The french revolution summary of events



The french revolution summary of events


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The french revolution summary of events



The Old Order

-The Old Regime was social and political system of France and was still in place in the 1770s

-it goes back to medieval feudalism

-In this system, the people of France were divided into three estates

        -estates = social classes

-By the eighteenth century, these estates no longer reflected social reality.

-Eighteenth-century French society was based on wealth and education, with both the aristocratic and bourgeois upper classes becoming frustrated with a weakening monarch that claimed absolute power.


1st Estate = clergy

-less than 1% of the population

-had lots of privileges, including access to high offices and exemptions from paying taxes

-owned 10% of the land

-provided education and relief services to the poor

-contributed 2% of their income to taxes as a “voluntary gift”

-they levied a tax called the tithe on landowners

-scorned Enlightenment ideas


2nd Estate = nobility

-2% of the population

-owned 20% of the land

-paid almost no taxes

-held highest offices in government

-enjoyed certain manorial rights, or privileges of lordship, which included exclusive rights to hunt and fish, monopolies on bread, the right to wear swords

-disagreed about Enlightenment ideas


3rd estate = everyone else

-97% of the population

-lacked any privileges

-had no power to influence government

-embraced Enlightenment ideas

-resented the wealthy First and Second estates

Three groups made up this estate and differed greatly in their economic conditions:

  • Bourgeoisie= the middle class

-well educated and wealthy

-believed strongly in the Enlightenment ideals of liberty and equality

-they paid high taxes and lacked privileges, even though some were as rich as nobles

-many felt like their wealth entitled them to a greater degree of social statues and political power

-they were the ones who were the most dangerous to the old regime—challenged it the most

  • Workers

-the poorest group

-included tradespeople, apprentices, laborers, and domestic servants

-they were paid low wages and were often out of work à went hungry

  • Peasants

-the largest group of the Third Estate, more than 80% of the population

-paid 50% of their income to taxes

-resented the 1st and 2nd estates’ privileges and special treatment


Forces of Change

  • Poor economy and high inflation

-caused by poor harvests

-the cost of living rose highly

-bread prices doubled

-the burden of taxes made it impossible to conduct business profitably within France

-the nobility didn’t pay taxes

-France lost all their colonies in the 7 Years War

  • Bad weather and poor harvests (1780s)

-shortage of bread


-more rise in prices

-angry peasants

  • Population explosion (growth)

-too many people, not enough food

  • American Revolution

-When the British increased taxes on American colonists to pay their debt from the Seven Years’ War, a political struggle erupted over authority and representation.

-Determined to assert its authority, Britain angered the colonists to the point that fighting broke out in 1775.

-When the colonists declared their independence in 1776, they basically gave traditional English rights to everyone and gave sovereignty to the states

-With French aid, the Americans won their independence.

-why did France help them: France still resented Britain for the 7 Years War

               -So France joined in on the side of the colonies to get back at the British

-the colonies stood for everything that was anti-French: ideas of democracy, etc.

-inspired the 3rd estate with its success

-doubled French debt

-England lost because:

               -They had a lot of debt and were engaged in lots of different wars

               -The distance made it hard to send troops


  • Weak leadership

Louis XVI

-He was indecisive, allowed matters to drift, paid little attention to his government advisers, and had little patience for the details of governing

-He liked being king, but he didn’t like the ruling responsibilities

-he enjoyed hunting and making intricate locks

-“His reign was a succession of feeble attempts at doing good”

Marie Antoinette

-she interfered in government and offered Louis poor advice

-She referred to Louis as “the poor man” and sometimes set the clock forward an hour to get rid of him

-extravagant spending habits

               -She once lost $1.5 by gambling in card games

-she was from Austria, France’s enemy, (was Marie Theresa’s daughter) and was unpopular with the people from the beginning

-she was known as “Madame Deficit”

-she dressed differently, wearing loose cotton dress instead of tight-fitting clothing styles of the day—she doesn’t behave the way she’s expected too

               -the elderly thought that her clothing was scandalous

               -the French silk industry was also angry

-necklace story:

               -Louis XV had many mistresses

               -Some jewelers made an incredible necklace to give to his mistress Madame du Barry

               -However, he died before he could give it to her

-So, they tried to sell it to Marie Antoinette, but she turned it down because it was so expensive

-Countess de La Motte wrote a letter, pretending to be Marie Antoinette, saying that she wanted to buy the necklace and she was going to pay them back for the necklace over time

               -However, the necklace never got to Marie Antoinette—the Countess got it

-The jewelers then told Marie Antoinette to pay up, but she had no idea what they were talking about

-This was a huge scandal: people believed that Marie Antoinette was lying and she really had the necklace

-Then they ended up arresting the countess, who still had the necklace and lived in Paris

-This rumor greatly hurt the crown

  • Huge debt

-50% of France’s revenue going towards interest on debt

-American Revolution

-Extravagant lifestyle of king, queen, and nobility

-Debt from created by:

               -Louis XIII—30 Years War

-Louis XIV—spending on luxuries and wars, war of Spanish succession, money on Versailles, kicked out the Huguenots for religious unity

               -Louis XV—wasteful spending, 7 Years War, Austrian War of Succession

               -Louis XVI—extravagant spending

  • Social and economic  inequality

-3 Estates, which originated from medieval Feudalism

-resentment of the 3rd estate built up

  • Enlightenment thinkers vs. Actual French society

-new ideas about power and authority in government and freedom

-The 2 philosophers with the largest impact on France: Voltaire and Rousseau

-members of the 3rd estate began to demand equality, liberty, and democracy

  • Growing upper middle class (Bourgeoisie)

-denied rights of privileged classes


The Crisis of Political Legitimacy

Louis XV as king

-When Louis XIV in 1715, Louis XV was only 5

-The duke of Orleans rules as a regent until 1723

        -instead of assuming personal rule, he reinstated councils of state to aid in decision-making

        -the duke restored the parlements (high courts of France)

-Louis XV wanted to shut down the parlements

        -in 1604, parliaments got the right to oversee the king’s decrees

        -gave the nobility more power

-He wanted to tax the nobility because France was in so much debt

-However, the parlements used their power to check the king’s attempts to tax the privileged classes.

