The French Revolution of 1789   Liberty!  Equality!  Fraternity!

Humanities 221 ProfessorEaston


      The Three Estates

      1st       Clergy:  tithes; tax exempt; birth, marriage & death; schools; censorship

      2nd     Nobility (Nobility and Clergy combined=400,000 out of a pop. of 26 million): land, mills & bakeries;  tax exempt;  manor dues; hunting rights; magistrates
"Nobles of the race" & "Nobles of the robe"

      3rd      Everybody Else=bourgeoisie, laborers, artisans, peasants (96% of population): talent but no birth; limited incomes; high cost  of living

      1788: peasant spends 50% of income on bread

      1789: peasant spends 80% of income on bread

      1785-1789 cost of living increases 62%; wages increase 22%

Problems:  economic (war debts, loans, extravagant kings, too many tax exemptions)

                  social (imbalance of social power)

THE ESTATES GENERAL--convenes the delegates from each of the three Estates; hasn't met since 1614 (the Monarchy has been "absolute"). 

Meeting at Versailles May 5, 1789.  Number of delegates from 3rd Estate approximately the number of delegates from the 1st & 2nd.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY declared June 17, 1789

TENNIS COURT OATH  June 20, 1789.  They will not disband until France has a constitution.

STORMING OF THE BASTILLE (prison & armory) July 14, 1789

                  END OF THE OLD REGIME

Revolutionary spirit spreads to the countryside.

National Assembly reduces aristocratic privilege.

Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (adopted Aug. 26, 1789)

      influence of American Revolution; Enlightenment philosophes; Jean Jacques Rousseau

Mary Wollstonecraft: Vindication of the Rights of Women

Olympe de Gouges: Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizenness

Shortsightedness of revolutionaries: only partial religious toleration

Women's activism: October 1789 march to Versailles: "We have no bread."

Many nobility flee France, and opposition to National Assembly decreases.


      End Clergy/Nobility privilege

      Declare Human Rights

      End Roman Catholic Church privilege

      Create Constitutional government; limit King's power; equality of Citizens

      Reform Judiciary; torture abolished

      Eliminate duties & tolls; medieval guilds eliminated


      1.  Counter-Revolutionary measures (nobles, churchmen, Catholic peasants)

      2.  Sans-Culottes ("no pants" shopkeepers, artisans, wage earners): not rev. enough

      3.  Fear from other countries: Austria fought off, Aug. 1792.

           SEPTEMBER MASSACRE, 1792, raid of prisons, killed 1100.

NATIONAL CONVENTION (new legislature) abolishes Monarchy.  France becomes a REPUBLIC.  Louis XVI executed January 1793


Two bourgeois political parties: Jacobins (strong central government; supported by Sans-Culottes) vs. Girondins (oppose government inference in business)

Jacobin constitution:  the law of the maximum  fixes prices on bread & other necessities

Maximilien Robespierre: The Reign of Terror

      Guillotine . . .  40,000 killed (preservation of The Republic)

Robespierre executed July 27, 1794 (the 9th of Thermidor, according to the Republican calendar), ending Jacobin domination of the government.

New Republican Government: The Directory

Thermidoreans: bourgeois property owners; not sympathetic to commoners, massacre Jacobins.

By 1795, The Directory is weakened through internal uprisings.

Military generals take increasing control of government.

Napoleon Bonaparte (30 years old in 1799)

Napoleon and other generals overthrow The Directory in 1799.  "First consul" 1802.

Crowns himself Emperor of France in 1804

Napoleonic reforms (an Enlightened Despot?)

      suppressed political freedom

      sustained revolutionary reforms rejecting religious intolerance & privilege by birth

      arrested political opponents, both royalists and republicans

      kept food prices low

      built up bourgeois community

      expanded French empire

      instituted civil rights for Jews

      reformed education

      modernized roads & bridges)

Napoleonic Code: (selected examples)

      equality under the law

      right to choose one's own profession

      separation of church and state

      inferiority of wives to husbands

      tolerance of husbands beating wives (rule of thumb)

      no support for employees under employers

British reaction (Napoleon bans import of British goods); support for Napoleon weakens.

Napoleon attacks Russia; defeated 1812.

                  "Able was I ere I saw Elba"

1815 Napoleon returns, defeated at Waterloo; exiled


Restoration of the Monarchy: Louis XVIII (1815-1824), Charles X (abdicates 1830), Louis Phillipe (1830-1848: sympathetic to the Bourgeoisie; alienates Parisian workers).  Louis Phillipe abdicates in 1848, unable to stand up against groups of students, workers, and some disenfranchised bourgeois who want to end the monarchy and extend rights more democratically.  France becomes a REPUBLIC, again, in 1848.  Louis Napoleon, nephew of the emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, is elected first President.