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French Revolution Key Terms

By nkuhn
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    Accession of Louis XVI

    After the death of his grandfather, Louis XV, Louis XVI became the kind of France. During his accession, France was poverty-stricken and had many debts, and the people were miserable due to the unfair and heavy taxation due to the debt. His rule only made these things worse due to not being able to handle these issues and instead only making them worse with unfair taxation policies and with unfair governmental representation for the common people.
  • American Declaration of Independence

    American Declaration of Independence
    The Declaration of Independence announced the separation of the 13 North American British Colonies from Great Britain. Summarized the colonists' reasons for separating, primarily separating to seek independence. It was used as a model when the National Assembly of France was drafting the Declaration of Rights for Man and the Citizen.
  • Meeting of Estates General

    This meeting was the first time they had met since 1614. Louis XVI called it due to the financial issues occurring in France during the time period, primarily due to being in debt from assisting the Americans in the American Revolution, but also due to other factors occurring during the time period. This included unfair tax structures, overspending, and other longer wars with England.
  • Women's March on Versailles

    A march of Women in the marketplaces of Paris who ransacked city armory for weapons and marched to palace of Versailles. The event ended the King's independence and signified the change to power and reforms that were about to overtake France. It was a defining moment of the French Revolution.
  • National Assembly

    A revolutionary assembly formed by representatives of Third Estate until replaced by the Legislative Assembly. Played major role in French Rev. as it represented the common people of France and demanded economic reforms to ensure food for everyone. Succeeded in the abolition of feudalism, serfdom, and class privileges, and set out to end the inequality between the three estates. Officially made France a constitutional monarchy.
  • Tennis Court Oath

    Occurred in Versailles. The representative of the Third Estate met on the Jeu de Paume, a large indoor tennis court, defying King Louis XVI's order to disperse. They took an oath, agreeing not to separate until a new French Constitution had been created.
  • Storming of the Bastille

    Storming of the Bastille
    An attack on a fortress, built during the Hundred Years War, that signaled the start of the French Revolution. The attack was meant to be seen as an attack on the government by the people of France (the third estate) signaling their demand for a reformation.
  • Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen Adopted

    Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen Adopted
    It was adopted by the National Constituent Assembly during the French Revolution, and was the first step towards drafting a Constitution for France. It explains a list of rights, like: Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and separation of powers. It was influenced greatly by the American Declaration of Independence.
  • Declaration of Pillnitz

    A declaration that was issued both by the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold II, and King Fredrick II of Prussia. The declaration urged the European powers to unite and work together to restore the monarchy in France, as Louis XVI had been reduced to a constitutional monarch during the French Revolution. The French government saw this declaration as a threat to its sovereignty, which led to France declaring war on Austria in 1792.
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

    A book written by Mary Wollstonecraft, calling for Women and Men to be educated equally. The beliefs that are written in her book are seen throughout history, even modern day, through feminism and the human rights movements. Wrote it in reaction to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution as well.
  • September Massacre

    A mass killing of prisoners in Paris, sometimes referred to as the "First Terror" of the French Revolution. The massacres were a representation of the collective thoughts of the people in Paris just days after the monarchy was overthrown. They believed that the prisoners were planning to rise up and join in a counterrevolutionary plot.
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    Paris Commune

    The municipal government of Paris during the French Revolution. Played an important role in the life of the capital by providing civic functions such as tax collection, public works, and services. Ordinary people of Paris were represented as well, giving the Commune more power.
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    Common people of lower class who became radical and militant partisans of the French Revolution in response to their poor quality of life and minimal government representation. Most important ideas were social equality, economic equality, and popular democracy, as well as their want to abolish monarchy, nobility, and Roman Catholic Clergy. They provided principal support behind the radical factions of the Paris commune and enforced policies and regulations of the revolutionary government.
  • Creation of the Republic

    Establishment of the Nation Convention led to the formation of the French Republic during the French Revolution. During their first meeting, they were deciding whether or not to try Louis XVI for treason, to which they eventually did and decided to execute Louis XVI after finding him guilty. They proceeded for the rest of the French Revolution, before they were eventually abolished after the Napoleonic Code's were established in 1804.
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    Committee of Public Safety

    A political body of the French Revolution that gained virtual dictatorial control over France during the Reign of Terror. It was created to provide defense of the nation against its enemies and to oversee the executive government. The radical leader, Robespierre, and the dissension within the Committee contributed to the downfall of Robespierre.
  • Execution of Louis XVI