-The War of Austrian Succession plunged France into financial crisis

        -So, Louis XV taxed everyone, regardless of social status

        -The parlements of Paris protested à the monarchy retreated and the new tax was dropped

-The 7 Years’ War brought about the same problem

        -Louis XV tried to tax all people again to pay off debt

-the parlement of Paris protested and challenged royal authority, claiming that the king’s power must be limited to protecting liberty

-He hired Rene Maupeon and ordered him to crush the judicial opposition

-He got rid of all the nobles and parliaments not favorable to taxes, only keeping those who agreed with him

-He created the Maupeou parlements, consisting of those who agreed with him

-He began to tax the privileged groups again

        -He shifted power back to the king

-However, most philosophes and public opinion sided with the old parlements

-In addition to this loss of power, the monarchy suffered desacralization, with Louis XV’s numerous scandals.

        -He had many mistresses

-One of his mistresses was Madame de Pompadour. People were mad about her low status and hidden political influence.

- She was from the bourgeoisie class not the nobility. She influenced literature, art, and the arts, supported Voltaire, and promoted the rococo art style

-Another one of his mistresses, Madame du Barry, was just a commoner

        -He had the necklace made for her (see the necklace story above)

-Then Louis XV died from small pox


Louis XVI as king

-He became king when he was 20 years old

-He wasn’t able to control parliaments because he was a people pleaser and wanted to be loved

-He got rid of Louis XV’s taxes and dismissed chancellor Maupeou

        -This increased France’s debt

-With a weakened monarchy, Louis XVI faced financial crisis and political upheavals amidst a struggle for power.



  • King Louis XVI’s ministers told him he needed to raise taxes to solve France’s economic crisis

France had major money problems

                -France had no national bank

                               -they had no printed currency, only gold coins

                -They couldn’t cut their spending

                               50% of government income went to interest on debt

                               25% went to the military

                -France was about to go bankrupt

-in 1786, bankers refused to lend the government any more money, and Louis faced serious problems

-To deal with this crisis, the French desperately needed to increase taxes, but doing so required a major reform of an outdated, unfair tax system.

                -The only solution was to tax the nobility and clergy


  • Assembly of Notables

-notables = the top, wealthiest nobles and high-ranking clergy

-Louis XVI’s minister of finance convinced to king to call this assembly to gain support for the idea of taxing all estates

-this led to Louis XVI calling the estates general about taxes because the privileged classes maintained that such reform required the approval of the Estates General,

-The king tried to reassert his authority, dismissing the notables and establishing new taxes by decree

-However, the parlement of Paris declared them null and void and he was forced to call the Estates General


  • Meeting of the Estates General (1789)

-it had been 175 years since the last time this meeting was called (Louis XIII had called it back then)

-The purpose of the Estates general was for delegates from each estate to meet, making decisions and helping limit absolute power

-called by King Louis XVI at Versailles à sign of weakness and desperation

-cause: Louis XVI asked to tax the nobility, so the nobles decided to call the meeting

-They wanted members of the 3 estates to meet and come up with a plan on who should have to pay a set of new taxes

-France had a ton of debt and was about to go bankrupt

-under the assembly’s medieval rules, each estate’s delegates met in a separate hall to vote, and each estate had one vote

-Each estate elected delegates to represent them at the meeting and compiled a list of grievances for the meeting

               1st estate—general dissatisfaction with the church hierarchy

               2nd estate—were politically divided

               3rd estate—delegates were from the bourgeoisie, not from the laboring poor

-Going into the meeting of the Estates General, all estates agreed on the need for constitutional monarchy with a representative assembly, guaranteed individual liberties, and weaker economic controls.


  • The 3rd estate formed the National Assembly

-The 3rd estate delegates (mostly the bourgeoisie) were eager to make changes in government

-they were upset about representation:

-Each estate had one vote, so the nobility and the clergy could always outvote the 3rd estate and make sure that nothing got decided. They controlled all decisions.

-the 3rd estate was especially because they represented 97% of the population, so they felt like they should have more delegates for more of an influence in decision-making

-the first 2 estates disagreed with the 3rd estate

-the king sided with these 2 estates, deciding that the 3rd estate was to have the same number of delegates with the same one vote. He also ordered all 3 estates to sit together in a unified body.

-The 3rd estate got so upset, they formed the National Assembly

-Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyes—a clergyman who was sympathetic to their cause

               -“What is the 3rd estate?”


