The Radicals of the French Revolution

The true escalation of the French Revolution began when the citizens learned of their weak monarchy attempting to escape because they could not adapt to reforms. The people began to oppose the idea of a monarchy at all and wished for a republic, a truly radical thought at the time. When the Legislative Assembly (formerly the National Assembly) becomes dominantly radical, the monarchy is eradicated and declaration on tyranny leads to wars with other great countries. The French people had slain their figurehead and sparked the true revolution of their reformed country.

Following the spread of news of King Louis’s craven escape, the citizens of France and supporters of Enlightenment ideals began to realize the dawn of a new age in which the reforms of the National Assemble would be thoroughly enforced. Other European rulers believed the French “plague,” or revolution, would spread to their kingdoms, resulting in similar rebellions against the monarchy. The borders between other countries and France soon had patrols, meant to prevent the spread of their ideas. Rumors and tales began to spread through other communities after nobles and priests (members of the first and second estates) who had escaped the perils of their homeland started to proliferate the fears of the people. These escapees were knows as emigres. Catherine the Great of Russia, an enlightened despot, was still horrified by the rumors and turned against France. To avoid rebellion, she locked up her critics and avoided radical Enlightenment ideas.

In August 1791, the Declaration of Pilnitz was issued by Prussia and Austria, declaring protection for the French monarchy. Radical revolutionaries took this seriously and prepared for the coming war. The newly elected Legislative Assembly perished quickly after economic problems arose. The revolutionary currency, assignats, had an extreme value drop, forcing prices of bread and other goods to greatly increase. Sans-culottes, or working class individuals, strived for complete eradication of a monarchy and a consistent republic government, which was run by elected officials.

There were several factions within the Legislative Assembly along with varieties of people that supported them. The working class supported the democratic Jacobins, a party that instilled ideas that were for political revolution and republic. The opposing group were conservative moderates. Feuillants wished to preserve the role of a king and a constitutional monarchy, carrying less drastic ideals than the Jacobins. Radicals soon held most of the power in the Legislative Assembly and moved to enact their plans to rid the world of tyranny and filth. On April 20, 1792, the Legislative Assembly openly declared war on Prussia, Austria, and Britain. The King of Prussia and Emperor of Austria (also Marie Antoinette’s brother) had anticipated this and employed their masses of border patrols to defend and to provide an offensive front against the French. An easy victory was expected, but the war lasted from 1792 to 1815; twenty three violent years of sporadic battles.


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