The French Revolution
How does the declaration of the rights of man and the citizen defy the political and social convection of absolutism and reflect enlightenment thinking as the basis for a new French society
The passing of the declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen in 1789 was the most profound thing that had a significant effect on the oppressed class. Before the declaration of The Righs of Man and Citizen, France was divided into a rigid oppressive social class, the clergy, the nobility and the peasants. The unequal class created the environment for the oppressed peoples to fight for their sovereignty, fraternity and equality. The outbreak of the French revolution in 1789 also made people from the St. Domingue to fight for their freedom, which broughtabout conflict between the various classes. The French revolution decreed equal rights to all citizens. Prior to the declaration of the rights of man and citizens, conflict arose between the people of color of St. Dominge and the whites (Goodwin, 219).
The incorporation of the writings of enlightenment thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Montesquieu were the guiding principles of the rights of man and citizen. According to Rousseau, the social contract between the ruled and the rules required rulers to obey the general will of the people, thus, if the rulers failed to do so, the people had the right to overthrow them. These ideas declared that the sovereignty of the people is located in them and nobody could exercise power over them, unless allowed by them. Such enlightenment made the people to have the political authority over their nation. Moreover, the declaration proclaimed gave the people power to remain free and acquire equal rights and protect the rights of the Frenchmen.
Prior to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, a new French social contract was created whereby the constitution of 1791 was invalidated by progressive tension between the king and the deputies. The new French social contract changed the political and social contract systems to that of the sovereignty where people’s opinion had to be considered. The new French social contract that was created made the people who were divided about power to have conflict among themselves and the many elements of the people who felt themselves excluded such as women and the poor and whose status were not improved. As a matter of fact, Louis XVI was condemned to death and executed and the convections drew up a new constitution that reflected the enlightenment of thinkers such as Rousseaus concept of a social contract grounded on the general will (Goodwin, 231).
Moreover, the 1793 constitution reflected much on the enlightenment of Rousseau social contract held by the Jacobins. The imposition of this constitution in France generated a power struggle that resulted in the expulsion of more moderate divisions from the state and the concentration of power in Jacobian hands. The requirement of prosecuting the war against Europe joined Jacobian control, but competing interests and power conflicts remained. The deportment of the war, personal ambitions, and economic tensions all experimented the leadership of Jacobian so as to maintain the control and impose the version of the general will. It was all a counter check and violence against opponents so as to ensure the rights of man and citizen is maintained (S, 380).
When reading the official indictment (formal charges) of Louis XVI, do you believe the National Convection is justified in condemning the king for reasonable treasonous actions? Or do these charges appear groundless?
Drawing from article 2 of the 1791 constitution, “the person of the king is inviolable and sacred: his only title is king of the French” (Paine,107), there was no need for the National Concetion to condemn the king for reasonable treasonous actions. Indeed, it’s only a vigorous challenge of royal inviolability that followed the King’s flight to Varannes. It was the work of the convections for the king to be tried by the legislature. The charges appear to have a constitutional base because the king should maintain and follow the constitution of the land. It is for this reason that the Convection places a trial against the king. However, though the charges are based on the constitution the Convection has divergence arguments about the King’s trial and have no prove that the King has committed all the crime that has been imputed to him. Moreover, the inviolability issue that was imputed on the King was by no means be confined to discussion at the tribune of the Convection. For example, Jacques Necker acknowledges that the Convection has no power to try the King for inviolability. He argues that “The king cannot be tried as a particular and that he had not violated any constitutional laws”. Moreover, “He buttressed royal inviolability with historical references” (Paine, 110), noting that the kings could not in either way be tried by their aristocracies neither by partial men, and declared the constitutional doctrine both necessary and just. Likewise, an an anonymous pamphleteer providedandeceptive rarity for the King trial.
Moreover, the only claim that is seen is the issue about inviolability whereby the report from the Legislative body was just a question about whether Louisxvi was judgeable for the crimes he was imputed to have committed. As a result, the king was suspended by the Assembly whereby the Convection was given the mandate to elect the sovereign will. This affected the denial of noble inviolability, which seem as if it never existed. Likewise, the decision to focus consideration only on the article one of the committee report is a clear indication that Louis could not have been convicted because the convectionels were the one pushing for his conviction through attacking the “stupid dogma of inviolability”. Therefore, though there was no need for a trial against Louis XVI because he was already accused and condemn by the people, I do not agree that his condemnation was justified. It was more of a political condemnation (Paine,119).
Upon reading, “The Execution of Louis XVI” as seen by Henry Edgeworth de Firmont, does the king appear brave, frightened or insolent on the way to his execution?
From the execution scene, the king appears brave on the way to his execution. The king seems to understand his mistakes. It might be the condemnation of the people that has forced the king to have extra courage because he is no longer needed in the society. It is the people who have convicted him to death and nothing he can do to go against their will. As we can see as soon as the king descended from the carriage, three executioners surround the king and wished him to take off his coat and though he repulse them, he does it with dignity and took it off himself. These are signs of a brave person.
The king also shows his bravery whereby when the executioners try to tie him, he abruptly withdraws his hands without fear, and the situation seems to exceed the executioners. He also responded in an indignant tone. Nevertheless, the king is also frightened of what he will undergo. He knows very well he must be executed. As we can see, his eyes are filled with a sorrowing look that turn to the executioners maybe to seek them to save him. His courage had started to weaken by the pain he seemed to take. According to the king, he is dying of innocent of all the crimes he has been imputed upon him. It might be true considering that he knows very sure the decision of the people is final and he has to face the death sentence. He therefore says in a frightened tone, “I pardon the authors of my death, and pray God that the blood you are about to shed will never fall upon France”.
Goodwin, A..The French Revolution,. London: Hutchinson’s University Library, 1953. Print.
Paine, Thomas. Rights of man being an answer to Mr. Burke’s attack on the French Revolution.Waiheke Island: Floating Press, 2010. Print.
S., A. W.. “Book Review:The French Revolution and Modern French Socialism. A Comparative Study of the Principles of the French Revolution and the Doctrines of Modern French Socialism. Jessica Peixotto.” American Journal of Sociology 7.5 (1902): 706. Print.