                               -the heart and soul of France

               -“What are the nobles” = a minor group

-He was the one who suggested that the 3rd Estate delegates name themselves the National Assembly and pass laws and reforms in the name of the French people

                -An overwhelming majority agreed with him and voted to establish the National Assembly

                *This was the first deliberate act of revolution


  • 3rd Estate was locked out of the Meeting of the Estates General


  • Tennis Court Oath

-The National Assembly broke down a door to a huge indoor tennis court in Versailles

-They made the Tennis Court Oath, a pledge to stay until they had drawn up a new constitution

-Some nobles and clergy sympathized with their cause and wanted reformà they joined the 3rd estate delegates

-They kept meeting until they formed a new constitution

-Louis’s response was ambivalent

-He ordered the 3 estates to meet together

-He stationed his mercenary army of Swiss guards around Versailles


  • Storming of the Bastille

-Economic hardship hit the common people

               -bread prices and the unemployment rate soared

-In Paris, rumors flew

-Some people thought that Louis was using military force to dismiss the National Assembly or to massacre French citizens

-There was fear that Louis XVI would arrest the bourgeoisie involved in the national assembly

-These rumors led to the attack on the Bastille

-A mob stormed the Bastille. They killed the guards and seized control of the prison

               -mob = shopkeepers and middle class

               -Joined by 300 French soldiers with cannons

               -Louis XVI’s soldiers helped the mob because they were also from the 3rd estate

-The soldiers guarding the Bastille were 82 year old veterans and 32 Swiss mercenaries

               -it wasn’t very well protected

-Reasons for breaking in:

               -They were searching for gunpowder and weapons

               -The prison was a symbol of the old regime—fighting against the secret letter

-They wanted to save the political prisoners so they could join them. However, they only found 7 people who weren’t even important. They were forgers, pedophiles, or crazy

-They killed De Launay who was the governor of the Bastille

-They paraded around the streets with De Launay and the guards’ heads on pikes

-The next day, a committee of citizens appointed Lafayette the commander of the city’s armed forces

-The king was forced to recall the finance minister and disperse his troops

This was important because:

               -The fall of the Bastille became a great symbolic act of revolution to the French people

               -It symbolized the violence to come

               -It showed how fear and rumors can lead to great violence

               -It also showed that the king can’t rely on his own troops

Story about the Bastille:

               -it was built during the 100 Years’ War

               -Richelieu and Louis XIII used it as a prison

-Anyone could be arrested for any reason, especially saying something bad about the king or nobility

                               -Lettres-de-Cachet= the secret letter that said you were arrested

-People assumed it was an awful place and after people left, they had to sign an agreement promising that they wouldn’t talk about what happened while they were at Versailles

-In reality, it wasn’t that bad

               -if you were rich, you could have servants

               -prisoners could leave during the day as long as they returned at night

               -prisoners also played cards with the guards

-The 2 famous people were at the Bastille:

               1) Voltaire

                               -was in their twice: for criticizing the Church and for insulting Rohan

                               -Rohan’s parents arrested him so he wouldn’t duel with their son        

               2) Marquise de Sade

-he was sent there because he was insane: he captured and tortured women and ran off with his wife’s sister who was studying to be a nun

-he spent ½ of his life in a mental asylum or prison

-While at the Bastille, he screamed “get me out of here, this place sucks” and was moved to an asylum. 2 days later, the Bastille was stormed and the prisoners were freed.

*He later served as a delegate in the National Convention


  • Great Fear

-Rumors spread that nobles were hiring outlaws to destroy the peasants’ property and terrorize them

-the peasants armed themselves, but then nobody attacked them

-So, they decided to attack and destroy the nobles’ houses

-They wanted to destroy the tax deeds that bound them to the nobles

-In response, some liberal nobles and middle-class delegates at Versailles responded to peasant demands by abolishing the old noble privileges

-duke of Aiguillon, one of France’s greatest noble landowners, urged equality in taxation and the elimination of feudal dues


  • Parisian Women marched on Versailles (October days)

-Economic crisis worsened

               -as the nobles fled, production decreased

               -population explosion

               -unemployment and starvation

               -Bread shortage

-Parisian women stormed the palace, killing the guards

-First, they demanded that the National Assembly take action to provide bread

-Then they demanded that Louis and Marie Antoinette return to Paris

-Louis XVI didn’t kill them because:

               -they were women

               -his soldiers weren’t on his side

-He and Marie Antoinette were forced to leave Versailles and come to Paris

-They wanted him to face reality and make changes

                -This was the last time that they saw Versailles

                -Their exit signaled the change of power and radical reforms about to overtake France

                -The procession out of the palace: heads of nobility on pikes

                               -created more fear


*All of these events (the Bastille, Great Fear, and Attack of Parisian Women) caused a panic among Louis XVI and the nobility

        -Lots of nobles began to flee

-This killed the economy because: there was nobody to buy the luxury items à artisans couldn’t sell items and didn’t have work à they couldn’t buy things à the cycle continued



  • National Assembly became part of the French government

-limiting the power of the king

-many Frenchmen declare their allegiance to them

-the king is forced to declare his allegiance to them


  • National Assembly created “A Declaration of the Rights of Man”

“Men are born and remain free and equal in rights”

-It granted free trial and speech and was very similar to the American constitution

-The king remained the head of state, but all lawmaking power was placed in the hands of the National Assembly

-Monopolies, guilds, and workers’ associations were prohibited as the National Assembly applied the critical spirit of the Enlightenment in reforming France’s laws and institutions

-The rights of women were missing

-Women were still not supposed to be in the public sphere because people thought: they’re not educated, it’s not in their nature, and they’re corrupt and will corrupt men


  • Olympe de Gouges wrote “A Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen”

-she was a member of the bourgeoisie

-she was shot down and ignored

-she was eventually beheaded as an enemy of the state


  • National Assembly took over Catholic Church’s land and its political independence

-Money from the Church’s land was used to help pay off French debt

-The Assembly also granted religious freedom to Jews and Protestants and abolished monasteries

-They also established a national church and forced the Catholic clergy to take a loyalty oath to the new government

-problem: many peasants were devout Catholics

-However, the bourgeoisie delegates distrusted popular piety and “superstitious religion” and this decision showed how the National Assembly was made up of mostly bourgeoisie, not peasants

