Louis XVI believed this implicitly; but unlike his grandfather Louis XV his own father had died before inheriting the throne he did not invariably do what a majority of his ministers recommended. Nor was the king unfettered in his choice of advisers. Although he could sack them without explanation, his practical choice was limited to career administrators, magistrates, and courtiers.
They, in turn, could only be brought to his notice by the intrigues of other ministers and familiars of both sexes drawn from the ranks or clienteles of the few hundred families rich enough to live in the gilded splendour of the Court. Imprisoned in scarcely changing routines of etiquette established 21 Why it happened exercise to nobody but God.
For their part, the Parisians remained suspicious and contemptuous of the Court. Symbolizing the ill-starred alliance with the old enemy, the frivolous Marie-Antoinette The French Revolution never achieved popularity, even when, in , she belatedly bore Louis XVI an heir. Her extravagance was so proverbial that even when rumours of it were disproved as with her supposed secret purchase of a sumptuous diamond necklace in they were still believed.
Unlike his raddled old grandfather, Louis XVI was a chaste family man who never took a mistress. But this threw the public spotlight onto his unpopular wife even more glaringly. The king thought them the showcase of his government, and there was no doubt about their high level of professionalism. But they were increasingly unpopular for their authoritarian ways, and their shortcomings and mistakes were mercilessly denounced by bodies whose authority they had largely supplanted since the seventeenth century.
Some of the parlements presided over small enclaves, others over extensive provinces. The jurisdiction of the parlement of Paris covered a third of the kingdom. The king could bully them by shows of force, but without the money to buy them out, he could not dispossess them. An opportunity was created for unobstructed reform, but Maupeou, the chancellor responsible, had no serious reforming intentions, and no advantage was taken. In the short run it worked. Although some provincial parlements The French Revolution remained fractious, and obstructed their local intendant more than ever, the crucially important parlement of Paris proved fairly pliable for the best part of a dozen years.
It was, however, at the cost of the king attempting nothing too radical. Innovation was seen, and accepted even by most ministers, as dangerous. The result would be the overthrow of civil society, the harmony of which is maintained only by that hierarchy of powers, authorities, preeminences and distinctions which keeps each man in his place and keeps all Estates from confusion.
This social order is not only essential to the practice of every sound government: it has its origin in divine law. These institutions were not formed by chance, and time cannot change them. In earlier times it was easier to do than trying to force the rich to pay taxes. The most powerful groups in society, in any case, had elaborated persuasive rationales for exemption.
In any case these ancient arguments failed to keep the nobility exempt from new direct taxes introduced in and after Nevertheless, in most provinces, nobles continued to escape the oldest basic direct tax, the 25 Why it happened since the sixteenth century these confusions had been compounded by taille, not to mention forced labour on the roads. The burden of taxation, in other words, fell disproportionately on those least able to pay. To one extent or another, the rich were able to avoid it. In real terms the total tax burden borne by the French had fallen over the eighteenth century.
Yet whatever they paid they all considered themselves over-taxed. That was one reason why the resistance of the parlements, even though their magistrates were all nobles and represented nobody but themselves, was so popular. Even they The French Revolution recognized, however, that some emergencies necessitated higher taxes, and they acquiesced in a new levy of a twentieth on income from real estate in They even agreed to its doubling in and tripling in But the third twentieth lapsed when the Seven Years War ended, and meanwhile all sorts of provincial and institutional abatements had been negotiated, notably with the clergy and provinces retaining estates.
But the purpose of such ostentatious savings was not to pay directly for the war, but to boost French credit in the international money market so as to sustain borrowing. If all had been well in , people later asked, what had gone wrong since, and who was responsible? Necker had been brought in more as a credit consultant than as a minister. When he attempted to use his popularity to force the king to admit him to his innermost counsels, unprecedented: one did not resign on the king of France.
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Public opinion The constraints were obvious in innumerable ways. The collapse of this experiment also produced an enduring mistrust of banks and paper money despite all they had done in Holland or Great Britain to sustain an unprecedented war effort against France. For subsequent generations, any expedient which stirred such painful memories was generally regarded as unthinkable. Traditional intermediary buffers between ruler and subject had been swept aside. The judiciary, for example, was perceived to be 28 overstaffed, underemployed, and its procedures slow, expensive, and unreliable.
A series of miscarriages of criminal justice exposed the cruelties and caprices of a system where magistrates were recruited by heredity or purchase rather than rational tests of competence. More thoughtful observers believed there were ways to square some circles. That implied tax reform — the abolition of burdensome charges like feudal dues in cash or kind, or tithes.
