A timeline about the Enlightment and Nationalist Revolutions unit.
Created by jaizuss on Nov 11, 2009
Last updated: 11/18/09 at 08:19 AM
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After the retreat from Moscow decimated much of Napoleon's Grand Army, his enemies quickly took advantage of his weakness. Eventually, Napoleon had to surrender and give up his throne, exiled to the tiny island of Elba. However, after hearing of King Louis XVII's unpopularity among his subjects, Napoleon escaped from Elba and landed in France in 1815. In a matter of days, Napoleon as emperor once more, and the European allies began to prepare for battle once more, this time near the village of Waterloo in Belgium. Two days after the battle's beginning, the Prussians and the British chased Napoleon and his army from the field. Napoleon was shipped by the British to the remote island of St. Helena, where he lived in exile for six years until he died.
Padre Miguel Hidalgo, a poor but well-educated priest, issued a call for rebellion against the Spanish because of his belief in Enlightenment Ideals, a call now known as the grito de Dolores. He began to march to Mexico City, his army soon reaching 80,000 men. The Spanish army and the creoles, alarmed by this uprising of the lower classes, went to war with them and defeated Hidalgo in 1811. However, the rebellion continued on.
Inspired by the news of the American and French Revolutions and Enlightenment ideas, the colonists in Saint Domingue decided to try to gain freedom. During the French Revolution, thousands of enslaved Africans revolted under an emerging leader, Toussaint L'Overture. By 1801, the enslaved Africans had been freed and by 1802, the French came to remove Toussaint from power. He was seized and sent to a prison in the French Alps. His lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, took up his mantle and declared the colony an independent country in 1804. The first black colony freed from European control, it was named Haiti, which meant "mountainous land."
In 1804, the French voters supported Napoleon's decision to make himself emperor. During the crowning, Napoleon placed the crown on his head himself, instead of letting the pope do so, signifying that he was more powerful than the Church. After making the United States more powerful (and, thus, giving England a rival), Napoleon's attention turned to Europe, as he was looking to conquer even more than he already had. The British, Swedish, Russians, and Austrians joined together against France, but were crushed by Napoleon in a series of battles. After peace treaties were signed with Austria, Prussia, and Russia, the only enemy left was Britain. The only major battle Napoleon lost, the Battle of Trafalgar, had a major impact. It ensured the supremacy of the British navy for the next hundred years and made him look for another way to control England, eventually leading to his undoing.
Napoleon Bonaparte first became well-known when he was told to defend the delegates when the royalist rebels marched on the National Convention; after defeating them, he was hailed as the savior of the French republic. He remained a hero to France after several expeditions in Europe and even after one failed expredition in Egypt. By 1799, the Directory had lost control of the political situation, leaving the people with little confidence in the Directory. Convinced by his friends to seize political power, Napoleon surrounded the national legislature with his troops, driving out most of its members. Those remaining voted to dissolve the Directory and established a group of three consuls instead, one being Napoleon, who then quickly became first consul and assumed dictatorial powers.
In the 1770s, discontentment about the organization of France began to form, as resentment among the lower classes began to grow. In addition to this resentment, serious economic problems, new ideas about government, and bad leadership (from King Lousis XVI and Marie Antoinette) helped stir up a desire for change. Louis XVI ignored the national emergency until there was almost money left, and he was forced by the Second Estate to call a meeting of the Estates-General to approve a tax on the nobility. After argument about the medieval rules of the Estates-General, the Third Estate delegates formed the National Assembly, proclaiming the end of absolute monarchy. The establishment of the National Assembly was the first deliberate act of revolution. Rumors about what Louis XVI was going to do the National Assembly caused people to begin to gather weapons to defend the city. On July 14th, a mob brought on the fall of the Bastille, and soon rebellion spread into the countryside, bringing on the Great Fear. Finally, in October 1789, thousands of Parisian women marched on Versaille, making demands of the National Assembly, and then broke into the palace, demanding the royal family to return to Paris. Hours later, the royal family left Versailles, and the change of power and radical reform began.
After the French and Indian War, tension began to grow between the British and the colonists. The Stamp Act and the Boston Tea Party ushered on this hostility between to the two, and then in 1774 and 1775, Continental Congresses were held. The Second Continental Congress voted to raise an army and organize for battle, beginning the American Revolution. In 1776, using Enlightment ideas (such as John Locke's assertion that people had the right to rebel against an unjust ruler) to justify their independence, the Second Continental Congress issued out the Declaration of Independence, a document written by Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence brought on full-on war.
The Baron de Montesqiueu, an influential French writer, specialized in the study of political liberty. Coming up with the idea of separation of powers (he thought this was what Britain had, though Montesquieu had actually simplified their way of government), he wrote about it in his book On the Spirit of Laws. Montesquieu believed that the separation of powers would keep any group or person from assuming total control of the government. As well as proposing separation of powers, Montesquieu wrote in his book about an idea that would later be called checks and balances. On the Spirit of Laws was admired by many Britain's colonies in North America, and Montesquieu's ideas about checks and balances and separation of powers were the basis for the United States Constitution.