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French Revolution. And Napoleon. Chronology. 1788-1789—Financial Crisis and Estates General 1789-1792--Liberal Revolution 1792-1794—Radicalization 1794-1799—Reaction 1799-1815--Napoleon. Causes. Intellectual Social Political. Intellectual. Natural Rights Laissez faire

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french revolution

French Revolution

And Napoleon

  • 1788-1789—Financial Crisis and Estates General
  • 1789-1792--Liberal Revolution
  • 1792-1794—Radicalization
  • 1794-1799—Reaction
  • 1799-1815--Napoleon
  • Intellectual
  • Social
  • Political
  • Natural Rights
  • Laissez faire
  • Religious tolerance
  • Social contract
  • Tabula rasa
  • Branches of government
  • Sovereignty of the people
social causes
Social Causes
  • Estates System
  • First Estate
  • Second Estate
  • Third Estate
first estate
First Estate
  • 1% of population
  • 100,000-130,000 people
  • Owned 10% of land
  • Tax-exempt
  • Levied tithe on peasants
  • Most money supported distant bishops or monasteries
second estate
Second Estate
  • Nobility
  • 2-5% of population
  • 350,000 members
  • Owned 25-30% of land
  • Held many government positions
  • Tax-exempt
  • Expanded power at expense of monarchy
third estate
Third Estate

Everyone else

25 million people

75-80% of population peasants

Collectively owned 35-40% of land

Over half had no land

peasant taxes
Feudal obligations

Dues on use of mills, granaries, wine presses, and ovens

Corvee—labor dues

Gabelle—salt tax

Cloth taxes

Only the third estate paid these taxes, all others were exempt.

The third estate did not have a say in the government nor in the taxes that were paid by them

Peasant taxes
third estate continued
Third Estate, continued
  • Bourgeoisie
  • 8% of population
  • Owned 20% of land
  • Exploited peasants on the land
  • Educated, but no involvement in government
urban poor of paris
Urban Poor of Paris
  • Artisans, factory workers, journeymen
  • Very poor
  • Most politicized group
  • Highly literate
political causes
Political Causes
  • Louis XV 1715-1774
  • Succeeded Louis XIV at age 5
  • Poor education
  • Much time with mistresses
  • Nobles regain power that was lost under Louis XIV
louis mistresses
Louis’ mistresses
  • Madame de Pompadour
  • Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson
  • Friends with Voltaire and Montesquieu
  • Met king at masked ball
  • 9/15/1745—King’s mistress
  • Became duchess, Oct 12, 1752
  • Influenced king to remove her enemies from office and make treaties
madame du barry
Madame Du Barry
  • Jeanne Becu
  • Educated in Paris
  • 1763, met Jeane du Barry—became his mistress (he was a pimp)
  • 1768, met Louis XV
  • She had to marry to be king’s mistress, so she married Jeane’s brother
  • After king’s death, took other lovers
  • Guillotined 1793
parlements of france
Parlements of France
  • French kings had taken all power from nobility
  • 13 Distinct regions in France—controlled by a Parlement
  • Parlements had 50-130 members
    • Local judges
    • Legal elites
    • Tried cases for theft, murder, forgery, libel
    • Public censors
    • Fixed bread prices
parlements continued
Parlements, continued
  • Hated by everyone, including king
  • Intendents were selected by king to head parlements
  • Intendents arbitrarily taxed and arrested peasants
  • Parlement of Paris began to claim right of veto over king
financial problems
Financial Problems
  • 1787-1788—poor harvests led to food shortages, rising prices, unemployment
  • Richest people not taxed
  • 28% increase in taxes, including gabelle and taille (but only affected third estate)
  • Dependency on foreign loans
  • Seven Years’ War—losses of India and Canada
  • American Revolution—France paid for it
  • Cost of Versailles—only 5% of state revenue
  • By 1780s, government was bankrupt—1/2 of income paid on debts (debt was 4 Billion livres)
  • Queen spent extravagant sums of money

Let Them Eat Cake!