It also meant commercial liberalization — the removal of controls on prices and free exchange, particularly in the grain trade. In comparison with agriculture, industry and commerce were held by these thinkers to be less important, and not generators of true wealth: but here too natural activity was impeded by over-regulation, the constraints imposed by trade guilds, and commercial monopolies. Governments could not contemplate even the temporary loss of revenue, not to mention likely opposition from courts, estates, and various corporate bodies, which introducing a single tax would entail.
Similarly with feudal dues: these were property rights, which could not be abolished equitably without compensation. A book advocating their suppression was publicly burned by order of the Paris parlement in As to the tithe, it was the 29 Why it happened people to use this name argued that all true wealth derived from main source of income of the parish clergy. Where would a substitute come from?
The merest hint of commercial and industrial deregulation, meanwhile, was vigorously opposed by well-organized lobbies of merchants, chambers of commerce, and guild masters. Only in was trade with overseas colonies made completely free and open, and an attempt to abolish the monopolies of Parisian trade guilds ten years earlier was abandoned after only a few months of chaos. They bore the brunt of experiments from the s onwards to deregulate the grain trade.
In the short term, however, higher grain prices meant dearer bread, especially The French Revolution when harvests were poor. When, in , the harvest failed completely, free export in previous years had denuded the kingdom of stocks. In mid-century the hierarchy had squandered much popular respect by zealous persecution of dissident priests who questioned authority in the Church in the name of Jansenism, an austere set of beliefs condemned as heretical by the papal bull Unigenitus of Jansenists were protected by sympathizers in the parlement of Paris, and in the s and s a series of lawsuits against priests refusing the last rites to dying Jansenists stirred up widespread fury against the hierarchy.
When in Louis XV was harmlessly stabbed, his half-crazed assailant seemed to have acted out of vague sympathy for Jansenist tribulations. And Jansenism appeared to triumph in the s when its oldest and most inveterate enemies, the Jesuits, found themselves involved in a case before the parlement. Other parlements followed the lead, and a divided which had educated most of the social elite for three centuries caused enormous educational upheaval.
With the closure of their colleges, something like a national curriculum was dissolved, and a generation of educational debate and experiment began. Almost at the same moment the establishment of a commission to review and consolidate failing monasteries suggested that even wider reform in the Church might be possible. Happy to promote cruelty and intolerance, 31 Why it happened government acquiesced.
The expulsion from the kingdom of a society they had amassed disproportionate riches to support the idleness of unproductive monks and spendthrift chapters and prelates. These charges were pressed home with innuendo and ridicule, for which the midcentury quarrels within the Church provided plenty of material.
In one sense, the Church was a victim of its own success. More readers produced a rising demand for printed materials of all kinds. Book production soared; so did that of more ephemeral material like chapbooks, legal briefs sold for public consumption, and newspapers. It is true that they were mainly advertising sheets, and when they printed news it was largely without comment. Louis XIV had told his subjects what to do, and what to think. Under Louis XVI, it was recognized that they had to be persuaded. The virtues of active cooperation between kings and their subjects had long been displayed across the Channel.
Ever since the s writers like Montesquieu and Voltaire had extolled the enabling freedoms of British liberty, toleration, and parliamentary government. Some of the gloss was taken from the image of Great Britain when her colonies rebelled, and Anglomania was partially eclipsed by enthusiasm for all things American. In the handful of provinces with estates, of course, it was; but that made the situation elsewhere seem even more anomalous. When Maupeou attacked the parlements in , some went further and called for a meeting of the nearest French equivalent to the British parliament, the medieval Estates-General, last convened in Others, with the comfortable ambiguities of absolute monarchy now exposed as empty, began to think of more rationally designed representative institutions that would visibly involve taxpayers in administration.
Only two were established before his resignation, but they did not disappear with him. Slowly, hesitantly, with many misgivings but aware that 33 Why it happened the Anglo-American quarrel; and when Louis XVI allied with republican institutional paralysis was the only alternative, the monarchy was becoming less absolute under Louis XVI. The borrowing which this required achieved just the reverse. The king, after considering it carefully, accepted it with genuine enthusiasm.
The plan was threefold. This, and other less important innovations, were to be overseen throughout the kingdom by provincial assemblies elected by all prominent landowners. Representative government was to be universalized — though not centralized in a national assembly. In , a commercial agreement with Great Britain had already opened French markets to British manufacturers in exchange for agricultural products. More borrowing would be required until the effects were felt. He considered convoking the Estates-General, but thought them likely to be uncontrollable. Instead he nominated princes, prelates, noblemen, and magistrates, before whom he laid his proposals in February It was a political disaster.
