The Revolutionary War, also known as the American War for Independence, was a pivotal moment in history. This colonial rebellion took place between, led by figures such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, ended with the independence of the colonies. The war had a profound impact on the world, including the spread of revolutionary ideals and the shift towards republican forms of government. Here are some interesting and fun facts about the Revolutionary War that you may not have known.
Spies Were Used Extensively During the War
Spies Were Used Extensively during the War
A fun fact about one of the planet’s most well-known human beings is that General George Washington's code name within the Culper Ring was Agent 711. The Culper Ring provided valuable information on troop movements, plans, and many important supplies. Despite the identities of most Culper agents now being known, the identity of Agent 355, a female spy within the ring, remains a mystery to this very day.
Slaves Were Promised Freedom
During the Revolutionary War, thousands of African Americans participated on both sides of the conflict, many of whom were enslaved people who promised their freedom upon the war's end. African Americans served in various roles such as soldiers, sailors, cooks, and artisans. Agrippa Hull, an African American war hero, was an orderly for General John Patterson and was present for the surrender at Saratoga.
He spent the remainder of the war building defenses at West Point. Colonial women also played a significant role in the war effort, serving as cooks, nurses, and seamstresses. Some women even fought in the battle, such as Mary Ludwig Hays, who is believed to be the inspiration behind the legendary figure of "Molly Pitcher," and Anna Maria Lane, who disguised herself as a man to join the continental army.
Soldiers By Day, Actors By Night
The British army, while stationed in New York City, passed their time by performing alongside each other in Broadway shows. They were particularly fond of the legendary Shakespeare pieces to perform in their plays, both due to their quality and their deeply rooted British origin.
The colonial armies also attempted to put on their own performances, but their original plays were not as well received as the magic that came from legendary, already-existing plays. We don't know about you, but we would have loved to see hardcore soldiers from the battlefield suddenly turn into dramatic, expressive, and somewhat emotional performers on a broadway stage.
Women Played a Vital Role
Women took a significant part in the American Revolution, contributing to the U.S. armed forces since the formation of the Continental Army in 1775. They served as cooks, laundresses, seamstresses, and nurses, keeping the garrisons running smoothly. Some women even disguised themselves as men and fought in combat, while others served as spies.
Anna Smith Strong, a Setauket woman with connections to the Culper Spy Ring, is believed to have participated in intelligence activities. Legend has it that she used her laundry on the clothesline to communicate messages between members of the spy ring. This is just one example of the many ways that women played an important role in the American Revolution and helped to shape the nation we know today.
George Washington Was the O. G Charismatic Leader
George Washington was appointed as the commander of the Continental Army on June 14, 1775, by the Second Continental Congress. He was a charismatic leader with experience leading troops in the French and Indian War, making him the ideal choice for the role of commander. However, his military experience was limited compared to his British counterparts.
He did not have the same training in open-field battle or experience maneuvering large formations of infantry, commanding cavalry or artillery, or maintaining supplies for thousands of men in the field. Despite these weaknesses, Washington proved to be a capable leader who was able to take advantage of the British forces' vulnerabilities in the rough frontier and was able to keep the Continental Army together throughout the war's low points.
The Minutemen Played a Crucial Role in the War
These local militia groups were made up of men who were generally younger and less trained than the general arm. They were self-trained and equipped with their own weapons, but often lacked strong leadership. Many military actions before the official start of the war were carried out by these local militias, particularly in Massachusetts.
These men were known as Minutemen, and their contributions were instrumental in the eventual victory of the Patriots. The Minutemen were known for their quick response time, as their name suggests, they were always ready to mobilize and defend their towns at a moment's notice. This made them a valuable asset to the Patriot cause, as they were able to engage the British in small, hit-and-run style attacks that kept the enemy off balance. Their unorthodox tactics and guerrilla-style warfare were also instrumental in the Patriots' success in the early stages of the war.
Deborah Sampson: Fierce and Loyal Patriot
She disguised herself as a man named Robert Shurtleff and successfully joined the Continental Army, remaining undetected for two years despite her military abilities and frequent injuries. However, her disguise was ultimately uncovered when she became ill and was hospitalized.
Despite this, Sampson was honorably discharged and granted a full military pension. She went on to lecture across the country about her experiences as a hidden female soldier in the war and even wrote a memoir about her experience with the help of Herman Mann in 1797. Sadly, she passed away at 66 but her husband successfully petitioned Congress for spousal pay, as a woman would receive after her soldier-husband passed.
