Crisis Of The French Revolution - Notes Essays and Papers

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Crisis Of The French Revolution - Notes

Creating a new Society

14 July 1789 to 9 Thermidor II,(27 July 1794) (snapshot Napoleonic France 1804)

According to Joseph Weber, foster brother of Queen Antoinette, there were three primary
causes of the French revolution 'the disorder of the finances, the state of mind, and the
war in America.' The 'disorder in the finances' acknowledged that the bankruptcy of the
monarchy opened the doors to defiance of the King's authority. The greatest single cause
of the revolution was the economic crisis, which forced the King to recall the redundant
Estates General which had not been called since 1614, which opened the debate for people
to make complaints with the current system through the cahiers of the three Estates. The
'state of mind' largely attributed to the philosophes of the Enlightenment who challenged
the very foundations that the Ancien Regime was based on. Another contributing factor to
the crisis was a plight of millions of peasants, and the even more critical situation of
the landless vagrants and the unemployed masses in the towns. Between 1715 and 1789 the
population in France had increased from 18 million to 26 million. Land was a fixed
resource, and thousands could not work in rural regions. As a result peasants were forced
into the towns. Their situation was exacerbated by the bad harvest of 1788, which saw
inflation of basic commodities such as bread, widespread unemployment and destitution
accentuated the crisis.

*** Original revolutionary goals***

Original ideology: Enlightened
Documen t: Declaration of Rights of Man
The August decrees cleared the way for the erection of a constitution, but first they
decided to lay down the principles on which it was based. It is a curious mixture of
enlightenment theory and bourgeois aspirations. The Declaration of Rights of Man and
Citizen , passed into law by the National Assembly on the 26 August 1789, It condemned the
practices of the Ancien Regime and expressed the broad agreement which was to be found in
the cahiers of all three orders.

1. Men are born free and equal in their rights

3. The fundamental source of all sovereignty resides in the nation - an application of
Rousseau's principle of the 'general will'

7. No man may be accused, arrested, or detained except in cases determined by the law

13, General taxation is indispensable for the upkeep of the public force and for the
expenses of government. It should be borne equally by all the citizens in proportion to
their means

17. the right to property is inviolable and sacred

The Declaration of Rights represented a total break from the past. In the Ancien Regime
authority had been deriven from g-d and the king.

** The Declaration primarily appealed to bourgeois (and nobility) spread to proletariat via propaganda

(see Townson pg.43)


- deputies based the writing of the constitution on the Declaration of Rights of man
- deputies saw the reluctance of the King to accept the changes that were taking place
- and decided that he should have a suspensive veto
- *at this point no one considered abolishing the monarch completely and setting up a republic
- it was decided that Legislative power reside in the National Assembly
- over the next year went about reorganising French govt., laws, finances, and economy


- deputies wanted to make sure power was decentralised, passing from the central govt. in Paris to local authorities
- making it more difficult for King to recover the power he had before
- wanted the elected representatives to be responsible to those who elected them
- already the principles of the Declaration of Rights were being undermined, as citizens
were divided into 'active' and 'passive' citizens.

- Only active citizens who paid the equivalent of three days' labour in taxes, voted for
the municipal officials, those who did not earn that amount from wages were not allowed to
vote and known as 'passive'

- 'active' citizens also voted in the Primary Assemblies when national elections were held
- the positions you could apply for increased in prestige the more you earnt
- eg. to become a deputy in the Assembly you had to be able to pay the equivalent of 50 days labour in tax
- 61% of Frenchmen had the right to vote in some elections
- at a municipal level most peasants had the right to vote
- b4 1789 govt officials ran the provincial administration
- 1790 no govt officials at local level, elected councils replaced them
- councils in the towns were more effective - as it was made up of more literate and talented people
- in the villages they found it hard to fill the council with men who could read or write
- therefore rural communities carried about their duties badly

- new tax system could not be set up immediately
- most unpopular taxes were abolished
- the poor benefited
- burden of taxation fell on produces rather than the consumers
- fairer system
- were keeping with the Declaration of Rights - as all property and income taxed on the same basis

- deputies in the Constituent Assembly believed in Laissez-faire trade and industry free from any govt. interference
- the people wanted the price and distribution of all essential goods to be controlled
- *** for the first time there was a uniform system of weights and measures, the decimal
system was applied to the whole of France

