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French Revolution, major transformation of the society and political system of France, lasting from 1789 to 1799. During the course of the Revolution, France was temporarily transformed from an absolute monarchy, where the king monopolized power, to a republic of theoretically free and equal citizens. The effects of the French Revolution were widespread, both inside and outside of France, and the Revolution ranks as one of the most important events in the history of Europe. During the ten years of the Revolution, France first transformed and then dismantled the Old Regime, the political and social system that existed in France before 1789, and replaced it with a series of different governments. Although none of these governments lasted more than four years, the many initiatives they enacted permanently altered France’s political system. These initiatives included the drafting of several bills of rights and constitutions, the establishment of legal equality among all citizens, experiments with representative democracy, the incorporation of the church into the state, and the reconstruction of state administration and the law code. Many of these changes were adopted elsewhere in Europe as well. Change was a matter of choice in some places, but in others it was imposed by the French army during the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1797) and the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). To later generations of Europeans and nonEuropeans who sought to overturn their political and social systems, the French Revolution provided the most influential model of popular insurrection until the Russian Revolutions of 1917.
CAUSES OF THE REVOLUTION
From the beginning of the 20th century until the 1970s, the French Revolution was most commonly described as the result of the growing economic and social importance of the bourgeoisie, or middle class. The bourgeoisie, it was believed, overthrew the Old Regime because that regime had given power and privilege to other classes—the nobility and the clergy—who prevented the bourgeoisie from advancing socially and politically. Recently this interpretation has been replaced by one that relies less on social and economic factors and more on political ones. Economic recession in the 1770s may have frustrated some bourgeois in their rise to power and wealth, and rising bread prices just before the Revolution certainly increased discontent among workers and peasants. Yet it is now commonly believed that the revolutionary process started with a crisis in the French state. By 1789 many French people had become critical of the monarchy, even though it had been largely successful in militarily defending France and in quelling domestic religious and political violence. They resented the rising and unequal taxes, the persecution of religious minorities, and government interference in their private lives. These resentments, coupled with an inefficient government and an antiquated legal system, made the government seem increasingly illegitimate to the French people.
The royal court at Versailles, which had been developed to impress the French people and Europe generally, came to symbolize the waste and corruption of the entire Old Regime.
Parlements and Philosophes
During the 18th century, criticism of the French monarchy also came from people who worked for the Old Regime. Some of the king’s own ministers criticized past practices and proposed reforms, but a more influential source of dissent was the parlements, 13 regional royal courts led by the Parlement of Paris. The parlements were empowered to register royal decrees, and all decrees had to be registered by the parlements before becoming law. In this capacity, the parlements frequently protested royal initiatives that they believed to threaten the traditional rights and liberties of the people. In widely distributed publications, they held up the image of a historically free France and denounced the absolute rule of the crown that in their view threatened traditional liberties by imposing religious orthodoxy and new taxes. These protests blended with those of others, most notably an influential group of professional intellectuals called the philosophes. Like those who supported the parlements, the philosophes did not advocate violent revolution. Yet, they claimed to speak on behalf of the public, arguing that people had certain natural rights and that governments existed to guarantee these rights. In a stream of pamphlets and treatises—many of them printed and circulated illegally—they ridiculed the Old Regime’s inefficiencies and its abuses of power. During this time, the parlementaires and the philosophes together crafted a vocabulary that would be used later to define and debate political issues during the Revolution. They redefined such terms as despotism, or the oppression of a people by an arbitrary ruler; liberty and rights; and the nation.
The discontent of the French people might not have brought about a political revolution if there had not been a fiscal crisis in the late 1780s. Like so much else in the Old Regime, the monarchy’s financial system was inefficient and antiquated. France had neither a national bank nor a centralized national treasury. The nobility and clergy—many of them very wealthy—paid substantially less in taxes than other groups, notably the much poorer peasantry. Similarly, the amount of tax charged varied widely from one region to another. Furthermore, the monarchy almost always spent more each year than it collected in taxes; consequently, it was forced to borrow, which it did increasingly during the 18th century. Debt grew in part because France participated in a series of costly wars—the War of the Austrian Succession (17401748), the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), and the American Revolution (1775-1783). Large existing debts and a history of renouncing earlier ones meant that the country was forced to borrow at higher
interest rates than some other countries, further adding to the already massive debt. By 1789 the state was forced to spend nearly half its yearly revenues paying the interest it owed.
Attempts at Reform
Louis XVI Louis XVI of France was the grandson of King Louis XV and was married to Marie-Antoinette. Louis was considered a well-intentioned but weak king. A heavy tax burden and court extravagances led eventually to a popular revolt against him and paved the way for the French Revolution. Louis was guillotined by the revolutionary regime in 1793. Erich Lessing /Art Resource, NY
Financial reform was attempted before 1789. Upon his accession to the throne in 1774, Louis XVI appointed the reform-minded Anne Robert Jacques Turgot as chief finance minister. Between 1774 and 1776 Turgot sought to cut government expenses and to increase revenues. He removed government restrictions on the sale and distribution of grain in order to increase grain sales and, in turn, government revenue. Jacques Necker, director of government finance between 1777 and 1781, reformed the treasury system and published an analysis of the state of government finance in 1781 as a means to restore confidence in its soundness. But most of these reforms were soon undone as the result of pressure from a variety of financial groups, and the government continued to borrow at high rates of interest through the 1780s.
Charles Alexandre de Calonne was appointed minister of finance in 1783, and three years later he proposed a new general plan resembling Turgot’s. He wanted to float new loans to cover immediate expenses, revoke some tax exemptions, replace older taxes with a new universal land tax and a stamp tax, convene regional assemblies to oversee the new taxes, and remove more restrictions from the grain trade.
Assembly of Notables and Estates-General
To pressure the parlements into accepting the plan, Calonne decided to gain prior approval of it from an Assembly of Notables—a group of hand-picked dignitaries he thought would sympathize with his views. But Calonne had badly miscalculated. Meeting in January 1787, the assembly refused to believe that a financial crisis really existed. They had been influenced by Necker’s argument that state finances were sound and suspected that the monarchy was only trying to squeeze more money from the people. They insisted on examining state accounts. Despite a public appeal for support, Calonne was fired and replaced by Loménie de Brienne in April 1787. Brienne was also unable to win the support of the assembly, and in May 1787 it was dismissed. Over the summer and early fall, Brienne repeatedly tried to strike a compromise with the Parlement of Paris. But the compromise fell through when the king prevented the Parlement from voting on proposed loans, an act that was seen as yet more evidence of despotism. In May 1788 the government abolished all the parlements in a general restructuring of the judiciary. Public response to the actions of the king was strong and even violent. People began to ignore royal edicts and assault royal officials, and pamphlets denouncing despotism inundated the country. At the same time, people began to call for an immediate meeting of the Estates-General to deal with the crisis. The Estates-General was a consultative assembly composed of representatives from the three French estates, or legally defined social classes: clergy, nobility, and commoners. It had last been convened in 1614. Under increasing political pressure and faced with the total collapse of its finances in August 1788, the Old Regime began to unravel. Brienne was dismissed, Necker reinstated, and the Estates-General was called to meet on May 1, 1789.
BEGINNING OF REVOLUTION
Almost immediately contention arose regarding voting procedures in the upcoming Estates-General. In its last meeting, voting had been organized by estate, with each of the three estates meeting separately and each having one vote. In this way the privileged classes had combined to outvote the third estate, which constituted more than 90 percent of the population. In registering the edict to convene the Estates-General, the Parlement of Paris, which had been reinstated by the monarchy on September 23, 1788, ruled in favor of keeping this form of voting. The Parlement probably did this more to prevent the monarchy from potentially exploiting any new voting system to its advantage than to preserve noble privilege. However, many observers read this decision as a betrayal of the third
estate. As a result, a flood of pamphlets appeared demanding a vote by head at the Estates-General— that is, a procedure whereby each deputy was to cast one vote in a single chamber composed of all three estates. This method would give each estate a number of votes that more accurately represented its population and would make it more difficult for the first two estates to routinely outvote the third. Now two battles were being waged at the same time: one to protect the nation’s liberty against royal despotism, and the other over how the nation would be represented in the Estates-General. During the early months of 1789, the three estates prepared for the coming meeting by selecting deputies and drawing up cahiers des doléances (lists of grievances). These lists reflected overwhelming agreement in favor of limiting the power of the king and his administrators and establishing a permanent legislative assembly. In an effort to satisfy the third estate, the monarchy had agreed to double the number of their representatives but then took no firm stand on whether the voting would proceed by estate or by head. When the Estates-General assembled at Versailles in May 1789, the monarchy proposed no specific financial plan for debate and left the voting issue unsettled. As a result, the estates spent their time engaged in debate of the voting procedure, and little was accomplished.
David’s Oath of the Tennis Court On June 20, 1789, in response to a financial crisis in France, representatives of the common people gathered at a tennis court at Versailles after the king had deprived them of their usual meeting place. They swore not to disband until they had drawn up a new constitution, an event known as the Tennis Court Oath. French artist Jacques-Louis David depicted the event in this painting from 1790-1801 now in the Musée Carnavalet in Paris. Giraudon/Art Resource, NY
agreed to seek the consent of the deputies for all new loans and taxes. Louis XVI belatedly proposed a major overhaul of the financial system. 1789 an angry mob. tired of the oppressive brutality of the French monarchy. the royal prison in Paris. This pledge became known as the Tennis Court Oath. they swore not to disband until France had a constitution. and proposed other important reforms.Five wasted weeks later. When officials locked their regular meeting place to prepare it for a royal address. NY On June 23. Regrouping at a nearby indoor tennis court on June 20. B Storming of the Bastille Fall of the Bastille On July 14. members of the National Assembly concluded their initiative was about to be crushed. Giraudon/Art Resource. 1789. But he spoiled the effect by refusing to recognize the transformation of the Estates-General into the National Assembly and by insisting upon voting by estate—already a dying cause. they together proclaimed themselves to be the National Assembly (also later called the Constituent Assembly). captured the Bastille. he inspired new fears by surrounding the meeting hall of the deputies with a large number of soldiers. Moreover. Some individual members of the other estates did so. the third estate finally took the initiative by inviting the clergy and nobility to join them in a single-chambered legislature where the voting would be by head. Faced with stiffening resistance by the third estate and increasing willingness of deputies from the . 1789. and on June 17.
© Cos. To people at the time and to many later on.clergy and nobility to join the third estate in the National Assembly. suspicions of the king’s intentions ran high. Before the night of August 4. was over. IV THE MODERATE REVOLUTION National Assembly. the assembly had abolished the feudal system in France. a large fortress on the eastern edge of the city. The storming of the Bastille marked a turning point—attempts at reform had become a full-scale revolution. While hungry artisans revolted in urban areas. Pierre Boulat/Woodfin Camp/PNI In the year leading up to the storming of the Bastille. Faced with this insurrection. the monarchy backed down. August 4. Tensions and violence grew in both the cities and the countryside during the spring and summer of 1789. the fortress housed only seven inmates at the time. The troops were withdrawn. and Necker was recalled. 1789 French citizens cheer as members of the National Assembly announce the decision to abolish the privileges of the nobility. largely because poor weather conditions had ruined the harvest. Royal troops began to thicken near Paris. Crowds began to roam Paris looking for arms to fight off a royal attack. the price of bread—the most important food of the poorer classes—increased. these developments were clear signs that the king sought to undo the events of the previous weeks. On July 14 these crowds assaulted the Bastille. the economic problems of many common people had become steadily worse. but in fact. starved peasants scoured the provinces in search of food and work. 1789. the king suddenly changed course and agreed to a vote by head on June 27. and on July 11 the still-popular Necker was dismissed. As a result. Despite much rejoicing. These vagrants were rumored to be armed agents of landlords hired to destroy crops and . They believed that it contained munitions and many prisoners of despotism.
she refused to make any concessions to hungry mobs who marched on the palace in Versailles. it undermined the idea that the king ruled by divine right (see Divine Right of Kings). At the end of August. But by recognizing the source of sovereignty in the people. He .harass the common people. were imprisoned by revolutionaries and later executed. On the night of August 4. Having lost control of events. the National Assembly promulgated the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. But power was quickly slipping away from the king. known as the Great Fear. Louis was forced to yield to them. she called out troops. A Restructuring the State Marie-Antoinette Marie-Antoinette was the queen of France who died on the guillotine in 1793 during the French Revolution. But it provided the legal foundation for gradually scaling back the feudal dues peasants owed to landlords and for eliminating the last vestiges of serfdom. as revolutionaries began to organize political clubs and an influential periodical press. the system that legally bound the peasants to live and work on the landlords’ estates. free speech. leaders of the revolutionary movement in Paris began to massively restructure the state. 1789. Louis XVI once again failed to act decisively. Both afraid of and politically benefiting from this wave of popular violence. It left unresolved the rights of women and the limits of individual rights in relation to the power of the newly emerging state. one nobleman after another renounced his personal privileges. concise document ensuring such basic personal rights as those of property. King Louis XVI. They attacked the residences of their landlords in hopes of protecting local grain supplies and reducing rents on their land. the National Assembly declared an end to the feudal system. Conceived as the prologue to a new constitution that was not yet drafted. MarieAntoinette. Her lavish life-style made her unpopular. Violence followed. Many rural peasants were gripped by a panic. Instead. the traditional system of rights and obligations that had reinforced inherited inequality under the Old Regime. especially economic ones. Paying no attention to her country’s financial crisis. feared catastrophe if events continued on their current course and advocated a hard line. the declaration was a short. Hulton Deutsch As these developments unfolded. Before the night was over. took years to sort out. The queen. and personal security. The exact meaning of this resolution as it applied to specific privileges. and she and her husband.
