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When King Louis XVI of France took the guillotine, he maintained his elegant dignity and looked very kind.

Louis XVI was executed on January 21, 1793. After he arrived at the execution ground, he did not forget to ask the revolutionaries not to harm the court priest who accompanied him at the last moment of his life. He calmly took off his clothes and said to the crowd on the crowd: My death is innocent, I forgive my enemies, I hope my blood will benefit the French (p. 296).

Louis XVI’s wife, Queen Mary, was executed nine months later. The woman who was hated by the French for her extravagance and stubborn persistence in autocracy also showed great elegance and kindness before her imprisonment. She left a last words to the eight-year-old son who is about to become an orphan: never avenge his parents (this poor orphan died in captivity two years later). She asked God to forgive herself and forgive all enemies.

When talking about the death of Louis XVI in the book "The History of the French Revolution", Migne said: "A most kind and weakest king died after thirty-six and a half years of seeking a happy rule. His ancestors left him a revolution. He is more suitable than his ancestors to prevent or end the revolution; because he could become a king of reform before the revolution, or after the revolution Be a constitutional monarch." He is "the only monarch with all the advantages of the king and the love of the people."

Tocqueville also believes that Louis XVI is a kind king. In the "Old System and the Great Revolution," he said that in the era of Louis XVI, "respect for freedom and human life is often visible, especially the real concern for the suffering of the poor" ("Old System and Great Revolution", Commercial Press , 1992 edition, page 212). Louis XVI does have some measures that focus on people's livelihood, such as helping the poor, setting up poverty alleviation funds, setting up charity workshops, and establishing institutions for housing. Tocqueville also believes that the Louis XVI era is also economically prosperous.

Why did a kind-hearted king who focused on the people's livelihood fail to stop the revolution during the economic boom? Why is it sent to the guillotine?

Tocqueville believes that the most dangerous moment for a bad government is usually the moment when it begins to reform. This statement was raised by many people, and some people even feared and rejected the reform.

The argument that "a bad government is the most dangerous when reforms begin" does not have sufficient basis. The collapse of many old systems in ancient and modern China and foreign countries is not due to the beginning of change, it is precisely the rejection of reform. Louis XVI was sent to the guillotine because of his rejection and boycott of reform.

From strong autocracy to corruption autocracy

Prior to Louis XVI, France experienced two long-standing and unique autocracies: the strong autocracy of Louis XIV and the corrupt autocracy of Louis XV. At the time of Louis XVI, the "flood" of the revolution came.

The downstream flood is caused by the upstream water potential.

Originally, the political civilization of France was not backward. The City Autonomous Commune was first established by the French; the third-level meeting, a political consultation meeting attended by representatives of the three levels of society, was also held as early as 1302, only seven years later than the British model council.

However, in the process of transition from a feudal society to a nation-state, France has taken the road of strengthening autocracy. The three-level meeting has not developed into an institution that restricts and shares power. The function of political consultation has also been weakened. It will not be convened after 1614; the right to urban autonomy is also denied, and the power of the king has been strengthened.

After the establishment of the Bourbon dynasty, France had two strong leaders. The Prime Minister of Louis XIII, Richelieu and Louis XIV, made the French autocratic rule reach its peak.

Richelieu implemented iron fist rule, strengthened centralization, changed the imperial ministers who were sent to the provinces from time to time to become permanent residents, controlled local administrative, judicial and financial powers, and deprived local forces and the people of the right to participate in politics. In terms of public opinion control, Richelieu restricted the freedom of publication and established a government-run newspaper to control public opinion. On the economic front, Richelieu supports industrial and commercial development, encourages an export-oriented economy, strengthens tax collection and management, and greatly increases tax revenue, providing economic security for strengthening autocracy.

