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French Revolution


TIMELINE IN A NUTSHELL

1789

  • Estates General (May 5)

  • Tennis Court Oath (Jun. 20)

  • Necker, Louis's financial advisor, is fired (Jul. 11)

  • Storming of the Bastille (Jul. 14)

  • Great Fear (July - Aug.)

  • Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen (Aug. 29)

  • March on Versailles (Oct. 5)

  • Constitutional monarchy declared (Dec. 1789)

1790

  • Civil Constitution of the Clergy (July 12)

  • Parlements formally abolished, France divided into 83 departments (Nov.)

  • Necker resigned (Dec. 1790)

1791

  • Declaration of Right of Woman and the Female Citizen (Olympe de Gouges)

  • Food riots across Paris (Mar.)

  • Black citizens in the French colonies granted equal rights (May 15)

  • Chapelier Law (banned guilds) (Jun. 14)

  • Flight to Varennes (Jun. 20-21)

  • Declaration of Pillnitz issued by Austria and Prussia (Aug. 27)

  • Constitution of 1792 (Sep. 3)

  • Constituent Assembly dissolves (Sept. 14),

  • Legislative Assembly (Oct. 1-Sep. 20 1792)

1792

  • Vindication of the Rights of Women (Mary Wollstonecraft)

  • Legislative Assembly declared war on Austria (Apr. 20)

  • Began War of First Coalition (1792-1797)

  • Storming of Tuileries (Aug. 10)

  • September Massacres (Sep. 2-7)

  • National Convention (Sep. 20, 1792-Oct. 26, 1795)

  • Vote on fate of Louis XVI (Dec.)

1793

  • Execution of Louis XIV (Jan. 21)

  • France declared war on Britain and Holland (Feb.)

  • Vendee revolt began (Mar. 1793 - 1796)

  • Committee of Public Safety established (Apr. 1793)

  • Girondins purged from Convention (May 31 - Jun. 2)

  • Montangnards control Convention (second phase, Jun. 1793-Jul. 1794)

  • Law of Maximum (limit on price of bread) (Jun.)

  • Constitution (Jun. 24) (not put into effect)

  • Death of Marat (Jul. 13)

  • Levee en masse decreed (Aug. 16)

  • Reign of Terror (Sep. 5, 1793-Jul. 28, 1794)

  • Marie Antoinette executed (Oct.)

  • 22 Girondists as well as more than 40,000 "Countrrevolutionaries" executed.

  • Festival of Liberty and Reason (Nov.)

1794

  • Law of 22 Prairial (Law of Great Terror) (Jun. 21)

  • Thermidorian Reaction (Jul. 27)

  • The moderate Plain controls the national Convention, Montagnards purged.

1795

  • White Terror

  • Louis XVII died in prison.

  • Royalist Coup attempt (Oct. 5)

  • Directory to power (Nov. 1795-Nov. 1799)


BEFORE THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

Power issues

  • Weak kings

  • Louis XV (1715-1774)

  • Louis XVI (1774-1792) (wife Austrian Marie Antoinette)

  • Strength of the nobles

  • Nobles = 2%, but chief rivals to kings for power.

  • Grew stronger after Louis XIV.

  • Parlements (regional courts dominated by nobles)

  • Assumed right to approve or disapprove of king’s decrees – eroding royal power

Peasants and workers

  • Peasants

  • 4/5 France’s 26 million people were peasants

  • Peasants had to pay half of their income in taxes

  • They also paid feudal dues to nobles, tithes to church, royal taxes to king’s agents

  • Paid land tax called tailles

  • Performed forced labor called corvee

  • Grain shortages

  • 1788 countryside suffered unsually bad harvests

  • Led to sharp increase in price of bread

  • Drove many peasants to cities looking for work, pushing laborers out of work

  • Caused bread riots.

  • Blamed king, privileged nobles and excesses of court (Marie Antoinette)

Economic problems

  • Debt

  • Louis XIV spending

  • Cost of Seven Years War (1756-1763)

  • Financing US War of independence (1775-1783)

  • Interest on debts = 1/2 government expenditures.

  • Low revenue

  • Inadequate banking system.