Even those who did tended to hold him responsible, and therefore not the right person to resolve it. An an archbishop who had used the Notables as a ladder to power. By now, in fact, growing numbers in the assembly were declaring themselves incompetent to sanction reform of any sort. That, they declared, required nothing less than the Estates-General. Experience with the Notables only made this seem more dangerous and unpredictable than ever, and on 25 May the assembly was dissolved.
An attempt was now made to push the reforms through the parlements, but they too claimed incompetence. As crowds came onto the streets to cheer for the Estates-General, the Parisian magistrates were sent into exile. Louis XVI had threatened to intervene if Dutch territory was violated; but, with old taxation running out and new unauthorized, Brienne advised him that he could not afford to. It was the end of the Bourbon monarchy as a military power; an admission that, even close 35 Why it happened amended version of his plan was then brought forward by Brienne, to its own frontiers, it could no longer pay for its international pretensions.
Within a year its domestic political authority had also evaporated. Attempts to engineer a consensual reform plan with the Paris parlement collapsed amid suspicious recriminations, and for six months the sovereign courts refused to transact business. In May , a Maupeoulike attempt was made to remodel them and reduce their powers. To win public support a wide range of legal and institutional reforms were simultaneously announced, but they were ignored in the public uproar that now swept the country.
Even a promise to convoke the EstatesGeneral once the reforms had taken effect was greeted with contempt. On 16 August, payments from the treasury were suspended. It was the bankruptcy which successive ministries had spent 30 years trying to avoid. Brienne resigned, recommending the recall of Necker. The convocation of a national representative assembly meant the end of absolute monarchy.
Its plans for reform fell with it.
Nobody knew what the Estates-General would do, or even how it would be made up or chosen. There was a complete vacuum of power. Bread prices would rise, and as consumers spent more of their incomes on food, demand for other goods would fall. Manufactures, hit by cheaper British competition under the commercial treaty of , were already slumping; and there were widespread layoffs at the very time when bread prices began to soar.
So the political storm that was about to break would take place against a background of economic crisis, and would be profoundly affected by it. It was too late, but the gesture only added to his phenomenal popularity. He needed it all to deal with other problems. The most pressing was the form to be taken by the Estates-General. To the parlement of Paris this seemed to imply a desire to rig the assembly in advance; and to prevent any such move the magistrates declared on 25 September that the Estates-General should be constituted in the same way as when they had last met, according to the forms of Well-informed observers realized at once that this was a recipe for prolonging the institutional paralysis which had brought down absolute monarchy.
In , the Estates-General had sat in three separate orders, representing clergy, nobility, and the third estate — meaning everybody else. They had voted by order, so any two could outvote a third. What has it been until now in the public order? What does it want to be? Privileges were a cancer.
By December the clamour against the forms of was so well established that Necker felt emboldened to act. He decreed that, in recognition of their weight in the nation, the number of third-estate deputies would be doubled. It was obvious that this meant little if voting was still to be by order rather than by head, but Necker believed that the clergy and nobility could be induced to renounce the privilege 38 for themselves once the Estates-General met.
He relied on general dissatisfaction with the half-measure of doubling the third to dominate the elections of the spring of to such a degree that resistance to uniting the orders would become unthinkable. Vote by head was indeed one of the central preoccupations of the electoral assemblies; but since they too were separate, with each order electing its own deputies, the effect was to polarize matters still further. In the face of tumultuous popular support for third-estate aspirations, clerical and noble electors tended to see their privileges as an essential safeguard of their identity; and most of those they elected to represent them were intransigents.
Opinion was crystallized further on all sides by the process of drafting cahiers grievance lists which were also part of the forms of to guide the deputies chosen. Now emerged questions not only of how the estates were to be constituted, but of what they were actually to do. An amazing range of grievances and aspirations were articulated in what changes seemed possible that only a few months earlier had been the stuff of dreams; and the tone of the cahiers made clear that many electors actually expected them to happen through the agency of the Estates-General.
National sovereignty But when the Estates-General met at Versailles on 5 May they proved a massive disappointment. Necker opened proceedings with a boring speech, and from the start the third-estate deputies made clear that they would transact no business as a separate order. Their calls to the nobility and clergy to unite with them, however, fell on deaf ears. Even the small number of noble deputies who favoured deliberation and voting in common refused to break ranks.
The stalemate continued for six weeks, during which bread prices continued to rise, public order began to break down in many districts, and the widespread hopes of the spring began to turn sour. Suddenly an overwhelming vote in favour, they invited the other orders to verify credentials in common, and three days later a handful of parish priests broke the solidarity of the privileged orders to answer the invitation.
