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French Revolution

French Revolution

Overview
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' (La Grande Révolution), was a period of radical
Political radicalism
The term political radicalism denotes political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary means and changing value systems in fundamental ways...

 social and political upheaval in France
History of France
The history of France goes back to the arrival of the earliest human being in what is now France. Members of the genus Homo entered the area hundreds of thousands years ago, while the first modern Homo sapiens, the Cro-Magnons, arrived around 40,000 years ago...

 and Europe
History of Europe
History of Europe describes the history of humans inhabiting the European continent since it was first populated in prehistoric times to present, with the first human settlement between 45,000 and 25,000 BC.-Overview:...

. The absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

 that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years. French society underwent an epic transformation as feudal
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

, aristocratic and religious privileges evaporated under a sustained assault from radical
Political radicalism
The term political radicalism denotes political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary means and changing value systems in fundamental ways...

 left-wing political groups, masses on the streets
Sans-culottes
In the French Revolution, the sans-culottes were the radical militants of the lower classes, typically urban laborers. Though ill-clad and ill-equipped, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars...

, and peasants in the countryside.
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Timeline

987   Hugh Capet is crowned King of France, the first of the Capetian dynasty that would rule France till the French Revolution in 1792.

1786   French Revolution: The Assembly of Notables is convened.

1789   French Revolution: citizens of Paris storm the Bastille and free seven prisoners.

1789   French Revolution: Women of Paris march to Versailles in the March on Versailles to confront Louis XVI about his refusal to promulgate the decrees on the abolition of feudalism, demand bread, and have the King and his court moved to Paris.

1789   French Revolution: Louis XVI returns to Paris from Versailles after being confronted by the Parisian women on 5 October

1790   French Revolution: the Revolutionary Tribunal is suppressed.

1790   Edmund Burke publishes ''Reflections on the Revolution in France'', in which he predicts that the French Revolution will end in a disaster.

1790   Louis XVI of France gives his public assent to Civil Constitution of the Clergy during the French Revolution.

1791   Members of the French National Guard under the command of General Lafayette open fire on a crowd of radical Jacobins at the Champ de Mars, Paris, during the French Revolution, killing as many as 50 people.

1792   French Revolution: 0 August (French Revolution)|Storming of the Tuileries Palace

 
Encyclopedia
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' (La Grande Révolution), was a period of radical
Political radicalism
The term political radicalism denotes political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary means and changing value systems in fundamental ways...

 social and political upheaval in France
History of France
The history of France goes back to the arrival of the earliest human being in what is now France. Members of the genus Homo entered the area hundreds of thousands years ago, while the first modern Homo sapiens, the Cro-Magnons, arrived around 40,000 years ago...

 and Europe
History of Europe
History of Europe describes the history of humans inhabiting the European continent since it was first populated in prehistoric times to present, with the first human settlement between 45,000 and 25,000 BC.-Overview:...

. The absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

 that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years. French society underwent an epic transformation as feudal
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

, aristocratic and religious privileges evaporated under a sustained assault from radical
Political radicalism
The term political radicalism denotes political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary means and changing value systems in fundamental ways...

 left-wing political groups, masses on the streets
Sans-culottes
In the French Revolution, the sans-culottes were the radical militants of the lower classes, typically urban laborers. Though ill-clad and ill-equipped, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars...

, and peasants in the countryside. Old ideas about tradition and hierarchy - of monarchy
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

, aristocracy
Aristocracy
Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

 and religious authority
Clericalism
Clericalism is the application of the formal, church-based, leadership or opinion of ordained clergy in matters of either the church or broader political and sociocultural import...

 - were abruptly overthrown by new Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 principles of equality
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
Liberté, égalité, fraternité, French for "Liberty, equality, fraternity ", is the national motto of France, and is a typical example of a tripartite motto. Although it finds its origins in the French Revolution, it was then only one motto among others and was not institutionalized until the Third...

, citizenship
Citizenship
Citizenship is the state of being a citizen of a particular social, political, national, or human resource community. Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities...

 and inalienable rights.
The French Revolution began in 1789 with the convocation of the Estates-General
Estates-General of 1789
The Estates-General of 1789 was the first meeting since 1614 of the French Estates-General, a general assembly representing the French estates of the realm: the nobility, the Church, and the common people...

 in May. The first year of the Revolution saw members of the Third Estate proclaiming the Tennis Court Oath
Tennis Court Oath
The Tennis Court Oath was a pivotal event during the first days of the French Revolution. The Oath was a pledge signed by 576 of the 577 members from the Third Estate who were locked out of a meeting of the Estates-General on 20 June 1789...

 in June, the assault on the Bastille
Storming of the Bastille
The storming of the Bastille occurred in Paris on the morning of 14 July 1789. The medieval fortress and prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the centre of Paris. While the prison only contained seven inmates at the time of its storming, its fall was the flashpoint...

 in July, the passage of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is a fundamental document of the French Revolution, defining the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of "natural right", the rights of man are held to be universal: valid...

 in August, and an epic march on Versailles that forced the royal court back to Paris in October. The next few years were dominated by tensions between various liberal assemblies
The Legislative Assembly and the fall of the French monarchy
The French Revolution was a period in the history of France covering the years 1789 to 1799, in which republicans overthrew the Bourbon monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church perforce underwent radical restructuring...

 and a right-wing monarchy intent on thwarting major reforms.

A republic was proclaimed in September 1792 and King Louis XVI
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before being executed in 1793....

 was executed the next year. External threats also played a dominant role in the development of the Revolution. The French Revolutionary Wars
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1792 until 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states...

 started in 1792 and ultimately featured spectacular French victories
Military history of France
The military history of France encompasses an immense panorama of conflicts and struggles extending for more than 2,000 years across areas including modern France, greater Europe, and European territorial possessions overseas....

 that facilitated the conquest of the Italian Peninsula
Italian Peninsula
The Italian Peninsula or Apennine Peninsula is one of the three large peninsulas of Southern Europe , spanning from the Po Valley in the north to the central Mediterranean Sea in the south. The peninsula's shape gives it the nickname Lo Stivale...

, the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

 and most territories west of the Rhine – achievements that had defied previous French governments for centuries.

Internally, popular sentiments radicalized the Revolution significantly, culminating in the rise of Maximilien Robespierre
Maximilien Robespierre
Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre is one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. He largely dominated the Committee of Public Safety and was instrumental in the period of the Revolution commonly known as the Reign of Terror, which ended with his...

 and the Jacobins
Jacobin Club
The Jacobin Club was the most famous and influential political club in the development of the French Revolution, so-named because of the Dominican convent where they met, located in the Rue St. Jacques , Paris. The club originated as the Club Benthorn, formed at Versailles from a group of Breton...

 and virtual dictatorship by the Committee of Public Safety
Committee of Public Safety
The Committee of Public Safety , created in April 1793 by the National Convention and then restructured in July 1793, formed the de facto executive government in France during the Reign of Terror , a stage of the French Revolution...

 during the Reign of Terror
Reign of Terror
The Reign of Terror , also known simply as The Terror , was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of...

 from 1793 until 1794 during which between 16,000 and 40,000 people were killed. After the fall of the Jacobins and the execution of Robespierre, the Directory
French Directory
The Directory was a body of five Directors that held executive power in France following the Convention and preceding the Consulate...

 assumed control of the French state in 1795 and held power until 1799, when it was replaced by the Consulate under Napoleon Bonaparte.

After the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

 and ensuing rise and fall of Napoleon's First French Empire
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

, a restoration of absolutist monarchy
Bourbon Restoration
The Bourbon Restoration is the name given to the period following the successive events of the French Revolution , the end of the First Republic , and then the forcible end of the First French Empire under Napoleon  – when a coalition of European powers restored by arms the monarchy to the...

 was followed by two further successful smaller revolutions (1830
July Revolution
The French Revolution of 1830, also known as the July Revolution or in French, saw the overthrow of King Charles X of France, the French Bourbon monarch, and the ascent of his cousin Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, who himself, after 18 precarious years on the throne, would in turn be overthrown...

 and 1848
French Revolution of 1848
The 1848 Revolution in France was one of a wave of revolutions in 1848 in Europe. In France, the February revolution ended the Orleans monarchy and led to the creation of the French Second Republic. The February Revolution was really the belated second phase of the Revolution of 1830...

). This meant the 19th century and process of modern France taking shape saw France again successively governed by a similar cycle of constitutional monarchy
July Monarchy
The July Monarchy , officially the Kingdom of France , was a period of liberal constitutional monarchy in France under King Louis-Philippe starting with the July Revolution of 1830 and ending with the Revolution of 1848...

 (1830-48), fragile republic (Second Republic)
French Second Republic
The French Second Republic was the republican government of France between the 1848 Revolution and the coup by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte which initiated the Second Empire. It officially adopted the motto Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité...

 (1848-1852), and empire (Second Empire)
Second French Empire
The Second French Empire or French Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.-Rule of Napoleon III:...

 (1852-1870).
The modern era
Modern history
Modern history, or the modern era, describes the historical timeline after the Middle Ages. Modern history can be further broken down into the early modern period and the late modern period after the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution...

 has unfolded in the shadow of the French Revolution. The growth of republics and liberal democracies
Liberal democracy
Liberal democracy, also known as constitutional democracy, is a common form of representative democracy. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, and the political process should be competitive...

, the spread of secularism
Secularism
Secularism is the principle of separation between government institutions and the persons mandated to represent the State from religious institutions and religious dignitaries...

, the development of modern ideologies
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

 and the invention of total war
Total war
Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population.In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare...

 all mark their birth during the Revolution.

Causes


Adherents of most historical models identify many of the same features of the Ancien Régime as being among the causes of the Revolution. Economic factors included hunger
Hunger
Hunger is the most commonly used term to describe the social condition of people who frequently experience the physical sensation of desiring food.-Malnutrition, famine, starvation:...

 and malnutrition
Malnutrition
Malnutrition is the condition that results from taking an unbalanced diet in which certain nutrients are lacking, in excess , or in the wrong proportions....

 in the most destitute segments of the population, due to rising bread prices (from a normal 8 sous
Solidus (coin)
The solidus was originally a gold coin issued by the Romans, and a weight measure for gold more generally, corresponding to 4.5 grams.-Roman and Byzantine coinage:...

 for a four-pound loaf to 12 sous by the end of 1789), after several years of poor grain
GRAIN
GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems. Our support takes the form of independent research and analysis, networking at local, regional and...

 harvests. Bad harvests (caused in part by extreme weather from El Niño along with volcanic activity at Laki
Laki
Łąki may refer to the following places in Poland:*Łąki, Lower Silesian Voivodeship *Łąki, West Pomeranian Voivodeship *Łąki, Lublin Voivodeship...

 and Grímsvötn
Grímsvötn
The Grímsvötn sub-glacial lakes and the volcano of the same name are in South-East Iceland. They are in the highlands of Iceland at the northwestern side of the Vatnajökull ice-cap. The lakes are at , at an elevation of...

), rising food prices, and an inadequate transportation system that hindered the shipment of bulk foods from rural areas to large population centers contributed greatly to the destabilization of French society in the years leading up to the Revolution.

Another cause was the state's effective bankruptcy due to the enormous cost of previous wars, particularly the financial strain caused by French participation in the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. The national debt amounted to some 1,000–2,000 million livres
Livre tournois
The livre tournois |pound]]) was:#one of numerous currencies used in France in the Middle Ages; and#a unit of account used in France in the Middle Ages and the early modern period.-Circulating currency:...

. The social burdens caused by war included the huge war debt, made worse by the loss of France's colonial possessions in North America and the growing commercial dominance of Great Britain. France's inefficient and antiquated financial system was unable to manage the national debt
Government debt
Government debt is money owed by a central government. In the US, "government debt" may also refer to the debt of a municipal or local government...

, something which was both partially caused and exacerbated by the burden of an inadequate system of taxation. To obtain new money to head off default on the government's loans, the king called an Assembly of Notables
Assembly of Notables
The Assembly of Notables was a group of notables invited by the King of France to consult on matters of state.-History:Assemblies of Notables had met in 1583, 1596–97, 1617, 1626, 1787, and 1788. Like the Estates General, they served a consultative purpose only...

 in 1787.

Meanwhile, the royal court at Versailles
Versailles
Versailles , a city renowned for its château, the Palace of Versailles, was the de facto capital of the kingdom of France for over a century, from 1682 to 1789. It is now a wealthy suburb of Paris and remains an important administrative and judicial centre...

 was seen as being isolated from, and indifferent to, the hardships of the lower classes. While in theory King Louis XVI was an absolute monarch, in practice he was often indecisive and known to back down when faced with strong opposition. While he did reduce government expenditures, opponents in the parlement
Parlement
Parlements were regional legislative bodies in Ancien Régime France.The political institutions of the Parlement in Ancien Régime France developed out of the previous council of the king, the Conseil du roi or curia regis, and consequently had ancient and customary rights of consultation and...

s successfully thwarted his attempts at enacting much needed reforms. Those who were opposed to Louis' policies further undermined royal authority by distributing pamphlets (often reporting false or exaggerated information) that criticized the government and its officials, stirring up public opinion against the monarchy.

Many other factors involved resentments and aspirations given focus by the rise of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 ideals. These included resentment of royal absolutism; resentment by peasants, laborers and the bourgeoisie
Bourgeoisie
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

 toward the traditional seigneurial
Manorialism
Manorialism, an essential element of feudal society, was the organizing principle of rural economy that originated in the villa system of the Late Roman Empire, was widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe, and was slowly replaced by the advent of a money-based market...

 privileges possessed by the nobility; resentment of the Church's influence over public policy and institutions; aspirations for freedom of religion
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any...

; resentment of aristocratic bishops by the poorer rural clergy; aspirations for social, political and economic equality, and (especially as the Revolution progressed) republicanism
Republicanism
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

; hatred of Queen Marie-Antoinette, who was falsely accused of being a spendthrift and an Austrian
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 spy; and anger toward the King for firing finance minister Jacques Necker
Jacques Necker
Jacques Necker was a French statesman of Swiss birth and finance minister of Louis XVI, a post he held in the lead-up to the French Revolution in 1789.-Early life:...

, among others, who were popularly seen as representatives of the people.

Financial crisis



Louis XVI ascended to the throne amidst a financial crisis
Financial crisis
The term financial crisis is applied broadly to a variety of situations in which some financial institutions or assets suddenly lose a large part of their value. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, many financial crises were associated with banking panics, and many recessions coincided with these...

