1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/French Revolution, The
FRENCH REVOLUTION, THE. Among the many revolutions which from time to time have given a new direction to the political development of nations the French Revolution stands out as at once the most dramatic in its incidents and the most momentous in its results. This exceptional character is, indeed, implied in the name by which it is known; for France has experienced many revolutions both before and since that of 1789, but the name “French Revolution,” or simply “the Revolution,” without qualification, is applied to this one alone. The causes which led to it: the gradual decay of the institutions which France had inherited from the feudal system, the decline of the centralized monarchy, and the immediate financial necessities that compelled the assembling of the long neglected states-general in 1789, are dealt with in the article on France: History. The successive constitutions, and the other legal changes which resulted from it, are also discussed in their general relation to the growth of the modern French polity in the article France (Law and Institutions). The present article deals with the progress of the Revolution itself from the convocation of the states-general to the coup d’état of the 18th Brumaire which placed Napoleon Bonaparte in power.
The elections to the states-general of 1789 were held in unfavourable circumstances. The failure of the harvest of 1788 and a severe winter had caused widespread distress. The government was weak and despised, and its agents were afraid or unwilling to quell outbreaks of disorder. Opening of the States-General. At the same time the longing for radical reform and the belief that it would be easy were almost universal. The cahiers or written instructions given to the deputies covered well-nigh every subject of political, social or economic interest, and demanded an amazing number of changes. Amid this commotion the king and his ministers remained passive. They did not even determine the question whether the estates should act as separate bodies or deliberate collectively. On the 5th of May the states-general were opened by Louis in the Salle des Menus Plaisirs at Versailles. Barentin, the keeper of the seals, informed them that they were free to determine whether they would vote by orders or vote by head. Necker, as director-general of the finances, set forth the condition of the treasury and proposed some small reforms. The Tiers État (Third Estate) was dissatisfied that the question of joint or separate deliberation should have been left open. It was aware that some of the nobles and many of the inferior clergy agreed with it as to the need for comprehensive reform. Joint deliberation would ensure a majority to the reformers and therefore the abolition of privileges and the extinction of feudal rights of property. Separate deliberation would enable the majority among the nobles and the superior clergy to limit reform. Hence it became the first object of the Tiers État to effect the amalgamation of the three estates.
The conflict between those who desired and those who resisted amalgamation took the form of a conflict over the verification of the powers of the deputies. The Tiers État insisted that the deputies of all three estates should have their powers verified in common as the first step towards Conflict between the Three Estates. making them all members of one House. It resolved to hold its meetings in the Salle des Menus Plaisirs, whereas the nobles and the clergy met in smaller apartments set aside for their exclusive use. It refrained from taking any step which might have implied that it was an organized assembly, and persevered in regarding itself as a mere crowd of individual members incapable of transacting business. Meanwhile the clergy and the nobles began a separate verification of their powers. But a few of the nobles and a great many of the clergy voted against this procedure. On the 7th the Tiers État sent deputations to exhort the other estates to union, while the clergy sent a deputation to it with the proposal that each estate should name commissioners to discuss the best method of verifying powers. The Tiers État accepted the proposal and conferences were held, but without result. It then made another appeal to the clergy which was almost successful. The king interposed with a command for the renewal of the conferences. They were resumed under the presidency of Barentin, but again to no purpose.
On the 10th of June Sieyès moved that the Tiers État should for the last time invite the First and Second Estates to join in the verification of powers and announce that, whether they did or not, the work of verifying would begin forthwith. The motion was carried by an immense majority. As there was no response, the Tiers État on the 12th named Bailly provisional president and commenced verification. Next day three curés of Poitou came to have their powers verified. Other clergymen followed later. When the work of verification was over, a title had to be found for the body thus created, which would no longer accept the style of the Tiers État. On the 15th Sieyès proposed that they should entitle themselves the Assembly of the known and verified representatives of the French nation. Mirabeau, Mounier and others proposed various appellations. But success was reserved for Legrand, an obscure deputy who proposed the simple name of National Assembly. Withdrawing his own motion, Sieyès adopted Legrand’s suggestion, which was carried by 491 votes to 90. The Assembly went on to declare that it placed the debts of the crown under the safeguard of the national honour and that all existing taxes, although illegal as having been imposed without the consent of the people, should continue to be paid until the day of dissolution.
By these proceedings the Tiers État and a few of the clergy declared themselves the national legislature. Then and thereafter the National Assembly assumed full sovereign and constituent powers. Nobles and clergy might come in if they pleased, but it could do without them. The National Assembly. The king’s assent to its measures would be convenient, but not necessary. This boldness was rewarded, for on the 19th the clergy decided by a majority of one in favour of joint verification. On the same day the nobles voted an address to the king condemning the action of the Tiers État. Left to himself, Louis might have been too inert for resistance. But the queen and his brother, the count of Artois, with some of the ministers and courtiers, urged him to make a stand. A Séance Royale was notified for the 22nd and workmen were sent to prepare the Salle des Menus Plaisirs for the ceremony. On the 20th Bailly and the deputies proceeded to the hall and found it barred against their entrance. Thereupon they adjourned to a neighbouring tennis Oath of the Tennis Court. court, where Mounier proposed that they should swear not to separate until they had established the constitution. With a solitary exception they swore and the Oath of the Tennis Court became an era in French history. As the ministers could not agree on the policy which the king should announce in the Séance Royale, it was postponed to the 23rd. The Assembly found shelter in the church of St Louis, where it was joined by the main body of the clergy and by the first of the nobles.
At the Séance Royale Louis made known his will that the Estates should deliberate apart, and declared that if they should refuse to help him he would do by his sole authority what was necessary for the happiness of his people. When he quitted the hall, some of the clergy and most of the nobles retired to their separate chambers. But the rest, together with the Tiers État, remained, and Mirabeau declared that, as they had come by the will of the nation, force only should make them withdraw. “Gentlemen,” said Sieyès, “you are to-day what you were yesterday.” With one voice the Assembly proclaimed its adhesion to its former decrees and the inviolability of its members. In Versailles and in Paris popular feeling was clamorous for the Assembly and against the court. During the next few days many of the clergy and nobles, including the archbishop of Paris and the duke of Orleans, joined the Assembly. Louis tamely accepted his defeat. He recalled Necker, who had resigned after the Séance Royale. On the 27th he wrote to those clerical and noble deputies who still held out, urging submission. By the 2nd of July the joint verification of powers was completed. The last trace of the historic States-General disappeared and the National Assembly was perfect. On the same day it claimed an absolute discretion by a decree that the mandates of the electors were not binding on its members.
Having failed in their first attempt on the Assembly, the Court
party resolved to try what force could do. A large number of
troops, chiefly foreign regiments in the service of France,
were concentrated near Paris under the command of the
marshal de Broglie. On Mirabeau’s motion the Assembly
of Necker. voted an address to the king asking for their withdrawal. The king replied that the troops were not meant to act against the Assembly, but intimated his purpose of transferring the session to some provincial town. On the same day he dismissed Necker and ordered him to quit Versailles. These acts led to the first insurrection of Paris. The capital had long been in a dangerous condition. Bread was dear and employment was scarce. The measures taken to relieve distress had allured a multitude of needy and desperate men from the surrounding country. Among the middle class there already existed a party, consisting of men like Danton or Camille Desmoulins, which was prepared to go much further than any of the leaders of the Assembly. The rich citizens were generally fund-holders, who regarded the Assembly as the one bulwark against a public bankruptcy. The duke of Orleans, a weak and dissolute but ambitious man, had conceived the hope of supplanting his cousin on the throne. He strained his wealth and influence to recruit followers and to make mischief. The gardens of his residence, the Palais Royal, became the centre of political agitation. Ever since the elections virtual freedom of the press and freedom of speech had prevailed in Paris. Clubs were multiplied and pamphlets came forth every hour. The municipal officers who were named by the Crown had little influence with the citizens. The police were a mere handful. Of the two line regiments quartered in the capital, one was Swiss and therefore trusty; but the other, the Gardes Françaises, shared all the feelings of the populace.
On the 12th of July Camille Desmoulins announced the dismissal
of Necker to the crowd in the Palais Royal. Warmed by
his eloquence, they sallied into the street. Part of
Broglie’s troops occupied the Champs Elysées and the
Place Louis Quinze. After one or two petty encounters
in Paris. with the mob they were withdrawn, either because their temper was uncertain or because their commanders shunned responsibility. Paris was thus left to the rioters, who seized arms wherever they could find them, broke open the jails, burnt the octroi barriers and soon had every man’s life and goods at their discretion. Citizens with anything to lose were driven to act for themselves. For the purpose of choosing its representatives in the states-general the Third Estate of Paris had named 300 electors. Their function once discharged, these men had no public character, but they resolved that they would hold together in order to watch over the interests of the city. After the Séance Royale the municipal authority, conscious of its own weakness, allowed them to meet at the Hôtel de Ville, where they proceeded to consider the formation of a civic guard. On the 13th, when all was anarchy in Paris, they were joined by Flesselles, Provost of the Merchants, and other municipal officers. The project of a civic guard was then adopted. The insurrection, however, ran its course unchecked. Crowds of deserters from the regular troops swelled the ranks of the insurgents. They attacked the Fall of the Bastille,
1789. Hôtel des Invalides and carried off all the arms which were stored there. With the same object they assailed the Bastille. The garrison was small and disheartened, provisions were short, and after some hours’ fighting De Launay the governor surrendered on promise of quarter. He and several of his men were, notwithstanding, butchered by the mob before they could be brought to the Hôtel de Ville. As all Paris was in the hands of the insurgents, the king saw the necessity of submission. On the morning of the 15th he entered the hall of the Assembly to announce that the troops would be withdrawn. Immediately afterwards he dismissed his new ministers and recalled Necker. Thereupon the princes and courtiers most hostile to the National Assembly, the count of Artois, the prince of Condé, the duke of Bourbon and many others, feeling themselves no longer safe, quitted France. Their departure is known as the first emigration.
The capture of the Bastille was hailed throughout Europe as
symbolizing the fall of absolute monarchy, and the victory of the
insurgents had momentous consequences. Recognizing
the 300 electors as a temporary municipal government,
the Assembly sent a deputation to confer with them at
New municipality of Paris and National Guard.
Revolution in the provinces. the Hôtel de Ville, and on a sudden impulse one of these deputies, Bailly, lately president of the Assembly, was chosen to be mayor of Paris. The marquis Lafayette, doubly popular as a veteran of the American War and as one of the nobles who heartily upheld the cause of the Assembly, was chosen commandant of the new civic force, thenceforwards known as the National Guard. On the 17th Louis himself visited Paris and gave his sanction to the new authorities. In the course of the following weeks the example of Paris was copied throughout France. All the cities and towns set up new elective authorities and organized a National Guard. At the same time the revolution spread to the country districts. In most of the provinces the peasants rose and stormed and burnt the taking peculiar care to destroy their title-deeds. Some of the seigneurs were murdered and the rest were driven into the towns or across the frontier. Amid the universal confusion the old administrative system vanished. The intendants and sub-delegates quitted or were driven from their posts. The old courts of justice, whether royal or feudal, ceased to act. In many districts there was no more police, public works were suspended and the collection of taxes became almost impossible. The insurrection of July really ended the ancien régime.
Disorder in the provinces led directly to the proceedings on the famous night of the 4th of August. While the Assembly was considering a declaration which might calm revolt, the vicomte de Noailles and the duc d’Aiguillon moved that it should proclaim equality of taxation and the The 4th of August. suppression of feudal burdens. Other deputies rose to demand the repeal of the game laws, the enfranchisement of such serfs as were still to be found in France, and the abolition of tithes and of feudal courts and to renounce all privileges, whether of classes, of cities, or of provinces. Amid indescribable enthusiasm the Assembly passed resolution after resolution embodying these changes. The resolutions were followed by decrees sometimes hastily and unskilfully drawn. In vain Sieyès remarked that in extinguishing tithes the Assembly was making a present to every landed proprietor. In vain the king, while approving most of the decrees, tendered some cautious criticisms of the rest. The majority did not, indeed, design to confiscate property wholesale. They drew a distinction between feudal claims which did and did not carry a moral claim to compensation. But they were embarrassed by the wording of their own decrees and forestalled by the violence of the people. The proceedings of the 4th of August issued in a wholesale transfer of property from one class to another without any indemnity for the losers.
The work of drafting a constitution for France had already been begun. Parties in the Assembly were numerous and ill-defined. The Extreme Right, who desired to keep the government as it stood, were a mere handful. The Right who wanted to revive, as they said, the Parties in the Assembly. ancient constitution, in other words, to limit the king’s power by periodic States-General of the old-fashioned sort, were more numerous and had able chiefs in Cazalès and Maury, but strove in vain against the spirit of the time. The Right Centre, sometimes called the Monarchiens, were a large body and included several men of talent, notably Mounier and Malouet, as well as many men of rank and wealth. They desired a constitution like that of England which should reserve a large executive power to the king, while entrusting the taxing and legislative powers to a modern parliament. The Left or Constitutionals, known afterwards as the Feuillants, among whom Barnave and Charles and Alexander Lameth were conspicuous, also wished to preserve monarchy but disdained English precedent. They were possessed with feelings then widespread, weariness of arbitrary government, hatred of ministers and courtiers, and distrust not so much of Louis as of those who surrounded him and influenced his judgment. Republicans without knowing it, they grudged every remnant of power to the Crown. The Extreme Left, still more republican in spirit, of whom Robespierre was the most noteworthy, were few and had little power. Mirabeau’s independence of judgment forbids us to place him in any party.