Louis XIV was in office for 72 years and pro-government for fifty-four years. He was the most powerful and authoritarian king in French history. He believed that "the country is the country" and equated the country with the king. He continued the policy of Richelieu, deprived the feudal aristocracy of political domination, concentrated power in the center, and concentrated it in his own hands. In order to avoid the rebellion of the nobility, Louis XIV built the grand and luxurious Versailles Palace, and called the local aristocrats to the court for a long time. He set up some "弼马温" positions and assigned them to the nobility. An earl may be the director of the royal dress, and a duke may be the director of the flag. In his spare time, he led the nobles to practice etiquette, eat big meals, listen to operas, and even learn to dance ballet. The cost of strengthening the autocratic power of Louis XIV is enormous: the cadre ranks huge and the court pays hugely. During the reign of Louis XIV, he also played for thirty-one years. The treasury was empty when he died.

In the process of forming a nation-state, the British replaced feudalism with constitutionalism and representativeism, taking the people more and more involved in the political path; while France replaced feudalism with authoritarianism and excluded the people from politics. outer. Autocracy will inevitably lead to the intensification of social inequality and the sharpness of social contradictions.

After the death of Louis XIV, his great-grandson Louis XV was succeeded and reigned for fifty-nine years. Louis XV wind and snow, like to hunt wild beasts, prefer to hunt beauty. Driven by the king, the French privileged class is extravagant. Although Louis XV was somewhat loose in its rule, the arrogant and powerful autocracy evolved into decadent autocracy, and the people’s disgust was even worse. Louis XV does not care about the feelings of the people. His famous saying is: "I am even flooded after I die."

The French people have been suffering from tyranny for a long time, and the gathering of the floods of the sky is inevitable.

Voltaire and Rousseau ruined France?

In 1774, the twenty-year-old Louis XVI inherited the throne of Grandpa Louis XV and embarked on the position of the top leader. When he took over, the French monarchy's authoritarian building was in jeopardy.

When Louis XVI succeeded to the throne, the French Enlightenment had been under way for more than half a century. The so-called Enlightenment is a thinker with public feelings. In today's words, it is "publicly known" and it has launched an impact on authoritarianism. These are known to discuss state affairs in the communication in the club in the salon; in literary and dramatic works, in the legal and illegal publications, in the encyclopedia compiled, propaganda of reason and science, freedom and constitutionalism. The Enlightenment was an extension of the shock wave generated by the British constitutional revolution, and it was the counter-effect of France's powerful, arrogant and corrupt autocratic rule.

The Enlightenment promotes reason; denies "the authority of the monarchy" and the authority of the church; emphasizes "sovereignty in the people" and restricts power; and promotes equality. The Enlightenment disintegrated the legitimacy of authoritarian power, and the people no longer considered the king to take power for granted.

Louis XVI did not know what he "known" for more than a decade. He did not know the wishes of the people. He did not read the books of the Enlightenment thinkers Voltaire and Rousseau until he became a prisoner in the late French Revolution. After reading Louis XVI, he sighed: "Voltaire and Rousseau have died in France!"

Of course, France did not perish, and the Bourbon dynasty was destroyed.

The Bourbon dynasty is not a non-death. If Louis XVI is aware of the "sovereignty in the people" philosophy and historical trends advocated by the Enlightenment, and is taking advantage of the trend.

Only the "known" enlightenment does not lead to revolution, the most effective enlightenment is the evil of autocracy. The inequality and injustice caused by the autocratic system and constantly strengthened are the engines of the revolution.

During the fifteen years from the succession of Louis XVI to the outbreak of the Great Revolution, almost every year in France, there were mass incidents - rebellion - happening, hungry rebellion, and farmers resisting taxes.

The strong and corrupt dictatorship that France has long formed has been huge and extravagant, and it consumes a lot. Louis XVI also wants to make a difference, engage in some public works, and put some livelihood projects, so the tax is very heavy.

At that time, France's first-class priests and second-class nobility accounted for only 2% of the population, occupying most of the land resources, monopolizing the majority of cadre positions, but never paying taxes. The third level, including the bourgeoisie, workers and farmers, bears all taxes. The most bitter thing is the peasants, who are not only burdened with taxes, but also bear a lot of servants.