A Young Heroine
Two years after Paul Revere's famous midnight ride, in 1777, a young girl named Sybil Ludington also made a significant contribution to the American Revolutionary War effort by undertaking her own ride to sound the alarm. She was 16 years old and the daughter of a colonel in the militia.
She rode 40 miles from her home in Carmel, New York to Danbury, Connecticut, to alert the militia members about the Brits burning down the town. This journey, which she made on her own from 9 p.m. to dawn, was a courageous and dangerous one, as she had to travel through dark and treacherous terrain while also avoiding British patrols. Despite the risks, Sybil Ludington successfully completed her mission and helped rally the militia to defend Danbury from the British attack.
Inoculations Helped Them Win the War
George Washington, recognizing the devastating impact of disease on military forces, ordered the inoculation of the Continental Army in the winter of 1777. The operation was conducted in secrecy, as the process of inoculation left soldiers temporarily incapacitated.
However, the decision proved to be a wise one, as the Mount Vernon scholarship notes that the death rate from smallpox among the troops decreased from 17% to 1% after the inoculation. Washington's decision was ahead of its time and demonstrated his understanding of the importance of preventive measures in maintaining the health and effectiveness of his troops. He was certainly a pioneer when it came to understanding the detrimental effects diseases could have on future generations but most importantly, his troops.
Supply Was One of the Greatest Challenges
At Valley Forge, the Army's food rations were minimal, consisting of one pound of meat per day, one pound of flour, and small amounts of beans or vegetables. However, the bread was flat and dense, and the meat was so heavily salted for preservation that it was barely edible.
Fortunately, a German baker named Christopher Ludwick came to the aid of the soldiers. He donated his services and was appointed director of baking by Congress. He promised to make 135 pounds of bread per 100 pounds of flour and kept this promise for the next five years. He also managed flour shipments, coordinated the delivery of bread to the soldiers, and built his own ovens. The man was a real-life hero and his presence, along with their smallpox vaccinations proved to contribute to their win.
They Eventually Turned to Pirates For Help
During the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress, which was the governing body of the 13 colonies, did not have the funds to build a large navy to fight against the British. As a result, they turned to a practice known as privateering, which involved hiring private individuals, known as privateers, to attack and capture British ships.
These privateers were essentially pirates who were authorized by the government to engage in this activity. The privateers were able to capture a significant number of British ships, and the loot that they obtained from these captures was divided between the privateers and the government. The privateers received a portion of the loot as payment for their services, while the rest was used to fund the Continental Army and the Continental Navy.
The Use of Privateers Allowed Them to Attack the British at Sea
The privateers were also a valuable source of income for the government, providing an important source of funding for the war effort. However, the use of privateers was not without its drawbacks. The privateers were often ruthless and had no qualms about attacking neutral ships, which led to tensions with other countries.
Additionally, many privateers were not interested in fighting for the cause of American independence but rather were motivated by the prospect of riches and adventure. In summary, the Continental Congress hired privateers to attack British ships during the American Revolutionary War, as a way to supplement the efforts of the Continental Navy and to put the British on the defensive. The privateers were paid a portion of the loot, and the rest was used to fund the war effort. The use of privateers was a clever strategy, but it also had its drawbacks.
International Powers Were Involved
The American Revolutionary War was a significant event in world history, and the involvement of international powers played a crucial role in its outcome. The French government, led by King Louis XVI, provided significant support to the Patriots in their fight for independence. The French provided financial aid, weapons, ammunition, and troops, which greatly aided the Patriots in their efforts. The French military's involvement in the war was crucial in helping the Patriots achieve victory.
However, the French were not the only international power to become involved in the American Revolution. Spain, a close ally of France, also provided support to the Patriots. Additionally, the Netherlands, an important trading partner of the Thirteen Colonies, also aided the Patriots in their fight for independence. The involvement of these international powers was crucial in the Patriots' ultimately achieving their goal of independence from Great Britain.
The Official Declaration of Independence
The American Revolution, also known as the U.S. War of Independence, was a political upheaval that began on April 19, 1775, with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. These battles marked the first military engagement between the British and the colonies and were sparked by growing tensions between the two groups.
Despite losing the battles, the colonists demonstrated their determination to fight for their rights and independence. In the year that followed, tensions continued to escalate, culminating in the official Declaration of Independence, which was signed on August 2, 1776. America celebrates Independence Day on July 4th because, on that day in 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which declared the 13 colonies' independence from British rule. The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.