The first Constitutional Committee, elected on the 14th of July,
had Mounier for its reporter. It was instructed to begin with
drafting a Declaration of the Rights of Man. Six
weeks were spent by the Assembly in discussing this
document. The Committee then presented a report
Declaration of the Rights of Man.
The royal veto. which embodied the principle of two Chambers. This principle contradicted the extreme democratic theories so much in fashion. It also offended the self-love of most of the nobles and the clergy who were loath that a few of their number should be erected into a House of Lords. The Assembly rejected the principle of two Chambers by nearly 10 to 1. The question whether the king should have a veto on legislation was next raised. Mounier contended that he should have an absolute veto, and was supported by Mirabeau, who had already described the unlimited power of a single Chamber as worse than the tyranny of Constantinople. The Left maintained that the king, as depositary of the executive, should be wholly excluded from the legislative power. Lafayette, who imagined himself to be copying the American constitution, proposed that the king should have a suspensive veto. Thinking that it would be politic to claim no more, Necker persuaded the king to intimate that he was satisfied with Lafayette’s proposal. The suspensive veto was therefore adopted. As the king had no power of dissolution, it was an idle form. Mounier and his friends having resigned their places in the Constitutional Committee, it came to an end and the Assembly elected a new Committee which represented the opinions of the Left.
Soon afterwards a fresh revolt in Paris caused the king and the Assembly to migrate thither. The old causes of disorder were still working in that city. The scarcity of bread was set down to conspirators against the Revolution. Riots were frequent and persons supposed hostile to the Assembly and the nation were murdered with impunity. The king still had counsellors who wished for his departure as a means to regaining freedom of action. At the end of September the Flanders regiment came to Versailles to reinforce the Gardes du Corps. The officers of the Gardes du Corps entertained the officers of the Flanders regiment and of the Versailles National Guard at dinner in the palace. The king, queen and dauphin visited the company. There followed a vehement outbreak of loyalty. Rumour enlarged the incident into a military plot against freedom. Those who wanted a more thorough revolution wrought up the Removal of the royal family and Assembly to Paris. crowd and even respectable citizens wished to have the king among them and amenable to their opinion. On the 5th of October a mob which had gathered to assault the Hôtel de Ville was diverted into a march on Versailles. Lafayette was slow to follow it and, when he arrived, took insufficient precautions. At daybreak on the 6th some of the rioters made their way into the palace and stormed the apartment of the queen who escaped with difficulty. At length the National Guards arrived and the mob was quieted by the announcement that the king had resolved to go to Paris. The Assembly declared itself inseparable from the king’s person. Louis and his family reached Paris on the same evening and took up their abode in the Tuileries. A little later the Assembly established itself in the riding school of the palace. Thenceforward the king and queen were to all intents prisoners. The Assembly itself was subject to constant intimidation. Many members of the Right gave up the struggle and emigrated, or at least withdrew from attendance, so that the Left became supreme.
Mirabeau had already taken alarm at the growing violence of the Revolution. In September he had foretold that it would not stop short of the death of both king and queen. After the insurrection of October he sought to communicate with them through his friend the comte de Mirabeau and the court. la Marck. In a remarkable correspondence he sketched a policy for the king. The abolition of privilege and the establishment of a parliamentary system were, he wrote, unalterable facts which it would be madness to dispute. But a strong executive authority was essential, and a king who frankly adopted the Revolution might still be powerful. In order to rally the sound part of the nation Louis should leave Paris, and, if necessary, he should prepare for a civil war; but he should never appeal to foreign powers. Neither the king nor the queen could grasp the wisdom of this advice. They distrusted Mirabeau as an unscrupulous adventurer, and were confirmed in this feeling by his demands for money. His correspondence with the court, although secret, was suspected. The politicians who envied his talents and believed him a rascal raised the cry of treason. In the Assembly Mirabeau, though sometimes successful on particular questions, never had a chance of giving effect to his policy as a whole. Whether even he could have controlled the Revolution is highly doubtful; but his letters and minutes drawn up for the king form the most striking monument of his genius (see Mirabeau and Montmorin de Saint-Hérem).
Early in the year 1790 a dispute with England concerning the frontier in North America induced the Spanish government to claim the help of France under the Family Compact. This demand led the Assembly to consider in what hands the power of concluding alliances and of making The Assembly and the royal power. peace and war should be placed. Mirabeau tried to keep the initiative for the king, subject to confirmation by the Chamber. On Barnave’s motion the Assembly decreed that the legislature should have the power of war and peace and the king a merely advisory power. Mirabeau was defeated on another point of the highest consequence, the inclusion of ministers in the National Assembly. His colleagues generally adhered to the principle that the legislative and executive powers should be totally separate. The Left assumed that, if deputies could hold office, the king would have the means of corrupting the ablest and most influential. It was decreed that no deputy should be minister while sitting in the House or for two years after. Ministers excluded from the House being necessarily objects of suspicion, the Assembly was careful to allow them the least possible power. The old provinces were abolished, and France was divided anew into eighty departments. Each department Reorganization of France. was subdivided into districts, cantons and communes. The main business of administration, even the levying of taxes, was entrusted to the elective local authorities. The judicature was likewise made elective. The army and the navy were so organized as to leave the king but a small share in appointing officers and to leave the officers but scanty means of maintaining discipline. Even the cases in which the sovereign might be deposed were foreseen and expressly stated. Monarchy was retained, but the monarch was regarded as a possible traitor and every precaution was taken to render him harmless even at the cost of having no effective national government.
The distrust which the Assembly felt for the actual ministers
led it to undertake the business of government as well as the
business of reform. There were committees for all
the chief departments of state, a committee for the
army, a committee for the navy, another for diplomacy,
Executive committees of the Assembly.
Confiscation of church property.
The assignats. another for finance. These committees sometimes asked the ministers for information, but rarely took their advice. Even Necker found the Assembly heedless of his counsels. The condition of the treasury became worse day by day. The yield of the indirect taxes fell off through the interruption of business, and the direct taxes were in large measure withheld, for want of an authority to enforce payment. With some trouble Necker induced the Assembly to sanction first a loan of 30,000,000 livres and then a loan of 80,000,000 livres. The public having shown no eagerness to subscribe, Necker proposed that every man should be invited to make a patriotic contribution of one-fourth of his income. This expedient also failed. On the 10th of October 1789 Talleyrand, bishop of Autun, proposed that the Assembly should take possession of the lands of the church. In November the Assembly enacted that they should be at the disposal of the nation, which would provide for the maintenance of the clergy. Since the church lands were supposed to occupy one-fifth of France, the Assembly thought that it had found an inexhaustible source of public wealth. On the security of the church lands it based a paper currency (the famous assignats). In December it ordered an issue to the amount of 400,000,000 livres. As the revenue still declined and the reforms enacted by the Assembly involved a heavy outlay, it recurred again and again to this expedient. Before its dissolution the Assembly had authorized the creation of 1,800,000,000 livres of assignats and the depreciation of its paper had begun. Finding that he had lost all credit with the Assembly, Necker resigned office and left France in September 1790.
Even the committees of the Assembly had far less power
than the new municipal authorities throughout France. They
really governed so far as there was any government.
Often full of public spirit, they lacked experience and
in a time of peculiar difficulty had no guide save their Power of the municipalities and popular clubs.
own discretion. They opened letters, arrested suspects,
controlled the trade in corn, and sent their National
Guards on such errands as they thought proper.
The political clubs which sprang up all over the country often
presumed to act as though they were public authorities (see
Jacobins). The revolutionary journalists, Desmoulins in his
Révolutions de France et de Brabant, Loustallot in his Révolutions
de Paris, Marat in his Ami du peuple, continued to feed the
fire of discord. Amid this anarchy it became a practice for the
National Guards of different districts to form federations, that
is, to meet and swear loyalty to each other and obedience to the
laws made by the National Assembly. At the suggestion of the
municipality of Paris the Assembly decreed a general federation
of all France, to be held on the anniversary of the fall of the
Bastille. The ceremony took place in the Champ de Mars (July
14, 1790) in presence of the king, the queen, the Assembly,
and an enormous concourse of spectators. It was attended by
deputations from the National Guards in every part of the
kingdom, from the regular regiments, and from the crews of the
fleet. Talleyrand celebrated Mass, and Lafayette was the first
to swear fidelity to the Assembly and the nation. In this gathering
the provincial deputations caught the revolutionary fever
of Paris. Still graver was the effect upon the regular army.
It had been disaffected since the outbreak of the Revolution.
The rank and file complained of their food, their lodging and
their pay. The non-commissioned officers, often intelligent
in the army. and hard-working, were embittered by the refusal of promotion. The officers, almost all nobles, rarely showed much concern for their men, and were often mere courtiers and triflers. After the festival of the federation the soldiers were drawn into the political clubs, and named regimental committees to defend their interests. Not content with asking for redress of grievances, they sometimes seized the regimental chest or imprisoned their officers. In August a formidable outbreak at Nancy was only quelled with much loss of life. Desertion became more frequent than ever, and the officers, finding their position unbearable, began to emigrate. Similar causes produced an even worse effect upon the navy.
By its rough handling of the church the Assembly brought
fresh trouble upon France. The suppression of tithe and the
confiscation of church lands had reduced the clergy to
live on whatever stipend the legislature might think fit
to give them. A law of February 1790 suppressed the
of the clergy. religious orders not engaged in education or in works of charity, and forbade the introduction of new ones. Monastic vows were deprived of legal force and a pension was granted to the religious who were cast upon the world. These measures aroused no serious discontent; but the so-called civil constitution of the clergy went much further. Old ecclesiastical divisions were set aside. Henceforth the diocese was to be conterminous with the department, and the parish with the commune. The electors of the commune were to choose the curé, the electors of the department the bishop. Every curé was to receive at least 1200 livres (about £50) a year. Relatively modest stipends were assigned to bishops and archbishops. French citizens were forbidden to acknowledge any ecclesiastical jurisdiction outside the kingdom. The Assembly not only adopted this constitution but decreed that all beneficed ecclesiastics should swear to its observance. As the constitution implicitly abrogated the papal authority and entrusted the choice of bishops and curés to electors who often were not Catholics, most of the clergy declined to swear and lost their preferments. Their places were filled by election. Thenceforwards the clergy were divided into hostile factions, the Constitutionals and the Nonjurors. As the generality of Frenchmen at that time were orthodox although not zealous Catholics, the Nonjurors carried with them a large part of the laity. The Assembly was misled by its Jansenist, Protestant and Free-thinking members, natural enemies of an established church which had persecuted them to the best of its power.
In colonial affairs the Assembly acted with the same imprudence. Eager to set an example of suppressing slavery, it took measures which prepared a terrible negro insurrection in St Domingo. With regard to foreign relations the Assembly showed itself well-meaning but indiscreet. The Assembly, the colonies, and foreign powers. It protested in good faith that it desired no conquests and aimed only at peace. Yet it laid down maxims which involved the utmost danger of war. It held that no treaty could be binding without the national consent. As this consent had not been given to any existing treaty, they were all liable to be revised by the French government without consulting the other parties. Thus the Assembly treated the Family Compact as null and void. Similarly, when it abolished feudal tenures in France, it ignored the fact that the rights of certain German princes over lands in Alsace were guaranteed by the treaties of Westphalia. It offered them compensation in money, and when this was declined, took no heed of their protests. Again, in the papal territory of Avignon a large number of the inhabitants declared for union with France. The Assembly could hardly be restrained by Mirabeau from acting upon their vote and annexing Avignon. Some time after his death it was annexed. The other states of Europe did not admit the doctrines of the Assembly, but peace was not broken. Foreign statesmen who flattered themselves that France was sinking into anarchy and therefore into decay were content to follow their respective ambitions without the dread of French interference.
Deprived of authority and in fact a prisoner, Louis had for many months acquiesced in the decrees of the Assembly however distasteful. But the civil constitution of the clergy wounded him in his conscience as well as in his pride. From the autumn of 1790 onwards he began to scheme Attempt of Louis XVI. to escape from Paris. for his liberation. Himself incapable of strenuous effort, he was spurred on by Marie Antoinette, who keenly felt her own degradation and the curtailment of that royal prerogative which her son would one day inherit. The king and queen failed to measure the forces which had caused the Revolution. They ascribed all their misfortunes to the work of a malignant faction, and believed that, if they could escape from Paris, a display of force by friendly powers would enable them to restore the supremacy of the crown. But no foreign ruler, not even the emperor Leopold II., gave the king or queen any encouragement. Whatever secrecy they might observe, the adherents of the Revolution divined their wish to escape. When Louis tried to leave the Tuileries for St Cloud at Easter 1791, in order to enjoy the ministrations of a nonjuring priest, the National Guards of Paris would not let him budge. Mirabeau, who had always dissuaded the king from seeking foreign help, died on the 2nd of April. Finally the king and queen resolved to fly to the army of the East, which the marquis de Bouillé had in some measure kept under discipline. Sheltered by him they could await foreign succour or a reaction at home. On the evening of the 20th of June they escaped from the Tuileries. Louis left behind him a declaration complaining of the treatment which he had received and revoking his assent to all measures which had been laid before him while under restraint. On the following day the royal party was captured at Varennes and sent back to Paris. The king’s eldest brother, the count of Provence, who had laid his plans much better, made his escape to Brussels and joined the émigrés.
