Do you agree that the French Revolution achieved far less than what it intended to achieve?

Do you agree that the French Revolution achieved far less than what it intended to achieve?

The French Revolution proved a landmark in European history. It was an incident of world significance. Hardly any incident except the Reformation influenced Europe so much. Although it is true that, to a certain extent, it deviates from its earlier path but still its achievements are beyond comparison.

French Revolution in its course deviated from its declared objectives. For example, liberty, equality, and fraternity were the main slogans of the revolution, but the revolution remained to be a bit distant from this declared objective. Although on August 4, 1789 feudalism was abolished in France but the nobility still preserved some of their privileges including their property rights. Likewise, on August 26, 1789, there was the declaration of rights of “Men and Citizen” but workers were not given the right to form associations. Women were not given the political power. Furthermore, Universal suffrage was not accepted in France. In the new constitution of France adopted in 1791, There was a provision for property criteria for enfranchisement. So only 4.3 million people in France got voting rights. Above all the revolution turned to be violent. In June 1793 Jacobian terror started and the revolution continued to devour its own children. Later after the decline of the reign of terror, the propertied class once again asserted its hegemony on revolution. Then appears Napoleon Bonaparte who changed the direction and the objective of the revolution itself. In other words, we can say, he diverted the revolution from the objective of liberty and equality to military conquest and national glory. That’s why it is not an exaggeration to say that the French Revolution achieved less than what it had devised earlier.

But we can’t say that it achieved far less than its chartered objectives. After the revolution, France and Europe were so much transformed that in spite of the best of the efforts made by reactionary forces after 1815 France and Europe couldn’t have been brought to the pre-revolutionary phase. In an actual sense, the revolution achieved a lot. For example, the ancient regime declined in France. Feudalism was abolished there. There was the end of monarchy in France and France was declared to be a Republic. So very quickly the subjects of the King were transformed into the citizens of the state. Then there was the declaration of human rights. The ideals of democracy and republicanism progressed. There was the rise of modern nationalism in France.

Then through the Napoleonic Wars, the ideas of the French Revolution spread even to the other parts of Europe. Wherever Napoleon went, he uprooted there the old system and introduced the Napoleonic Code. In this way, the ideas of liberalism and nationalism got spread to the whole of Europe and later in association with European colonizers, the ideas reached up to other continents as well. When we observe minutely we find that almost in whole 19th century Europe was fighting against the legacy of the French Revolution. In spite of the best efforts of European leaders, the ideals of the French Revolution resurfaced during the revolution in 1830 and 1848 in Europe. Even the unification of Italy and Germany reflected the victory of ideas of modern nationalism supported by the French Revolution.

That’s why the achievements of the French Revolution can’t be underestimated. Although it failed to achieve some of its objectives what it achieved was not less significant.

Important Links:

Intellectual Enlightenment
Political Causes of the French Revolution
Economic Causes of the French Revolution
Beginning of the French Revolution
Phases of the French Revolution
Correlation Between the Objectives and Achievements of the French Revolution
The United States and the French Revolution, 1789–1799