“The Republic One and Indivisible of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death!” This is the motto of the French revolutionists of the eighteenth century. Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens describes the beginnings of the French Revolution, mixing it with the story of Doctor Manette, his daughter Lucie, and her husband Charles Darnay. In the city of Paris lived the wine-shop keeper Monsieur Defarge, who with his wife was secretly waiting for the right time to begin a revolution and overthrow the aristocrats. In 1792, the fighting began, when Defarge and the people killed the governor and set up the guillotine. The bloodbath continued for many years. All the while the revolutionists cried that is was for “The Republic One and Indivisible of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death!” Nevertheless, this refrain was not carried out.
The French Revolutionists believed in a republic consisting of liberty, equality, and fraternity. According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a republic is “a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.” Nevertheless, during the revolution, the people did not put a republic in place. The guillotine became the supreme power of France’s so-called republic. The citizens recognized this. Sydney Carton asked a wood-sawyer, who was involved with the Defarges, “How goes the Republic?” The man responded, “Oh, you mean the guillotine. Not ill. Sixty-three today” (pg. 242). The guillotine dominated the French revolution, and took the place of the republic that the revolutionists stated they fought for.
Liberty, defined as “the quality or state of being free, such as freedom from usually external restraint or compulsion: the power to do as one pleases,” for which the revolutionaries supposedly struggled, was not brought about by their fighting and the work of the guillotine. Rather than liberating the common people from the aristocrats, as was the motive of the revolutionaries such as the Defarges, the people became slaves to hatred and revenge. For example, one of the leading women was admiringly called “The Vengeance.” The people were no more free under the revolutionaries than they had been under the aristocrats. Instead, innocent and guilty both lived in fear of the guillotine. Citizens were unable to leave the city of Paris. Multiple examinations had to be gone through and papers produced, so that many people remained trapped without even the power to exit the city.
The revolution did not produce equality – “the likeness or sameness in quality, power, status, or degree.” The people’s rage concerning the difference between the rich and the poor...