A Group of Revolutionary War Veterans Were Actually Photographed
These images provide a glimpse into what the men who fought in the war looked like. Six veterans were fortunate enough to live long enough to see the invention of photography and were photographed in 1863 for a special project. These veterans were among the few remaining survivors of the war, and some of them even had the opportunity to speak with George Washington and other prominent figures of the time.
The photographs are a unique and valuable historical record, offering a glimpse into the past and the faces of those who fought in the Revolutionary War. How incredible to witness a generation of men who have never in their lives ever been exposed to cameras, but had lived long enough to be some of the first to witness this technology before dying. Today, we cannot even imagine a world without photos.
There Was Major Plotting to Kill George Washington
In 1776, prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a covert committee discovered a scheme to assassinate the future first president of the United States. The committee, which was established by Washington himself, uncovered that the plot was being led by none other than Washington's personal bodyguard, Thomas Hickey.
Other significant individuals were also implicated, including the governor of New York and the mayor of the city. However, Hickey, being the closest to Washington and suspected of carrying out the assassination, was the only one to be put to death. The committee, whose revelation saved Washington's life, laid the foundation for the current Central Intelligence Agency. Like the world later witnessed with JFK, threats like these were real and have manifested despite many organizations put in place to stop them.
The War Led to the Invention of the Military Submarine
The American Turtle was the world's first submarine used in warfare, designed and built by American inventor David Bushnell in 1775. The American Turtle was a one-man vessel, measuring only about 8 feet long and 4 feet wide. It was powered by a hand-cranked propeller and had a maximum speed of about 3 knots.
The American Turtle was armed with a single explosive charge that was intended to be attached to the hull of an enemy ship and detonated remotely. The American Turtle was used in an attempt to sink the British warship HMS Eagle in New York Harbor, but the mission turned out to be rather unsuccessful. Despite its failure, the American Turtle is considered to be an important milestone in the history of naval warfare and in the lines of submarine development.
If You Ever Thought You Had Dental Issues, Well, Think Again
George Washington, the first President of the United States, had a well-documented dental problem throughout his life. He lost his first tooth at the age of 22 and by the time he became president, he had only one natural tooth left in his mouth. To compensate for his missing teeth, Washington had several sets of dentures made. Like these:
These dentures were constructed from a combination of materials including gold, lead, and animal teeth, primarily from horses. Washington's dentures caused him significant discomfort and made it difficult for him to speak clearly, which is why he is often depicted in paintings and illustrations with a closed mouth. Despite these difficulties, Washington was known for his ability to maintain a dignified appearance in public, and his dental issues were not widely known during his lifetime.
The Declaration of Independence Was Originally Printed in 200 Copies
Today, only a small number of these copies survive. At the National Archives in Washington D.C., there is one fully signed and preserved copy of the Declaration. This copy is known as the "engrossed" copy and was signed by all 56 members of the Second Continental Congress, making it the most historically significant of all the copies.
The printer, John Dunlap, was tasked with printing the Declaration in July 1776. He printed 200 copies, known as "broadsides," while only one was fully signed by the members of the Continental Congress. These copies were distributed to the colonies and various government officials. However, over time many of the copies were lost or destroyed, leaving only 26 known to exist today.
Invisible Ink Was Used for Top Secret Communication
Invisible ink, a tool utilized for secret communication, was invented by Dr. James Jay. He created a formula of ferrous sulfate and water that produced an invisible ink that, after drying, left no trace. To reveal the hidden messages, the paper needed to be heated or exposed to a special chemical.
During the American Revolution, George Washington and his troops made extensive use of this ink to conceal their communications by writing between the lines in letters or on the back of books. It served as an effective method of keeping their plans and strategies confidential from their enemies. Today, with all the computer technology, we're sure ink is a rather outdated way to communicate. Top-secret communication has come a long way since this method.
More Women Contributed Greatly to the Revolutionary War
During the Revolutionary War, many women refused to sit around doing nothing while their husbands were away fighting the war. Though they were not able to physically engage in combat, they found other ways to support the Patriot cause. They spied on British soldiers occupying their towns, gathering information and passing it on to the Patriot forces.
These women, often market sellers and maids, appeared harmless to the British but were in fact actively listening in on their conversations and relaying important information. One notable example is Lydia Darragh, who was able to warn the Revolutionary forces of a planned British attack on Washington in Pennsylvania. Her warning played a crucial role in preventing a devastating defeat at Whitemarsh.
