Lecture Outline, The French Revolution, 1789-1799

A) Causes

B) First Phase ("moderate revolution"), 1789-1792 

1)     Revolt of the nobility --nobles refused to accept Louis XVI's proposed fiscal and tax reforms

2)  The Estates General

3)      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 constitution.  

4) the July 1789 Paris uprising

5) The immediate social context for the July 1789 uprising

5) Reverberations of the revolution in the provinces   

    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

2) External (foreign) opposition to the Revolution, from monarchies (esp. Austria and Prussia) that saw the Revolution as a threat to order.    

3) Radicalization of lower class politics in Spring 1792

All this = growing demand from below for a Republic and for universal manhood suffrage.

4)      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 reforms).  The 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

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:

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.

    c) the Jacobin government tried King Louis XVI for treason, and executed him in January 1793   

    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 SafetyThe 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

d) also under the CPS, political repression reached its apex:

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).