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The French Revolution. Before, During, and After. Enlightenment Ideals. Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen aimed to topple the institutions surrounding hereditary monarchy and establish new ones based on the principles of the Enlightenment

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The french revolution

The French Revolution

Before, During, and After

Enlightenment ideals
Enlightenment Ideals

  • Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen

    • aimed to topple the institutions surrounding hereditary monarchy and establish new ones based on the principles of the Enlightenment

    • Its purpose was to educate and enhance love of liberty

    • Rights to life, liberty, property

    • First step from absolutist monarchy to constitutional monarchy

    • Innocent until proven guilty

    • Freedom of opinion concerning religion

      First draft was discussed with Jefferson

Roussea u

  • Social Contract

    • Man is born free

    • Controls by a freely formed government are good

    • Consent to a form of governments means that the individual gives up self-interest in favor of the common good

    • When government is by the consent of the governed, the people can retain their rights

  • General Will

    • Majority should always work for the common good

    • Spoke out against political, economic repression

    • Support revolt

  • Champion of Democracy

  • Napoleon: “If there had been no Rousseau, there would have been no Revolution, and without the Revolution, I should have been impossible.


  • Spoke out against corrupt government officials and aristocrats, injustice of slavery, and religious prejudice

  • HOWEVER, he was not in favor of democracy and would have certainly opposed the FR

  • Defends freedom of speech


  • Basic unalienable rights

  • Two Treaties of Government

    • Government is formed to protect people’s rights

    • Government should have limited power

    • The type of gov. should be accepted by all citizens

    • Government has an obligation to those it governs

    • People have the right to overthrow the government if it fails these obligations


  • The Spirit of the Laws

    • Described checks and balances on government by dividing the functions of power between different branches of government to protect personal liberty

American revolution
American Revolution

  • Successful…the Enlightenment was a good idea?

  • Decartes, Locke in Declaration of Independence

  • Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau in Constitution

    • Social contract

    • Natural rights

Causes of the french revolution
Causes of the French Revolution

  • Massive population, huge amount of land…

  • Essentially bankrupt because of Versailles, Seven Year’s War, and expenses of supporting the American Revolution

  • Taxes are HIGH (except for the first two Estates, the nobles and the clergy, who didn’t have to pay taxes)

  • Widespread famine and starvation

Causes con t
Causes con’t

  • Estates-General meets, evolves into the National Assembly (Third Estate and liberals from the First and Second)

  • Storming of the Bastille

    • Louis XVI fired Necker, his economic minister

    • Rioting in the streets, eventually attack the Bastille, looking for guns and gunpowder

  • Leads to widespread violence in rural areas


  • Constitution is written and “approved” by the king, then he is removed from power and a new constitution was drafted for the new republic

  • France declares war on Austria

  • Revolutionary Tribunal set up for acts of treason, suspends all of the legal rights guaranteed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, and there could be no appeals– sentence was usually death by guillotine. Later becomes The Committee of Public Safety

  • National Assembly replaced with National Convention

Reign of terror
Reign of Terror

  • Louis is executed, followed by Marie Antoinette

  • France declares war on Great Britain and Holland, which leads to more food shortages

  • “Moderates” in the National Convention were removed and charged with treason; shortly after, the NC passed a law that denied accused people of both counsel and the calling of witnesses

  • Conscription begins, ration cards are handed out, price ceilings are set, and the massive army begins to overwhelm its enemies

  • People are calling for blood everywhere, and the Reign of Terror was reaching its peak as Robespierre takes power (he originally was in favor of abolishing the death penalty, and was opposed to France entering this war, and was obsessed with Rousseau)

The end of the revolution
The “End” of the Revolution

  • Eventually Robespierre starts to scare people, so after he’s sentenced a few thousand people to death, he is arrested and executed with some of his followers

  • Begin to reform the laws that let everyone go crazy, and release those that were in prison as a result of them

  • Repealed price ceilings, which destroyed the value of money

  • A new constitution was drafted, and the NC was dissolved as the new republican government took power, while Napoleon Bonaparte crushed an uprising in the army

William wordsworth
William Wordsworth

  • The English Rousseau, of sorts

  • Staunch supporter of the revolution to begin with

  • He lived in France at the beginning of the revolution then fell in love with a French woman, with whom he had a daughter

  • Begins to believe that the Revolution is both a political breakdown and one of human decency

Wordsworth con t
Wordsworth, con’t

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!”

“Domestic carnage, now filled the whole year

With feast days, old men from the chimney-nook,

The maiden from the bosom of her love,

The mother from the cradle of her babe,

The warrior from the field- all perished, all-

Friends, enemies, of all parties, ages, ranks,

Head after head, and never heads enough

For those that bade them fall.”

Jacques louis david
Jacques-Louis David

  • In sympathy with the Revolution from the beginning

  • Voted in favor of the execution of Louis XVI, and signed 300 other execution orders as a Deputy from Paris

  • Designed propaganda for Jacobin club, later became their president

The Oath of Horatii, 1784

Death of Marat, 1793

American vs french
American vs. French

  • Why did one succeed while the other failed?

  • Was the Enlightenment a success?

  • Did Romanticism actually get it right?

Sites used
Sites Used

  • French Revolution:

  • Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution. Center for History and New Media, American Social History Project, National Endowment for the Humanities. 24 Feb 2009 <>.

  • Wordsworth/FR:

  • Geib, Rich. "The French Revolution." 25 Feb 2009 <>.

  • Wordsworth:

  • Erskine, Sherman, Trent, Ward, Waller, Van Doren, "William Wordsworth: The French Revolution." Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes; Volume XI: The Period of the French Revolution. 1907-21. Putnam's Sons. 4 Mar 2009 <>.

  • David/Marat:

  • "Jacques-Louis David: The Death of Marat." Art in European History. Boston College. 26 Feb 2009 <>.

Further info
Further Info

  • Rousseau’s General Will:

  • Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen:

  • Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws:

  • Enlightenment, American Revolution, French Revolution:

  • Rousseau’s Social Contract:

Test questions
Test Questions

  • What, essentially, does Rousseau’s General Will stipulate? (use the further readings to gain a fuller understanding of the topic)

  • What were William Wordsworth’s beliefs regarding the Revolution at its onset? How and why did these convictions evolve?