-Millions of devout French peasants were upset by this

-created animosity between the bourgeoisie and the peasants and a divide within the country and the clergy


  • Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette tried to escape to Austria

-Marie Antoinette had been writing letters back and forth to the king of Austria (who was one of her brothers)

               -he told her to come and they’d help her form an army and take back Paris

-They made 2 big mistakes

               1. Marie Antoinette couldn’t decide what to take and what to leave

                        -there was so much in the carriage, it was moving along very slowly

               2. Louis decided to leave a list of grievances that he had with the National Assembly

                        -They later used it against him

-They were going to meet up with a group of loyal royalists who would escort them across the border

-The royalists waited and waited, but the carriage was moving so slow it took them forever to arrive à they thought they weren’t coming and they left

-The story: Marie Antoinette got hungry and wanted something to eat

-When they bought the food, they paid with a coin with Louis’ face on it, so the postmaster recognized him

-Then the postmaster alerted French troops

                -This act of escaping was considered treason of the state


  • Louis XVI was captured and forced back to Paris

-This led the monarchs of Austria and Prussia to issue the Declaration of Pillnitz, where they declared that they would intervene in France in certain circumstances


Foreign Reactions and the Beginning of War

-The French Revolution provoked heated debate among European conservatives like Edmund Burke and liberals like Mary Wollstonecraft.

        -Edmund Burke: was deeply troubled by the spirit of the revolution

                -wrote Reflections on the Revolution in France

                -defended privileges of the nobility and monarchy

        -Mary Wollstonecraft: advocator for women’s rights

                -wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

                -she pushed for education and equal treatment of women

-she thought that men would benefit from women’s rights because each sex mutually corrupts and improves each other


Stage 3

  • Limited Monarchy is formed

New Constitution

        -The Legislative Assembly was formed

        -They created laws and voted on issues of war

-This new legislative body had a young, less cautious attitude and provoked a stronger revolutionary spirit that endangered the monarchy

The king’s power was significantly limited by this “limited constitutional monarchy”

        -he had executive power and carried out laws


  • Factions Split France

-Old problems still existed:

        -food shortages

        -government debt

-Questions of how to best handle these problems divided up the Legislative Assembly

-Another key issue: what role, if any, should the king really play in the government?


-Delegates sat according to their beliefs



-Conservatives: supported a limited monarchy and didn’t want any real changes; basically, a constitutional monarchy

-Moderates: wanted some changes but didn’t want to end the French monarchy; they wanted to take significant power away from the king, but still have a king

-Radicals: wanted sweeping changes and opposed the idea of monarchy; they wanted a republic with no king

               -This idea of sitting according to beliefs still exists today


-Factions outside of the Legislative Assembly

  • Emigres—wanted the Old Regime restored

-nobles who fled from France

-they wanted to form an army and put the king back in power

-they were very conservative (far right)

  • Sans-Culottes—very radical (far left)

- “without knee breaches”—people’s clothing represented their social class and only nobility wore knee breeches

-these workers, artisans, and market women were the same social status as those who stormed the Bastille, marched on Versailles, driven the king from Tuileries, and carried out the September Massacres

-their original interests were economic: inflation, unemployment, food shortages

-they became more interested in politics and began demanding radical political action to guarantee them their bread

-Both Girondists and Mountains rejected these demands

-The Mountains, especially Robespierre, became more sympathetic  and joined forces with them, forcing out and arresting Girondists


Stage 4

  • Austria and Prussia urged the French royal family to restore the French monarchy

- Increasingly, the rest of Europe felt threatened by the revolution, and Austria and Prussia prepared to intervene.

               -They didn’t want this revolution to happen to their own countries

               -Austria wanted to help because Marie Antoinette was from Austria

-This angered the Legislative Assembly:

               -angry about being told what to do by outside powers

               -they thought all of Europe should be following their revolutionary example


  • France declared war on Austria and Prussia

-The new representatives of the Legislative Assembly were passionate and less cautious; they ignored warnings against violence 

-This was a bad idea:

               -they were already in debt and had food shortages

-the country was unstable and divided. They were in disarray-there were even splits in the new government

               -Prussia and Austria both had a great military

               -France should have been focused on fixing themselves


  • The war began poorly for the French

-The Legislative Assembly declared the country in danger

-Prussia and Austria had a fear that the revolutionaries would kill the royal family of France

-Prussian commander threatened to destroy Paris if the royal family was harmed


  • Parisians invaded Tuileries

-The French king and queen were staying at the palace Tuileries

-Rumors of treason by the king and queen spread in Paris

-20,000 men and women, who were mostly sans-culottes, attacked the royal palace  

-They massacred royal guards

-They imprisoned the royal family and placed them under arrest


  • Rumor spread – the king’s supporters were going to break out of jails and take over Paris

-king’s supporters = royalists, 2nd estate nobles, some 1st estate clergy


  • September Massacres

-peasants raided jails and killed 1,000 prisoners

-many prisoners killed were nobles, priests, and royalists


  • The Legislative Assembly was dissolved

-The National Convention was created – even more radical

-They held new elections to pick new delegates and legislature


  • The National Convention declared France a republic

-The revolution took a radical turn following the fall of the monarchy and the declaration of the French republic.

