RPM 1/21/13, The Fall of The Bastille
I explained to Joey that during this lesson we would be revisiting what was going on with the French Revolution. I proposed to Joey that since Ifat, who was observing, might not be a historian of the French Revolution, we would start with a little review of what was going on, for her benefit. For the last few hundred years France had been becoming closer and closer to bankruptcy. Kings and Queens had been building palaces, France had been financing numerous wars, Marie Antoinette had been collecting extremely expensive jewels, and now there was a shortage of money. Louis XVI wanted to raise taxes, the nobility refused, and said that he must call The Estates General to have anything like tax increases approved. The Estates General was made up of the First Estate (clergy), Second Estate (nobility), and the Third Estate (everyone else).
J: YOU KNOW I REMEMBER THE THIRD ESTATE BREAKING AWAY FROM THE ESTATES GENERAL AND STARTING THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY. LISTEN HERE THEY HAD TO USE A SEPARATE ENTRANCE SO THEY RAN OFF AND SET UP SHOP IN THE TENNIS STADIUM.
Yes, they were not happy that the First and Second Estates were treating them as inferiors. Where did this take place?
Ok, so that is what was going on in the political arena at that time in Versailles.
Lets also learn about what was going on in the city of Paris. There were also a few years where France had very poor harvests, specifically, the grain crop had failed, and there was not much food, specifically bread, for people to eat. If you remember, this is what led to Mary Antoinette saying, rather insensitively, “Let them eat cake!” So, food prices were sky high and hunger was widespread. The people protested and looted. They also banded together, collected weapons, pulled up cobblestones, and set up barricades in the streets.
J: YOU KNOW I WOULD PROTEST TOO IF I WERE STARVING. LISTEN TO ME NOW I’M TOTALLY THE TYPE TO TURN OVER COBBLESTONES TOO BECAUSE I NEED TO EAT BREAD AND CAKE.
Tensions peaked on July 14, 1789, and the boiling point occurred when an angry mob stormed the Bastille, which was an old fortress in Paris, that served as a weapons depot and as a jail. The crowds demanded that the commander of the Bastille give them all of the weapons. So, what was going on here?
J: THE ANGRY MOB FINALLY HAD ENOUGH BOLOGNA SO THEY STORMED THE BASTILLE AND DEMANDED ALL THE WEAPONS SO THEY COULD REALLY REVOLT.
At this point I gave Joey a quick break. When he returned, I asked him to remind me, what was the Bastille?
J: IT WAS A PRISON WHERE THEY HAD A SUPPLY OF WEAPONS.
And what do you think happened when they demanded that all the weapons be turned over to them?
J: THEY MUST HAVE MET WITH SOME RESISTANCE MAYBE SOME OF THEM WERE SHOT IN THE PROCESS.
They definitely were met with resistance. The commander of the Bastille refused their demand and fighting broke out. Of course, there were many weapons in the Bastille, but the angry mob was not just made up of a few people, it was made of a vast gathering of angry citizens. They had “power in numbers”. I’m sure many of them were injured, but there were simply too many of them to hurt or kill them all.
J: YOU KNOW THIS IS THE WORRY THAT I HAVE, I AM NOT THE PATIENT ONE TO THINK THEY COULD SHOOT ME BEFORE STORMING THE BASTILLE.
Well, the crowd stormed and overwhelmed the Bastille, killed the commander, took the weapons, and in a bloody show of victory, they stuck the commander’s head on a long pole and carried and displayed it all over Paris.
J: YOU KNOW I AM NOT SHOCKED THEY STUCK HIS HEAD ON A POLE AND DISPLAYED IT FOR EVERYONE TO SEE TO SEND THE MESSAGE THAT THEY ARE NOT YOUR SOFT INTO-THE-CRACKS-WE-WILL-
Can you tell me what we do in this country on the 4th of July?
J: YOU KNOW IN THIS COUNTRY ON THE FOURTH OF JULY WE CELEBRATE INDEPENDENCE DAY WITH COOL FIREWORKS AND AMERICAN FLAG HATS.
That is correct. The fall of the Bastille is often considered to be the official start of the French Revolution. It is significant that the French do not mark the beginning of the French Revolution based on political events, with the Third Estate braking free from the Estates General to form the National Assembly, but when the French people revolted in the streets of Paris, overthrowing the Bastille. Therefore, the French celebrate their holiday of national independence on July 14th, which they call Bastille Day.
J: THE FRENCH HAVE IT SO RIGHTEOUSLY RIGHT. IT IS NOT WHEN THE THIRD ESTATE BROKE FREE BUT WHEN THE LITTLE PIMPLY PEOPLE CHOSE TO RISE WITH MAGNIFICENCE THAT THEY CHOSE TO CELEBRATE THEIR INDEPENDENCE DAY.
What did you take away from this lesson? How can you apply it to your life?
J: YOU’RE TOO WONDERFUL TO ALWAYS BRING IT BACK TO ME AND MY MATURING INTO A PINT OF A MAN…YOU KNOW I’M A PINT OF A MAN NOW… I REALLY LEARNED FROM THIS LESSON THAT WHEN LIFE IS TOO TREMENDOUSLY UNFAIR I’M THE ONE WHO MUST CHANGE MY CIRCUMSTANCES. I’M ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN WELL BEING. MOSTLY I LEARNED THAT THERE IS POWER IN NUMBERS AND THAT I AM LUCKY TO HAVE SUCH A LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN MY CORNER.