30 Mart 2009 Pazartesi

THE FRENCH REVOLUTION/Girardelli-March 27,2009

The French Revolution
-Complete overthrow of a system of government with its social, economic and cultural foundations
-Universal, paradigmatic value. “Europe”’s first revolution. Immediate effects from Portugal to Russia, from Scandinavia to Italy and the Ottoman Empire. Long run effects extended to every political project implying destruction of a traditional order. Central experience of political modernity
-J. Michelet: “the advent of the Law, the resurrection of Right, the reaction of Justice”. Liberation from the traditional oppression enshrined in monarchy, nobility, clergy.
For its opponents, the Revolution meant the dark forces of mob and terror.

-Cultural/ideological: Enlightenment’s critique of the Ancien Régime.

-Social: enriched bourgeoisie can no longer accept to be a subaltern class without political weight

-Economic crisis in 1787-88. April 1789: rising prices, raids to bakeries

-Demographic: population growth - production increases - proto-industrialization and birth of the proletariat - first generational gaps

-Psychological factors: indecision at the centre (the King cannot gauge public discontent) - anger and fear for poverty in the countryside and in the Parisian proletarians - violent result

-International context: example of the American Revolution - ferment and social conflict in the Netherlands - Belgian revolt - Poland
First phase: bourgeois revolution, 1789-92

4 may 1789 - the King opens the Estates General after 150 years. On 17 June the Third Estate breaks the rules and declares itself National Assembly. Voting by head rather than by Estate is introduced.

14 July - 30000 muskets removed from the Hotel des Invalides - the Bastille (political prison) is besieged. Symbolic action

26 Aug 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man (liberty, property, security, freedom of expression and thought, resistance to oppression)

1789-91, National Assembly lead by liberal noble Mirabeau. Constitutional monarchy.

Sept 1791, new Legislative Constitution (Girondin) is less sympathetic with monarchy.

It is replaced after 1 year by a radical National Convention (Jacobin) that declares the Republic.

Second phase: Radical Revolution, 1792-94
Jacobin power, controlling the Commune of Paris, is fuelled by the threat of foreign intervention in support of the King
10 august 1792, the Tuileries are stormed, the King deposed and the Republic declared on
22 Sept. 1792 (Vendemiaire, later the starting-point of the Republican calendar)

Church properties are confiscated, land is given to the peasants, aristocratic, feudal privileges are abolished. Suffrage is extended to one half of the male population. Catholicism is replaced by the cult of the Supreme Being in 1794
Executive power is concentrated in two Committees of Public Safety lead by Danton (April-July 1793) and Robespierre (July 1793-July1794), inspired by the democratic ideas of Rousseau.
Louis XVI executed as traitor on 21 January 1793.
While war with legitimist foreign powers goes on, the internal opponents of the Revolution are executed in thousands (Terror). Internal conflict. Danton is executed in April, Robespierre in July 1794.

Moderate phase: 1794-1804

War continues but maintaining internal order and avoiding excess becomes the main objective.
Loyalty of the people to a government and a state that seems to have been created by the people and for the people becomes basis of new national feelings.

1795 New constitution
Nov. 1795 executive power to a “Directory” of 5 men.
Nov. 1799(18 Brumaire VIII) coup d’etat by the Directory’s most successful general, Napoleon Bonaparte, who establishes a 3 men “consulate”, confirmed by nation-wide plebiscite
Egyptian campaign begins in 1799
May 1802 - Napoleon is first consul for life

May 1804 - Emperor
Imperial Phase: 1804-1815
Stability is found in the general cult of Napoleon
Revolutionary war and conquest become ends in themselves. Military success prevails on democratic ideals.
Religious freedom is confirmed (equal rights of Jewish communities), but police system limits freedom of expression
Secondary schools and universities are centralized.
1812 - The French empire controls most of Western Europe. Reversal of fortune with the failure of the Russian campaign
1814-15 Coalition lead by Britain defeats Napoleon.

Napoleon as modern ruler

Napoleon as victorious warrior

Antoine J. Gros (1771-1835), Napoleon in the Plague House at Jaffa, 1804

Napoleon as Western healer of Oriental suffering subjects

F. De Goya (1746-1828), The 3rd of May 1808, 1814

Napoleonic invasion of Spain seen by a Spanish painter who had been committed to the ideals of the Enlightenment


-Although in 1815 the immediate result of the French Revolution seems to have fuelled reaction and conservatism, an irreversible process of democratization was started by it.

-Empowerment of the bourgeoisie will be a leading, constant aspect of European and world history during the 19th century.

-The bourgeoisie was thought to be a revolutionary force until 1848 by Marx.

-Opposite dangers of popular, jacobin radicalism and authoritarian evolution will constantly affect the following historical evolution.