France Declares War.
Now, when the situation in France was very confusing. Almost everyone wanted peace, but, of course, in their own way. The émigrés for example wanted Austria and Prussia to invade France and restore Louis XVI to full power.
As you can see above, it wasn’t everyone who wanted peace. The revolutionary leaders in France wanted a war against another country. They thought that it would unite the confused people, in the defense of their homeland.
Well, it became war. It was in April 1792 France declared war on Austria. In the beginning of the war, when the people had not been united, as the leaders thought they would be, the war went bad for France. Many officers were nobels and they had left France, that made the forces disorganized. Revolutionary ideas also caused some problems. For example there was one time when the people in a force demanded to vote on whether or not to attack the enemies. It was only one problem, it took too long time and they got attacked by their enemies while they were voting.
In August, the same year, Austrian and Prussian advanced for Paris. The duke of Brunswick, the Prussian leader, issued a declaration, later known as the Brunswick Manifesto. He warned that the leaders should be put to the “tortures which they have deserved” if Paris did not surrender peacefully, they would also burn the city.
The parisian were not frightened by the duke’s message. People instead came from all France to protect the revolution and they managed to force the invading troops to leave the country.
The war against Austria and Prussia made the economic situation in France bad, high prices and shortage of food.
An August morning revolutionaries took over the Paris government and established the Commune, a new administration.
Louis XVI’s Execution.
The same August morning, as revolutionaries took over the Paris government, other revolutionaries attacked the palace. The king and queen had to flee to the Legislative Assembly, the assembly which write laws, hoping for protection. But the Assembly was under the control of the radicals. They removed the king from office and voted to imprison the royal family. After that they called for a national convention to write a new constitution.
After many problems, in a bad atmosphere, by voting for who to be in the convention, they could begin their work. Their first task was to vote for changing France from a monarchy to a republic or not. The result became: Republic.
After the voting about the govern they discussed what to do with the king. Some said it was best that Louis should be tried for treason. The more moderate people thought he should be held imprisoned until the war was ended.
Before they had decided what to do with the king, they found a trunk with letters which showed that Louis had been planning with the émigrés to crush the revolution.
After this the delegates sent Louis XVI to the death, by a majority of one vote.
The kings last words to the people, as he was walking up the stairs to the guillotine, on January 21, 1793, was: “People, I die innocent!”
The spread of the revolution scared kings in other countries, after the news about the execution of Louis XVI.
France Gets Attacked.
In 1793, French armies seemed to fight efficiant. But after the capture of the Austrian Neatherlands and the threatening of the Dutch Neatherlands and Prussia, in March 1793, other countries as Great Brittain, the Dutch Neatherlands and Spain supported Austria and Prussia in the war against France.
Many French people died and the economy were very bad. Now a great part of the French population thougth the revolution had gone too far. People who opposed the revolution, counterrevolutionaries, led uprisings in the cities of Bordeaux, Lyon and Marseille.
The Commitee of Public
Now, when France was threatened by other countries as well as French groups, the National Convention took drastic action. They created a Commitee of Public Safety, which had almost dictatorial power. From July 1793 to July the next year, the Commitee waged a campaign, which were very brutal. It was against all people who were against France and it was known as the Reign of Terror.
The leader of the Commitee of Public Safety, during the Reign of Terror, was the ex-leader of the radical group the Jacobins, Maximilien Robespierre. His goal was to create a “Republic of Virtue,” in which “our country assures the welfare of each individual and where each individual enjoys with pride the prosperity and the glory of our country”, and so on. In other words he wanted to get a republic built of good quality, where the welfare should be guaranteed for every singel person and that everyone should be proud for their contry, France.
Agents were sent all over France, by the Commitee of Public Safety, to help local revolutionary groups to unveil traitors. They wrote a new law, which made it possible to arrest someone who had been writing anything, been having some sorts of relation to anyone or if he had acting in a way, which made them suspect as counterrevolutionaries. Revolutionary courts could imprison anyone, with just very little evidence. This meen that many trials were hold everyday everywhere in France. Between 20 000 and 40 000 men, women and children were sent to the guillotine. The former queen, Marie Antoniette, was one of them.