; the state was nearing bankruptcy and outlays outpaced income. This was because of France’s financial obligations stemming from involvement in the Seven Years War and its participation in the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. In May 1776, finance minister Turgot
Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de Laune
Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, Baron de Laune , often referred to as Turgot, was a French economist and statesman. Turgot was a student of Francois Quesnay and as such belonged to the Physiocratic school of economic thought...

 was dismissed, after he failed to enact reforms. The next year, Jacques Necker
Jacques Necker
Jacques Necker was a French statesman of Swiss birth and finance minister of Louis XVI, a post he held in the lead-up to the French Revolution in 1789.-Early life:...

, a foreigner, was appointed Comptroller-General of Finance. He could not be made an official minister because he was a Protestant.

Necker realized that the country's extremely regressive
Regressive tax
A regressive tax is a tax imposed in such a manner that the tax rate decreases as the amount subject to taxation increases. "Regressive" describes a distribution effect on income or expenditure, referring to the way the rate progresses from high to low, where the average tax rate exceeds the...

 tax system subjected the lower classes to a heavy burden, while numerous exemptions existed for the nobility and clergy. He argued that the country could not be taxed higher; that tax exemptions for the nobility and clergy must be reduced; and proposed that borrowing more money would solve the country's fiscal shortages. Necker published a report to support this claim that underestimated the deficit by roughly 36 million livres, and proposed restricting the power of the parlement
Parlement
Parlements were regional legislative bodies in Ancien Régime France.The political institutions of the Parlement in Ancien Régime France developed out of the previous council of the king, the Conseil du roi or curia regis, and consequently had ancient and customary rights of consultation and...

s.

This was not received well by the King's ministers and Necker, hoping to bolster his position, argued to be made a minister. The King refused, Necker was fired, and Charles Alexandre de Calonne
Charles Alexandre de Calonne
Charles Alexandre, vicomte de Calonne was a French statesman, best known for his involvement in the French Revolution.-Rise to prominence:...

 was appointed to the Comptrollership. Calonne initially spent liberally, but he quickly realized the critical financial situation and proposed a new tax code
Tax code
In the UK, every person paid under the PAYE scheme is allocated a tax code by HM Revenue and Customs. This is usually in the form of a number followed by a letter suffix, though other 'non-standard' codes are also used. This code describes to employers how much tax to deduct from an employee. The...

.

The proposal included a consistent land tax
Land value tax
A land value tax is a levy on the unimproved value of land. It is an ad valorem tax on land that disregards the value of buildings, personal property and other improvements...

, which would include taxation of the nobility and clergy. Faced with opposition from the parlements, Calonne organised the summoning of the Assembly of Notables
Assembly of Notables
The Assembly of Notables was a group of notables invited by the King of France to consult on matters of state.-History:Assemblies of Notables had met in 1583, 1596–97, 1617, 1626, 1787, and 1788. Like the Estates General, they served a consultative purpose only...

. But the Assembly failed to endorse Calonne's proposals and instead weakened his position through its criticism. In response, the King announced the calling of the Estates-General for May 1789
Estates-General of 1789
The Estates-General of 1789 was the first meeting since 1614 of the French Estates-General, a general assembly representing the French estates of the realm: the nobility, the Church, and the common people...

, the first time the body had been summoned since 1614. This was a signal that the Bourbon monarchy
House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house, a branch of the Capetian dynasty . Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma...

 was in a weakened state and subject to the demands of its people.

Estates-General of 1789



The Estates-General was organized into three estates: the clergy, the nobility, and the rest of France. On the last occasion that the Estates-General had met, in 1614, each estate held one vote, and any two could override the third. The Parlement of Paris feared the government would attempt to gerrymander
Gerrymandering
In the process of setting electoral districts, gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan, incumbent-protected districts...

 an assembly to rig the results. Thus, they required that the Estates be arranged as in 1614.
The 1614 rules differed from practices of local assemblies, where each member had one vote and third estate
Estates of the realm
The Estates of the realm were the broad social orders of the hierarchically conceived society, recognized in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period in Christian Europe; they are sometimes distinguished as the three estates: the clergy, the nobility, and commoners, and are often referred to by...

 membership was doubled. For example, in the Dauphiné
Dauphiné
The Dauphiné or Dauphiné Viennois is a former province in southeastern France, whose area roughly corresponded to that of the present departments of :Isère, :Drôme, and :Hautes-Alpes....

 the provincial assembly agreed to double the number of members of the third estate, hold membership elections, and allow one vote per member, rather than one vote per estate.

The "Committee of Thirty," a body of liberal Parisians, began to agitate against voting by estate. This group, largely composed of the wealthy, argued for the Estates-General to assume the voting mechanisms of Dauphiné. They argued that ancient precedent was not sufficient, because "the people were sovereign." Necker convened a Second Assembly of Notables, which rejected the notion of double representation by a vote of 111 to 333. The King, however, agreed to the proposition on 27 December; but he left discussion of the weight of each vote to the Estates-General itself.

Elections were held in the spring of 1789; suffrage requirements for the Third Estate were for French-born or naturalised males only, at least 25 years of age, who resided where the vote was to take place and who paid taxes.

Pour être électeur du tiers état, il faut avoir 25 ans, être français ou naturalisé, être domicilié au lieu de vote et compris au rôle des impositions.


Strong turnout produced 1,201 delegates, including: "291 nobles, 300 clergy, and 610 members of the Third Estate." To lead delegates, "Books of grievances" (cahiers de doléances) were compiled to list problems. The books articulated ideas which would have seemed radical only months before; however, most supported the monarchical system in general. Many assumed the Estates-General would approve future taxes, and Enlightenment ideals were relatively rare.

Pamphlets by liberal nobles and clergy became widespread after the lifting of press censorship. The Abbé Sieyès, a theorist and Catholic clergyman, argued the paramount importance of the Third Estate in the pamphlet Qu'est-ce que le tiers état? ("What is the Third Estate?
What is the Third Estate?
What Is the Third Estate? is a pamphlet written by French thinker and clergyman Abbé Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès in January 1789, shortly before the outbreak of the French Revolution...

"), published in January 1789. He asserted: "What is the Third Estate? Everything. What has it been until now in the political order? Nothing. What does it want to be? Something."


The Estates-General convened in the Grands Salles des Menus-Plaisirs in Versailles
Versailles
Versailles , a city renowned for its château, the Palace of Versailles, was the de facto capital of the kingdom of France for over a century, from 1682 to 1789. It is now a wealthy suburb of Paris and remains an important administrative and judicial centre...

 on 5 May 1789 and opened with a three-hour speech by Necker. The Third Estate demanded that the verification of deputies' credentials should be undertaken in common by all deputies, rather than each estate verifying the credentials of its own members internally; negotiations with the other estates failed to achieve this. The commoners appealed to the clergy who replied they required more time. Necker asserted that each estate verify credentials and "the king was to act as arbitrator." Negotiations with the other two estates to achieve this, however, were unsuccessful.

National Assembly (1789)


On 10 June 1789, Abbé Sieyès moved that the Third Estate, now meeting as the Communes (English: "Commons"), proceed with verification of its own powers and invite the other two estates to take part, but not to wait for them. They proceeded to do so two days later, completing the process on 17 June. Then they voted a measure far more radical, declaring themselves the National Assembly
National Assembly (French Revolution)
During the French Revolution, the National Assembly , which existed from June 17 to July 9, 1789, was a transitional body between the Estates-General and the National Constituent Assembly.-Background:...

, an assembly not of the Estates but of "the People." They invited the other orders to join them, but made it clear they intended to conduct the nation's affairs with or without them.

In an attempt to keep control of the process and prevent the Assembly from convening, Louis XVI ordered the closure of the Salle des États where the Assembly met, making an excuse that the carpenters needed to prepare the hall for a royal speech in two days. Weather did not allow an outdoor meeting, so the Assembly moved their deliberations to a nearby indoor real tennis
Real tennis
Real tennis – one of several games sometimes called "the sport of kings" – is the original indoor racquet sport from which the modern game of lawn tennis , is descended...

 court, where they proceeded to swear the Tennis Court Oath
Tennis Court Oath
The Tennis Court Oath was a pivotal event during the first days of the French Revolution. The Oath was a pledge signed by 576 of the 577 members from the Third Estate who were locked out of a meeting of the Estates-General on 20 June 1789...

 (20 June 1789), under which they agreed not to separate until they had given France a constitution.

A majority of the representatives of the clergy soon joined them, as did 47 members of the nobility. By 27 June, the royal party had overtly given in, although the military began to arrive in large numbers around Paris and Versailles. Messages of support for the Assembly poured in from Paris and other French cities.

Storming of the Bastille



By this time, Necker had earned the enmity of many members of the French court for his overt manipulation of public opinion. Marie Antoinette, the King's younger brother the Comte d'Artois
Charles X of France
Charles X was known for most of his life as the Comte d'Artois before he reigned as King of France and of Navarre from 16 September 1824 until 2 August 1830. A younger brother to Kings Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, he supported the latter in exile and eventually succeeded him...

, and other conservative members of the King's privy council
Privy council
A privy council is a body that advises the head of state of a nation, typically, but not always, in the context of a monarchic government. The word "privy" means "private" or "secret"; thus, a privy council was originally a committee of the monarch's closest advisors to give confidential advice on...

 urged him to dismiss Necker as financial advisor. On 11 July 1789, after Necker published an inaccurate account of the government's debts and made it available to the public, the King fired him, and completely restructured the finance ministry at the same time.

Many Parisians presumed Louis's actions to be aimed against the Assembly and began open rebellion when they heard the news the next day. They were also afraid that arriving soldiers – mostly foreign mercenaries – had been summoned to shut down the National Constituent Assembly
National Constituent Assembly
The National Constituent Assembly was formed from the National Assembly on 9 July 1789, during the first stages of the French Revolution. It dissolved on 30 September 1791 and was succeeded by the Legislative Assembly.-Background:...

. The Assembly, meeting at Versailles, went into nonstop session to prevent another eviction from their meeting place. Paris was soon consumed by riots, chaos, and widespread looting. The mobs soon had the support of some of the French Guard
Gardes Françaises
The Gardes Françaises was one of the two non-ceremonial infantry regiments in the "Maison du Roi" of the French Army under the Ancien Régime. The other regiment was the Gardes Suisses, which made the Gardes Françaises the only one recruited from France.-History:The regiment was created in 1563 by...

, who were armed and trained soldiers.

On 14 July, the insurgents set their eyes on the large weapons and ammunition cache inside the Bastille
Bastille
The Bastille was a fortress in Paris, known formally as the Bastille Saint-Antoine. It played an important role in the internal conflicts of France and for most of its history was used as a state prison by the kings of France. The Bastille was built in response to the English threat to the city of...

 fortress, which was also perceived to be a symbol of royal power. After several hours of combat, the prison fell that afternoon. Despite ordering a cease fire, which prevented a mutual massacre, Governor Marquis Bernard de Launay was beaten, stabbed and decapitated; his head was placed on a pike and paraded about the city. Although the fortress had held only seven prisoners (four forgers, two noblemen kept for immoral behavior, and a murder suspect), the Bastille served as a potent symbol of everything hated under the Ancien Régime. Returning to the Hôtel de Ville
Hôtel de Ville, Paris
The Hôtel de Ville |City Hall]]) in :Paris, France, is the building housing the City of Paris's administration. Standing on the place de l'Hôtel de Ville in the city's IVe arrondissement, it has been the location of the municipality of Paris since 1357...

 (city hall), the mob accused the prévôt des marchands
Provost (civil)
A provost is the ceremonial head of many Scottish local authorities, and under the name prévôt was a governmental position of varying importance in Ancien Regime France.-History:...

 (roughly, mayor) Jacques de Flesselles
Jacques de Flesselles
Jacques de Flesselles was a French public servant and one of the first victims of the French Revolution.On 21 April 1789, after serving as Intendant of Lyon , he became the last provost of the merchants of Paris, a post roughly equivalent to mayor...

 of treachery and butchered him.

The King, alarmed by the violence, backed down, at least for the time being. The Marquis de la Fayette took up command of the National Guard at Paris. Jean-Sylvain Bailly, president of the Assembly at the time of the Tennis Court Oath
Tennis Court Oath
The Tennis Court Oath was a pivotal event during the first days of the French Revolution. The Oath was a pledge signed by 576 of the 577 members from the Third Estate who were locked out of a meeting of the Estates-General on 20 June 1789...

, became the city's mayor under a new governmental structure known as the commune. The King visited Paris, where, on 17 July he accepted a tricolore
Flag of France
The national flag of France is a tricolour featuring three vertical bands coloured royal blue , white, and red...

 cockade
Cockade
A cockade is a knot of ribbons, or other circular- or oval-shaped symbol of distinctive colors which is usually worn on a hat.-Eighteenth century:...

, to cries of Vive la Nation ("Long live the Nation") and Vive le Roi ("Long live the King").

Necker was recalled to power, but his triumph was short-lived. An astute financier but a less astute politician, Necker overplayed his hand by demanding and obtaining a general amnesty, losing much of the people's favour.

As civil authority rapidly deteriorated, with random acts of violence and theft breaking out across the country, members of the nobility, fearing for their safety, fled to neighboring countries; many of these émigré
Émigré
Émigré is a French term that literally refers to a person who has "migrated out", but often carries a connotation of politico-social self-exile....

s, as they were called, funded counter-revolutionary causes within France and urged foreign monarchs to offer military support to a counter-revolution.

By late July, the spirit of popular sovereignty
Popular sovereignty
Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the political principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power. It is closely associated with Republicanism and the social contract...

 had spread throughout France. In rural areas, many commoners began to form militias and arm themselves against a foreign invasion: some attacked the châteaux
Château
A château is a manor house or residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally—and still most frequently—in French-speaking regions...

 of the nobility as part of a general agrarian insurrection known as "la Grande Peur" ("the Great Fear
Great Fear
The "Great Fear" occurred from 20 July to 5 August 1789 in France at the start of the French Revolution. Rural unrest had been present in France since the worsening grain shortage of the spring, and the grain supplies were now guarded by local militias as rumors that bands of armed men were...

"). In addition, wild rumours and paranoia caused widespread unrest and civil disturbances that contributed to the collapse of law and order.

Working toward a constitution


On 4 August 1789, the National Constituent Assembly abolished feudalism
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 (although at that point there had been sufficient peasant revolts to almost end feudalism already), in what is known as the August Decrees
August Decrees
The August Decrees were nineteen decrees made in August 1789 by the National Constituent Assembly during the French Revolution.-Background:The fall of the Bastille on 14 July 1789 was followed by a mass uproar spreading from Paris to the countryside. Noble families were attacked and the...

, sweeping away both the seigneurial rights of the Second Estate and the tithes gathered by the First Estate. In the course of a few hours, nobles, clergy, towns, provinces, companies and cities lost their special privileges.