Dentistry Genius and Common Sense
Paul Revere is famous for his legendary midnight ride through Boston, warning his neighbors of an impending British attack. However, before the revolution, Revere was also a skilled silversmith and even dabbled in dentistry as a side profession. This trade was quite profitable at the time, even though it was not well-trained.
Two months after his famous ride, Revere was asked to identify the body of a soldier he was believed to know. The body was too decomposed for Revere to identify through traditional means, so he instead examined the man's mouth to see if he had the same ivory teeth that Revere had made for him and wired into his jaw. The teeth matched, confirming that the body belonged to Major Joseph Warren. This is believed to be the first instance of identification through dental forensics in history.
The Historical Event Known as the Boston Tea Party
The Boston Tea Party is a well-known historical event that occurred on December 16, 1773. This was where members of the Sons of Liberty, dressed as Mohawk Indians, threw 342 chests of tea from three ships into the Boston Harbor as a protest against the taxes imposed by the Tea Act. However, many people may not be aware that there was a second event, known as the Boston Tea Party sequel, which took place on March 7, 1774.
This second event was held to further emphasize the point made by the initial incident and was likely due to the fact that only 16 chests of tea were thrown in the first event. The Boston Tea Party is a significant event in American history, representing the growing discontent of the colonists towards British rule and taxation.
The Word “Independence” Never Appears in the Declaration
Despite its title, the word "independence" never appears in the text of the Declaration. Instead, the document states that the colonies are "free and independent states," and that they have "full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do."
The Declaration is considered a foundational document of the United States and one of the most important in American history. It was written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, and its central ideas, such as the belief in natural rights, have had a profound influence on the country and on the world.
Marquis De Lafayette Played a Crucial Role in the Revolutionary War
He was only 19 years old when he joined the Continental Army as a major general in 1777. Despite his young age, Lafayette quickly proved himself to be a valuable asset to the revolutionary cause.
He quickly gained the trust and respect of General Washington and other key leaders in the Continental Army. Lafayette's military skills and leadership abilities were instrumental in the defeat of the British at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. He played a key role in the planning and execution of the siege of Yorktown, which ultimately led to the surrender of the British army under General Cornwallis.
Leading to Great Victory
This victory was a turning point in the Revolutionary War and marked the beginning of the end of the conflict. In addition to his military contributions, Lafayette also played a key role in the political and diplomatic efforts to secure support for the revolutionary cause. He served as a liaison between the Continental Army and the French government, which provided crucial support to the revolutionaries.
He also helped to secure the support of other European countries, including Spain and the Netherlands. Overall, the Marquis de Lafayette was a key figure in the American Revolutionary War. His contributions to the military and political efforts were instrumental in the eventual defeat of the British and the establishment of the United States of America as an independent nation. Despite his youth, he was a brave and capable leader who played a significant role in the history of the United States.
The Continental Navy Proved It's Worth
The Continental Navy was established by Congress on October 13, 1775, as a response to the British fleet that was on its way to support their war efforts. Despite the typical focus on land operations in the American Revolution, such as the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Continental Navy made significant contributions by attacking British merchant ships and defeating several British warships.
After the colonists won their independence, the Navy was dissolved, but with George Washington's support, three frigates were built by the Department of War in 1797. Due to increasing tensions between America and France, the act establishing the Department of Navy was signed by John Adams in 1798.
27 Unbelievable Facts About the French Revolution
In France, during the second half of the 18th century, change was in the air. The French monarchy was out of control, and the people wanted a change. The King, Louis XVI, and his famous wife, Queen Marie-Antoinette, were increasingly out of touch with the needs of ordinary people. They lived lavish, extravagant lives while the people struggled to put bread on their tables. On July 14th of 1789, the country exploded and the French Revolution had begun.
It Was the Economy, Stupid
The French Revolution began with the storming of the Bastille in 1789, but its roots went back for decades. There were several factors that led to its inevitability, the first and foremost of which was the economy. The French economy was in bad shape due to a number of reasons. Firstly, France had heavily supported the nascent United States in the Revolutionary war against Britain. This was partially for philosophical reasons, but mostly because Britain and France had been enemies for many years, and France was happy to help anyone fighting against the British.
However, this massive investment in the colonies had cost France dearly and had seriously depleted the nation's coffers. The monarchy didn’t seem to notice the shortfall, though, and continued to spend lavishly, especially Queen Marie-Antoinette. She would throw extravagant parties and send money to her brother, the Austrian Emperor. French King Louis XVI couldn’t stop her.
