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Andrew Shriver Mrs.

Erin Smith French 111 30 November, 2013 Bastille Day In America we celebrate the fourth of July as our Independence Day, however in France the fourteenth of July acts as the French equivalent of the same holiday. The fourteenth of July in France celebrates the beginning of the French Revolution, just as Americans celebrate their Declaration of Independence on the fourth. Bastille Day marked the beginning of the very first French Revolution, which not only ended the absolute monarchy in France but also sparked one of the bloodiest, most terrible periods in French history. The Bastille in Paris is most widely known as a prison for religious criminals, aristocrats out of favor with their families, and those imprisoned by decree of the King; however by the time it was overrun in the late 18th century it was used mostly as it was originally intended, as a fortress defending the city of Paris as it only held seven prisoners (1). Prior to 1789, the political climate in France was already uneasy and French politicians were looking for reform and a new constitution. Prior to the events at the Bastille, the French Aristocrats had gathered in Versailles to debate reform and the formation of a new constitution (2). In fear of a conspiracy to completely remove the common people from power, the people of Paris began to gather outside the Bastille and demand that it and its weapons be turned over to the people of France, because the fortress had become a symbol of Aristocratic Tyranny. On July 14th, 1789 roughly 1000 citizens of Paris gathered outside of the Bastille, demanding its surrender to the people of Paris. In the beginning, as the crowd gathered, two

representatives were allowed to enter the Bastille and negotiate with the garrison. However, later in the afternoon, the crowd broke into the outer courtyard of the fortress, which sparked several volleys of gunfire into the crowd. After that, the crowd was reinforced by the Gardes Franaises who opposed the aristocracy and two of their cannons. In the end the commander of the Bastille De Launay ordered a cease fire and surrendered. The battle left 98 of the attackers dead and 1 defender dead, however later De Launay and all of the French defenders of the fortress were executed, and the Swiss soldiers and other non-French military personnel inside the Bastille were spared only because the Gardes Franaises protected them from harm and the hands of the rioters (1). This battle sparked further riots and the onset of the French Revolution. The French Revolution was very long and bloody, and not all of it was admirable, however it proved the power of the people, and lead to France and the rest of Europe to adopt rights for the common man and end Aristocracies across the West. The Revolution also helped champion the abolition of slavery in France and give rise to Napoleon Bonaparte, who would shape the history of France and Western Europe until his final defeat. The Celebration of Bastille Day celebrates the beginning of one of the most influential time periods in Western History. Sources: 1.) "History of the Bastille in Paris France." History of the Bastille in Paris France. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013. <>. 2.) "French Revolution (1787-99)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013. <>.