On 26 August 1789, the Assembly published the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is a fundamental document of the French Revolution, defining the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of "natural right", the rights of man are held to be universal: valid...

, which comprised a statement of principles rather than a constitution with legal effect. The National Constituent Assembly functioned not only as a legislature, but also as a body to draft a new constitution
Constituent assembly
A constituent assembly is a body composed for the purpose of drafting or adopting a constitution...

.

Necker, Mounier, Lally-Tollendal and others argued unsuccessfully for a senate, with members appointed by the crown on the nomination of the people. The bulk of the nobles argued for an aristocratic upper house
Upper house
An upper house, often called a senate, is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house; a legislature composed of only one house is described as unicameral.- Possible specific characteristics :...

 elected by the nobles. The popular party carried the day: France would have a single, unicameral assembly. The King retained only a "suspensive veto"; he could delay the implementation of a law, but not block it absolutely. The Assembly eventually replaced the historic provinces
Provinces of France
The Kingdom of France was organised into provinces until March 4, 1790, when the establishment of the département system superseded provinces. The provinces of France were roughly equivalent to the historic counties of England...

 with 83 départements, uniformly administered and roughly equal in area and population.

Amid the Assembly's preoccupation with constitutional affairs, the financial crisis had continued largely unaddressed, and the deficit had only increased. Honoré Mirabeau
Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau
Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau was a French revolutionary, as well as a writer, diplomat, freemason, journalist and French politician at the same time. He was a popular orator and statesman. During the French Revolution, he was a moderate, favoring a constitutional monarchy built on...

 now led the move to address this matter, and the Assembly gave Necker complete financial dictatorship.

Women's March on Versailles


Fueled by rumors of a reception for the King's bodyguards on 1 October 1789 at which the national cockade had been trampled upon, on 5 October 1789 crowds of women began to assemble at Parisian markets. The women first marched to the Hôtel de Ville
Hôtel de Ville, Paris
The Hôtel de Ville |City Hall]]) in :Paris, France, is the building housing the City of Paris's administration. Standing on the place de l'Hôtel de Ville in the city's IVe arrondissement, it has been the location of the municipality of Paris since 1357...

, demanding that city officials address their concerns. The women were responding to the harsh economic situations they faced, especially bread shortages. They also demanded an end to royal efforts to block the National Assembly, and for the King and his administration to move to Paris as a sign of good faith in addressing the widespread poverty.

Getting unsatisfactory responses from city officials, as many as 7,000 women joined the march to Versailles, bringing with them cannons and a variety of smaller weapons. Twenty thousand National Guardsmen under the command of La Fayette responded to keep order, and members of the mob stormed the palace, killing several guards. La Fayette ultimately persuaded the king to accede to the demand of the crowd that the monarchy relocate to Paris.

On 6 October 1789, the King and the royal family moved from Versailles to Paris under the "protection" of the National Guards, thus legitimizing the National Assembly.

Revolution and the Church


The Revolution caused a massive shift of power from the Roman Catholic Church to the state. Under the Ancien Régime, the Church had been the largest single landowner in the country, owning about 10% of the land in the kingdom. The Church was exempt from paying taxes to the government, while it levied a tithe
Tithe
A tithe is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to government. Today, tithes are normally voluntary and paid in cash, cheques, or stocks, whereas historically tithes were required and paid in kind, such as agricultural products...

—a 10% tax on income, often collected in the form of crops—on the general population, which it then redistributed to the poor. The power and wealth of the Church was highly resented by some groups. A small minority of Protestants living in France, such as the Huguenots, wanted an anti-Catholic regime and revenge against the clergy who discriminated against them. Enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

 helped fuel this resentment by denigrating the Catholic Church and destabilizing the French monarchy. As historian John McManners
John McManners
John "Jack" McManners CBE FBA was a British clergyman and historian of religion who specialized in the history of the Church and other aspects of religious life in 18th century France...

 argues, "In eighteenth-century France throne and altar were commonly spoken of as in close alliance; their simultaneous collapse ... would one day provide the final proof of their interdependence."

This resentment toward the Church weakened its power during the opening of the Estates General in May 1789. The Church composed the First Estate with 130,000 members of the clergy. When the National Assembly
National Assembly (French Revolution)
During the French Revolution, the National Assembly , which existed from June 17 to July 9, 1789, was a transitional body between the Estates-General and the National Constituent Assembly.-Background:...

 was later created in June 1789 by the Third Estate, the clergy voted to join them, which perpetuated the destruction of the Estates General as a governing body. The National Assembly began to enact social and economic reform. Legislation sanctioned on 4 August 1789 abolished the Church's authority to impose the tithe. In an attempt to address the financial crisis, the Assembly declared, on 2 November 1789, that the property of the Church was "at the disposal of the nation." They used this property to back a new currency, the assignats. Thus, the nation had now also taken on the responsibility of the Church, which included paying the clergy, caring for the poor, the sick and the orphaned. In December, the Assembly began to sell the lands to the highest bidder to raise revenue, effectively decreasing the value of the assignats by 25% in two years. In autumn 1789, legislation abolished monastic vows and on 13 February 1790 all religious orders were dissolved. Monk
Monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

s and nun
Nun
A nun is a woman who has taken vows committing her to live a spiritual life. She may be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live her life in prayer and contemplation in a monastery or convent...

s were encouraged to return to private life and a small percentage did eventually marry.

The Civil Constitution of the Clergy
Civil Constitution of the Clergy
The Civil Constitution of the Clergy was a law passed on 12 July 1790 during the French Revolution, that subordinated the Roman Catholic Church in France to the French government....

, passed on 12 July 1790, turned the remaining clergy into employees of the state. This established an election system for parish priests and bishops and set a pay rate for the clergy. Many Catholics objected to the election system because it effectively denied the authority of the Pope in Rome over the French Church. Eventually, in November 1790, the National Assembly began to require an oath of loyalty to the Civil Constitution from all the members of the clergy. This led to a schism between those clergy who swore the required oath and accepted the new arrangement and those who remained loyal to the Pope. Overall, 24% of the clergy nationwide took the oath. Widespread refusal led to legislation against the clergy, "forcing them into exile, deporting them forcibly, or executing them as traitors." Pope Pius VI
Pope Pius VI
Pope Pius VI , born Count Giovanni Angelo Braschi, was Pope from 1775 to 1799.-Early years:Braschi was born in Cesena...

 never accepted the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, further isolating the Church in France. During the Reign of Terror
Reign of Terror
The Reign of Terror , also known simply as The Terror , was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of...

, extreme efforts of de-Christianization ensued, including the imprisonment and massacre of priests and destruction of churches and religious images throughout France. An effort was made to replace the Catholic Church altogether, with civic festivals replacing religious ones. The establishment of the Cult of Reason
Cult of Reason
The Cult of Reason was an atheistic belief system established in France and intended as a replacement for Christianity during the French Revolution.-Origins:...

 was the final step of radical de-Christianization. These events led to a widespread disillusionment with the Revolution and to counter-rebellions across France. Locals often resisted de-Christianization by attacking revolutionary agents and hiding members of the clergy who were being hunted. Eventually, Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety
Committee of Public Safety
The Committee of Public Safety , created in April 1793 by the National Convention and then restructured in July 1793, formed the de facto executive government in France during the Reign of Terror , a stage of the French Revolution...

 were forced to denounce the campaign, replacing the Cult of Reason with the deist but still non-Christian Cult of the Supreme Being
Cult of the Supreme Being
The Cult of the Supreme Being was a form of deism established in France by Maximilien Robespierre during the French Revolution. It was intended to become the state religion of the new French Republic.- Origins :...

. The Concordat of 1801
Concordat of 1801
The Concordat of 1801 was an agreement between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII, signed on 15 July 1801. It solidified the Roman Catholic Church as the majority church of France and brought back most of its civil status....

 between Napoleon and the Church ended the de-Christianization period and established the rules for a relationship between the Catholic Church and the French State that lasted until it was abrogated by the Third Republic
French Third Republic
The French Third Republic was the republican government of France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed due to the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, to 1940, when France was overrun by Nazi Germany during World War II, resulting in the German and Italian occupations of France...

 via the separation of church and state
Separation of church and state
The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

 on 11 December 1905. The persecution of the Church led to a counter-revolution known as the Revolt in the Vendée, whose suppression is considered by some to be the first modern genocide
Genocides in history
Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group. It is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in...

.

Intrigues and radicalism


Factions within the Assembly began to clarify. The aristocrat
Aristocracy
Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

 Jacques Antoine Marie de Cazalès
Jacques Antoine Marie de Cazalès
Jacques Antoine Marie de Cazalès was a French orator and politician.-Biography:He was born at Grenade, Haute-Garonne, in a family of the lower nobility....

 and the abbé
Abbé
Abbé is the French word for abbot. It is the title for lower-ranking Catholic clergymen in France....

 Jean-Sifrein Maury
Jean-Sifrein Maury
Jean-Sifrein Maury was a French cardinal and Archbishop of Paris.-Biography:The son of a poor cobbler, he was born on at Valréas in the Comtat-Venaissin, the enclave within France that belonged to the pope. His acuteness was observed by the priests of the seminary at Avignon, where he was educated...

 led what would become known as the right wing
Right-wing politics
In politics, Right, right-wing and rightist generally refer to support for a hierarchical society justified on the basis of an appeal to natural law or tradition. To varying degrees, the Right rejects the egalitarian objectives of left-wing politics, claiming that the imposition of equality is...

, the opposition to revolution (this party sat on the right-hand side of the Assembly). The "Royalist democrats" or monarchiens, allied with Necker
Jacques Necker
Jacques Necker was a French statesman of Swiss birth and finance minister of Louis XVI, a post he held in the lead-up to the French Revolution in 1789.-Early life:...

, inclined toward organising France along lines similar to the British constitution
Constitution of the United Kingdom
The constitution of the United Kingdom is the set of laws and principles under which the United Kingdom is governed.Unlike many other nations, the UK has no single core constitutional document. In this sense, it is said not to have a written constitution but an uncodified one...

al model; they included Jean Joseph Mounier
Jean Joseph Mounier
Jean Joseph Mounier was a French politician and judge.He was born at Grenoble . He studied law, and in 1783 obtained a judgeship at Grenoble. He took part in the struggle between the parlements and the court in 1788, and promoted the meeting of the estates of Dauphiné at Vizille , on the eve of...

, the Comte de Lally-Tollendal
Trophime-Gérard, marquis de Lally-Tollendal
Trophime-Gérard, marquis de Lally-Tollendal was a French politician.-Biography:Born in Paris, he was the legitimized son of the Thomas Arthur de Lally, and only discovered the secret of his birth on the day of his father's execution, when he devoted himself to clearing his father's memory...

, the comte de Clermont-Tonnerre
Stanislas Marie Adelaide, comte de Clermont-Tonnerre
Stanislas Marie Adélaïde, comte de Clermont-Tonnerre was a French politician.-Early life and career:Born in Pont-a-Mousson, in what is today the Meurthe-et-Moselle department in north-eastern France...

, and Pierre Victor Malouet, comte de Virieu
Pierre Victor, baron Malouet
Pierre Victor, baron Malouet , a French publicist and politician, was born at Riom .-Life:...

.

The "National Party", representing the centre or centre-left of the assembly, included Honoré Mirabeau, La Fayette, and Bailly; while Adrien Duport
Adrien Duport
Adrien Duport was a French politician, and lawyer.-Life:He was born in Paris...

, Barnave and Alexandre Lameth represented somewhat more extreme views. Almost alone in his radicalism on the left was the Arras lawyer Maximilien Robespierre
Maximilien Robespierre
Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre is one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. He largely dominated the Committee of Public Safety and was instrumental in the period of the Revolution commonly known as the Reign of Terror, which ended with his...

. Abbé Sieyès
Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès
Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès , commonly known as Abbé Sieyès, was a French Roman Catholic abbé and clergyman, one of the chief theorists of the French Revolution, French Consulate, and First French Empire...

 led in proposing legislation in this period and successfully forged consensus for some time between the political centre and the left
Left-wing politics
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist generally refer to support for social change to create a more egalitarian society...

. In Paris, various committees, the mayor, the assembly of representatives, and the individual districts each claimed authority independent of the others. The increasingly middle-class National Guard
National Guard (France)
The National Guard was the name given at the time of the French Revolution to the militias formed in each city, in imitation of the National Guard created in Paris. It was a military force separate from the regular army...

 under La Fayette also slowly emerged as a power in its own right, as did other self-generated assemblies.

The Assembly abolished the symbolic paraphernalia of the Ancien Régime— armorial bearings, liveries, etc. – which further alienated the more conservative nobles, and added to the ranks of the émigré
Émigré
Émigré is a French term that literally refers to a person who has "migrated out", but often carries a connotation of politico-social self-exile....

s. On 14 July 1790, and for several days following, crowds in the Champ de Mars
Champ de Mars
The Champ de Mars is a large public greenspace in Paris, France, located in the seventh arrondissement, between the Eiffel Tower to the northwest and the École Militaire to the southeast. The park is named after the Campus Martius in Rome, a tribute to the Roman god of war...

 celebrated the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille with the Fête de la Fédération
Fête de la Fédération
The Fête de la Fédération of the 14 July 1790 was a huge feast and official event to celebrate the establishment of the short-lived constitutional monarchy in France and what people of the time considered to be the happy conclusion of the French Revolution the outcome hoped for by the...

; Talleyrand performed a mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

; participants swore an oath of "fidelity to the nation, the law, and the king"; the King and the royal family actively participated.

The electors had originally chosen the members of the Estates-General to serve for a single year. However, by the terms of the Tennis Court Oath
Tennis Court Oath
The Tennis Court Oath was a pivotal event during the first days of the French Revolution. The Oath was a pledge signed by 576 of the 577 members from the Third Estate who were locked out of a meeting of the Estates-General on 20 June 1789...

, the communes had bound themselves to meet continuously until France had a constitution. Right-wing elements now argued for a new election, but Mirabeau prevailed, asserting that the status of the assembly had fundamentally changed, and that no new election should take place before completing the constitution.

In late 1790, the French army was in considerable disarray. The military officer corps was largely composed of noblemen, who found it increasingly difficult to maintain order within the ranks. In some cases, soldiers (drawn from the lower classes) had turned against their aristocratic commanders and attacked them. At Nancy, General Bouillé
François Claude Amour, marquis de Bouillé
François Claude Amour, marquis de Bouillé was a French general. After distinguishing himself in the Seven Years' War, he was appointed governor of Guadeloupe in 1768...

 successfully put down one such rebellion, only to be accused of being anti-revolutionary for doing so. This and other such incidents spurred a mass desertion as more and more officers defected to other countries, leaving a dearth of experienced leadership within the army.