Other clergy trickled in over the next few days, and a body that was no longer just representative of the third estate recognized that it now needed a new name. Immediately afterwards it decreed the cancellation and then reauthorization of all taxes. The implication was clear. This assembly had seized sovereign power in the name of the French Nation.
It was the founding act of the French Revolution. If the Nation was sovereign, the king no longer was. Louis XVI, shaking off the grief which had paralysed him since the death of his elder son a few days before, The French Revolution now declared that he would hold a Royal Session to promulgate a programme of his own. Locked out of its usual meeting place by preparations for this, the suspicious self-proclaimed National Assembly convened on 20 June in an indoor tennis court and took an emotional oath never to separate until they had given France a constitution.
Aware that they could no longer rely on support from the throne, noble and clerical separatists found their solidarity crumbling. Soon they were joining the National Assembly in droves, and on 27 June the king formally ordered the last diehards to do so. Necker withdrew his resignation. The royal surrender seemed complete. More were ordered up in the weeks that 40 4. The National Assembly vows never to disperse until it has given France a constitution. He replied, plausibly enough, that their presence was necessary to secure public order; but when on 12 July Necker was dismissed more sinister suspicions seemed borne out.
On hearing the news about Necker, Paris exploded with a mixture of fear and indignation. Tentative moves by German mercenary troops to disperse crowds only made things worse, and members of the permanent Paris garrison of French Guards began to desert. On 14 July they converged on the massive state prison of the Bastille, which commanded the entire east end of the city with its guns. Paris was now in rebel hands. There were certainly enough troops surrounding the city to subdue the revolt, but commanders advised the king that they might not obey orders to shoot. In these circumstances he was powerless, and ordered a withdrawal.
A counter-revolution had been defeated. The National Assembly had been saved. It was the end of the beginning. Nor did the opening of the grim and mysterious Bastille release the expected host of languishing victims of despotism. There were only seven prisoners. But the medieval fortress was a symbol of royal power, and the spontaneous demolition of it which began at once was equally symbolic of the end of a discredited old order. After the king had been to Paris and, accepting the new tricolour 42 5.
Binding mandates imposed by electors in the spring were abrogated, and a preamble to the constitution, a declaration of rights, began to be drafted. The men of property who The French Revolution made up the Assembly, whether owners of feudal rights or not, were genuinely alarmed that the country was collapsing into anarchy. To defuse the chaos, a radical group planned a dramatic gesture in which feudal dues would be abolished.
It was launched by a great nobleman on the evening of 4 August, and was greeted with a rush of enthusiasm in an Assembly that had impatiently held back from positive action for much of the three months of its existence. Soon more than feudal rights were proposed for abolition. Free justice was proclaimed, and equality of taxation. The Church was deprived of tithes, the basic income of the parish clergy.
As several of those present observed, there had been a sort of magic in the air that night: but the magic worked. Gradually rural disorder subsided. The Assembly now calling itself the National Constituent 44 Assembly returned to its constitution-making. The king, however, seemed in no hurry to accept this restriction, or indeed any of the great measures enacted in August. Suspicions aroused in July now began to fester anew in Paris, whose populace clearly regarded themselves as the saviours and watchdogs of the Revolution.
When, early in October, new military arrivals were reported from Versailles by a Parisian press now free and constantly proliferating, fear spread that the king was about to attempt again what had failed in the summer. Sweeping aside attempts by the National Guard to restrain them, thousands of women marched on Versailles to coerce the king.
There they invaded the hall of the Assembly, broke into the palace, and threatened the life of the queen. The monarch quickly saw that he had little choice, and on 6 October he was escorted back to his capital by the triumphant women. The Assembly followed a few days later.
Apart from an ill-fated attempt to escape in June , he would remain so until the monarchy was overthrown in August So, however, would the Assembly. Although the deputies knew that they probably owed their survival to Parisian popular action, most of them remained deeply uneasy about the obligation. Their aim was to set up a constitutional monarchy controlled by the elected representatives of substantial men of property. They soon saw that all this could not possibly be met out of taxation.
Tax revenues, in fact, were falling catastrophically in the absence of any effective means of coercion. By the abolition of tithe on 4 August the Assembly had already committed itself to ecclesiastical reform. Finding an alternative source of income for the parish clergy was not the least of the new obligations it had taken on. But the Church remained rich in lands and endowments and already on 4 August isolated voices had claimed that the rightful owner of these assets was the Nation.