Although the right to vote was extended to more than half the adult male population—called active citizens—election to the assembly was made a complex process. a crowd of many thousands. 1789. commanded by the Marquis de Lafayette. The Guards were barely able to prevent wholesale massacre. The king and his family were now. a process that took more than two years. maintain public order. dissolved the entire system of royal administration. As the only law-making body. Paris had replaced Versailles as the center of power. and torture banned. and the government was now more vulnerable than ever to the will of the restless. but his powers were to be limited. most of them women who were also protesting the high cost of bread. Instead. France was divided into 83 districts called departments. A2 Social Change: Equal Rights . as the more moderate deputies wanted. and occasionally violent. particularly in legislative matters. Legal procedure was streamlined. Although it was agreed that France would remain a monarchy. The chief executive was to be the king.gave in so reluctantly—for example. The king was allowed only a suspensive veto. and adopted a system of federalism that shifted authority from Paris to the localities. The powers of the national government were divided among separate. which moved there as well. whereby he could at most delay the laws passed by the assembly. sovereign kingdom. Like the administration of the departments. When rumors circulated that guests at a royal banquet had trampled on revolutionary insignia. levy taxes. taking months to approve the August 4. decrees and the Declaration of Rights—that hostility to the crown only increased. They were accompanied by National Guards. independent branches. never to return. A1 Political Change: Constitutional Monarchy The National Assembly next focused on writing a new constitution. who would continue to inherit his office. the Assembly decided almost immediately that the constitution would not simply reform the old order. it transformed the political system of the Old Regime.000 men (out of about 26 million French people) eligible to serve as deputies. marched to Versailles on October 5. prisoners. people of the city. Very restrictive qualifications made only about 50. The new constitution was designed to prevent the return of despotism by making all government officials subject to the rule of law. and the crowd forced the royal family to leave Versailles for Paris. It proclaimed France as a united. and oversee education and poor relief. but preserved the monarchy. in effect. forced to inhabit the Tuilerie Palace along with the National Assembly. enjoying wide powers. each of which would elect administrators to execute laws. the singlechambered Legislative Assembly was the heart of the state. the judiciary was also decentralized.
The clergy had enjoyed extensive property rights and special privileges under the Old Regime and had long been a target of criticism. A presiding bishop would administer each diocese. In return. though not the outright abolition of slavery. the extension of rights to blacks in France and to mulattoes in France’s Caribbean colonies. stripping clerics of their property and special rights. the elimination of guilds and other organizations that monopolized production.In addition to reconstituting the state. and the granting of full civil rights to religious minorities. Before the Civil Constitution. A3 Religious Change: Civil Constitution of the Clergy Assignat Assignats were bills issued as currency by the French revolutionary government between 1789 and 1796. Jew. This assignat has a denomination of 500 livres. a Protestant. Since active citizens would elect the bishops and the priests. Dioceses were redrawn to correspond to departments. or obstructed economic activity through strikes. the Civil Constitution of the Clergy of 1790 required all priests and bishops to swear an oath of loyalty to the new order or face dismissal. Among the most notable changes were the elimination of the nobility as a legally defined class and the granting of the same civil rights to all citizens. including Protestants and Jews. opposition to the Revolution had . Finally. The National Assembly incorporated the church within the state. This marked an important turn of events. Sipa Press/Woodfin Camp and Associates. the National Assembly made many changes to the existing social order. the state assumed the large debts of the church and paid the clergy a salary. controlled prices and wages. Inc. backed by the security of confiscated church and crown lands. Political and social restructuring on this scale raised complicated issues regarding the Catholic Church. Almost half the parish priests and bishops (called the refractory clergy) refused to take the oath. or atheist might be chosen to fill these positions. with local priests beneath him.
The government justified this practice by saying that church property belonged to the nation. The assembly had assumed the Old Regime’s debts. but tax collections had been interrupted by administrative disorders and simple refusals to pay. the assembly issued bonds. the king was expected to provide this unifying influence. King Louis XVI attempted to escape revolutionary France and flee in disguise with his family to Austria. The assembly therefore lacked a unified voice. Paris) by Pierre-Antoine and Jean-Baptiste Lesueur depicts Louis’s arrest at Varennes. the Civil Constitution and the oath solidified resistance to the Revolution by giving the resistance a religious justification and publicly designating a group of influential individuals—the refractory clergy—as enemies of the new state. As head of state. A year later he was executed. However. leaving behind a manifesto denouncing nearly all the Revolution had . called assignats. then to repay the assignats. The government’s fiscal problems continued well past 1789. even if his power was formally limited. To cover expenditures. he was caught at Varennes and returned to Paris. financial considerations were some of the most important. B Growing Factionalism Arrest of Louis XVI at Varennes On June 20. NY All these measures were vigorously debated inside and outside the assembly. it confiscated and sold the church’s considerable property holdings. However. It had been led by an ineffective group of high nobles called the émigrés. hopes that the king would step in and fill this role were dashed in June 1791 when the royal family fled Paris in disguise. This watercolor (Musée Carnavalet. Although there were many reasons for the Civil Constitution. More than anything else. who had fled the country beginning in July 1789 and had been conspiring from abroad ever since. 1791. Giraudon/Art Resource.remained a scattered affair. The assembly had been divided from the start into a conservative right that wanted to limit change and a radical left that wanted major social and political reforms.
so did the likelihood of ending the Revolution and establishing a stable government. Because so much had been expected of the king. Brissot and his colleagues pressed for a declaration of war. known as the Cordeliers and the Jacobins. It was under these threatening circumstances that the new constitution took effect and the Legislative Assembly first met on October 1. In reality. also advocated the war option. more nobles began to cross the border to become émigrés. who now began to talk openly about replacing the monarchy with a republic. In an attempt to recover. the Varennes fiasco proved more of a shock than could be absorbed all at once. Many of the king’s advisors. the assembly got along remarkably well with the king. On November 29 it required the refractory clergy to take the oath to the constitution or fall under state surveillance and lose their pension rights. which was soon joined by Prussia. now more prisoners than ever. 1791. Unclear as it was. the declaration provoked fears of an invasion. and in mid-July the assembly voted to clear the king of all responsibility for what had happened. the Austrian emperor and Prussian king issued the Declaration of Pillnitz on August 27. On November 9 it passed legislation requiring that the émigrés return to France or face death and the loss of their estates. Austria and Prussia had shown little interest in intervention on behalf of the French king. and once they collapsed. Persuaded. Expecting that a conflict with Austria would weaken the king to their political advantage. 1792. called Feuillants. 1791. Alarmed by the radical direction the Revolution was taking. and on April 20 the assembly declared war on Austria. Poorly planned and executed. though at first not the king himself. most notably Jacques Pierre Brissot. split from the more radical revolutionaries. not an escape.accomplished since 1789. But these fictions were hardly convincing. The king reluctantly approved the new constitution on September 14. V RADICAL REVOLUTION The émigrés and their efforts to mobilize foreign powers against France created the pretext for France’s entry into war in April 1792. assembly leaders announced that the incident had been a case of kidnapping. radical political figures. the effort ended with the royal family’s arrest at the border town of Varennes. Thus began the series of conflicts known as the French Revolutionary Wars. From there they were returned to Paris under heavy guard. They believed a victory would strengthen royal power and a defeat would crush the Revolution. but this situation changed when the assembly proposed retaliatory actions against the émigrés and the refractory clergy. Pressured by these émigrés and concerned about the potential effects of the Revolution on their own kingdoms. At first. moderate revolutionaries who sought to keep the monarchy. . In this declaration they announced a rather vague willingness to intervene militarily on behalf of the French monarchy. persistently exaggerated the threat of an Austrian invasion of France and the subversion of the revolutionary government by a conspiracy of Austrian sympathizers called the Austrian Committee. the king appointed a ministry dominated by Brissot’s associates on March 10. On the left. However.
On June 20 a mob. and their children were forced to abandon the royal palace at Versailles and move to the Palace of the Tuileries in Paris. and the political situation deteriorated further when a Prussian commander.A. 1792. . was to blame. leading to the end of the monarchy and raising fears of reprisals against the revolutionaries in the event of a defeat. The French had few successes on the battlefield. Coached by the Brissotins. the French army lurched from defeat to defeat. On August 10. King Louis XVI. his wife Marie-Antoinette. Someone. and the Brissot faction (called Brissotins) blamed the king./Corbis The wars profoundly altered the course of the Revolution. who in turn fired the Brissotin ministers on June 13. The French army was in the middle of a major reorganization and was not prepared for war. it seemed.A End of the Monarchy Assault on the Tuileries In 1789. stormed the Tuilerie Palace. During the spring of 1792. S. the people of Paris attacked the Tuileries. alarmed at the worsening military situation and rising bread prices caused by the declining value of the assignats. Archivo Iconografico. during the French Revolution. But military disasters continued during the summer. issued a manifesto in which he threatened to execute anyone who harmed the royal family. In addition. Louis XVI was later tried and condemned for treason on the basis of incriminating papers the crowd found inside the palace. the mob demanded that the king reinstate the Brissotin ministers. as conditions worsened. Brissot’s ministry proved incompetent and disorganized. Louis courageously refused to do so. the duke of Brunswick.
Maximilien Robespierre Maximilien Robespierre was one of the most controversial figures in the French Revolution. Power shifted from the Legislative Assembly. This time. who still favored a monarchy. to be elected by nearly universal manhood suffrage. to the Paris Commune. More than lives were lost. but became unpopular with his peers because of his conciliatory foreign policy views and was guillotined in 1794. While the royal family hid in the Assembly hall. under the leadership of the lawyer Maximilien Robespierre. the mob hacked to death some 600 Swiss guards. 1792. was to write a new. Library of Congress Between August 10. republican constitution. The convention. Instead it supported the more radical Jacobins who. The Legislative Assembly immediately suspended the king from his duties and voted to hold a convention. and the meeting of the convention on September 20. revolutionary furor grew. the mob was not allied with the Brissotins. however. In the cause of fostering democracy. Robespierre helped bring about the Reign of Terror. He played an important part in the revolutionary government after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1792. in which thousands were executed by the guillotine. while itself suffering heavy losses. The Commune was a city assembly made up of representatives elected from 48 neighborhood districts . B First French Republic Georges Jacques Danton French revolutionary leader Georges Jacques Danton won immense popularity through his powerful speeches. now a lame duck. He eventually met the same fate. now demanded the creation of a republic. Hulton Deutsch On August 10 a crowd again stormed the Tuilerie Palace in the Revolution’s bloodiest eruption to date. so was the monarchy.