- no longer different laws in the North and the South
- there were to be the same law courts throughout France
- 'Lettres de cachet' were made illegal by the Declaration of Rights
- trials were held before a jury of 12 citizens, who would decide guilty or innocence
- the idea came from English law
- head of judicial system was the court of appeal
- torture and mutilation were abolished
- anyone arrested had to be brought before a court within 24 hours
- number or crimes for which death was the penalty was reduced (and in March 1792 the same
speedy method of execution (the guillotine) was to be used for al condemned to death)

- " French system of justice had been one of the most backward, barbarous, and corrupt in
Europe. In two years it became the most enlightened." According Towson

- Constituent Assembly wanted to make sure the church was free from abuses, foreign
control, democratic and linked to the new system of local government

- Unpopular decree in Dec. 1789 which gave civil rights to Protestants, and later extended to jews in September 1791
- August - the Assembly abolished the tithe, and also ended old corporate privileges of
the Church - such as right to decide how much taxation it would pay

- Most clergy supported these measures
- Also accepted sale of the church lands, as would be paid more then they had under the ancien regime
- No serious conflict with the Church until the Civil Constitution of the Clergy in July 1790
- This adapted the organisation of the church to the administrative framework of local govt.
- The attempt to extend democracy to all aspects of govt. also expanded to the church
- Clergy no longer to be appointed but elected
- Most clergy opposed the principle of election, but majority were in favour of finding a
way of accepting the Civil Constitution

- The Assembly decreed that in Nov. 1790 the clergy must take an oath to the Constitution
- This split the clergy
- When the Pope condemned the Civil Constitution, many who had taken the oath retracted
- There were now in effect two Catholic Churches in Frances, one the constitutional church
accepted the Revolution, the other, a non-juring Church (non-jurors or refractories),
approved by the Pope but regarded as patriots as against the revolution

- **** One major effect of this split was that the counter-revolution, the movement which
sought to overturn the revolution, received mass support for the first time

- before it had been supported by only a few royalists and emigres
- * many villagers complained that the Assembly was trying to change their religion
- they felt a sense of betrayal, which combined with their hostility to other measures
such as conscription, was to lead to open revolt in 1793 in areas such as the Vendee

- ********** Disaffection with the Revolution, which eventually turned into civil war,
was, therefore, one result of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy

Politica l clubs had begun to form soon after the Estates-General met in May 1789.

Jacobin Club - high entrance fee, members mainly came from most wealthy sections of
society. Dominant members of the Jacobin club up to the summer of 1791 were liberal
constitutional monarchists. In July the Jacobin Club split over the petition calling for
the removal of the King. 900 such clubs in the spring of 1791,

Corderliers Club - founded in April 1790, more radical than the Jacobin club and had
unrestricted admission. It objected to the distinction b/w active and passive citizens and
supported measures which the sans-culottes favoured: direct democracy. Much support
amongst the working class, although leaders were bourgeois. Most notorious write Marat,
L'Ami du Peuple. Became chief spokesman of the popular movement.

** As there were no political parties, the clubs played an important part in the revolution. Kept
- kept the public informed major issues of the day
- acted as pressure groups to influence the members in the Assembly
- the peasants and sans-culottes were not satisfied with what they had received from the revolution
- when the peasants realised in the spring of 1790 that their harvest dues were not
abolished realised in the spring of 1790 that their harvest dues were not abolished
outright but would have to be bought out were deeply disillusioned

- wave of strikes by workers against the falling value of their wages early in 1791
- grain prices rose by up to 50 per cent after poor harvest 1791
- *** the discontent of the workers could be used by the popular societies, who linked
economic protests to the political demand for a democratic republic, AND by groups in the
Assembly seeking more power



Louis' flight to Varennes

- Mirabeau, outstanding politician and orator in the Constituent Assembly, died in April
1791, the moderates were becoming more influential in the Assembly

- They feared the new clubs and emergence of an oganised working-class movement
- *wanted to end the revolution but for this to happen, had to be a compromise with the King
- ********One immediate result of his flight is that he lost what remained of his
popularity, which was dependent on him being seen to support the revolution.

