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Vive la Revolution!

July 14, 2020

On July 14, 1789 a crowd of the poor and working people of Paris marched to the infamous Bastille fortress. The guards resisted, and the people stormed the building. The French Revolution had begun.

The resentment that fuelled the revolution had been building for years. The Bastille had functioned as political prison for the brutal Bourbon monarchy, but by 1789 it was mostly out of use and slated for demolition. There were only 7 prisoners to set free. But it was used as a royal armoury, and it was guns and ammunition that the revolutionary people were after. 

That other symbol of the Revolution, the guillotine, was adopted by the revolutionary National Assembly several years later. Although ruling classes still point to it as a symbol of mob rule and cruelty, the guillotine was then considered a most swift and humane method of capital punishment. It was an advance from torturous execution methods favoured by Louis XVI.

The French Revolution and the fall of the Bastille sent shock waves through all the corridors of European power and nobility. But it lit a beacon of hope for all who hoped to see the remnants of feudal absolutism sent packing. In the words of English poet and republican William Wordsworth:

     Oh! pleasant exercise of hope and joy! 

     For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood 

     Upon our side, we who were strong in love! 

     Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, 

     But to be young was very heaven!


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