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The French Revolution 1789-1799. What were the Causes of the French Revolution?. French Society on the Eve of the Revolution. Old Regime. Louis XVI. The French Monarchy 1775 - 1793. Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI Pojer. French Society in the 1700s

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what were the causes of the french revolution

What were the Causes of the French Revolution?

French Society on the Eve of the Revolution

The French Monarchy1775 - 1793

Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI


French Society in the 1700s
  • The First Estate---the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church
    • They did not pay taxes.
    • Members of the clergy could only be tried for crimes in Church courts.
    • The Church owned about a tenth of all French land and received huge incomes from rents, taxes and fees.
    • Some Church officials were corrupt and extravagant.
french society in the 1700s
French Society in the 1700s
  • The Second Estate---the nobles
    • The nobles did not pay a fair share of the taxes and still collected feudal dues from the peasants.
    • The nobles held the highest positions in army and government.
    • Many nobles were thoughtless, irresponsible, and extravagant.
french society in the 1700s1
French society in the 1700s
  • The Third Estate---the common people of France
    • The bourgeoisie were the city dwelling middle class (often wealthy and educated).
    • The laborers and artisans of the cities were also part of the Third Estate.
    • The peasants worked the land and paid the heaviest taxes and tithes. They made up the majority of the Third Estate.
Social Classes (Estates) in France

The Clergy – First Estate 1% of the population

The Nobility- Second Estate

2% of the population

The Commoners

Third Estate

97% of the French population


The Growing Discontent in France
  • The rapid growth of the French population made it difficult for families feed their children.
  • The price of food and clothing began to rise.
  • Nobles, clergy and some bourgeoisie began to raise rents and dues.
  • Artisans found food prices rising higher than wages.
  • The bourgeoisie wanted political power equal to their economic strength.
  • The nobles and higher clergy resented the fact that the French kings had become so powerful.
  • The spread of ideas of the Enlightenment increased dissatisfaction with the system.
The Financial Crisis of the French Monarchy
  • In 1774 when Louis XVI came to the throne he inherited a bankrupted treasury.
  • The wars of Louis XIV had left a huge debt.
  • The debt was increased by French assistance to the American Revolution.
  • Even with heavy taxes there was not enough money to run the government because the wealthiest people were free from taxes.
france s financial problems
France’s Financial Problems

“By 1786 banks began to refuse to lend money to the ailing French government. The economy suffered a further blow when crop failures caused bread shortages in 1788 and 1789.”

World History

Financial Problems in 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%


the estates general 1789
The Estates General 1789

“The privileged First and Second Estates refused to aid the government. Louis was forced to summon the Estates General. This was the only way he could get additional taxes.”

World History

Convening the Estates General May, 1789

Last time it was called into session was 1614!


The Suggested Voting Pattern:Voting by Estates

The Clergy

First Estate

The Nobility

Second Estate

The Commoners

Third Estate

Louis XIV insisted that voting be based on the Estates with each Estate receiving one vote.


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


First Estate

300 Delegates


Second Estate

300 Delegates


Third Estate

648 Delegates


Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes

1stWhat is the Third Estate?Everything!

2nd What has it been heretofore in the political order? Nothing!

3rd What does it demand? To become something therein!

Abbé Sieyès1748-1836


the french revolution

The French Revolution

Phase One (The Bourgeoisie Revolution)

tennis court oath
Tennis Court Oath

June 20, 1789

Storming the Bastille

July 14, 1789

A rumor was spread that the king was planning a military coup against the National Assembly. The people of Paris decided to arm themselves.

18 died.

73 wounded.

7 guards killed.

It held 7 prisoners 5 ordinary criminals and 2 madmen.


The Great Fear-The Peasant Revolt (July, 1789)

Rumors spread that the feudal nobility [the aristos] were sending hired brigands to attack peasants. Peasants armed themselves and drove the feudal landlords off their property.


National Assembly1789 - 1791

August Decrees 1789The Renunciation of Aristocratic Privileges!

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

August 26, 1789

  • Liberty!
  • Freedom from oppression!
  • Thomas Jefferson was in Paris at this time. He helped write the Declaration of Rights.


March of the Women to VersaillesOctober, 1789

A spontaneous demonstration of Parisian women demanding bread

The women forced the Royal Family to return to Paris with them.


The Government Moves to Paris (October,1789)

The king and his family was forced to move to Paris and reside at the Tuileries Palace. Anti-royalists watched the royal family’s every move. The National Assembly moved to Paris a few days later.

political reforms and the catholic church
Political Reforms and the Catholic Church

“The Civil Constitution of the Clergy was a measure which placed the French Church under government control.”

New Relations Between Church and State
  • The government paid the salaries of the French clergy and maintained the churches.
  • The Church was reorganized:
    • Parish priests were elected by the district assemblies.
    • Bishops were named by the department assemblies.
    • The Pope had NO voice in the appointment of the French clergy.
  • It transformed France’sRoman Catholic Churchinto a branch of the state!