  • Marie Antoinette NEVER said that!
  • “Madame Deficit”
  • “The Austrian Whore”

Financial Problemsin France, 1789

  • Urban Commoner’sBudget:
    • Food 80%
    • Rent 25%
    • Tithe 10%
    • Taxes 35%
    • Clothing 20%
    • TOTAL 170%
  • King’s Budget:
    • Interest 50%
    • Army 25%
    • Versailles 25%
    • Coronation 10%
    • Loans 25%
    • Admin. 25%
    • TOTAL 160%
efforts to fix finances
Efforts to fix finances
  • Jacques Necker
  • Hid real problems from French people—said if Am rev. not fought, finances would be o.k.
  • Introduced more equitable tax system to fund national debt
  • Dismissed, then re-appointed;
  • Urged king to call Estates General (first time since 1614)
charles alexander de calonne
Charles Alexander de Calonne
  • Financial minister
  • Raised loans to pay debts
  • National spending policy implemented—to inspire confidence in finances of state
  • Called for direct land tax
  • Stamp tax
  • Reduction of privileges of clergy and nobility
  • Forced to flee—opposed by nobility
assembly of notables 1787
Assembly of Notables 1787
  • Upper ranks of aristocracy and Clergy
  • Called to outflank parlements
  • Wanted greater role for aristocracy
  • Called for re-appointment of Necker
  • Government could not demand new taxes, only Estates General could do that
  • Etienne Charles Lomenie de Brienne was appointed after Calonne; tried to get Parlements to accept changes without calling Estates General; no good
1788 coup d etat of parlements
1788 Coup d’etat of Parlements
  • Parlement of Paris rejects King’s attempts to force change: King abolishes parlement
  • Registration of laws now to be in plenary court of France
  • Anarchy and revolts around France resulted
  • Nobles refused to modernize , so Estates General was called

Convening the Estates General May, 1789

Last time it was called into session was 1614!

estates general
Estates General
  • Representatives from all three estates
  • First and second estates: 300 members
  • Third estate: 600 members
  • Third estate wanted to establish a constitutional government to fix financial problems and end exemptions of clergy and nobility
problems with estates general
Problems with Estates General
  • Third estate demanded that each representative have one vote, which would give them a majority
  • King disagreed: wanted traditional system: each estate had one vote
  • Much political excitement came out of this

The Suggested Voting Pattern:Voting by Estates


1st Estate



2nd Estate




3rd Estate


The Number of Representativesin the Estates General: Vote by Head!


1st Estate



2nd Estate




3rd Estate

Abbe Sieyes published “What is the Third Estate?”
  • Cahiers de Doleances presented by third estate
  • Third estate changed its name to the National Assembly—June 17, 1789.
cahiers de doleances
Cahiers de Doleances
  • laws prepared by the States General and sanctioned by the king shall be binding upon all classes of citizens
Deputies of the Third Estate, or their president or speaker, shall preserve the same attitude and demeanor as the representatives of the two upper orders, when they address the sovereign.
Personal liberty, proprietary rights and the security of citizens shall be established in a clear, precise and irrevocable manner.
more grievances
More Grievances
  • letters shall never be opened in transit
  • All distinctions in penalties shall be abolished
All kinds of torture, the rack and the stake, shall be abolished. Sentence of death shall be pronounced only for atrocious crimes and in rare instances, determined by the law.
the establishment of the new taxes shall be paid by the three orders
  • All relics of serfdom, agrarian or personal, still remaining in certain provinces, shall be abolished.
abolition of taxes
Abolition of Taxes
  • Of the taille; *of the corvee
  • Of the gabelle; *of the ferme of tobacco
  • Of the aides; *of the registry- duties
  • Of the free-hold tax; *of the taxes on leather
  • Of the government stamp upon iron;
Of the stamps upon gold and Silver;
  • Of the interprovincial customs duties;
  • Of the taxes upon fairs and markets;
  • Finally, of all taxes that are burdensome and oppressive, shall be replaced with other taxes,
tennis court oath
Tennis Court Oath
  • June 20, 1789, Third Estate locked out of meeting hall; moved to indoor handball court and swore to meet until a French Constitution was written
  • King opposed this, but majority of clergy and some nobles joined it
national constituent assembly
National Constituent Assembly
  • June 27th, king capitulated; ordered all estates to meet and accepts vote by head
  • But, Louis tries to re-assert his authority:
storming of bastille
Storming of Bastille
  • Rising bread prices cause riots