  • Weak taxation system

  • Nobility, clergy and some of the bourgeoisie were exempt from taxation.

  • Taxes fell on the struggling peasantry.

  • No consistent system for collecting taxes (tax collectors kept much of the revenue).

  • Reform attempts (Finance Ministers)

  • Maupeou

  • Jacques Turgot (1774-76)

  • Physiocrat, Proposed

  • Abolishing guilds and ending restriction on commerce of grain

  • Cut down expenses at court.

  • New tax on landowners

  • Opposed financial support for American Revolution

  • Charles de Calonne 1786

  • Proposed land ta without exemptions

  • Lightening of indirect taxes

  • Confiscation of some church property

  • Establishment of provincial assemblies in which all citizens represented.

  • Met with Assembly of Notables (see below)

  • Jacques Necker (1788-89, 1789-90)

  • Assembly of Notables, 1787

  • Louis XVI desperately called a select group of nobles and clergy.

  • To plead with them to consent to new taxes and economic reforms.

  • They refused saying they had to right to consent to new taxes.

  • Only Estates General had the right

  • Hadn't met since 1614. Nobles thought they could dominate meeting over king.

  • Estates General called by Necker.

TIMELINE OF EVENTS

1789

Estates General (May 5, 1789)


  • Refusal of Assembly of Notables to support Louis XVI’s program of tax reform

  • Forced king to call estates.

  • THREE ESTATES

  • Each Estate presented their grievances (Cahiers de Doleances, "list of grievances")

  • Clergy (100,000)

  • Owned 5-10% of the land

  • No direct taxes, instead gave “free gift” of 2% of income

  • Wanted an end to bishops holding more than one diocese

  • Nobility (400,000 -- 2-4% of population

  • Owned 20-25% of land

  • Monopolized high offices (incl. govt., church, army)

  • Exempt from taxes and blocked all reforms.

  • Third Estate 95% of population

  • Abbe Sieyes wrote pamphlet, "What is the Third Estate?" (see image)

  • Grievances/demands:

  • Bourgeoisie (shopkeepers, merchants, lawyers, intellectuals)

  • Wanted end of privilege, more political participation.

  • Peasants (80%):

  • Wanted end to corvee, taille, high tithes to church. feudal dues (though they weren't serfs), high rent and banalites for use of mills, bakeries, win presses etc.)

  • Townspeople (urban population):

  • Wanted lower price of bread, higher wages

  • from 1730-1788 prices up 65%, wages up only 22%

  • Land ownership

  • 10% clergy, 20% nobility, 40% peasants, rest belonged to crown or was common land.

  • Vote by estate or by head.

  • ​Third Estate wanted to count votes by number of representatives (by head)

  • By Dec. 1788, Third Estate had twice the reps. in Estates General

  • Because clergy and nobility voted together, Third Estate would lose votes by estates.

Tennis Court Oath, (June 20, 1789)

  • Jun. 17, Third Estate declared itself the National Assembly of France (1789-1791)

  • ​Assembly "of the people" - not of the estates.

  • Trying to take back power, Louis XVI closed the hall where the estates were meeting.

  • Jun 20, Third Estate decided to meet next door at a tennis court

  • Assembly made oath not to disband until they drafted constitution.

  • Jun. 27, king ordered other estates to meet with 3rd Estate and vote by head.

  • National Assembly was in hands of moderates from middle class and liberal nobility.

  • Image below by Jacques-Louis David

  • ​Center, Jean-Sylvain Bailly raises his hand to make oath.

  • Front - representatives of three estates (white robed monk, black robed Catholic noble, brown-clad Protestant minister of third estate) greet each other.


Storming of the Bastille Prison July 14, 1789


  • Louis XVI tried to reassert authority

  • Ordered mercenary army of Swiss guards to march on Paris and Versailles

  • Fear king disbanding National Assembly

  • Jul. 11, Louis fired popular finance minister Necker (seen as ally to people)

  • 50,000 citizens armed themselves with pikes formed National Guard

  • Jul. 14, Mobs already protesting soaring price of bread stormed Bastille prison

  • Seen as symbol of oppression under Old Order (ancient regime)

  • Some guards joined them.