"No taxpayer's consent is not allowed to collect taxes" is the principle of deep roots in medieval Europe. This principle was fixed in the constitutional United Kingdom, but was abandoned in the authoritarian France. The French tax class – the third level – has no political rights. Whether the Enlightenment or the mass incidents are actually expressing the people’s strong desire to enjoy political rights and equal status.

Louis XVI was indifferent to the concept of "sovereignty in the people" and the strong desire of the people to demand rights, thinking that it is a matter of course to inherit power. He did not know that the true sovereign owner of the country, the people, should be feared. Although he advertises his love for the people, it is a condescending gift. If you really love the people, the best way to show your sincerity is to return to the people. Louis XVI not only refused to carry out political system reform, but also empowered the people, or let the people share power, and even the minimum improvement did not advance.

In the cabinet of the early days of Louis XVI’s administration, there were ministers who advocated reform. The Minister of Finance, Dulgo, advocated exempting the servants from servitude, canceling the privileged class's privilege of not paying taxes, and initiating political reforms. Another minister, Malzeb, advocates giving everyone the right to cancel the news and publications inspection system and guarantee justice. But under the strong obstruction of the stubborn forces opposed to reform within the ruling core, Louis XVI abandoned the reformists. As Migne said in the History of the French Revolution, under the system of privilege and the enslavement of the public, all reforms for the public interest will not work.

Reform will not work, and the revolution will come.

The fuse of the French Revolution began with taxation. Louis XVI’s financial impediment has reached its limit. He does not cut down on the huge bureaucracy, does not reduce the huge expenses of the royal family and the government, refuses to reduce luxury consumption, but expects to solve problems through economic policies.

Louis XVI, appointed by the Minister of Finance in 1783, Carona, tried to stimulate the economy with investment, to engage in public utilities and infrastructure construction, to issue bonds, cast coins, and sell land without money. Not only did this not solve the problem, but it created a bigger financial crisis. Carona had to design a land-characteristic tax that landowners had to pay, but it was resisted by aristocratic classes that never paid taxes. The nobility proposed that a three-level meeting must be held to decide the tax collection. France has not held a three-level meeting for more than 170 years. Louis XVI did not agree to hold it. He wanted to force the passage of tax laws, but he was fiercely resisted and there were turmoil in many places. There is no way, Louis XVI was forced to decide to hold a three-level meeting.

This opened the prelude to the French Revolution.

The third-level meeting changed its flag

The French people have high hopes for the three-level conference. They also wrote Chen Qingshu while they elected their representatives. There were more than 60,000 love letters. The general aspirations of the people are: against authoritarianism, demanding a constitution that limits the power of the king; establishing a national representative body to determine taxes and enacting laws; reforming taxation and the judicial system; guaranteeing individual freedom and freedom of the press; and implementing local autonomy, etc. (page 91) ).

Louis XVI only wants to increase taxes through three-level meetings, solve financial difficulties, has no desire and preparation for political system reform, and does not realize the enormous energy contained in the people's strong desire to fight for their rights.

The third-level meeting was opened on May 5, 1789. In addition to emphasizing the country's difficulties and demanding an increase in taxation, Louis XVI did not talk about political system reform.

Barton, the minister of the singer who spoke after the King’s speech, made it clear that “someone used rumors and slang to dream of changing the principle that the monarchy’s polity cannot be moved.” He asked the participants to “disregard these dangerous reforms”.

The speech of the King and the Minister of the Supreme Court made the third-level representatives clear: hope that the King’s reform is hopeless. Therefore, they themselves announced that the three-level meeting was the National Assembly, which had national sovereignty and could not be taxed without the approval of the National Assembly.

This action subverts the regime of the Bourbon dynasty, but it has legitimacy. The king represents only a family of dozens, and behind the third level is the 24.5 million French people.

