The French Revolution

The French Revolution was an unstable, blood-filled time. With 20,000 sent to the
guillotine and an equal number to prison, it is not hard to find importance but rather to
find meaning. The most crucial thing to look for in the revolution is justification, reasons
that excuse or bring significance to the deaths of many. John Locke, a philosophe of the
time, may have argued that a leader who does not provide his people with inalienable
rights is grounds for dismissal in the form of regicide1. On the other hand Thomas
Hobbes, also a philosopher, may have taken a different argument. It was his belief that
�man is a brute�, therefore he needs a dictator to keep the peace. John Locke�s idealistic
view point if practiced properly could have provided the lower class of France with
equality, something the were desperately in need of. The Thomas Hobbes approach
which advocates control, could not have provided the people with such liberation, but in
theory should be able to maintain the peace among the people, the peace that seemed so
lacking during the French Revolution. The French Revolution was a disaster for the
following reasons: it happened too fast, it went too far, and it achieved too little.
Thomas Paine a radical thinker of the era once said �Time makes more converts
than reason�. With this quote we can see why revolution was successful in England, but
not France. England slowly used the Magna Carta (1213), Petition of Rights (1628), and
the Habeas Corpus Act (1679) to limit it�s monarch. It was a long road that was by no
means perfect. With monarchs who paid little attention to the act(s) in place during their
reign and parliament, like James (1603-1625) and Charles I (1625-1649) it was hard to
see progress quickly. These acts played a vital role in Britain�s journey to democracy,
through them came proper representation of the people, equality, and what is now known
as the �Glorious Revolution�.
France seemed to be on it�s way to a similar fate. In 1789, the Estates-General2
had now received a promise of a head count from Louis XVI. Prior to this time the very
large third estate3 (26 million) had the same number of representatives in the
Estates-General as the first estate4 (100,000) and the second estate5 (400,000) combined.
Once the Estates-General had been renamed the National Assembly by the third estate a
constitution was in the works. During this time the people of France became restless,
food shortages plagued the country side. It also appeared that Louis XVI might dissolve
the National Assembly. Desperate times called for desperate measures and the people of
France stormed Bastille on July 14, 1789, as a symbol of the king�s oppression. The
king�s power had weakened, very quickly and a group called the Commune took charge
under Lafayette. The National Assembly now made a Declaration of the Rights of Man
and the Citizen. This act underlined John Locke�s perspective of inalienable rights and
the equality of man. Had this act have been followed the French Revolution may have
ended without the bloodshed, but stable change is not going to happen over night. As
quickly as things appeared to improve, the French would venture into a period of chaos.
The Radical Phase is a perfect example of Thomas Hobbes theory that if
individuals live by their own self-interests they will carry on a cycle of hurting one
another. In turn they will be in a continuous state of war. It was a group called the
Jacobins that took control. During this time thousands of nobles and clergy were sent to
the guillotine. On September of 1792 the September Massacre broke out. A prison filled
with mainly clergy was ambushed by a group of people determined to maintain the newly
formed Republic, causing the deaths of 1100 people. It was tragic and by this time many
scholars denounced the revolution. Edmund Burke once said, �Nobody makes a mistake
greater than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.� He would later go on
to condemn the revolution.
If regicide was the answer to the oppression of the old regime in France, so would
it be in the new regime, under John Locke�s system. All were not equal, inalienable right
were not preserved. The Reign of Terror would end with the death of Robespierre. A
Jacobin leader who also met the guillotine. It becomes an issue of when it would end.
How many rulers would have to die? How many people would have to