On August 17 a special court was created to try political suspects. the sections and the Commune became increasingly dominated by the sans-culottes. and a large group of individuals called the Plain who were not associated with either party. now called Girondins. In this unstable period. who had probably helped organize the massacre of August 10. encouraged fears that counter-revolutionary forces loyal to the king were undermining the Revolution. They murdered and mutilated more than 1000 inmates—most of whom were guilty of nothing more than having enjoyed some privilege or committing ordinary crimes. thus securing the success of the French Revolution. a less disciplined group of moderates. These September Massacres were so gruesome that no revolutionary leader. became a dominating political figure. He used these fears to promote further measures against counter-revolutionaries.called sections. a group composed mostly of artisans and shopkeepers fiercely devoted to the Revolution and direct democracy. claimed responsibility for them. the same day the French army won a major victory against Prussian forces at Valmy in northeastern France. a fairly well disciplined radical minority. 1792. 1792. The French army defeated a combined force of Austrian and Prussian invaders. Because nearly universal male suffrage had taken effect on August 10. The convention was composed of three major political groups: the Jacobins. but it did not convict enough defendants to satisfy the sans-culottes. who was appointed minister of justice by the assembly. was a turning point in the French Revolutionary Wars. not even those with bloody agendas of their own. the former Brissotins. Reunion des Musees nationaux. Georges Jacques Danton. Paris/Art Resource The National Convention first met on September 20. On September 21 the . sans-culotte mobs attacked Parisian jails from September 2 to 7. Danton. Fearing military defeat and believing that counter-revolutionary prisoners were about to break out and attack patriots like themselves. B1 The National Convention Battle of Valmy The Battle of Valmy in northeastern France on September 20.
The convention compromised. Executing the king did little to solve the convention’s other problems. who were allied with the sans-culottes. If ever there was a point of no return in the Revolution. when the convention adopted a new revolutionary calendar. and then voted (by a margin of one vote) for immediate execution. Execution by Guillotine During the French Revolution (1789-1799). this was it. who was now imprisoned with the royal family in an old fort just outside Paris. protesting his innocence. thus . was a public spectacle. the main one being the war. The founding of the first French Republic represented so important a milestone that. the first day of Year I (see French Republican Calendar). 1793. King Louis XVI of France was tried as a traitor and condemned to death. His execution by guillotine.convention voted to establish a republic in place of the monarchy. The convention declared war on Britain and the Netherlands in early February and on Spain in March. for enemies of the Revolution now sought to avenge the king’s death more vigorously than they had tried to preserve his life. The more moderate Girondins maneuvered to keep Louis a prisoner. 1792. deciding that it would try the king. Louis was executed on the new invention for beheading called the guillotine on January 21. it made September 22. argued that the people had already judged Louis guilty of treason when they had stormed the palace on August 10. Corbis On January 15 the convention overwhelmingly found Louis guilty. which took place in a crowded plaza in Paris. The Jacobins. The convention took much longer to decide the fate of the king.
they consolidated their power by arresting 22 Girondin leaders. Local elites favored federalism. A new democratic constitution was drawn up but never implemented: In Robespierre’s view. which fell to half their stated value in January and then fell further. who favored federalism. including priests and aristocrats. The Jacobins already dominated the convention. Hulton Deutsch In this general crisis. a policy that would have allowed them to maintain power over their own regions.000 men. B2 Reign of Terror Jean-Paul Marat Jean-Paul Marat was one of the most radical leaders of the French Revolution. counter-revolutionary forces. Facing loss after loss. During the following months.000 political prisoners. intentionally or not. He urged popular violence against any who supported the French King Louis XVI. Pacifying them would take years and cost an estimated 100. but instituted a draft to provide additional soldiers. constitutional government would have to wait until fear and repression had eliminated the enemies of . Meanwhile. and in April France was stunned by the desertion of one of its chief commanders. to the Austrians. In May the convention fixed maximum prices for grain and bread. The draft touched off rebellion in western rural areas. a demand that the Jacobins could not refuse because they depended on the political support of the sans-culottes. revolutionaries broke into Paris prisons and killed over 1.000 lives. who denounced the Girondins for lacking revolutionary zeal and for aiding. Revolts also occurred in other areas. but on June 2. sometimes with great severity. prices rose because of a poor harvest and the declining value of the assignats. pressured by the sans-culottes. These revolts protested the domination of the local affairs by Paris and the Jacobins. revolutionary leaders began to turn on each other. Many people in these areas already opposed the Revolution because of the church reorganization and the clerical oath. fought a battle to the death with the Jacobins. particularly the large cities. L’Ami du Peuple. which he published in his newspaper. notably Brittany and the Vendée. Higher bread prices led the sans-culottes and associated women’s groups to demand state-imposed price controls. Stirred by his views. the government put down the federalist revolts. General Dumouriez. the convention voted to raise an army of 300.adding to France’s military burdens. The Girondins. It sought volunteers. The French forces were on the defensive through most of 1793.
1794. they gradually began to spread and gain acceptance for their ideals among the common people. Additionally. The revolutionary army threw back the Austrians. The most urgent government business was the war. Clergy and nobles composed only 15 percent of the Reign of Terror’s approximately 40. On September 5 it approved the Reign of Terror. and modes of dress. like the sans-culotte leader Jacques René Hébert. but also many revolutionary leaders. many with little if any means to defend themselves. public festivals. a policy through which the state used violence to crush resistance to the government. it reorganized and strengthened the army. On December 4 the national government resumed oversight of local administration. On August 17. The rest were peasants and bourgeois who had fought against the Revolution or had said or done something to offend the new order. to force farmers to surrender grain demanded by the government. like the former queen Marie-Antoinette. the Committee of General Security. To preserve the Revolution. Prussians. another 12. like Georges Danton. The government feared invasion. English. seemed too extreme. Beyond these measures. it abolished slavery in the colonies. The military success of the Jacobin-led government was undeniable. the convention quickly enacted more legislation. to oversee the police. Some victims of the Reign of Terror. who had deserted and fled abroad. while others. On February 4.000 victims. composed of 12 men led by Robespierre. which authorized the charging of counterrevolutionaries with vaguely defined “crimes against liberty. The Jacobins operated through the existing convention and agencies responsible to it. 1793. to provide executive oversight. However. The Jacobins expanded the size of the army and replaced many aristocratic officers. and thousands more died in jail. the repressive policies of the Reign of Terror that enabled the government to form and equip its large army did so at the expense of many French citizens’ security: about 250. the convention voted the levée en masse (mass conscription). which mobilized all citizens to serve as soldiers or suppliers in the war effort. These groups sponsored the use of revolutionary and republican propaganda in the arts. the Jacobins sent representatives from the convention with wide-ranging powers to particular areas to enforce Jacobin policies. which might have allowed counter-revolutionary forces to undertake a terror of their own. The most notable achievement of the Reign of Terror was to save the revolutionary government from military defeat. In this way. the socalled revolutionary armies. On September 9 the convention established sans-culotte paramilitary forces.000 were tried and guillotined. . and the Revolutionary Tribunal to try political cases. with younger soldiers who had demonstrated their ability and patriotism. On September 17 the Law of Suspects was passed. and Spanish during the fall of 1793 and expelled the Austrians from Belgium by the summer of 1794. seemed too moderate to Robespierre and his colleagues.000 were executed without trial. 17. The Reign of Terror executed not only figures from the Old Regime. To further that effort. They used the Committee of Public Safety.the Revolution.” On September 29 the convention extended price-fixing from grain and bread to other essential goods and fixed wages.000 people were arrested. the convention and sympathetic groups like the sans-culottes began to create and spread a revolutionary and republican culture.
and it remains the most controversial.The Reign of Terror was the most radical phase of the Revolution. Robespierre’s faction had narrowed its base of support and had no one to lean on when challenged. including members of the Committee of Public Safety. could hardly have known it. while others call it a step toward modern dictatorship. a reasonable response to the military crisis of 1793. who enjoyed support from many peasants. far from diminishing the intensity of the Reign of Terror. . Robespierre and 82 of his associates were guillotined. in the revolutionary calendar). To this argument. were followed by the Great Terror of June and July 1794. Although effective in the short term. They had supported the Reign of Terror but feared Robespierre would turn on them next. they also feared and repressed the radical groups on whose backs the Jacobins had ridden to power. Thus the end was simply a matter of time. pointing out that the military victories of early 1794. they have argued. Furthermore. by killing off the likes of Danton and Hébert. Others have rejected this idea. had tried to reverse the Revolution. Only after 9 Thermidor did the Revolution reverse its radical direction. In order to maintain control over both the radical left and the counterrevolutionary right. During the next two days. others have replied that in 1789 no revolutionary leader seriously imagined establishing anything like the Reign of Terror. Some have seen the Reign of Terror as a major advance toward modern democracy. Ever since 1789. the removal of the 83 Robespierrists represented a major turning point in the Revolution. 1794 (9 Thermidor. VI SEARCH FOR BALANCE The Jacobin government lasted barely a year. Although the conspirators of 9 Thermidor. A The Thermidorean Reaction As it happened. who came to be known as Thermidoreans. the killing frenzy of the Great Terror convinced people—even allies of the Jacobins—they might be next on the guillotine. and more moderate politicians came to dominate the government. The Reign of Terror. Year II. counter-revolutionaries. At the same time. These limitations led eventually to the dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte (see Napoleon I). under the circumstances. But it had continued to become more and more extreme in nature. due to the increasing participation of urban radicals with whom the Jacobins had formed political alliances. the coup against Robespierre and his associates was led by a group of dissident Jacobins. resulted from an ideology already in place by 1789 that put national good above personal rights. On July 27. in which more than 1300 people were executed in Paris alone. Robespierre and his close followers were arrested on the convention floor. the Thermidoreans consolidated their power and began to limit democracy. While these moderates wanted to preserve the Revolution’s achievements and tried to repress counter-revolutionaries. Victory on the battlefield had removed the pretext for maintaining the Reign of Terror. in the long run it destroyed itself—in part because no one really controlled it. Certain defenders of the Revolution have argued that the Reign of Terror was.
Executive power was lodged in a five-man Directory to be chosen by the Council of Ancients from a list of candidates presented by the Council of Five Hundred. the Council of Ancients and the Council of Five Hundred. the operations of the Revolutionary Tribunal were curtailed. Some argue that the Directory eventually failed because it could not generate loyalty from either the left or the right. The . and their activities escalated. defeating and executing a group of émigré soldiers landed by the English at Quiberon Bay in Brittany during the summer of 1795. thousands of prisoners were released. three members of the Directory. neither protected the government from unfriendly popular forces nor prevented the concentration of power.000 male citizens and dispersed power among three main bodies. Legislative authority was vested in two legislative assemblies. when the near-total devaluation of the assignats produced a price rise that devastated the poor.Immediately after 9 Thermidor an assortment of political groups began to use their influence to dismantle all vestiges of the Reign of Terror. the constitution. the Thermidoreans put together and ratified a new constitution that limited the right to vote to the wealthiest 30. Fearing the results of a true referendum. As it turned out. for the next four years the Directory lurched from making concessions to the right and intimidating the left to making concessions to the left and intimidating the right. People associated with the Reign of Terror were harassed in Paris by reactionary youth groups known as the jeunesse d’orée (French for “the gilded youth”) and even killed in strongly counter-revolutionary regions. Did the Directory have good reason to fear that open elections would bring down the republic? Historians have disagreed on this matter. the triumvirate. But this rising was put down so effectively that the counter-revolutionaries imagined the monarchy might soon be restored. the Thermidoreans now struck against the counterrevolutionaries. Other historians believe the Directory failed because it distrusted democracy and did not develop a strong centrist party. moderate republicans decreed that two-thirds of the first legislature had to be made up of members of the former convention. To limit their power. eliminated the two other members who had counter-revolutionary sympathies and purged the legislature of nearly 200 opposition deputies. The right triumphed at the elections in 1797 and was slowly preparing to take power. the committees of Public Safety and General Security were restructured. They did all this with the backing of the army. Then in September. The last major popular rising of the Revolution occurred in the spring of 1795. and in November 1794 the Paris Jacobin club was closed. Whatever the reason. Although the convention continued in power until October 1795. which was ratified by popular vote and took effect in late October 1795. the teeth of the Reign of Terror were pulled one by one. In May 1796 the Directory easily crushed a conspiracy of former Jacobins and agrarian radicals who intended to seize power and redistribute property. B The Directory To avoid a revival of either democracy or dictatorship. In response.
