In this article we're going

to talk about the French


And what makes this especially

significant is that not only

is this independence from aA

monarchy-controlled empire,

like in the American

independence, this is an

actual overthrowing

of a monarchy.

A monarchy that controls

a major world power.

Depending on how you view it,

the American Revolution came

first and kind of put out the

principles of self-governance

and why do we need kings

and all of that.

But the French Revolution was

the first time that those type

of principles really took foot

in Europe and really overthrew

a monarchy.

So just to understand kind of

the environment in which this

began, let's talk about what

France was like in 1789.

Which most people kind of view

as the beginning of the


One, France was poor.

Now, you wouldn't think that

France was poor, if you looked

at Louis XVI, who was

king of France.

If you looked at Louis XVI,

and the clothes he wore.

If you looked at

Marie-Antoinette, his wife,

they don't look poor.

They lived in the palace of

Versailles, which is ginormous.

It's this massive palace, it

would compare to the greatest

palaces in the world.

They were living a

lavish lifestyle.

Just in case you want to know

where this is, this is what's

now almost a suburb of Paris.

But at the time it was a village

20 or 30 kilometers

away from Paris.

So they don't seem to be poor.

But the the actual government

of France is poor.

And when I say poor,

they're in debt.

They've just had two major

military adventures.

One was the American

They played a major part

in supporting the


Because they wanted to

stick it to their

enemy, Great Britain.

They wanted their empire

to shrink a little bit.

So France sent significant

military help and resources.

And you could imagine, that's

not a cheap thing when you're

doing it across the

Atlantic Ocean.

And even before the American

Revolution, the Seven Years'

War that ended in 1763, this

really drained the amount of

wealth that the French

government had.

And for those of you who are

more American history focused,

the Seven Years' War is really

the same thing as the French

and Indian War.

The French and Indian War was

the North American theater of

the Seven Years' War.

But the Seven Years' War is

the more general term.

Because there was also a

conflict going on in Europe


The French and Indian

War and it was just

part of that conflict.

And the Seven Years' actually

engulfed most of the powers of

Europe at the time.

So France had participated in

this, ended in 1763, you had

the American Revolution.

Both of these really just

drained the amount of funds

that the government

itself had.

At the same time, the French

people were starving.

There was a generalized

famine at the time.

They weren't producing enough

grain, people couldn't get

their bread to eat.

So you can imagine,

when people are

starving they're not happy.

And to kind of add insult to

injury, you would see your

royals living like this.

But even worse than the royals,

who you don't see

every day, you saw

your nobility.

Who is roughly a little over

1.5% of the population.

But you saw the nobility really,

really, living it up.

And the nobility, just so you

know, these are people with

fancy titles who inherit land

and wealth from generation to


They don't dress too differently

from the king.

And they essentially live in

smaller versions of the palace

of Versailles.

And if you're a peasant, you

work on their fields, do all

the work, you send them

some of your crops

and they pay no taxes.

So from your point of view,

and it's not hard to

understand why you would think

this, these are essentially

kind of parasites who are

completely ignoring the fact

that you are starving

and you're

paying all of the taxes.

You can imagine people weren't

too happy about that.

And then to top it all off,

you had all of these

philosophers hanging around

talking about the


And this is kind of the whole

movement where people, and

authors, and poets, and

philosophers, are starting to

realize that, gee, maybe

we don't need kings.

Maybe we don't need priests to

tell us what it means to be

good or bad.

Maybe people could

essentially rule

themselves all of a sudden.

And obviously, the biggest proof

of the Enlightenment was

the American Revolution.

That was kind of the first

example of people rising up

and saying, we don't need

these kings anymore.

We want to govern ourselves.

For the people, by the people.

So you also had kind of

this philosophical

movement going around.

Now if you ask me my opinion of

what the biggest thing was,

I think the people starving,

you can never underestimate

what people are willing to do

when they're actually hungry.

And, this is kind

of more from the

intellectual point of view.

People said, oh there's

Enlightenment movement here.

So this is the state

of France.

They had a financial crisis.

So a meeting was called, kind

of an emergency meeting, of

the major groups of France to

try to resolve some of these

problems. It's a fiscal crisis,

people are starving,

what do you do?