They were to be sold to support an issue of state bonds, called assignats, in which other public debts would be redeemed. To many clergy and devout laity these measures looked like part of a wider attack on the Catholic faith. Amid triumphant invocations of the philosophers who had attacked the Church throughout the eighteenth century, the Assembly proclaimed civil equality for Protestants and prohibited monastic vows. Finally, given that the Nation was now to pay the clergy out of public funds, the Assembly decided to reorganize the Church in accordance with the same broad principles it was applying to the country at large.
Nor were the clergy themselves, which left many of them uncertain whether such a radical reorganization was acceptable to the Church as a whole. The Assembly saw their hesitation as a deliberate obstruction of the national will, and in November imposed an 46 oath of obedience on all clergy. They expected that to settle matters; but in fact only around half of the clergy complied. Many retracted when in the spring of the pope publicly denounced the civil constitution.
No sincere Catholic could evade this decision; and this included the king. After his return to Paris, Louis XVI had grudgingly accepted all the reforms of the Constituent Assembly, with occasional displays almost of enthusiasm. It was soon obvious in the spring of , however, that he was avoiding receiving the sacraments from constitutionals. Threatening demonstrations began to occur around the Tuileries palace, for in Paris there was overwhelming support for oath-taking.
This renewed popular hostility determined the royal family to attempt escape. On the night of 20 June they slipped out of Paris, making for the eastern frontier. The king imprudently left behind him an open letter denouncing much of the work of the Revolution. But the fugitives were captured at Varennes, and brought back to Paris in disgrace.
There had been hardly any republicanism in , and what 47 How it happened Polarization: monarchy 6. National Guards in uniform, with the tricolour there was abated once the king was back in Paris and accepting all the Assembly sent him. But, after Varennes, the mistrust built up by his long record of apparent ambivalence burst out into widespread demands from the populace of the capital and a number of radical publicists for the king to be dethroned.
The Legislative Assembly met in an atmosphere of international crisis. In May the Constituent Assembly had positively renounced war as an instrument of policy, except in self-defence. But after the ignominious recapture of a king who appeared bent on internationalizing his plight, other monarchs were alarmed. The king and queen shared these dreams; but the new deputies saw them as a 49 How it happened the press and of political clubs, the constitution of was presented to provocation.
Despite fears, evinced by Jacobins like Robespierre, that the debilitated army was in no state to defeat the disciplined forces of Austria and Prussia, most of the country was carried away by war fever. Polarization: war War was the third great polarizing issue of the Revolution. As was intended, it forced everybody to take sides on everything else. No doubt his resolution was steeled by news of disasters from the front, as Prussia entered the war and prepared to invade French territory.
Even French generals called for peace negotiations. As they began to arrive in Paris, those from Marseilles singing a new and bloodthirsty battle hymn that would forever afterwards bear their name, the Prussian commander threatened to destroy Paris if the king was harmed. The king took refuge with the Assembly while his Swiss life-guards were massacred defending his empty residence; but this did not save his throne. The Assembly voted to suspend the monarchy and convoke a new body elected by manhood suffrage, the Convention, to draw up a republican constitution for the country.
The full impact and implications of the overthrow of monarchy took the rest of the year to become manifest. Meanwhile the Prussians pushed into France, and Paris remained panic-stricken. As patriotic sansculottes were urged to join up, anxiety spread about a possible prison breakout in their absence.
On 2 September, as news arrived that the Prussians out and massacred. The carnage went on for four days, leaving about victims dead, among them many refractory priests. This was something altogether more serious than the occasional lynchings of and since, a grim lesson of what happened if the lower orders were not kept under control.
Enemies of the Revolution had always predicted bloody chaos; those who wished it well mostly found the massacres equally hard to justify. Everybody in Paris, however, lived henceforth in the fear that they might very well happen again. And yet within weeks the crisis seemed to be over. On the day before the Convention replaced the Legislative, a French army confronted the Prussian invaders at Valmy and defeated them 20 September.
It was the beginning of six months of brilliant military success in which the Austrian Netherlands and the left bank of the Rhine were overrun. They promised to implement revolutionary social policies wherever they went, and make churches and nobles pay for the process. Later it would retrospectively date a new republican calendar from this moment, the Year I of Liberty.
When it was argued that he should be put on trial for crimes against the nation, some argued that his very overthrow by the populace constituted a trial and guilty verdict. Only the sentence was contentious, a decision to execute him passing by a single vote. There were also unsuccessful proposals to subject the result to a referendum, and to grant clemency. But the majority knew that the watching sansculottes would probably not have allowed either; and so on 21 January the former king went to public execution. When the Convention sought to augment its armed forces by conscripting , new recruits, there was widespread resistance across the west of the country, where the persecution of refractory priests had already caused rioting.