To neutralize this threat.triumvirate was then joined by two new associates. a domestic political crisis. combined to give rise to the Revolution’s last major coup and the creation of a dictatorship. and Tuscany (Toscana) signed peace treaties with France. France also forced the Dutch Netherlands to pay it a large indemnity. France fitted it with a new. In 1796 and 1797 French armies swept into Italy and western Germany. it was able to take some bold new financial initiatives. the first coalition of European powers fighting revolutionary France crumbled in 1795 and 1796. and execute many political opponents. Whatever the short-term gains for the Directory. its continuing rejection of election results stripped it of its last remaining shreds of authority. Following the victories of the Reign of Terror. The Dutch Netherlands became the first of many so-called French sister republics. But Fructidor also unleashed the radical left. In October 1795 France annexed the Austrian Netherlands (now Belgium). C Foundations of Dictatorship The end came in 1799. As a result. This coup of Fructidor (the month of the revolutionary calendar in which it occurred) allowed the Directory to consolidate its power. the Dutch Netherlands. relatively democratic constitution closely patterned on the Directory. The military reverses occurred after French armies had enjoyed five years of considerable success. This new Directory proceeded to close down counter-revolutionary publications. as few could respect a regime that so routinely violated its own constitution. Military reverses. Napoleon Bonaparte. The coup also destroyed whatever hopes counter-revolutionaries had to gain power through legal means. Prussia. Spain. leaving England and Austria to fight alone. such as establishing a new metal-based currency and imposing a new system of taxes on luxury goods and real estate. which won an important electoral victory in May 1798. the Directory once again tampered with polling results by eliminating more than 100 elected left-wing deputies in what became known as the coup of Floréal. and the ambitions of a military hero. C1 Napoleon . exile returning émigrés and uncooperative clergy.
With a number of important secret provisions that ceded almost two-thirds of Austrian territory along the Rhine River to France. but once released. while instituting reforms in these new territories aimed at guaranteeing civil liberties and improving the quality of life. Imagining themselves to be liberating Europe. Bonaparte was trained as an artillery officer and quickly advanced through the ranks during the early years of the Revolution. All rights reserved. He crowned himself emperor of France in 1804 and introduced reforms intended to unify the revolution-fractured nation. Bonaparte was briefly imprisoned after Thermidor./G. It was in the course of the Italian campaign that Napoleon Bonaparte first made himself known to the general public. established a new north Italian sister republic called the Cisalpine Republic. he made himself useful to the new Directory by crushing a counter-revolutionary uprising in October 1795.Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon Bonaparte was the greatest military genius of the 19th century. Many of Napoleon’s reforms are still in effect today. and in October 1797 negotiated a treaty with Austria of his own design. He was welcomed as a great hero despite his failure to capture Egypt and his loss to the English. Successful at first in Egypt. to assist. whereupon Bonaparte left his troops and returned to France. an Irish revolt against England. He conquered most of Western Europe and Egypt for France. Tomsich/Photo Researchers. (p) 1992 Microsoft Corporation. the French army was isolated after the English navy won a victory at Abū Qīr Bay in August 1798. and to send an army under Bonaparte to Egypt to attack the Ottoman Empire. he won a series of brilliant victories. C2 End of the Directory . Inc. to establish additional sister republics in Switzerland and Italy. French forces proceeded to impose new political arrangements in western Germany. Born in 1769 to a poor but noble Corsican family. unsuccessfully. this Treaty of Campo Formio so expanded the French sphere of influence that it did less to create peace than to provoke a new war. As commander of French forces in Italy. A Jacobin associate during the Reign of Terror.
who was appointed director. fresh counter-revolutionary uprisings occurred in the provinces and a radical movement to take over the republic became apparent. The primary beneficiary of the purge. On November 9 (18 Brumaire) they asked the legislature to vest power in a provisional government made up of Sieyès. as first consul. opponents of the Directory won an election and. Sieyès joined forces with Bonaparte. soldiers . most dramatically in Italy where they dislodged the French altogether and dismantled the sister republics. As the military situation darkened and Austria threatened France. popular figure to lead the charge. They imposed forced loans on the wealthy and persecuted the relatives of émigrés. When the legislature resisted. The plotters then persuaded members of the Directory to resign. Although the coalition was pushed back in September and began to disintegrate. 1799. By the spring of 1799 the armies of this second coalition forced France to retreat on all fronts.Napoleon Seizes Power In the coup d'etat of November 9-10. Giraudon/Art Resource. rather than vice versa. was Emmanuel Sieyès. Napoleon and his colleagues seized power and established a new regime in France—the Consulate. for once. England. At this point. had almost dictatorial powers. He began plotting to radically revise the constitution to protect the regime from any further threats from the radical left or the counter-revolutionary right. however. and Roger Ducos. Suddenly on the defensive and rudely reminded of their vulnerability. Bonaparte. were able to purge the Directory. the French military position remained uncertain. Russia. Gradually during 1799 the Directory lost its political grip. Under its constitution Napoleon. NY Perceiving in the French position both weakness and a continuing threat. the French nation lost still more respect for the Directory. recalling the Reign of Terror. Needing a charismatic. and Austria formed a new anti-French coalition. The purge enabled newly elected deputies to take radical measures to advance the war effort. The constitution was revised in 1802 to make Napoleon consul for life and in 1804 to make him emperor. the Ottoman Empire.
They recalled the Revolution’s abolition of serfdom. who weeks before had fought their government in Tiananmen Square. suggests its enduring influence. as they have ever since. along the lines set out by the French Revolution. Some historians have suggested that what the revolutionaries’ liberty meant in practice was violence and a loss of personal security that pointed to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. Once the ancient structure of privilege was smashed. if it could be said to have remained alive at all. One of the most important contributions of the French Revolution was to make revolution part of the world’s political tradition. the Revolution also promoted nationalism. Karl Marx would. The French Revolution continued to provide instruction for revolutionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries. D The Ambiguous Legacy of the Revolution At its core. society in France and to a lesser extent in other parts of Europe would never be the same. the majority of Europeans and non-Europeans came to see the Revolution as much more than a bloody tragedy. and its opening of opportunities to those who. did so in the form of a military dictatorship that had far more power than any French king had ever possessed. Socially. confirmed the contemporary relevance of the French Revolution when they led the revolutionary bicentennial parade in Paris on July 14. These ideas gained new popularity during the period of reaction that set in after Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815.loyal to Bonaparte chased resistors from the legislature and persuaded the remaining deputies to approve the plan. the Revolution. This negative view had its roots in the ideas of many counter-revolutionaries. Along with offering lessons about liberty and democracy. pattern his notion of a proletarian revolution on the French Revolution of 1789. Napoleon’s occupation provoked nationalist groups to organize in Italy and Germany. for reasons of social status or religion. These people were more impressed by what the Revolution accomplished than by what it failed to do. But what that liberty actually was and what was required to realize it remained open questions during the Revolution. it . had been traditionally excluded. and with it went the last revolutionary regime that could make any pretense to embody the liberal parliamentary government intended by the revolutionaries of 1789. inherited privilege. when the monarchy and its counterrevolutionary allies were restored to power. who criticized the Revolution from its beginning. However. as peoples in Europe and around the world sought to realize their different versions of freedom. its experiments with democracy. And 200 years later Chinese students. at least at the outset. The Directory was dead. Under Bonaparte. Clearly. the French Revolution was a political movement devoted to liberty. The fact that most European countries are or are becoming parliamentary democracies. and judicial torture. slavery. 1989. the Revolution was also important. Also influential was the revolutionaries’ belief that a nation was not a group of royal subjects but a society of equal citizens.
The cultural impact is harder to assess. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. The Revolution did not fundamentally alter the distribution of wealth.could not be pieced together again. the revolutionaries succeeded. All rights reserved. Its attack on the church had profound repercussions. which even today divides France politically and culturally. Insofar as legal equality gradually became the norm in France and Europe. the economy was probably set back a generation. Kaiser Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. the standardization of weights and measures. but that had not been the intention of most of the revolutionaries. the liberation of the economy from royal controls. But the disruptive effects of war on the French economy offset the positive effects of these changes. . the Revolution probably hurt more than it helped. The Revolution did not succeed in establishing the national school system it envisioned. and the development of a uniform civil law code helped pave the way for the Industrial Revolution. Contributed By: Thomas E. As for economic development. In terms of total output. In the long term. making the status of the church a central political issue. but it did found some of France’s elite educational institutions that have produced some of that nation’s greatest leaders.
freedom of religion. equitable taxation. equality of all persons before the law. The declaration had great influence on political thought and institutions. and the press. It was written principally by Abbé (later Count) Emmanuel Sieyès. In effect. All rights reserved. through chosen representatives.S. 1789. and protection against arbitrary arrest and punishment. Some see in its revolutionary pronouncements the influence of the U. Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. . Historians are divided in their opinions on the political origins of the declaration. The declaration enumerated a number of rights with which “all men” were held to be endowed and that were described as inalienable. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. which was the age-old basis of French government. Others trace the ideas embodied in the declaration to English principles of democratic rights. These inalienable rights included participation. Still others interpret its strong emphasis on individual rights as an expression of the Calvinistic doctrine of freedom of conscience. revolutionary manifesto adopted on August 26. in the making of laws. this revolutionary pronouncement nullified the divine right of kings to rule. Marxists regard it as a statement of the basic principles of the revolutions that brought feudalism to an end and established the capitalist system of society. by the National Assembly of France and attached as the preamble to the new constitution of 1791.Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Declaration of Independence and the bills of rights of a number of state constitutions in the United States. speech. protection against loss of property through arbitrary action by the state. A large body of opinion holds that the declaration was a product of the current of ideas known as the Age of Enlightenment and expounded by the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau in his Social Contract. It was a model for most of the declarations of political and civil rights adopted by European states in the 19th century and for the bill of rights of the constitution of the Weimar Republic of Germany (1919-33).
Louis was considered a well-intentioned but weak king. Musée du Chateau de Versailles. Louis was guillotined by the revolutionary regime in 1793.Louis XVI Louis XVI Louis XVI of France was the grandson of King Louis XV and was married to MarieAntoinette. Louis-Joseph. A heavy tax burden and court extravagances led eventually to a popular revolt against him and paved the way for the French Revolution. This portrait of Marie-Antoinette and her Children (1787. NY Full Size . NY Full Size Marie-Antoinette and her Children Marie-Antoinette and her Children French artist Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun was a favorite painter at the court of French king Louis XVI. France) is one of many portraits Vigée-Lebrun made of the queen. The crown prince. who died two years later. stands to his mother’s left. Encarta Encyclopedia Giraudon/Art Resource. Encarta Encyclopedia Erich Lessing /Art Resource.
NY Full Size Assault on the Tuileries Assault on the Tuileries In 1789. the people of Paris attacked the Tuileries. . King Louis XVI attempted to escape revolutionary France and flee in disguise with his family to Austria. during the French Revolution.A. 1792. he was caught at Varennes and returned to Paris. as conditions worsened. his wife Marie-Antoinette. This watercolor (Musée Carnavalet. who lost his throne in the French Revolution and was later beheaded by the revolutionary regime. Encarta Encyclopedia Archivo Iconografico. Paris) by PierreAntoine and Jean-Baptiste Lesueur depicts Louis’s arrest at Varennes. Louis XVI was later tried and condemned for treason on the basis of incriminating papers the crowd found inside the palace. 1791. A year later he was executed.Arrest of Louis XVI at Varennes Arrest of Louis XVI at Varennes On June 20./Corbis Full Size Louis XVI (1754-1793). King Louis XVI. However. Encarta Encyclopedia Giraudon/Art Resource. On August 10. king of France (1774-1792). S. and their children were forced to abandon the royal palace at Versailles and move to the Palace of the Tuileries in Paris.
baron de l’Aulne. France was impoverished and burdened with debts. Greater reforms were prevented. but continued secretly to work against the revolution and to plot intrigues with France’s enemies. and he permitted his wife to influence him unduly. Immediately after he was crowned. In 1770 he married Marie-Antoinette. So strong was this opposition that in 1776 Turgot was forced to resign and was replaced by financier Jacques Necker. He preferred to spend his time at hobbies. In 1791 the royal family attempted to escape to Austria. In 1792. 1789. On Louis’s accession. He was weak and incapable as king and not overly intelligent. On July 14. and heavy taxation had resulted in widespread misery among the French people. aided by such capable statesmen as Finance Minister Anne Robert Jacques Turgot. the grandson of Louis XV. Once in session. 1754. Interior Minister Chrétien Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes. but they were caught and brought back to Paris. the assembly of elected French deputies. only son of Louis XV. Necker proposed drastic taxes on the nobility. rather than at his duties of state. Louis swore obedience to the new French constitution in 1791. could not prevent the bankruptcy of the government. made the young prince the Dauphin of France in 1765. and statesman Charles Alexandre de Calonne. when the borrowing limit was reached. Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. when the National Convention. such as hunting and making locks. youngest daughter of Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria. He was forced to resign in 1781. the Parisian populace razed the Bastille. in the Place de la Révolution (now Place de la Concorde) in Paris. who. appointed finance minister in 1783.Louis was born at Versailles on August 23. The anger of the French people against taxes and the lavish spending of the court resulted in 1788 in the recall of Necker. by the opposition of the upper classes and the court. the Estates-General assumed the powers of government. Louis XVI was guillotined on January 21. declared France a republic. however. 1793. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. and a short time later imprisoned the king and royal family in the palace of the Tuileries. In 1788 Louis was forced to call for a meeting of the representative governmental body called the Estates-General. The deaths of his two elder brothers and of his father. the first gathering of that assembly in 175 years. however. All rights reserved. and Foreign Minister Charles Gravier. the king was tried as a traitor and condemned to death. comte de Vergennes. After Louis granted financial aid (1778-1781) to the American colonies revolting against Great Britain in the New World (see American Revolution). . borrowed money for the court until 1786. Louis remitted some of the most oppressive taxes and instituted financial and judicial reforms. Historians consider Louis XVI a victim of circumstances rather than a despot similar to the former French kings Louis XIV and Louis XV.