  • At Bastille, mobs freed some prisoner and took Bastille's supply of gunpowder.

  • Killed governor and paraded his head on a pike.

  • After rebellion, Bastille prison was dismantled.

  • Necker reinstated, Bailly became mayor of Paris, Lafayette became commander of National Guard

Great Fear July-August 1789

  • Rumor that landowners taking advantage of king's troubles to drive peasants off the land and take their harvests.

  • Peasants revolt against lords across France,

  • Destroyed tax rolls and documents recording their feudal obligations, attacked manors, reoccupied enclosed lands, some violence against aristocrats.

  • Response

  • Aug. 5-11, National Assembly decided only way to stop violence was abolition of feudalism

  • Aristocrats gave up their feudal rights.

  • Peasant no longer obligated to work on lord's land nor barred from fishing in common streams or hunting in forests

  • All people of France now subject to same laws and obligations to society

Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen, Aug. 26, 1789


  • Constitution written by Marquis de Lafayette.

  • With help from Jefferson (writer of U.S. Declaration of Independence)

  • "All men born and remain free and equal in rights"

  • These rights include “liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression

  • Based on John Locke.

  • Freedom of religion, freedom from arbitrary arrest, speech and press

  • Right to petition govt.

  • No social distinctions

  • Government's job is to preserve rights of man, liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression

  • Habeas Corpus, Trial by Jury, separation of powers.

  • Not for women

  • 1791 Olympe de Gouges = "Declaration of Rights of Woman and Female Citizen"

  • 1792 Mary Wollstonecraft= "Vindication of the Right of Women"

  • Said women not naturally inferior to men

  • Inferiority created by lack of education

  • Women got right to inherit property and divorce

  • Not vote or hold office

March on Versailles (Oct. 5, 1789)

  • Thousands of fish ladies march on Versailles, Oct. 5, 1789

  • Demanding cheap bread

  • And royal family to Paris (return Oct 6, 1789)

Constitutional monarchy

  • Dec. 1789 – National assembly legislated:

  • Declared constitutional monarchy.

  • Parlements suspended (formally abolished Nov. 1790)

  • France divided into 83 departments governed by elected officials (Mar. 1790)

1790

Civil Constitution of Clergy, (July 12, 1790)


  • Passed by National Assembly

  • Bishops and priests elected by the people and paid by state

  • Clergy had to take loyalty oath to support new govt.

  • Pope Pius VI condemned act

  • Over ½ clergy refused to take oath

  • Called "refractory" or "nonjuror" clergy

  • These Catholics became enemies of Revolution

  • Church property had been confiscated in Nov. 1789

  • The properties were sold and used as security backing for newly issued paper money known as Assignats

  • This new income was used to pay the salaries of the clergy.

  • Also removed civil disabilities against Jews

Parlements officially abolished (Sep. 1790)

Edmund Burke (Nov. 1790)

  • Edmund Burke,

  • Irish philosopher

  • Wrote "On the French Revolution"

  • Warned that mob rule woud lead to anarchy and miltiary dictatorship

  • advocated evolutionary change rather than revolutionary

  • September massacres (1792) and execution of Louis XVI (1793) vindicated Burke’s dire predictions.

Necker (Dec. 1790)

  • The king's popular finance minister, Necker, resigned after losing favor with National Assembly.

  • Mirabeau now became king's chief adviser -- but he died April 2, 1791.

1791

Riots, March 1791

  • Food riots across Paris

  • Property of emigres forfeited

Haiti, May 15, 1791

  • Black citizens of French colonies granted equal rights.

Flight to Varennes, June 1791

  • Louis XVI attempted to flee to Austria to get help

  • Marie Antoinette's brother, Leopold, was Austria's emperor.

  • Disguised king and queen were recognized at Varennes and returned back to Paris.

  • Now seen as traitors.

WAR August 27, 1791


  • Declaration of Pillnitz:

  • Leopold II,Austria (Marie Antoinette's brother) + Frederick William II, Prussia

  • Said Austria would go to war if ALL other major European powers also went to war

  • Knowing British prime minister, William Pitt, did not support war)

  • Intention: to satisfy French emigres in Austria

  • National Assembly interpreted declaration as intention for war.

