The French Revolution and the Concept of Nation and Liberty Essay
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The French revolution occurred between the years 1789 and 1799 and it was characterized by a period of radical political and social upheavals, whose impacts were felt both in France and the entire continent of Europe. Groups such as the political activists, peasants in the country side and the masses on the streets continually led a sustained assault against what had become the aristocratic and religious privileges orchestrated by the ruling monarchy. It is argued in some quarters that the French Revolution introduced the world to new concepts of nationhood and liberty (Baker, Boyer, and Kirshner 303).
The French Revolution was an occurrence whose aftermath was the generation of an idea of nationalism. Nationalism can be…show more content…
This was intended to get rid of the marginalization and divisions orchestrated by the government through separation of the constituencies. The issuance of the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen” by the National Assembly on 26th August 1789, led the affirmation of the principles that recognized equal citizenship to individuals together with a united people’s sovereignty.
During the 1790s, which was the height of the French Revolution, the French army was engaged in war with other European states. Because of the spirit of nationalism that was revitalized by the revolution, the army strengthened their persistence and commitment. They felt more patriotic than ever before and acted like they were fighting for their own cause. This strength, determination and will, ultimately acted in their favor (Censer and Hunt 127).
Strong demands for uncompromising loyalty to the state occurred with the rise of secularization of the state. This was for the purposes of sustaining the revolution spirit. The emblem of the guard that was mandated to look after Bastille was combined to make the French national flag in Paris. The unveiling of the national flag thus contributed to the rise in the spirit of nationalism.
The French Revolution played a major role in rewriting the history of both France and the whole of Europe. It perpetuated the transformations in culture, psychology and intellects of the people across the continent. On account of this
At the time of the Revolution, French society was rigidly hierarchical. Social classes were grouped into three estates of the realm: the First Estate (which consisted of the clergy); the Second Estate (nobility); and the Third Estate (commoners). The Estates General of 1789 was, as the name suggests, a general assembly of all three estates of the realm. It hadn't met since 1614, but such was the gravity of the economic crisis gripping France at that time that it was thought necessary by the King and the nobility to reconvene an institution many thought had become totally obsolete.
As expected, the Estates General soon ran into trouble. No agreement on any issues of substance could be reached. Part of the problem was that the clergy and nobility were unprepared to consider any proposals that could in any way diminish their privileges, particularly those relating to tax.
The response of the Third Estate was to break off from the First and Second Estates to form what they called a National Assembly. Although this unilateral act was a direct reply to the actions of the clergy and nobility, the theoretical groundwork had already been laid prior to the Estates' convocation.
On the eve of the Estates General, a clergyman by the name of the Abbe Sieyes had written a famous political pamphlet called What Is The Third Estate? in which he set out to establish that the Third Estate was in itself synonymous with the nation. For Sieyes, the answer to the question "What is the Third Estate?" was "everything." The Third Estate was the nation. It represented the vast majority of Frenchmen and, unlike the other two Estates, paid taxes. The French revolutionaries were clearly influenced by the American colonists' demand of "No taxation without representation."
So the concept of nationalism that came out of the French Revolution was, on the one hand, liberating, but at the same time it was exclusionary. Only certain groups of people were seen as being genuinely part of the nation, really and authentically French. This attitude created serious problems as the newly liberated French sought to expand their revolution beyond their borders. The desire to liberate quickly degenerated into repression as the national rights of other countries and territories were overridden by those of the French.
Nationalism as it emerged from the French Revolution also stored up numerous problems at home. As the concept of the nation was inherently exclusionary, various groups became marginalized, such as women, people of color, and the working classes. At various times in French history, they were never fully seen as being part of the nation. Arguably, the underlying tensions unleashed by the national idea have never truly been resolved to this day in France, as the often fractious and heated debate concerning immigration illustrates.