Musée du Chateau de Versailles. The marriage was intended to cement an alliance between the Bourbon dynasty of France and her parents’ dynasty. NY Born in Vienna on November 2. who died two years later. 1770. 1755. At the age of 14 she was promised in marriage to Louis. she was convicted of treason and publicly beheaded during the Revolution. Like her husband. Marie-Antoinette was one of the daughters of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa. The crown prince.Marie-Antoinette I INTRODUCTION Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793). . the Habsburgs of Austria. This portrait of Marie-Antoinette and her Children (1787. II BIRTH AND MARRIAGE Marie-Antoinette and her Children French artist Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun was a favorite painter at the court of French king Louis XVI. at Versailles. France) is one of many portraits VigéeLebrun made of the queen. queen consort of Louis XVI of France from 1774 to 1792. stands to his mother’s left. the heir to the French throne. on May 16. her unpopularity helped discredit the monarchy in the period before the French Revolution (1789-1799). and was married to him the following year. Louis-Joseph. Giraudon/Art Resource.
Violence followed. King Louis XVI. Instead. a scandal in 1785 involving the fraudulent purchase of some jewels. Her extravagance was mistakenly blamed for the financial problems of the French government and for the simultaneous poverty and suffering of the French people. Louis XV. she called out troops.Marie-Antoinette Marie-Antoinette was the queen of France who died on the guillotine in 1793 during the French Revolution. However. but she paid no attention to her country’s financial crisis. III AN UNPOPULAR QUEEN Even before she became queen Marie-Antoinette made herself unpopular. As queen she made herself more unpopular by her devotion to the interests of Austria and the bad reputations of some of her friends. Hulton Deutsch Vivacious and beautiful. a plodding. Marie-Antoinette was received approvingly by her young husband and his grandfather. and her rumored infidelities made her the subject of court intrigues and dislike. and her choice of ministers was unwise. Her disregard of French etiquette. IV FALL OF MARIE-ANTOINETTE AND THE MONARCHY . bashful youth. Marie Antoinette became the symbolic object of popular hatred for the French government. were imprisoned by revolutionaries and later executed. her husband. As the revolution neared. at first appeared indifferent to her. Before long she was contemptuously referred to as “l’Autrichienne” (“the Austrian”) and began to find disfavor with the French people generally. Her lavish life-style made her unpopular. When her husband assumed the throne in 1774. refusing to make any concessions to hungry mobs who marched on the palace in Versailles. her impetuous conduct. a daughter was born. and her natural vitality found expression in gaiety and extravagance. In 1778. Two sons and another daughter followed. on her arrival at the French court. She strongly influenced the king in his conduct of state affairs. Marie-Antoinette became queen of France. and she and her husband. Also damaging was her supposed connection with the so-called Diamond Necklace affair.
Two attempts were made to rescue Marie while she was in prison. They were captured at Varennes and brought back to Paris as prisoners. and their children were forced to abandon the royal palace at Versailles and move to the Palace of the Tuileries in Paris. On the night of June 20. Marie and Louis fled Paris by coach with their surviving son. disguised as ordinary travelers.A. to send an Austrian army to rescue them./Corbis After the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. 1793. 1792. Archivo Iconografico. Louis XVI and Marie were later tried for treason and condemned to death. she opposed even the idea of a limited. Louis was later convicted of treason and was executed by guillotine on January 21. King Louis XVI. she was sent before the revolutionary tribunal and also was sentenced to death for treason. Through secret envoys Marie-Antoinette appealed to her brother. Raised to believe in the absolute power of the monarchy. but on October 14. Hostility toward the monarchy increased after their flight. during the French Revolution. as conditions worsened. On August 10. she won him over. she determined to flee France. Although Louis protested. However. When no help seemed forthcoming after two years. 1792. and the royal family was removed and imprisoned.Assault on the Tuileries In 1789. Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II. . Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. She was put to death on the guillotine in Paris on October 16. Marie-Antoinette sided with the intransigents at court who opposed any compromise with the moderate revolutionaries. constitutional monarchy. she sensed that the regime was doomed after a crowd marched on Versailles in October 1789 and the royal family was forced to move to the Palace of the Tuileries in Paris. All rights reserved. 1791. a mob stormed the Tuileries. 1793. the people of Paris attacked the Tuileries. his wife Marie-Antoinette. On August 10. 1793. S.
Napoleon was born on August 15. He was the second of eight children of Carlo (Charles) Buonaparte and Letizia Ramolino Buonaparte. at the age of 16. Napoleon became a lieutenant colonel (1791) in the Corsican National Guard. Through his father’s influence. (p) 1992 Microsoft Corporation. 1769. He crowned himself emperor of France in 1804 and introduced reforms intended to unify the revolution-fractured nation.Napoleon I I INTRODUCTION Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon Bonaparte was the greatest military genius of the 19th century. but after the French occupied the island in 1768. Tomsich/Photo Researchers. he conquered much of Europe. however. he served as a prosecutor and judge and entered the French aristocracy as a count. whose imperial dictatorship ended the French Revolution (1789-1799) while consolidating the reforms it had brought about. in Paris. He conquered most of Western Europe and Egypt for France. One of the greatest military commanders of all time. After the Revolution began in 1789. All rights reserved. Corsica declared independence. both of the Corsican-Italian gentry. while instituting reforms in these new territories aimed at guaranteeing civil liberties and improving the quality of life. and was given the name Napoleone (in French his name became Napoleon Bonaparte). Carlo was a lawyer who had fought for Corsican independence. and Bonaparte. In 1793./G. Inc. emperor of the French. and joined the artillery as a second lieutenant. No Buonaparte had ever been a professional soldier. a French patriot . Napoleon I (1769-1821). Corsica. Napoleon graduated in 1785. Napoleon was educated at the expense of King Louis XVI. at Brienne and the École Militaire. Many of Napoleon’s reforms are still in effect today. in Ajaccio.
however. The Treaty of Campo Formio provided that France keep most of its conquests. As a result Bonaparte was promoted to brigadier general at the age of 24. II EARLY CAMPAIGNS Battle of the Pyramids. was in revolt against the republic. . The French scholars he had brought with him began the scientific study of ancient Egyptian history. Napoleon led an expedition to Ottoman-ruled Egypt. Napoleon had already conquered Alexandria and a few days later entered Cairo. France. Russia. leaving him stranded. the widow of an aristocrat guillotined in the Revolution and the mother of two children. as a captain. was destroyed by British admiral Horatio Nelson in the Battle of the Nile. NY Bonaparte was made commander of the French army in Italy in 1796. which he conquered. The painting Battle of the Pyramids. but he won a smashing victory over the Ottomans at Abū Qīr (Abukir). In 1796 he married Joséphine de Beauharnais. However. He defeated four Austrian generals in succession. and lesser powers had allied with Britain. the armies of Napoleon defeated Mameluke forces in Egypt. aided by a British fleet. a naval base that. Replacing a wounded artillery general. Undaunted. 1798. In 1799 he failed to capture Syria. meanwhile. Napoleon reformed the Egyptian government and law. He was assigned. and forced Austria and its allies to make peace.and a Republican. and Toulon fell. each with superior numbers. 21 July 1798 (1806) by LouisFrançois Lejeune is at Versailles Palace in France. ending Napoleon's dreams of an eastern empire. 1798. His fleet. Austria. faced a new coalition. In northern Italy he founded the Cisalpine Republic (later known as the kingdom of Italy) and strengthened his position in France by sending millions of francs worth of treasure to the government. Giraudon/Art Resource. to an army besieging Toulon. 21 July 1798 In the Battle of the Pyramids on July 21. to strike at British trade with the East. abolishing serfdom and feudalism and guaranteeing basic rights. fled to France with his family. he seized ground where his guns could drive the British fleet from the harbor. British admiral Horatio Nelson won a decisive naval victory over Napoleon in the Battle of the Nile on August 1 and 2. In 1798. In 1795 he saved the revolutionary government by dispersing an insurgent mob in Paris.
and all schools were put under centralized control. Napoleon assured his power by crossing the Alps and defeating the Austrians at Marengo. which contributed to French domestic tranquility by ending the quarrel with the Roman Catholic Church that had arisen during the French Revolution. Under its constitution Napoleon. IV WARS OF CONQUEST . he and his colleagues seized power and established a new regime—the Consulate. 1799. he joined a conspiracy against the government.III NAPOLEONIC RULE IN FRANCE Napoleon Seizes Power In the coup d'etat of November 9-10. Bonaparte. NY Bonaparte. Napoleon and his colleagues seized power and established a new regime in France—the Consulate. Each change received the overwhelming assent of the electorate. no modest soul. French law was standardized in the Code Napoléon. or civil code. Under its constitution. In 1800. They guaranteed the rights and liberties won in the Revolution. In Paris. He also concluded an agreement with the pope (the Concordat of 1801). as first consul. and six other codes. The constitution was revised in 1802 to make Napoleon consul for life and in 1804 to make him emperor. decided to leave his army and return to save France. had almost dictatorial powers. as first consul. He then negotiated a general European peace that established the Rhine River as the eastern border of France. Giraudon/Art Resource. In France the administration was reorganized. had almost dictatorial powers. 1799 (18-19 Brumaire). the court system was simplified. The constitution was revised in 1802 to make Bonaparte consul for life and in 1804 to create him emperor. In the coup d’etat of November 9-10. including equality before the law and freedom of religion.
two years later Russia and Austria joined the British in a new coalition.” In 1807 Napoleon seized Portugal. the duchy of Warsaw. and established the Confederation of the Rhine (most of the German states) of which he was protector. Prussia then allied itself with Russia and attacked the confederation. Napoleon had meanwhile established the Continental System.000 casualties and untold sums of money and contributed to the eventual weakening of the Napoleonic empire. converted the Dutch Republic into the kingdom of Holland for his brother Louis. Napoleon appeared briefly and scored victories. designed to bankrupt what he called the “nation of shopkeepers. The Peninsular War cost France 300. but after his departure the fighting continued for five years. Giraudon/Art Resource. which became known as the Peninsular War. . Napoleon then abandoned plans to invade England and turned his armies against the Austro-Russian forces. Joachim Murat. At Tilsit (July 1807). Napoleon made an ally of Russian tsar Alexander I and greatly reduced the size of Prussia (see Tilsit. resumed war with France on the seas.Battle of Austerlitz One of Napoleon’s greatest military victories took place near the village of Austerlitz (now Slavkov in the Czech Republic) on December 2. under his brother Jérôme. with the British backing Spanish armies and guerrillas. 1805. awarding Naples to his brother-in-law. he made his brother Joseph king of Spain. Treaty of). 1805. provoked by Napoleon’s aggressive behavior. In 1808. In 1806 he seized the kingdom of Naples and made his elder brother Joseph Bonaparte king. He also added new states to the empire: the kingdom of Westphalia. and others. NY In April 1803 Britain. The French force was victorious against a much larger combined force of Austrian and Russian troops. Napoleon destroyed the Prussian army at Jena and Auerstädt (1806) and the Russian army at Friedland. Joseph’s arrival in Spain touched off a rebellion there. a French-imposed blockade of Europe against British goods. defeating them at the Battle of Austerlitz on December 2.
emperor of the French. French-style administrative and judicial systems were required. and other parts of north Germany. together with the entire kingdom of Holland. Feudalism and serfdom were abolished. the empire reached its widest extension with the annexation of Bremen. from Spain to Poland. and in 1810 he married the Habsburg archduchess Marie Louise. He also divorced Joséphine. especially scientists. but progress and increased efficiency were widely realized. Lübeck. V NAPOLEONIC RULE IN EUROPE Empire of Napoleon I Napoleon I. annexed the Illyrian Provinces (now part of Slovenia. would be more readily accepted by established monarchs. providing for universal male suffrage (voting rights) and a parliament and containing a bill of rights. regardless of class or religion. and afterward his empire began to fall apart. In 1812. By thus linking his dynasty with the oldest ruling house in Europe. controlled much of Europe. Croatia. Bosnia and Herzegovina. however. Incomes were provided for eminent scholars. In 1810 also. © Microsoft Corporation. Not until after Napoleon’s fall did the common people of . who was born in 1811. and abolished the Papal States. he hoped that his son. and freedom of religion established (except in Spain). he undertook a disastrous invasion of Russia. Serbia. and free public schools were envisioned. Constitutional government remained only a promise. daughter of the Austrian emperor. the Code Napoléon was established as law. by 1810. All Rights Reserved. Each state was granted a constitution. and Montenegro). following the forced abdication of Louis Bonaparte. Every state had an academy or institute for the promotion of the arts and sciences. In all the new kingdoms created by the emperor. Higher education was opened to all who qualified. Schools were put under centralized administration.In 1809 Napoleon beat the Austrians again at Wagram.
