3. The Christian Kingdoms
|1. The Revolution||2. Napoleon|
The ideas of the French Revolution, coined in the phrases "Liberty", "Equality" and "Fraternity", triggered an enormous enthusiasm all over Europe.
The individuals must be liberated from their old restricting contexts of village communities, guilds, monasteries and large families. The privileges of nobility and church should be abolished. Everybody should be become free and equal individuals only bound together as brothers in the nation.
Left: The attack on the fortress of Bastille d. 14 June 1789.
Right: Third Estate with the two other estates on its back.
"Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains," declared Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his "The Social Contract". The revolutionary French constitution was precisely such a contract, which allowed the free individuals to pursue their selfish goals restricted by the framework of the social contract only.
Following her military intervention in far-off America in support of the rebels of 1777, France and King Ludwig 16. had incurred a huge debt, which in 1784 had increased to 4 billion livres, an enormous sum, which the nation in the short run was unable to repay.
In order to solve the debt problem of the nation, the king and the government decided to convene an Estates General Assembly of the three estates, nobility, clergy and peasants and citizens.
However, the third estate required having as many representatives in the Estates General Assembly as the two other estates together, claiming that they represented the vast majority of the people. With the support of Queen Marie Antoinette, they managed to get this request fulfilled.
The Estates General Assembly - contemporary drawing.
The queen and her advisers hoped that a strong representation from the third estate could implement the taxation of the nobility and clergy that they thought deemed necessary to solve the economic problems of the nation.
After seven weeks of fruitless negotiations, the third estate decided to declare themselves as a "National Assembly" representing the people. Two days later they got the support of the majority of the clergy estate. Then the self-established "National Assembly" swore the "Tennis Court Oath", whereby the members pledged not to separate before they had given the country a constitution.
The 14. of July 1789 the rumour spread among the Parisians that the king intended to take military action against the self-established National Assembly and that he for this purpose had ordered twenty loyal regiments to concentrate near Paris and Versailles.
Left: Queen Marie Antoinette.
Right: Only third Estate paid taxes - revolutionary postcard.
An excited crowd stormed the Bastille, the old castle in the center of Paris, killing the Commander and the garrison and released the criminals, who served their sentence there.
The following night one could see a screaming mob move through the streets of Paris with the Commander's head on a pole.
"Something like this has not happened since the Crusades. Like men then fought for the Holy Land, they are now fighting for the sacred Freedom. The desire for freedom has become an obsession in Paris and has spread to the east, west and south." Thus the Polish Jesuit Switkowski wrote on the situation in Paris in 1789.
The situation in France before the revolution recalls somewhat the present situation in the American economy. Like France in 1789, the US has accumulated a huge debt partly because of military operations in distant countries. Like France, they have for years allowed the debt to increase as they have hesitated to present the bill for their people.
Like their predecessors, the American revolutionaries of 1775, also the French revolutionaries of 1789 prepared a declaration of human rights, which was presented for the National Assembly:
Bertier de Sauvignon, Intendant of Paris, is led to his punishment - contemporary drawing.
"The National Assembly - are resolved to expose in a solemn declaration, the natural, inalienable and sacred rights of man - In the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being recognizes and declares the National Assembly following human and civil rights". - In the first article of the Declaration: "Men are born free and remain free and are equal in rights." And in the second article: "The goal of any political association is the conservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man."
The American politician, Thomas Jefferson, was present in Paris and advised the French people during the preparation.
The National Assembly abolished the traditional privileges of the nobility and the clergy. Their tax exemption was canceled; the hunting rights of the nobility, the jurisdiction of the nobility and the serfdom of their peasants were all abolished.
The night between the 4. and the 5. of August large parts of the nobility and the clergy voluntary renounced the privileges, which their Frankish ancestors had acquired more than a thousand years ago when they conquered the country from the Roman Emperor.
Left: The beheading of King Ludvig 16.
Right: A en sans culotte, a typical French revolutionary.
The National Assembly adopted a policy statement that members of all estates should be allowed to hold public office.
"Un-natural associations" were eliminated without mercy. A law of 1791 banned the merchant and craftsmen's guilds. A few months later this ban was followed by a ban on any similar grouping. The law text said: "There is no longer any association inside the state, there is nothing else than the individuals' interests and the General Will."
Charitable associations were also forbidden. "It is a duty for the civil servants on the behalf of the nation to provide employment to those who need and help the needy."
The legislators had the view that property could not belong to "un-natural" associations like families, but only to the single individuals in the family. This resulted in that a father had to bequeath the family farm in equal parts to all his sons. Thus all farms became still smaller as time passed by. It was particularly directed against the nobility families.
Monasteries and monk orders were of course also "un-natural" associations and their property was confiscated for the benefit of the nation.
It would have been interesting to hear what Danton, Robspierre, La Fayette and the other revolutionaries would have said about the later financial invention, limited liability joint-stock companies. Would they have condemned them as the most "un-natural associations" of all? Would such "associations" have been allowed to own property?
After some years of bloody, chaos Napoleon Bonaparte was in 1802 elected as "consul for life" after a referendum.
Napoleon Bonaparte, consul for life.
First Consul Napoleon brought the schools under state control. "Within the school system, it is my main aim to have a mean of directing the political and moral attitudes," he said. "For as long as people as children have not been told, whether they should be republicans or monarchists, Catholics or Atheists, the state will not constitute one nation."
