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20 Mar 2019

Lesson 7 Definition of important terms in the French Revolution

 

This lesson seeks to assist the student by providing definitions of some of the important terms encountered in the study of the French Revolution

It is important for the student to note that an ability to define the key terms is absolutely necessary to answering essay questions and achieving good grades in examinations

Bastille (14 July 1790)

  • The Bastille was a medieval fortress constructed to defend the eastern wall of Paris in 1382
  • Its history as a prison for political prisoners ensured that by the time of the French Revolution it was a powerful symbol of royal tyranny even if Louis XVI was hardly a tyrant and there were no longer any political prisoners kept there
  • On July 12th, 1789 the King dismissed his popular Minister of Finances, Jacques Necker and the following day a rumour spread in the streets of Paris of a coming counter attack by the King’s army to ‘destabilize’ the newly proclaimed parliamentarians
  • As a result, the Bastille was stormed on July 14, 1789 by the Paris mob which sought weapons and ammunition to defend the city from an attack which was thought to be coming from royal troops
  • The event has been credited with kick-starting the French Revolution
  • It had not been intended to start the Revolution but all the same it was a significant moment in the unfolding of the French Revolution—like the Tennis Court Oath, it was one of those events that forced Louis XVI to make concessions to the Third Estate
  • At the same time, the event emboldened the Third Estate and in particular the mobs to make even more demands on the monarchy thus driving the revolution forward
  • The significance of the storming of the Bastille has been such that from 1880, the French made the day a national holiday

Constitutional Monarchy

  • This was the form of government established after the French revolution began in 1789
  • The monarchy was kept in power as the executive head of government but he had to share power with a National Assembly (1789-1791), a Legislative Assembly (1791-1792) and the National Convention (1792)
  • These elected bodies took over the legislative (law-making) functions which had been exercised by the king who was an absolute ruler before the French Revolution
  • As a constitutional monarch, Louis XVI could no longer rule as he pleased and his power was now limited by the constitution whose drafting was completed in 1791
  • He no longer ruled by the “Grace of God” or “Divine Right” as he had done during the days of the Ancien Regime where his power and laws could not be questioned or challenged
  • As a constitutional monarch, he owed his power to the nation or people who could challenge him and even remove him if they decided he was acting outside the requirements and prescriptions of the constitution
  • More details on the constitutional monarchy will be discussed in the topic on the National Assembly

Moderate reforms

  • These were reforms to the political, social and even economic aspects of France introducing the new without completely destroying the old
  • Moderate reforms differed from the radical which sought to create new conditions by completely destroying the old
  • Some examples of moderate reforms were the introduction of a constitutional monarchy- what changed was that France no longer had an absolute monarchy. What remained unchanged was the fact that there was still a monarchy in France. Louis XVI continued as the monarch but he no longer had absolute power and had to rule in terms of a constitution which defined and limited his power
  • Another example of a moderate reform was the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790)- what changed was that the clergy in France were no longer loyal to the Pope in Rome but had to swear an oath to be loyal to the Revolutionary government which now paid their salaries just like civil servants. What remained unchanged was that France still had a church and the clergy.

Moderate

  • The word describes the revolutionaries who dominated the early phase of the revolution and these implemented the kind of political, social and economic reforms that brought significant changes without completely destroying the old system of the Ancien Regime
  • These revolutionaries were prepared to compromise and reach agreement with the monarchy to ensure its continued existence; they did the same with the clergy
  • Thus they did not completely destroy the monarchy but their reforms significantly reduced its power while at the same time allowing the Third Estate to exercise political power by taking control of law-making functions as the National Assembly and its successor the Legislative Assembly

Moderate Phase of the Revolution

  • This period covers 1789-1792, from the start of the Revolution until the declaration of the Republic
  • This was the early phase of the Revolution when the Revolutionaries implemented political, economic and social reforms but kept/maintained some of the aspects of the Ancien Regime including the institution of the monarchy
  • This means that while the implemented political, social and economic changes as part of the Revolution, they did not completely destroy the old- for example it was a political reform to introduce a constitutional monarchy in place of the absolute monarchy. What remained in place was the monarchy but what changed was that the monarchy now became a constitutional monarchy instead of being absolute
  • The moderate phase of the revolution was a period dominated by moderate revolutionaries that included Mirabeau and Lafayette among others
  • There was a moderate government where the Constitutional Monarchy of Louis XVI shared power with a National Assembly (1789-1791), Legislative Assembly (1791) and finally National Convention (1792)
  • Other Moderate Reforms passed during this period include the Abolition of Privileges, Declaration of Rights, Civil Constitution of the Clergy, the 1791 Constitution and the Constitutional Monarchy

Radical Reforms

  • These were reforms to the political, social and even economic aspects of France introducing the new by completely destroying the old
  • Some examples of radical reforms include the abolition of the monarchy and the introduction of a Republic in France in September 1792. There was a complete change from a monarchical to a republican system of government
  • Another example of a radical reform was the abolition of churches especially in Paris. Churches were completely closed down and Christianity was replaced with the Worship of Reason by the Revolutionary government before Robespierre introduced his own Cult of the Supreme Being

Radical

  • The word describes the revolutionaries who dominated the phase of the revolution stretching from 1792 to 1794 and they implemented the kind of political, social and economic reforms that brought significant changes that sought to completely destroy the old system of the Ancien Regime
  • These revolutionaries were prepared to destroy the monarchy and the clergy who they viewed as obstacles to the preservation and consummation of the Revolution
  • Thus they abolished the monarchy and established a Republic in its place while they also attempted to destroy Christianity through the policy of De-Christianisation which closed churches, persecuted the clergy while even forcing some of them to marry

Radical Phase of the Revolution

  • This period covered the years 1792-1794 when the radical groups like the Jacobins, the Sans Culottes and Paris mobs influenced politics and government policies
  • Radical forms of government namely the Committee of Public Safety dominated the period
  • Radical policies/measures were also passed by government during this time starting with the abolition of the monarchy and declaration of the Republic in 1792, the Reign of Terror in 1793 and policies such as the Law of Suspects, Law of Maximum, Law of 22nd Prairial 

Civil Constitution of the Clergy

  • The National Assembly passed the Civil Constitution of the Clergy in 1790 with the main aim of bringing the Church under the control of the state instead of having it controlled by the Pope in Rome
  • The Priests would be elected by voters just like other government officials and their salaries would be paid by the government like other civil servants.
  • They were also required to take an oath of loyalty to the state and this led to fierce opposition from the Pope and many priests.
  • A detailed presentation and analysis of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy will be provided in the section covering developments during the French Revolution

 

 

 

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