It was no longer possible to pretend that the Revolution had been made with the free consent of the king. Some Republicans called for his deposition. Afraid to take a course which involved danger both at home and abroad, the Assembly decreed that Louis should be suspended from his office. The club of the Cordeliers (q.v.), led by Danton, demanded not only his deposition but his trial. A petition to that effect having been exposed for signature on the altar in the Champ de Mars, a disturbance ensued and the National Guard fired on the crowd, killing a few and wounding many. This incident afterwards became known as the massacre of the Champ de Mars. On the other hand, the leaders of the Left, Barnave and the Lameths, felt that they had weakened the executive power too much. They would gladly have come to an understanding with the king and revised the constitution so as to strengthen his prerogative. They failed in both objects. Louis and still more Marie Antoinette regarded them with incurable distrust. The Constitutional Act without any material change was voted on the 3rd of September. On the 14th Louis swore to the Constitution, thus regaining his nominal sovereignty. The National Assembly was dissolved on the 30th. Upon Robespierre’s motion it had decreed that none of its members should be capable of sitting in the next legislature.
If we view the work of the National Assembly as a whole, we are struck by the immense demolition which it effected. No other legislature has ever destroyed so much in the same time. The old form of government, the old territorial divisions, the old fiscal system, the old Review of the work of the National Assembly. judicature, the old army and navy, the old relations of Church and State, the old law relating to property in land, all were shattered. Such a destruction could not have been effected without the support of popular opinion. Most of what the Assembly did had been suggested in the cahiers, and many of its decrees were anticipated by actual revolt. In its constructive work many sound maxims were embodied. It asserted the principles of civil equality and freedom of conscience, it reformed the criminal law, and laid down a just scheme of taxation. Not intelligence and public spirit but political wisdom was lacking to the National Assembly. Its members did not suspect how limited is the usefulness of general propositions in practical life. Nor did they perceive that new ideas can be applied only by degrees in an old world. The Constitution of 1791 was impracticable and did not last a year. The civil constitution of the clergy was wholly mischievous. In the attempt to govern, the Assembly failed altogether. It left behind an empty treasury, an undisciplined army and navy, a people debauched by safe and successful riot.
At the elections of 1791 the party which desired to carry the Revolution further had a success out of all keeping with its numbers. This was due partly to a weariness of politics which had come over the majority of French citizens, partly to downright intimidation exercised by the The Legislative Assembly. Jacobin Club and by its affiliated societies throughout the kingdom. The Legislative Assembly met on the 1st of October. It consisted of 745 members. Few were nobles, very few were clergymen, and the great body was drawn from the middle class. The members were generally young, and, since none had sat in the previous Assembly, they were wholly without experience. The Right consisted of the Feuillants (q.v.). They numbered about 160, and among them were some able men, such as Matthieu Dumas and Bigot de Préamenau, but they were guided chiefly by persons outside the House, because incapable of re-election, Barnave, Duport and the Lameths. The Left consisted of the Jacobins, a term which still included the party afterwards known as the Girondins or Girondists (q.v.)—so termed because several of their leaders came from the region of the Gironde in southern France. They numbered about 330. Among the extreme Left sat Cambon, Couthon, Merlin de Thionville. The Girondins could claim the most brilliant orators, Vergniaud, Guadet, Isnard. Inferior to these men in talent, Brissot de Warville, a restless pamphleteer, exerted more influence over the party which has sometimes gone by his name. The Left as a whole was republican, although it did not care to say so. Strong in numbers, it was reinforced by the disorderly elements in Paris and throughout France. The remainder of the House, about 250 deputies, scarcely belonged to any definite party, but voted oftenest with the Left, as the Left was the most powerful.
The Left had three objects of enmity: first, the king, the queen and the royal family; secondly, the émigrés; and thirdly, the clergy. The king could not like the new constitution, although, if left to himself, indolence and good nature might have rendered him passive. The queen throughout The court and the émigrés. had only one thought, to shake off the impotence and humiliation of the crown; and for this end she still clung to the hope of foreign succour and corresponded with Vienna. Those émigrés who had assembled in arms on the territories of the electors of Mainz and Treves (Trier) and in the Austrian Netherlands had put themselves in the position of public enemies. Their chiefs were the king’s brothers, who affected to consider Louis as a captive and his acts as therefore invalid. The count of Provence gave himself the airs of a regent and surrounded himself with a ministry. The émigrés were not, however, dangerous. They were only a few thousand strong; they had no competent leader and no money; they were unwelcome to the rulers whose hospitality they abused. The nonjuring clergy, although harassed by the local authorities, kept the respect and confidence of most Catholics. No acts of disloyalty were proved against them, and commissioners of the National Assembly reported to its successor that their flocks only desired to be let alone. But the anti-clerical bias of the Legislative Assembly was too strong for such a policy.
The king’s ministers, named by him and excluded from the Assembly, were mostly persons of little mark. Montmorin gave up the portfolio of foreign affairs on the 31st of October and was succeeded by De Lessart. Cahier de Gerville was minister of the interior; Tarbé, minister of finance; and Bertrand de Molleville, minister of marine. But the only minister who influenced the course of affairs was the comte de Narbonne, minister of war.
On the 9th of November the Assembly decreed that the émigrés
assembled on the frontiers should be liable to the penalties of
death and confiscation unless they returned to France
by the 1st of January following. Louis did not love
his brothers, and he detested their policy, which
The king and the nonjurors.
without rendering him any service made his liberty
and even his life precarious; yet, loath to condemn them to death,
he vetoed the decree. On the 29th of November the Assembly
decreed that every nonjuring clergyman must take within eight
days the civic oath, substantially the same as the oath previously
administered, on pain of losing his pension and, if any troubles
broke out, of being deported. This decree Louis vetoed as a
matter of conscience. In either case his resistance only served
to give a weapon to his enemies in the Assembly. But foreign
affairs were at this time the most critical. The armed bodies of
émigrés on the territory of the Empire afforded matter of complaint
to France. The persistence of the French in refusing more
than a money compensation to the German princes who had
claims in Alsace afforded matter of complaint to the Empire.
Foreign statesmen noticed with alarm the effect of the French
Revolution upon opinion in their own countries, and they
resented the endeavours of French revolutionists to make
converts there. Of these statesmen, the emperor Leopold was
the most intelligent. He had skilfully extricated himself from
the embarrassments at home and abroad left by his predecessor
Joseph. He was bound by family ties to Louis, and he was
obliged, as chief of the Holy Roman Empire, to protect the border
princes. On the other hand, he understood the weakness of the
Habsburg monarchy. He knew that the Austrian Netherlands,
where he had with difficulty restored his authority, were full of
friends of the Revolution and that a French army would be welcomed
by many Belgians. He despised the weakness and the
folly of the émigrés and excluded them from his councils. He
earnestly desired to avoid a war which might endanger his sister
or her husband. In August 1791 he had met Frederick William
of Pillnitz. II. of Prussia at Pillnitz near Dresden, and the two monarchs had joined in a declaration that they considered the restoration of order and of monarchy in France an object of interest to all sovereigns. They further declared that they would be ready to act for this purpose in concert with the other powers. This declaration appears to have been drawn from Leopold by pressure of circumstances. He well knew that concerted action of the powers was impossible, as the English government had firmly resolved not to meddle with French affairs. After Louis had accepted the constitution, Leopold virtually withdrew his declaration. Nevertheless it was a grave error of judgment and contributed to the approaching war.
In France many persons desired war for various reasons. Narbonne trusted to find in it the means of restoring a certain authority to the crown and limiting the Revolution. He contemplated a war with Austria only. The Girondins desired war in the hope that it would enable them to abolish monarchy altogether. They desired a general war because they believed that it would carry the Revolution into other countries and make it secure in France by making it universal. The extreme Left had the same objects, but it held that a war for those objects could not safely be entrusted to the king and his ministers. Victory would revive the power of the crown; defeat would be the undoing of the Revolution. Hence Robespierre and those who thought with him desired peace. The French nation generally had never approved of the Austrian alliance, and regarded the Habsburgs as traditional enemies. The king and queen, however, who looked for help from abroad and especially from Leopold, dreaded a war with Austria and had no faith in the schemes of Narbonne. Nor was France in a condition to wage a serious war. The constitution was unworkable and the governing authorities were mutually hostile. The finances remained in disorder, and assignats of the face value of 900,000,000 livres were issued by the Legislative Assembly in less than a year. The army had been thinned by desertion and was enervated by long indiscipline. The fortresses were in bad condition and short of supplies.
In October Leopold ordered the dispersion of the émigrés who had mustered in arms in the Austrian Netherlands. His example was followed by the electors of Treves and Mainz. At the same time they implored the emperor’s protection, and the Austrian chancellor Kaunitz informed Noailles the French ambassador that this protection would be given if necessary. Narbonne demanded a credit of 20,000,000 livres, which the Assembly granted. He made a tour of inspection in the north of France and reported untruly to the Assembly that all was in readiness for war. On the 14th of January 1792 the diplomatic committee reported to the Assembly that the emperor should be required to give satisfactory assurances before the 10th of February. The Assembly put off the term to the 1st of March. In February Leopold concluded a defensive treaty with Frederick William. But there was no mutual confidence between the sovereigns, who were at that very time pursuing opposite policies with regard to Poland. Leopold still hesitated and still hoped to avoid war. He died on the 1st of March, and the imperial dignity became vacant. The hereditary dominions of Austria passed to his son Francis, afterwards the emperor Francis II., a youth of small abilities and no experience. The real conduct of affairs fell, therefore, to the aged Kaunitz. In France Narbonne failed to carry the king or his colleagues along with him. The king took courage to dismiss him on the 9th of March, whereupon the assembly testified its confidence in Narbonne. De Lessart having incurred its anger by the tameness of his replies to Austrian dictation, the Assembly voted his impeachment.
The king, seeing no other course open, formed a new ministry which was chiefly Girondin. Roland became minister of the interior, Clavière of finance, De Grave of war, and Lacoste of marine. Far abler and more resolute than any of these men was Dumouriez, the new minister War declared against Austria. for foreign affairs. A soldier by profession, he had been employed in the secret diplomacy of Louis XV. and had thus gained a wide knowledge of international politics. He stood aloof from parties and had no rigid principles, but held views closely resembling those of Narbonne. He wished for a war with Austria which should restore some influence to the crown and make himself the arbiter of France. The king bent to necessity, and on the 20th of April came to the Assembly with the proposal that war should be declared against Austria. It was carried by acclamation. Dumouriez intended to begin with an invasion of the Austrian Netherlands. As this would awaken English jealousy, he sent Talleyrand to London with assurances that, if victorious, the French would annex no territory.
It was designed that the French should invade the Netherlands at three points simultaneously. Lafayette was to march against Namur, Biron against Mons, and Dillon against Tournay. But the first movement disclosed the miserable state of the army. Smitten with panic, Dillon’s force fled at sight of the enemy, and Dillon, after receiving a wound from one of his own soldiers, was murdered by the mob of Lille. Biron was easily routed before Mons. On hearing of these disasters Lafayette found it necessary to retreat. This shameful discomfiture quickened all the suspicion and jealousy fermenting in France. De Grave had to resign and was succeeded by Servan. The Austrian forces in the Netherlands were, however, so weak that they could not take the offensive. Austria demanded help from Prussia under the recent alliance, and the claim was admitted. Prussia declared war against France, and the duke of Brunswick was chosen to command the allied forces, but various causes delayed action. Austrian and Prussian interests clashed in Poland. The Austrian government wished to preserve a harmless neighbour. The Prussian government desired another partition and a large tract of Polish territory. Only after long discussion was it agreed that Prussia should be free to act in Poland, while Austria might find compensation in provinces conquered from France.
A respite was thus given and something was done to improve
the army. Meantime the Assembly passed three decrees: one
for the deportation of nonjuring priests, another to suppress the
king’s Constitutional Guard, and a third for the establishment
of a camp of fédérés near Paris. Louis consented to sacrifice
his guard, but vetoed the other decrees. Roland having addressed
to him an arrogant letter of remonstrance, the king with the
support of Dumouriez dismissed Roland, Servan and Clavière.
Dumouriez then took the ministry of war, and the other places
were filled with such men as could be had. Dumouriez, who
cared only for the successful prosecution of the war, urged the
king to accept the decrees. As Louis was obstinate, he felt that
he could do no more, resigned office on the 15th of June and
the 20th of
June 1792. went to join the army of the north. Lafayette, who remained faithful to the constitution of 1791, ventured on a letter of remonstrance to the Assembly. It paid no attention, for Lafayette could no longer sway the people. The Jacobins tried to frighten the king into accepting the decrees and recalling his ministers. On the 20th of June the armed populace invaded the hall of the Assembly and the royal apartments in the Tuileries. For some hours the king and queen were in the utmost peril. With passive courage Louis refrained from making any promise to the insurgents.