-They put the king on trial

-They stripped him of his power and made him into a common citizen

               -this way, it was easier to put him on trial

-Adult male citizens were granted the right to vote and hold offices

-Although women played a vital role in the Revolution, they couldn’t vote or hold office

               -They could divorce and hold land


  • The radical Jacobin Club

-Most of the members of the National Convention were from this club

-It was named after the former monastery that they held their meetings

-It was divided into 2 parties:

Mountains                                        vs.                          Girondists

- named because its members                                                -named after a department in south France

sat on the highest left benches                                               that most of its leaders were from

-most radical                                                                    -more moderate

                -led by Robespierre and Danton                                             -accepted the king’s guilt, but didn’t want him

-wanted the king to be executed                             executed         


  • Louis XVI

-stripped of noble rights

-made into a commoner

-was put on trial and sentenced to death


  • The king was guillotined (January 1793)

-he was the first of many


  • War continued

-Both Girondists and Mountains were determined to continue the “war against  tyranny”

-due to French victory in Battle of Valmy (along with other battles)

               -the Prussians were stopped

-French armies invaded Savory and captured Nice, continuing until they occupied the entire Austrian Netherlands

-But the French armies lived off the land and plundered—the supposed liberators acted like foreign invaders

-Then Great Britain, Holland, and Spain joined Austria and Prussia = the 1st Coalition

-France was at war with almost all of Europe

-Sharp political divisions kept the revolution from stabilizing


  • The war went poorly for the French again. But then they turned the tide with conscription.

-Peasants revolted against being drafted into the army and were supported by Catholics, royalists, and foreign agents

-Because they were doing so terribly, Jacobin leaders in the Convention Assembly to push through extreme measures of conscription

-300,000 troops of ages 18-40 – built a huge army


  • By 1794, the army had grown to 800,000 and included women

                -what the French lacked in training, they made up for in number

                               -a force of this size was unprecedented in the history of European warfare

-the enormous armies were led by young, impetuous generals who used mass assaults at bayonet point to overwhelm the enemy

-By spring 1794, French armies were victorious on all fronts and the republic was saved

-By July 1794, the 1st Coalition was falling apart and French armies again gained the Austrian Netherlands and Rhineland

-The French utilized a planned economy, their revolutionary spirit, and modern nationalism in successfully fighting a total war.

               1) Robespierre collaborated with the sans-culottes and established a planned economy

                          -Measures included price controls, rationing, and planned production

-bakers could only make the “bread of equality”—a brown bread made of a mixture of all available flour

-they worked to control production, mainly producing arms and munitions for the war

2) Created a reign of terror where anyone considered an enemy of the revolution was executed (see below)

3) They drew on the explosive power of patriotic dedication to the French state

          -this sense of modern nationalism was something new in history

-large numbers of French people were stirred by a common loyalty and developed an intense emotional commitment to their nation

-A spirit of national mission emerged so that winning the war became a life-or-death struggle between good and evil.   
Stage 5

  • Jacobins had many enemies not only outside, but inside of France

-peasants upset by the king’s execution

-priests who disliked anti-church reforms



-rivals for power


  • For Jacobins, the central issue = how to contain these enemies and maintain their power

Mountains vs. Girdondists

-They struggled over who would be in power

               -Girondists feared a bloody dictatorship by the Mountains

               -Mountains feared that the Girondists would turn to conservatives and royalists

-Led by Robespierre, the Mountains won because they appealed to the sans-culottes

-sans-culottes began demanding radical political action to guarantee them their bread

-Both Girondists and Mountains rejected these demands

-The Mountains, especially Robespierre, became more sympathetic and joined forces with them, forcing out and arresting Girondists


  • Robespierre: gained control over the National Convention

        -He became head of the Committee of Public Safety

                       -it was supposed to get rid of traitors for the safety of the public

                       -however, the public became less safe because they could execute anyone

                       -they started beheading people for crazy reasons, like cutting down a liberty tree

-this sparked revolts in leading provincial cities where moderates denounced Paris and demanded a decentralized government à the peasant revolts spread

-only the areas around Paris and on the eastern frontier were firmly held by the central government

        -started a guillotine fever

                       -watching people get beheaded became entertainment

                       -some were upset because they thought it happened to quickly

-the wife of the traitor had to watch without crying; otherwise, she would be guillotined too

-guillotine necklaces and dolls were created

-scientists tested to see how long the head would survive

-used by the Nazis

-used until the 1950s in France


  • Robespierre and his followers created the “republic of virtue”

-firmly believed in reason

               -Robespierre was influenced by the Enlightenment, especially Rousseau

-used the metric system 

               -its more scientific

-promoted broad, open-air, democratic festivals

-they changed the republican calendar:

               -1 year = 12 months of 30 days

               -created a 10 day week with 1 day off

-This was an attempt to de-Christianize the calendar, but the 9 days of work, but only 1 day of rest made it unpopular

-A day consisted of 10 hours. The hours were divided into 100 units or decimals.

               -no Sundays because Sunday was a religious day

-No images of Royalty were allowed—punishable by guillotine

               -no playing cards with king, queen, or jack cards

               -King was replaced with Prosperity

                 Queen à Liberty

                 Jack à Equality

          -These were derived from the motto of the revolution: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

-the ace became the highest: this symbolized the lower, working classes rising high and seizing power from the royal family

-When Napoleon became Emperor, he restored the use of the King, Queen, and Jack because they were no longer seen as a threat to the republic of France


               -closed down all churches

               -wanted to redirect the public’s love for religion to a love for nation

-Cult of supreme-being

               -it was a nature cult

               -they created a religion to foster Revolution ideas

               -they used this to manipulate and inspire people to act and behave in a virtuous way


  • Committee of Public Safety’s main task = protect the revolution from its enemies

Enemies = anyone they saw as an enemy

        -Thousands of people are killed

                       -most are guillotined

      “Reign of Terror”

        -Robespierre saw a connection between virtue and terror:

                       -he thought it was okay to use terror to get people to be virtuous & stabilize the country

        -local courts tried “enemies of the nation” severely and ignored normal legal procedures

