Storming of Bastille

Rachel Hanson

While many people have heard of the storming of Bastille property in 1789, a lot of people have been wrongly led to believe that the storming of the property was to free the prisoners inside the place. Actually, there were only six prisoners inside the fort at the time when French citizens forced their way in, and there was altogether another reason for which they broke into the fort in the first place.

Storming of Bastille Motive

The storming of the Bastille was actually motivated by citizens needing ammunition. In this period of French history, the French people and the French government were very much at odds with one another. In short, it was a time of discontent and inability to resolve it. French citizens had stolen weapons previously in order to defend themselves and launch a rebellion. However, these weapons lacked sufficient ammunition. The idea to storm the Bastille then was strategic to the rebellion since there was a considerable stockpile of ammunition stored there. This was actually what the citizens were hoping to release from the Bastille when they forced their way in.

French Revolution

The French Revolution is thought by many to have begun as the result of the citizens storming the Bastille. For this reason, Bastille Day, July 14th, is still celebrated in France each summer as an important historical date, much like Independence Day in the United States. While many other events led up to the French Revolution, the beginning of the Revolution is generally attributed to the day that French citizens stormed the Bastille in Paris: July 14, 1789.

Political Unrest

Why were the French citizens so upset about how life was evolving in France leading up to the French Revolution? Essentially, France was taxing unfairly in the years right up to the Revolution. Tax rates were inordinately high for the poorest of citizens, meaning that they not only had no chance of working their way out of poverty, but that they could not even afford to make a reasonable life for themselves. Money was too sparse to cover lodging, clothing and food for one's family. These conditions were caused by extreme taxation; what's worse, this tax money was going to create palaces like Versailles for the Kings of France. The French people were sick of living this way, and a few things gave them hope that another way of life was possible.

The American Revolution gave French citizens the idea that citizens could rebel against their government, and forge a new way of living. In addition, the writings of certain famous French authors were read by some citizens at the time, who began to see the error in the French system of government at the time. The Enlightenment wasn't for nothing; the Enlightenment helped bring inspired ideas to France and French citizens.

The conditions in 18th century France were dire enough to cause the people to stand up and try to do something about the situation. Unfortunately, storming the Bastille was not the end of problems in France; in some ways, the problems only were magnified following the storming of the Bastille. In that time period, the Reign of Terror, thousands of French citizens were sent to the guillotine and beheaded. Only when Robespierre (who was in some ways, but not all, responsible for this increased number of citizen deaths) was sent to the guillotine himself, did the excessive use of the guillotine reverse.

The major factor in the ending of the French Revolution and the improving of conditions in the lives of French citizens was Napoleon coming to power in 1793. Napoleon was precisely the leader that France needed at the time. He created a reign that restored stability to France and her people, which was no small task given the state that the country was in when he came to power. Napoleon had nothing to do with the storming of the Bastille, and though he ended the French Revolution, the Bastille is a symbol still today of France's development of a modern government that works with and for the citizens instead of taking advantage of the citizens financially.

Storming of Bastille