- PPL started talking openly about replacing the monarchy with a republic
- Deputes in the assembly acted calmly to the situation - did not want a republic
- 16 July the Assembly voted to suspend the King until the Constitution had been completed
- he would be restored only after swore to observe it


- radicals appalled when the King was not dethroned or put on trial
- their anger directed against the Assembly
- Cordeliers and some Jacobins supported a petition for the King's deposition
- **This split the Jacobin club
- Robespierre left to preside over more radical rump - Parisian defectors formed a new
club the Feuillants, which, for the moment had control over Paris

- 17 July 1791, 50,000 people flocked to the Champ de Mars, a huge field where the Feast
of the Federation had been held 3 days earlier celebrating fall of the Bastille.

- They were there to sign a republican petition on the 'altar of the fatherland'
- this was a political demonstration of the poorer sections of the Paris population
- the Commune,, under pressure from the Assembly, declared martial law
- sent Lafayette with the National Guard to the Champ de Mars, where they fired on the
peaceful crowd (trying to stop freedom of expression)

- **** FIRST bloody clash between the different groups in the Third Estate, greeted with pleasure in the Assembly
- popular leaders arrested
- moderates had won, could now work out a compromise with the King without facing mob violence
- Feuillants now more then ever committed to making an agreement with the King


- main aims of the Constituent Assembly had been to draw up a Constitution
- which would replace absolute monarchy with a limited one
- * real power was to pass from an elected assembly
- much of the constitution - that the King should have a suspensive veto and that there
should be one elected assembly - had been worked out in 1789 but the rest now passed until

- King, whose office was hereditary, was subordinate to the Assembly, as it passed laws King had to obey
- 'In France there is no authority superior to the law…it is only by means of the law that the King reigns.'
- In September the King was forced, reluctantly , to accept the Constitution

THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY (1 October 1791 - 20 September 1792)

- when the King accepted the Constitution in September 1791, the Constituent Assembly was dissolved
- to prevent opponents dominating next Assembly, Robespierre proposed a self-denying ordinance
- stating that not member of the N.C.A could sit for the Legislative Assembly
- assembly elected almost wholly bourgeoisie
- few nobles
- at the beginning 264 members Feuillant Club, who considered the revolution to be over136 members Jacobins
- other 350 deputies did not belong to either
- many emitters
- ** Assembly passed two laws in November
- 1. Declared that all non-jurors were suspects
- 2. All emitters who had not returned to France by 1 January 1792 would forfeit their
property and and be regarded as traitors (GOING AGAINST D.R.O.R. 17!!!)

- when King vetoed these laws his unpopularity increased: he appeared to be undermining the revolution
- yet despite mistrust of King, it seemed likely that the Constitution of 1791 would survive
- what prevented to this was the war with Austria, which began April 1792


- the Great Powers had shown no interest in intervening during the first two years of the French Rev
- Leopold II, Habsburg Empire approved of many of the liberal reforms in the Revolution
and did not want a return to absolutism

- Like other soverigns, was plaes at the collapse of French power and no longer regarded France as a serious rival
- After the flight of Varenned the Austrians felt they had to make some gesture to support Louis
- Said they were ready, with other sovereigns to restore the King of France to a position
of power which he couuld strenghthen foudations of monarchical govt.

- *appeared to be a threat to interfere with French internal affairs, but in reality it was no threat at all
- in France, dec. did not create much of a stil
- Marie Antoinette - saw that 'conciliation is out of the question..armed force has
destroyed everything and ony armed force can put things right.' She hoped for a war in
which Louis would be defeated, enabling him to recover his powers

- King shared her view
- ***at this same time he was taking an oath for the constitution, Antoinette was writing
to the Austrian ambassador, 'giving the impression of adopting the new ideas is the safest
way of quickly defeating them.'