  • Used declaration to enhance its power.

Constitution of 1791 (Adopted Sept. 3)

  • Short lived Constitution drafted by National Assembly

  • ​The Declaration of the Rights of Man became the preamble of the constitution

  • King formally accepted constitution on Sept. 14, 1791.

  • Established a limited monarchy

  • With separation of powers between executive, legislative and judicial branches.

  • King's power (executive) limited by unicameral parliament, the Legislative Assembly

SECOND STAGE OF REVOLUTION

Legislative Assembly

  • Constituent assembly dissolved Sept 30, 1791

  • After king accepted constitution

  • Self-Denying Ordinance (by Robespierre)

  • Barred any member of Constituent Assembly from sitting in Legislative Assembly

  • Legislative Assembly begins Oct. 1, 1791-92 (considered failure)

  • Under liberal Constitution of 1791

  • Members of Legislative Assembly sat together in separate sections of meeting hall

  • Conservatives who supported king on right

  • Moderates in center

  • Radicals who distrusted king and wanted revolution on left

  • Jacobins

  • Wanted to overthrow monarchy and create republic

  • Jean-Paul Marat, Georges-Jacques Danton, Maximilian Robespierre (not Lafayette)

  • Girondists

  • Wanted to involve France in a war that would discredit monarchy and extend France’s revolutionary ideals across Europe

Legislative changes

  • Women

  • Civil marriage and divorce instituted

  • But vote not given to women

  • Titles of nobility abolished

  • New system of courts created (with elected judges)

  • Juries used in criminal trials

  • Torture abolished.

  • Economics

  • Laissez-faire enacted

  • No more guilds (Chapelier Law, Jun. 14 1791)

  • No more mercantilistic restrictions on trade.

  • No internal tariffs

  • Taxes are no longer farmed out to private tax collectors.

1792

WAR April - June 1792

  • Legislative Assembly declared war against Austria and Prussia April 20, 1792

  • Began War of First Coalition

  • War began badly for poorly equipped French armies

  • French army fled at sight of the enemy

  • By summer 1792, Austrian and Prussian armies advanced toward Paris.

  • Duke of Brunswick published call for allied attack on France

RADICALIZATION : STRUGGLE IS NOW BETWEEN BOURGEOIS AND PROLETARIAT – NO LONGER NOBILITY AND BOURGEOISIE

Paris Commune

  • Was the govt of Paris from 1789-1795 (Hotel de ville after storming of Bastille)

  • 144 delegates elected by 48 divisions of the city

  • In 1792 dominated by the Jacobins who were not in the Legislative Assembly

  • Due to Self-Denying Ordinance.

Sans-Culottes

  • Sans-Culottes took control of Paris Commune (city govt.)

  • Sans-Culottes not cohesive:

  • Different motives (personal vendettas, professional jealousies etc.)

  • Different degrees of education and income

  • In common:

  • All were against rich

  • Believed all men equal

  • OK with private property but no one would control large enterprises or estates – against indulgent wealth of bourgeoisie and elite aristocrats

  • Wanted redistribution of grain from wealthy landowners to poor

  • Wanted a radical republic based direct democracy

  • Wanted tax on rich, price controls

  • Against Roman Catholic clergy

  • Support from anti-bourgeois factions of the Paris Commune

  • Lke Enrages and Hebertists

  • Also in paramilitary forces

  • Charged with physically enforcing policies an legislation of the revolutionary government (violence and executions)

  • Seen as the truest and most authentic sons and daughters of Revolution

  • Living representations of the revolutionary spirit

  • Public functionaries from middle and upper class adopted clothing and label of sans-culottes to demonstrate solidarity with working class and patriotism for new French Republic

Storming of the Tuileries August 10, 1792

  • Paris Commune became insurrectionary summer 1792

  • Refused to take orders from central French government

  • Intimidated the Legislative Assembly into deposing Louis XVI

  • Took charge of routine civic functions and mobilized extreme views and actions

  • First mayor Jean Sylvain Bailly

  • Aug. 9 1792 – a new revolutionary Commune

  • Led by Georges Danton and Jacques Hebert

  • Took possession of Hotel de Ville

  • Next day (Aug. 10) attacked the Tuileries (where royal family lived)

  • Lafayette fled to Austria

  • Swiss Guards massacred.

