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Festival of National Unity, 14 July 1939

Festival of National Unity, 14 July 1939

In this celebration of national unity, the focus on 1789 is quite apparent. The Phrygian cap at the top of the decorations recalled the Revolution, as did the date for this celebration. Of course, both symbol and date had been used and appropriated repeatedly since 1789, but this is a clear reference to the 1789 event.

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Mr. de Lafayette, Commander of the Paris National Guard, Receives the City’s 'Sword for the Defense of Liberty'

Lafayette Receives the City’s 'Sword for the Defense of Liberty'

During the Revolution the most visible connection between America and France was Lafayette, who had volunteered for service in the American Revolution and had been mentored by Washington and Jefferson. This special status vaulted him to prominence in 1789 as he became a delegate in the Estates–General, head of the National Guard, and a general in the military.

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With the Help of Mr. de la Fayette, the French Nation Defeats Despotism

With the Help of Mr. de la Fayette, the French Nation Defeats Despotism

Here Lafayette’s role is praised. A warlike liberty stands with him over a defeated despotism at his feet. Revolutionaries often represented despotism as a multi-headed monster.

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Washington and Lafayette in Color

Washington and Lafayette in Color

Washington had taken a special interest in Lafayette.

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Statue of Lafayette-Le Puy

Statue of Lafayette-Le Puy

Even today, this statue of Lafayette graces the streets of a provincial town.

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Solemn Inauguration of the Statue of Liberty

Solemn Inauguration of the Statue of Liberty

Toned down and transformed from her revolutionary past, the Statue stands for liberty, even without a pike and a Phrygian cap. Furthermore, the Statue, a gift from France and a marvel of engineering, still connotes revolution because of the identification between France and revolutionary notions.

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The Marseillaise

The Marseillaise

A similar emphasis on patriotic unity can be seen in Jean Renoir’s film, La Marseillaise (1938). The movie tells the story of France’s national anthem, composed by Rouget de Lisle as a way to rally the troops. The song, written for soldiers from Marseillaise, soon inspired the entire nation.

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Assembly of Notables, Held at Versailles

Assembly of Notables, Held at Versailles

Here an engraver provides a view of the assembly, called by the King to get around the Parlement, a judicial body that blocked his initiatives.

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Burning the Guardhouse on the Pont Neuf

Burning the Guardhouse on the Pont Neuf

This retrospective shows that early in the French Revolution targets were often economic. This should be no surprise as the populace had a long tradition of taking the law into its own hands to rectify what they saw as injustices. Here a guardhouse is destroyed during a riot focused on a network of facilities regulating the market.

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