The failure of the insurrection encouraged a movement in favour of the king. Some twenty thousand Parisians signed a petition expressing sympathy with Louis. Addresses of like tenour poured in from the departments and the provincial cities. Lafayette himself came to Paris in the hope of rallying the constitutional party, but the king and queen eluded his offers of assistance. They had always disliked and distrusted Lafayette and the Feuillants, and preferred to rest their hopes of deliverance on the foreigner. Lafayette returned to his troops without having effected anything. The Girondins made a last advance to Louis, offering to save the monarchy if he would accept them as ministers. His refusal united all the Jacobins in the project of overturning the monarchy by force. The ruling spirit of this new revolution was Danton, a barrister only thirty-two years of age, who had not sat in either Assembly, although he had been the leader of the Cordeliers, an advanced republican club, and had a strong hold on the common people of Paris. Danton and his friends were assisted in their work by the fear of invasion, for the allied army was at length mustering on the frontier. The Assembly declared the country in danger. All the regular troops in or near Paris were sent to the front. Volunteers and fédérés were constantly arriving in Paris, and, although most went on to join the army, the Jacobins enlisted those who were suitable for their purpose, especially some 500 whom Barbaroux, a Girondin, had summoned from Marseilles. At the same time the National Guard was opened to the lowest class. Brunswick’s famous declaration of the 25th of July, announcing that the allies would enter France to restore the royal authority and would visit the Assembly and the city of Paris with military execution if any further outrage were offered to the king, heated the republican spirit to fury. It was resolved to strike the decisive blow on the 10th of August.
On the night of the 9th a new revolutionary Commune took
possession of the hôtel de ville, and early on the morning of the
10th the insurgents assailed the Tuileries. As the
preparations of the Jacobins had been notorious, some
measures of defence had been taken. Beside a few
of August. gentlemen in arms and a number of National Guards the palace was garrisoned by the Swiss Guard, about 950 strong. The disparity of force was not so great as to make resistance altogether hopeless. But Louis let himself be persuaded into betraying his own cause and retiring with his family under the shelter of the Assembly. The National Guards either dispersed or fraternized with the assailants. The Swiss Guard stood firm, and, possibly by accident, a fusillade began. The enemy were gaining ground when the Swiss received an order from the king to cease firing and withdraw. They were mostly shot down as they were retiring, and of those who surrendered many were murdered in cold blood next day. The king and queen spent long hours in a reporter’s box while the Assembly discussed their fate and the fate of the French monarchy. Little more than a third of the deputies were present and they were almost all Jacobins. They decreed that Louis should be suspended from his office and that a convention should be summoned to give France a new constitution. An executive council was formed by recalling Roland, Clavière and Servan to office and joining with them Danton as minister of justice, Lebrun as minister of foreign affairs, and Monge as minister of marine.
When Lafayette heard of the insurrection in Paris he tried to rally his troops in defence of the constitution, but they refused to follow him. He was driven to cross the frontier and surrender himself to the Austrians. Dumouriez was named his successor. But the new government was The revolutionary Commune of Paris. still beset with danger. It had no root in law and little hold on public opinion. It could not lean on the Assembly, a mere shrunken remnant, whose days were numbered. It remained dependent on the power which had set it up, the revolutionary Commune of Paris. The Commune could therefore extort what concessions it pleased. It got the custody of the king and his family who were imprisoned in the Temple. Having obtained an indefinite power of arrest, it soon filled the prisons of Paris. As the elections to the Convention were close at hand, the Commune resolved to strike the public with terror by the slaughter of its prisoners. It found its opportunity in the progress of invasion. On the 19th Brunswick crossed the frontier. On the 22nd Longwy surrendered. Verdun was invested and seemed likely to fall. On the 1st of September the Commune decreed that on the following day the tocsin should be rung, all able-bodied citizens convened in the Champs de Mars, and 60,000 volunteers enrolled for the defence of the country. The September massacres. While this assembly was in progress gangs of assassins were sent to the prisons and began a butchery which lasted four days and consumed 1400 victims. The Commune addressed a circular letter to the other cities of France inviting them to follow the example. A number of state prisoners awaiting trial at Orleans were ordered to Paris and on the way were murdered at Versailles. The Assembly offered a feeble resistance to these crimes. Danton can hardly be acquitted of connivance at them. Roland hinted disapproval, but did not venture more. He with many other Girondins had been marked for slaughter in the original project.
The elections to the Convention were by almost universal suffrage, but indifference or intimidation reduced the voters to a small number. Many who had sat in the National, and many more who had sat in the Legislative Assembly were returned. The Convention met on the The National Convention. 20th of September. Like the previous assemblies, it did not fall into well-defined parties. The success of the Jacobins in overthrowing the monarchy had ended their union. Thenceforwards the name of Jacobin was confined to the smaller and more fanatical group, while the rest came to be known as the Girondins. The Jacobins, about 100 strong, formed the Left of the Convention, afterwards known from the raised benches on which they sat as the Mountain (q.v.). The Girondins, numbering perhaps 180, formed the Right. The rest of the House, nearly 500 members, voted now on one side now on the other, until in the course of the Terror they fell under the Jacobin domination. This neutral mass is often termed the Plain, in allusion to its seats on the floor of the House. The Convention as a whole was Republican, if not on principle, from the feeling that no other form of government could be established. It decreed Abolition of the monarchy. the abolition of monarchy on the 21st of September. A committee was named to draft a new constitution, which was presented and decreed in the following June, but never took effect and was superseded by a third constitution in 1795. The actual government of France was by committees of the Convention, but some months passed before it could be fully organized.
The inner history of the Convention was strange and terrible. It turned on the successive schisms in the ruling minority. Whichever side prevailed destroyed its adversaries only to divide afresh and renew the strife until the victors were at length so reduced that their yoke was Jacobins and Girondins. shaken off and the mass of the Convention, hitherto benumbed by fear, resumed its freedom and the government of France. The first and most memorable of these contests was the quarrel between Jacobin and Girondin. Both parties were republican and democratic; both wished to complete the Revolution; both were determined to maintain the integrity of France. But they differed in circumstances and temperament. Although the leaders on both sides were of the middle class, the Girondins represented the bourgeoisie, the Jacobins represented the populace. The Girondins desired a speedy return to law and order; the Jacobins thought that they could keep power only by violence. The Jacobins leant on the revolutionary commune and the mob of Paris; the Girondins leant on the thriving burghers of the provincial cities. Despite their smaller number the Jacobins were victors. They were the more resolute and unscrupulous. The Girondins numbered many orators, but not one man of action. The Jacobins controlled the parent club with its affiliated societies and the whole machinery of terror. The Girondins had no organized force at their disposal. The Jacobins perpetuated in a new form the old centralization of power to which France was accustomed. The Girondins addressed themselves to provincials who had lost the power of initiative. They were termed federalists by their enemies and accused, unjustly enough, of wishing to dissolve the national unity.
Even in the first days of the Convention the feud broke out. The Girondins condemned the September massacres and dreaded the Parisian populace. Barbaroux accused Robespierre of aiming at a dictatorship, and Buzot demanded a guard recruited in the departments to protect the Convention. In October Louvet reiterated the charge against Robespierre, and Barbaroux called for the dissolution of the Commune of Paris. But the Girondins gained no tangible result from this wordy warfare. For a time the question how to dispose of the king diverted the thoughts of all parties. It was approached in a political, not in a judicial spirit. The Jacobins desired the death of Louis, partly because they hated kings and deemed him a traitor, partly because they wished to envenom the Revolution, defy Europe and compromise their more temperate colleagues. The Girondins wished to spare Louis, but were afraid of incurring the reproach of royalism. At this critical moment the discovery of the famous iron chest, containing papers which showed that many public men had intrigued with the court, was disastrous for Louis. Members of the Convention were anxious to be thought severe lest they should be thought corrupt. Robespierre frankly demanded that Louis as a public enemy should be put to death without form of trial. The majority shrank from such open injustice and decreed on the 3rd of December that Louis should be tried by the Convention.
A committee of twenty-one was chosen to frame the indictment against Louis, and on the 11th of December he was brought to the bar for the first time to hear the charges read. The most essential might be summed up in the statement that he had plotted against the Constitution and Trial and execution of Louis XVI. against the safety of the kingdom. On the 26th Louis appeared at the bar a second time, and the trial began. The advocates of Louis could plead that all his actions down to the dissolution of the National Assembly came within the amnesty then granted, and that the Constitution had proclaimed his person inviolable, while enacting for certain offences the penalty of deposition which he had already undergone. Such arguments were not likely to weigh with such a tribunal. The Mountain called for immediate sentence of death; the Girondins desired an appeal to the people of France. The galleries of the Convention were packed with adherents of the Jacobins, whose fury, not confined to words, struck terror into all who might incline towards mercy. In Paris unmistakable signs announced a new insurrection, to be followed perhaps by new massacres. On the question whether Louis was guilty none ventured to give a negative vote. The motion for an appeal to the people was rejected by 424 votes to 283. The penalty of death was adopted by 361 votes against 360 in favour of other penalties or of postponing at least the execution of the sentence. On the 21st of January 1793 Louis was beheaded in the Place de la Révolution, now the Place de la Concorde.
Between the deposition and the death of Louis the war had run a surprising course. Accompanied by King Frederick William, Brunswick had entered France with 80,000 men, of whom more than half were Prussians, the best soldiers in Europe. The disorder of France was Battle of Valmy. such that many expected a triumphal march to Paris. But the Allies had opened the campaign late; they moved slowly; the weather broke, and sickness began to waste their ranks. Dumouriez succeeded in rousing the spirit of the French; he occupied the defiles of the forest of Argonne, thus causing the enemy to lose many valuable days, and when at last they turned his position, he retreated without loss. At Valmy on the 20th of September the two armies came in contact. The affair was only a cannonade, but the French stood firm and the advance of the Allies was stayed. Brunswick had no heart for his work; the king was ill satisfied with the Austrians, and both were alarmed by the ravages of disease among the soldiers. Within ten days after the affair of Valmy they began their retreat. Dumouriez, who still hoped to detach Prussia from Austria, left them unmolested. When the enemy had quitted France, he invaded Hainaut and defeated the Austrians at Jemappes on the 6th of November. In Belgium a large party regarded the French as deliverers. Dumouriez entered Brussels without further resistance, and was soon master of the whole country. Elsewhere the French were equally successful. With a slight force Custine assailed the electorate of Mainz. The common people were friendly, and he had no trouble in occupying the country as far as the Rhine. The king of Sardinia having shown a hostile temper, Montesquiou made an easy conquest of Savoy. At the close of 1792 the relative position of France and her enemies had been reversed. It was seen that the French were still able to wage war, and that the revolutionary spirit had permeated the adjoining countries, while the old governments of Europe, jealous of one another and uncertain of the loyalty of their subjects, were ill qualified for resistance.
Intoxicated with these victories, the Convention abandoned itself to the fervour of propaganda and conquest. The river Scheldt had been closed to commerce by various treaties to which England and Holland, neutral powers, were parties. Without a pretence of negotiation the French government declared on the 16th of November that the Scheldt was thenceforwards open. On the 19th a decree of the Convention offered the aid of France to all nations which were striving after freedom—in other words, to the malcontents in every neighbouring state. Not long afterwards the Convention annexed Savoy, with the consent, it should be added, of many Savoyards. On the 15th of December the Convention decreed that all peoples freed by its assistance should carry out a revolution like that which had been made in France on pain of being treated as enemies. Towards Great Britain the executive council and the Convention behaved with singular folly. There, in spite of a growing antipathy to the Revolution, Pitt earnestly desired to maintain peace. The conquest of the Netherlands and the symptoms of a wish to annex that country made his task most difficult. But the French The first coalition against France. government underrated the strength of Great Britain, imagining that all Englishmen who desired parliamentary reform desired revolution, and that a few democratic societies represented the nation. When Monge announced the intention of attacking Great Britain on behalf of the English republicans, the British government and nation were thoroughly alarmed and roused; and when the news of the execution of Louis XVI. was received, Chauvelin, the French envoy, was ordered to quit England. France declared war against England and Holland on the 1st of February and soon afterwards against Spain. In the course of the year 1793 the Empire, the kings of Portugal and Naples and the grand-duke of Tuscany declared war against France. Thus was formed the first coalition.
France was not prepared to encounter so many enemies. Administrative confusion had been heightened by the triumph of the Jacobins. Servan was succeeded as minister of war by Pache who was incapable and dishonest. The army of Dumouriez was left in such want that it dwindled rapidly. The commissioners of the Convention plundered the Netherlands with so little remorse that the people became bitterly hostile. The attempt to enforce a revolution of the French sort on the Catholic and conservative Belgians drove them to fury. By every unfair means the commissioners extorted the semblance of a popular vote in favour of incorporation, and France annexed the Netherlands. This was the last outrage. When a new Austrian army under the prince of Coburg entered the country, Dumouriez, who had invaded Holland, was unable to defend Belgium. On the 18th of March he was defeated at Neerwinden, and a few days later he was driven back to the frontier. Alike on public and personal grounds Dumouriez was the enemy of the government. Trusting in his influence over the army he resolved to lead it against the Convention, and, in order to secure his rear, he negotiated with the enemy. But he could make no impression on his soldiers, and deserted to the Austrians. Events followed a similar course in the Rhine valley. There also the French wore out the goodwill at first shown to them. They summoned a convention and obtained a vote for incorporation with France. But they were unable to hold their ground on the approach of a Prussian army. By April they had lost the country with the exception of Mainz, which was invested. France thus lay open to invasion from the east and the north. The Convention decreed a levy of 300,000 men.