Paris had been politicized since the Estates General had been elected;

Citizen militia had been organized and acted when king attacked National Assembly

Sends 18,000 troops to attack National Assembly (Marie Antoinette advises him to do this)
  • Two mass uprisings save National Assembly
great fear
Great Fear
  • Massive revolts spread throughout France
  • Fear that Royal troops would be sent to countryside next
  • Destruction of medieval documents, chateaus,
  • Refusal to pay feudal dues
  • Caused National Assembly to abolish feudal dues in August

National Constituent Assembly1789 - 1791




August DecreesAugust 4-11, 1789

(A renunciation of aristocratic privileges!)

  • Equality & Meritocracy
ideological actions of national constituent assembly
Ideological Actions of National Constituent Assembly
  • All French subject to same laws
  • Abolished feudal regime, tithes, hunting rights, purchased offices
  • Declaration of Rights of Man
    • Equality before the law
    • Due process
    • Natural rights
    • Sovereignty resides in the Nation
    • Freedom of religion, speech, separation of powers
    • Law is expression of General Will

The Tricolor (1789)

The WHITE of the Bourbons + the RED & BLUE of Paris.



Olympe de Gouges (1745-1793)

Declaration of the Rights of Womanand of the Citizen (1791)

rights of women
Rights of Women?
  • Olympe de Gouges refused to accept the exclusion of women from political rights
  • Wrote Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen
  • Called for same rights as man
  • National Assembly ignored her pleas
king forced to move to paris
King forced to move to Paris

Louis refused to sign Declaration of Rights of Man

  • October 5, 1789: Women of Paris march on Versailles: 7,000 strong
  • Demanded bread, Marie Antoinette; stayed overnight;
  • Louis signs Declaration, but too late: King is forced to return to Paris, which he does
  • Peace at hand for three years
national constituent assembly s governing
National Constituent Assembly’s Governing
  • Massive problems of control
  • Would not repudiate the state debt
  • Many representatives were owed money by the State
  • Provinces replaced by 83 Departments
  • Abolished parlements
  • Same sort of courts and laws applied throughout France
economic liberalism
Economic Liberalism
  • Gets rid of tariffs
  • Uniform weights and measures—metric system
  • Suppressed guilds and forbid workers’ associations
  • Chapelier Law 6/14/1791—forbid Unions lasted 75 years
state debt
State Debt
  • Attack the Church
  • Issue Printed bonds: assignats, value based on the value of Church lands
  • Used as money


  • Issued by the National Constituent Assembly.
church reforms
Church Reforms
  • National Assembly seized and sold church lands for money
  • Civil Constitution of the Clergy implemented:
    • Bishops and priests elected by people and paid by state
    • Religious orders abolished
Assembly required clergy to pledge an oath to oppose the pope—only half did
  • Pope condemned the Revolution
  • Catholics become enemies of the Revolution
  • Attacking the church was a serious mistake—emigres begin to leave; peasants do not support it

The French Constitution of 1791:

