Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bastille Day and The French Revolution

La Marseillaise - paroles en français

Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé
Entendez-vous dans nos campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras.
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!
Aux armes citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Marchons, marchons
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons

Happy Bastille Day; The day that commemorates Freedom, Justice, Equality, Fraternity? Or the day that commences France’s “Reign of Terror” (1793-1794) and the beheadings of all the bad aristocrats and political enemies of France? A well-intentioned justice for the people of France or a movement that got out-of-hand? Or just plain nasty politics by the Jacobins who wanted their rivals out o the way?

The birth of the Revolution came after several bitter seasons of low food growth and horrific weather. Food was scarce. Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette and their court were out of touch with the realities of their subject’s plight. Their own extravagances were enormous, the people, resentful.

This was the age of enlightenment. The Jacobins, headed by Robespierre (1758-1794) rose to influence and subsequent power during this period. The elite of local societies along with artisans and tradesmen made up the society. They led Paris to storm the French prison, The Bastille, invade the Tuileries and start the infamous “Reign of Terror” (1793-1794) At first they targeted the hated aristocracy, kidnapped the King and Queen an force Louis to turn his power over to them.

Then, they overpowered any factions that disagreed with their philosophies and policies, targeted the clergy and soon after, no one was safe. Neighbor denounced neighbor and nobody was safe from Madame La Guillotine. Not even the King and Queen.

So who invented the Guillotine? The disputed creator was Joseph Guillotin, a medical doctor and member of the National Assemly. According to other sources, the inventor actually Antonio Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgeons along with “Schmidt.” A JMV Guillotin was executed at the end of the revolution, but according to some sources it wasn’t Joseph Guillotin.

Whoever it was or wasn’t, the Guillotin was reported to be an efficient and painless killing machine. And could kill hundreds on a single day. France couldn’t keep up with the demands and had to build several, which appeared in many cities around the country. After all was said and done, some 30,000 men, women and children were executed under Madame La Guillotine.

Toward the end, the Jacobins themselves were overthrown and Robespierre executed. The spirit of the Nationalistic movement lived on in France, but the party did not.

Madame La Guillotine

La Marseilles (originally known as Une Marseilles) was written by soldiers upon the declaration of war on Austria and Prussia in 1792. The song was adopted by the revolutionaries and adopted as the French National Anthem.

The storm of the Bastille initiated the Reign of Terror in France and has been acclaimed as a national holiday every July 14.

Sources: Wikepedia: French Revolution, Maximillian Robespierre, Jacobins, Guillotine

Michael R. Lynn, Profession of History, Purdue University
Author of: The Sublime Invention of Ballooning, 

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