About the same time began the first formidable uprising
against the Revolution, the War of La Vendée, the region lying
to the south of the lower Loire and facing the Atlantic.
Its inhabitants differed in many ways from the mass
of the nation. Living far from large towns and busy
La Vendée. routes of commerce, they remained primitive in all their thoughts and ways. The peasants had always been on friendly terms with the gentry, and the agrarian changes made by the Revolution had not been appreciated so highly as elsewhere. The people were ardent Catholics, who venerated the nonjuring clergy and resented the measures taken against them. But they remained passive until the enforcement of the decree for the levy of 300,000 men. Caring little for the Convention and knowing nothing of events on the northern or eastern frontier, the peasants were determined not to serve and preferred to fight the Republic at home. When once they had taken up arms they found gentlemen to lead and priests to exhort, and their rebellion became Royalist and Catholic. The chiefs were drawn from widely different classes. If Bonchamps and La Rochejacquelin were nobles, Stofflet was a gamekeeper and Cathelineau a mason. As the country was favourable to guerilla warfare, and the government could not spare regular troops from the frontiers, the rebels were usually successful, and by the end of May had almost expelled the Republicans from La Vendée.
Danger without and within prompted the Convention to strengthen the executive authority. That the executive and legislative powers ought to be absolutely separate had been an axiom throughout the Revolution. Ministers had always been excluded from a seat in the The Committee of Public Safety. legislature. But the Assemblies were suspicious of the executive and bent on absorbing the government. They had nominated committees of their own members to control every branch of public affairs. These committees, while reducing the ministers to impotence, were themselves clumsy and ineffectual. It may be said that since the first meeting of the states-general the executive authority had been paralysed in France. The Convention in theory maintained the separation of powers. Even Danton had been forced to resign office when he was elected a member. But unity of government was restored by the formation of a central committee. In January the first Committee of General Defence was formed of members of the committees for the several departments of state. Too large and too much divided for strenuous labour, it was reduced in April to nine members and re-named the Committee of Public Safety. It deliberated in secret and had authority over the ministers; it was entrusted with the whole of the national defence and empowered to use all the resources of the state, and it quickly became the supreme power in the republic. Under it the ministers were no more than head clerks. About the same time were instituted the deputies on mission in the provinces, who could overrule any local authority, and who corresponded regularly with the Committee. France thus returned under new forms to its traditional government: a despotic authority in Paris with all-powerful agents in the provinces. Against disaffection the government was armed with formidable weapons: the Committee of General Security and the Revolutionary Tribunal. The Committee of General Security, first established in October 1792, was several times remodelled. In September 1793 the Convention decreed that its members should be nominated by the Committee of Public Safety. The Committee of General Security had unlimited powers for the prevention or discovery of crime against the state. The Revolutionary Tribunal was decreed on the 10th of March. It was an extraordinary court, destined to try all offences against the Revolution without appeal. The jury, which received wages, voted openly, so that condemnation was almost certain. The director of the jury or public prosecutor was Fouquier Tinville. The first condemnation took place on the 11th of April.
Enmity between Girondin and Jacobin grew fiercer as the perils of the Republic increased. Danton strove to unite all partisans of the Revolution in defence of the country; but the Girondins, detesting his character and fearing his ambition, rejected all advances. The Commune of Paris and the journalists Fall of the Girondins. who were its mouthpieces, Hébert and Marat, aimed frankly at destroying the Girondins. In April the Girondins carried a decree that Marat should be sent before the Revolutionary Tribunal for incendiary writings, but his acquittal showed that a Jacobin leader was above the law. In May they proposed that the Commune of Paris should be dissolved, and that the suppléants, the persons elected to fill vacancies occurring in the Convention, should assemble at Bourges, where they would be safe from that violence which might be applied to the Convention itself. Barère, who was rising into notice by the skill with which he trimmed between parties, opposed this motion, and carried a decree appointing a Committee of Twelve to watch over the safety of the Convention. Then the Commune named as commandant of the National Guard, Hanriot, a man concerned in the September massacres. It raised an insurrection on the 31st of May. On Barère’s proposal the Convention stooped to dissolving the Committee of Twelve. The Commune, which had hoped for the arrest of the Girondin leaders, was not satisfied. It undertook a new and more formidable outbreak on the 2nd of June. Enclosed by Hanriot’s troops and thoroughly cowed, the Convention decreed the arrest of the Committee of Twelve and of twenty-two principal Girondins. They were put under confinement in their own houses. Thus the Jacobins became all-powerful.
A tremor of revolt ran through the cities of the south which chafed under the despotism of the Parisian mob. These cities had their own grievances. The Jacobin clubs menaced the lives and properties of all who were guilty of wealth or of moderate opinions, while the representatives on Revolt of the provinces. mission deposed the municipal authorities and placed their own creatures in power. At the end of April the citizens of Marseilles closed the Jacobin club, put its chiefs on their trial and drove out the representatives on mission. In May Lyons rose. The Jacobin municipality was overturned, and Challier, their fiercest demagogue, was arrested. In June the citizens of Bordeaux declared that they would not acknowledge the authority of the Convention until the imprisoned deputies were set free. In July Toulon rebelled. But in the north the appeals of such Girondins as escaped from Paris were of no avail. Even the southern uprising proved far less dangerous than might have been expected. The peasants, who had gained more by the Revolution than any other class, held aloof from the citizens. The citizens lacked the qualities necessary for the successful conduct of civil war. Bordeaux surrendered almost without waiting to be summoned. Marseilles was taken in August and treated with great cruelty. Lyons, where the Royalists were strong, defended itself with courage, for the trial and execution of Challier made the townsmen hopeless of pardon. Toulon, also largely Royalist, invited the English and Spanish admirals, Hood and Langara, who occupied the port and garrisoned the town. At the same time the Vendean War continued formidable. In June the insurgents took the important town of Saumur, although they failed in an attempt upon Nantes. At the end of July the Republicans were still unable to make any impression upon the revolted territory.
Thus in the summer of 1793 France seemed to be falling to pieces. It was saved by the imbecility and disunion of the hostile powers. In the north the French army after the treason of Dumouriez could only attempt to cover the frontier. The Austrians were joined by British, Disunion of the allied powers. Dutch and Prussian forces. Had the Allies pushed straight upon Paris, they might have ended the war. But the desire of each ally to make conquests on his own account led them to spend time and strength in sieges. When Condé and Valenciennes had been taken, the British went off to assail Dunkirk and the Prussians retired into Luxemburg. In the east the Prussians and Austrians took Mainz at the end of July, allowing the garrison to depart on condition of not serving against the Allies for a year. Then they invaded Alsace, but their mutual jealousy prevented them from going farther. Thus the summer passed away without any decisive achievement of the coalition. Meanwhile the Committee of Public Safety, inspired by Danton, strove to rebuild the French administrative system. In July the Committee was renewed and Danton fell out; but soon afterwards it was reinforced by two officers, Carnot, who undertook the organization of the army, and Prieur of the Côte d’Or, who undertook its equipment. Administrators of the first rank, these men renovated the warlike power of France, and enabled her to deal those crushing blows which broke up the coalition.
The Royalist and Girondin insurrections and the critical
aspect of the war favoured the establishment of what is known
as the reign of terror. Terrorism had prevailed more
or less since the beginning of the Revolution, but it was
the work of those who desired to rule, not of the
of terror. nominal rulers. It had been lawless and rebellious. It ended by becoming legal and official. While Danton kept power Terrorism remained imperfect, for Danton, although unscrupulous, did not love cruelty and kept in view a return to normal government. But soon after Danton had ceased to be a member of the Committee of Public Safety Robespierre was elected, and now became the most powerful man in France. Robespierre was an acrid fanatic, and unlike Danton, who only cared to secure the practical results of the Revolution, he had a moral and religious ideal which he intended to force on the nation. All who rejected his ideal were corrupt; all who resented his ascendancy were traitors. The death of Marat, who was stabbed by Charlotte Corday (q.v.) to avenge the Girondins, gave yet another pretext for terrible measures of repression. In Paris the armed ruffians who had long preyed upon respectable citizens were organized as a revolutionary army, and other revolutionary armies were established in the provinces. Two new laws placed almost everybody at the mercy of the government. The Law of the Maximum, passed on the 17th of September, fixed the price of food and made it capital to ask for more. The Law of Suspects, passed at the same time, declared suspect every person who was of noble birth, or had held office before the Revolution, or had any connexion with an émigré, or could not produce a card of civisme granted by the local authority, which had full discretion to refuse. Any suspect might be arrested and imprisoned until the peace or sent before the Revolutionary Tribunal. An earlier law had established in every commune an elective committee of surveillance. These bodies, better known as revolutionary committees, were charged with the enforcement of the Law of Suspects. On the 10th of October the new constitution was suspended and the government declared revolutionary until the peace.
The spirit of those in power was shown by the massacres which followed on the surrender of Lyons in that month. In Paris the slaughter of distinguished victims began with the trial of Marie Antoinette, who was guillotined on the 16th. Twenty-one Girondin deputies were next Execution of the queen. brought to the bar and, with the exception of Valazé who stabbed himself, were beheaded on the last day of October, Madame Roland and other Girondins of note suffered later. In November the duke of Orleans, who had styled himself Philippe Égalité, had sat in the Convention, and had voted for the king’s death, went to the scaffold. Bailly, Barnave and many others of note followed before the end of the year. As the bloody work went on the pretence of trial became more and more hollow, the chance of acquittal fainter and fainter. The Revolutionary Tribunal was a mere instrument of state. Knowing the slight foundation of its power the government deliberately sought to destroy all whose birth, political connexions or past career might mark them out as leaders of opposition. At the same time it took care to show that none was so obscure or so impotent as to be safe when its policy was to destroy.
The disastrous effects of the Terror were heightened by the financial mismanagement of the Jacobins. Assignats were issued with such reckless profusion that the total for the three years of the Convention has been estimated at 7250 millions of francs. Enormous depreciation ensued and, although penalties rising to death itself were denounced against all who should refuse to take them at par, they fell to little more than 1% of their nominal value. What were known as revolutionary taxes were imposed at discretion by the representatives on mission and the local authorities. A forced loan of 1000 millions was exacted from those citizens who were reputed to be prosperous. Immense supplies of all kinds were requisitioned for the armies, and were sometimes allowed to rot unused. Anarchy and state interference having combined to check the trade in necessaries, the government undertook to feed the people, and spent huge sums, especially on bread for the starving inhabitants of Paris. As no regular budget was attempted, as accounts were not kept, and as audit was unknown, the opportunities for fraud and embezzlement were endless. Even when due allowance has been made for the financial disorder which the Convention inherited from previous assemblies, and for the war which it had to wage against a formidable alliance, it cannot be acquitted of reckless and wasteful maladministration.
Notwithstanding the disorder of the time, the mass of new laws produced by the Convention was extraordinary. A new system of weights and measures, a new currency, a new chronological era (that of the Republic), and a new calendar were introduced (see the section Republican Revolutionary legislation. The new calendar. Calendar below). A new and elaborate system of education was decreed. Two drafts of a complete civil code were made and, although neither was enacted, particular changes of great moment were decreed. Many of the new laws were stamped with the passions of the time. Such were the laws which suppressed all the remaining bodies corporate, even the academies, and which extinguished all manorial rights without any indemnity to the owners. Such too were the laws which took away the power of testation, placed natural children upon an absolute equality with legitimate, and gave a boundless freedom of divorce. It would be absurd, however, to dismiss all the legislative work of the Convention as merely partisan or eccentric. Much of it was enlightened and skilful, the product of the best minds in the assembly. To compete for power or even to express an opinion on public affairs was dangerous, and wholly to refrain from attendance might be construed as disaffection. Able men who wished to be useful without hazarding their lives took refuge in the committees where new laws were drafted and discussed. The result of their labours was often decreed as a matter of course. Whether the decree would be carried into effect was always uncertain.
The ruling faction was still divided against itself. The
Commune of Paris, which had overthrown the Girondins, was
jealous of the Committee of Public Safety, which meant to be
supreme. Robespierre, the leading member of the committee,
abhorred the chiefs of the Commune, not merely because they
conflicted with his ambition but from difference of character.
He was orderly and temperate, they were gross and debauched;
he was a deist, they were atheists. In November the Commune
fitted up Notre Dame as a temple of Reason, selected an opera
girl to impersonate the goddess, and with profane ceremony
installed her in the choir. All the churches in Paris were closed.
