The French Revolution
Politically, the revolution was more significant than successful. Since 1789 the French government has been either parliamentary and constitutional or based on the plebiscitary system that Napoleon inherited and developed. Between 1789 and 1799, however, democracy failed. Frequent elections bred apathy, and filling offices by nomination became commonplace even before Napoleon made it systematic. The Jacobins' fraternal--and Jacobin-controlled--community expired in 1794, the direct democracy of the sansculottes was crushed in 1795, and the republic perished in 1804; but as ideals they continued to inspire and embitter French politics and keep right and left, church and state, far apart.
The Revolution nevertheless freed the state from the trammels of its medieval past, releasing such unprecedented power that the revolutionaries could defy, and Napoleon conquer, the rest of Europe.…
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