A Bourgeois Government

  • The king got the “suspensive” veto [which prevented the passage of laws for 4 years].* he could not pass laws.* his ministers were responsible for their own actions.
  • A permanent, elected, single chamber National Assembly.* had the power to grant taxation.
  • An independent judiciary.
  • “Active” Citizen [who pays taxes amounting to 3 days labor] vs. “Passive” Citizen.
  • A newly elected LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY.
new constitution of 1791
New Constitution of 1791
  • Limited monarchy
  • Legislative Assembly created all laws
  • Assembly had 745 representatives
    • Only affluent could be elected
    • Only men over 25 who paid enough taxes could vote (50,000)
    • Old order destroyed, many unhappy with new order
    • National Assembly Members not eligible for election
king destabilizes the liberal revolution
King Destabilizes the Liberal Revolution
  • King’s attitude makes the constitution of 1791 impossible
  • No strong executive personality, except for King’s ministers
louis tries to escape
Louis tries to escape
  • Fearing mobs, Louis XVI tries to flee to Varennes
  • Dressed as servants, was almost successful
  • Recognized and arrested
  • Entire family hauled back to Paris
  • Later tried for treason
legislative assembly formed
Legislative Assembly Formed
  • Constituent Assembly ended in September, 1791; Legislative Assembly meets October 1, 1791
  • War is promoted to solve domestic problems
  • Church still controlled by State
reaction abroad
Reaction Abroad
  • Edmund Burke: Reflections on the French Revolution, 1790
  • Thomas Paine: Rights of Man 1791
  • Mary Wollstonecraft: Vindication of the Rights of Woman 1792
reaction abroad leaders
Reaction Abroad--leaders
  • William Pitt: turned against reform; curbed freedom of press
  • Catherine II burned Voltaire\'s books
  • Francis II of Austria becomes a counterrevolutionary leader
  • End of Enlightened Despotism
  • Poland dismembered
war with austria
War with Austria
  • Leaders of other countries feared that revolution would spread to their countries
  • Austria and Prussia threaten use of force to restore Louis XVI to throne
  • Legislative Assembly declares war on Austria in spring of 1792
  • Initial losses in war cause demonstrations in Paris
paris commune
Paris Commune
  • Radical political groups attack royal palace and Legislative Assembly
  • King is captured
  • New National Convention called, to be elected by universal male suffrage
  • Power passes to Paris Commune: sans-coulottes

The French Revolution

"Radical" Phase:


By: Susan M. PojerHorace Greeley H. S. Chappaqua, NY


Attitudes & actions of monarchy& court

Fear ofCounter-Revolution


The Causes of Instability in France1792 - 1795





The National Convention

  • The Decree of Fraternity* it offered French assistance to any subject peoples who wished to overthrow their governments.

When France sneezes, all of Europe catches cold!


The First Coalition &The Brunswick Manifesto

Duke of Brunswick if the Royal Family is harmed, Paris will be leveled!!





The September Massacres,1792

  • Buveurs de sang [“drinkers of blood.”]
  • Over 1,000 Parisians killed!

The Jacobins

Jacobin Meeting House


The Sans-Culottes

Depicted as Savages by a British Cartoonist.


The Political Spectrum



The Plain(uncommitted)

Montagnards(“The Mountain”)





The Politics of the National Convention (1792-1795)



  • Power base in Paris.
  • Main support from the sans-culottes.
  • Would adopt extreme measures to achieve their goals.
  • Saw Paris as the center of the Revolution.
  • More centralized [in Paris] approach to government.
  • Power base in the provinces.
  • Feared the influence of the sans-culottes.
  • Feared the dominance of Paris in national politics.
  • Supported more national government centralization [federalism].

Attempts to Controlthe Growing Crisis

Revolutionary Tribunal in Paris trysuspected counter-revolutionaries.

A. Representatives-on-Mission * sent to the provinces & to the army.* had wide powers to oversee conscription.

B. Watch Committees [comité de surveillance]* keep an eye on foreigners & suspects.

C. sanctioned the trial & execution ofrebels and émigrés, should they everreturn to France.


Attempts to Controlthe Growing Crisis

The printing of more assignats to pay for the war.

Committee of Public Safety [CPS]* to oversee and speed up the work of the govt. during this crisis.

Committee of General Security [CGS]* responsible for the pursuit of counter-revolutionaries, the treatment of suspects, & other internal security matters.


Committee for Public Safety

  • Revolutionary Tribunals.
  • 300,000 arrested.
  • 16,000 – 50,000 executed.

The Assassination of Maratby Charlotte Corday

          • (Paul Jacques Aimee Baudry, 19c)

The Levee en Masse:An Entire Nation at Arms! – 500,000 Soldiers

An army based on merit, not birth!


