the population, the state is now working FOR the population. In essence, what a century of absolutism failed to do, the revolution accomplished. The revolution made France a nation.

  2. Furthermore, another area that has interested me over these last few days of class, is the role of gender during the Revolution, specifically the impact of females. As Prof. Qualls mentioned in class, the terms of the Revolution were female, however, they were still seen by many as vulnerable, or weak (even as commodities or objects in some cases). For example, Marianne was used as a term for “the common woman” but also was a slang term for prostitute. This is both contradictory and confusing. I was also very surprised to hear women did not get to vote until 1944. In conclusion, for all the leaps the Revolution did make, other important issues were left unaddressed.

  3. Robespierre’s The Cult of the Supreme Being was very influential in gathering up the masses to fight for the cause of the French Revolution. It could be said that this piece helped shape the outcome of the revolution. With powerful words, he makes references to the Supreme Being (God) and how He did not put kings on earth to act as tyrants over others. I like how you connected this piece with the outcome of the revolution.

  4. Robespierre was so much more influential than I had thought before this class. He knew what he was doing when he was writing to the people of the time. He got them all backed up behind the idea which led to the successful revolution, as you mentioned. As for the culture changes, I agree with you that they seem extreme. Preventing certain names from being used and removing kings and queens from everyday games is a bit much but it’s need for the revolution, to prove to the people that kings won’t have power over them again.

  5. The idea of eliminating names from an entire society is very interesting to me. The French people established the names Henry, Francis, or Louis as representing such a dark time for me. The names held such power over the French people, and they wanted to completely cut the names and the negativity they represented out of their lives. This negativity could only be eliminated by removing the names from society. I also found it very interesting how they also chose to change how they addressed one another in their letters. They wanted to eliminate any and all ties to the tyranny they had faced with their government. They could no longer consider themselves “obedient and humble servants” because they were no longer servants to a government that had mistreated them so poorly.

  6. I agree that Robespierre did have an a major impact during the beginnings of the revolution through his work. He claims that the Supreme being did not intend for kings to rule in this manner, but he never quite defines or explains in detail what exactly he means by Supreme Being which I find interesting. In regards to the drastic cultural changes, I also believe they were necessary, as France wanted to start over and leave everything and anything of the past behind.

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