Crisis of the French Revolution - Notes

N.E.T.

Creating a new Society


14 July 1789 to 9 Thermidor II,(27 July 1794) (snapshot Napoleonic France 1804)


According to Joseph Weber, foster brother of Queen Antoinette, there were three primary causes of the French revolution 'the disorder of the finances, the state of mind, and the war in America.' The 'disorder in the finances' acknowledged that the bankruptcy of the monarchy opened the doors to defiance of the King's authority. The greatest single cause of the revolution was the economic crisis, which forced the King to recall the redundant Estates General which had not been called since 1614, which opened the debate for people to make complaints with the current system through the cahiers of the three Estates. The 'state of mind' largely attributed to the philosophes of the Enlightenment who challenged the very foundations that the Ancien Regime was based on. Another contributing factor to the crisis was a plight of millions of peasants, and the even more critical situation of the landless vagrants and the unemployed masses in the towns. Between 1715 and 1789 the population in France had increased from 18 million to 26 million. Land was a fixed resource, and thousands could not work in rural regions. As a result peasants were forced into the towns. Their situation was exacerbated by the bad harvest of 1788, which saw inflation of basic commodities such as bread, widespread unemployment and destitution accentuated the crisis.


*** Original revolutionary goals***


Original ideology: Enlightened

Document: Declaration of Rights of Man

The August decrees cleared the way for the erection of a constitution, but first they decided to lay down the principles on which it was based. It is a curious mixture of enlightenment theory and bourgeois aspirations. The Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen , passed into law by the National Assembly on the 26 August 1789, It condemned the practices of the Ancien Regime and expressed the broad agreement which was to be found in the cahiers of all three orders.

1. Men are born free and equal in their rights


3. The fundamental source of all sovereignty resides in the nation - an application of Rousseau's principle of the 'general will'


7. No man may be accused, arrested, or detained except in cases determined by the law


13, General taxation is indispensable for the upkeep of the public force and for the expenses of government. It should be borne equally by all the citizens in proportion to their means


17. the right to property is inviolable and sacred


The Declaration of Rights represented a total break from the past. In the Ancien Regime authority had been deriven from g-d and the king.


** The Declaration primarily appealed to bourgeois (and nobility) spread to proletariat via propaganda


(see Townson pg.43)


POWER STRUCTURE - NATIONAL CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY (June 1789 - 30 September 1792)


- deputies based the writing of the constitution on the Declaration of Rights of man

- deputies saw the reluctance of the King to accept the changes that were taking place

- and decided that he should have a suspensive veto

- *at this point no one considered abolishing the monarch completely and setting up a republic

- it was decided that Legislative power reside in the National Assembly

- over the next year went about reorganising French govt., laws, finances, and economy


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


- deputies wanted to make sure power was decentralised, passing from the central govt. in Paris to local authorities

- making it more difficult for King to recover the power he had before

- wanted the elected representatives to be responsible to those who elected them

- already the principles of the Declaration of Rights were being undermined, as citizens were divided into 'active' and 'passive' citizens.

- Only active citizens who paid the equivalent of three days' labour in taxes, voted for the municipal officials, those who did not earn that amount from wages were not allowed to vote and known as 'passive'

- 'active' citizens also voted in the Primary Assemblies when national elections were held

- the positions you could apply for increased in prestige the more you earnt

- eg. to become a deputy in the Assembly you had to be able to pay the equivalent of 50 days labour in tax

- 61% of Frenchmen had the right to vote in some elections

- at a municipal level most peasants had the right to vote

- b4 1789 govt officials ran the provincial administration

- 1790 no govt officials at local level, elected councils replaced them

- councils in