The French Revolution drew on Enlightenment ideas.
It was more radical than the American
Americans retained British law and social
French Revolutionaries sought to replace
existing society with new institutions and
overturn the Ancien Regime!
The Three Estates
Louis XVI was a weak monarch who presided over a
feudalistic social system
First Estate - 100,000 Catholic clergy (largest landowner in
•Second Estate - 400,000 nobles
rights without paying taxes)
- 24 million bourgeoisie, urban lower class, and
peasants (the bourgeoisie resented power of nobility)
The Estates General
•1780s: a financial crisis develops due to royal spending, war
debts, heavy taxation, and crop failures.
•Louis’ funding of the American Revolution nearly
doubled the national debt. He raised taxes.
•Louis couldn’t raise more taxes from peasants so he
increase taxes on the nobility.
The nobility forced Louis to call the
Estates General into session in May 1789.
The National Assembly
Fearing being out-voted by the other two estates, the Third Estate broke away from the Estates
General and formed the National Assembly.
•June 1789: Louis tried to lock out the
Third Estate delegates.
In a nearby tennis court, delegates pledged to stay until they
had drawn up a new constitution. The Tennis Court Oath.
July 14, 1789
Louis tried to appease the Third Estate, but also sent his Swiss Guards into the streets of Paris.
Angry crowds sought weapons and
gunpowder to defend Paris
They knew they could find these by
storming a royal prison called…
Phases of the Revolution
Moderate Period 1789-1791: limited power
of the Church, land reform.
Radical Period 1792-1794: Beheadings,
Conservative backlash 1794-1799: The
Directory, rise of Napoleon.
Moderate Period 1789-1791
August 1789: The National Assembly adopts the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
It stated the Enlightenment ideals of justice and freedom
although women were excluded.
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity became the
slogan of the revolution!
Sept. 1791: new constitution adopted.
Actions of the National Assembly from 1789 To 1791
restructured French society.
Constitutional monarchy formed. Louis
forced to leave Versailles.
Legislative authority resided in the
The Catholic Church loses lands and
political independence (angers peasants).
Radical Period 1792-1794
French nobility began to flee. Louis had attempted escape but was caught.
This drove the French people to support the
Monarchy abolished and France declared a
A new National Convention formed. Invaded by
radicals on May 31, 1793
Summer 1792: Austria and Prussia invade France hoping to restore Louis.
Despite initial setbacks, the French hold off the
Jacobin Club (violent radicals) influenced the
National Convention to execute Louis.
Louis beheaded by guillotine in January 1793.
power in France deteriorated. Maximilien Robespierre and the radical Jacobians in control.
“Reign of Terror” used to promote
restructuring of French society.
•About 40,000 were executed and 300,000
Extreme measures enacted against the Church.
Conservative backlash 1794-1799
The French Army had defeated invaders on the battlefield.
With victory, French citizens less willing to
Robespeirre blamed for the excesses of the regime
and executed in 1794. The Reign of Terror was over.
The Bourgeois emerged
as leaders of the country in the reaction against Robespeirre.
1795: A new constitution drafted. It is more moderate and placed power
in the hands of the upper class.
The Directory: bicameral legislature and a five-man
With France still under attack, the Directory
appoints a young general….