        -many people who helped cause the Revolution were beheaded

        -The most famous people to be guillotined:

                       -Danton—helped Robespierre lead the Revolution

                                       -was the editor of a pro-republic newspaper

                                       -he got into an argument with Robespierre

-“Could you please show my head to everyone because people like a good show”

                       -Marie Antoinette

                                       -the story goes that she stepped on the executor’s foot and apologized

                                       -she was still a lady to the death

                       -Olympe de Gouges— she thought women should vote and hold office

                               -Marat – one of the leaders of the revolution

                                               -He was a mountain

                                               -He had a skin problem and had to take lots of salt baths

                                               -Charlotte Cordax visited in the bathtub

                                               -She said that she had some information about some traitors

                                               -He let her in and she stabbed him

        -85% of those killed were peasants, urban poor, or middle class

                       -ironically, the revolution was supposed to be for them


Stage 6

  • Thermidorian Reaction

-It’s called this because it happens in the new month called Thermidorian in the new calendar they created

-National Convention turned on Robespierre

               -They were afraid they were next and would be killed

-1794: Robespierre was guillotined

               -end of the Reign of Terror and Committee of Public Safety

-As the French enjoyed military success, they reacted to the extreme measures of Robespierre’s Reign of Terror.

-In this Thermidorian reaction, the moderates regained power and dropped many of the extreme economic measures.

               -The National convention abolished many economic controls and let prices rise sharply

-This angered the poor and led to a sans-culottes revolt, which was put down by the army.

               -the revolutionary fervor of the urban poor subsided

-the women of rural France brought back the Catholic Church and the open worship of God


  • Moderates formed a new government called the Directory (1795)

-A new constitution was adopted

-2 Houses for legislature

The Directory

-5 person executive branch

-members = moderates

-Some of the members of the Directory were corrupt and made lots of money off of their new position

-they continued to support French military expansion

-they used the army to nullify the elections and began to govern dictatorially

                *Overall, the Directory lead to temporary political stability

               -but it can’t solve major problems

               -it was still plagued by the same problems: war, debt, food shortages, starvation


  • Directory assigned Napoleon to be the general of their army

-They were in charge when Napoleon tried to take over





Background information

Born in Corsica

-born in 1769

-Corsica= territory in the Mediterranean Sea controlled by France

        -He was not really French- he was made fun because he had a different accent and was short

Went to French Military Academy

-his specialty = artillery

        -this came in handy later

-Before gaining power, Napoleon had gained a reputation as a successful French general.

He married Josephine

-she was nobility

        -she escaped the Reign of Terror-he got her out of jail

        -her husband was murdered in the Reign of Terror

-he called her his lucky star and really loved her

-but she couldn’t give him a son

-he divorced her, but sent her 3 million francs

He married Marie Louise

-Marie Louise = an Austrian princess, a Hapsburg, the daughter of his enemy Francis I               

        -elevating his status

-He originally wanted to marry her, but she hated him

-Her father forced her into the marriage because he wanted a powerful alliance with France

-Napoleon was charming and she grew to love him

-Their marriage changed him—he grew soft

        -she calmed his energies: he preferred repose and rest over war


His Rise to Power

  • Man of the Hour (1795)

-The National Convention and the Directory were under attack of the Royalists

-Royalists argued that a king and queen are better, so they marched on the national convention

-Napoleon, a lieutenant, was assigned to defend the N.C.

-He fired cannon balls on the archers and they fled

-He became known as the “Man of the Hour”


  • Italian Campaign

-He was given troops to go to the Alps and fight Sardinians and Austrians

-He won

-Successful because:

               -he rallied and related to his troops

               -gave his own medals to his soldiers for bravery

               -personally greeted soldiers

               -allowed troops to plunder in the Italian Campaign

               -was an incredible motivator—his troops moved faster and lighter


  • Egyptian Campaign

-he wanted Mediterranean trade

               -this would hurt the British

               -he saw himself as Alexander the Great and wanted to conquer the same stuff as him

-He discovered the Rosetta Stone

-had Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphics—the Greek part was used to translate the hieroglyphics and learn about Egyptian culture


                               -Tribes attacked his troops

                               -His men got sick with illness

                               -It was a complete fail

                -He claimed he was coming back to France to save the country, not because he failed

-He spun what happened and made it sound like it was going well—protecting his reputation

                               -Even when he fails, it becomes a victory


He overthrew the Directory

-In 1799, he joined other conspirators in overthrowing the Directory

        -they were upset about the weakness of the dictatorship

-Sieyes told Napoleon he should take over the Directory

        -He used his wife Josephine’s noble contacts (she was a noble herself)

-He convinced the Directory to make him the general of the entire army

-The next day, he took over the National Convention and had everyone arrested

-He forced them to form a new government, a republic.

        -3 consuls (like Rome): the 1st was him

        -this was in place until he declared himself emperor

-He held the Plebiscite: had the French people vote for whoever they wanted as emperor

        -they also approved the new constitution

        -He knew he would win

        -He did this to legitimize was he did and make it seem like it was for the people


Domestic Policies

-With great personal skill at winning over various groups, he restored stability to France

-He defeated the 1st Coalition à peace à time for domestic policies

      1) Napoleonic Code= Civil Code

                -He thought it was the most important (said this in his memoirs)

                -codified a unified, official set of laws for France

                -All male citizens are equal

                -Protection of Property

                                -made the nobles happy because they were worried about keeping their property

                               -created an absolute sense of security

                -took away some person freedom of speech and press             

                                -this way he could manipulate the media and protect his reputation

                               -only 4 newspapers left

-Joseph Fouche organized a ruthlessly efficient spy system that kept thousands of citizens under surveillance

                -took away women’s rights

                                -man = head of the family (symbolized Napoleon as the head of the country

-women were dependents of either their fathers or husbands and couldn’t have bank accounts

                                -he saw this as a popular move because men were getting angry about women’s rights

                -helped create a police state


      2) National bank = The Bank of France

                -helped regulate the economy

                -helped debt

                -the bank could make loans to provide for small businesses


      3) Strengthened the bureaucracy

                -created lycees = public schools that trained people to become skilled bureaucrats

                                -based on merit- trying to get people in office who could do their jobs well

                -created a new nobility—granted amnesty to émigrés who joined this nobility


      4) Concordat of 1801 with Pope Pius

                -He won over Catholics while sacrificing little control of the Church to the pope.

