Preparation and meeting of the Estates-General

  • Winter of 1788-1789: members of the estates elected representatives
  • Cahiers were traditional lists of grievances written by the people and asked for only moderate changes
  • Voting was conducted by estate:
    Each estate had one vote.
    ii. First and Second Estates could operate as a block to stop the Third Estate´s proposals.
  • Representatives from the Third Estate demanded that voting should be done by population.
  • Deadlock resulted.

Tennis Court Oath

  • The Third Estate proclaimed to be the National Assembly.
  • Louis XVI responded by locking the Third Estate out of the meeting.
  • The Third Estate relocated to a nearby tennis court where its members wanted to create a written constitution for France.
  • On June 1789, Louis XVI ordered the three estates to meet together as the National Assembly and vote, by population, on a constitution for France.

Four phases (periods) of the French Revolution

  1. National Assembly (1789-1791).
  2. Legislative Assembly (1791-1792)
  3. Convention (1792-1795)
  4. Directory (1795-1799)

A.-National Assembly (1789-1791)

 a.  Louis XVI did not want a written constitution.
b. When news of his plan to use military force against the National Assembly, people stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789.

Uprising in Paris

  • People of Paris seized weapons from the Bastille: July 14, 1789 Parisians organized their own government called the Commune. 
  • Uprising spread throughout France:
    Nobles were attacked
    ii. Records of feudal dues and owed taxes were destroyed
    iii. Many nobles fled the country.
    iv. Louis XVI was forced to fly the new tricolor flag of France

Goodbye, Versailles!

  • Parisian Commune feared that Louis XVI would have foreign troops invade France to finish the rebellion.
  • A group of women attacked Versailles on October 5, 1789
    Forced royal family to relocate to Paris along with the National Assembly
    ii. Royal family spent next several years in the Tuilleries Palace as virtual prisoners

Changes promoted by the National Assembly:
  a. Abolishment of guilds.
b. Abolition of special privileges
c. Constitution of 1791
d. Declaration of the Rights of Man
e. Equality before the law (for men)
f. Reforms in local government

Declaration of the Rights of Man granted:
  a. Freedom of religion and speech
b. Freedom of the press
c. Guaranteed property rights
d. “Liberty, equality, fraternity!”
e. Right to a fair trial.

End of special privileges

  • Church lands were seized, divided, and sold to peasants
  • All special privileges of the First and Second Estates were abolished

Constitution of 1791

  1. Democratic features:
    –  France became a limited monarchy: King became merely the head of state
    –  All laws were created by the Legislative Assembly
    –  Feudalism was abolished
    b. Undemocratic features: Voting was limited to taxpayers 
  2. This new government became known as the Legislative Assembly.

B.- Legislative Assembly (1791-1792)

  • Royal family asked for help from Austria and in June, 1791 and nobles who fled the revolution lived abroad as émigrés.
  • Church officials wanted Church lands, rights, and privileges restored. 
  • Political parties, representing different interests, emerged:
    i.  Girondins
    ii. Jacobins

Opposition to the new government

  • European monarchs feared that revolution would spread so France was invaded by Austrian and Prussian troops.
  • The Commune took control of Paris. Commune was led by Danton, a Jacobin.
  • Voters began electing representatives for a new convention which would write a republican constitution for France. Meanwhile, thousands of nobles were executed under the suspicion of being conspirators.

C.- Convention (1792-1795)

  • On September 22, 1792, the Convention met for the first time.
  • It Established the First French Republic
  • Main political groups were:
    Girondins were moderates who represented the rich middle class of the provinces
    ii. Jacobins (led by Marat, Danton, Robespierre) represented workers and were radicals.
  • Faced foreigner opposition: Austria, England, Holland, Prussia, Sardinia, and Spain formed a Coalition invading France

Abolishment of the monarchy
The Convention abolished the monarchy: Put the royal couple on trial for treason and Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were guillotined in 1793.

Growing coalition against the French
a. Convention forced Frenchmen into the army led by General Carnot to defeat the foreign Coalition
b. The “Marseillaise” was written and became the French national anthem.
c. After two years:
i. Coalition was defeated
ii. France had gained, rather than lost, territory

Reign of Terror: September 5, 1793-July 27, 1794

  • Danton and his Jacobin political party came to dominate French politics
  • Committee of Public Safety was the new Government headed by Danton and later Robespierre.
  • Those accused of treason were tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal and approximately 15,000 people died on the guillotine.

End of the Reign of Terror

  • Members of the Girondin party tried to end the Reign of Terror.    
  • Robespierre becameleader of the Committee of Public Safety. He continued the executions.
  • Reaction against the Terror:
    July 27, 1794 – ended the Reign of Terror
    ii. Convention sent Robespierre and other members of the Committee of Public Safety to the guillotine.

Constitution of the Year III of the Republic (1795)
The Convention could finally pass its new constitution: Constitution of the Year III of the Republic (1795) and created the Directory which was an Executive Government of 5 people.

D.-Directory (1795-1799)

a.The Directory suffered from corruption and poor administration.

 b.The people of France grew poorer and more frustrated with their government.

c.The French developed a strong feeling of nationalism—they were proud of their country and National pride was fueled by military successes.

d. Napoleon Bonaparte, a military leader, came to power through a coup d’état and this fact ended the ten-year period (1789-1799) known as the French Revolution.



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