Between 1789 and 1799, France went through one of the most dramatic events of modern European History: the French Revolution. The French population went through economic chaos, a dictatorship, and a civil war as well as other dramatic changes. During these years, the French decided to speak up for themselves and they became enemies of the French revolution. Internal enemies included the King, Louis XVI, Monarchists and Royalists and the Churches that were run by refractory priests. External threats were caused by aristocrats who had fled the Revolution; more specifically known as “emigres”, Austria and Prussia.
The latter were the more dangerous threats to the Revolution. Emigres were typically traditional military leaders, so they had experience with the army and could possibly have encouraged internal revolt with members of the French army. However, because there was only a small number of emigres, the effect these military leaders had was limited. It did give emigres the opportunity to strike back at France and restore the monarchy. Louis XIV’s brother (Louis XVIII) set up court in Koblenz, Germany with other emigres. A member of the court, Louis-Joseph, decided to lead an army in hope to restore the Monarchy and regain access to France.
This resulted in a defeat in Quiberon Bay, Southern Brittany, where approximately 600 emigres were executed. On top of this, emigres were wealthy but they would not have been able to afford to run a war for very long as this costs large amounts of money. Another threat emigres created was the fact that they had close connections with monarchies across Europe. This fact could have triggered foreign intervention which would have caused a major set-back in the French Revolution: this would have caused a return of the Monarchy.
External enemies could have worked out a plan with Louis XVI, who was an internal enemy of the Revolution. Royalists and Monarchists would have gladly supported Louis. Austria and Prussia were also external enemies of the French as they frequently had wars and even invaded at times. Austria and Prussia considered Louis XVI cause as their own and demanded he receive total liberty and the dissolution of the Assembly. They also promised an invasion of France on his behalf. Even though the Girondin leader, Brissot, wanted Louis XVI to remain in power, he felt threatened by The Declaration of Pillnitz and declared war on Austria.
This further imperilled Louis, especially when Prussia joined Austria’s allies shortly afterwards. France was unprepared for the war and fled. This left the country vulnerable to counterattack. However, Austria and Prussia were not always huge threats as there were distractions from time to time: one of them being the invasion of Poland. Internal enemies of the French Revolution included Louis XVI as well as his wife, Marie Antoinette. Louis kept a supportive front toward the Revolution yet he remained in contact with Austria (like his Austrian wife), Prussia and Sweden asking for help to restore the Monarchy.
When Louis tried to escape with his family and failed, the population began losing faith in their King, something that previously was not the case as he was rather popular. He was returned to Paris as a prisoner and reluctantly agreed to the Civil Constitution. The fact that Louis also greatly opposed the Rights of Man also led to his growing unpopularity. On top of that, the Sans-Culottes contributed to the French revolution a great deal. However, they believed they did not receive the respect they deserved and started to rebel in the name of ‘equality’. The September Massacres and other violence was common throughout France.
There were often bread riots as bread prices were sky high and harvests were bad. There was the Reveillon Riot when there was an announcement that wages were to be cut. Workers were concerned with the fact that there was high unemployment, food shortages and low wages. The fact that the population was against the leaders of the country could cause civil war. In 1789 the Church was changed radically. This was done to reduce the influence the Church had on the population. At first, changes were accepted (August, 1789) later, however, changes were more radical, causing the state to have more control over the church.
This caused a real stir in the population and villagers complained that the Assembly was forcing them to choose between their religion and the revolution. Nigel Aston, a historian, commented: “Faced with what was crudely reduced to a stark choice between religion and revolution, half the adult population [mainly women] rejected the revolution. ” This caused a civil war. In turn this led to more radical measures to suppress counter- revolution and Robespierre (as well as other Jacobins) sent more and more people to the guillotine.
On top of this, counter-revolutionaries were chained together, put on boats that were then sunk. External enemies were more of a threat to the revolution. It was more than one population (both Prussians and the Austrians) which automatically outnumbers the French population. As well as this fact, the Prussian and Austrian armies were prepared to fight, more so than the French army. These countries were also in touch with internal enemies Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. This is an advantage as Louis could give advice on how to go about invading France as he knew ‘inside information’.