This period also saw the rise of the political "clubs" in French politics. Foremost among these was the Jacobin Club
Jacobin Club
The Jacobin Club was the most famous and influential political club in the development of the French Revolution, so-named because of the Dominican convent where they met, located in the Rue St. Jacques , Paris. The club originated as the Club Benthorn, formed at Versailles from a group of Breton...

; 152 members had affiliated with the Jacobins by 10 August 1790. The Jacobin Society began as a broad, general organization for political debate, but as it grew in members, various factions developed with widely differing views. Several of these fractions broke off to form their own clubs, such as the Club of '89.

Meanwhile, the Assembly continued to work on developing a constitution. A new judicial organisation made all magistracies temporary and independent of the throne. The legislators abolished hereditary offices, except for the monarchy itself. Jury trial
Jury trial
A jury trial is a legal proceeding in which a jury either makes a decision or makes findings of fact which are then applied by a judge...

s started for criminal cases. The King would have the unique power to propose war, with the legislature then deciding whether to declare war. The Assembly abolished all internal trade barriers and suppressed guilds, masterships, and workers' organisations: any individual gained the right to practice a trade through the purchase of a license; strikes became illegal.

In the winter of 1791, the Assembly considered, for the first time, legislation against the émigrés. The debate pitted the safety of the Revolution against the liberty of individuals to leave. Mirabeau prevailed against the measure, which he referred to as "worthy of being placed in the code of Draco". But Mirabeau died on 2 April 1791 and, before the end of the year, the new Legislative Assembly adopted this draconian measure.

Royal flight to Varennes


Louis XVI, egged on by Marie Antoinette and other members of his family, opposed the course of the Revolution, but rejected the potentially treacherous aid of the other monarchs of Europe. He cast his lot with General Bouillé
François Claude Amour, marquis de Bouillé
François Claude Amour, marquis de Bouillé was a French general. After distinguishing himself in the Seven Years' War, he was appointed governor of Guadeloupe in 1768...

, who condemned both the emigration and the Assembly, and promised him refuge and support in his camp at Montmédy
Montmédy
Montmédy is a commune in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France.-Citadel of Montmédy:In 1221 the first castle of Montmédy was built on top of a hill by the Count of Chiny. Montmédy became soon the capital of his territory - later it belonged to Luxembourg, Burgundy, Austria and...

. On the night of 20 June 1791, the royal family fled the Tuileries Palace
Tuileries Palace
The Tuileries Palace was a royal palace in Paris which stood on the right bank of the River Seine until 1871, when it was destroyed in the upheaval during the suppression of the Paris Commune...

 dressed as servants, while their servants dressed as nobles.

However, late the next day, the King was recognised and arrested at Varennes (in the Meuse
Meuse
Meuse is a department in northeast France, named after the River Meuse.-History:Meuse is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

 département). He and his family were brought back to Paris under guard, still dressed as servants. Pétion
Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve
Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve was a French writer and politician.Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve was the son of a at Chartres. Though it is known that he was trained as a lawyer, very few specifics are known about Petion’s early life, as he was virtually unknown prior to the French Revolution...

, Latour-Maubourg
Marie Victor de Fay, marquis de Latour-Maubourg
Marie Victor Nicolas de Fay, marquis de Latour-Maubourg was a French cavalry commander starting under the Ancien Régime of France, and rising to prominence during the First French Empire...

, and Antoine Pierre Joseph Marie Barnave, representing the Assembly, met the royal family at Épernay
Épernay
Épernay is a commune in the Marne department in northern France. Épernay is located some 130 km north-east of Paris on the main line of the Eastern railway to Strasbourg...

 and returned with them. From this time, Barnave became a counselor and supporter of the royal family. When they returned to Paris, the crowd greeted them in silence. The Assembly provisionally suspended the King. He and Queen Marie Antoinette remained held under guard.

Completing the constitution



As most of the Assembly still favoured a constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

 rather than a republic, the various groups reached a compromise which left Louis XVI as little more than a figurehead: he was forced to swear an oath to the constitution, and a decree declared that retracting the oath, heading an army for the purpose of making war upon the nation, or permitting anyone to do so in his name would amount to abdication.

However, Jacques Pierre Brissot
Jacques Pierre Brissot
Jacques Pierre Brissot , who assumed the name of de Warville, was a leading member of the Girondist movement during the French Revolution. Some sources give his name as Jean Pierre Brissot.-Biography:...

 drafted a petition, insisting that in the eyes of the nation Louis XVI was deposed since his flight. An immense crowd gathered in the Champ de Mars
Champ de Mars
The Champ de Mars is a large public greenspace in Paris, France, located in the seventh arrondissement, between the Eiffel Tower to the northwest and the École Militaire to the southeast. The park is named after the Campus Martius in Rome, a tribute to the Roman god of war...

 to sign the petition. Georges Danton
Georges Danton
Georges Jacques Danton was leading figure in the early stages of the French Revolution and the first President of the Committee of Public Safety. Danton's role in the onset of the Revolution has been disputed; many historians describe him as "the chief force in theoverthrow of the monarchy and the...

 and Camille Desmoulins
Camille Desmoulins
Lucie Simplice Camille Benoît Desmoulins was a journalist and politician who played an important role in the French Revolution. He was a childhood friend of Maximilien Robespierre and a close friend and political ally of Georges Danton, who were influential figures in the French Revolution.-Early...

 gave fiery speeches. The Assembly called for the municipal authorities to "preserve public order". The National Guard under La Fayette's command confronted the crowd. The soldiers responded to a barrage of stones by firing into the crowd, killing between 13 and 50 people.

In the wake of this massacre the authorities closed many of the patriotic clubs, as well as radical newspapers such as Jean-Paul Marat
Jean-Paul Marat
Jean-Paul Marat , born in the Principality of Neuchâtel, was a physician, political theorist, and scientist best known for his career in France as a radical journalist and politician during the French Revolution...

's L'Ami du Peuple
L'Ami du peuple
L'Ami du peuple was a newspaper written by Jean-Paul Marat during the French Revolution. “The most celebrated radical paper of the Revolution”, according to historian Jeremy D...

. Danton fled to England; Desmoulins and Marat went into hiding.

Meanwhile, a new threat arose from abroad: Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II
Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor
Leopold II , born Peter Leopold Joseph Anton Joachim Pius Gotthard, was Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary and Bohemia from 1790 to 1792, Archduke of Austria and Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1765 to 1790. He was a son of Emperor Francis I and his wife, Empress Maria Theresa...

, Frederick William II of Prussia
Frederick William II of Prussia
Frederick William II was the King of Prussia, reigning from 1786 until his death. He was in personal union the Prince-Elector of Brandenburg and the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel.-Early life:...

, and the King's brother Charles-Philippe, comte d'Artois
Charles X of France
Charles X was known for most of his life as the Comte d'Artois before he reigned as King of France and of Navarre from 16 September 1824 until 2 August 1830. A younger brother to Kings Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, he supported the latter in exile and eventually succeeded him...

, issued the Declaration of Pillnitz
Declaration of Pillnitz
The Declaration of Pillnitz was a statement issued on 27 August 1791 at Pillnitz Castle near Dresden by the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II and Frederick William II of Prussia...

, which considered the cause of Louis XVI as their own, demanded his absolute liberty and implied an invasion of France on his behalf if the revolutionary authorities refused its conditions. The French people expressed no respect for the dictates of foreign monarchs, and the threat of force merely hastened their militarisation.

Even before the "Flight to Varennes", the Assembly members had determined to debar themselves from the legislature that would succeed them, the Legislative Assembly. They now gathered the various constitutional laws they had passed into a single constitution, showed remarkable strength in choosing not to use this as an occasion for major revisions, and submitted it to the recently restored Louis XVI, who accepted it, writing "I engage to maintain it at home, to defend it from all attacks from abroad, and to cause its execution by all the means it places at my disposal". The King addressed the Assembly and received enthusiastic applause from members and spectators. With this capstone, the National Constituent Assembly adjourned in a final session on 30 September 1791.

Mignet argued that the "constitution of 1791... was the work of the middle class, then the strongest; for, as is well known, the predominant force ever takes possession of institutions... In this constitution the people was the source of all powers, but it exercised none."

Failure of the constitutional monarchy



Under the Constitution of 1791
French Constitution of 1791
The short-lived French Constitution of 1791 was the first written constitution of France. One of the basic precepts of the revolution was adopting constitutionality and establishing popular sovereignty, following the steps of the United States of America...

, France would function as a constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

. The King had to share power with the elected Legislative Assembly
Legislative Assembly (France)
During the French Revolution, the Legislative Assembly was the legislature of France from 1 October 1791 to September 1792. It provided the focus of political debate and revolutionary law-making between the periods of the National Constituent Assembly and of the National Convention.The Legislative...

, but he still retained his royal veto and the ability to select ministers. The Legislative Assembly first met on 1 October 1791, and degenerated into chaos less than a year later. In the words of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica: "In the attempt to govern, the Assembly failed altogether. It left behind an empty treasury
Treasury
A treasury is either*A government department related to finance and taxation.*A place where currency or precious items is/are kept....

, an undisciplined army and navy, and a people debauched by safe and successful riot." The Legislative Assembly consisted of about 165 Feuillant
Feuillant (political group)
The Feuillants were a political grouping that emerged during the French Revolution. It came into existence from a split within the Jacobins from those opposing the overthrow of the king and proposing a constitutional monarchy. The deputies publicly split with the Jacobins when they published a...

s (constitutional monarchists) on the right
Right-wing politics
In politics, Right, right-wing and rightist generally refer to support for a hierarchical society justified on the basis of an appeal to natural law or tradition. To varying degrees, the Right rejects the egalitarian objectives of left-wing politics, claiming that the imposition of equality is...

, about 330 Girondist
Girondist
The Girondists were a political faction in France within the Legislative Assembly and the National Convention during the French Revolution...

s (liberal republicans) and Jacobin
Jacobin (politics)
A Jacobin , in the context of the French Revolution, was a member of the Jacobin Club, a revolutionary far-left political movement. The Jacobin Club was the most famous political club of the French Revolution. So called from the Dominican convent where they originally met, in the Rue St. Jacques ,...

s (radical revolutionaries) on the left
Left-wing politics
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist generally refer to support for social change to create a more egalitarian society...

, and about 250 deputies unaffiliated with either faction. Early on, the King vetoed legislation that threatened the émigrés with death and that decreed that every non-juring clergyman
Civil Constitution of the Clergy
The Civil Constitution of the Clergy was a law passed on 12 July 1790 during the French Revolution, that subordinated the Roman Catholic Church in France to the French government....

 must take within eight days the civic oath mandated by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Over the course of a year, such disagreements would lead to a constitutional crisis
Constitutional crisis
A constitutional crisis is a situation that the legal system's constitution or other basic principles of operation appear unable to resolve; it often results in a breakdown in the orderly operation of government...

.

Constitutional crisis



On the night of 10 August 1792, insurgents and popular militias
Fédéré
The term "fédérés" most commonly refers to the troops who volunteered for the French National Guard in the summer of 1792 during the French Revolution...

, supported by the revolutionary Paris Commune
Paris Commune (French Revolution)
The Paris Commune during the French Revolution was the government of Paris from 1789 until 1795. Established in the Hôtel de Ville just after the storming of the Bastille, the Commune became insurrectionary in the summer of 1792, essentially refusing to take orders from the central French...

, assailed the Tuileries Palace and massacred the Swiss Guard
Swiss Guard
Swiss Guards or Schweizergarde is the name given to the Swiss soldiers who have served as bodyguards, ceremonial guards, and palace guards at foreign European courts since the late 15th century. They have had a high reputation for discipline, as well as loyalty to their employers...

s who were assigned for the protection of the king. The royal family ended up prisoners and a rump session
Rump legislature
A Rump legislature is a legislature formed of part, usually a minority, of the legislators originally elected or appointed to office.The word "rump" normally refers to the back end of an animal; its use meaning "remnant" was first recorded in the context of the 17th century Rump Parliament in England...

 of the Legislative Assembly suspended the monarchy; little more than a third of the deputies were present, almost all of them Jacobins.

What remained of a national government depended on the support of the insurrectionary Commune. The Commune sent gangs into the prisons to try arbitrarily and butcher 1400 victims, and addressed a circular letter to the other cities of France inviting them to follow this example. The Assembly could offer only feeble resistance. This situation persisted until the Convention, elected by universal male suffrage and charged with writing a new constitution, met on 20 September 1792 and became the new de facto government of France. The next day it abolished the monarchy
Proclamation of the abolition of the monarchy
During the French Revolution, the proclamation of the abolition of the monarchy was a proclamation by the National Convention of France announcing that it had abolished the French monarchy on 21 September 1792.-Prelude:...

 and declared a republic. This date was later retroactively adopted as the beginning of Year One
Year One
The term "Year One" in political history usually refers to the institution of radical, revolutionary change. This usage dates from the time of the French Revolution: after the abolition of the French monarchy , the National Convention instituted the new French Revolutionary Calendar, declaring that...

 of the French Republican Calendar
French Republican Calendar
The French Republican Calendar or French Revolutionary Calendar was a calendar created and implemented during the French Revolution, and used by the French government for about 12 years from late 1793 to 1805, and for 18 days by the Paris Commune in 1871...

.

War and Counter-Revolution (1792–1797)


The politics of the period inevitably drove France towards war with Austria and its allies. The King, many of the Feuillants and the Girondins specifically wanted to wage war. The King (and many Feuillants with him) expected war would increase his personal popularity; he also foresaw an opportunity to exploit any defeat: either result would make him stronger. The Girondins wanted to export the Revolution throughout Europe and, by extension, to defend the Revolution within France. The forces opposing war were much weaker. Barnave and his supporters among the Feuillants feared a war they thought France had little chance to win and which they feared might lead to greater radicalization of the revolution. On the other end of the political spectrum Robespierre opposed a war on two grounds, fearing that it would strengthen the monarchy and military at the expense of the revolution, and that it would incur the anger of ordinary people in Austria and elsewhere. The Austrian emperor Leopold II
Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor
Leopold II , born Peter Leopold Joseph Anton Joachim Pius Gotthard, was Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary and Bohemia from 1790 to 1792, Archduke of Austria and Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1765 to 1790. He was a son of Emperor Francis I and his wife, Empress Maria Theresa...

