Lecture Outline, The French Revolution, 1789-1799
growth of "liberal"
public opinion—the spread of Enlightenment ideas re. rights, liberty, limited
state power, need for rational administrative reforms, laissez-faire economic
policies, etc. , in contrast with existing state/legal system
, in contrast with existing state/legal system
"rigid" system of
legal privileges based upon system of 3 "estates" (clergy, nobles,
commoners), and King Louis XVI's claims to absolutist power , both in
conflict with demands of social groups that were demanding political
, both in conflict with demands of social groups that were demanding political representation
fundamental social and economic tensions (noble fear of losing privilege, middle class lack of political power, artisans pressed by growth of merchant-driven market economy, peasant resentments re. taxes, tithes, and land).
France as a "kingdom" lacked strong sense of "national" unity or identity (e.g., fragmented by language, culture, etc.)
state financial crisis—product of war, weak tax base, etc--need to increase revenues leads to discussion of taxing nobles (etc)
B) First Phase ("moderate revolution"), 1789-1792
Revolt of the nobility --nobles
refused to accept Louis XVI's proposed fiscal and tax reforms
2) The Estates General
Louis XVI tried to do an "end run" around the nobility by gathering the E-G to approve his reforms.
Majority of the 1st and 2nd Estates intended to use the E-G to protect their privileges
Majority of the 3rd Estate intended to use the E-G to force fundamental political change. The Seiyes document, "What is the Third Estate," laid out this aim.
20 June 1789 Tennis Court
Oath—the E-G (esp. 3rd estate) declared itself
a "NATIONAL" assembly and said it would keep meeting until it drafted a
4) the July 1789 Paris uprising
Rumors that Louis XVI would use troops to crush the "Nat. Assembly" sparked a rebellion.
Leadership came from the "middle class," but the crowds were made up mostly of the "lower-classes"
Demonstrations turned into street fighting, and "the people" took control of Paris (defeated the army and police)
The "rebel" leaders declared a "provisional" city government (again, under middle-class leadership), and recognized the authority of the National Assembly.
Similar rebellions then broke out all across France
5) The immediate social context for the July 1789 uprising
2 years of bad harvests had forced up food prices, which led to a general economic depression
About 1/3 of workers in Paris were unemployed in summer 1789, and food (etc) prices has skyrocketed.
The lower classes saw the King as failing to help "the people," and viewed the National Assembly as the voice of the People
There was a wide-spread sense that the "tyrant" King was trying to silence the People and destroy their Liberty
5) Reverberations of the revolution in the provinces
provincial urban uprisings
the Great Fear
peasant attacks on noble and church property, effort to seize land and drive out the nobility
6) 26 August 1789 Declaration of Rights of Man
7) The "moderate" political settlement of 1789-1791
8) Who exercises what rights?
C) Second Phase (Radical or Jacobin Revolution), 1792-1794
1) Internal domestic opposition to the Revolution in France
split in clergy as a result of the 1789-91 laws on the division of church lands and the "civil constitution of the clergy"
noble opposition to their loss of privilege (etc)
King's desire to restore powers and his "secret" efforts to rally troops vs the revolution
regional opposition to policies made in Paris and especially to policies on taxes and on the church.
2) External (foreign) opposition to the Revolution, from monarchies (esp. Austria and Prussia) that saw the
as a threat to order.
3) Radicalization of lower class politics in Spring 1792
lower classes radicalized by continuing economic crisis
by sense of exclusion from full citizens' rights
by implications of some of the new "laissez-faire" policies (like the laws banning guilds)
by fear that there were secret "counter-revolutionaries" among the middle classes who would "hijack" the revolution
by deep belief in the cause of spreading the revolution to all mankind
and by conclusion that the King, the nobles, and the church all seek to crush "their" revolution. This last fear is even greater after the King's failed attempt to "escape" in June 1791.
All this = growing demand from below for a Republic and for universal manhood suffrage.
War with Austria and Prussia.
The dominant factions in the legislature—the Girondins and the
Jacobins--both pushed for war in Spring 1792 (to spread of the Revolution, promote national unity, and push
Girondins leaders of the Assembly declared
war on Austria and Prussia in April 1792. The war quickly turned sour for
France, which loses battles and territories through spring and summer 1792.
This further accelerated the radicalization of politics and lower classes.
5) Lower-Class Radicalism and the Declaration of a Republic
In August 1792, crowds of radical workers and soldiers attacked the royal palace and demanded that the Assembly declare a Republic and hold elections based upon universal manhood suffrage. With support from the crowds, the Jacobins expelled the Girondins from power took control of the government.
Continued lower class demonstrations and popular violence in September 1792, in the weeks leading to popular elections for a new legislature—the Convention—based upon universal manhood suffrage
The Convention proved much more radical than had been the National Assembly (strong influence of ideas of Rousseau).