  • King's family became prisoners.

  • Constitutional crisis

  • Rump Legislative Assembly (only 1/3 of deputies present, Jacobins)

  • Issued call for election of a national convention

  • New body would then form a more democratic govt.

September Massacres -- Violence in Paris (Sep. 2-7, 1792)

  • Alarming successes of Austrians

  • And surrender of two important fortresses

  • Caused panic in the capital

  • Sponsored by Paris Commune (possibly Danton)

  • Convinced royalists would betray Revolution

  • Massacre of about 1,200 Royalists held in Parisian prisons (200 of them Catholic priests)

  • Mobs of sans-culottes executed over 1000 priests, bourgeoisie, aristocrats

Campaign to de-Christianize

  • Street signs changed

  • Churches converted

WAR

  • Balttle of Valmy (Sep. 20, 1792)

  • Prussia marched on Paris to restore monarchy

  • Stopped by hastily assembled revolutionary armies at Valmy.

  • French victory emboldened the National Convention to abolish the monarchy

  • General mobilization, citizens sent to front

  • French forces begin enjoying victories

National Convention Sep. 20, 1792-Oct. 26, 1795

  • Convention elected by the Legislative Assembly

  • Remnant of Legislative Assembly formally surrendered authority

  • Danton was member as minister of justice

  • Seated up high, “The Mountain,” (Montagnards) with Marat and Robespierre

  • Wanted to give poorer classes more political powers

  • Against moderate Girondists

  • ​​Who favored a bourgeois republic, anted to reduce power of Paris Commune (they were purged May 31 -Jun. 2, 1793)

  • Abolished monarchy Sep. 21, 1792

  • Established a republic on Sept. 22, 1792 (beginning of French Calendar)

  • Day 1 of Republican Calendar

Vote on Louis XVI (Dec. 1792)

  • Dec. 1792 Vote on fate of Louis XVI

  • Girondists (now labeled counter-revolutionaries) wanted prison

  • Jacobins wanted death

  • Regicides won

  • Girondists were ousted from National Convention

1793

Louis XVI executed Jan. 21, 1793


  • European reaction

  • At first European liberals supported Revolution

  • Conservatives

WAR

  • Feb. 1793 France declared war on Britain and Holland

Vendee Rebellion (Mar. 1793-1796)

  • Royalist riots

  • In Vendee, Brittany, Langwy and Verdun

  • Began as reaction to conscription for waar

  • The Vendean rebellion was a climax in the history of the French Revolution.

  • Because of the obstinate, determined resistance of the Vendeans

  • The Jacobins escalated their policy of terror,

  • Noot only sentencing individuals regarded enemies of the people

  • But pursuing a policy of genocide

Committee of Public Safety established April 6, 1793

  • Assumed its role of protecting the newly established republic

  • Against foreign attacks and internal rebellion.

  • "We must annihilate the enemies of the Republic at home and abroad or else we shall perish"

  • As a wartime measure, the Committee—composed at first of nine, and later of twelve, members—

  • Was given broad supervisory powers over military, judicial, and legislative efforts.

  • It was formed as an administrative body to supervise and expedite the work of the executive bodies of the Convention.

Paris Commune

  • Food riots in Paris and an uprising of the Paris Commune against Convention

  • Paris Commune was controlled by sans-culottes

  • Who wanted direct democracy and government controls over the price of bread

  • In reaction

  • National Convention (dominated by radical members of the Mountain or Montagnards)

  • Voted to expel Girondists (party of compromise) from all offices

  • And limit the price of bread and flour (Law of Maximum) in June 1793

Constitution of Jun.-Oct. 1793

  • To pacify sans-culottes, Committee of Public created Constitution of 1793

  • Constitution based on universal male suffrage

  • Promised rights to education and jobs

  • But Constitution was suspended in October 1793

Death of Marat July 13, 1793


  • Marat

  • Journalist who wrote a popular pamphlet called "Ami du peuple" ("Friend of the People")

  • He used to live in the sewers where he acquired a skin disease

  • Requiring him to soak in a bathtub for relief.

