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The French Revolution Events
Conditions typically present prior to Revolution 1. All social classes are discontented. 2. People feel restless and held down by unacceptable restrictions in society, religion, the economy or the government. 3. People are hopeful, but they are being forced to accept less than they had hoped for. 4. People think of themselves as belonging to a social class, and there is a growing bitterness between social classes.
More Conditions 5. Social classes closest to one another are the most hostile to each other. 6. Scholars and thinkers give up on the way their society operates. 7. Government does not respond to the needs of its society. 8. Leaders of the government and the ruling class begin to doubt themselves. Some join opposition groups. 9. Government cannot get enough support from any group to save itself. 10. Government cannot organize its finances correctly and is either going bankrupt or trying to tax heavily and unjustly.
The Course of Revolution • Impossible demands made to the government. If granted, would mean the end of government. • Government cannot suppress revolutionaries • Revolutionaries gain power and seem united • Once in power, revolutionaries begin to argue. Unity dissolves. • Moderates gain leadership, but fail to satisfy those who want immediate change. Source: Crane Brinton, The Anatomy of Revolution
The Course of Revolution • Power gained by the most radical of the groups. They gain almost complete control. • A strong man emerges and assumes great power. • Extremists try to create a “heaven on earth” society. They punish all opponents. • Terror and extreme violence. • Moderate groups regain power. • Revolution end.
Seeds of RevolutionLifestyles of the Rich and Famous One day, the King of France, Louis XIV, gave a party at his palace at Versailles. It was a truly decadent event: each guest would receive a piece of jewelry and over the course of three days, the 600 guests were treated to operas and costume parties, rarely retiring before 3 am. The food was extravagant, too. One night, the guests feasted on over 100 separate dishes. Meanwhile, most people in France were struggling to live off meager food rations while paying an immense tax burden. The two lifestyles could hardly be more different.
For centuries, the monarchs of Europe had believed they ruled by divine right. They believed that all people had their place in society and that this was unchangeable. Most rulers mistakenly believed that the common people loved the monarchy, despite their flaws. Here is an excerpt from Marie Antoinette to her mother . .. MY DEAREST MOTHER,--- On Tuesday I had a party which I shall never forget all my life. We made our entrance into Paris. . . . . .What was really affecting was the tenderness and earnestness of the poor people, who, in spite of the taxes with which they are overwhelmed, were transported with joy at seeing us. I cannot describe to you, my dear mamma, the transports of joy and affection which every one exhibited towards us. We kissed our hands to the people, which gave them great pleasure. What a happy thing it is for persons in our rank to gain the love of a whole nation so cheaply.
The EnlightenmentIn France, the beginning of the end . . . Definition? The Middle Ages? The Enlightenment grew from the Scientific Revolution of the 1500s and 1600s. Scientific successes created great confidence in the power of reason, which led to . . . . The use of reason to discover natural laws– laws that govern human nature, which led to the belief that . . . Natural laws could be used to change society for the better.
Thomas Hobbes People are naturally cruel, greedy, and selfish. If man is not strictly controlled, he will fight, rob, and oppress one another. Life without laws would be “nasty, brutish, and short.” Chaos would reign. We enter into a Social Contract, meaning we agree to be governed so that our natural tendencies do not destroy society. In other words, we need a strong, authoritarian government to compel obedience. Hobbes was in favor of strong monarchies. His philosophy justifies absolute power. John Locke People are naturally reasonable and moral. Man possesses natural rights, which include life, liberty, and property. We form governments to protect these rights. The best government has limited power and is accepted by all citizens. Governments have an obligation to protect natural rights. If the government fails to do this, the people have the right to overthrow the government. Locke’s ideas influenced the Declaration of Independence and French revolutionaries. Human Nature and the Purpose of Government – Two Views Both men were Enlightenment philosophers. Despite different views, each believed that rational thought and actions could create a better society.
The Enlightenment and the French Revolution • Short and easy-to-read pamphlets • salons • Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau, spoke of liberty and equality.