The Convention declared France a Republic.
6) The Jacobins in Power, phase I (Fall 1792-Spring 1793)
a) Jacobins introduced a series of "radical" reforms, including emergency measures to mobilize the economy and society for war. These included:
mass conscription of soldiers for the army
the "law of the maximum" which fixed prices for food and other necessities
measures to require delivery of goods and services for the war effort
the persecution of any dissent on the grounds that dissenters were (supposedly) enemies of the Revolution
The Jacobins argued that such steps were necessary to do these things to save the Revolution from its enemies--the homeland of the Revolution was in danger, and so (they claimed) liberties had to be sacrificed in the cause of security.
b) Under Jacobin rule, the armies of French won major victories in the war, which now spread into a war against Austria, England, Holland, and Spain. But it also faced major internal rebellions.
Jacobin government tried King Louis XVI for treason, and executed him in January
d) among the Jacobin leaders, the most radical elements (the Mountain) took power in the Convention, based upon grass-roots support from the local "committees," made up largely of artisans and small shopkeepers.
7) The Jacobins in Power, phase II (July 1793-July 1794)
a) Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety: The Convention appointed the CPS to act as “emergency authority” (a dictatorship of twelve men) in the name of the Convention
b) the CPS continued emergency economic measures that violated laissez-faire principles in the name to saving the revolution; but it also further steps towards democratization, including the abolition of slavery in French colonies
c) under the CPS, radical revolutionary cultural trends reached an apex. These included
- rejection of organized religion
- creation of "civic cult of virtue," in which great philosophers were treated as quasi-religious figures
- public celebration of "virtues" of the Republic: democracy, honesty, devotion to the nation, and subsuming ones' self to the "general will" (remember Rousseau).
- symbolic "rational" reforms and changes come with this—such as reform of the calendar to "reflect nature" and to recognize the founding of the Republic as "Year One" of a new age in history
d) also under the CPS, political repression reached its apex:
- There was a mass campaign against dissidents, who were defined as "enemies of the people" because their actions--or even just their ideas and attitudes—were judged to be in violation of the "general will."
- Not only were real counter-revolutionaries arrested and imprisoned or executed, but thousands of people who months before had been considered loyal citizens were now subject to accusations and condemnations as enemies and were tried and convicted by "popular tribunals."
- In all, some 30,000 people were killed in the "Terror," which the Jacobins and their supporters felt would "cleanse" the country and save the Revolution from its enemies.
- Again, all of this could be justified on the grounds of “national security”—the Jacobins claimed that the rights of individuals had to be sacrificed in order to protect the Revolution…
e) The end of the radical phase: in July 1794 the Convention turned on the Committee of Public Safety and executed its members as enemies of the revolution.
D) The Third Phase (Conservative Reaction or Thermidorian revolution), 1794-1799
1) New leaders ended the Jacobin emergency measures (i.e., law of the maximum), but not to the economic crisis.
2) The new constitution of 1795 placed limits on voting rights: voters must be able to read and write; they vote for "electors" (who must have "x" amount of income), who then chose legislators.
3) The new (1795) constitution reaffirmed "rights," but put great stress upon duties that citizens owed to the state.
4) The new constitution was intended to put government in hands of propertied classes to provide "stability" and prevent lower class "unrest." The government's executive body now was the "Directory," 5 men chosen by the legislature.
5) The State now repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to use violence vs the rebellious crowd (eg. Napoleon's "whiff of grapeshot" in October 1795). The Directory repeatedly used force to crush remnants of popular lower-class radical movements.
6) The war continued, and under the military leadership of General Napoleon Bonaparte, France dominated the land war and won control of territory across central and southern Europe.
7) But the new State was weak
a) The Directory proved unable to provide stable leadership, and was faced by constant threat of being overthrown from the Right (from monarchists), even once it has destroyed the opposition on the Left.
b) The Directory had to annul elections in 1797, because of large pro-monarchist vote.
c) By Fall 1799, key members of the Directory were willing to support a "coup" to put Napoleon in power.
d) In November 1799, Napoleon and his co-conspirators seized power. There was no "middle class" opposition to the coup, even though this effectively meant an end to the Revolution and a reduction of political liberty. However, there were scattered revolts by radical workers’ groups and by ultra-monarchists. Napoleon crushed these with force.
II. The Napoleonic Era, 1799-1815
A) Napoleon as "man of the Revolution"
B) Napoleon's consolidation of power: First Counsel (1799-1804); Emperor 1804-1814/15.
C) Napoleon and the settlement of domestic conflict
B) Napoleon as "liberal reformer"
C) Napoleon as Authoritarian.
D) Over-extension of the Empire and defeat (1808-1814).