Taxing the People to Renovate Versailles
In order to recoup the money spent in the American colonies and to refill the coffers of the nation, King Louis XVI raised taxes on the people. Simultaneously, however, he decided to embark on a sparkling renovation of the Palace at Versailles. Marie-Antoinette had him build a brand new theater in the Palace, and many other additions and improvements were done, including filling the palace with priceless works of art.
It is estimated that in today’s dollars the Versailles renovation cost around two billion US dollars, a huge sum in a country that was facing famine and poverty. What made things worse was that the nobility didn’t pay any taxes at all under the Three Estates system that France used at that time. So while the King and his court were spending wildly, it was ordinary French people, the commoners, that were footing the bill, and they had had enough.
The Three Estates
Pre-revolutionary France was still under the system that was known as the Three Estates. Under this system, left over from feudal times, there were three classifications of people- the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. The clergy consisted of members of the church, who wielded much power and were basically immune from French law. The nobility was made up of everyone in the King’s court as well as everyone with a noble title and land.
The commoners made up 80% of the entire population and were the poor and working classes, including tradesmen. Only the commoners paid any taxes at all. So while the nobility was throwing grand, luxurious parties, financing wars overseas, and supporting relatives all over the continent, the commoners were the ones that had to pay for it all. And they were getting quite tired of it. Especially considering that a famine had taken over the country.
Famine Hits the Countryside
Prior to the revolution in 1989, France was hit with a series of extraordinarily brutal winters that led to a famine across the land. It began on the 8th of June in 1783 when a volcano in Iceland named Laki erupted, sending ash high into the atmosphere. The volcanic ash spread across the skies of Europe, darkening the skies, and ushering in a very cold and harsh winter in 1784. Then, in 1787, another particularly harsh winter struck France, decimating crops
The following year, 1788, was even worse, and the countryside was covered in a thick layer of snow and ice. When all that snow and ice melted the following spring, it created massive flooding throughout the land. Crops were underwater and they couldn’t grow much wheat. This, combined with the low yields in the previous few winters, led to a great famine. The stage was set for an uprising.
Let Them Eat Cake
Because of the very low crop yield for a few years, the price of flour went up significantly. Bread was the daily staple of most ordinary French families, but soon they couldn’t afford the flour they needed (kneaded?) to make it. It’s estimated that at the height of the crisis, the average French family spent up to 90% of their daily income just buying flour. When Queen Marie-Antoinette heard about this, she famously dismissed the crisis by saying, “Qu’ils mengent de la brioch”, which means “let them eat cake”.
Not only did this demonstrate how cold and callous she was to the suffering of her people, but it also evinced her utter lack of baking knowledge, as flour is needed to make the cake as well. The King, as usual, didn’t have much to say about it at all, and the people’s resentment grew ever higher. Their protests went completely ignored.
Enlightenment Thinking Sways the People
Along with these factors, a philosophical objection to the monarchy had swept through France. The people were greatly influenced by the Enlightenment, and writers such as Baron de Montesquieu, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau had opened the eyes of French citizens. Locke argued that leaders should only lead if they had the consent of the people. This made folks question the rule of King Henry XVI, who no longer had the support of most of the commoners.
Rousseau said that class distinctions were immoral and shouldn’t exist, which caused people to challenge the Estate system which gave certain people advantages simply because of their birth. Montesquieu influenced both France and the United States when he described a form of government with three branches- the executive, legislative, and judicial. These branches enjoyed a separation of powers which would, hopefully, reduce corruption and ensure equality for the citizens of such a government.
The Revolution Begins
With all the pieces in place, the French Revolution was about to spark. But in order to effect real change, the people would need weapons. They found a bunch of muskets at the Hotel des Invalides, but they still needed gunpowder. At the east end of Paris, there was an old fort that had been converted to a prison. It didn’t house many prisoners at that time, but it did have the gunpowder they needed.
A mob stormed the castle on July 14, 1789, thus officially beginning the French Revolution. They released all seven prisoners, including the Marquis de Sade, who wrote most of his best material while imprisoned there for the previous ten years. Then they went after the head of the prison. When they found him, they cut off his head and put in on a spike. Every year, July 14th is celebrated as a holiday in France.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
In August 1789, just after the storming of the Bastille, a National Constituent Assembly gathered to spell out the goals of the revolution. The group adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which codified the rights that all individuals should enjoy in a free, democratic country. Written by the Marquis de Lafayette in close consultation with Thomas Jefferson, it enumerated certain inalienable rights of the individual, including those of religion and speech, and life and liberty, declaring these rights universal.