The Commitee of Public Safety raised new French armies, where all the male population were suitable, age and profession did not matter. Now France was ready to meet the foreign threats.
The Commitee also did everything they could to get a better economy. They set strict limits on wages and prices, they made it illegal to use the uncommon white wheat flour and they rationed food. They asked the citizens to use whole wheat flour to make “equality bread”.
This economical action gave a result. By the spring 1794, the entire national effort had paid off. With the economical power France also got military power and were again very successful at the battlefield. But now, even the radical revolutionaries were beginning to question the need for constant executions at home. In July 1794, the National Convention thought Robespierre had gone too far, and they ordered his arrest. He was tried and executed. The execution did not just kill Robespierre, but also the Reign of Terror.
Summary of the Radical Phase.
It had just been going five years (1789-1794), but a lot had changed. The monachy was suddenly gone, the king had been executed.
People were now equal, since the revolution had declared it. The equality ended the slavery, and the feudal lords weren’t lords anymore, since the National Convention had abolished them.
Even the fashion had changed. The beautiful, careful made, dresses were replaced by simple dresses and long trousers.
Free public schools were opened, so everyone could get education.
In 1795 the constitution established a new government known as the Directory.
The Directory governed France during a very hard economic period. They pursued a very hard foreign policy and built the largest army in Europe.
One of the officers, in the large army, became very succesful and won the admiration and attention of the French people. His name was Napoleon Bonaparte. He came to Paris in 1799, he had been out in the world fighting and winning battles. In Paris he found that many people was dissatisfied with the Directory. Napoleon overthrew the governmet by the help of his force and troops which were loyal to him.
Napoleon Becomes a Dictator
After Napoleon had overthrew the government, he established a new costitution. That’s the fourth since the revolution began. Napoleon became the first consul under the new government. He became even more popular and by an age of 30 (1799) he were the virtual dictator in France.
After three years, in 1802, Napoleon had himself made First Consul for the rest of his life, after an election where a great qualified majority had chosen it to be that way. Two years later, in 1804, he proclaimed himself as “Empereor of the French”, this time also after a great majority of the French voters.
Napoeleon was a good leader. He had been victorious in 14 pitched battles an 70 combats. He was also very smart, and a fast thinker and talker. He understood that the French people never could go back to the old regime, so he did the best he could do to end the revolutionary reforms and he managed very well. This means that he kept the system of dividing France into departments, but he appointed local officials to replace the elected councils.
The Austrian, the Germany states and England were worn out by the war. They had signed a peace treaty in 1802. For the first time since 1792 France was at peace with the whole world at last. But the peace only lasted for 14 months.
In May 1803 ware broke out again between France and England. Russia, Austria and Sweden joined England in what was known as the Third Coalition. It was not avail. Austria and russia was defeated at Austerlitz on December 2, 1805. Napoleon crushed the Prussians at Jena on October 14, 1806, and the Russians at Friedland on June 14, 1807. His triumps were marked by treaties (the peace of Tilsit) in June-July 1807 that brought most of Europe to his feet.
Only England stood in the way of his complete mastery of Western Europe. In 1805 he had planned to invade Great Britain. The favorable moment never came. England’s navy, under Adm. Horatio Nelson, had destroyed the French fleet at Trafalgar, October 21, 1805. Napoleon was forced to look for other means to defeat his enemy.
Napoleons Family in Europe.
During this time Napoleon also reorganized Europe. The Cisalpine Republic was changed to a monarchy, and he himself was crowned king of Italy with the famous “iron crown” of lombardy. His stepson, Eugène Beauharnais, was made viceroy of Italy. Napoleon’s brother, Joseph, became king of Naples and then of Spain. General Joachim Murat, who had married Napoleon’s sister, succeeded to the Neapolian throne. The dukes of Bavaria and Württenberg, areas which were under the French reign, were given the rank of kings.
