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Chapter 6 The French Revolution and Napoleon. Section 2 The French Revolution Unfolds. Political Crisis Leads to Revolt

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chapter 6 the french revolution and napoleon

Chapter 6The French Revolution and Napoleon

Section 2

The French Revolution Unfolds


Political Crisis Leads to Revolt

The political crisis of 1789 coincided with the worst famine in memory. Starving peasants roamed the countryside or flocked to towns, where the unemployment rate soared to new heights. As grain prices soared, even people with jobs had to spend as much as 80 percent of their income on bread.

Rumors Create the “Great Fear”

In such desperate times, rumors ran wild and set off what was later called the “Great Fear.” Tales of attacks on villages and towns spread panic. Other rumors asserted that government troops were seizing peasant crops. Inflamed by famine and fear, peasants unleashed their fury on nobles who were trying to collect medieval dues from years ago that had never been paid in full. Defiant peasants set fire to old manor records and stole grain from storehouses. The attacks died down after a period of time, but they clearly demonstrated peasant anger with an unjust regime.


Paris Commune Comes to Power- Paris, too, was in turmoil. As the capital and chief city of France, it was the revolutionary center. A variety of factions (groups of people who disagree with one another) competed to gain power:

*Moderates: This group looked to the Marquis de Lafayette (aristocratic hero who fought alongside George Washington in the American Revolution). Lafayette headed the National Guard, a largely middle-class militia organized in response to the arrival of royal troops in Paris.

*Paris Commune: Replaced the royalist government of the city. It could mobilize whole neighborhoods for protest or violent action to further the revolution. This group called for an end to the monarchy and spread scandalous stories about the royal family and members of the court.


The National Assembly Acts

Peasant uprising and the storming of the Bastille forced the National Assembly to makes some changes. On August 4 the National Assembly voted to end their own privileges. They agreed to give up their exclusive hunting rights, special legal status, and exemption from taxes.

Special Privilege Ends- On August 4th, the National Assembly successfully voted to end Feudalism (Royal individuals owned all of the land and rented out portions of it to the citizens). This helped to meet one of the key Enlightenment goals- the equality of all male citizens before the law.

Declaration of the Rights of Man- By the end of August, the National Assembly issued a document called, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.


Declaration of the Rights of Man- By the end of August, the National Assembly issued a document called, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.

*Modeled after the American Declaration of Independence, which was written 13 years earlier.

*Announced that all men were born and remain free and equal in rights.

*These men would enjoy the natural rights of liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

*Stated that all male citizens were equal before the law.

*Freedom of religion

*People would be taxed based on what they could afford to pay.

*Did not give rights to women.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man met resistance from an uncertain and hesitant King Louis XVI. He did not want to accept all of the reforms and this added more anger to the people of France.


Women March on Versailles

On October 5th, about 6,000 women marched 13 miles in the pouring rain from Paris to Versailles. They were upset about the rising food prices and demanded to see the king.

Much of the crowd’s anger was directed at the Austrian-born queen, Marie Antoinette. The queen lived a life of great pleasure and extravagance, and this led to further public tension.

King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were met in Versailles by the angry mod and returned to their castle where they lived like prisoners in their own home for the next three years.


The National Assembly Presses Onward

The National Assembly led by its bourgeois members worked to draft a constitution and to solve the continuing financial crisis. To pay off the huge government debt- much of it owned to the bourgeoisie- the Assembly voted to take over the sell Church lands.

The Church is Placed Under State Control

The National Assembly put the French Catholic Church under state control. Under the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, issued in 1790, bishops and priests became elected, salaried officials.

The Clergy did not agree with these changes. Many bishops and priests refused to accept the Civil Constitution. The pope condemned it. Even though the this Constitution was helping the peasants, a large number of them also rejected the changes because they felt that the church was being unfairly restricted.


The Constitution of 1791 Establishes a New Government

The National Assembly completed its main task by producing a constitution.

*The Constitution of 1791 set up a limited monarchy in place of the absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries.

*A new Legislative Assembly had the power to make laws, collect taxes, and decide on issues of war and peace.

*The Lawmakers would be elected by tax-paying male citizens over the age of 25.

Louis’s Escape Fails

King Louis the XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette had been living as prisoners in their own home for the past three years. In June of 1791, the King and Queen decided to attempt an escape from their castle. Their attempt failed and they were escorted back to Paris as traitors to the revolution.


Radicals Take Over

The Events in France stirred debate all over Europe. Supporters of the Enlightenment applauded the reforms of the National Assembly. European rulers and nobles, however, denounced the French Revolution.

Rulers Fear Spread of Revolution

European rulers tried to stop the spread of revolutionary ideas by patrolling the boarders of France and not letting French citizens leave the country. Emigres (nobles, clergy, and others who had fled France to get away fromthe revolutionary forces) told horror stories to others about the attacks on their privileges.


Radicals Fight for Power and Declare War

In October of 1791, the newly elected Legislative Assembly took office. Faced with the tension, protests, rising prices, food shortages, and violence at home is survived for less than a year.

In Paris men and women called Sans-culottes (without breeches), pushed the revolution into more radical action. By 1791, many sans-culottes demanded a republic, or government ruled by elected representatives instead of a monarch.

The Jacobins

The Sans-culottes teamed up with the Jacobins. The Jacobins were a revolutionary political club who were mostly middle-class lawyers or intellectuals.


The National Assembly Declares War on Tyranny

The radicals soon held the upper hand in the Legislative Assembly. In April 1792 the war of words between French revolutionaries and European monarchs moved onto the battlefield. Eager to spread the revolution and destroy the monarchs power, the Legislative Assembly declared war first on Austria and then on Prussia, Britain, and other states.

Austria, Prussia, and Britain expected to win an easy victory against France because the country was divided by a revolution. However, this was not the case as the fighting that began in 1792 lasted until 1815.