French forces were driven out of the Rhineland and Belgium, where their general deserted to the enemy. The crisis exacerbated long-standing political divisions within the Convention. It was they who sought national endorsement of the judgements against the king. They saw no safe alternative to humouring the sansculottes, even if that meant turning a blind eye to their more violent instincts and excesses. By May, with bad news arriving from all sides, they had concluded that the only way to silence the Girondins was to accept sansculotte demands for their expulsion from the Convention.
On 2 June, 29 of them were arrested. The immediate effect was only to intensify the crisis. On 13 July, meanwhile, Marat, the journalistic idol of the sansculottes, was assassinated in his bath by Charlotte Corday, an insurgent from Caen. It was 54 a protest against extremism and instability in the capital. Almost 14, were sentenced to death by special courts in the provinces over the autumn and winter. Some were shot or drowned, but most died under the instrument that had dispatched the king, the guillotine — introduced only in April and designed as a humane means of execution by rational men who failed to foresee the effect of the rivers of blood it released when used on large numbers of victims.
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The aim of such retribution was as much to terrorize as to punish; and by September the sansculottes, unable to understand why the results, were pressing for terror to be adopted as a principle of government. Intimidated once more by mass demonstrations on 5 September, the Convention declared terror the order of the day. Now the Girondins arrested in June, and the hated widow of Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, were sent to the scaffold, for what they symbolized as much as for what they had done.
The aim was to stamp out all forms of Christian practice if not belief. Terror appeared to have achieved its purpose of crushing internal The French Revolution opposition from every quarter. The fortunes of war were improving too. By now some deputies were arguing for an end to terror.
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The rhythm of terror began to accelerate again, and with all political trials now channelled through the Paris revolutionary tribunal, the victims condemned there down to July made more impact on the world outside than the thousands more who had perished in previous months in the provinces. In early June the last judicial safeguards for innocence 56 8. Many were now being executed almost for their counter-revolutionary potential alone: the number of noble victims, for instance, hitherto quite modest, rose markedly.
What nobody could imagine was how it would all end, since even to express doubt about the need for terror was to invite suspicion. And yet the necessity for government by bloodletting was less and less obvious. People began to blame the continuing terror on the suspicious mind of Robespierre, and a group of deputies who feared they might be his next target began to plot against him. He was outlawed, which meant that when he was arrested there was no need for a trial.
Having failed to kill himself prior to arrest, he and his closest associates were guillotined on 28 July. The thermidorean dilemma The fall of Robespierre, on 9 thermidor in the revolutionary calendar, has often been seen as the end of the Revolution. It was nothing of the sort. The terror, which did come to an end with his execution, was certainly a spectacular climax to developments since , but it solved none of the problems which had torn the Revolution apart — religion, monarchy, and war.
In fact it added another, in the form of Jacobinism. Now it began to acquire the same connotations in France — a legacy of clubs, populism, social levelling, and authoritarianism in the name of these principles, all underpinned by terror. The so-called Thermidoreans in the Convention who had taken over power were committed to dismantling all that had made Jacobinism possible. The assignats, whose value had been eroded by massive overissue after war broke out, had been somewhat sustained as legal tender by the controlled economy of the Year II: now they went into free fall.
As in —9 accidents of nature exacerbated the situation. A mediocre harvest and perhaps the coldest winter since left the sansculottes so miserable that by the spring they were clamouring for a return to the times when bread and blood were both plentiful. In the Convention was twice mobbed by angry crowds and a deputy was lynched.
Hitherto persecuted Catholics and Royalists now began to take their revenge. If the recent past had been a series of terrible mistakes, when had they begun? Probably, thought the Thermidoreans, in Their dream was to recover the lost consensus and civic idealism of the early revolution. That meant conciliating those alienated in the meantime — Catholics and Royalists. They never The French Revolution got beyond the beaches at Quiberon and were shot in their hundreds by their republican captors. All this blighted any hopes of a restoration. Yet, conscious that the Convention had been elected to give France a new constitution, the deputies knew they had now sat long enough.
Technically, a constitution already existed: an extremely democratic one, embodying various provisions for social welfare and even the right to legalized insurrection, had been framed and adopted in in the aftermath of the downfall of the Girondins. The insurgents of germinal and prairial had called for it to be implemented, but that alone ensured that it was unthinkable. Accordingly the Convention spent the summer of elaborating a new republican constitution, more heavily dependent on large property owners even than that of Nor did its drafters make what they saw as the fundamental mistake of by excluding themselves from the new machinery.