So they called the Convocation

of the Estates-General.

Let me write that down.

Which was a meeting of the

three estates of France.

Now what are the three

estates of France?

You can really just view them

as the three major social

classes of France.

The First Estate

was the clergy.

The Second Estate

is the nobility.

And then the Third Estate

is everyone else.

And this gives you a sense

of how skewed the

power structure was.

Because people kind of grouped

the power as OK, these are the

three groups and maybe they can

vote against each other.

But this was only 0.5% of the

population, this is 1.5% of

the population, this was

98% of the population.

But these people had equal

weight with these guys.

But these people had the burden

of most of the taxes.

These are the people who are

doing all the work, producing

all of France's wealth,

dying in the wars.

But these guys, despite their

small population, have more

weight than everybody else.

So you had the Convocation of

the Estates-General, where

representatives of these three

estates met at the Palace of

Versailles to essentially figure

out what to do about

this fiscal crisis.

Now obviously, these people

right here, the Third Estate,

they were angry.

They were like look, we've taken

the burden on ourselves

for much of the recent

history of France.

We're tired of you guys getting

away with not paying

taxes and just kind of

leeching off of us.

They were afraid that even more

of the tax burden was

going to be put on them.

And the nobility, or the king,

or the clergy, that they

wouldn't have to make


So they came in already angry.

And so they really wanted to

meet in one big room together.

Because they actually had

roughly 600 representatives.

Which only the king at the

last minute agreed to.

Before, it was only going to

be equal numbers of them.

These guys had 300 roughly.

These guys had 300 as well.

These guys were able to say,

hey we're 98% of the

population, maybe we should

have at least 600


But even there, they wanted

to meet in the same room.

And essentially try to

make it so it's one

representative, one vote.

But obviously these other

estates, the clergy and the

nobility, said no, let's

each vote as estates.

And at the end of the day, these

guys lost. So they were

essentially forced to kind of

organize independently as a

Third Estate.

So that made them

even angrier.

So they met at an assembly hall

and said, if these guys

are going to ignore us, not

only are we going to be in

this room and start organizing


But we're not going to call this

the Convocation of the


We're going to declare

that we are the

National Assembly of France.

That we represent the people.

We are essentially going

to become the

parliamentary body of France.

Instead of just being this

emergency Convocation of the


And they actually got some

sympathy from some elements of

the clergy and some elements

of the nobility.

Now obviously, Louis XVI

was not amused by this

whole turn of events.

Here he was, he was an absolute

monarch, which means

that he held pretty much all of

the power to do whatever he

saw was fit.

And all of a sudden you had this

group of upstarts taking

advantage of this emergency

situation where he can't

continue to buy as many silk

robes as he was before.

They're taking advantage of

the situation to declare a

National Assembly of France.

To declare somehow that I'm

not an absolute monarch.

That my power is going to be

taken by this assembly.

So he wasn't happy.

So when they took a break,

he locked the door of the

assembly room.

So they couldn't get in.

And he said, oh I think

there needs to be some

repairs in that room.

Maybe you all can

assemble later.

And that was kind of his

way of saying no.

If you're declaring you're the

National Assembly of France,

I'm not going to even

let you assemble.

I'm not even going to let

you get in the room.

So that clearly didn't do a lot

to make these guys, or in

particular these guys,

any happier.

People are hungry.

These people are living


They've already been

not allowed to

vote in one room together.

When they vote in their own

room, and declare themselves

as representatives of the people

of France, which they

really are, the king locks the

room, doesn't let them go in.

So they go to an indoor tennis

court in Versailles.

This is a picture of

it right here.

This is an indoor

tennis court.

And that gives you an idea of

how lavish Versailles was,

that it had an indoor tennis

court in the late 1700s.

And they proclaimed the

Tennis Court Oath.

Where they proclaimed, not are

we only the National Assembly

of France, but even more than

that, we all pledge to not

stop until we create a

constitution of France.

So they went from being

a National Assembly to

essentially morphing into

a constituent assembly.

We're going to create

a constitution.

And they had sympathy from some

elements of the clergy

and the nobility.

So eventually Louis XVI,

he kind of saw the

writing on the wall.

The people are angry.