Danton, when he felt power slipping from his hands, had retired
from public business to his native town of Arcis-sur-Aube. When
he became aware of the feud between Robespierre and the
Commune, he conceived the hope of limiting the Terror and
guiding the Revolution into a sane course. He returned to
Paris and joined with Robespierre in carrying the law of 14
Frimaire (December 4), which gave the Committee of Public
Safety absolute control over all municipal authorities. He became
the advocate of mercy, and his friend Camille Desmoulins
pleaded for the same cause in the Vieux Cordelier. Then the
of the Paris Commune. Fall of the Dantonists. oppressed nation took courage and began to demand pardon for the innocent and even justice upon murderers. A sharp contest ensued between the Dantonists and the Commune, Robespierre inclining now to this side, now to that, for he was really a friend to neither. His friend St Just, a younger and fiercer man, resolved to destroy both. Hébert and his followers in despair planned a new insurrection, but they were deserted by Hanriot, their military chief. Their doom was thus fixed. Twenty leaders of the Commune were arrested on the 17th of March 1794 and guillotined a week later. It was then Danton’s turn. He had several warnings, but either through over-confidence or weariness of life he scorned to fly. On the 30th he was arrested along with his friends Desmoulins, Delacroix, Philippeaux and Westermann. St Just read to the Convention a report on their case pre-eminent even in that day for its shameless disregard of truth, nay, of plausibility. Before the Revolutionary Tribunal Danton defended himself with such energy that St Just took means to have him silenced. Danton and his friends were executed on the 5th of April.
For a moment the conflict of parties seemed at an end. None could presume to challenge the authority of the Committee of Public Safety, and in the committee none disputed the leadership of Robespierre. Robespierre was at last free to establish the republic of virtue. On the 7th Supremacy of Robespierre. of May he persuaded the Convention to decree that the French people acknowledged the existence of a Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul. On the 4th of June he was elected president of the Convention, and from that time forward he appeared to be dictator of France. On the 8th the festival of the Supreme Being was solemnized, Robespierre acting as pontiff amid the outward deference and secret jeers of his colleagues. But Robespierre knew what a gulf parted him from almost all his countrymen. He knew that he could be safe only by keeping power and powerful only by making the Terror more stringent. Two days after the festival his friend Couthon presented the crowning law of the Terror, known as the Law of 22 Prairial. As the Revolutionary Tribunal was said to be paralysed by forms and delays, this law abolished the defence of prisoners by counsel and the examination of witnesses. Thenceforward the impressions of judges and jurors were to decide the fate of the accused. For all offences the penalty was to be death. The leave of the Convention was no longer required for the arrest of a member. In spite of some murmurs even this law was adopted. Its effect was fearful. The Revolutionary Tribunal had hitherto pronounced 1200 death sentences. In the next six weeks it pronounced 1400. With Robespierre’s approval St Just sketched at this time the plan of an ideal society in which every man should have just enough land to maintain him; in which domestic life should be regulated by law and all children over seven years should be educated by the state. Pending this regeneration of society St Just advised the rule of a dictator.
The growing ferocity of the Terror appeared more hideous as the dangers threatening the government receded. The surrender of Toulon in December 1793 closed the south of France to foreign enemies. The war in La Vendée turned against the insurgents from the time when the veteran garrison The Revolutionary War. Republican successes. of Mainz came to reinforce the Republican army. After a severe defeat at Cholet on the 16th of October the Royalists determined to cross the Loire and raise Brittany and Anjou, where the Chouans, or Royalist partisans, were already stirring. They failed in an attempt on the little seaport of Granville and in another upon Angers. In December they were defeated with immense loss at Le Mans and at Savenay. The rebellion would probably have died out but for the measures of the new Republican general Turreau, who wasted La Vendée so horribly with his “infernal columns” that he drove the peasants to take up arms once more. Yet Turreau’s crimes were almost surpassed by Carrier, the representative on mission at Nantes, who, finding the guillotine too slow in the destruction of his prisoners, adopted the plan of drowning them wholesale. In the autumn of 1793 the war against the coalition took a turn favourable to France. The energy of Danton, the organizing skill of Carnot, and the high spirit of the French nation, resolute at all costs to avoid dismemberment, had well employed the respite given by the sluggishness of the Allies. In Flanders the English were defeated at Hondschoote (September 8) and the Austrians at Wattignies (October 15). In the east Hoche routed the Austrians at Weissenburg and forced them to recross the Rhine before the end of 1793. The summer of 1794 saw France victorious on all her frontiers. Jourdan won the battle of Fleurus (June 25), which decided the fate of the Belgian provinces. The Prussians were driven out of the eastern departments. Against the Spaniards and the Sardinians the French were also successful.
Under these circumstances government by terror could not endure. Robespierre was not a man of action; he knew not how to form or lead a party; he lived not with his fellows but with his own thoughts and ambitions. He was hated and feared by most of the oligarchy. They laughed at his religion, resented his puritanism, and felt themselves in daily peril. His only loyal friends in the Committee of Public Safety, Couthon and St Just, were themselves unpopular. Robespierre professed consideration for the deputies of the Plain, who were glad to buy safety by conforming to his will; but he could not reckon on their help in time of danger. By degrees a coalition against Robespierre was formed in the Mountain. It included old followers of Danton like Taillen, independent Jacobins like Cambon, some of the worst Terrorists like Fouché, and such a consummate time-server as Barère. In the course of July its influence began to be felt. When St Just proposed Robespierre to the committees as dictator, he found no response. On the 8th Thermidor (26th of July) Robespierre addressed the Convention, deploring the invectives against himself and the Revolutionary Tribunal and demanding the purification of the committees and the punishment of traitors. His enemies took the speech as a declaration of war and thwarted a proposal that it should be circulated in the departments. Robespierre felt his ascendancy totter. He repeated his speech with more success to the Jacobin Club. His friends determined to strike, and Hanriot ordered the National Guards to hold themselves in readiness. Robespierre’s enemies called on the Committee of Public Safety Fall of Robespierre. The 9th Thermidor. to arrest the traitors, but the committee was divided. On the morning of the 9th Thermidor St Just was beginning to speak in the Convention when Tallien cut him short. Robespierre and all who tried to speak in his behalf were shouted down. The Plain was deaf to Robespierre’s appeal. Finally the Convention decreed the arrest of Robespierre, of his brother Augustin, of Couthon and of St Just. But the Commune and the Jacobin Club were on the alert. They sounded the tocsin, mustered their partisans, and released the prisoners. The Convention outlawed Robespierre and his friends and sent out commissioners to rally the citizens. It named Barras, a deputy who had served in the royal army, to lead its forces. Had Robespierre possessed Danton’s energy, the result might have been doubtful. He did nothing himself and benumbed his followers. Without an effort Barras captured the Hôtel de Ville. Robespierre, whose jaw had been shattered by a pistol shot, was left in agony for the night. On the next morning he was beheaded along with his brother, Couthon, St Just, Hanriot and seventeen more of his adherents. On the day after seventy-one members of the Commune followed them to the scaffold. Such was the revolution of the 9th Thermidor (27th of July 1794) which ended the Reign of Terror.
In a period of fifteen months, it has been calculated, about 17,000 persons had been executed in France under form of law. The number of those who were shot, drowned or otherwise massacred without the pretence of a trial can never be accurately known, but must be reckoned far greater. The number of persons arrested and imprisoned reached hundreds of thousands, of whom many died in their crowded and filthy jails. The names on the list of émigrés at the close of the Terror were about 150,000. Of these a small proportion had borne arms against their country. The rest were either harmless fugitives from destruction or had never quitted France and had been placed on the list simply in order that they might incur the penalties of emigration. Every one of this multitude was liable to instant death if found in French territory. Their relatives were subjected to various pains and penalties. All the property of those condemned to death and of émigrés was confiscated. The carnage of the Terror spread far beyond the clergy and the nobility, beyond even the middle class, for peasants and artisans were among the victims. It spread far beyond those who could conspire or rebel, for bedridden old men and women and young boys and girls were often sacrificed. It made most havoc in the flower of the nation, since every kind of eminence marked men for death. By imbuing Frenchmen with such a mutual hatred as nothing but the arm of despotic power could control the Reign of Terror rendered political liberty impossible for many years. The rule of the Terrorists made inevitable the reign of Napoleon.
The fall of Robespierre had consequences unforeseen by his destroyers. Long kept mute by fear, the mass of the nation found a voice and demanded a total change of government. When once the reaction against Jacobin tyranny had begun, it was impossible to halt. Great Reaction after the Terror. numbers of prisoners were set at liberty. The Commune of Paris was abolished and the office of commandant of the National Guard was suppressed. The Revolutionary Tribunal was reorganized, and thenceforwards condemnations were rare. The Committees of Public Safety and General Security were remodelled, in virtue of a law that one-fourth of their number should retire at the end of every month and not be re-eligible until another month had elapsed. Somewhat later the Convention declared itself to be the only centre of authority, and executive business was parcelled out among sixteen committees. Most of the representatives on mission were recalled, and many office-holders were displaced. The trial of 130 prisoners sent up from Nantes led to so many terrible disclosures that public feeling turned still more fiercely against the Jacobins; Carrier himself was condemned and executed; and in November the Jacobin Club was closed. In December 73 members of the Convention who had been imprisoned for protesting against the violence done to the Girondins on the 2nd of June 1793 were allowed to resume their seats, and gave a decisive majority to the anti-Jacobins. Soon afterwards the law of the Maximum was repealed. A decree was passed in February 1795 severing the connexion of church and state and allowing general freedom of worship. At the beginning of March those Girondin deputies who survived came back to their places in the Convention.
But the return to normal life after the Jacobin domination was not destined to be smooth or continuous. Beside the remnant of Terrorists, such as Billaud Varennes and Collot d’Herbois, who had joined in the revolt against Robespierre, there were in the Convention at that time Parties in the Assembly after Thermidor. three principal factions. The so-called Independents, such as Barras and Merlin of Douai, who were all Jacobins, but had stood aloof from the internal conflicts of the party, hated Royalism as much as ever and desired the continuance of the war which was essential to their power. The Thermidorians, the immediate agents in Robespierre’s overthrow, such as Tallien, had loudly professed Jacobinism, but wanted to make their peace with the nation. They sought for an understanding with the Girondins and Feuillants, and some went so far as to correspond with the exiled princes. Lastly, those members who had never been Jacobins wanted a speedy return to legal government at home and therefore wished for peace abroad. While bent on preserving the civil equality introduced by the Revolution, many of these men were indifferent as between constitutional monarchy and a republic. The government, mainly Thermidorian, trimmed between Moderates and Independents, and for this reason its actions were often inconsistent.
The Jacobins were strong enough to carry a decree for keeping the anniversary of the execution of Louis XVI. as a national festival. They could count on the populace, because work was still scarce, food was still dear, and a multitude of Parisians knew not where to find bread. A Progress of the reaction. committee having recommended the indictment of Collot d’Herbois and three other Terrorists, there ensued the rising of the 12th Germinal (April 1). The mob forced their way into the hall of the Convention and remained there until the National Guards of the wealthy quarters drove them out. By a decree of the Convention the four accused persons were deported to Cayenne, a new mode of dealing with political offenders almost as effective as the guillotine, while less apt to excite compassion. The National Guard was reorganized so as to exclude the lowest class. The property of persons executed since the 10th of March 1793 was restored to their families. The signs of reaction daily became more unmistakable. Worshippers crowded to the churches; the émigrés returned by thousands; and Anti-Jacobin outbreaks, followed by massacre, took place in the south. The despair of the Jacobins produced a second rising in Paris on the 1st Prairial (May 20). Again the mob invaded the Convention, murdered a deputy named Féraud who attempted to shield the president, and set his head on a pike. The ultra-Jacobin members took possession and embodied their wishes in decrees. Again the hall was cleared by the National Guards, but order was restored in Paris only by employing regular troops, a new precedent in the history of the Revolution. Paris was disarmed, and several leaders of the insurrection were sentenced to death. The Revolutionary Tribunal was suppressed. Toleration was proclaimed for all priests who would declare their obedience to the laws of the state. Royalists began to count upon the restoration of young Louis the Dauphin, otherwise Louis XVII.; but his health had been ruined by persevering cruelty, and he died on the 10th of June.
The Thermidorian government also endeavoured to pacify
the rebels of the west. Its best adviser, Hoche, recommended
an amnesty and the assurance of religious freedom.
On these terms peace was made with the Vendeans
at La Jaunaie in February and with the Chouans at
of the war. La Mabilais in April. Some of the Vendean leaders persevered in resistance until May, and even after their submission the peace was ill observed, for the Royalists hearkened to the solicitations of the princes and their advisers. In the hope of rekindling the civil war a body of émigrés sailed under cover of the British fleet and landed on the peninsula of Quiberon. They were presently hemmed in by Hoche, and all who could not make their escape to the ships were forced to surrender at discretion (July 20). Nearly 700 were executed by court-martial. Yet the spirit of revolt lingered in the west and broke out time after time. Against the coalition the Republic was gloriously successful. (See French Revolutionary Wars.) In the summer of 1794 the French invaded Spain at both ends of the Pyrenees, and at the close of the year they made good their footing in Catalonia and Navarre. By the beginning of 1795 the Rhine frontier had been won. Against the king of Sardinia alone they accomplished little. At sea the French had sustained a severe defeat from Lord Howe, and several of their colonies had been taken by the British. But Great Britain, when the Netherlands were lost, could do little for her allies. Even before the close of 1794 the king of Prussia retired from any active part in the war, and on the 5th of April 1795 he concluded with France the treaty of Basel, which recognized her occupation of the left bank of the Rhine. The new democratic government which the French had established in Holland purchased peace by surrendering Dutch territory to the south of that river. A treaty of peace between France and Spain followed in July. The grand duke of Tuscany had been admitted to terms in February. The coalition thus fell into ruin and France occupied a more commanding position than in the proudest days of Louis XIV.
