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The French Revolution was one of the most remarkable periods in French history, where the representatives of emerging bourgeoisie and people from the privileged classes wanted to underline their superiority. The crucial events started at the beginning of 1789, when the old regime was completely destroyed in order to make such concepts like reason and justice control the country.
The French Revolution was divided into two considerable portions: liberal and radical. Liberal nobles sought to destroy royal absolutism, however they did not want to see an end of the ruling monarchy. Unfortunately, it was not enough for people to follow the example of liberals, and within a short period of time, the liberal French Revolution turned out to be radical, where radicals demanded freedom and rights from the government.
The liberal and radical portions of the French Revolution had many similarities and differences: thought their representatives wanted some changes to be made, they used different methods to achieve their purposes, and radical approaches were more noticeable and effective for the country and its citizens.
Origins of the French Revolution as the desire to see the changes. The end of the 1780s was a difficult period for many French people. More reasons to start a revolution became evident: widespread famine, considerable rises of prices, the desire of Louis XV to participate in wars that led to bankruptcy and spreading of internal trade barriers. There were no doubts that certain changes were obligatory for people. “The abuses attending the levy of taxes were heavy and universal.
The kingdom was parceled into generalities, with an intendant at the head of each…” (Young 84) Both men and women comprehended that they had powers and ideas for giving a birth to a new age, a new period that aimed at realizing the principles of the Enlightenment. The peculiar feature of these ideas was its optimistic nature: prejudice and cruelty had to be replaced by liberty and inspiration. Oppression and tyranny should be stopped. This is what the vast majority of revolutionaries believed in.
Of course, a hope that the presence of revolution promoted certain changes and made the government to think about the improvement of citizens’ lives and wellbeing was inherent to the French. However, it was not enough to proclaim the revolution as an event; it was also necessary to attract the attention of many people, help them unite, speak about their demands, and introduce the steps, which could be beneficial for them.
The Liberal portion of the French Revolution as a good but a bit weak start. In order to present a thorough and informative comparison of the two different portions of the French Revolution, it is better to define the essence of each of them and clear up their strong and weak points.
One of the remarkable steps taken by liberalists was the August Decrees according to which “The National Assembly hereby completely abolishes the feudal system. It decrees that, among the existing rights and dues, both feudal and censuel, all those originating in or representing real or personal serfdom shall be abolished without indemnification” (Robinson 405).
In general, the representatives of the liberal portion of the French Revolution were eager to support men’s access to Church and army positions, to limit the king’s power by means of constitution, and to present certain administrative reforms in order to develop religious toleration and fair court trials.
These were the main ideas, offered by all liberal at the middle of 1789. However, those liberal steps could make the first move of the events and introduce possible changes. It was not enough to offer ideas and reforms, certain radical actions were required, and that demand gave birth to another more serious and determined step – the French Revolution with radical intentions.
The actions of Radicals as a powerful means to achieve success in revolution. The representatives of the radical revolutionaries were so called sans-culottes. “The sans-culottes, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, favoured direct democracy, which meant that the deputies in the nation’s Legislature (The National Convention between 1792 and 1795) should be ‘mandated’ by their constituents” (Lewis sec.2).
One of their first demands was to decrease taxes, fix prices, and to solve the problems connected to counter-revolutionaries. The positive side of those actions was a desire to find the middle between poverty and wealth, for example, small farms and shops, which were able to gain recognition and bring financial benefits. If the liberals could not overthrow the government (monarchy), the radicals, in their turn, attempted to make citizens’ voice being heard.
Thomas Paine, an English radical, served as the best example of how to persuade people take the radical side of the revolution. This portion of the French Revolution was famous by numerous steps and ideas, and, their attempt to attack the palace, where the king was, turned out to a brilliant step to demonstrate how serious their intentions were.
The results of that attack were rather impressive: the king Louis and Marie Antoinette had to flee. This action was not similar to those of the liberals. People were upset because of empty words, they needed to take some actions and demonstrate that their power and their requests should be noticed and taken into consideration.
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The liberal and radical portions of the French Revolution as they are. In spite of the fact that liberal and radical sides of the French Revolution differed considerably, their influence to the general state of affairs and development of the country remained to be considerable. By means of the liberal French Revolution, the government got a chance to hear people and their discontents about the ruling power.
Unfortunately, the liberals did not want to attract much attention to the seriousness of their actions and words. They wanted to promote some changes, but still, they did not have much time and abilities to make all their demands, interests, and dreams come true. Radical actions had to be more noticeable, brighter, and effective. However, it was the idea of liberals to change the situation in the country, this is why the actions of radicals depended on liberals and the beginners of the revolution.
The results of the French Revolution were influential indeed. The representatives of both liberal and radical sides achieved certain progress: the leading positions of the aristocracy, political injustice, and king’s power were weakened. The vast majority of aristocrats lost their benefits, and ordinary people got a chance to be recognized due to their skills and knowledge.
The ancient regime was changed. The liberals performed their functions as public speakers and indicator that people could not continue the ordinary style of life and dependence on king’s interests, and radicals proved people’s intentions and used the most powerful actions to demonstrate their abilities.
The county is a power of people, ordinary citizens, that may be controlled by the government to a certain extent. The French king lost a chance to protect his people and to show his care and support. This is why the results of his ruling led to the French Revolution, where such different movements like liberals and radicals had to be united in order to achieve success and recognition.
Lewis, Gwynne. The French Revolution, 1787-1799: The People’ and the French Revolution. 3 Feb. 2010 http://web.archive.org/web/20021215172126/http://www.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/History/teaching/french-rev/people.html
Robinson, J.H. “The Decree Abolishing the Feudal System, August 11, 1789.” Readings in European History 2 (Mar. 2001): 404-409.
Young, Arthur. Travels During the Years 1787, 1788 and 1790. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991. 3 Feb. 2010 https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/mod/modsbook13.asp