The French Revolution begun during late 1789 and came to an end in 1799. This period constituted extensive political and social mayhem that significantly impacted the whole of Europe and later on, the whole world. The revolution affected both France and its colonies due to the upheaval that had disrupted the traditional order or the old order. Masses of Frenchmen including peasants and activists marched to oppose the oppressive monarchy, biased religious privileges and the aristocracy that was the Kingdom. Radical and liberal ideas that constituted the revolution are believed to have greatly impacted modern history, historians extensively view it as the most significant event in human history, they also argue that it shaped how the world viewed ‘liberty’ and ‘nation’; concepts that forged nationhood and freedom during the French Revolution. This paper discusses the concept of nation and liberty and how it evolved during the revolution.
What the Concepts of ‘Nation’ and ‘Liberty’ meant in 1789
To ensure the success of the revolution, its leaders developed concepts that would drive the revolts and act as motivators to ensure a successful revolt. Nationhood was a concept that mainly aimed at uniting the numerous colonies of France against their common enemy. The ‘nation’ concept implied the unification of colonies who comprised of third state citizens and would unite to end the aristocracy. Secondly, liberty was a concept that meant freedom. Freedom of choice and from oppression that they had been subjected to. Before the French Revolution, several uprisings had attempted putting an end to the monarchy and calling for equality, but all were suppressed. On the other hand, this revolution aimed to succeed by using the concept of liberty to promise the third state citizens of the life they will have when the revolution succeeds. The poor Frenchmen wanted democracy and have a say how the government made laws and also wanted to be freed from the king and his parliament.
How the Concepts of Nation and Liberty evolved during the Radical Stages of the Evolution (1792 – 1794)
The period of radicalism lasted from 1792 – 1794. This period was distinguished by internal revolution that involved the clergy, peasants and the noble men, the rich had amassed colonial wealth for themselves, this triggered the uprising. Peasants were fighting for equality between the haves and the have not’s, they wanted support from the government instead of rejection and dictatorship (Forsyth 108). Similar to the initial revolution, the radical revolution was characterized with concepts of the ‘nation’ and ‘liberty’. However, their initial meaning had evolved to suite the purpose of the new revolution. The 1789 revolution was a quest for equality but the 1792 internal revolution aimed to attain equal treatment for sans-culottes. The fight for liberty was fight to free the poor in the society and attaining equality (Reichardt and Kohler 213)
The radicals called for democracy to be applied to all individuals and not only to land owners and the rich. The concept of ‘nation’ had also evolved to suit the new quest. The radical revolution aimed to unite the poor against the rich unlike the initial revolution that called for the unity of colonies against the monarchy. This phase of the revolution reached its peak when France was established into a republic and King Louis XVI was executed due to his disregard for liberty (Debrett 123). Later on, the National Convention caved and favored the requests of the poor and punished the wealthy by creating legislation that would ensure all men are treated equally. This step instilled a stronger sense of nationalism in the people of France.
During the two phases of the French Revolution, citizens and the world became aware of the significant role of liberty in a country. Peasants and French colonies were forced into pursuing ways that could attain sovereignty and freedom. In the end, the declaration statement also entailed the principle of liberty, it accredited that all individuals are born free and should remain so until their death. Men also had rights to property, protection and freedom from oppression.
Sovereignty and liberty are critical factors that ensure success of democracy in any country. The French Revolution influenced countries around Europe and the world to achieve liberty and nationalism and put an end to tyrants. Two phases of the revolution had different concepts of nation and liberty, the two concepts evolved to suit the revolt but still pursued the notion of nationalism and liberty, fueling the revolution in both phases. Frenchmen championed for their rights through constitutionalism some of these included; The Leeve en Masse and the Declaration of the Rights of Man, 1789. All of these methods guaranteed the recognition of democracy for all, the ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity acted as motivating factors and driving forces of the two phases of the revolution. The radical revolution, however, turned against its original course due to the emergence of oppression in the new leadership similar to that of the monarchy (Sieyes 212).