The Declaration also states that all people are equal at birth, eliminating the classes. Conspicuously left out were any prohibitions against sodomy or adultery, thus codifying sexual freedom and making consensual sex of any kind no longer punishable by law, as long as they weren’t in public. A similar set of individual liberties was adopted into the US Constitution and became the Bill of Rights.
The Women March to Versailles
During the storming of the Bastille and the Assembly which adopted the Declaration of the Rights, the royal family was outside of Paris. King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were in Versailles, about an hour away by horseback. The King was busy hunting and the Queen was enjoying the countryside. They had heard about the rebellion but weren’t too concerned. That changed on October 6th, 1789, when a group of working-class women marched all the way to Versailles.
The protesters wanted to tell the King what they thought of the price of bread, and to confront the Queen about her lavish spending while they were struggling to eat. When the women arrived in Versailles, all their pent-up tension exploded. They killed several guards and put their heads on spikes. The women captured the King and Queen brought them to Paris and locked them up in the Tuileries Palace as their prisoners.
They Almost Didn’t Recognize the King
As the revolutionary women were marching to Versailles to have a word with the King, they didn’t exactly know who to look for. The King rarely made public appearances, and his face was unremarkable, so unless he was dressed up in his formal, gaudy outfits, he was hard to identify. As the women approached, the royal family began to sense the danger and started looking for a way out.
They tried to flee towards the Austrian border, hoping to take refuge with the Queen’s brother, who was emperor there. The Royal family dressed themselves up as servants, and they dressed their real servants up as noblemen and women, in order to hide in plain sight. There was one problem that gave them away, however: the King’s face was all over the money. Cons of the day were embossed with the King’s face, and because of this, he was easily recognized.
The Origin of the Tricolor Flag
France’s flag, called the tricolor, is made of three vertical stripes of blue, white, and red. There is a lot of history and symbolism in the flag. The three colors originally represented the three estates, clergy, nobility, and commoner, but during the revolution, the people repurposed the colors for their own purpose. White was the color of French nobility, and blue and red were the colors of Paris. The revolutionaries that marched on July 14th wore cockades of red and blue.
The cockades were small banners of fabric, arranged in a circle, that they could pin to the outside of their clothes to identify them as revolutionaries. The French flag was later adopted and became of symbol of freedom all over the world. The French tricolor has influenced the flags of other countries in Europe and around the world, just as the French revolution inspired so many other revolutionary causes.
The Marquis De Lafayette Always Hedged His Bets
The Marquis de Lafayette became famous to Americans as the French hero of the revolutionary war. A close friend and associate of Thomas Jefferson, Lafayette also wrote extensively about the natural rights of citizens, and played a large role in the development both of the Bill of Rights and also the French Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen, or The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
Lafayette was sent to the colonies by King Henry VI to help them with their revolution. Ironically, the King didn’t realize he was sowing the seeds for another violent revolution that would end with the King’s head staring up from a basket. Lafayette was also charged with negotiating trade agreements that would lower the debt of the nascent United States, but would also raise the debt of France, contributing to the economic problems that led to the revolution.
A Little off the Top, Please
While chopping off heads was always used as a punishment, the development of the guillotine during the French Revolution took beheading into the realm of art and science. The idea, as promoted by the French physician Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, who gave his name to the device, was born out of Enlightenment thinking. On October 10th, 1789, he proposed using the device to execute the condemned in a way that was much more humane than execution methods commonly used at that time.
Beheading was commonplace but was done with an ax or sword, required great skill, and sometimes took several blows, resulting in a gruesome and torturous experience. Dr. Guillotin stated that a more humane, immediate, foolproof method should be used on every level of society, from commoner to the King. The guillotine was used in France until the death penalty was abolished, with the last victim being Hamida Djandoubi in 1977.
The King Had to Go
The King and Queen were kept inside the Tuileries, which was the King’s official home but had been turned into a prison. In June of 1792, the people were getting restless, and surrounded the Tuileries as if to lay siege on it. The Parliament got nervous, fearing violence, so they decided to put the king’s fate to a vote. King Louis XVI was charged with treason. The Legislative Assembly voted, and at the end of the tally, there were 361 guilty votes compared to only 288 not guilty votes.
The king’s fate was sealed. The King was taken to a big town square called the Place de la Concorde, which used to be called Place de la Révolution on January 21, 1793, and strapped into the guillotine. He was executed in front of a large crowd of commoners. In October of that same year, 1793, they came for the Queen.