The Directory During all this time, French armies had been triumphant everywhere. The Dutch Republic was invaded, and surrendered. The Prussians and the Spaniards made peace.
By the end of only the Austrians and the British were still at war with the Republic, and neither of them threatened its territory. For a knockout blow was planned against the Emperor, with armies striking towards Vienna from Germany and supposed to be secondary, but in the twelve months from April he drove the Austrians out of Italy to within striking distance of their capital, and on his own initiative concluded peace preliminaries at Leoben.
But they emerged radicalized from prison and hiding, and by the spring of some were calling for the constitution and the equalization of property. Forced underground again, a small group led by the journalist Babeuf plotted a coup. The Italian command was given to Bonaparte. The front was British and Austrians hopes of a more advantageous peace than their military position warranted.
Fearing that the fruits of his Italian victories might be jeopardized, Bonaparte gave his support to three of the directors equally alarmed by the reactionary tide. In the coup of fructidor Year V September , election results were annulled in over half the departments, and deputies were purged. Both subsequent rounds of election under the directorial constitution, in and , would also be adjusted in accordance with political convenience; so that this constitution was never allowed the time and opportunity to work freely.
There is little wonder that so few in would mourn its passing. Meanwhile fructidor seemed to justify itself by results. The very next month the Austrians made peace at Campo Formio, recognizing the loss The French Revolution of Belgium and their old Italian possessions, now transformed by Bonaparte into the Cisalpine Republic, a French puppet state. It acted too with renewed harshness against priests and nobles.
Bonaparte, back from Italy, was put in charge of invasion plans; but soon decided that the commercial British were more likely to make peace if France could threaten the source of their wealth in India. When Austria allowed Russian troops to cross her territory to reach the French adversary in Italy, the whole peninsula rose up against the puppet regimes set up there by Bonaparte and his successors.
The French withdrew, taking the pope with them as a prisoner, and he died in French captivity. Suddenly the Republic 62 seemed as dangerously isolated as in Was the answer the same as it had been then? Amid talk of forced loans and hostage-taking, General Jourdan moved a comprehensive law on conscription. It was soon put down, but the military crisis lasted until new victories the next summer, and prolonged political uncertainties as neo-Jacobins opened clubs and clamoured for emergency measures to save the country.
He cast about for a reliable general to help him mount a coup. It was at this moment that Napoleon Bonaparte made his famous escape from the isolation of Egypt. It invested Napoleon with practically limitless powers as First Consul of the Republic. It is over. By defeating the Austrians himself at Marengo in , and through General Moreau at Hohenlinden the next year he ended the war on the continent. The war-weary British gave up the struggle too in at the peace of Amiens.
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The revolutionary war was won, in a complete victory for France. If 63 How it happened Napoleon France was to have a monarch, Napoleon himself was now a more credible candidate, as he was to demonstrate by crowning himself in By then, too, he had deprived the Bourbons of their main source of support by settling the quarrel between France and Rome. Under the concordat negotiated with a new pope, Pius VII, in , open Catholic worship was restored in France and paid for by the state. Their new owners could at last feel secure in their gains, and became natural supporters of the new regime, rather than of the only parties hitherto to promise them such guarantees — the discredited Directory, and the bloodstained Jacobins.
The nationwide sigh of relief was practically audible. Napoleonic rule would bring its own problems and contradictions, but it endured because it began by resolving others that had torn the country apart for more than a decade. There is no longer for any part of the nation or for any individual any privilege or exception to the common law of all the French. There are no longer either guilds, or corporations of professions, arts and crafts. The list was far from exhaustive. In the constitution, it came immediately after the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, which by proclaiming a number of principles of political and civil life, implicitly condemned practices opposed to them in previous times.
By they were so comprehensive that an outraged priest coined a new word to describe them: vandalism, evoking the anti-Christian depredations of ancient barbarians. Despotism The Revolution began as an attack on despotism. Obeying no law, despotic authority was arbitrary, and its animating spirit was fear. Already by , Rousseau was implying in his Social Contract that there was no meaningful difference between the authority of a despot and that of a monarch.
By the end of that decade despotism was widely understood as the abuse of monarchical power, and indeed of any sort of authority. In a word, no distinction was now drawn between despotism, tyranny, and absolute monarchy. The Revolution provided an opportunity to dispense with it all.
There was of course plenty of law under the old regime — too much, the revolutionaries thought. But the king had appeared able to override any of it with impunity. Once demolished, the Bastille was never rebuilt, and all that remains where it once stood is the outline of its plan in the cobblestones. Almost as , the great palace which Louis XIV had made the seat of absolute monarchy.