Enlightenment Ideas • “In order to have liberty, it is necessary that government be set up so that one man need not be afraid of another.”– Montesquieu • “I do not agree with a word that you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” -- Voltaire • “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”– Rousseau These thoughts appealed to the French because most French did not belong to the privileged “estates.”The message was that most monarchs were brutal and outdated institutions.
The Three EstatesThe Social Structure of France The Three Estates divide the classes economically and socially. Each estate had clearly defined rules.
The Three Estates First estate – clergy Less than 1% of the population Second estate – nobility About 1.5% of the population Third estate - everyone else More than 98% of the French population
The Third Estate About 98% of the people of France belonged to the Third Estate. The average person of the Third Estate was a poor peasant, but servants, skilled and unskilled workers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, storekeepers, and laborers were included in the Third Estate. The Third Estate paid taxes on everything from land to salt. Peasants had the least privileges. They paid rent on the land they farmed. They paid rent on the tools they used. They paid taxes on their crops. They could not even hunt animals who ate their crops. Only nobles could hunt. The Third Estate is in chains, supporting the nobility and the clergy (who are a burden).
A contemporary French cartoon: the Third Estate (workers) is shown bearing the full burden of taxation. The nobility (left) leans unhelpfully on his labor; the clergy (right) gives token help.
The Third Estate Before the revolution the Estates-General was formed, giving the people of the Third Estate a voice in government. Even so, the Third Estate would lose by vote of two to one. The First and Second Estates always overruled any laws that would help the people of the Third Estate. This image shows the 3rd estate awakening to the abuses created by the first two Estates. The 1st and 3rd Estates are horrified to see the man on the ground reaching for a weapon.
Problems of the Third Estate that led to the Revolution • Antiquated, inefficient methods of agriculture. • The price of grain rose, causing the price of bread to soar. Prices rose quicker than wages. • Poor harvest during 1788 and 1789. • The urban poor lived in poverty. By 1789, wages had increased by 22% while the cost of living increased 62%.
The Third Estate and Discontent The Third Estate was the first to question to old ways: Why should the first two estates have privilege at the expense of the majority? This discontent led to the Revolution.
Cause 1: Political and Social Inequalities The nobles and clergy enjoyed special privileges, such as land ownership and not paying taxes. The common people did not have power and freedom in politics. They worked hard and had to pay heavy taxes.
Cause 2: Bankruptcy of the Government Earlier, kings had spent too much (the Palace of Versailles, for example). Louis XVI continued to over-spend. The cost of helping the British colonies gain independence also bankrupted the government. Louis XVI would not consider any financial reforms or any changes in government spending. By 1789, the government was bankrupt. The King had no choice but to raise taxes.
Cause 3: Change in Thinking The Enlightenment The American Revolution to overthrow British rule encouraged the French to fight for their freedom. Resentment of privileged classes. Why should they have all the money and power?
Phases of the Revolution • Prior to 1789: Preparation • Taxes • Debt • Absolutism • Social, Economic, Political Inequality • 1789-1794: Developments occur very quickly • 1795-1799: Era of Robespierre/Terror/The Directory • 1799-1801: Conclusion • Rise of Napoleon • Overall: Two phases • Early: Radical, Abolish monarchy, Terror • Late: Work out civil strife between factions
The Role of Abbe Sieyes • Pamphlet (1789) published before EG • Attacked privileged classes • “What is the 3rd Estate?” • In summary: • What is it? • Everything • What has it been until Now? - Nothing • What does it ask? - to become something
Cahiers des Doleances • Prior to EG in 1789 • Representatives: objections to current system • 3rd Estate: Very vocal • No Lettres de Cachet (wanted due process) • No censorship • Taxes must be equal • Estates General MUST meet every 4 years • Justice for the 3rd Estate
Estates General 1789 • Last met in 1614 • Goal of 3rd Estate: end absolutism • Voting: 2 choices • Each Estate can vote with 1 vote. 1st and 2nd Estate always vote together (tradition) • Each Estate can vote with individual votes. • 3rd Estate has twice as many representatives
Results • 3rd Estate demands change, refuses to cooperate • New legal system • Serfdom abolished • End of Lettres des Cachet • King would rule alongside an elected assembly • The King’s Response: • Gathered troops • EG feared force used against it
National Assembly 1789 • Continuation of Estates General • Parish priests join the 3rd Estate • King/2nd Estate attempt to block any meetings • 3rd Estate meets at a tennis court • stay in session until new constitution • 3rd Estate effectively ruling France between July 1789 – September 1791 • De facto government of France
The Bastille • Symbol of tyranny and injustice • Symbolic Act: Only 7 prisoners • Women participated
The Great Fear • Summer Riots – 1789 • Hungry peasants, hot weather • Widespread suspicion • Neighbor vs. neighbor • Motives of EG • Public order collapsed • Rumors rampant
The Great Fear: Rumors that the nobility were going to starve the people into submission prompted widespread rural destruction. This caused the first wave of aristocrats to flee the countryside and consider fleeing the country itself.