But this greatness was unsure so long as France remained without a stable government. A constitutional committee was named in April. It resolved that the constitution of 1793 was impracticable and proceeded to frame a new one. The draft was submitted to the Convention Constitution of the year III. The Directory. in June. In its final shape the constitution established a parliamentary system of two houses: a Council of Five Hundred and a Council of Ancients, 250 in number. Members of the Five Hundred were to be at least thirty years of age, members of the Ancients at least forty. The system of indirect election was maintained but universal suffrage was abandoned. A moderate qualification was required for electors in the first degree, a higher one for electors in the second degree.
When the 750 persons necessary had been elected they were to choose the Ancients out of their own body. A legislature was to last for three years, and one-third of the members were to be renewed every year. The Ancients had a suspensory veto, but no initiative in legislation. The executive was to consist of five directors chosen by the Ancients out of a list elected by the Five Hundred. One director was to retire every year. The directors were aided by ministers for the various departments of State. These ministers did not form a council and had no general powers of government. Provision was made for the stringent control of all local authorities by the central government. Since the separation of powers was still deemed axiomatic, the directors had no voice in legislation or taxation, nor could directors or ministers sit in either house. Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of labour were guaranteed. Armed assemblies and even public meetings of political societies were forbidden. Petitions were to be tendered only by individuals or through the public authorities. The constitution was not, however, allowed free play from the beginning. The Convention was so unpopular that, if its members had retired into private life, they would not have been safe and their work might have been undone. It was therefore decreed that two-thirds of the first legislature must be chosen out of the Convention.
When the constitution was submitted to the primary
assemblies, most electors held aloof, 1,050,000 voting for and only
5,000 voting against it. On the 23rd of September it
was declared to be law. Then all the parties which
resented the limit upon freedom of election combined
of 13 Vendémiaire. to rise in Paris. The government entrusted its defence to Barras; but its true man of action was young General Bonaparte, who could dispose of a few thousand regular troops and a powerful artillery. The Parisians were ill-equipped and ill-led, and on the 13th of Vendémiaire (October 5) their insurrection was quelled almost without loss to the victors. No further resistance was possible. The Convention dissolved itself on the 26th of October.
The feeling of the nation was clearly shown in the elections.
Among those who had sat in the Convention the anti-Jacobins
were generally preferred. A leader of the old Right
was sometimes chosen by many departments at once.
Owing to this circumstance, 104 places reserved to
Balance of parties in
the new legislature. members of the Convention were left unfilled. When the persons elected met they had no choice but to co-opt the 104 from the Left of the Convention. The new one-third were, as a rule, enemies of the Jacobins, but not of the Revolution. Many had been members of the Constituent or of the Legislative Assembly. When the new legislature was complete, the Jacobins had a majority, although a weak one. After the Council of the Ancients had been chosen by lot, it remained to name the directors. For its own security the Left resolved that all five must be old members of the Convention and regicides. The persons chosen were Rewbell, Barras, La Révellière Lépeaux, Carnot and Letourneur. Rewbell was an able, although unscrupulous, man of action, Barras a dissolute and shameless adventurer, La Révellière Lépeaux the chief of a new sect, the Theophilanthropists, and therefore a bitter foe to other religions, especially the Catholic. Severe integrity and memorable public services raised Carnot far above his colleagues, but he was not a statesman and was hampered by his past. Letourneur, a harmless insignificant person, was his admirer and follower. The division in the legislature was reproduced in the Directory. Rewbell, Barras and La Révellière Lépeaux had a full measure of the Jacobin spirit; Carnot and Letourneur favoured a more temperate policy.
With the establishment of the Directory the Revolution might seem closed. The nation only desired rest and the healing of its many wounds. Those who wished to restore Louis XVIII. and the ancien régime and those who would have renewed the Reign of Terror were insignificant Character of the Directory. in number. The possibility of foreign interference had vanished with the failure of the coalition. Nevertheless the four years of the Directory were a time of arbitrary government and chronic disquiet. The late atrocities had made confidence or goodwill between parties impossible. The same instinct of self-preservation which had led the members of the Convention to claim so large a part in the new legislature and the whole of the Directory impelled them to keep their predominance. As the majority of Frenchmen wanted to be rid of them, they could achieve their purpose only by extraordinary means. They habitually disregarded the terms of the constitution, and, when the elections went against them, appealed to the sword. They resolved to prolong the war as the best expedient for prolonging their power. They were thus driven to rely upon the armies, which also desired war and were becoming less and less civic in temper. Other reasons influenced them in this direction. The finances had been so thoroughly ruined that the government could not have met its expenses without the plunder and the tribute of foreign countries. If peace were made, the armies would return home and the directors would have to face the exasperation of the rank and file who had lost their livelihood, as well as the ambition of generals who could in a moment brush them aside. Barras and Rewbell were notoriously corrupt themselves and screened corruption in others. The patronage of the directors was ill bestowed, and the general maladministration heightened their unpopularity.
The constitutional party in the legislature desired a toleration of the nonjuring clergy, the repeal of the laws against the relatives of the émigrés, and some merciful discrimination toward the émigrés themselves. The directors baffled all such endeavours. On the other hand, the socialist conspiracy Military triumphs under the Directory. Bonaparte. of Babeuf was easily quelled (see Babeuf, François N.). Little was done to improve the finances, and the assignats continued to fall in value. But the Directory was sustained by the military successes of the year 1796. Hoche again pacified La Vendée. Bonaparte’s victories in Italy more than compensated for the reverses of Jourdan and Moreau in Germany. The king of Sardinia made peace in May, ceding Nice and Savoy to the Republic and consenting to receive French garrisons in his Piedmontese fortresses. By the treaty of San Ildefonso, concluded in August, Spain became the ally of France. In October Naples made peace. In 1797 Bonaparte finished the conquest of northern Italy and forced Austria to make the treaty of Campo Formio (October), whereby the emperor ceded Lombardy and the Austrian Netherlands to the Republic in exchange for Venice and undertook to urge upon the Diet the surrender of the lands beyond the Rhine. Notwithstanding the victory of Cape St Vincent, England was brought into such extreme peril by the mutinies in the fleet that she offered to acknowledge the French conquest of the Netherlands and to restore the French colonies. The selfishness of the three directors threw away this golden opportunity. In March and April the election of a new third of the Councils had been held. It gave a majority to the constitutional party. Among the directors the lot fell on Letourneur to retire, and he was succeeded by Barthélemy, an eminent diplomatist, who allied himself with Carnot. The political disabilities imposed upon the relatives of émigrés were repealed. Priests who would declare their submission to the Republic were restored to their rights as citizens. It seemed likely that peace would be made and that moderate men would gain power.
Barras, Rewbell and La Révellière-Lépeaux then sought help
from the armies. Although Royalists formed but a petty
fraction of the majority, they raised the alarm that
it was seeking to restore monarchy and undo the work
of the Revolution. Hoche, then in command of the
of the 18th Fructidor. army of the Sambre and Meuse, visited Paris and sent troops. Bonaparte sent General Augereau, who executed the coup d’état of the 18th Fructidor (September 4). The councils were purged, the elections in forty-nine departments were cancelled, and many deputies and other men of note were arrested. Some of them, including Barthélemy, were deported to Cayenne. Carnot made good his escape. The two vacant places in the Directory were filled by Merlin of Douai and François of Neufchâteau. Then the government frankly returned to Jacobin methods. The law against the relatives of émigrés was re-enacted, and military tribunals were established to condemn émigrés who should return to France. The nonjuring priests were again persecuted. Many hundreds were either sent to Cayenne or imprisoned in the hulks of Ré and Oleron. La Révellière Lépeaux seized the opportunity to propagate his religion. Many churches were turned into Theophilanthropic temples. The government strained its power to secure the recognition of the décadi as the day of public worship and the non-observance of Sunday. Liberty of the press ceased. Newspapers were confiscated and journalists were deported wholesale. It was proposed to banish from France all members of the old noblesse. Although the proposal was dropped, they were all declared to be foreigners and were forced to obtain naturalization if they would enjoy the rights of other citizens. A formal bankruptcy of the state, the cancelling of two-thirds of the interest on the public debt, crowned the misgovernment of this disastrous time.
In the spring of 1798 not only a new third of the legislature had to be chosen, but the places of the members expelled by the revolution of Fructidor had to be filled. The constitutional party had been rendered helpless, and the mass of the electors were indifferent. But among the Jacobins themselves there had arisen an extreme party hostile to the directors. With the support of many who were not Jacobins but detested the government, it bade fair to gain a majority. Before the new deputies could take their seats the directors forced through the councils the law of the 22nd Floréal (May 11), annulling or perverting the elections in thirty departments and excluding forty-eight deputies by name. Even this coup d’état did not secure harmony between the executive and the legislature. In the councils the directors were loudly charged with corruption and misgovernment. The retirement of François of Neufchâteau and the choice of Treilhard as his successor made no difference in the position of the Directory.
While France was thus inwardly convulsed, its rulers were doubly bound to husband the national strength and practise moderation towards other states. Since December 1797 a congress had been sitting at Rastadt to regulate the future of Germany. That it should be brought to a successful conclusion was of the utmost import for France. But the directors were driven by self-interest to new adventures abroad. Bonaparte was resolved not to sink into obscurity, and the directors were anxious to keep him as far as possible from Paris; they therefore sanctioned the expedition to Egypt which deprived the Republic of its best army and most renowned captain. Coveting the treasures of Bern, they sent Brune to invade Switzerland and remodel its constitution; in revenge for the murder of General Duphot, they sent Berthier to invade the papal states and erect the Roman Republic; they occupied and virtually annexed Piedmont. In all these countries they organized such an effective pillage that the French became universally hateful. As the armies were far below the strength required by the policy of unbounded conquest and rapine, the first permanent law of conscription was passed in the summer of 1798. The attempt to enforce it caused a revolt of the peasants in the Belgian departments. The priests were made responsible and some eight thousand were condemned in a mass to deportation, although much the greater part escaped by the goodwill of the people. Few soldiers were obtained by the conscription, for the government was as weak as it was tyrannical.
Under these circumstances Nelson’s victory of Aboukir (1st of August), which gave the British full command of the Mediterranean and secluded Bonaparte in Egypt, was the signal for a second coalition. Naples, Austria, Russia and Turkey joined Great Britain against France. Ferdinand The second coalition. of Naples, rashly taking the offensive before his allies were ready, was defeated and forced to seek a refuge in Sicily. In January 1799 the French occupied Naples and set up the Parthenopean republic. But the consequent dispersion of their weak forces only exposed them to greater peril. At home the Directory was in a most critical position. In the elections of April 1799 a large number of Jacobins gained seats. A little later Rewbell retired. It was imperative to fill his place with a man of ability and influence. The choice fell upon Sieyès, who had kept aloof from office and retained not only his immeasurable self-conceit but the respect of the public. Sieyès felt that the Directory was bankrupt of reputation, and he intended to be far more than a mere member of a board. He hoped to concentrate power in his own hands, to bridle the Jacobins, and to remodel the constitution. With the help of Barras he proceeded to rid himself of the other directors. An irregularity having been discovered in Treilhard’s election, he retired, and his place was taken by Gohier. Merlin of Douai and La Révellière Lépeaux were driven to resign in June. They were succeeded by Moulin and Ducos. The three new directors were so insignificant that they could give no trouble, but for the same reason they were of little service.
Such a government was ill fitted to cope with the dangers then
gathering round France. The directors having resolved on the
offensive in Germany, the French crossed the Rhine
early in March, but were defeated by the archduke
Charles at Stockach on the 25th. The congress at Rastadt,
The Directory discredited. which had sat for fifteen months without doing anything, broke up in April and the French envoys were murdered by Austrian hussars. In Italy the allies took the offensive with an army partly Austrian, partly Russian under the command of Suvarov. After defeating Moreau at Cassano on the 27th of April, he occupied Milan and Turin. The republics established by the French in Italy were overthrown, and the French army retreating from Naples was defeated by Suvarov on the Trebbia. Thus threatened with invasion on her German and Italian frontiers, France was disabled by anarchy within. The finances were in the last distress; the anti-religious policy of the government kept many departments on the verge of revolt; and commerce was almost suspended by the decay of roads and the increase of bandits. There was no real political freedom, yet none of the ease or security which enlightened despotism can bestow. The Terrorists lifted their heads in the Council of Five Hundred. A Law of Hostages, which was really a new Law of Suspects, and a progressive income tax showed the temper of the majority. The Jacobin Club was reopened and became once more the focus of disorder. The Jacobin press renewed the licence of Hébert and Marat. Never since the outbreak of the Revolution had the public temper been so gloomy and desponding.
