July 14, 1789 Paris erupted. Angry crowds stormed
through the Bastille, setting off the French Revolution.
The National Assembly challenged the absolute right
of the King and stripped nobles and clergy of their
ancient feudal privileges, fracturing a social order
that had endured for centuries.
revolution gained momentum, eventually reaching
Bonaparte, who was serving in the army far from Paris.
He welcomed the changes transforming the country.
He is certainly not a revolutionary before the beginning
of the Revolution. But Bonaparte welcomes the Revolution.
He feels that the Revolution is going to open up French
society, abolish privileges and hierarchies. Bonaparte
was a man of his times and to be 20 years old in 1789
is really important. Napoleons destiny and the
destiny of the whole country become the same.
the summer of 1792, Bonaparte journeyed to Paris, and
on August 10 witnessed the storming of the Tuilleries
Palace. The mob massacred the king's Swiss Guards and
King Louis XVI was dethroned. The French Republic was
proclaimed that Fall.
January 21, 1793, the king was executed. The queen and
thousands more followed him to the guillotine. A month
later, Maximilien Robespierre, the austere, moralizing
leader of the French government, vowed to save the Republic
from its enemies at any cost. The Revolution turned
into the Terror. "Liberty," he said, "cannot
be secured unless criminals lose their heads."
to make his voice heard, Bonaparte wrote in support
of Robespierre. He hated the Terror, but he hated
chaos even more.
is really a man of order. For him, order has to serve
ideals exactly the idea of Robespierre. It
is necessary to suspend liberties in the name of liberty,
in order to save liberty. To save the Republic its
necessary to suspend individual liberties.
the summer of 1794, Robespierres government fell.
On July 27, the guillotine he made bloody came down
on his own head. The Terror was over. France had a new
1795, a fragile peace was established within France.
But the armies of the kings of Europe - Austria, Spain,
Prussia, Great Britain were bent on destroying
the new French Republic. Pulling together the remnants
of the army, France prepared for war, promising to help
"all peoples rise against their rulers."