, brother of Marie Antoinette, may have wished to avoid war, but he died on 1 March 1792. France preemptively declared war on Austria (20 April 1792) and Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 joined on the Austrian side a few weeks later. The invading Prussian army faced little resistance until checked at the Battle of Valmy
Battle of Valmy
The Battle of Valmy was the first major victory by the army of France during the French Revolution. The action took place on 20 September 1792 as Prussian troops commanded by the Duke of Brunswick attempted to march on Paris...

 (20 September 1792), and forced to withdraw.

The new-born Republic followed up on this success with a series of victories in Belgium and the Rhineland
Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

 in the fall of 1792. The French armies defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Jemappes
Battle of Jemappes
The Battle of Jemappes took place near the town of Jemappes in Hainaut, Belgium, near Mons. General Charles François Dumouriez, in command of the French Revolutionary Army, defeated the greatly outnumbered Austrian army of Field Marshal Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen and his second-in-command...

 on 6 November, and had soon taken over most of the Austrian Netherlands. This brought them into conflict with Britain and the Dutch Republic
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

, which wished to preserve the independence of the southern Netherlands from France. After the king's execution in January 1793, these powers, along with Spain and most other European states, joined the war against France. Almost immediately, French forces faced defeat on many fronts, and were driven out of their newly conquered territories in the spring of 1793. At the same time, the republican regime was forced to deal with rebellions against its authority in much of western and southern France. But the allies failed to take advantage of French disunity, and by the autumn of 1793 the republican regime had defeated most of the internal rebellions and halted the allied advance into France itself.

The stalemate was broken in the summer of 1794 with dramatic French victories. They defeated the allied army at the Battle of Fleurus
Battle of Fleurus (1794)
In the Battle of Fleurus on 26 June 1794, the army of the First French Republic under General Jean-Baptiste Jourdan faced the Coalition Army commanded by Prince Josias of Coburg in the most decisive battle of the Flanders Campaign in the Low Countries during the French Revolutionary Wars...

, leading to a full Allied withdrawal from the Austrian Netherlands. They followed up by a campaign which swept the allies to the east bank of the Rhine and left the French, by the beginning of 1795, conquering Holland itself. The House of Orange was expelled and replaced by the Batavian Republic
Batavian Republic
The Batavian Republic was the successor of the Republic of the United Netherlands. It was proclaimed on January 19, 1795, and ended on June 5, 1806, with the accession of Louis Bonaparte to the throne of the Kingdom of Holland....

, a French satellite state. These victories led to the collapse of the coalition against France. Prussia, having effectively abandoned the coalition in the fall of 1794, made peace with revolutionary France at Basel
Peace of Basel
The Peace of Basel of 1795 consists of three peace treaties involving France .* The first of the three treaties of 1795, France made peace with Prussia on 5 April; , * The Second was with Spain on 22 July, ending the War of the Pyrenees; and*...

 in April 1795, and soon thereafter Spain, too, made peace with France. Of the major powers, only Britain and Austria remained at war with France.
It was during this time that La Marseillaise
La Marseillaise
"La Marseillaise" is the national anthem of France. The song, originally titled "Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin" was written and composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 1792. The French National Convention adopted it as the Republic's anthem in 1795...

 was first sung. Originally titled Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin ("War Song for the Army of the Rhine"), the song was written and composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle , was a French Army officer of the Revolutionary Wars. He is known for writing the words and music of the Chant de guerre pour l'armée du Rhin in 1792, which would later be known as La Marseillaise and become the French national anthem.- Biography :Rouget de Lisle was...

 in 1792. It was adopted in 1795 as the nation's first anthem.

Execution of Louis XVI


Main Article: Execution of Louis XVI
Execution of Louis XVI
The execution of Louis XVI by means of the guillotine took place on 21 January 1793 at the Place de la Révolution in Paris. It was a major event of the French Revolution...

See Also: Robespierre and the Execution of Louis XVI

In the Brunswick Manifesto, the Imperial and Prussian armies threatened retaliation on the French population if it were to resist their advance or the reinstatement of the monarchy. This among other things
Armoire de fer
L'armoire de fer refers to a hiding place at the apartments of Louis XVI of France at the Tuileries Palace where some secret documents were kept. The existence of this iron cabinet, hidden behind wooden panelling, was publicly revealed in November 1792 to Roland, Girondin Minister of the Interior...

 made Louis appear to be conspiring with the enemies of France. 17 January 1793 saw Louis condemned to death for "conspiracy against the public liberty and the general safety" by a close majority in Convention: 361 voted to execute the king, 288 voted against, and another 72 voted to execute him subject to a variety of delaying conditions. The former Louis XVI, now simply named Citoyen Louis Capet (Citizen Louis Capet), was executed by guillotine
Guillotine
The guillotine is a device used for carrying out :executions by decapitation. It consists of a tall upright frame from which an angled blade is suspended. This blade is raised with a rope and then allowed to drop, severing the head from the body...

 on 21 January 1793 on the Place de la Révolution, former Place Louis XV, now called the Place de la Concorde
Place de la Concorde
The Place de la Concorde in area, it is the largest square in the French capital. It is located in the city's eighth arrondissement, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées.- History :...

. Royalty across Europe was horrified and many heretofore neutral countries soon joined the war against revolutionary France.

Economy


When war went badly, prices rose and the sans-culottes
Sans-culottes
In the French Revolution, the sans-culottes were the radical militants of the lower classes, typically urban laborers. Though ill-clad and ill-equipped, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars...

 — poor labourers and radical Jacobins – rioted; counter-revolutionary activities began in some regions. This encouraged the Jacobins to seize power through a parliamentary coup
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

, backed up by force effected by mobilising public support against the Girondist faction, and by utilising the mob power of the Parisian sans-culottes. An alliance of Jacobin and sans-culottes elements thus became the effective centre of the new government. Policy became considerably more radical, as "The Law of the Maximum"
General maximum
General Maximum or The Law of the Maximum was a law created during the course of the French Revolution as an extension of the Law of Suspects on 29 September 1793...

 set food prices and led to executions of offenders. This policy of price control was coeval with the Committee of Public Safety
Committee of Public Safety
The Committee of Public Safety , created in April 1793 by the National Convention and then restructured in July 1793, formed the de facto executive government in France during the Reign of Terror , a stage of the French Revolution...

's rise to power and the Reign of Terror
Reign of Terror
The Reign of Terror , also known simply as The Terror , was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of...

. The Committee first attempted to set the price for only a limited number of grain products but, by September 1793, it expanded the "maximum" to cover all foodstuffs and a long list of other goods. Widespread shortages and famine ensued. The Committee reacted by sending dragoon
Dragoon
The word dragoon originally meant mounted infantry, who were trained in horse riding as well as infantry fighting skills. However, usage altered over time and during the 18th century, dragoons evolved into conventional light cavalry units and personnel...

s into the countryside to arrest farmers and seize crops. This temporarily solved the problem in Paris, but the rest of the country suffered. By the spring of 1794, forced collection of food was not sufficient to feed even Paris and the days of the Committee were numbered. When Robespierre went to the guillotine in July of that year the crowd jeered, "There goes the dirty maximum!"

Reign of Terror





The Committee of Public Safety
Committee of Public Safety
The Committee of Public Safety , created in April 1793 by the National Convention and then restructured in July 1793, formed the de facto executive government in France during the Reign of Terror , a stage of the French Revolution...

 came under the control of Maximilien Robespierre
Maximilien Robespierre
Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre is one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. He largely dominated the Committee of Public Safety and was instrumental in the period of the Revolution commonly known as the Reign of Terror, which ended with his...

, a lawyer, and the Jacobins unleashed the Reign of Terror (1793–1794). According to archival records, at least 16,594 people died under the guillotine
Guillotine
The guillotine is a device used for carrying out :executions by decapitation. It consists of a tall upright frame from which an angled blade is suspended. This blade is raised with a rope and then allowed to drop, severing the head from the body...

 or otherwise after accusations of counter-revolutionary activities. A number of historians note that as many as 40,000 accused prisoners may have been summarily executed without trial or died awaiting trial.

On 2 June 1793, Paris sections — encouraged by the enragés
Enragés
Les Enragés were a loose amalgam of radicals active during the French Revolution. Politically they stood to the left of the Jacobins. Represented by Jacques Roux, Théophile Leclerc, Jean Varlet and others, they believed that liberty for all meant more than mere constitutional rights...

 ("enraged ones") Jacques Roux
Jacques Roux
Jacques Roux was a radical Roman Catholic priest that took an active role in the revolutionary politics of Paris 1789, during the French Revolution...

 and Jacques Hébert
Jacques Hébert
Jacques René Hébert was a French journalist, and the founder and editor of the extreme radical newspaper Le Père Duchesne during the French Revolution...

 – took over the Convention, calling for administrative and political purges, a low fixed price for bread, and a limitation of the electoral franchise
Suffrage
Suffrage, political franchise, or simply the franchise, distinct from mere voting rights, is the civil right to vote gained through the democratic process...

 to sans-culottes
Sans-culottes
In the French Revolution, the sans-culottes were the radical militants of the lower classes, typically urban laborers. Though ill-clad and ill-equipped, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars...

 alone. With the backing of the National Guard
National Guard (France)
The National Guard was the name given at the time of the French Revolution to the militias formed in each city, in imitation of the National Guard created in Paris. It was a military force separate from the regular army...

, they managed to persuade the Convention to arrest 31 Girondin leaders, including Jacques Pierre Brissot
Jacques Pierre Brissot
Jacques Pierre Brissot , who assumed the name of de Warville, was a leading member of the Girondist movement during the French Revolution. Some sources give his name as Jean Pierre Brissot.-Biography:...

. Following these arrests, the Jacobins gained control of the Committee of Public Safety on 10 June, installing the revolutionary dictatorship. On 13 July, the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat
Jean-Paul Marat
Jean-Paul Marat , born in the Principality of Neuchâtel, was a physician, political theorist, and scientist best known for his career in France as a radical journalist and politician during the French Revolution...

 — a Jacobin leader and journalist known for his bloodthirsty rhetoric — by Charlotte Corday
Charlotte Corday
Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d'Armont , known to history as Charlotte Corday, was a figure of the French Revolution. In 1793, she was executed under the guillotine for the assassination of Jacobin leader Jean-Paul Marat, who was in part responsible, through his role as a politician and...

, a Girondin, resulted in further increase of Jacobin political influence. Georges Danton
Georges Danton
Georges Jacques Danton was leading figure in the early stages of the French Revolution and the first President of the Committee of Public Safety. Danton's role in the onset of the Revolution has been disputed; many historians describe him as "the chief force in theoverthrow of the monarchy and the...

, the leader of the August 1792 uprising against the King
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before being executed in 1793....

, undermined by several political reversals, was removed from the Committee and Robespierre, "the Incorruptible", became its most influential member as it moved to take radical measures against the Revolution's domestic and foreign enemies.

Meanwhile, on 24 June, the Convention adopted the first republican constitution of France, variously referred to as the French Constitution of 1793
French Constitution of 1793
The Constitution of 24 June 1793 , also known as the Constitution of the Year I, or the The Montagnard Constitution , was the constitution instated by the Montagnards and by popular referendum under the First Republic during the French Revolution...

 or Constitution of the Year I. It was progressive and radical in several respects, in particular by establishing universal male suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

. It was ratified by public referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

, but normal legal processes were suspended before it could take effect.

War in the Vendée


In Vendée
Vendée
The Vendée is a department in the Pays-de-la-Loire region in west central France, on the Atlantic Ocean. The name Vendée is taken from the Vendée river which runs through the south-eastern part of the department.-History:...

, peasants revolted against the French Revolutionary government in 1793. They resented the changes imposed on the Roman Catholic Church by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy
Civil Constitution of the Clergy
The Civil Constitution of the Clergy was a law passed on 12 July 1790 during the French Revolution, that subordinated the Roman Catholic Church in France to the French government....

 (1790) and broke into open revolt in defiance of the Revolutionary government's military conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

. This became a guerrilla war
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

, known as the War in the Vendée. North of the Loire, similar revolts were started by the so-called Chouans
Chouannerie
The Chouannerie was a royalist uprising in twelve of the western departements of France, particularly in the provinces of Brittany and Maine, against the French Revolution, the First French Republic, and even, with its headquarters in London rather than France, for a time, under the Empire...

 (royalist rebels).

After the defeat at Savenay
Savenay
Savenay is a commune in the Loire-Atlantique department in western France and the Pays de la Loire region. Located on the Sillon de Bretagne , north of the Loire, its landscape is characterized by the hillside overlooking the marshes of the Loire...

, when regular warfare in the Vendée was at an end, the French general Francois Joseph Westermann
François Joseph Westermann
François Joseph Westermann was a French general of the Revolutionary Wars and political figure of the French Revolution.-Career:...

 is argued by some historians to have penned a letter (its veracity is disputed) to the Committee of Public Safety, stating:
"There is no more Vendée. It died with its wives and its children by our free sabres. I have just buried it in the woods and the swamps of Savenay. According to the orders that you gave me, I crushed the children under the feet of the horses, massacred the women who, at least for these, will not give birth to any more brigands. I do not have a prisoner to reproach me. I have exterminated all. The roads are sown with corpses. At Savenay, brigands are arriving all the time claiming to surrender, and we are shooting them non-stop... Mercy is not a revolutionary sentiment."

Other historians doubt the authenticity of this document and point out that the claims in it were patently false — there were in fact thousands of living Vendean prisoners, the revolt had been far from crushed, and the Convention had explicitly decreed that women, children and unarmed men were to be treated humanely. It has been hypothesized that if the letter is authentic, Westermann may have been attempting to exaggerate the intensity of his actions and his success, because he was eager to avoid being purged for his opposition to sans-culotte generals (he was later guillotined together with Danton's group).

The revolt and its suppression, including both combat casualties and massacres and executions on both sides, are thought to have taken between 117,000 and 250,000 lives (170,000 according to the latest estimates). Because of the extremely brutal forms that the Republican repression took in many places, certain historians such as Reynald Secher have called the event a "genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

". This description has become popular in the mass media, but has largely been rejected by mainstream scholars.

Facing local revolts and foreign invasions in both the East and West of the country, the most urgent government business was the war. On 17 August, the Convention voted for general conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

, the levée en masse
Levée en masse
Levée en masse is a French term for mass conscription during the French Revolutionary Wars, particularly for the one from 16 August 1793.- Terminology :...

, which mobilized all citizens to serve as soldiers or suppliers in the war effort.