As Emperor Napoleon, he later continued the suppression of the "un-natural" communities. He ruled that all groups numbering more than twenty persons to be banned. In the nation, there should only be the free liberated individuals, united in the enormous group, the nation, headed by the emperor.
One of the most controversial blows to the old order was the National Assembly's attack against the church and Christianity.
The new politicians tried on several occasions to replace Christianity with the cult of "the Supreme Being," "The Highest", "Reason" or the like.
Already the leader of the new National Guard, La Fayette, arranged a huge worship at the "Altar of the Nation" in a grand scale attempt to unite the king, the people and the National Assembly.
The whole people, the noble class, the priests, the king and the queen gathered in Worship in front of the altar of the nation.
The personal celebrations, baptisms and weddings were de-christianized and moved from the church to the town hall.
However, the political campaign against the Christian faith became never a lasting success.
For political reasons the emperor Napoleon made a peace with the church and reconciled himself with the Pope in Rome. He realized that Christianity could not be eradicated so easy. It would only have led to that the other results of the revolution would have been jeopardized.
Now, one should think that when man is basically selfish, and when the French people have just concluded a social contract, which provides increased opportunities for the individual's selfish quest, so the next logical step would be that those selfish citizens would exploit the new freedom to pursue their happiness by starting new business, build new ships, cultivate new land and the like.
Liberty, Equality and Fraternity on a revolutionary postcard.
But this was not how history took its course. "Liberte, Equality and Fraternity" had intoxicated the French people. They felt that they had been called to serve a great cause. They simply had to bring the good message to the whole world.
In reality, they simply changed one set of sacred values with another. "God, King and Motherland" were simply replaced by "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity".
That shows the tremendous power of common sacred values in the European cultural heritage.
Emperor Napoleon led the French armies to war all over Europe. The new individual freedom should be brought to the whole world. In the liberated areas, they established satellite states with Roman-sounding names like "The Ligurian Republic," "The Cisalpin Republic" and "The Helvetian Republic."
In the spring of 1812, the Emperor decided to bring the sacred values of Freedom to of the last major nation on the Continent, which still groaned under the yoke of tyranny, namely Russia.
600,000 soldiers the Emperor had required from all his nations, France, the sister Republics, the forced allies and all the emperor's newly created kingdoms and duchies. It was the largest army the world had ever seen. There were soldiers from Prussia, Austria, Germany and France. The senior officers were of course French.
Le Grande Arme on retreat from Moscow.
The Russians used the "scorched earth strategy" and allowed the "La Grande Armee" to extend its supply lines all the way to Moscow offering only little resistance. Only at the village of Borodino in front of Moscow, they delivered a decisive battle. Napoleon won the battle, but with heavy losses. Afterward, he had still no supplies, and the merciless Russian winter began. The entire army had to pull back along the same route, they had come through snow, icy winds and double digits degrees of frost, continually attacked by mounted Cossacks. Only 60,000 men out of the original 600,000 men returned alive.
The failed campaign against Russian paved the way for Napoleon's and the French Revolution's final defeat on the battlefield of Waterloo in 1815.
But despite the defeat, the French Revolution values anyway kindled in Europe. During the nineteenth-century nobility privileges were abolished almost everywhere in Europe. The peasants forced labour for the nobility, serfdom and the privileges of the guilds, all were gradually abolished along with all the ancient communities.
Already in 1709 the Englishman Abraham Darby from Coalbrookedale by the Severn River found a way to produce steel from iron ore and coke made from mined coal. Thus he had created an important precondition for the industrial revolution.
The so-called first industrial revolution occurred over a long period of years from about 1760 to about 1830 - first in England, but a little later also in other European countries and America. It involved the use of steam engines to power spinning, sewing and weaving machines, threading on lathes, steamships, vaccination against infectious diseases, papermaking, railways and much more. All these inventions must have created the optimism that motivated the people of that time to leave the security of the old communities and seek their personal happiness. The new methods spread like rings in the water, along with increased prosperity and optimism.
The ancient meeting place of the village community of Martofte north of Kerteminde - the island of Fyn.
For centuries the Europeans had mutually supported each other in the well-known old communities. When war, disease or famine caused havoc in the country, it was good to find support from the brothers of the guild, from the brothers in the monk order, from the lifetime neighbours in the village community or from the relatives in the large family. But now many found new opportunities outside the old communities.
The Danish peasants were emancipated already in 1788, one year before the French Revolution.
With the Constitution of 1849, Denmark became a constitutional monarchy.
In Denmark, the June Constitution of 1849 determined that all restrictions of the equal and free access to business, which were not motivated by concern for the general welfare, should be abolished. In 1857 "The Law of Business" followed this constitutional provision. Following this law, it was free for everyone to operate in any business. The right to business should not be conditional on membership in specific organizations, such as merchant or craftsman Guilds.
John Robison placed the responsibility for the start of the French Revolution on the secret society "The Bavarian Illuminati", which was founded by Adam Weishaupt in 1776 in Bavaria of present days Germany:
Proofs of a Conspiracy Sacred Texts.
The Jesuit Abbe Barreul wrote a very extensive work "Code of the Illuminati" in four parts. It showed the secret society "Bavarian Illuminati's" connection with "The Jacobins" and their responsibility for the revolution: Code of the Illuminati Part III Sacred Texts.
Liberte Equality Fraternity Exploring the french revolution.
The French Declaration of Human Rights Wikisource.
The history website of the foundation la Napoleon Everything about Napoleon
Grimbergs Verdenshistorie bind 13.