  • July 1793 murdered by Charlotte Corday

  • A woman from the countryside who blamed him for inciting the violence through his newspaper.

  • She claimed she had a list of counterrevolutionaries

  • Marat promised her that the "enemies" of France would be executed.

  • Instead, Corday killed Marat.

  • Marat was seen by the revolutionaries as a saintly martyr of the Revolution

  • In his painting of Marat (see image)

  • Jacques-Louis David posed Marat slumped in the bath like Jesus in the Pieta.

  • In his hand is the list of "enemies" given to him by Corday.

  • Corday was executed amid popular outage.

WAR

  • Levee en masse (conscription decreed)

Reign of Terror

  • "Law of suspects” instigates the Terror

  • Oct 1793 Marie Antoinette tried and executed

  • 22 Girondists tried and executed

Cult of the Supreme Being

  • In a slight retreat from dechristianization

  • Robespierre realized importance of a deity (the new Supreme Being)

  • Nov. 1793 – Festival of Liberty and Reason

  • Organized by the artist Jacques-Louis David, Robespierre took charge

  • Took place around a man-made mountain on the Champ de Mars

  • Every locality was forced to hold a commemorative event

  • In Paris the event is orchestrated on a massive scale

  • Would be the first day of national celebration of the Supreme Being

  • Future republican holidays were to be held every tenth day

  • The new day according to the Republican calendar


1794

Tricolor flag (see above)

  • Becomes official flag in Feb. 1794

Revolution begins "eating its own children" Jun. 1794

  • Robespierre, Committee of Public Safety and Jacobin Club denounce the Hebertist, Enrages (Sans-Culottes) and Dantonists

  • On framed-up charges

  • They execute all the popular leaders (like Jacques Hebert and Danton)

  • Robespierre becomes virtually dictator

  • Robespierre decreed the new religion of the Supreme Being

  • June 1794 – day of inauguration of the Supreme Being

  • Jun. 1794 – (Prairial 22)

  • Procedures for mass trial and execution implemented

  • Victims will go to the guillotine now in batches of 50 or 60 at a time

  • Estimated 2,750 are executed

  • Of whom great majority are poor

Thermidorian Reaction – July 27, 1794

  • Convention calls for arrest of Robespierre

  • Robespierre attempts unsuccessful insurrection

  • Robespierre is arrested and executed

  • About 150 of his supprters are also killed

  • Terror is over

  • Jacobin Club is suppressed by Convention

1795

White terror

  • White terror instituted against revolutionaries


Louis XVII, Jun. 1795

  • Dauphin (heir to the throne, Louis XVI's son, given title Louis XVII)

  • Dies in prison from neglect and Tuberculosis at age 10.

  • Comte de Provence (Louis XVI's brother) assumes title of Louis XVIII

Royalists attempt coup Oct. 5, 1795 (13 Vendémiaire)

  • Napoleon Bonaparte makes his name suppressing an uprising of royalists with grapeshot

  • Gracchus Babeuf is spokesperson of Royalist party (in favor of returning monarchy to power)

  • Royalists hold meetings at the Pantheon

Directory Nov. 1795 - Nov. 1799

  • Constitution of Year III approved establishing Directory (Oct. 1795)

  • Convention dissolves itself in favor of dictatorship of the Directorate

  • Council of Five Hundred (Lower House - 500 delegates)

  • Proposed legislation

  • Council of Ancients (Upper House - 250 delegates)

  • ​Could accept or veto legislation

  • Picked executive (Five Directors) from lists drawn up by Five Hundred.

  • Directors - new one chosen each year on rotation.

  • Chose government ministers, ambassadors, generals, tax collectors

1796

NAPOLEON (see post)

  • Assumes command of French army in Italy

  • Direcgtorat bans popular meetings at the Pantheon

  • Leaders of Babeuf’s “Conospiracy of Equals” arrested

  • 100s of suppoters of Babeuf attack palace


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