Pope Pius VI[1775-1799]


How to Finance the New Government?

Confiscate Church Lands (1790)

One of the most controversial decisions of the entire revolutionary period.


The French Constitution of 1791:

A Bourgeois (Middle Class) Government

  • The king received the “suspensive” veto. This veto could prevent the passage of laws for four years.
    • The king could not pass laws.
    • His ministers were responsible for their own actions.
  • A permanent, elected, single chamber called the Legislative Assembly.
    • The Legislative Assembly had the power of taxation.
  • An independent judiciary (court system).


The French Constitution of 1791:

A Bourgeois (Middle Class) Government

“Active” Citizen:A male who paid taxes amounting to three days labor could vote.

  • One third of adult males were denied the franchise (vote).
  • Domestic servants were also excluded.


GOAL Make sure that the country was not turned over to the mob!


The Royal Family Attempts to Flee
  • June, 1791-The royal family tried to escape from France.
  • The royal family headed toward the Luxembourg border. They planned to escape to Austria.
  • The King was recognized at Varennes, near the border and forced to return to Paris. Louis reluctantly accepted the Constitution.


the doomed government the king walking a tightrope
The Doomed Government-The King Walking a Tightrope
  • The new limited monarchy had little chance of success.
  • Most people distrusted the king.
  • Popular opinion was leaning toward the creation of a Republic.
the french revolution1

The French Revolution

Phase Two (The Convention and the Reign of Terror)


“Fearing that Austria would try to reinstate Louis, the revolutionary leaders declared war on Austria. War threw France into upheaval. The king and his family were imprisoned and the radicals backed by the Paris crowds took over the Assembly and called for a National Convention to create a new constitution. They extended the vote to all males.”

World History

The National Convention(September, 1792)

The first act of the National Convention was to abolish the monarchy.

The National Convention (The Republic)

  • Girondin Rule: 1792-1793
  • Jacobin Rule: 1793-1794 (“Reign of Terror”)
  • Thermidorian Reaction: 1794-1795
  • The Directory 1795-1799
Attitudes & actions of monarchy& court

Fear ofCounter-Revolution


The Causes of Instability in France1792 - 1795





The Political Spectrum



The Plain(swing votes)

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].
The Jacobins (The Radicals)

Jacobin Meeting House

  • They held their meetings in the library of a former Jacobin monastery in Paris.
  • Started as a debating society.
  • Membership mostly middle class.
  • Created a vast network of clubs.


The Sans-Culottes: The Parisian Working Class Supporters of the Jacobins
  • Small shopkeepers
  • Tradesmen
  • Artisans


Louis XVI’s Head (January 21, 1793)
  • The trial of the king was hastened by the discovery in a secret cupboard in the Tuilieres of a cache of documents.
  • They proved conclusively Louis’ knowledge and encouragement of foreign intervention.
  • The National Convention voted387 to 334 to execute the monarchs.


the war expands
The War Expands

“After Louis’ execution, the monarchs of Europe feared democratic revolutions could spread from France. In January, 1793 the monarchs of Great Britain, the Netherlands, Spain and Sardinia joined Austria and Prussia in alliance against revolutionary France.”

World History

the committee of public safety
The Committee of Public Safety

“The National Convention took steps to prevent foreign invasion. It formed the Committee of Public Safety to direct the entire war effort. It also adopted conscription or a draft to require military service of men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five.”

World History

Committee of Public Safety
  • Revolutionary Tribunals.
  • 300,000 arrested.
  • 16,000 – 50,000 executed.


the jacobins
The Jacobins

“Overwhelmed by enemies at home and abroad the Jacobins set out to crush all opposition within France. This effort was known as the Reign of Terror, and it lasted from July, 1793 to July,1794.”

World History

The Reign of Terror

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

Let terror be the order of the day!

  • The Revolutionary Tribunal of Paris alone executed 2,639 victims in 15 months.
  • The total number of victims nationwide was over 20,000!
The “Monster” Guillotine

The last guillotine execution in France was in 1939!


The Revolution ConsumesIts Own Children!

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

Danton Awaits Execution, 1793


“The Fall of Robespierre began on March 30, 1794 when he sent his fellow citizens and friends Danton and Desmoulins to the guillotine.

After this event, members of the Convention and the Committee eyed Robespierre with suspicion. Robespierre was the sole person who decided between wrong and right. The Convention saw Robespierre as a tyrant and his Republic of Virtue as authoritarian. A faction of the Convention banded together to destroy Robespierre before he destroyed the remaining members of the French government.”

the french revolution2

The French Revolution

Phase Three (The Conservative Reaction)

timeline of the french revolution
Timeline of the French Revolution