August Decrees • The National Assembly acts quickly. • August 4: Old regime abolished (nobility) • "What glory, what honor to be a Frenchman!" • Meritocracy: All French men were now equal • Same laws • Same taxes • Same offices
Declaration of the Rights of Man • Late August 1789 • Influenced by the Declaration of Independence • Rights for “all men, without exception” • No mention of women or slaves • Locke: natural rights, religious toleration, civic equality • Rousseau: Social Contract
“Rights of Man” Comparisons • Differences with American Constitution/Declaration of Independence • US document written AFTER revolution • French document written with no political stability • Dec. of Independence is a list of grievances • “Rights of Man” is vague, not directly connected to the Revolution • The American documents do not suggest other people should follow their example • “Rights of Man” encourages others to discard tyranny
American Response to the French Revolution • Events in France were not well ordered • No checks and balances in France (one chamber assembly) • Slave rebellions in French possessions worry southern economic interests • France’s military advances seemed aggressive • Death of the King does not seem cause to celebrate • Economically, the US needed to take the side of Britain in the Anglo-French wars
Women’s March on Versailles • October 1789 • Angry about bread shortages • Demanded King move to Paris to be more answerable to the people • Turning point -- King agreed to demands • Turning point – women saw results for anger, taking matters into own hands
Women and the Revolution Formed clubs where they discussed how to become a “good citizen” Overall Demands • Legal equality in marriage • Educational opportunities • The right to employment • No more exclusion of women from certain professions • The right to bear arms • Economic reform – bread becomes a symbol
Declaration on the Rights of Women (1791) • Article 1: Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights. • Article 4: Liberty and justice consist of restoring all that belongs to others; thus, the only limits on the exercise of the natural rights of woman are perpetual male tyranny; these limits are to be reformed by the laws of nature and reason. • Article 6: The laws must be the expression of the general will; all female and male citizens must contribute either personally or through their representatives to its formation; it must be the same for all: male and female citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, must be equally admitted to all honors, positions, and public employment
Power Moves away from the Church • 1790 • Church can no longer tax • No more privileges for clergy • Church property confiscated • Clergy are employees of the State, must swear oath of loyalty • Pope never accepted these conditions • Clergy are persecuted throughout France • Did not end until 1801
The Revolution Splits (1790) • Development of Factions • Right Wing: Led by aristocrats, opposed to revolution • Royalist Democrats: Organize France on British Constitutional model • National Party: the center • Left Wing: Robespierre • Many small, specialized factions, such as the military faction
Jacobins 1790 • Political club. Urban Intellectuals. • Robespierre -- radical. • Over 5000 clubs • Powerful (until fall of Robespierre) • “Republican Virtue” • Looked out for the rights of “citizens” • Funds for widows • Sponsored revolutionary festivals • Publicized revolutionary news • Provided jobs for poor • Denounced officials for “non-revolutionary” activity
Robespierre • Ideal leader • Deist • Idealized Roman Republic • Elected to 3rd Estate • Leader of the Jacobins • King must be executed • “Louis ought to perish rather than 100,000 virtuous citizens; Louis must die, so that the country may live." • Committee for Public Safety
Cult of Reason • Atheistic • Opposed by Robespierre, who began the “Cult of the Supreme Being”
October 1791 • King and Queen attempt escape • King and Queen taken prisoner, tried for treason • Austria declares war against France