                -the Church was losing power

                                -This upset the clergy and peasants

-the clergy was still divided: those who took the loyalty oath of the revolution and those who didn’t and were in exile

-personally uninterested in religion, he wanted to heal religious division for unity of the country

                -He made Catholicism the official religion

                -He basically controlled the church

                -He appointed bishops- only ones that had to say popular things about him


Napoleon’s Expansion

-After initially pursuing peace in order to gain stability at home, Napoleon would then become militarily aggressive.

-After coming into power in 1799, he sent out peace feelers to Austria and Great Britain, the only 2 members of the 2nd coalition that remained at war with France

        -they rejected his attempted offers at peace

-He led French armies to defeat the Austrians

        -Treaty of Luneville:

                -Austria accepted the loss of almost all its Italian possessions

                -German territory along the Rhine was added to France

-He concluded the Treaty of Amiens with Great Britain

                -France controlled Holland, the Austrian Netherlands, German territory, and most of Italy

                -It was a clear diplomatic triumph for Napoleon

                -This peace with honor and profit increased his popularity in France

-in 1802, he was secure, but unsatisfied

-Part of his plan to destroy Britain included stopping all their trade.

-A British naval victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 destroyed his plans to invade England (see below in Napoleon’s mistakes for more details)


He crowned himself Emperor (1804)

-Shortly before the defeat at Trafalgar, he proclaimed himself emperor.

        -he used the wartime atmosphere to his advantage

-Happened at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

-The pope usually crowned people

-He took the crown out of the pope’s hands and placed it on his head

        -symbolized that not even the pope is above him

        -his power is greater than the church’s power

-This made everyone in other countries mad

-A third coalition was formed by the other major nations of Europe against his aggressiveness (1803)

        -Britain convinced the others to join them

        Russia (Alexander I) + Austria (Francis II) + Sweden + Britain

        -worried about the European balance of power

-But he continued to win battles.

      Confederation of the Rhine (1806)

        -He reorganized the German states: made a union of 15 German states

        -firmly controlled western Germany

        -This alarmed the Prussians

-Prussians waged war against Napoleon and Russia joined in

        -He won two more victories and Jena and Auerstadt

        -Napoleon’s large armies continued to win more and more victories

        -Alexander I wanted peace

        -Treaty of Tilsit:

                -Prussia lost ½ its population

-Russia accepted Napoleon’s reorganization of western and central Europe and promised  to enforce Napoleon’s economic blockade against British goods


Battle of Austerlitz (1805)

-defeated the Austrian and Russian army

-against Alexander I (Russia)


Napoleon’s troops

 -He moved quickly and got the high ground of the field





        -He pretended to flee down the mountain, but was really waiting at the bottom

        -Austria and Russia chased after them

        -They were charging so they were out of formation

        -There was fog that night, so they couldn’t see the waiting French troops

        -Napoleon killed them all, but Alexander I escaped

        -He forced Austria and Russia to accept peace treaties

-the 3rd coalition collapsed


He seemed invincible

-great general

        -his troops loved him

        -he moved quickly—he could pick the spot where the battle would happen

        -he was able to manipulate the other generals into doing what he wanted


The Grand Empire and Its End

-He built the so-called Grand Empire, which consisted of three parts:

        1) An ever-expanding France

                -included Belgium, Holland, parts of Italy, and German territory along the Rhine

        2) A number of dependent satellite kingdoms

                -he put members of his large family on their thrones

        3) Independent but allied states of Austria, Prussia, and Russia

-Even though Napoleon brought reforms to many areas, his exploitation of the people for France ’s benefit created hostility.

        -He enforced French laws and policies in his entire empire

-Failure of the continental system led to Napoleon’s disastrous 1812 invasion of Russia

-With his army depleted, Napoleon met other defeats until he was forced to abdicate in 1814.

-While the allies established a constitutional monarchy in France, Napoleon launched a brief comeback that led to a second defeat in 1815 at Waterloo.


Napoleon’s Mistakes

-he had too much hubris- tried to do too much, beyond his capabilities

1) Battle of Trafalgar(1805)

        -He combined the French and Spanish navy

        -decided to attack Britain and stop all their trade

        -off the southwest coast of Spain

        -His navy was crushed

        -His enemy at sea = Horacio Nelson              

                -he was killed by a French sniper in this battle, but he saved England


                -It saved England

                -Lead to British naval supremacy for the next 100 years

                -Showed that Napoleon can’t defeat them at sea—invasion of England was impossible


2) The Continental System (1806)

        -He couldn’t handle the fact that he couldn’t defeat them

                -was going crazy trying to figure out ways: thought of hot air balloons, tunnels

                -decided to try to cut off trade

        -He prevented European countries with trading with Britain

        -He wanted to make continental Europe self-sufficient

        -he set up a blockade to prevent ships from coming to Britain

        -problem: the British blockaded the French

                -this hurt the French more than the British

                               -especially French artisans and the middle class

                -it spurred the Industrial Revolution in Britain and made them self-sufficient

                -led to the War of 1812

-All of Napoleon’s Grand Empire was to support his continental system and not trade with Britain. He wanted to get all of the European countries to agree to this.