The National Convention
National Convention
During the French Revolution, the National Convention or Convention, in France, comprised the constitutional and legislative assembly which sat from 20 September 1792 to 26 October 1795 . It held executive power in France during the first years of the French First Republic...

 subsequently enacted more legislation, voting on 9 September to establish sans-culottes paramilitary forces, revolutionary armies, and to force farmers to surrender grain
GRAIN
GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems. Our support takes the form of independent research and analysis, networking at local, regional and...

 demanded by the government. On 17 September, the Law of Suspects
Law of Suspects
The Law of Suspects is a term which is used to refer to an enactment passed on 17 September 1793 during the course of the French Revolution. It allowed for the creation of revolutionary tribunals to try those who were suspected of treason against the Republic and to punish those convicted with death...

 was passed, which authorized the charging of counter-revolutionaries with "crimes against liberty." On 29 September, the Convention extended price limits from grain and bread to other household goods and established the Law of the Maximum
General maximum
General Maximum or The Law of the Maximum was a law created during the course of the French Revolution as an extension of the Law of Suspects on 29 September 1793...

, intended to prevent price gouging and supply food to the cities.

The guillotine as a symbol


The guillotine
Guillotine
The guillotine is a device used for carrying out :executions by decapitation. It consists of a tall upright frame from which an angled blade is suspended. This blade is raised with a rope and then allowed to drop, severing the head from the body...

 became the symbol of a string of executions. Louis XVI had already been guillotined before the start of the terror; Queen Marie Antoinette, Barnave, Bailly, Brissot and other leading Girondins, Philippe Égalité (despite his vote for the death of the King), Madame Roland
Madame Roland
Marie-Jeanne Roland, better known simply as Madame Roland and born Marie-Jeanne Phlipon , was, together with her husband Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière, a supporter of the French Revolution and influential member of the Girondist faction...

 and many others were executed by guillotine. The Revolutionary Tribunal
Revolutionary Tribunal
The Revolutionary Tribunal was a court which was instituted in Paris by the Convention during the French Revolution for the trial of political offenders, and eventually became one of the most powerful engines of the Reign of Terror....

 summarily condemned thousands of people to death by the guillotine, while mobs beat other victims to death.

At the peak of the terror, the slightest hint of counter-revolutionary thoughts or activities (or, as in the case of Jacques Hébert
Jacques Hébert
Jacques René Hébert was a French journalist, and the founder and editor of the extreme radical newspaper Le Père Duchesne during the French Revolution...

, revolutionary zeal exceeding that of those in power) could place one under suspicion, and trials did not always proceed according to contemporary standards of due process
Due process
Due process is the legal code that the state must venerate all of the legal rights that are owed to a person under the principle. Due process balances the power of the state law of the land and thus protects individual persons from it...

. Sometimes people died for their political opinions or actions, but many for little reason beyond mere suspicion, or because some others had a stake in getting rid of them. Most of the victims received an unceremonious trip to the guillotine in an open wooden cart (the tumbrel
Tumbrel
A tumbrel , is a two-wheeled cart or wagon typically designed to be hauled by a single horse or ox. Their original use was for agricultural work in particular they were associated with carrying manure. Their most notable use was taking prisoners to the guillotine during the French Revolution. They...

). In the rebellious provinces, the government representatives had unlimited authority and some engaged in extreme repressions and abuses. For example, Jean-Baptiste Carrier
Jean-Baptiste Carrier
Jean-Baptiste Carrier was a French Revolutionary, known for his cruelty to his enemies, especially to clergy.-Biography:...

 became notorious for the Noyades
Noyades
Noyades were drownings superintended during the Reign of Terror at Nantes, between November 1793 and January 1794, by the attorney Jean-Baptiste Carrier, the representative-on-mission....

 ("drownings") he organized in Nantes
Nantes
Nantes is a city in western France, located on the Loire River, from the Atlantic coast. The city is the 6th largest in France, while its metropolitan area ranks 8th with over 800,000 inhabitants....

; his conduct was judged unacceptable even by the Jacobin government and he was recalled.

Another anti-clerical
Anti-clericalism
Anti-clericalism is a historical movement that opposes religious institutional power and influence, real or alleged, in all aspects of public and political life, and the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen...

 uprising was made possible by the installment of the Republican Calendar
French Republican Calendar
The French Republican Calendar or French Revolutionary Calendar was a calendar created and implemented during the French Revolution, and used by the French government for about 12 years from late 1793 to 1805, and for 18 days by the Paris Commune in 1871...

 on 24 October 1793. Against Robespierre's concepts of Deism
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

 and Virtue
Virtue
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

, Hébert's (and Chaumette's) atheist
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 movement initiated a religious campaign to dechristianize
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 society. The climax was reached with the celebration of the flame of Reason in Notre Dame
Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame de Paris , also known as Notre Dame Cathedral, is a Gothic, Roman Catholic cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. It is the cathedral of the Catholic Archdiocese of Paris: that is, it is the church that contains the cathedra of...

 Cathedral on 10 November.

The Reign of Terror enabled the revolutionary government to avoid military defeat. The Jacobins expanded the size of the army, and Carnot
Lazare Carnot
Lazare Nicolas Marguerite, Comte Carnot , the Organizer of Victory in the French Revolutionary Wars, was a French politician, engineer, and mathematician.-Education and early life:...

 replaced many aristocratic officers with younger soldiers who had demonstrated their ability and patriotism. The Republican army was able to throw back the Austrians, Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

ns, British, and Spanish. At the end of 1793, the army began to prevail and revolts were defeated with ease. The Ventôse Decrees
Ventôse Decrees
The Ventôse Decrees were decrees proposed on February 26 and March 3, 1794 by the French revolutionary leader Louis de Saint-Just. Saint-Just proposed to confiscate the property of exiles and opponents of the Revolution, and redistribute it to the needy...

 (February–March 1794) proposed the confiscation of the goods of exiles and opponents of the Revolution, and their redistribution to the needy.

In the spring of 1794, both extremist enragés such as Hébert and moderate Montagnard
The Mountain
The Mountain refers in the context of the history of the French Revolution to a political group, whose members, called Montagnards, sat on the highest benches in the Assembly...

 indulgents such as Danton were charged with counter-revolutionary activities, tried and guillotined. On 7 June Robespierre, who had previously condemned the Cult of Reason
Cult of Reason
The Cult of Reason was an atheistic belief system established in France and intended as a replacement for Christianity during the French Revolution.-Origins:...

, advocated a new state religion and recommended the Convention acknowledge the existence of the "Supreme Being".

Thermidorian Reaction




On 27 July 1794, the Thermidorian Reaction
Thermidorian Reaction
The Thermidorian Reaction was a revolt in the French Revolution against the excesses of the Reign of Terror. It was triggered by a vote of the Committee of Public Safety to execute Maximilien Robespierre, Antoine Louis Léon de Saint-Just de Richebourg and several other leading members of the Terror...

 led to the arrest and execution of Robespierre, Louis de Saint-Just
Louis de Saint-Just
Louis Antoine Léon de Saint-Just , usually known as Saint-Just, was a military and political leader during the French Revolution. The youngest of the deputies elected to the National Convention in 1792, Saint-Just rose quickly in their ranks and became a major leader of the government of the French...

, and other leading Jacobins. The new government was predominantly made up of Girondists who had survived the Terror, and after taking power, they took revenge as well by persecuting even those Jacobins who had helped to overthrow Robespierre, banning the Jacobin Club, and executing many of its former members in what was known as the White Terror
White Terror
White Terror is the violence carried out by reactionary groups as part of a counter-revolution. In particular, during the 20th century, in several countries the term White Terror was applied to acts of violence against real or suspected socialists and communists.-Historical origin: the French...

.

In the wake of excesses of the Terror, the Convention approved the new "Constitution of the Year III" on 22 August 1795. A French plebiscite ratified the document, with about 1,057,000 votes for the constitution and 49,000 against. The results of the voting were announced on 23 September 1795, and the new constitution took effect on 27 September 1795.

The Constitutional Republic: The Directory (1795–1799)



The new constitution created the Directoire (Directory) and the first bicameral legislature in French history. The parliament consisted of two houses: the Conseil des Cinq-Cents (Council of the Five Hundred), with 500 representatives, and the Conseil des Anciens (Council of Elders), with 250 senators. Executive power went to five "directors," named annually by the Conseil des Anciens from a list submitted by the Conseil des Cinq-Cents. Furthermore, the universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

 of 1793 was replaced by limited suffrage based on property.

With the establishment of the Directory, contemporary observers might have assumed that the Revolution was finished. Citizens of the war-weary nation wanted stability, peace, and an end to conditions that at times bordered on chaos. Those who wished to restore the monarchy and the Ancien Régime by putting Louis XVIII
Louis XVIII of France
Louis XVIII , known as "the Unavoidable", was King of France and of Navarre from 1814 to 1824, omitting the Hundred Days in 1815...

 on the throne, and those who would have renewed the Reign of Terror were insignificant in number. The possibility of foreign interference had vanished with the failure of the First Coalition
First Coalition
The War of the First Coalition was the first major effort of multiple European monarchies to contain Revolutionary France. France declared war on the Habsburg monarchy of Austria on 20 April 1792, and the Kingdom of Prussia joined the Austrian side a few weeks later.These powers initiated a series...

. The earlier atrocities had made confidence or goodwill between parties impossible. The same instinct of self-preservation which had led the members of the Convention to claim so large a part in the new legislature and the whole of the Directory impelled them to keep their predominance. However, many French citizens distrusted the Directory, and the directors could achieve their purposes only by extraordinary means. They habitually disregarded the terms of the constitution, and, even when the elections that they rigged went against them, the directors routinely used draconian police measures to quell dissent. Moreover, to prolong their power the directors were driven to rely on the military, which desired war and grew less and less civic-minded.

Other reasons influenced them in the direction of war. State finances during the earlier phases of the Revolution had been so thoroughly ruined that the government could not have met its expenses without the plunder and the tribute of foreign countries. If peace were made, the armies would return home and the directors would have to face the exasperation of the rank-and-file who had lost their livelihood, as well as the ambition of generals who could, in a moment, brush them aside. Barras
Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de Barras
Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de Barras was a French politician of the French Revolution, and the main executive leader of the Directory regime of 1795–1799.-Early life:...

 and Rewbell
Jean-François Rewbell
Jean-François Rewbell was a French lawyer, diplomat, and politician of the Revolution.-The revolutionary:...

 were notoriously corrupt themselves and screened corruption in others. The patronage of the directors was ill-bestowed, and the general maladministration heightened their unpopularity.
The constitutional party in the legislature desired toleration of the nonjuring clergy
Civil Constitution of the Clergy
The Civil Constitution of the Clergy was a law passed on 12 July 1790 during the French Revolution, that subordinated the Roman Catholic Church in France to the French government....

, the repeal of the laws against the relatives of the émigré
Émigré
Émigré is a French term that literally refers to a person who has "migrated out", but often carries a connotation of politico-social self-exile....

s, and some merciful discrimination toward the émigrés themselves. The directors baffled all such endeavours. On the other hand, the socialist conspiracy of Babeuf
François-Noël Babeuf
François-Noël Babeuf , known as Gracchus Babeuf , was a French political agitator and journalist of the Revolutionary period...

 was easily quelled. Little was done to improve the finances, and the assignat
Assignat
Assignat was the type of a monetary instrument used during the time of the French Revolution, and the French Revolutionary Wars.- France :...

s continued to fall in value.

The new régime
Regime
The word regime refers to a set of conditions, most often of a political nature.-Politics:...

 met opposition from remaining Jacobins and the royalists. The army suppressed riots and counter-revolutionary activities. In this way the army and its successful general, Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 eventually gained total power.

On 9 November 1799 (18 Brumaire of the Year VIII) Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 staged the coup of 18 Brumaire
18 Brumaire
The coup of 18 Brumaire was the coup d'état by which General Napoleon Bonaparte overthrew the French Directory, replacing it with the French Consulate...

 which installed the Consulate
French Consulate
The Consulate was the government of France between the fall of the Directory in the coup of 18 Brumaire in 1799 until the start of the Napoleonic Empire in 1804...

. This effectively led to Bonaparte's dictatorship and eventually (in 1804) to his proclamation as Empereur (emperor), which brought to a close the specifically republic
Republicanism
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

an phase of the French Revolution.

Symbolism in the French Revolution



The French Revolution was a time of upheaval, especially towards traditional ideology, in almost every sense: the current monarch, King Louis XVI, was executed; the Catholic Church was all but abolished; a new calendar
French Republican Calendar
The French Republican Calendar or French Revolutionary Calendar was a calendar created and implemented during the French Revolution, and used by the French government for about 12 years from late 1793 to 1805, and for 18 days by the Paris Commune in 1871...

 was created; and a new Republican government was established. In order to effectively illustrate the differences between the new Republic and the old regime, the leaders needed to implement a new set of symbols to be celebrated instead of the old religious and monarchical symbolism. To this end, symbols were borrowed from historic cultures and redefined, while those of the old regime were either destroyed or reattributed acceptable characteristics. These revised symbols were used to instill in the public a new sense of tradition and reverence for the Enlightenment and the Republic.

Fasces


Fasces
Fasces
Fasces are a bundle of wooden sticks with an axe blade emerging from the center, which is an image that traditionally symbolizes summary power and jurisdiction, and/or "strength through unity"...

, likes many other symbols of the French Revolution, are Roman in origin. Fasces are a bundle of birch rods containing an axe. In Roman times, the fasces symbolized the power of magistrates who could order the beating of a criminal, representing union and accord with the Roman Republic. The French Republic continued this Roman symbol to represent state power, justice, and unity. During the French Revolution the fasces image is seen in conjunction with many other symbols. This is seen with many emblems of the French Revolution. Though seen throughout the French Revolution, perhaps the most well known French reincarnation of the fasces is the Fasces surmounted by a Phrygian cap. This image has no display of an axe or a strong central state; rather, it symbolizes the power of the liberated people by placing the Liberty Cap on top of the classical symbol of power.

Liberty cap


The Liberty cap, also known as the Phrygian cap
Phrygian cap
The Phrygian cap is a soft conical cap with the top pulled forward, associated in antiquity with the inhabitants of Phrygia, a region of central Anatolia. In the western provinces of the Roman Empire it came to signify freedom and the pursuit of liberty, perhaps through a confusion with the pileus,...

, or pileus
Pileus (hat)
The pileus — also pilleus or pilleum — was a cap worn by sailors in Ancient Greece and later copied by Ancient Rome. It was a brimless, felt cap, somewhat similar to a fez...

, is a brimless, felt cap that is conical in shape with the tip pulled forward. The cap was originally worn by ancient Romans and Greeks. The cap implies ennobling effects, as seen in its association with Homer’s Ulysses
Odysseus
Odysseus or Ulysses was a legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. Odysseus also plays a key role in Homer's Iliad and other works in the Epic Cycle....

 and the mythical twins, Castor and Pollux
Castor and Pollux
In Greek and Roman mythology, Castor and Pollux or Polydeuces were twin brothers, together known as the Dioscuri . Their mother was Leda, but Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus, king of Sparta, and Pollux the divine son of Zeus, who visited Leda in the guise of a swan...