It was too big to demolish though not to vandalize but not even Napoleon, whose real power dwarfed that wielded by Louis XVI, thought it wise to move in there when he became a crowned ruler with a court. It evoked too many undesirable memories. Even they recognized that the old nerve-centre of absolute monarchy was an inappropriate residence for constitutional rulers.
Louis-Philippe, who followed them, saw that its only possible use now was as a museum. Aristocracy But Versailles was more than a symbol of political authority. With its glittering population of titled courtiers, it also symbolized a whole social system dominated by a privileged nobility. From the autumn of , the Revolution acquired a social thrust, and that thrust was anti-noble. Insults and exaggerations exchanged then could not be expunged; and despite the constructive role played by many noble deputies once the orders were merged, the emigration of others, and the gratuitously obstructionist behaviour of some who remained, ensured that suspicions about the nobility never died away.
In June nobility itself, and the display of its appurtenances like titles and coats of arms, were forbidden by law, which only increased the sense among most nobles that they were aliens in the land of their birth. After fructidor in , in the reaction against the renewed threat of royalism, The French Revolution nobles were indeed legally made aliens, and deprived of their rights as French citizens.
They were now ci-devants, relics of a former time, no better than the thousands of their traitrous relatives who had emigrated rather than live in a country so changed. It was added to the saleable stock of national lands. Feudal rights were not always very lucrative, and their incidence varied enormously.
And although, recognized by the Assembly as a form of property, dues were supposed to go on being levied until bought out, most peasants stopped paying them at once and never offered compensation. But the abolition of the feudal regime was only the most direct blow suffered by nobles as a result of the night of 4 August. What began as an attempt to pacify the 68 peasantry soon broadened out into an attack on privileges in general. These had been the overwhelming demand of the third estate cahiers, and many noble ones had also endorsed them. Now they passed into law. The whole character of the French nobility had been transformed by these procedures; but now it simply ceased to recruit — a recipe for eventual extinction.
But the revolutionaries of did not believe in monopolies of any sort, which they saw as conspiracies against the public or national interest. As the The greatest corporation of all was of course the Church: independently wealthy, largely self-governing, and owing part of its allegiance to a foreign potentate beyond the Alps.
Clerical electors had hoped that the new regime would strengthen the role of the Catholic Church in national life after two generations of philosophic erosion, but instead the clergy found themselves appalled and apprehensive at the uncompensated abolition of tithe on 4 August. Religious freedom, vouchsafed a few weeks later in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, was a further blow to their spiritual monopoly.
The elective civil constitution The French Revolution of the clergy then destroyed the hierarchical autonomy of the Church, and priestly protests that one way or another it must give its consent to any such changes only aroused the anti-corporative fury of the National Assembly.
All this meant that, when France went to war the next year, French soldiers would make a particular point of attacking ecclesiastical institutions and installations wherever they went. The young Napoleon, still making his reputation, was too cautious to do more than bully the pope. Many thought that when Pius VI died there in August the papacy itself had come to an end. Dynastic diplomacy It was saved by the Austrians, who allowed a conclave to meet in Venice several months later. They did it mainly to spite the French enemy which had plagued them since In diplomatic terms the wars of the French Revolution brought to an end an uneasy and unpopular alliance with Austria which went back to and was blamed both for the disasters of the Seven Years War and for bringing Marie-Antoinette to France.
When in May the King citizen conscripts. No longer would its recruitment depend on the volunteering of drifters, its numbers sustained by regiments of foreign mercenaries. Nor would its tactics and behaviour be the self-contained, tightly controlled manoeuvres of old regime forces, dependent on their baggage trains and more concerned to preserve their own expensive existence than to take battle to the enemy. So dynastic diplomacy, and the style of warfare which had underpinned it, scarcely survived the s. Colonial slavery It was of course the costs of war that had brought down the old monarchy, but the crucial element in the escalation of those costs had not been the army.
What had been really ruinous was the added burden of naval competition with Great Britain, where the stakes were not dynastic advantage, but worldwide economic hegemony. French hopes here had been blighted by the defeats of the Seven Years War, but not destroyed. The Revolution ruined all this for ever. A movement proclaiming equality and freedom provoked turmoil in islands built on slavery and racial discrimination. Beginning with a brief biography to set the social and political stage, Gary Gutting then tackles Foucault's thoughts on literature, in particular the avant-garde scene; his philosophical and historical work; and his treatment of knowledge and power in modern society, including his thoughts on sexuality.
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