Revolution in France

December 9, 2013 | | Comments Off on Revolution in France

The Declaration of the Rights of Men

Declaration of the Rights of Man

Declaration of the Rights of Man

  •  – The Declaration of the Rights of Man, was ratified in the summer of 1789, by the National Constituent Assembly (Assemblée nationale constituante).  This was the first step toward having a constitution in France.  The Declaration outlines the principles of “Popular Sovereignty”, and social equality among citizens.  This contrasts the “Divine Right” the Monarchy had previous to the declaration.


Significant contributing events


-The Enlightenment  

Voltaire (1694-1778)


  • -Enlightenment ideology spreading through Europe, which emphasized freedom and equality. Philosophers including: Voltaire, and Turgot.  Both of these Enlightened Thinkers, wrote about the rights of men, specifically equal rights for all reasoning men.


-Western Influence 




US Constitution


The Signing of the United States Constitution



  • -With the success of the American Revolution, the idea of a revolution being plausible was renewed, sparking increased dissent among proponents of radical thought.
  • -Interaction between notable Americans and french philosophers, helped to foster new thought.
  • -The American Revolution held many of the same Ideals as the oncoming French Revolution.  With the success of the American Revolution, the seeds of Revolution was planted in the French people.

-Economic crisis


Graph Showing the Growth of French Debt in the 18th Century

  • -Increasing amounts of debt in France, due to the lavish spending of the Monarchy, caused increased taxing of both the lower and upper economic classes.
  • -Funding of the colonists in the American Revolution, was the most impactful cause of French Debt in the 18th Century, responsible for close to 50% of France’s debt.


French Bread Distribution 1709


  • -With a poor harvest of grain, the lower class was effectively on the edge of starvation. When the Little Ice Age struck, grain (the primary crop for the lower class) became non-existent. This caused a large influx into cities due to unemployment, increasing the shortage and resulting in disease.


Important reading notes                      french_revolution_serment_du_jeu_de_paume_tennis_court_oath


  • -Louis XVI took the lead in a time of economic trouble.
  • -The French and Indian War had been made possible on bad loans by the government, which were only to be paid back if a victory occured.
  • -The aristocracy and noblesse de robe refused to pay taxes, due to their control of the government.
  • -The poor were heavily taxed, and once the American Revolution started, increases in dues were made again.
  • -Reform was made impossible, due to the Church not accepting reform on the rights of the clergy.
  • -Louis XVI called a The Estates General meeting, which involved laborers, peasants, business people, lawyers, etc.
  • -This council was one of the first times that common people were given the opportunity to influence government affairs.
  • -When the council met on May 1789, there were 300 delegates from the First and Second Estates (Nobles and Clergy), with 600 from the Third Estate.
  • -With first and second estates refusing to allow a fair voting process on issues, tensions rose.
  • -This caused the Third Estate to declare itself the National Assembly of France.
  • -This was in effect until a new constitution was drafted.
  • -The council caused a large media storm, which awakened the peasants to the issues at hand.
  • -Fall of the Bastille
  • -Louis XVI refused to acknowledge the presence of the National Assembly, and called for extra troops in a show power.
  • -This was seen as a threat by the peasants who stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789.
  • -The army of the Third Estate was formed, and was named the National Guard.
  • -With the battle of the Bastille, similar riots began to occur throughout the country.
  • -The suspension of the king by the Legislative Assembly resulted in eventual death by guillotine for he and Marie Antoniette.
  • -Radical Jacobins assumed control of the convention, resulting in strong central control over government departments and emergency powers that were overseeing the economic and military crisis.
  • -The urban lower class supported radical policies, and arrested the moderate members of the convention.
  • -These moderate members (the Girondins), were executed.
  • -This led for limited opposition to the Jacobins, who took control over all departments.
  • -The Jacobins took control of the 12 member Council of Public Safety, which they used as a tool to increase radical power.
  • -An army was built with numbers of 800,000, who fought for the ideals of the people (liberty and equality).
  • -This greatly helped the struggle against Austria and Prussia, whom the nation was at war with.
  • -The army succeeded in pushing back troops in Belgium and Rhineland, taking the offensive for the first time.
  • -Meanwhile, Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794) was elected to lead the Jacobin Public Safety Council, which led a fight for financial equality, based on Republic of Virtue thought, which was created to ensure not extremes of wealth and power. A Law of the Maximum was made, to control the price of bread and flour.
  • -Robespierre led riots and convictions against members of the convention who he deemed to be threats of the people, resulting in a killing spree, which ended after the convention itself rejected the Jacobins, and killed them by Guillotine.
  • -The war on the domestic and international fronts were won, causing the convention to see its mission as complete.
  • -A new constitution was drafted at the same time, which did not give the right to vote to nobles.
  • -A Directory was founded, which served as a temporary government.
  • -With the revolution complete, the changes were large: rejection of feudalism, ban on noble exemption, removal of the throne, and provisions against the church from influencing affairs of the state.


-Sources of interest

  –Timeline of Revolution 

  –List of revolutionary leaders

(Edited From a Previous Post)

-Travis Herman


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