. The emblem’s popularity during the French Revolution is due in part to its importance in ancient Rome: its use alludes to the Roman ritual of manumission of slaves, in which a freed slave receives the bonnet as a symbol of his newfound liberty. The Roman tribune Lucius Appuleius Saturninus
Lucius Appuleius Saturninus
Lucius Appuleius Saturninus was a Roman popularist and tribune; he was a political ally of Gaius Marius, and his downfall caused a great deal of political embarrassment for Marius, who absented himself from public life until he returned to take up a command in the Social War of 91 to 88...

 incited the slaves to insurrection by displaying a pileus as if it were a standard. The pileus cap is often red in color. This type of cap was worn by revolutionaries at the fall of the Bastille. According to the Revolutions de Paris, it became "the symbol of the liberation from all servitudes, the sign for unification of all the enemies of despotism." The pileus competed with the Phrygian cap, a similar cap that covered the ears and the nape of the neck, for popularity. The Phrygian cap eventually supplanted the pileus and usurped its symbolism, becoming synonymous with republican liberty.

Liberty Tree


The Liberty Tree, officially adopted in 1792, is a symbol of the everlasting Republic, national freedom, and political revolution. It has historic roots in revolutionary France as well as America, as a symbol that was shared by the two nascent republics. The tree was chosen as a symbol of the French Revolution because it is a symbol of fertility in French folklore, which provided a simple transition from revering it for one reason to another. The American colonies also used the idea of a Liberty Tree to celebrate their own acts of insurrection against the British, starting with the Stamp Act riot in 1765. The riot culminated in the hanging in effigy of two Stamp Act politicians on a large elm tree. The elm tree began to be celebrated as a symbol of Liberty in the American colonies. It was adopted as a symbol that needed to be living and growing, along with the Republic. To that end, the tree is portrayed as a sapling, usually of an oak tree in French interpretation. The Liberty Tree serves as a constant celebration of the spirit of political freedom.

Hercules


The symbol of Hercules
Hercules
Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus , and the mortal Alcmene...

 was first adopted by the Old Regime to represent the monarchy. Hercules was an ancient Greek hero who symbolized strength and power. The symbol was used to represent the sovereign authority of the King over France during the reign of the Bourbon monarchs
House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house, a branch of the Capetian dynasty . Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma...

. However, the monarchy was not the only ruling power in French history to use the symbol of Hercules to declare its power.

During the Revolution, the symbol of Hercules was revived to represent nascent revolutionary ideals. The first use of Hercules as a revolutionary symbol was during a festival celebrating the National Assembly’s
National Assembly (French Revolution)
During the French Revolution, the National Assembly , which existed from June 17 to July 9, 1789, was a transitional body between the Estates-General and the National Constituent Assembly.-Background:...

 victory over federalism on 10 August 1793. This Festival of Unity consisted of four stations around Paris which featured symbols representing major events of the Revolution which embodied revolutionary ideals of liberty, unity, and power. The statue of Hercules, placed at the station commemorating the fall of Louis XVI, symbolized the power of the French people over their former oppressors. The statue’s foot was placed on the throat of the Hydra
Lernaean Hydra
In Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra was an ancient nameless serpent-like chthonic water beast, with reptilian traits, that possessed many heads — the poets mention more heads than the vase-painters could paint, and for each head cut off it grew two more — and poisonous breath so virulent even...

, which represented the tyranny of federalism which the new Republic
French First Republic
The French First Republic was founded on 22 September 1792, by the newly established National Convention. The First Republic lasted until the declaration of the First French Empire in 1804 under Napoleon I...

 had vanquished. In one hand, the statue grasped a club, a symbol of power, while in the other grasping the fasces which symbolized the unity of the French people. The image of Hercules assisted the new Republic in establishing its new Republican moral system. Hercules thus evolved from a symbol of the sovereignty of the monarch into a symbol of the new sovereign authority in France: the French people. This transition was made easily for two reasons. First, because Hercules was a famous mythological figure, and had previously been used by the monarchy, he was easily recognized by educated French observers. It was not necessary for the revolutionary government to educate the French people on the background of the symbol. Additionally, Hercules recalled the classical age of the Greeks and the Romans, a period which the revolutionaries identified with republican
Republicanism
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

 and democratic
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 ideals. These connotations made Hercules an easy choice to represent the powerful new sovereign people of France.

During the more radical phase
Reign of Terror
The Reign of Terror , also known simply as The Terror , was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of...

 of the Revolution from 1793 to 1794, the usage and depiction of Hercules changed. These changes to the symbol were due to revolutionary leaders believing the symbol was inciting violence among the common citizens. The triumphant battles of Hercules and the overcoming of enemies of the Republic became less prominent. In discussions over what symbol to use for the Seal of the Republic, the image of Hercules was considered but eventually ruled out in favor of Marianne
Marianne
Marianne is a national emblem of France and an allegory of Liberty and Reason. She represents the state and values of France, differently from another French cultural symbol, the "Coq Gaulois" which represents France as a nation and its history, land, culture, and variety of sport disciplines in...

. Hercules was on the coin of the Republic. However, this Hercules was not the same image as that of the pre-Terror phases of the Revolution. The new image of Hercules was more domesticated. He appeared more paternal, older, and wiser, rather than the warrior-like images in the early stages of the French Revolution. Unlike his 24 foot statue in the Festival of the Supreme Being, he was now the same size as Liberty and Equality. Also the language on the coin with Hercules was far different than the rhetoric of pre-revolutionary depictions. On the coins the words, "uniting Liberty and Equality" were used. This is opposed to the forceful language of early Revolutionary rhetoric and rhetoric of the Bourbon monarchy. By 1798, the Council of Ancients
Council of Ancients
The Council of Ancients or Council of Elders was the upper house of the Directory , the legislature of France from 22 August 1795 until 9 November 1799, roughly the second half of the period generally referred to as the French Revolution.The Council of Ancients was the senior of the two halves of...

 had discussed the "inevitable" change from the problematic image of Hercules, and Hercules was eventually phased out in favor of an even more docile image.

Role of women


Women had no political rights in pre-Revolutionary France; they couldn’t vote or hold any political office. They were considered "passive" citizens; forced to rely on men to determine what was best for them in the government. It was the men who defined these categories, and women were forced to accept male domination in the political sphere. The Encyclopédie
Encyclopédie
Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers was a general encyclopedia published in France between 1751 and 1772, with later supplements, revised editions, and translations. It was edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert...

, published by a group of philosophers over the years 1751–1777, summarized French male beliefs of women. A woman was a "failed man," the fetus not fully developed in the womb. "Women’s testimony is in general light and subject to variation; this is why it is taken more seriously than that of men" as opposed to men, upon whom "Nature seems to have conferred… the right to govern." In general, "men are more capable than women of ably governing particular matters". Instead, women were taught to be committed to their husbands and "all his interests… [to show] attention and care… [and] sincere and discreet zeal for his salvation." A woman’s education often consisted of learning to be a good wife and mother; as a result women were not supposed to be involved in the political sphere, as the limit of their influence was the raising of future citizens.

When the Revolution opened, some women struck forcefully, using the volatile political climate to assert their active natures. In the time of the Revolution, women could not be kept out of the political sphere; they swore oaths of loyalty, "solemn declarations of patriotic allegiance, [and] affirmations of the political responsibilities of citizenship." Throughout the Revolution, women such as Pauline Léon
Pauline Léon
Pauline Léon , was a radical organizer and feminist during the French Revolution.-Biography:Léon was born to chocolate makers Pierre-Paul Léon and Mathrine Telohan in Paris on 28 September 1768, one of six children...

 and her Society of Revolutionary Republican Women
Society of Revolutionary Republican Women
The Society of Revolutionary Republican Women was a political club during the French Revolution formed July 9 1793, lasting less than five months...

 fought for the right to bear arms, used armed force and rioted.

Even before Léon, some liberals had advocated equal rights for women including women's suffrage
Women's suffrage
Women's suffrage or woman suffrage is the right of women to vote and to run for office. The expression is also used for the economic and political reform movement aimed at extending these rights to women and without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax, or...

. Nicolas de Condorcet
Marquis de Condorcet
Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet , known as Nicolas de Condorcet, was a French philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist whose Condorcet method in voting tally selects the candidate who would beat each of the other candidates in a run-off election...

 was especially noted for his advocacy, in his articles published in the Journal de la Société de 1789, and by publishing De l'admission des femmes au droit de cité ("For the Admission to the Rights of Citizenship For Women") in 1790.

Feminist agitation



The March to Versailles is but one example of feminist militant activism during the French Revolution. While largely left out of the thrust for increasing rights of citizens, as the question was left indeterminate in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, activists such as Pauline Léon
Pauline Léon
Pauline Léon , was a radical organizer and feminist during the French Revolution.-Biography:Léon was born to chocolate makers Pierre-Paul Léon and Mathrine Telohan in Paris on 28 September 1768, one of six children...

 and Théroigne de Méricourt
Anne Josephe Theroigne de Mericourt
Anne-Josèphe Théroigne de Méricourt , a French woman who was a figure in the French Revolution, was born at Marcourt , a small town in Luxembourg province in modern Belgium, on the banks of the Ourthe...

 agitated for full citizenship for women. Women were, nonetheless, "denied political rights of ‘active citizenship’ (1791) and democratic citizenship (1793)."

Pauline Léon, on 6 March 1792, submitted a petition signed by 319 women to the National Assembly requesting permission to form a garde national in order to defend Paris in case of military invasion. Léon requested permission be granted to women to arm themselves with pikes, pistols, sabers and rifles, as well as the privilege of drilling under the French Guards. Her request was denied. Later in 1792, Théroigne de Méricourt made a call for the creation of "legions of amazons" in order to protect the revolution. As part of her call, she claimed that the right to bear arm would transform women into citizens.

On 20 June 1792 a number of armed women took part in a procession that "passed through the halls of the Legislative Assembly, into the Tuilleries Gardens, and then through the King’s residence." Militant women also assumed a special role in the funeral of Marat
Jean-Paul Marat
Jean-Paul Marat , born in the Principality of Neuchâtel, was a physician, political theorist, and scientist best known for his career in France as a radical journalist and politician during the French Revolution...

, following his murder on 13 July 1793. As part of the funeral procession, they carried the bathtub in which Marat had been murdered as well as a shirt stained with Marat’s blood.

The most radical militant feminist activism was practiced by the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women, which was founded by Léon and her colleague, Claire Lacombe on 10 May 1793. The goal of the club was "to deliberate on the means of frustrating the projects of the enemies of the Republic." Up to 180 women attended the meetings of the Society. Of special interest to the Society was "combating hoarding [of grain and other staples] and inflation."

Later, on 20 May 1793, women were at the fore of a crowd that demanded "bread and the Constitution of 1793." When their cries went unnoticed, the women went on a rampage, "sacking shops, seizing grain and kidnapping officials."

Most of these outwardly activist women were punished for their actions. The kind of punishment received during the Revolution included public denouncement, arrest, execution, or exile. Théroigne de Méricourt was arrested, publicly flogged and then spent the rest of her life sentenced to an insane asylum. Pauline Léon and Claire Lacombe were arrested, later released, and continued to receive ridicule and abuse for their activism. Many of the women of the Revolution were even publicly executed for "conspiring against the unity and the indivisibility of the Republic".

These are but a few examples of the militant feminism that was prevalent during the French Revolution. While little progress was made toward gender equality during the Revolution, the activism of French feminists was bold and particularly significant in Paris.

Women writers



While some women chose a militant, and often violent, path, others chose to influence events through writing, publications, and meetings. Olympe de Gouges
Olympe de Gouges
Olympe de Gouges , born Marie Gouze, was a French playwright and political activist whose feminist and abolitionist writings reached a large audience....

 wrote a number of plays, short stories, and novels. Her publications emphasized that women and men are different, but this shouldn’t stop them from equality under the law. In her "Declaration on the Rights of Woman" she insisted that women deserved rights, especially in areas concerning them directly, such as divorce and recognition of illegitimate children. De Gouges also expressed non-gender political views; even before the start of the terror, Olympe de Gouges addressed Robespierre using the pseudonym "Polyme" calling him the Revolution’s "infamy and shame." She warned of the Revolution’s building extremism saying that leaders were "preparing new shackles if [the French people’s liberty were to] waver." Stating that she was willing to sacrifice herself by jumping into the Seine if Robespierre were to join her, de Gouges desperately attempted to grab the attention of the French citizenry and alert them to the dangers that Robespierre embodied. In addition to these bold writings, her defense of the king was one of the factors leading to her execution. An influential figure, one of her suggestions early in the Revolution, to have a voluntary, patriotic tax, was adopted by the National Convention in 1789.

Madame Roland
Madame Roland
Marie-Jeanne Roland, better known simply as Madame Roland and born Marie-Jeanne Phlipon , was, together with her husband Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière, a supporter of the French Revolution and influential member of the Girondist faction...

 (aka Manon or Marie Roland) was another important female activist. Her political focus was not specifically on women or their liberation. She focused on other aspects of the government, but was a feminist by virtue of the fact that she was a woman working to influence the world. Her personal letters to leaders of the Revolution influenced policy; in addition, she often hosted political gatherings of the Brissotins, a political group which allowed women to join. While limited by her gender, Madame Roland took it upon herself to spread Revolutionary ideology and spread word of events, as well as to assist in formulating the policies of her political allies. Though unable to directly write policies or carry them through to the government, Roland was able to influence her political allies and thus promote her political agenda. Roland attributed women’s lack of education to the public view that women were too weak or vain to be involved in the serious business of politics. She believed that it was this inferior education that turned them into foolish people, but women "could easily be concentrated and solidified upon objects of great significance" if given the chance. As she was led to the scaffold, Madame Roland shouted "O liberty! What crimes are committed in thy name!" Witnesses of her life and death, editors, and readers helped to finish her writings and several editions were published posthumously. While she did not focus on gender politics in her writings, by taking an active role in the tumultuous time of the Revolution, Roland took a stand for women of the time and proved they could take an intelligent active role in politics.

Though women did not gain the right to vote as a result of the Revolution, they still greatly expanded their political participation and involvement in governing. They set precedents for generations of feminists to come.

