The French Revolutionand NapoleonBy: Presley Davis
Section One: The French Revolution BeginsSince the Middle Ages Frances populationhad been divided into 3 estates. The Firstestate consisted of the clergy, the SecondEstate the nobles, and the Third estate theeveryone from the lowliest peasant to thewealthiest merchant.This picture depictsthe third estate as aman in chains, whosupports the clergyand nobility on hisback.
King Louis the 16th becameking in 1774. He was a weakleader and had trouble makingdecisions. His wife, MarieAntoinette, was despised justas much as her husband. KingLouis created a lot of debt byhelping the Americans beatBritain. In 1786, the banksrefused to lend the king anymore money. This caused thegovernment serious troubles.Louis then called a meeting ofthe Estates-General on May5, 1789 to try and solve themoney problem. This decisionset the path to the FrenchRevolution.
The First and Second Estatesboth had around 300representatives, while theThird had about 600.Most ofthe Third Estate wanted toestablish a constitutionalgovernment so that theclergy and nobility would paytaxes as well. On June17, 1789 the Third Estatedeclared it was the NationalAssembly and would draft aconstitution. Three days laterthey swore an oath known asthe Tennis Court Oath. LouisXVI then prepared to useforce against the Third Estate.
Anticipating an attack by the kings forces, commoners then stormed theBastille prison, marking the start of the French Revolution. The newAssembly took control of the Catholic Church and adopted theDeclaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen
Inspired by theEnglish Bill of Rightsof 1689 and by theAmericanDeclaration ofIndependence andConstitution.Began with “thenatural andimprescriptiblerights of man”to“liberty, property, security, andresistance tooppression.”Proclaimed thatall men were freeand equal beforethe law, that theappointment topublic officeshould be basedon talent, andthat no groupshould be exemptfrom taxation.Freedom ofspeech andof the presswereaffirmed.
Louis XVI refused to accept National Assembly’s decrees. Louis XVI andhis family was taken captive. The Assembly then wrote the Constitutionof 1791 establishing a limited monarchy and a Legislative Assembly. The“ancien regime” had been destroyed, but the government did not haveuniversal support. France was soon at war with Austria, where somefeared the revolution might spread. Members of the rising ParisCommune took the king captive. They forced the Legislative Assembly tosuspend the monarchy and called for a National Convention This forcedthe revolution into a more violent phase.
• During the first years of the revolution, a republicwas established, Louis XVI was executed, andthousands of people were killed on suspicion ofopposing the revolution.• While factions fought over control withinFrance, European states fearing the spread ofrevolution made plans to invade France.
The National Convention responded by forming a Committee of PublicSafety. The committee led a 12-month Reign of Terror and also raisedthe largest army in European history and repelled the invading armies.
After the death of Louis XVI in 1793, the Reign of Terror began. The first victimwas Marie Antoinette. She had been imprisoned with her children after she wasseparated from Louis. First they took her son Louis Charles from her. Hedisappeared under suspicious circumstances. Then she led off a parade ofprominent and not-so-prominent citizens to their deaths.The guillotine was put to work. Public executions were considered educational. Womenwere encouraged to sit and knit during trials and executions. The RevolutionaryTribunal ordered the execution of 2,400 people in Paris by July 1794. Across France40,000 people lost their lives.
With the crisis past, the National Convention ended the Reign ofTerror and executed its zealous leader, Maximilien Robespierre.Power shifted into the hands of more moderate middle-class leaderswho produced a constitution in 1795.
The constitution called for a two-houselegislative body and an executivecommittee, called the Directory. The Directoryfaced mounting problems. In 1799 a popularGeneral, Napoleon Bonaparte, seized power ina coup détat.
Napoleon formed a new government, theconsulate, in which he held absolute power. In1802 he was crowned emperor and signed apeace treaty with Russia, Great Britain, andAustria.
At home, he made peace with the CatholicChurch and created a functioning bureaucracy.His Napoleonic Code preserved many of therights gained in the revolution. War was soonrenewed. By 1807, Napoleon had created aFrench empire.
In parts of the empire, Napoleon sought tospread the revolution. However, his invasionshad contributed to the spread of nationalismas well. This, along with British seapower, would spell his defeat.
fter a disastrous invasion of Russia, otherEuropean nations attacked Napoleons armyand captured Paris. Napoleon was exiled fromFrance, and the monarchy was restored.
Napoleon returned to power briefly, only toface final military defeat against a combinedPrussian and British force at Waterloo and tobe exiled once again.