Regarding the subversive actions of the third-level representatives, Louis XVI took a tough stance, made three important speeches in succession, did not recognize the National Assembly and its resolutions, and was ready to use force. But the people of Paris stood on the side of the National Assembly. The Guards in Paris also favored the people. It was rumored that the people of Paris had to march to Versailles, and Louis XVI did not dare to act rashly. Thus, the three-level conference became the National Assembly and the supreme power of the state became a fait accompli.

France changed its flag.

Louis XVI was not willing to change his flag. On the one hand, he secretly mobilized the army, on the one hand, he withdrew the position of Necker, the minister who favored reform. These two actions made the people of Paris feel fearful and angry, and realized that the danger of being suppressed was imminent, so they took to the streets. A young man named Demran stood in a chair and told people about the bloody suppression of Protestants by King Charles IX more than a hundred years ago. He called on everyone to pick up their weapons. In this way, the storm of the Great Revolution was rolled up by a young man who was speaking in a chair. People search and snatch weapons and ammunition everywhere, and the Paris city government is also seized by the people.

On July 14, the iconic event of the French Revolution took place - attacking the Bastille.

There are only a few prisoners and more than a hundred soldiers in Bastille. The people attacked the Bastille. First, I heard that there were many weapons and ammunition in the Bastille. First, there were rumors that the cannons of the Bastille had to fire at the people.

Attacking the Bastille was the beginning of the bloodshed of the French Revolution. The attackers died nearly a hundred people, the guards were killed after surrendering, and a revolutionary leader was shot dead because of doubts about his enemies. The revolution started, and reason and procedures were taken to the side.

Attacking the Bastille caused a chain reaction. In more than a month, 90% of the city's more than 30 cities in France were seized, and violence and robbery occurred in the countryside.

The riots in Paris, especially the Guards, stood on the side of the people, and Louis XVI had to compromise. He condescended to the National Assembly to announce that he had ordered the evacuation of the army and recalled the removed Necker. He also personally rushed from Versailles to Paris to express his sincerity to the revolutionary people.

How does the revolution turn out of control?

Louis XVI lost leadership and grasped the dominance of political system transformation because he refused to reform. But if he can recognize the historical trend and face the reality, he will be willing to be a king who shares power with the National Assembly and will not be sent to the guillotine.

Even after the Parisian people attacked the Bastille, when Louis XVI came to Paris from Versailles, the people shouted "Long live the King." On the welcome banner, Louis XVI is called "the father of France" and "the king of the free people" (p. 115).

Two years after the outbreak of the French Revolution, when Louis XVI addressed the Constitutional Convention and said that he would be loyal to the constitutional constitution of the monarchy, the delegates also sincerely shouted: "Long live the king!"

The most radical Jacobin leader of the French Revolution, Robespierre, still did not oppose the constitutional monarchy after the incident of Wallen who fled and was intercepted by Louis XVI. He said, "As long as the patriotism cultivated by the nature of our revolution can develop freely, I am not afraid of the kingship, and I am not even afraid that the kingship will be passed down from generation to generation in a family." (p. 230) Later, Robespierre resolutely Advocating the abolition and execution of the king, Louis XVI was eventually sent to the guillotine, and the revolution became more and more bloody, the result of the revolution out of control.

Why is the revolution out of control?

The revolution broke out because Louis XVI refused to reform; the revolution was out of control because of the repeated resistance of Louis XVI not to be willing to lose power.

Louis XVI's attitude toward change oscillates between compromise and resistance, sometimes tough, sometimes compromise, and sometimes to restore the movement, constantly stimulating the revolution to turn in a radical direction.

Nearly two years after the outbreak of the Great Revolution, on June 20, 1791, before the constitutional monarchy was passed, Louis XVI tried to escape from France and was recognized and intercepted in Waren. This raised the call for the king to establish a republican system. However, most people still hope that the political system will be smoothly transformed and a constitutional monarchy will be established. On September 14, the parliament persuaded Louis XVI to approve the constitutional constitution of the monarchy. The Constitution stipulates that the parliament elected by the people is the supreme organ of power and exercises legislative power; the king exercises executive power and concurrently serves as the highest military head; the judicial power is exercised by the elected judicial officers; the abolition of all feudal systems, the abolition of all privileges; and the protection of civil rights, Including free speech freedom and so on.