- Lafayette and Dumouriez also wanted war
- The desire for war resulted in the cooperation of Laafayette and his follwers with the Brissotins, who also wanted war
- Brissot one of the first to support the republic after Louis' flight to Varennes and wanted abolition of monarchy
- He saw King had not really accepted the Constitution, and thought a war would force the
King to come out into the open, as it would traitors who were opposed to the revolution

- Robespierre not in favour of war - made feeling known in Jacobin club
- Austrian threats and Girondin attacks on the 'Austrian Committee' at Court forced the
King to dismiss his Feuillant ministers in March 1792 and appint a more radical
government, including some Girondin ministers

- the old ministers had carried out wishes of the King, the new ones obeyed the Assembly
- both the Assembly and the Govt now wanted war, especially new foreign minister Dumouriez
- he hated Austria, but had aims similar to that of Lafayette
- France declared war on Austria 29 April 1792
- Prussia declared war on France a month later


- War showed the weakness of the French armiestreason and traitors were blamed for for
French defeats and with some justification: Marie Antoinette had sent details of French
military plans to the Austrians

- Govt also had other problems to deal with, such as opostion from non-juring preists and counter-revolutionar ies
- 27 May Assembly passed a law for the deportation of refractory preiest
- another law dibanded King's Guard, and third set up a camp for 20 000 National Guards
(known as federes, because their arrival coinced with the feast of the federation)

- were to protect Paris from Invasion and the govt. from a coup
- Louis refused to approve these laws
- Leader of the sections responded to these events by holding armed demonstrations on 20
June anniversary of the Tennis Court Oath

- Leaders came from Cordeliers club
- 8000 demonstrators , many of them national guards, poured into the Tuilleris
- Louis behaved great dignity - probably saved his life
- This journee did not achieve its desired end: King did not recall the Girondin ministers
- **did show very clearly the weakness of the King and the Assembly and the power of the Sections
- Assembly soon took steps which recognised the growing imporance of the sans-culotttes
- 11 July it declared a state of emergency, issuing 'la patrie en danger' (the father land
in danger) which called on every french man to fight

- titled the favour to democrats
- how could u ask a man to fight and not give him the vote?
- Federes demanded the admission of passive citizens into the sectional assemblies and National
- Tension in Paris was increased by the arrival of federes from the provinces and by the Brunswick Manifesto
- The fedres were military revolutionaries and republicans , unlike the Paris National
Guard, whose officers were conservative or royalist

- **THE BRUNSWICK MANIFESTO, issued by the commander in chief of the Austro-Prussian
armies, was published in Paris 1 August

- it threatened that any National Guard captured fighting would be punished as 'rebels of the king'
- Parisians were collectively held responsible for the safety of the royal family
- If it was harmed the allies would execute 'an exemplary vengeance…by delivering the
city of Paris to a military exectuion.'

- The Manifesto was intended to help the King, but had the opposite effects
- **FRENCH MEN INFURIATED and many who has supported the monarchy not turned against it
- a new innsurrection was was being prepared by radicals and federes, Girondins changed
thie rattitude of oppostion to the King and tried to prevent a rising

- Louis was warned that there was likely to be more violent uprising then that of 20 June,
and to recally the ministers he had dismissed 13 June

- Louis rejected their offer
- Robespierre abandoned his previous support for the Constitution of 1991 and called for the overthrow of the monarchy
- He also wanted a national Convention, elected by a univeral male suffrage to replace the Legislative Assembly
- *On 3 August, Petion, Mayor of Paris, went to the Legislative Assembly and demanded, on
behalf of the 47 out of the 48 sections, the abolition of the monarchy

- *yet Assembly refused to depose the King

- *9 August Sans-culottes took over the Hotel de Ville, overthrew the old municipality and
set up a revolutionary Commune

- the next morning several thousand National Guard, now open to passive citizens, and 2000
federes, led by those from Marseille marched on the Tuileries

- the paace was defended by 3000 troops
- 2000 of whom were national guard
- the others were Swiss mercenaries who were certain to resist.
- During the morning the royal family had sought refuge in the Legislative Assembly
- The National Guard defending the Tuileries, joined the insurgents, who entered the courtyards
- Belived the attack was over until the Swiss started firing, King ordered his Swiss gurads to cease fire
- Deputies had to hand over the King to the Commune, who imprisoned him
- ***As a consequence of the fall of the monarchy, the 1791 Constitution became
inoperative. The Assembly had to agree to the election, by universal male suffrage, of a
National Convention to draw up a new , democratic constitution

- The constitutional monarchists, about 2/3 of the deputies, did not feel safe, so they
stayed away from the Assembly and went into hiding

- Left the GIRONDINS in chargee, the beneficiaries of a revolution they had tired to avoid
- Convention met for the first time 20 September 1792. On the next day they abolished the monarchy

Continues for 19 more pages >>

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