French Revolution

  • The Three Estates Meet at Versailles

    From the start there was disagreement about voting. The clergy and nobility demanded that the # Estates meet separately and vote by order, which meant each estate would have 1 vote. This would clearly be disadvantageous to the commoners, as the first nobility controlled their own estate and the Church. The third estate called for all orders to meet jointly and the delegates to vote by head.
  • Third Estate Calls itself the National Assembly

    The bickering among the 3 Estates went on for weeks about voting. The 3rd Estate with a handful of clergy declared itself the National Assembly and broke away from the Estates General. They did invite the other 2 Estates to join it. The king would not give in to the 3rd Estate. He summoned troops to Versailles and sent troops to Paris.
  • Tennis Court Oath

    Three days after the National Assembly was created, the members found that the meeting hall where they met was locked. They decided to move to an indoor tennis court where they vowed to not disband until France had a constitution. Louis XVI was angry and refused to do anything; after several days, he called for all 3 Estates to meet together and vote by delegate.
  • Storming of the Bastille

    Angry Parisians stormed this prison (which only had a handful of prisoners at the time) looking for weapons. The storming of Bastille became the symbol of the overthrow of tyranny and oppression of the Old Regime. It was also an expression of the power of the people to take politics in their own hands.
  • Great Fear in the Countryside Begins

    Just as urban workers had connected their economic hardships to politics, so too did desperate peasants. They banded together and marched to the homes of local nobles and broke in, seeking to destroy all legal documents by which nobles claimed payments, dues and services from the local peasants. In some instances, the peasants burned down the homes of nobles.
  • Nobles Renounce their Privileges

    After all the rioting in the country and Paris, the National Assembly tried to quell the fears of the poor. During a night session at the Assembly, one noble after another renounced their traditional rights and privileges. The Assembly declared that they “ended feudalism”
  • Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen Passed

    The Assembly passed this document which had Enlightenment ideas and phrases similar those in the American Declaration of Independence. “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights” Natural rights included “liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression.” Authority lay with nation as a whole, not the monarchy. Enacted laws should express the “general will” (a term made popular by Rousseau)
  • Women of Paris March on Versailles

    A huge crowd of Parisian women, angry at the high bread prices and food shortages, marched 11 miles in the rain to see the king. With help from the newly-created National Guard, they forced the king and his family to go back to Paris.
  • Civil Constitution of the Clergy Passed

    The National Assembly decided to nationalize churches. It dissolved all convents and monasteries and prohibited the taking of religious vows. People would elect the clergy, including non-Roman Catholics, and the state would pay their salaries. All members of the clergy were required to take an oath of allegiance in order to perform their functions and draw their salaries.
  • Royal Family Tried to Escape Out of France

    While wearing disguises, the family tried to escape from Paris to go to Frances northeastern frontier where Louis hoped to find supporters. A postmaster recognized them. Officials arrested the royal family in Varennes and returned them to Paris.
  • New French Constitution Adopted

    The new constitution was similar to the United States constitution. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was the preamble to the constitution. All taxpaying males had the right to vote. To undermine the tradition power of the provincial nobility, the National Assembly created 83 new departments administered by locally elected assemblies and officials. It also created a new civil and criminal court system with elected judges.
  • National Assembly Dissolved and Legislative Assembly Elected

    With a new constitution, the National Assembly had done its job and dissolved itself, paving the way for new elections. The Revolution so far helped the middle class gain political control and social mobility while the peasants were freed from feudal obligations. The urban dwellers won little beyond rights and legal equality. Those who owned no property still could not vote. Many of these urban artisans formed groups and clubs. The Sans-culottes were the more radical.
  • France declared war on Austria

    Austria and Prussia, fearing the spread of revolutionary ideas to their own countries, began to give warnings to France. France went on the offensive. Initially, French armies suffered defeats because of lack of experienced leadership, food shortages and breakdown in order. High-ranking member of the army had been nobles, who had fled France. The Austrian and Prussian armies advanced into France and headed to Paris. They were beaten back by the French eventually.
  • San-Culottes Attack Tuileries Palace

    The royal family had been under “house arrest” in the palace for over the year. They were now had to flee for their lives to the Legislative Assembly while the Parisian mob killed the king’s guards. The Legislative Assembly imprisoned Louis XVI. Under pressure from the people of Paris, the Assembly called elections – this time with almost all men enjoying the right to vote – for a National Convention to draw up a new, more radical constitution.
  • National Convention Declares France a Republic

    The government then deposed the king, who had little support at this point. The Convention tried Louis and found him guilty of communication with the enemy, which was considered treason. Debate ensued about the king’s fate. The Girondins (more conservative faction) didn’t want to execute the king. The Mountain (left faction) did.
  • Louis XVI is Executed

    The revolutionary government adopted the guillotine because it more efficient and humane. Ten months later, Marie Antoinette, was also executed by guillotine. Many more would be beheaded. Beheadings affirmed revolutionary justice and also provided entertainment as people rented chairs to watch them, bought food and drink and even purchased souvenir miniature guillotines.
  • National Convention Formed Committee of Public Safety

    This 12-member committee had to goals: to secure the Republic against its enemies – both within the country and outside of it, and to carry out a radical republican program. The Committee came under the leadership of Maximilien Robespierre, who held dictatorial powers. Robespierre was a lawyer from the provinces, inspired by Rousseau, and was compelled to create a virtuous republic.
  • National Convention Enacts Radical Programs

    An angry Parisian mob led by sans-culotte leaders threatened the National Convention. To calm them, the National Convention arrested the Girondin leaders. Then they enacted the Law of the Maximum to control the price of bread, flour and other essentials. Lastly, the drafted a democratic constitution based on universal male suffrage that promised rights to education and subsistence (job or poor relief).
  • Committee of Public Safety Take Control of France

    Robespierre stressed the need for a single center of opinion and viewed disagreement with the Committee's policies as treachery. He was convinced that the emergency situation warranted severe measures, including death for those who disagreed with the Committee's policies. He was for democratic government, while in practice he supported many emergency measures that restricted their liberties. He favored a free-market economy, but now he was willing to enact prices control and requisitioning.
  • Government Ordered the Levee en Masse

    It called together all men, women and children to serve the nation. Able-bodied young men were trained and rushed to the front lines and the army grew to 850,000 men. Everyone else was supposed to contribute to the war effort by making supplies.
  • Reign of Terror Begins

    The Committee begins a period of state repression. “Enemies of the revolution” were tried by a specially created revolutionary tribunals and quickly executed by guillotine. Civil war raged throughout France. About 40,000 people were executed in 9 months.
  • Robespierre Beheaded by Guillotine

    Robespierre's execution was followed by a backlash known as the Thermidorean Reaction. The new government released hundreds of suspects, and it arrested other notorious terrorists. The "Red Terror" was replaced by the "White terror" and former officials and local Jacobin leaders were harrassed, beaten and murdered.
  • Rule of Directory

    A new constitution was put together giving the right to vote for members of legislative bodies only to wealthier property owners. Executive function were placed in the hands of 5 directors, therefore it was called the Directory. The directors tried to balance threats from the royalists on the Right and the Jacobins on the Left. They removed price controls, which resulted in attacks by the sans-culottes.