                -even Holland, controlled by his own brother, didn’t agree

                -people smuggled goods into England

        -The two countries that didn’t follow it especially:

                1. Portugal

                2. Russia


3) Peninsular Wars (1808)

        -Portugal didn’t follow the Continental System

        -He sent troops in through Spain

        -The Spanish didn’t like this:

                -fear that he’ll take over the Catholic Church and stop the Inquisition

                -he made things worse by replacing the popular Spanish king with his brother

        -Spain revolted

                -used guerilla warfare

                -They got help from Portugal and Britain

-The French strung people up and shot them à bad press and hatred towards Napoleon spread through the rest of Europe

        -it was a bloody, messy war

        -results: French lost 300,000 troops and lost the war


4) Invasion of Russia (1812)

        -Alexander I refused to follow the Continental system

                -It was destroying the Russian economy

        -Napoleon was upset because:

                -Alexander was selling grain to Britain

                -He and Alexander both wanted Poland

        -He sent in the Grand Amie—600,000 troops

-2/3 of the army was drafted from other countriesà they didn’t have any obligations or allegiance to France à they deserted

-traveled quickly and lightly

        -goal = conquer Moscow by getting Alexander I to sign a peace treaty

        -Alexander I’s strategies:

                -scorch-earth: burned farmland and kept retreating

                -he was buying time for winter to come

        -Napoleon had planned to stop at Smolensk and wait there until winter passed

                -He instead passed it and continued marching

                -¼ the army deserted

                -150,000 died before any battle

      Battle of Borodino

                -messy, violent

                -He and his army got to Moscow

                -Russians brought Napoleon’s army to a standstill

                -importance: it was a draw

        -Russians then retreatedà Napoleon proclaimed that he won the battle

                -He expected a peace treaty—became arrogant and lazy and lost his strategies

        -Alexander I burned Moscow down

                -worst blow to Napoleon’s army

                -they couldn’t stay there anymore

      Napoleon’s disastrous retreat

        -Napoleon tried to negotiate but Alexander I refused

        -Napoleon decided to retreat out of Russia

        -Then winter hit

                -His troops were unprepared: cold, tired, hungry

                -they were fighting disease, starvation, and  Cossacks

                -they were getting sick especially from lyme disease

        -The Russians attacked them with guerrilla tactics

        -He lost 570,000 troops out of his 600,000

                -He was forced to abandon his troops and return to France


Battle of Leiptzig

-When he returned, a new coalition was formed against him

        -Treaty of Chaumont (1814):

                Austria + Prussia + Russia + Great Britain

                They all pledged allegiance to defeat Napoleon

                They called for a “war against liberation” against Napoleon’s oppression

-He kept fighting and fighting against almost all of Europe

-lost 400,000 men in 2 months

85,000 French   vs.          350,000 Allies

-Even Napoleon’s own generals turned against him and said they were done fighting for a hopeless cause

-He was still delusional and believed they had a chance to win


He abdicated his throne (1814)

-Marie Louis never saw him again and had to go with her father

        -didn’t go into exile because she was a Habsburg

-He tried to commit suicide

        -He tried to poison himself, but he mixed it wrong and had to throw it out


He was sent to Elba (1814)

-given the title of Emperor of Elba

-given 2 million francs every year by the French people

-lived in a villa

-took work and action with Elba and passed several laws

-heard of Josephine’s death at Mount Visont while he was here


His escape from Elba (1815)

-he heard that the French people wanted him back because things in France are bad

-Louis XVIII was the king under a constitutional monarchy

-He tried to consolidate support by issuing the Constitutional Charter, which accepted many of France’s revolutionary changes and guaranteed civil liberties

-But Louis XVIII = unpopular

        -economy was bad

        -royalists hated him

        -he had no charisma

        -if he and his advisors did a better job, Napoleon wouldn’t have come back

-He sneaked on to a boat and sailed to France

-Troops were sent to arrest him when his boat arrived in France

-He told them that they could kill him or they could follow him, their rightful emperor

-They joined him and he became king again

        -Louis XVIII fled

        -His brief reign was called the Hundred Days

-Another coalition was formed

        -they declared Napoleon an outlaw and an enemy

        -Napoleon planed to defeat Britain and Prussia


Battle of Waterloo

-Napoleon was defeated

-Great Britain’s commander = the Duke of Wellington

-Prussia’s commander = Bluker

-it had rained, so there was lots of mud à it was hard for artillery to move

-Napoleon said “fortune was abandoning me”

        -thought he was losing his guiding star: his guardian angel, his wife, fortune, superstition

-Napoleon charged Wellington

        -He was losing control—out of formation

        -Bluker was on his way

-The guard retreated

        -The Prussians came and Bluker attacked Napoleon


-Britain wins à they had more influence over the peace treaty

-Napoleon was defeated

-It wasn’t as important for deciding Napoleon’s fate because he would have eventually lost anyway

        -All of Europe was against him


Napoleon was banished to St. Helena

-volcanic island off the coast of Africa

-they sent him so far it was too far for him to ever come back

        -impossible to escape

        -he was miserable

-He wrote his memoirs while he was there

        -listed his battles and victories and domestic reforms

        -put a positive spin on everything

        -he saw himself as a liberator, a modern man

        -he compared himself to Jesus and said he was being martyred

-he died of stomach cancer

        -but he thought he was poisoned with arsenic


Louis XVIII was put back in power


In total, 3 million men died after all of his battles


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