And every time he tries

to mess with them,

they only get angrier.

And they only go to even

more extreme measures.

So just to kind of make it seem

like he's going along, he

says, OK that's cool, guys.

Whatever you all want to do.

Yeah, maybe I'm open to it,

we are in an emergency.

And maybe it is unreasonable,

I have been a little bit


So he lets them be, he lets

them assemble again.

But while that's happening,

people start to notice that

troops are converging

on Paris.

And they're obviously being

sent there by the king.

And not only are they just any

troops, a lot of the actual

troops, even though they are

French troops, there under the

authority of France's


They're actually

foreign troops.

So, if you think about it, these

would be the ideal types

of troops to put down any

type of insurgency,

or any type of rebellion.

Or even better, to go

in and dissolve

the National Assembly.

So people start getting

a little bit

paranoid, you can imagine.

Now on top of that, Louis XVI's

main financial adviser,

Necker, Jacques Necker.

He was sympathetic to the Third

Estate, to the plight of

the Third Estate.

And he said hey, Mr. King, I

think it's reasonable for you

to essentially budget your

expenses a little bit better.

And maybe a little bit less

of a lavish lifestyle.

Considering the state of the

government's budget.

And the state of the people of

France, they're starving.

Why don't you do that

a little bit?

But Louis XVI, instead

of taking his

advice, he fired him.

He fired the financial


So taken together, troops are

converging on Paris, you have

this Tennis Court Oath, Louis

XVI has fired his adviser,

people are going hungry.

They're genuinely

going hungry.

People in Paris said, the king

is going to try to suppress us

again, this is no good.

And especially if he does

it with troops,

we have to arm ourselves.

So they stormed the Bastille.

This right here is a picture

of the Bastille.

And this is most famous, when

you when you first learn about

it, or maybe this is the first

time you're learning about it.

They put political prisoners

there and they freed the

political prisoners.

But in reality, there

were only seven

prisoners in the Bastille.

So it's not like thousands and

thousands of political

prisoners were being held there

and there were freed.

The real value of the Bastille

to the revolutionaries, we

could say, is that there

were weapons there.

There was a major arms

cache there.

And so by storming the Bastille

and getting the

weapons, they all of a sudden

could essentially fend off any

type of threat that the

troops would have.

But this is also kind of the

very beginning of the real

chaos of the French

And as we're going to see over

the next several years, the

chaos only gets worse

and worse.

It's almost on a lot of levels

a lot worse than the American


Because what actually happened

in the cities and what fellow

Frenchman started doing to do

each other was really on many

levels barbaric.

And you actually saw it here for

the first time, where the

governor of the Bastille, the

guy who was in charge of it,

he had the standoff between

the troops.

And he eventually called

for a ceasefire.

Because he's like, oh there's

too much bloodshed.

But once the revolutionaries got

to him, they stabbed them,

they cut his head off, and

they put it on a pike.

Then they went back to the mayor

of Paris, they shot him.

So clearly, things were really

getting out of hand.

But most people associate the

storming of the Bastille as

kind of the landmark event

of the French Revolution.

Even today, people celebrate

Bastille Day.

And that is July 14, 1789.

So just to give you a sense

of how quickly all of this

happened, the Convocation

of the

Estates-General, that was in May.

The Tennis Court Oath

was in June.

And then in July, you have the

storming of the Bastille.

And then in August, just to kind

of complete the idea that

we are definitely in a

revolutionary period.

The National Assembly, that

started off at the tennis

courts with the Third Estate,

they declared their equivalent

of the Declaration

of Independence.

They declared their Declaration

of the Rights of

Man and of the Citizen.

Which was essentially their

version of the Declaration of


And it essentially put

everything into question of

what is life, liberty, and

the pursuit of happiness?

I'm using words from the

American Revolution.

But this was their Declaration

of Independence.

It wasn't a constitution, it

was just a statement of the

things that they think need

to govern any type of

constitution or country.

Or the ideas that any country

should be based on.

So I'm going to leave

you there.

We've really now started

the French Revolution.

And now, you're going to see

that over the next several

years, it's only going to get

bloodier and bloodier and even

more complex.

And when everything is said and

done, it's actually not

going to end that

well in terms of

giving people liberty.