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The French Revolution. From the beginning to the Emergence of Napoleon. Long Term Causes. Enlightenment ideas led to rising expectations among French citizens classical liberalism:

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the french revolution

The French Revolution

From the beginning to the Emergence of Napoleon

long term causes
Long Term Causes
  • Enlightenment ideas led to rising expectations among French citizens
  • classical liberalism:
    • French physiocrats: advocated reform of the agrarian order; opposed to mercantilism (they thought it actually hampered trade & manufacturing)
  • American Revolution intrigued many with ideals of liberty and equality
  • Social Stratification
First Estate: clergy, Gallican Church (less than 1% of population, owned 10% of land)
  • Second Estate: nobility (2-4% of population, owned 20%)
  • Third Estate: rest of population (paid both tithes to church and taille to gov’t)
    • peasantry: owned 40% of land in France; corvée—forced labor several days per year
    • bourgeoisie: upper middle class; well-to-do but resented 1st and 2nd Estates’ power and privilege
Several sensational lawsuits about the scandalous doings of high aristocrats
  • Trials got out to the reading public
  • Eroded image of aristocracy

French government was undoubtedly corrupt and ineffective.

  • Louis XVI not suited to be an absolute monarch
  • His queen hated throughout the land for perceived lack of sympathy with the people.
immediate cause
Immediate Cause
  • Bankruptcy of the government and enormous debt!
  • Why?
    • French support for the Americans during their revolutionary war of independence from GB
    • War costs of the past
    • Current maintenance of armed forces
    • (French debt stood at 4 billion livres)
    • Only 5% went to the upkeep of royal gov’t.!
4 historical interpretations of the revolution
4 Historical interpretations of the Revolution
  • Traditional view: clash between the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy
  • Recent scholarship: bourgeoisie and aristocracy on parallel ladders leading to clash with monarchy
4 historical interpretations of the revolution1
4 Historical interpretations of the Revolution
  • Faltering of monarchy and confusion that followed created a political vacuum
  • Events of 1789-1795 only one chapter in long-term political reorganization of France following paralysis of monarchical gov’t
the series of finance ministers
The Series of Finance Ministers
  • John Law, Maupeou, Turgot, Jacques Necker all seemed to be advocating the same remedies.
    • There was a need for taxing the privileged classes!
      • Taille: direct tax on the peasantry
      • Corvee: labor tax that created a nat’l force of drafted workers who improved roads & facilitated internal travel (creation of Sully)
Calonne: who succeeded Necker came up with an even more drastic plan.
    • Modest representative institutions
    • Instead of the taille, a general tax to fall on all landowners without exception
    • Indirect taxes
    • Abolition of internal tariffs to stimulate economic production
    • Some confiscation of church properties
Ah, he suggested one other thing:
    • provincial assemblies in which all landowners, noble, clerical, bourgeois, and peasant, should be represented without regard to estate or order.
  • This program if carried out might have solved the fiscal problems and may have averted the Revolution.
  • But it struck at the heart of privileges in taxation and at the threefold hierarchic structure of society.
Knowing that the Parlement of Paris would never accept it, Callone convened an Assembly of Notables hoping to win its endorsement of his ideas.
  • The notables insisted on some concessions and when a deadlock was reached, Callone was dismissed.
Brienne, archbishop of Toulouse was appointed the new minister.
  • He too, tried to push the same program to the Parlement of Paris.
  • The Parlement rejected it, declaring that only the three estates of the realm, assembled in an Estates General, had authority to consent to new taxes.
  • Louis XVI tried to break the parlements, but this led to a revolt of the nobles.
With his government brought to a standstill, and unable to borrow money or collect taxes, Louis promised to call the Estates General for the following May.
  • The various classes were invited to elect representatives and also to draw up a list of grievances. (cahiers de doleance)
estates general may 1789 1st time meeting since 1614
Estates General, May 1789: 1st time meeting since 1614
  • Parlement of Paris ruled voting would be done by estate (3 total votes)
  • 3rd Estate furious that vote would not be proportional to population Abbè Sièyès: What is the Third Estate?Answer: everything!
  • Rousseau’s Social Contract: the "general will" should prevail (3rd Estate)
the national assembly also called the constituent assembly
The National Assembly (also called the Constituent Assembly)
  • Louis didn’t make any attempt to clear up the issue!
  • In the end, the 3rd Estate would prevail because:
  • On June 17th, 1789  the Third Estate had had enough and proclaimed itself the National Assembly.
  • A few days later, most of the clergy joined. The king decided to support the nobles and locked the Third Estate out of its meeting hall.
Tennis Court Oath: Oath: swore not to disband until they had given France a constitution
  • Bourgeoisie dominated the National Assembly
  • Storming of the Bastille – July 14, 1789
  • “Parisian” revolution due to food shortages, soaring bread prices, unemployment, and fear of military repression
  • Stormed Bastille in search of gunpowder and weapons
  • Significance: inadvertently saved the National Assembly from king’s repression.
Great Fear of 1789: wave of violence and hysteria in countryside against propertied class
  • Peasants (with help of middle class) destroyed records of feudal obligations
  • August 4th, 1789 in response, the deputies of the clergy and nobility gave up their ancient privileges. In one night, feudalism and seigneurialism were abolished for good!
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens: became constitutional blueprint for France
  • Provisions: due process of law, sovereignty of the people, equality, freedom of expression & religion, tax only by common consent, separate gov’t branches
  • “citizen”: included everyone, regardless of class
Women did not share equally in rights
  • Olympe de Gouges: The Rights of Woman, 1791: demanded equal rights and economic and educational opportunities
  • Mary Wollstonecraft: Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792: supported Gouges
  • Madame de Stael: ran a salon and wrote books deploring subordination of women
October 5, 1789: as part of bread riot, women march to Versailles; accelerate the revolution
  • Incited by Jean Paul Marat (his paper, L’ami de Peuple”
  • Forced king and family to move to Tuileries in Paris: “The Baker, the Baker’s wife, and the baker’s little boy”
the constitution
The Constitution
  • The Civil Constitution of the Clergy: created national church with 83 bishops and diocese; biggest blunder of the National Assembly
    • Jury vs. non-juried clergy
  • 83 Departments: country politically divided into districts
  • Constitutional monarchy established
  • Flight to Varennes: king fled from Tuileries hoping to escape and rally support; failed
  • Assignats: new paper currency; former church lands guaranteed value of currency
international reaction
International Reaction
  • Edmund Burke (1729-1797): Reflections on the Revolution in France
    • Conservative: opposed revolution as mob rule
    • Said the inequalities would be addressed with gradual reform
  • Thomas Paine: Rights of Man
    • responded to Burke’s indictment by defending the Enlightenment principles of the revolution
legislative assembly 1791 1792
Legislative Assembly, 1791-1792
  • Jacobins: political club that dominated Legislative Assembly
  • Girondins: radical Jacobins who were advanced party of the revolution and brought the country to war
  • Declaration of Pillnitz, August, 1791: issued by Prussia and Austria in August, 1791
  • Èmigrès: French nobles who fled France sought support of foreign countries.
  • Emperor Leopold declared he would restore gov’t of France if other powers joined him; really a bluff
  • French revolutionaries took Leopold at his word and prepared for war.
war of the first coalition
War of the First Coalition
  • Legislative Assembly declared war in April, 1792
  • Austrian armies defeated French armies but divisions over eastern Europe saved France
  • Brunswick Manifesto: Prussia & Austria would destroy Paris if royal family harmed
  • Revolutionary sentiment led by Robespierre, Danton, and Marat
  • King stormed at Tuleries, Swiss Guards killed; king taken prisoner
  • Marked beginning of “2nd French Revolution”
beginning of radicalism
Beginning of Radicalism
  • Paris Commune: Revolutionary municipal gov’t set up in Paris, which usurped powers of the
  • Legislative Assembly
    • Led by Georges-Jacques Danton
    • Legislative Assembly suspended 1791 constitution
    • September Massacres (led by Paris Commune)
      • Rumors of aristocratic and clerical conspiracy with foreign invaders led to massacre of over 1,000 priests, bourgeoisie, and aristocrats
national convention 1792 1795
National Convention, 1792-1795
  • France proclaimed a republic, September 17, 1792
  • Equality, Liberty, Fraternity:
  • Two factions emerged:
  • The Mountain: radical republicans; urban class (Danton, Robespierre, Marat)
  • Girondins: more moderate faction; represented countryside
  • sans-culottes (“without breeches”): (not part of National Convention)
    • working-class; extreme radical
    • kept revolution moving forward: stormed Bastille, march to Versailles, driving king from Tuileries, September Massacres
Battle of Valmy, Sept. 20, 1792: Prussian invasion stopped; moral victory for Convention
  • Battle of Jemappes: first major victory for France; took Austrian Netherlands
  • But war turned against France by Spring 1793
  • Louis XVI guillotined January, 1793
  • Jacques Roux: demanded radical political action to guarantee bread