The result was a campaign into Belgium. the emperor of Austria. In March 1815. which ended in defeat at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18. however. He was then exiled to Saint Helena. In Paris. After the allies had rejected his stepping down in favor of his son. In Paris. a remote island in the south Atlantic Ocean. fully appreciate the benefits he had given them. crowds begged him to fight on. he promulgated a new and more democratic constitution. VI NAPOLEON’S DOWNFALL Retreat from Russia In 1812 Napoleon invaded Russia and by September his forces occupied Moscow. 1821. NY In 1812 Napoleon. Napoleon abdicated unconditionally and was exiled to the Mediterranean island of Elba. and marched on Paris. winning over the troops sent to capture him.Europe. Napoleon himself. whose alliance with Alexander I had disintegrated. The troops suffered from hunger. and veterans of his old campaigns flocked to his support. where he remained until his death on May 5. the odds were impossible. but they outlawed him. 1815. Marie Louise and his son were put in the custody of her father. Napoleon fled to Rochefort. soon made a dramatic comeback. reached France. Napoleon asked peace of the allies. In October the French retreat from Moscow began. and brilliantly. In April 1814. Napoleon escaped from Elba. where he surrendered to the captain of the British battleship Bellerophon. launched an invasion of Russia that ended in a disastrous retreat from Moscow. cold. Thereafter all Europe united against him. and he decided to strike first. but the politicians withdrew their support. and many died during the retreat. Giraudon/Art Resource. . and constant attack. alienated from his governments by war taxes and military conscription. The Russian tsar ordered the city burned so there would be no winter quarters for the French troops. his marshals refused to continue the struggle. and although he fought on. Napoleon never saw either of them again.
he had begun to cultivate it during his first Italian campaign by systematically publicizing his victories. Paris In 1806 Napoleon Bonaparte.” Whatever the truth of this. and the administrative and judicial systems are essentially Napoleonic. picturing himself as the architect of France’s greatest glory. the country’s basic law is still the Code Napoléon. Napoleon’s radical reforms in all parts of Europe cultivated the . Hi Pix Napoleon’s influence is evident in France even today. the centerpiece of the city.VII THE NAPOLEONIC LEGEND The cult of Napoleon as the “man of destiny” began during his lifetime. The inner walls of the arch bear the names of many of Napoleon’s generals and military victories. was to found a European state—a “federation of free peoples. he had engaged the best writers and artists of France and Europe to glorify his deeds and had contributed to the cult himself by the elaborate ceremonies with which he celebrated his rule. As first consul and emperor. His goal. His spirit pervades the constitution of the Fifth Republic. He maintained that he had preserved the achievements of the Revolution in France and offered their benefits to Europe. he became the arch-hero of the French and a martyr to the world. the emperor of France. In 1840 his remains were returned to Paris at the request of King Louis Philippe and interred with great pomp and ceremony in the Invalides. where they still lie. The Arc de Triomphe stands 50 m (164 ft) tall and 45 m (147 ft) wide at the western end of the Champs-Élysées in Paris. In fact. Reminders of him dot Paris—the most obvious being the Arc de Triomphe. A uniform stateregulated system of education persists. which was built to commemorate his victories. he said. VIII EVALUATION Arc de Triomphe. commissioned the construction of the Arc de Triomphe as a monument to his victories.
bad wine. never secure.” he said. he is best remembered as a general. He could bear amusements or vacations only briefly. He had intense loyalties—to his family and old associates. cheap snuff. He could be charming— hypnotically so—for a purpose. Napoleon was sometimes a tyrant and always an authoritarian. His life was work-centered. he said. never satisfied. Napoleonic Wars. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. See French Revolution. Contributed By: Owen Connelly Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. even his social activities had a purpose. Nothing and no one. Napoleon was a driven man. however. for better or worse. At Saint Helena. but the latter must be counted if he is justly to be called Napoleon the Great. Few deny that he was a military genius. “Waterloo will erase the memory of all my victories. the impact of the Code Napoléon is apparent in the law of all European countries. All rights reserved. His tastes were for coarse food.” He was wrong. were allowed to interfere with his work. See also separate articles on individual battles mentioned. not for his enlightened government. “Power is my mistress. He was also a great enlightened monarch—a civil executive of enormous capacity who changed French institutions and tried to reform the institutions of Europe and give the Continent a common law. . but one who believed in ruling by mandate of the people. expressed in plebiscites.ground for the revolutions of the 19th century. Today.
Napoleonic Wars.Napoleonic Wars I INTRODUCTION Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon Bonaparte was the greatest military genius of the 19th century./G. He conquered most of Western Europe and Egypt for France. in 1804. He crowned himself emperor of France in 1804 and introduced reforms intended to unify the revolution-fractured nation. II FIRST COALITION . In 1799 France came under the domination of Napoleon Bonaparte. (p) 1992 Microsoft Corporation. series of wars fought between France and a number of European nations from 1799 to 1815. Many of Napoleon’s reforms are still in effect today. who later became Napoleon I. in which the Habsburgs and other dynastic rulers of Europe combined in an effort to overthrow the revolutionary government of France and restore the rule of the French monarchy. while instituting reforms in these new territories aimed at guaranteeing civil liberties and improving the quality of life. All rights reserved. Inc. The Napoleonic Wars were a continuation of the wars of the French Revolution (1789-1799). Tomsich/Photo Researchers. emperor of France.
Great Britain. in France. the Directory. Prussia. and the Kingdom of Sardinia. III SECOND COALITION . In 1798. France fought against an alliance consisting of Austria. Giraudon/Art Resource. Painted in 1810. and Napoleon returned to France. the Netherlands. he was made the leader of an expedition to conquer Egypt as a base for future attack against the British possession of India. Napoleon had led his troops to victory over the larger Austrian army. early battles of the War of the Second Coalition are also included in this category.Battle of the Pyramids French artist Antoine-Jean Gros painted many action-filled historical scenes featuring Napoleon I. In 1796 Napoleon was entrusted by the government of France. In less than a year. they are generally regarded as the opening phases of the Napoleonic Wars. The campaigns were the first in which Napoleon displayed on a large scale his genius as a commander. with conducting military operations against Austrian forces in northern Italy. NY In the War of the First Coalition (1793-1797). The invasion was ultimately unsuccessful. was established. Spain. Although the two campaigns took place before Napoleon's government. such as Battle of the Pyramids. the Consulate. it is at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris.
his army was practically destroyed by cold and starvation. matters went better for the French. were uniformly successful against the French in northern Italy. the armies of Napoleon defeated Mameluke forces in Egypt. during the early fall. and Novi (August 15). British admiral Horatio Nelson won a decisive naval victory over Napoleon in the Battle of the Nile on August 1 and 2. under the leadership chiefly of the noted Russian general Count Aleksandr Suvorov. took place during the following year in northern Italy and in Switzerland. On October 22. the Russians withdrew from the Second Coalition. Portugal. occupied Turin. Napoleon had already conquered Alexandria and a few days later entered Cairo. the Trebbia (June 17-19). The coalition also captured Milan. and in general deprived the French of their previous victories in Italy. Great Britain. and various German states in alliance with Austria. the kingdom of Naples (see Sicily: History). He found Korsakov's forces already defeated and scattered. Giraudon/Art Resource. and Napoleon planned a series of moves against Austria. Austria. However. Cassano (April 27). They defeated the French in the battles of Magnano (April 5. alleging lack of cooperation by the Austrians. 1798. 21 July 1798 In the Battle of the Pyramids on July 21. The Coalition refused. 1799). After Napoleon returned to France from Egypt in October 1799. During his absence in Egypt. a new alliance known as the Second Coalition was formed on December 24. he became leader of the Consulate and offered to make peace with the allies. which broke out at the end of 1798. In Switzerland.000 men and on June 14 . After a defeat at Zürich (June 4-7) by Charles Louis John. however. 1798. The principal fighting of the War of the Second Coalition. ending Napoleon's dreams of an eastern empire. and the Ottoman Empire. The painting Battle of the Pyramids. The Austrians and Russians.Battle of the Pyramids. French forces under General André Masséna defeated a Russian army under General Alexander Korsakov on September 26. The alliance was composed of Russia. Napoleon crossed the Alps into northern Italy with a newly raised army of 40. which had been formed under French auspices in 1797. for the spring of 1800. archduke of Austria. NY Napoleon's success against Austria in his northern Italian campaign had put an end to the First Coalition. 1798. 21 July 1798 (1806) by LouisFrançois Lejeune is at Versailles Palace in France. where. The victorious Suvorov led his forces from northern Italy across the Alps to join those of Korsakov in Switzerland. Suvorov was forced by the French to take refuge in the mountains of the canton of Grisons. put an end to the Cisalpine Republic.
and Ligurian republics. so war again broke out between Britain and France. ostensibly preparing to invade England. Moreau had also defeated the Austrians under Archduke John of Austria in the Battle of Hohenlinden in Bavaria on December 3. and had advanced to the city of Linz. Cisalpine. and Baden. allied themselves with France. In the meantime French forces under General Jean Victor Moreau had crossed the Rhine into southern Germany and taken Munich. because of the need to concentrate his resources in Europe. This peace. however. in addition. Russia. During the dissensions leading to the outbreak of war in 1803. Napoleon had greatly increased the French forces at Boulogne. he moved his troops from Boulogne to meet the Austrians. These and other French successes caused Austria to capitulate. he sold Louisiana to the United States. and General Karl Mack von Leiberich. emperor of Russia. Britain made peace with France through the Treaty of Amiens. reinforced the Austrians. The people of Malta preferred the British crown. After the formation of the Third Coalition against France. Napoleon defeated the Austrians at Ulm. On February 9. including Bavaria. under Ferdinand III. On March 27. grand duke of Tuscany (Toscana). sometimes known as the Battle of the Three Emperors. of his plan to establish a great French colonial empire in the region known as Louisiana in North America. An important consequence of this war was Napoleon's abandonment. 1802. In 1803 a dispute arose between the two nations because of the treaty provision that Britain return the island of Malta to its original possessors. Austria and its German allies ceded the left bank of the Rhine River to France. Among the terms of this treaty was the concession by Austria to France of territory in northern Italy and to Bavaria of territory in Austria itself. 1805. Austria again capitulated. The Treaty of Lunéville also marked the breakup of the Second Coalition. but Napoleon crushed the combined Austro-Russian forces in the Battle of Austerlitz. and made other concessions. but had made some territorial gains at the expense of France in Asia and elsewhere. had invaded Bavaria. Austria recognized the duchies of Württemberg and Baden as kingdoms. Helvetian. who. the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem. recognized the Batavian.000 prisoners. and the British did not surrender the island. V CONFEDERATION OF THE RHINE . signing the Treaty of Pressburg on December 26. In 1805 Britain was joined in its new war by Austria. and then marched his troops along the Danube River and captured Vienna. taking 23. Russian armies under General Mikhail Ilarionovich Kutuzov and Alexander I.defeated the Austrians in the Battle of Marengo. The ensuing war is known as the War of the Third Coalition. IV THIRD COALITION Napoleon quickly moved against the new alliance. by the Treaty of Lunéville. 1801. Württemberg. turned out to be a mere truce. The only allied nation that continued fighting was Great Britain. and Sweden. A number of German states. and Spain allied itself to France. Since 1798 he had exerted pressure on Britain by keeping an army concentrated at Boulogne on the English Channel. Instead. British troops had unsuccessfully engaged the French on Dutch soil in 1799. Austria.