According to the Constitution, Louis XVI can sit on the throne of the constitutional monarchy and enjoy administrative and military command. But he was not willing to try to restore autocracy with the help of external forces. To this end, he actively instigated the war against Austria. The Austrian king is his father-in-law (later succeeded by his nephew), a staunch opponent of the French Revolution, and is organizing an anti-French alliance. Louis XVI advocated declaring war on his father-in-law, hoping that France would be defeated, thereby restoring authoritarian power. The Girondists who led the Congress at the time also foolishly advocated war. They were trying to defend and expand the revolutionary achievements in order to export the revolution. The opposite goal contributed to a unanimous decision. On January 14, 1792, France provocatively issued an allegation to Austria; on March 25, an ultimatum was issued; on April 20, France first declared war.

It was the war that led to the revolution out of control, pushing Louis XVI and the constitutional monarchy to a dead end.

Robespierre's logic

After the outbreak of the war, France lost its military power, and the attempt of Louis XVI was seen more and more clearly. On May 29, the parliament passed a resolution to dissolve the King's Guard. On June 8, the parliament asked the provinces to send members to participate in the commemoration of the July 14th Alliance and form an allied army to support the front line. The provinces selected 20,000 people to assemble in Paris, and these allied forces were controlled by radicals.

On July 25th, the Duke of Brunswick, the commander-in-chief of the anti-French coalition, attacked the French territory. The Duke issued a declaration prepared by the supporters of Louis XVI in exile in France, ordering the French to restore the king's power. This declaration stimulated the French people and gave the radicals a mouthful. On August 10th, the radical organization of the Allied forces and the Parisian people launched a second revolution, overthrew the Paris city government, killed the commander of the National Army, and captured the palace. Louis XVI became a prisoner.

Later, some people found evidence of royal funds for exiles, funding against revolutionary aristocrats, and collusion with foreign forces in the palace box. The radicals insisted on trial and execution of the king. They organized forty-eight delegations from Paris to the venue to put pressure on the parliament. Robert Spiel, a radical leader who is good at instigating, said in Parliament: Louis should die because the motherland must be born.

Under the agitation of the radical revolutionaries and the pressure of the masses, the National Assembly sentenced Louis XVI to death. Since then, the French Revolution has also fallen into a continuous bloody fight. In the end, Napoleon, who was far more than Louis XVI, appeared. After a series of civil strife and war, and the cost of the lives of millions of people, France returned to authoritarian rule.

Social transformation is like landing with an airplane.

The social transformation that was forced until the outbreak of the social crisis faced a huge danger of a hard landing. The French Revolution was a hard landing.

It is entirely possible for France to achieve a soft landing, and most people advocate rational and moderate transformation. However, Louis XVI did not foresee the crisis of the situation, refused to reform, and lost the opportunity to land softly. After the outbreak of the revolution, he refused to accept the reality of losing the highest power and finally lost everything.

Louis XVI died in superstition, obsession, and blind self-confidence in the system he was dependent on, and this system has been ruined and cannot be relied upon.

The long-term autocracy has made the people violent, and the nicks left by the political struggle in their subconscious are your life and death. As Tocqueville said, “France is a country that has completely disappeared from political life for a long time.” “The individual has completely lost the ability to handle affairs, the habit of judging the situation and the experience of the people’s movement” (Old System and Great Revolution, 241) ).

Whether the social transformation is a soft landing or a hard landing, the people can not choose, only the talents with power have the conditions and opportunities to choose. Louis XVI refused to regain power and made a hard landing choice, and the tragedy was born.

(This article was originally published in the Oriental Morning Post. The picture is the French Romantic painter Eugen Delacroix's "Freedom to Guide the People.")


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