    In 1791, Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, fled to Austria due to the opposition to them that occurred in France. They never made it to Austria and, instead, were apprehended, caught, and brought back to Paris. They were arrested by the sans-culottes in 1792 and imprisoned. Evidence of Louis XVI planning a counterrevolution with Austria and other nations was discovered, and he was put on trial for treason by the National Convention (replaced National Assembly), leading to his execution.
  • Jacobins vs. Girondins

    Jacobins vs. Girondins
    Fought for power during the times of French Constitutional Monarchy. During the execution of Louis XVI, the Girondins wanted to exempt Louis XVI from execution, while the Jacobins wanted him to be executed in order for the Revolution to be successful.
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    Reign of Terror/Robespierre

    A period during the French Revolution after the first French Republic was established in which multiple massacres and public executions occurred. Purpose of this time period was to purge France of enemies of the Revolution and protect the country from foreign invaders. France was governed by Committee of Public Safety, in which Robespierre was a member. Robespierre continued reign of terror because he wanted to get rid of everyone who was corrupt. Ended when he was finally executed.
  • Marie Antoinette Execution

    After being arrested and caught by the sans-cullotte, she was tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal. She was found guilty of depletion of national treasury, conspiracy against internal and external security of state, and high treason because of intelligence activities in interest of enemies. She was guillotined in 1793.
  • Thermidorian Reaction

    Thermidorian Reaction
    Occurred in the French Revolution, during the period between ousting of Maximilian Robespierre and inauguration of the French Directory. Included the fall of Robespierre and the collapse of the Reign of Terror. It purged the government of Jacobin influence and attempted to restore some of the political, social, and economic values of 1789.
  • Robespierre Executed

    Robespierre and some of his allies were placed under arrest by the National Assembly a day before his execution, because of the increased amount of violence and terror when foreign invasion wasn't a threat at the time, so they formed to oppose Robespierre. When taken to the Luxembourg jail, the warden refused to jail him, and he fled, and tried to commit suicide, failing and being seized. He was executed the next day, ending the Reign of Terror.
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    War of the 2nd Coalititon

    A part of the French Revolution in which France fought the 2nd Coalition (Britain, Austria, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, Naples, and Portugal). The coalition attacked because they wanted to crush the Revolutionary Government, and confine France back to it's old boundaries. France won because the members didn't agree on a joint strategy
  • Coup d'etat

    Viewed as an effective end of the French Revolution. It was a sudden and violent act of the people in which they overthrew the system of government under the Directory of France, and took the place of the Consulate, in turn making the way for Napoleon to take charge.
  • Concordat of 1801

    An agreement between Napoleon and the Pope Pius VII that defined the status of the Roman Catholic Church in France. Napoleon was given the right to nominate bishops; bishoprics, and parishes were redistributed; and establishment of seminaries were allowed while Concordant restored power to papacy. Balance of the church-state relations worked well for Napoleon's favor, as he could supervise church finances and select bishops.
  • Napoleonic Code

    A French Civil code that influenced civil law codes across the world and replaced the fragmented laws of pre-revolutionary France. It recognized the principles of civil liberty, equality before the law (excluding women), and secular character of state. It formed the basis of the law systems across continental Europe, and had an impact on the civil law codes of many other regions in the world.
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    Confederation of the Rhine

    A union of Germany (excluding Austria and Prussia) under the protection of Napoleon I in which the French were able to unify and dominate the country until Napoleon's downfall. All territory west of the Rhine River was annexed to France. It was eventually abolished after Napoleon's fall from power.
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    Continental System

    A blockade that was designed by Napoleon to stop Great Britain through destroying the British commerce. Neutrals and French allies were forbidden to trade with the British. It stimulated manufacturing in France and hurt English industries and overseas trading as well as spurring a protest movement due to the unemployment rates in England.
  • Treaty of Tilsit

    The treaty caused France and Russia to become allies and divide Europe between them, reducing the helplessness of Austria and Prussia. They came close to creating a continental blockade that would exclude British trade. Led to collapse of the peace on the continent, and once the tsar found that the alliance hurt Russian trade, the Franco-Russian alliance failed and Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812.
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    Russian Campaign

    After a failed alliance between Alexander I and Napoleon, Napoleon decided to invade Russia. He created an army that was the biggest army to ever have been created, having more than 600,000 men, and began his march to Russia.
  • Waterloo

    A war fought near Waterloo, Belgium that was Napoleon's final defeat. This battle ended the 23 years of recurrent warfare between France and other powers in Europe. Marked the end of Napoleonic Wars and France's domination in Europe.