Legislation Passed by the National Convention

Law of General Maximum * September 5, 1793.* Limited prices of grain & other essentials to 1/3 above the 1790 prices & wages to ½ of 1790 figures.* Prices would be strictly enforced.* Hoarders rooted out and punished.* Food supplies would be secured by the army!

Law of Suspects * September 17, 1793.* This law was so widely drawn that almost anyone not expressing enthusiastic support for the republic could be placed under arrest!


The Reign of Terror

Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible.-- Robespierre

Let terror be the order of the day!


The Guillotine:An Enlightenment Tool?

Oh, thou charming guillotine, You shorten kings and queens;By your influence divine,We have reconquered our rights.Come to aid of the CountryAnd let your superb instrumentBecome forever permanentTo destroy the impious sect.Sharpen your razor for Pitt and his agentsFill your divine sack with heads of tyrants.


The “Monster” Guillotine

The last guillotine execution in France was in 1939.


The Death of “Citizen” Louis Capet

Matter for reflectionfor the crowned jugglers.

So impure blooddoesn’t soil our land!


Vendee Revolt, 1793

Drowning the Traitors!


Why was there a Revoltin the Vendee?

The need for 300,000 French troopsfor the war effort.

Rural peasantry still highly taxed.

Resentment of the Civil Constitution the Clergy.

Peasants had failed to benefit fromthe sale of church lands.

Local gvt. officialsNational GuardsmenJurying priests



Religious Terror:De-Christianization (1793-1794)

  • The Catholic Church was linked withreal or potential counter-revolution.
  • Religion was associated with theAncien Régime and superstitiouspractices.
  • Very popular among the sans-culottes.
  • Therefore, religion had no place in arational, secular republic!

The De-Christianization Program

The adoption of a new Republican Calendar:* abolished Sundays & religious holidays.* months named after seasonal features.* 7-day weeks replaced by 10-day decades.* the yearly calendar was dated from the creation of the Republic [Sept. 22, 1792]

The Convention symbolically divorced the state from the Church!!


A New Republican Calendar Year

The Gregorian System returned in 1806.


The De-Christianization Program

The public exercise of religion wasbanned.

The Paris Commune supported the:* destruction of religious & royal statues.* ban on clerical dress.* encouragement of the clergy to give up their vocations.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was turned into the “Temple of Reason.”

The deportation of priests denounced bysix citizens.


The “Temple of Reason”

Come, holy Liberty, inhabit this temple, Become the goddess of the French people.


The Festival of Supreme Being

A new secular holiday.


Backlash to theDe-Christianization Program

  • It alienated most of the population(especially in the rural areas).
  • Robespierre never supported it.* he persuaded the Convention to reaffirm the principle of religious toleration.
  • Decree on the “Liberty of Cults”was passed* December 6, 1793.* BUT, it had little practical effect!

The Terror Intensified:March to July, 1794

Jacques Hébert & theHérbetists

Danton & the“Indulgents”

Executed in March, 1794.

Executed in April, 1794.

  • Law of 22 Prairial [June 10, 1794]. * Trials were now limited to deciding only on liberty OR death, with defendants having no rights. * Were you an “enemy of the people?” (the law was so broadly written that almost anyone could fall within its definition!)
  • 1,500 executed between June & July.

French Victory at Fleurus

  • June 26, 1794.
  • France defeated Austria.
  • This opened the way to thereoccupation of Belgium!

The “Thermidorean Reaction,”1794

  • July 26  Robespierre gives a speech illustrating new plots & conspiracies.* he alienated members of the CPS & CGS.* many felt threatened by his implications.
  • July 27  the Convention arrests Robespierre.
  • July 28  Robespierre is tried & guillotined!

The Revolution ConsumesIts Own Children!

Robespierre Lies WoundedBefore the Revolutionary Tribunal that will order him to be guillotined, 1794.

Danton Awaits Execution, 1793


Bibliographic Resources

  • “Hist210—Europe in the Age of Revolutions.”
  • “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality: Exploring the French Revolution.”
  • Matthews, Andrew. Revolution and Reaction: Europe, 1789-1849. CambridgeUniversity Press, 2001.
  • “The Napoleonic Guide.”