The last traces of the Holy Roman Empire were wiped out in 1806. Many small German states, which had been part of it, were given to their more powerful neighbours.
Height of Napoleon’s Power.
At the height of Napoleon’s power the French Empire included France to the Rhine, Belgium, Holland, parts of Italy, Croatia and Dalmantina. There was also other countries which were dependent upon Napoleon like Spain, the rest of Italy, the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and the Confederation of the Rhine, which were a league of German states. Other states which were allied to the French Empire was Denmark, Norway, Prussia and the Austrian Empire. All these sates which were subjects for his will included more than 42 million people.
But there were some countries i Europe which were outside his influence and it was Sweden, Britain, Russia and Turkey.
The Continental System.
Russia, however, was very friendly to him. The tsar, Alexander I, had been won over to Napoleon’s plans, after the Peace of Tilsit. Between them they were to divide Europe and share its territories. In return Alexander was to aid Napoleon in his Continental system.
The object of the Continental system was to close Europe to England’s commerce, to boycott England. The meaning, the goal, with this was that it would force “that nation of shopkeepers”, as Napoleon used to call England, to sue for peace. The most countries didn’t like the idea, because they needed goods from England. The countries found methods to keep away from Napoleon’s decision. Even Russia abandoned it.
Napoleon realized that until Russia was under his great empire, the Empire would still be unsafe. Then all his hope of overtaking England were at an end. The conclusion he made was to invade Russia first.
It was not best to invade Russia at this time. His troops had been losing battle and sometimes been captured in Spain (the Penisular War) and while they were fighting against English troops around the Pyrenees. There were also problems by the war against Austria. Now, the threat of revolt was strong. But Napoleon ignored these danger signals. He felt himself invicible.
Naopeleon Invades Russia.
With a Grand Army, includuing solidiers taken from 20 nations, Napoleon was brave enough to attack the great Russia. It became a disaster. A part of the Russian military tactics included a scorched-earth policy. That means that the Russian military burned all wood, all cities, everything at the front and a long way back into the country. When Napoleon’s troops came to the country there was nothing to take and he had to go further into the country with his troops. The troops had to go a long way in the hard and cold winter, the food store ended and they had to go without food.
The Russian had retreated a long time before Napoleon got a chance to attack them. But, at last the Russians gave battle at Borodino, but the result was not decisive, like a kind of an even fight.
Later on, on September 14, 1812, Napoleon reached Moscow. He thought that he would get food and shelter to his tired and hungry troops. Instead he found the city in flames. It was now impossible to go on and Napoleon retreated a few days later.
The retreat from Moscow was one of the great disasters in the military history. Many men died. Out of the nearly 500 000 men fewer than 20 000 survived and got out of Russia in December.
The Fall of the French Empire.
After the attack against Russia all the conquered countries, Napoleon’s enemies, saw their chance. The French army was small and weak. England, Austria and Prussia joined Russia in the war of liberation. Napoleon built new armies and won a few minor victories. But, in the three-day battle of Leipzig, also called the battle of nations, Napoleon lost everything and had to retreat.
On March 30, 1814, the allies captured Paris itself. Napoleon’s generals refused to continue this hopeless thing. He was forced to abdicate on April 6, 1814.
The End of Napoleon’s Life.
Two weeks after he had abdicated. He was sent into exile. He was allowed to keep his title of emperor and was promised an annual payment of two million francs. His “empire”, however, was only the few square miles of Elba, a tiny island off the west coast of Italy, which had been granted to him as a principality.
Napoleon did not accept that he had lost all power. After ten months on Elba he escaped and landed in France. Thousands of his old guards escorted him on a triumphal march to Paris.
Napoleon took the power back, but just for a short time, known as the Hundred days. It came to an end with the famous battle of Waterloo, which was fought on June 18, 1815. Napoleon suffered his final defeat by a combined English and Prussian force.
After the battle of Waterloo Napoleon was sent into exile again. This time he was sent to an island called St. Helena. On this island Napoleon died. He was later on buried under the dome of Hôtel des Invalides in Paris.