which in effect prohibited neutrals from trading between the ports of any nations obeying Napoleon's decrees.Horatio Nelson British naval commander Horatio Nelson gained fame and the gratitude of his country when he destroyed a combined French and Spanish fleet led by Napoleon that was prepared to invade England. British mastery of the sea made it difficult for Napoleon to enforce the Continental System and resulted eventually in the failure of his economic policy for Europe. Louis Bonaparte. and Hessen. of the British under Admiral Horatio Nelson over the combined fleets of France and Spain. which eventually consisted of all the states of Germany except Austria. king of Holland (the former Batavian Republic). Joseph Bonaparte. were largely offset by the victory on October 21. off Cape Trafalgar. . Prussia. and on July 12 he established the Confederation of the Rhine. His continental successes. king of Naples in 1806. forbidding British trade with all European nations. Elsewhere in Europe. 1805. issuing decrees. This victory gave Britain mastery of the sea throughout the remainder of the Napoleonic era. Napoleon made his elder brother. Napoleon formulated his so-called Continental System. he made his third brother. Britain retaliated with the Orders of Council. in 1806 and later. In 1806 economic warfare between Britain and France was initiated. however. where French forces under Masséna had defeated the Austrians under Charles Louis John. The formation of the Confederation put an end to the Holy Roman Empire and brought most of Germany under Napoleon's control. Brunswick. Corbis In Italy.
Giraudon/Art Resource. one of Napoleon's marshals. aroused by Napoleon's growing strength in Germany. Through military action against Sweden on the part of Russia and Denmark. In 1806 Prussia. NY Before the effect of British sea power could be manifest. Russia. His most popular works display the grandiosity and emotion of romanticism. Gustav IV Adolph of Sweden was forced to abdicate in favor of his uncle. founding the present royal line. and Prussia was reduced to the status of a third-rate power. VII ANTI-NAPOLEONIC NATIONALISM . Charles XIII. The scene of the Battle of Eylau (1808) is located in the Louvre museum in Paris. Napoleon badly defeated the Prussians in the Battle of Jena on October 14. and Sweden. 1806. Russia gave up its Polish possessions and became an ally of France. deprived of almost half its territory and crippled by heavy indemnity payments and severe restrictions on the size of its standing army. France. Bernadotte became king in 1818. however. on the condition that the latter name as his heir General Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte. Napoleon increased his power over the Continent.VI FOURTH COALITION Battle of Eylau French painter Baron Antoine-Jean Gros is best known for his many works that chronicle the career of Napoleon I. By the principal terms of the Treaty of Tilsit. He then defeated the Russians in the Battle of Friedland and forced Alexander I to make peace. as Charles XIV John. and captured Berlin. an artistic movement of the early 19th century. joined in a Fourth Coalition with Britain.
safe from invasion because of its superior navy. Napoleon first encountered the nationalistic spirit that led to his downfall. the work is located in Madrid’s Museo del Prado. but from this time on his power began to decline. and inflicted on them the Treaty of Schönbrunn. Napoleon made his brother Joseph Bonaparte king of the country. French soldiers attack Spanish civilians in Madrid. The Prado Museum. Napoleon defeated the Austrians at Wagram (July 1809). which. which. The French were eventually defeated. Created in 1814. He also divorced his first wife and married Marie Louise. the daughter of Francis II. inflamed by patriotic feeling. after dethroning King Charles IV of Spain. with Britain. 1st duke of Wellington. In 1808. VIII DEFEAT OF NAPOLEON . Madrid/Archivo Fotografico Oronoz In 1808 Napoleon was master of all Europe except Russia and Britain. 1808 Spanish painter Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes witnessed the horrors of war firsthand when Napoleon invaded Spain and deposed King Charles IV. 1808. In Goya's painting Second of May. intent on restoring Joseph as king.Second of May. and the Spaniards. The chief reasons for this decline were the rise of a nationalistic spirit in the various defeated nations of Europe and the persistent opposition of Britain. never ceased to organize and subsidize new coalitions against Napoleon. The first of these new enemies was Austria. In Spain. entered the Fifth Coalition. of Austria in the vain hope of keeping Austria out of further coalitions against him. A violent struggle known as the Peninsular War (1808-1814) then took place between the French. by which Austria lost Salzburg. part of Galicia. The Spanish revolted and drove Joseph out of Madrid. and a large part of its southern European territory. suffering losses in manpower that severely handicapped Napoleon when he was later forced to meet new enemies in the east and north of Europe. in 1809. aided by British forces under Arthur Wellesley.
NY The turning point of Napoleon's career came in 1812. and marched into Belgium to meet the forces of Britain. cold. The troops suffered from hunger. Russia. During their deliberations Napoleon escaped from Elba to France. The Russians burned the city.000. where on August 27. 1813. making it impossible for Napoleon's troops to establish winter quarters there. a French force of about 100. and Sweden. He defeated his enemies at Ligny. Napoleon was forced by the Battle of Leipzig to retreat across the Rhine. 1812. thus freeing Germany. Britain. He defeated the Prussians at Lützen and Bautzen and achieved his last important victory at the Battle of Dresden.Retreat from Russia In 1812 Napoleon invaded Russia and by September his forces occupied Moscow. but was defeated by them at Quatre-Bras. Prussian. and Russian guerrilla attacks. The French retreated across Russia into Germany. Russia then joined the Fifth Coalition. quickly raised an army. . and Russian force of about 150. He defeated the Russians at Borodino and took Moscow on September 14.” Napoleon invaded Russia with an army of 500. and Austria. The members of the Fifth Coalition assembled at the Congress of Vienna to restore in Europe the monarchies Napoleon had overthrown. The following October. however. when war again broke out between France and Russia because of Alexander's refusal to enforce the Continental System. which also included Prussia. and constant attack. Prussia. In October the French retreat from Moscow began. starvation. and many died during the retreat. With one large army already tied down by the “Spanish ulcer. in a burst of patriotic fervor caused by the political and economic reforms that had taken place since its defeat at Jena. In March 1814 they took Paris. The following year the Russians. Austrians. suffering the loss of most of their men through cold. In 1813. whereupon Napoleon abdicated and was sent into exile on the island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea.000 defeated a combined Austrian. Giraudon/Art Resource.000. and Prussians invaded France from the north. Prussia opened the War of Liberation against Napoleon. The Russian tsar ordered the city burned so there would be no winter quarters for the French troops.
Napoleon met final defeat on June 18. at the Battle of Waterloo. Contributed By: Isser Woloch Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. which marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars. and it was led by talented field generals who had risen from the ranks. At some point. All rights reserved. the elusive ambitions of Napoleon himself became their principal and consistent cause. The wars. This style in turn reflected the strength of the French army. IX CONCLUSION Initially the Napoleonic Wars perpetuated the ideological conflict between revolutionary France and monarchical Europe. His major failings were matters of attitude rather than technique. moreover. . © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. and morale had all improved during the French Revolution. 1815. In general he underestimated his enemies. In Spain and Russia he was further hampered by his insensitivity to national spirit and by his belief that seizure of a capital city such as Madrid or Moscow would lead his opponent to capitulate. however. His ever-broadening diplomatic ambitions were matched by his military strategy. Napoleon's genius as a commander was his ability to move rapidly. equipment. organization. bore Napoleon's personal stamp because he personally determined strategy and commanded the French armies. perhaps because of his early one-sided victories. a bold style of taking calculated risks. thus gaining an important element of surprise over his opponents. Most important in its impact on the nature and frequency of these wars was Napoleon's utter disregard for the cost of his campaigns in bloodshed and lives. its tactics.
containing an exhaustive range of definitive articles on science. Jean Jacques Rousseau. these writers helped define Enlightenment philosophy by publishing their magisterial. and others. arguing that science and reason could triumph over the blindness of religion and tradition.” II HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL SETTING .Thematic Essay: Political and Social Thought of the Enlightenment I INTRODUCTION Thematic Essay: Political and Social Thought of the Enlightenment Thematic Essays combine a broad survey of a particular topic with key supplementary readings to create a comprehensive learning experience. a disciple of the Enlightenment. Accompanying the essay are Sidebars consisting of excerpts from the works of some of the movement’s most influential thinkers. ordering for his library in 1789 a composite portrait of the same three men. American statesman Thomas Jefferson. he wrote to a friend. Known by their French label the philosophes. history. This work was designed as a catalog of all human understanding. and Isaac Newton. Voltaire. This essay by historian Isaac Kramnick traces the cultural and political factors that led to the development of the Enlightenment. France. they served to introduce and declare Enlightenment principles. Italy. The philosophes regarded three Englishmen as the prophets of the Enlightenment. Although its advocates were widespread. and Russia. they dedicated their Encyclopédie to Francis Bacon. and philosophy. Spain. it drew proponents from America. the Encyclopédie (1751-1772). They had. An intellectual spirit that knew no national boundaries. particularly the writings of Denis Diderot. John Locke. the arts. Scotland. Charles Montesquieu. 18th-century French thought is usually regarded as best embodying the principles of the Enlightenment. Although these views caused French royalty and the clergy to condemn the book and persecute its authors. Germany. The writers expressed unorthodox views in this work. 17volume collaboration. agreed with this assessment. without any exception. By Isaac Kramnick The Enlightenment was a philosophical movement based on the belief that science and human reason can triumph over political and religious tyranny. thus. England. laid the foundation for the physical and moral sciences of modernity and were “the three greatest men that have ever lived.
This period. which had granted limited tolerance to French Protestants in 1598. In France. and Paul Henri d'Holbach were condemned and suppressed. on the other hand. Claude Helvétius. Before long. and Helvétius. The movement’s beginnings were marked in Great Britain by the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Not that despotism. The dawn of Enlightenment thinking in Great Britain was heralded by two publications. was utterly incompatible with the French Enlightenment. the works of Diderot. which occurred in the revolutionary fervor that swept through America and France in the last quarter of the 18th century. The second milestone was the writings in the late 1680s of religious skeptic Pierre Bayle and scientist Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle. earned its name for its resemblance to imperial Rome under Augustus. Newton’s Principia. The first was published in 1687. III POLITICAL THOUGHT OF THE FRENCH ENLIGHTENMENT Montesquieu and Diderot. but most important events of the Enlightenment took place during the 100-plus years from the 1680s to the 1790s. in turn. Further. Diderot. which used mathematics to explain observed phenomena such as gravitation. Their ideal monarch was personified by Frederick II of Prussia and Catherine II of Russia. It also provided the basis for the political liberalism and spirit of reform that spread throughout the 19th-century Western world. emphasized formulating ideas through experience. gave rise to a move toward romanticism in art and literature. The harsher realities of repression and persecution lent the political writings of the French Enlightenment a tone that is more bitter and less compromising than that of the British. envisioned the political ideal as an “enlightened despot. Louis XIV dealt a ringing blow to religious tolerance in 1685 when he revoked the Edict of Nantes. with first the persecution and then the flight of the French Protestants. Two milestones signal the beginnings of the movement in France. . the Encyclopédie itself was banned in 1759. known as Huguenots. This bloodless overthrow of King James II provided a constitutional arrangement that effectively abolished the line of Stuart monarchs and ushered in religious tolerance and a strengthened Parliament. in 1685 King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. The events of the 1680s provide glaring evidence of the different settings for Enlightenment thought in France and Britain. Finally. royal and clerical control and censorship of publications led to the arrest of Voltaire and other writers. when freed from religious zeal.To set a precise date on an intellectual movement is impossible. attempting to avoid suppression.” a reforming monarch. The revocation ushered in a century of oppressive and absolute rule in France. Several of the philosophes. Both authors questioned the prevailing religious attitudes in styles that would become characteristic of the Enlightenment movement. characterized by literary grandeur under the restored monarch Charles II. Locke’s “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” (1690). including Voltaire. First. Montesquieu. often invented fictional foreigners whose observations criticized French political institutions and the Catholic Church. The second. Religious tolerance and freedom of publication generally flourished in the liberal atmosphere of Augustan England. The end of the Enlightenment is best linked to the realization of its ideals. These ideals.