  • Mountain ousts Girondins, May 1793: urged to do so by sans-culottes
  • Enragès, radical working-class group (even more than sans-culottes) seized and arrested Girondin members in the Convention
Constitution of 1793  although this constitution was never put into effect because of the military crisis, in addition to confirming the individual rights laid out in the last constitution (plus the rights of public assistance, education, and even of rebellion to resist oppression), it provided for a legislature elected by the people (men only though) that would also elect the executive.
The Jacobins swept aside the new constitution, declaring the government “revolutionary until the peace” and instituting the Reign of Terror.
  • A twelve-man committee, the Committee for Public Safety, was in charge, and the main leaders of the Committee were Robespierre, Danton, Louis Saint-Just and the ultra radical Hébert.
  • During the ROT, the French were fighting the foreign wars, and, soon enough, with the strict discipline of the ROT, they began to win.
guillotine: created as an instrument of mercy. (“the national razor”)
  • Charlotte Corday, member of Girondins, kills Marat
  • Law of Maximum: planned economy to respond to food shortages and other economic problems
    • Foreshadowed socialism
  • Slavery abolished in French West Indies
reign of terror 1793 94 most notorious event of french revolution
Reign of Terror (1793-94) most notorious event of French Revolution
  • Law of Suspects: Created Revolutionary Tribunals at the local level to hear cases of accused enemies brought to “justice”
  • Queen Marie Antoinette guillotined
  • Girondins executed in September
Vendèe: region in western France that opposed revolution; many executed
  • Jacques Hèbert, “angry men, ”Hèbertistes, executed; he had believed that all religion is counterrevolutionary; he had inspired the creation of
    • Revolutionary Calendar: new non-Christian calendar
  • Cult of the Supreme Being: deistic naturalist religion; Catholics now opposed
  • Republic of Virtue established by Robespierre
  • Danton and followers executed in 1794
thermidorian reaction 1794 ended reign of terror
Thermidorian Reaction (1794): ended “Reign of Terror”
  • Robespierre executed, July 1794
  • Constituted significant political swing to the right (conservative)
  • Girondins readmitted
  • Economic controls lifted: ended control of sans-culottes
  • The ROT culminated in the execution of its own leaders – Danton and Robespierre executed Hébert, Robespierre executed Danton, and then Robespierre himself was overthrown.
The fall of Robespierre stunned the country.
  • The Terror subsided
  • The Convention reduced the powers of the Committee of Public Safety and closed the Jacobin Clubs
  • Price controls and other regulations were removed,
  • Inflation resumed its course.
the directory 1795 1799
The Directory: 1795-1799
  • Constitution of 1795 restored some order but gov’t very ineffective
  • Upper bourgeoisie in control but constituted very narrow social base of country
  • Conspiracy of Equals led by “Gracchus” Babeuf
    • sans-culottes faction that sought to overthrow gov’t and abolish property
    • precursor to communism
    • Easily suppressed by Directory and Babeuf executed
The rule of the Directory was marked by corruption, financial difficulties, political purges, and a fateful dependence on the army to maintain control.
  • Elections in 1797 a victory for royalists but annulled by gov’t
  • Dictatorship favorable to revolution established: “Post-Fructidorian Terror”
Victory over First Coalition
  • Napoleon Bonaparte victorious over Austrian army
  • Battle of the Pyramids: Napoleon victorious over British army in Egypt
  • Battle of the Nile: devastating defeat of Napoleon by British; Napoleon returns to lead France
  • Coup d’Ètat Brumaire, November 1799: Napoleon invited by Abbe Sieyes to lead
  • Directory overthrown and Napoleon becomes First Consul
  • The triumphant element was the bourgeois class which had guided the Revolution since the Constituent Assembly and had not been really unseated, even during the Terror.
  • Many of them lawyers or officeholders and often drawing income from the ownership of land had new elements produced by the Revolution.
  • They had made money from wartime contracts, or had profited from inflation or had bought up former church lands at bargain prices.
  • Such people, often joined by former aristocrats and in reaction against Robespierrist virtue, set a noisy life style that gave the new order a bad name.
  • They also unleashed reprisals against ex-Jacobins, many who were simply murdered.
  • But the Thermidorians never lost faith in the Revolution.
  • Democracy they associated with terror and mob rule.
  • But still believed in individual legal rights and a written constitution.
  • And so they made an attempt to create another constitutional government.
  • They set aside the democratic constitution of 1793 (and never used) and produced the Constitution of the Year III which went into effect at the end of 1795.
  • This would be the constitution of the Directory that Napoleon would overthrow.