Counter-revolutionary Women


A major aspect of the French Revolution was the dechristianisation movement, a movement that many common people did not agree with. Especially for women living in rural areas of France, the demise of the Catholic Church meant a loss of normalcy. For instance, the ringing of Church bells resonating through the town called people to confession and was a symbol of unity for the community. With the onset of the dechristianisation campaign the Republic silenced these bells and sought simultaneously to silence the religious fervor of the majority Catholic
Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 population. When these revolutionary changes to the Church were implemented, it spawned a counter-revolutionary movement, particularly amongst women. Although some of these women embraced the political and social amendments of the Revolution, they opposed the dissolution of the Catholic Church and the formation of revolutionary cults like the Cult of the Supreme Being
Cult of the Supreme Being
The Cult of the Supreme Being was a form of deism established in France by Maximilien Robespierre during the French Revolution. It was intended to become the state religion of the new French Republic.- Origins :...

 advocated by Robespierre. As Olwen Hufton argues, these women began to see themselves as the “defenders of faith”. They took it upon themselves to protect the Church from what they saw as a heretical change to their faith, enforced by revolutionaries.

Counter-revolutionary women resisted what they saw as the intrusion of the state into their lives. Economically, many peasant women refused to sell their goods for assignats  because this form of currency was unstable and was backed by the sale of confiscated Church property. By far the most important issue to counter-revolutionary women was the passage and the enforcement of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy
Civil Constitution of the Clergy
The Civil Constitution of the Clergy was a law passed on 12 July 1790 during the French Revolution, that subordinated the Roman Catholic Church in France to the French government....

 in 1790. In response to this measure, women in many areas began circulating anti-oath pamphlets and refused to attend masses held by priests who had sworn oaths of loyalty to the Republic. This diminished the social and political influence of the juring priests because they presided over smaller congregations and counter-revolutionary women did not seek them for baptisms, marriages or confession. Instead, they secretly hid nonjuring priests and attended clandestine traditional masses. These women continued to adhere to traditional practices such as Christian burials and naming their children after saints in spite of revolutionary decrees to the contrary.

It was this determined resistance to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy
Civil Constitution of the Clergy
The Civil Constitution of the Clergy was a law passed on 12 July 1790 during the French Revolution, that subordinated the Roman Catholic Church in France to the French government....

 and the dechristianisation campaigns that played a major role in the re-emergence of the Catholic Church as a prominent social institution. In fact, Olwen Hufton notes about the Counter-Revolutionary women: “for it is her commitment to her religion which determines in the post-Thermidorean period the re-emergence of the Catholic Church…”. Although they struggled, these women were eventually vindicated in their bid to reestablish the Church and thereby also to reestablish traditional family life and social stability. This was seen in the Concordat of 1801
Concordat of 1801
The Concordat of 1801 was an agreement between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII, signed on 15 July 1801. It solidified the Roman Catholic Church as the majority church of France and brought back most of its civil status....

, which formally reinstated the Catholic Church in France. This act came after years of failed attempts at dechristianisation or state-controlled religion, which were thwarted in part due to the resistance of devout counter-revolutionary women. After the upheaval of the revolutionary period, the reestablishment of the Church was seen by many people as a welcome return to normalcy.

Legacy



The French Revolution has received enormous amounts of historical attention, both from the general public and from scholars and academics. The views of historians, in particular, have been characterized as falling along ideological lines, with liberal
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

, conservative, communist, and anarchist
Anarchism
Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations...

 scholars—among others—disagreeing over the significance and the major developments of the Revolution. Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution . In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in...

 argued that the Revolution was a manifestation of a more prosperous middle class becoming conscious of its social importance. Other thinkers, like the conservative Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party....

, maintained that the Revolution was the product of a few conspiratorial individuals who brainwashed the masses into subverting the old order—a claim rooted in the belief that the revolutionaries had no legitimate complaints. Other historians, influenced by Marxist
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 thinking, have emphasized the importance of the peasants and the urban workers in presenting the Revolution as a gigantic class struggle
Class struggle
Class struggle is the active expression of a class conflict looked at from any kind of socialist perspective. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote "The [written] history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle"....

. In general, scholarship on the French Revolution initially studied the political ideas and developments of the era, but it has gradually shifted towards social history
Social history
Social history, often called the new social history, is a branch of History that includes history of ordinary people and their strategies of coping with life. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments...

 that analyzes the impact of the Revolution on individual lives.

Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history, and the end of the early modern period
Early modern period
In history, the early modern period of modern history follows the late Middle Ages. Although the chronological limits of the period are open to debate, the timeframe spans the period after the late portion of the Middle Ages through the beginning of the Age of Revolutions...

, which started around 1500, is traditionally attributed to the onset of the French Revolution in 1789. The Revolution is, in fact, often seen as marking the "dawn of the modern era
Modern history
Modern history, or the modern era, describes the historical timeline after the Middle Ages. Modern history can be further broken down into the early modern period and the late modern period after the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution...

". Within France itself, the Revolution permanently crippled the power of the aristocracy
Aristocracy
Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

 and drained the wealth of the Church, although the two institutions survived despite the damage they sustained. After the collapse of the First Empire
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

 in 1815, the French public lost the rights and privileges earned since the Revolution, but they remembered the participatory politics that characterized the period, with one historian commenting: "Thousands of men and even many women gained firsthand experience in the political arena: they talked, read, and listened in new ways; they voted; they joined new organizations; and they marched for their political goals. Revolution became a tradition, and republicanism
Republicanism
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

 an enduring option." Some historians argue that the French people underwent a fundamental transformation in self-identity, evidenced by the elimination of privileges and their replacement by rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 as well as the growing decline in social deference that highlighted the principle of equality throughout the Revolution. The Revolution represented the most significant and dramatic challenge to political absolutism up to that point in history and, despite its failures, spread democratic ideals throughout Europe and ultimately the world. It had a profound impact on the Russian Revolution and its ideas inspired Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

 in his efforts at constructing a communist state in China.

See also


  • Biens nationaux
    Biens nationaux
    Biens nationaux, or "national property", was a concept in French history. During the French Revolution, the possessions of the Roman Catholic Church were declared national property by the decree of November 2, 1789. These were sold to resolve the financial crisis that caused the Revolution...

  • Dual revolution
    Dual revolution
    The dual revolution refers to the simultaneous occurrence of the political French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, and the subsequent modernization of Europe....

  • History of democracy
    History of democracy
    The history of democracy traces back to Athens to its re-emergence and rise from the 17th century to the present day. According to one definition, democracy is a political system in which all the members of the society have an equal share of formal political power...

  • La Révolution française (film)
    La Révolution française (film)
    La Révolution française is a two-part film, co-produced by France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Canada. The first part, titled La Révolution française : les Années lumière was directed by Robert Enrico. The second part, La Révolution française : les Années terribles, was directed by...

  • List of people granted honorary French citizenship during the French Revolution
  • List of revolutions and rebellions
  • Military career of Napoleon Bonaparte
    Military career of Napoleon Bonaparte
    The military career of Napoleon Bonaparte spanned over 20 years. As emperor, he led the French Armies in the Napoleonic Wars.-Early career:1769August 15 - Napoleon born Nabulione di Buonaparte in Ajaccio, Corsica.1778...

  • Napoleonic code
    Napoleonic code
    The Napoleonic Code — or Code Napoléon — is the French civil code, established under Napoléon I in 1804. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs go to the most qualified...

  • Jean-Nicolas Pache
    Jean-Nicolas Pache
    Jean-Nicolas Pache was a French politician.-Biography:Pache was born in Verdun, but grew up in Paris, of Swiss parentage, the son of the concièrge of the hotel of Marshal de Castries...

  • Rise of nationalism in Europe
    Rise of nationalism in Europe
    Nationalism has been an important factor in the development of Europe. In the 19th century, a wave of romantic nationalism swept the continent of Europe transforming the countries of the continent. Some new countries, such as Germany and Italy were formed by uniting smaller states with a common...



Audio files


Other revolutions or rebellions in French history


  • Camisard
    Camisard
    Camisards were French Protestants of the rugged and isolated Cevennes region of south-central France, who raised an insurrection against the persecutions which followed the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685...

     Rebellion, French Huguenots (1710–1715)
  • Haitian Revolution
    Haitian Revolution
    The Haitian Revolution was a period of conflict in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which culminated in the elimination of slavery there and the founding of the Haitian republic...

    , Haiti colony (1791–1804)
  • July Revolution
    July Revolution
    The French Revolution of 1830, also known as the July Revolution or in French, saw the overthrow of King Charles X of France, the French Bourbon monarch, and the ascent of his cousin Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, who himself, after 18 precarious years on the throne, would in turn be overthrown...

     (1830)
  • Canut revolts
    Canut revolts
    Three major revolts by silk workers in Lyon, France, called the Canut revolts took place during the first half of the 19th century. The first occurred in November 1831, and was the first clearly defined worker uprising of the Industrial Revolution....

     of the July Monarchy
    July Monarchy
    The July Monarchy , officially the Kingdom of France , was a period of liberal constitutional monarchy in France under King Louis-Philippe starting with the July Revolution of 1830 and ending with the Revolution of 1848...

  • French Revolution of 1848
    French Revolution of 1848
    The 1848 Revolution in France was one of a wave of revolutions in 1848 in Europe. In France, the February revolution ended the Orleans monarchy and led to the creation of the French Second Republic. The February Revolution was really the belated second phase of the Revolution of 1830...

  • Resistance to the coup of 1851
    French coup of 1851
    The French coup d'état on 2 December 1851, staged by Prince Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte , ended in the successful dissolution of the French National Assembly, as well as the subsequent re-establishment of the French Empire the next year...

  • Paris Commune
    Paris Commune
    The Paris Commune was a government that briefly ruled Paris from March 18 to May 28, 1871. It existed before the split between anarchists and Marxists had taken place, and it is hailed by both groups as the first assumption of power by the working class during the Industrial Revolution...

     of 1871
  • French Army Mutinies (1917)
    French Army Mutinies (1917)
    The French Army Mutinies of 1917 took place amongst the French troops on the Western Front in Northern France. They started just after the conclusion of the disastrous Second Battle of the Aisne, the main action in the Nivelle Offensive, and involved, to various degrees, nearly half of the French...

  • French Resistance
    French Resistance
    The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

     during World War II
  • May 1968 in France, a noteworthy rebellion, though not quite a revolution


Further reading


  • Baker, Keith M. ed. The French Revolution and the Creation of Modern Political Culture (Oxford, 1987–94) vol 1: The Political Culture of the Old Regime, ed. K.M. Baker (1987); vol. 2: The Political Culture of the French Revolution, ed. C. Lucas (1988); vol. 3: The Transformation of Political Culture, 1789–1848, eds. F. Furet & M. Ozouf (1989); vol. 4: The Terror, ed. K.M. Baker (1994). excerpt and text search vol 4
  • Blanning, T.C.W. The French Revolutionary Wars 1787–1802 (1996).
  • Censer, Jack R. "Amalgamating the Social in the French Revolution." Journal of Social History 2003 37(1): 145–150. Issn: 0022-4529 Fulltext: in Project Muse
    Project MUSE
    Project MUSE is an online database of current and back issues of peer-reviewed humanities and social sciences journals. It was founded in 1993 by Todd Kelley and Susan Lewis and is a project of the Johns Hopkins University Press and the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. It had support from the Mellon...

     and Ebsco
  • Doyle, William. The Oxford History of the French Revolution (1989). online complete edition; also excerpt and online search from Amazon.com
  • Doyle, William. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. (2001), 120pp; online edition
  • Doyle, William. Origins of the French Revolution (3rd ed. 1999) online edition
  • Dunne, John. "Fifty Years of Rewriting the French Revolution: Signposts Main Landmarks and Current Directions in the Historiographical Debate," History Review. (1998) pp 8+ online edition
  • Englund, Steven. Napoleon: A Political Life. (2004). 575 pages; the best political biography excerpt and text search
  • Fremont-Barnes, Gregory. ed. The Encyclopedia of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars: A Political, Social, and Military History (ABC-CLIO: 3 vol 2006)
  • Frey, Linda S. and Marsha L. Frey. The French Revolution. (2004) 190pp online edition
  • Furet, François. The French Revolution, 1770–1814 (1996) excerpt and text search
  • Furet, François and Mona Ozouf, eds. A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution (1989), 1120pp; long essays by scholars; conservative perspective; stress on history of ideas excerpt and online search from Amazon.com
  • Hufton, Olwen. Women and the Limits of Citizenship in the French Revolution. Toronto, Canada. University of Toronto Press (1992).
  • Hunt, Lynn. The Family Romance of the French Revolution. (1992)
  • Hunt, Lynn. "Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution." (1984)
  • Germani, Ian and Robin Swayles. Symbols, myths and images of the French Revolution. University of Regina Publications. 1998. ISBN 9780889771086
  • Griffith, Paddy. The Art of War of Revolutionary France 1789–1802, (1998); 304 pp; excerpt and text search
  • Jones, Colin. The Longman Companion to the French Revolution (1989)
  • Jones, Colin. The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to Napoleon (2002) excerpt and text search
  • Kates, Gary. The French Revolution (2nd ed. 2005), 308pp; essays by scholars; excerpts and online search from Amazon.com
  • Lefebvre, Georges. The French Revolution (2 vol 1957) classic Marxist synthesis. complete online edition vol 1; also excerpt and online search from Amazon.com
  • Neely, Sylvia. A Concise History of the French Revolution (2008)
  • Palmer, Robert R. The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760–1800. (2 vol 1959), highly influential comparative history; vol 1 online
  • Paxton, John. Companion to the French Revolution (1987), hundreds of short entries.
  • Rothenberg, Gunther E. "The Origins, Causes, and Extension of the Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon," Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 18, No. 4, (Spring, 1988), pp. 771–793 in JSTOR
  • Rude, George F. and Harvey J. Kaye. Revolutionary Europe, 1783–1815 (2000), scholarly survey excerpt and text search
  • Schroeder, Paul. The Transformation of European Politics, 1763–1848. 1996; Thorough coverage of diplomatic history; hostile to Napoleon; online edition
  • Schwab, Gail M., and John R. Jeanneney, eds. The French Revolution of 1789 and Its Impact (1995) online edition
  • Scott, Samuel F. and Barry Rothaus. Historical Dictionary of the French Revolution, 1789–1799 (2 vol 1984), short essays by scholars
  • Schama, Simon. Citizens. A Chronicle of the French Revolution (1989), highly readable narrative by scholar excerpt and text search
  • Sutherland, D.M.G. France 1789–1815. Revolution and Counter-Revolution (2nd ed. 2003, 430pp excerpts and online search from Amazon.com
  • Woshinsky, Barbara R. Imaging Women’s Conventual Spaces in France, 1600-1800: The Cloister Disclosed. Burlington, Vermont. Ashgate (2010).


External links