which were accessible to human beings through the scientific method of experiment and observation. having not yet become alienated from the “philistine” public in a posture of romantic weariness. must be subject to a critique of reason if it were to command the respect of humanity. and Catherine attempting to modernize Russian law by establishing a legislative commission. The natural universe was not governed by the miraculous whimsy of a supernatural God. Pleasure and happiness were worthy ends of life and could be realized in this world. reading ceased to be a monopoly of the rich and the clergy. bred by religious fanaticism and superstition—the “infamous thing. including torture and persecution. Science and the conquest of superstition and ignorance provided the prospect to endlessly improve and reform the human condition. and economic aspects of an age of reason.” But virtually all Enlightenment theorists followed the lead of Locke’s famous “Letter on Toleration” (1689) in demanding freedom of religion.” while sponsoring religious tolerance. They argued that if religion were removed from public life and public authority. it sought to reform the political. Far from being alarmed at this great change. nor was the good life found only in a blissful state of otherworldly salvation. reforming force that would undermine aristocratic privilege and religious fanaticism. More than anyone else. the intellectuals of the French and British Enlightenment operated in relatively similar social settings. Voltaire. Political differences notwithstanding. It sought to free the individual from all kinds of external corporate or communal limitations. Public matters in a commercial society concerned . not faith or tradition. Science and technology were the engines of progress. Intellectuals eagerly wrote for an audience of new readers. They saw it as a progressive. enabling modern people to force nature to serve their well-being and increase their happiness. it was ruled by rational scientific laws. intellectual. Theirs was also an age of increasing literacy: For the first time in history. everything. The Enlightenment elevated the individual and the moral legitimacy of selfinterest. symbolized the war against the evils. and economic worlds to serve individual interests. they generally embraced the new commercial civilization and its values. to progress toward a future that was perfection. it would be reserved for the private sphere of individual preference and individual practice. Further. moral.The “enlightened despot. Rather. legal. Humanity was not innately corrupt. with his motto Ecrasez l'infâme ('Crush the infamous thing'). To Enlightenment thinkers. They shared the profound transformation of Western life brought by commerce and industrialization. “Have courage to use your own reason—that is the motto of Enlightenment. was the principal guide to politics and all human conduct. including political and religious authority. Examples of such reforms include Frederick introducing new agriculture and manufacturing methods. as Catholicism taught. was committed to rational reform of the political. Particularly suspect were religious faith and superstition. IV REASON AND REFORM The central message of Enlightenment intellectuals was that unassisted human reason.” the German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote in 1784.
But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods.” Jefferson. The American philosophe Thomas Jefferson summarized this ideal. and the Christian transact together. rendered the same liberal. Guided by their reason. They directed these reforms against what they considered the tyrannical power of the Church.” Progressive Enlightenment philosophers had no respect for the superstitious past and its political traditions in general. and crowns. Enlightenment theorists argued. in learning. V LIBERAL INDIVIDUALISM At the heart of the Enlightenment’s social and political thought lies a profoundly radical individualism. and even reality. feudal past be viewed critically.” Faith in progress required that the aristocratic. History. as rational acts of consent replaced the magical power of thrones.” Enlightenment thinkers such as Jefferson viewed humanity as no longer chained to the past. with its irrational. and economically. and give the name of infidel to none but bankrupts. and once again Voltaire guided the Enlightenment. and the monarchy. Such reforms were for the benefit of the free individual. intellectually. and unjust institutions. and misfortunes. scepters. in 1754. But it is not an idea which this country will endure.” which dictates that one “look backwards instead of forwards for the improvement of the human mind. Individuals rationally agreed to limit their own freedom and to obey civil authority in exchange for public protection of their natural rights. the nobility. Voltaire approvingly described the Royal Exchange in London as the place where “the Jew. he wrote. Government. and whose purpose it would answer. is “little else than a long succession of useless cruelties” and “a collection of crimes. the Mahometan. Nor did the individual keep to his lower place in a divinely inspired hierarchy. not the saving of souls. repressive. in turn.markets and property. by whom it is recommended. which could not pass the skeptical test of reason. The individual (understood in the Enlightenment as male and property-owning) did not receive government and authority from a God who had given his secular sword to princes and magistrates to rule by divine right. For most Enlightenment writers this meant political reforms. Enlightenment philosophers proclaimed the individual as the creator of meaning. as though they all professed the same religion. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. tolerant theme in simple American folk wisdom: “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others.” Jefferson argued that Americans would have nothing to do with such errors: “To recur to the annals of our ancestors for what is most perfect in government. attacking what he labeled “the Gothic idea. enlightened men and women could change and reform their political world. was voluntarily established by free individuals through a willful act of contract. They could shake off the oppressive weight of tradition and custom. or no God. in which kings and noblemen had been placed above him as society’s natural governors. follies. The Enlightenment’s political ideal set the individual free politically. Government’s purpose was to serve . truth. and government. is worthy of those bigots in religion. in religion. It demystified the political universe.
the name used for proponents of the economic theories proposed by Anne Robert Jacques Turgot and Françoise Quesnay. to enable individuals to enjoy peacefully their rights to life. The Enlightenment assumption was that each individual pursued his or her own happiness and individual sense of the good life—as long as in doing so they did not interfere with other people’s lives. The Enlightenment rejected the ideas of a moral economy in which economic activity was understood to serve moral ends of justice. and property” to “life. It was not to serve the glory of God or dynasties—and certainly was not to dictate moral or religious truth. enshrined in Jefferson’s text for the Declaration of Independence. Instead. which would work toward the good of all through “an invisible hand.” Property. where each individual was free to believe as he wished. be it secular or spiritual. such ideals pervade the era and are found in the writings of Voltaire and Jefferson as well. The Enlightenment saw the individual as free in the intellectual and moral world as well. liberty. and the pursuit of happiness. so it would also liberate the individual from economic restraints on private initiative. not with immaterial things such as the salvation of souls. and the individual’s right to it. nor breaks my leg. it merely kept order. was but one form of the larger human right to individual happiness. Public law no longer enforced God’s higher truths nor any ideal of the moral life. Church. and property. as long as “it neither picks my pocket. liberty. Governments should only be concerned with the worldly matters of life and property. defined by the church and state. individuals would be left alone to seek their own self-interest in a free voluntary market.” These Enlightenment ideals are associated principally with the Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith and the French Physiocrats. was to place the sacredness of each individual’s quest for happiness at the heart of politics. liberty. Matters of belief and moral conviction had to be reserved for the private realm. state. or pursuit of happiness. Or as Jefferson put it. Public authority. No longer was there assumed to be a Christian conception of the good life or the moral life. However. was not to enforce unquestioned and absolute truths upon individuals. Jefferson knew exactly what he was doing when he changed Locke’s trilogy of rights “life. liberty.self-interest.” VII THE AMERICAN AND FRENCH REVOLUTIONS . whether these ends were realized through church-imposed constraints on wages and prices or through magistrates setting prices and providing food to the poor. The Enlightenment’s revolutionary objective. Clerical or royal censorship and persecution of free individual minds was the lightning rod for contempt. and guilds (powerful trade associations) would no longer oversee economic activity. VI REMOVING ECONOMIC RESTRAINTS As the liberalism of the Enlightenment would free the individual from intellectual constraint.
© 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. and intuition.” For Turgot. and habit play in society. simplicity. led many observers associated with the conservative and romantic movements of the late 18th and early 19th centuries to condemn the Enlightenment as having too exalted a view of human reason. citing the damage done by human-produced innovations such as pesticides and auto exhaust. held “a part of the human race in a state of humiliation. who believe in a cooperative way of life. New York. The revolutionaries waged a vigorous campaign to “deChristianize” France. Similarly. as well.” Diderot. Primogeniture (the firstborn son’s right to property inheritance). VIII LEGACIES OF ENLIGHTENMENT THOUGHT The excesses of the French Revolution.” Its respect for human rights. seemed to realize much of the Enlightenment’s agenda. saw America as “offering all the inhabitants of Europe an asylum against fanaticism and tyranny. Feudal restrictions on individual economic activity were removed. the Enlightenment. where there were “no distinctions of class” and where property was secure and hard work encouraged. of all nations. Communitarians. he wrote.” AngloAmerican political philosopher Thomas Paine joined the chorus. spirit. was criticized as misunderstanding the useful roles that tradition. enforced tithes. The French philosophe the marquis de Condorcet described America as. Schwartz Professor of Government at Cornell University in Ithaca.For many. with its zeal for political reform. . provided a lesson for all the peoples of the world. Devout Christians find fault with the movement’s strictly secular vision of the state. Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. he wrote. Enlightenment social and political ideals live on today in the rhetoric of those who argue for reason. including The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness (1996). imagination. tradition. take issue with its rampant individualism. and misery. the Enlightenment’s rejection of feudalism and aristocracy along with its faith in progress through unfettered individualism were realized in the American (1775-1783) and French (1789-1799) revolutions. and obligatory service to the lord of the manor gave way to new economic ideals focused on individual property rights and free market principles. About the author: Isaac Kramnick is the Richard J. In America no spiritual or political aristocracy. especially Maximilien Robespierre and the Reign of Terror. and orthodoxy. He is the author of several books. the American people were “the hope of the human race. “the most enlightened. the freest and the least burdened by prejudices. environmentalists criticize the Enlightenment’s worship of science and technology. and tolerance in the face of custom. making the clergy civic employees. These observers argued that the Enlightenment neglected the roles played in human nature by feelings. reform. All rights reserved. custom. writing that the cause of America was “the cause of all mankind. He offered what would be the characteristic praise of America.” The French Revolution. they may well become its model. Today. The politics of the aristocratic and monarchical old order were replaced by parliamentary institutions and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. in turn. The state took over schools and church property. Still.
France had 26 different governments during the Fourth Republic’s 12-year existence. The new constitution included several revisions intended to ensure a stable government. Governing during the Third Republic often proved challenging: Parliamentary coalitions shifted continually between elections. when German troops occupied France during World War II and an authoritarian collaborationist regime was established at Vichy. The revolution abolished the monarchy but failed to establish a durable democracy. replaced the emperor. governed by famous kings such as Henry IV and Louis XIV. In 1946. the countries arrayed against him restored the French monarchy. Democracy returned to France under the Third Republic. Upon Bonaparte’s military defeat in 1815. France was a monarchy. The Third Republic survived until 1940. created fear of a coup d'état in France itself. De Gaulle took office as the first president of the Fifth Republic. but it did not resolve the nation’s recurrent cabinet crises. This regime crumbled in 1870 when Napoleon III was taken prisoner by Germany during the Franco-Prussian War (18701871). elected by a two-chambered parliament. stable executive at the center of power. and in 1852 Napoleon III. In 1958 an insurrection in Algeria. the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte.Until the French Revolution of 1789. established a new empire. French voters approved the constitution of the Fourth Republic. then under French control. His constitution was overwhelmingly approved by popular referendum and established the legal basis of the Fifth Republic. . and he eventually created an empire. A president. a French resistance leader during World War II. The revolution of 1848 abolished the monarchy once again. a system of government formally established by the constitution of 1875. De Gaulle favored a presidential system with a strong. after the war ended. Power fell to Napoleon Bonaparte. was invited to form a new government and draft a new constitution. and a cabinet responsible to the parliament exercised legislative powers. and cabinets fell frequently. General Charles de Gaulle.
During the 17th and 18th centuries. All rights reserved. former French prison fortress in Paris that became a symbol of royal tyranny. The site is now an open square. the Bastille was attacked and captured by a mob assisted by royal troops. celebrated annually on July 14. called the Place de la Bastille. . © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. It was built about 1370 as part of the fortifications on the east wall of the city. were arrested by secret warrants called lettres-de-cachet and imprisoned indefinitely in the Bastille without accusation or trial. Citizens of every class and profession.Bastille Bastille. Two days later the destruction of the stronghold was begun amid great public rejoicings. if for any reason deemed obnoxious to the royal court. Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. At the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. Bastille Day is the national holiday in France. the Bastille was used primarily for housing political prisoners.