In this extremity Sieyès chose as minister of police the old Terrorist Fouché, who best understood how to deal with his brethren. Fouché closed the Jacobin Club and deported a number of journalists. But like his predecessors Sieyès felt that for the revolution which he meditated he must have the help of a soldier. As his man of action he chose General Joubert, one of the most distinguished among French officers. Joubert was sent to restore the fortune of the war in Italy. At Novi on the 15th of August he encountered Suvárov. He was killed at the outset of the battle and his men were defeated. After this disaster the French held scarcely anything south of the Alps save Genoa. The Russian and Austrian governments then agreed to drive the enemy out of Switzerland and to invade France from the east. At the same time Holland was assailed by the joint forces of Great Britain and Russia. But the second coalition, like the first, was doomed to failure by the narrow views and conflicting interests of its members. The invasion of Switzerland was baffled by want of concert between Austrians and Russians and by Masséna’s victory at Zürich on the 25th and 26th of September. In October the British and the Russians were forced to evacuate Holland. All immediate danger to France was ended, but the issue of the war was still in suspense. The directors had been forced to recall Bonaparte from Egypt. He anticipated their order and on the 9th of October landed at Fréjus.
Dazzled by his victories in the East the public forgot that the
Egyptian expedition was ending in calamity. It received him
with an ardour which convinced Sieyès that he was
the indispensable soldier. Bonaparte was ready to act,
but at his own time and for his own ends. Since the
of the 18th Brumaire. close of the Convention affairs at home and abroad had been tending more and more surely to the establishment of a military dictatorship. Feeling his powers equal to such an office he only hesitated about the means of attainment. At first he thought of becoming a director; finally he decided upon a partnership with Sieyès. They resolved to end the actual government by a fresh coup d’état. Means were to be taken for removing the councils from Paris to St Cloud, where pressure could more easily be applied. Then the councils would be induced to decree a provisional government by three consuls and the appointment of a commission to revise the constitution. The pretext for this irregular proceeding was to be a vast Jacobin conspiracy. Perhaps the gravest obstacles were to be expected from the army. Of the generals, some, like Jourdan, were honest republicans; others, like Bernadotte, believed themselves capable of governing France. With perfect subtlety Bonaparte worked on the feelings of all and kept his own intentions secret.
On the morning of the 18th Brumaire (November 9) the Ancients, to whom that power belonged, decreed the transference of the councils to St Cloud. Of the directors, Sieyès and his friend Ducos had arranged to resign; Barras was cajoled and bribed into resigning; Gohier and Moulins, who were intractable, found themselves imprisoned in the Luxemburg palace and helpless. So far all had gone well. But when the councils met at St Cloud on the following day, the majority of the Five Hundred showed themselves bent on resistance, and even the Ancients gave signs of wavering. When Bonaparte addressed the Ancients, he lost his self-possession and made a deplorable figure. When he appeared among the Five Hundred, they fell upon him with such fury that he was hardly rescued by his officers. A motion to outlaw him was only baffled by the audacity of the president, his brother Lucien. At length driven to undisguised violence, he sent in his grenadiers, who turned out the deputies. Then the Ancients passed a decree which adjourned the Councils for three months, appointed Bonaparte, Sieyès and Ducos provisional consuls, and named the Legislative Commission. Some tractable members of the Five Hundred were afterwards swept up and served to give these measures the confirmation of their House. Thus the Directory and the Councils came to their unlamented end. A shabby compound of brute force and imposture, the 18th Brumaire was nevertheless condoned, nay applauded, by the French nation. Weary of revolution, men sought no more than to be wisely and firmly governed.
Although the French Revolution seemed to contemporaries
a total break in the history of France, it was really far otherwise.
Its results were momentous and durable in proportion
as they were the outcome of causes which had been
working long. In France there had been no historic
of the Revolution. preparation for political freedom. The desire for such freedom was in the main confined to the upper classes. During the Revolution it was constantly baffled. No Assembly after the states-general was freely elected and none deliberated in freedom. After the Revolution Bonaparte established a monarchy even more absolute than the monarchy of Louis XIV. But the desire for uniformity, for equality and for what may be termed civil liberty was the growth of ages, had been in many respects nurtured by the action of the crown and its ministers, and had become intense and general. Accordingly it determined the principal results of the Revolution. Uniformity of laws and institutions was enforced throughout France. The legal privileges formerly distinguishing different classes were suppressed. An obsolete and burthensome agrarian system was abolished. A number of large estates belonging to the crown, the clergy and the nobles were broken up and sold at nominal prices to men of the middle or lower class. The new jurisprudence encouraged the multiplication of small properties. The new fiscal system taxed men according to their means and raised no obstacle to commerce within the national boundaries. Every calling and profession was made free to all French citizens, and in the public service the principle of an open career for talent was adopted. Religious disabilities vanished, and there was well-nigh complete liberty of thought. It was because Napoleon gave a practical form to these achievements of the Revolution and ensured the public order necessary to their continuance that the majority of Frenchmen endured so long the fearful sacrifices which his policy exacted.
That a revolution largely inspired by generous and humane feeling should have issued in such havoc and such crimes is a paradox which astounded spectators and still perplexes the historian. Something in the cruelty of the French Revolution may be ascribed to national character. From the time when Burgundians and Armagnacs strove for dominion down to the last insurrection of Paris, civil discord in France has always been cruel. More, however, was due to the total dissolution of society which followed the meeting of the states-general. In the course of the Revolution we can discover no well-organized party, no governing mind. Mirabeau had the stuff of a great statesman, and Danton was capable of statesmanship. But these men were not followed or obeyed save by accident or for a moment. Those who seemed to govern were usually the sport of chance, often the victims of their colleagues. Neither Royalists nor Feuillants nor Girondins had the instinct of government. In the chaotic state of France all ferocious and destructive passions found ample scope. The same conditions explain the triumph of the Jacobins. Devoid of wisdom and virtue in the highest sense, they at least understood how power might be seized and kept. The Reign of Terror was the expedient of a party which knew its weakness and unpopularity. It was not necessary either to secure the lasting benefits of the Revolution or to save France from dismemberment; for nine Frenchmen out of ten were agreed on both of these points and were ready to lay down their lives for the national cause.
In the history of the French Revolution the influence which it exerted upon the surrounding countries demands peculiar attention. The French professed to act upon principles of universal authority, and from an early date they began to seek converts outside their own limits. The effect was slight upon England, which had already secured most of the reforms desired by the French, and upon Spain, where the bulk of the people were entirely submissive to church and king. But in the Netherlands, in western Germany and in northern Italy, countries which had attained a degree of civilization resembling that of France, where the middle and lower classes had grievances and aspirations not very different from those of the French, the effect was profound. Fear of revolution at home was one of the motives which led continental sovereigns to attack revolution in France. Their incoherent efforts only confirmed the Jacobin supremacy. Wherever the victorious French extended their dominion, they remodelled institutions in the French manner. Their sway proved so oppressive that the very classes which had welcomed them with most fervour soon came to long for their expulsion. But revolutionary ideas kept their charm. Under Napoleon the essential part of the changes made by the Republic was preserved in these countries also. Moreover the effacement of old boundaries, the overthrow of ancestral governments, and the invocation, however hollow, of the sovereignty of the people, awoke national feeling which had slumbered long and prepared the struggle for national union and independence in the 19th century.
See also France, sections History and Law and Institutions. For the leading figures in the Revolution see their biographies under separate headings. Particular phases, facts, and institutions of the period are also separately dealt with, e.g. Assignats, Convention, The National, Jacobins.
Bibliography.—The MS. authorities for the history of the French Revolution are exceedingly copious. The largest collection is in the Archives Nationales in Paris, but an immense number of documents are to be found in other collections in Paris and the provinces. The printed materials are so abundant and varied that any brief notice of them must be imperfect.
The condition of France and the state of public opinion at the beginning of the Revolution may be studied in the printed collections of Cahiers. The Cahiers were the statements of grievances drawn up for the guidance of deputies to the States-General by those who had elected them. In every bailliage and sénéchaussée each estate drew up its own cahier and the cahiers of the Third Estate were condensed from separate cahiers drawn up by each parish in the district. Thus the cahiers of the Third Estate number many thousands, the greater part of which have not yet been printed. Among the collections printed we may mention Les Élections et les cahiers de Paris en 1789, by C. L. Chassin (4 vols., Paris, 1888); Cahiers de plaintes et doléances des paroisses de la province de Maine, by A. Bellée and V. Duchemin (4 vols., Le Mans, 1881–1893); Cahiers de doléances de 1789 dans le département du Pas-de-Calais, by H. Loriquet (2 vols., Arras, 1891); Cahiers des paroisses et communautés du bailliage d’Autun, by A. Charmasse (Autun, 1895). New collections are printed from time to time. A more general collection of cahiers than any above named is given in vols. i.-vi. of the Archives parlementaires. The cahiers must not be read in a spirit of absolute faith, as they were influenced by certain models circulated at the time of the elections and by popular excitement, but they remain an authority of the utmost value and a mine of information as to old France. Reference should also be made to the works of travellers who visited France at the outbreak of the Revolution. Among these Arthur Young’s Travels in France during the years 1787, 1788 and 1789 (2 vols., Bury St Edmunds, 1792–1794) are peculiarly instructive.
For the history of the Assemblies during the Revolution a main authority is their Procès verbaux or Journals; those of the Constituent Assembly in 75 vols., those of the Legislative Assembly in 16 vols.; those of the Convention in 74 vols., and those of the Councils under the Directory in 99 vols. See also the Archives parlementaires edited by J. Mavidal and E. Laurent (Paris, 1867, and the following years); the Histoire parlementaire de la Révolution, by P. J. B. Buchez and P. C. Roux (Paris, 1838), and the Histoire de la Révolution par deux amis de la liberté (Paris, 1792–1803).
The newspapers, of which a few have been mentioned in the text, were numerous. They are useful chiefly as illustrating the ideas and passions of the time, for they give comparatively little information as to facts and that little is peculiarly inaccurate. The ablest of the Royalist journals was Mallet du Pan’s Mercure de France. Pamphlets of the Revolution period number many thousands. Such pamphlets as Mounier’s Nouvelles Observations sur les États-Généraux de France and Sieyès’s Qu’est-ce que le Tiers État had a notable influence on opinion. The richest collections of Revolution pamphlets are in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris and in the British Museum.
The contemporary memoirs, &c., already published are numerous and fresh ones are always coming forth. A few of the best known and most useful are, for the Constituent Assembly, the memoirs of Bailly, of Ferrières, of Malouet. The Correspondence of Mirabeau with the Count de la Marck, edited by Bacourt (3 vols., Paris, 1851), is especially valuable. Dumont’s Recollections of Mirabeau and the Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris give the impressions of foreigners with peculiar advantages for observing. For the Legislative Assembly and the Convention the memoirs of Madame Roland, of Bertrand de Molleville, of Barbaroux, of Buzot, of Louvet, of Dumouriez are instructive. For the Directory the memoirs of Barras, of La Révellière Lépeaux and of Thibaudeau deserve mention. The memoirs of Lafayette are useful. Those of Talleyrand are singularly barren, the result, no doubt, of deliberate suppression. The memoirs of the marquise de La Rochejacquelein are important for the war of La Vendée. The most notable Jacobins have seldom left memoirs, but the works of Robespierre and St Just enable us to form a clearer conception of the authors. The correspondence of the count of Mercy-Argenteau, the imperial ambassador, with Joseph II. and Kaunitz, and the correspondence of Mallet du Pan with the court of Vienna, are also instructive. But the contemporary literature of the French Revolution requires to be read in an unusually critical spirit. At no other historical crisis have passions been more fiercely excited; at none have shameless disregard of truth and blind credulity been more common.
Among later works based on these original materials the first place belongs to general histories. In French Louis Blanc’s Histoire de la Révolution (12 vols., Paris, 1847–1862), and Michelet’s Histoire de la Révolution Française (9 vols., Paris, 1847–1853), are the most elaborate of the older works. Michelet’s book is marked by great eloquence and power. In H. Taine’s Origines de la France contemporaine (Paris, 1876–1894) three volumes are devoted to the Revolution. They show exceptional talent and industry, but their value is impaired by the spirit of system and by strong prepossessions. F. A. M. Mignet’s Histoire de la Révolution Française (2 vols., Paris, 1861), short and devoid of literary charm, has the merits of learning and judgment and is still useful. F. A. Aulard’s Histoire politique de la Révolution Française (Paris, 1901) is a most valuable précis of political history, based on deep knowledge and lucidly set forth, although not free from bias. The volume on the Revolution in Lavisse and Rambaud’s Histoire générale de l’Europe (Paris, 1896) is the work of distinguished scholars using the latest information. In English, general histories of the Revolution are few. Carlyle’s famous work, published in 1837, is more of a prose epic than a history, omitting all detail which would not heighten the imaginative effect and tinged by all the favourite ideas of the author. Some fifty years later H. M. Stephens published the first (1886) and second (1892) volumes of a History of the French Revolution. They are marked by solid learning and contain much information. Volume viii. of the Cambridge Modern History, published in 1904, contains a general survey of the Revolution.
The most notable German work is H. von Sybel’s Geschichte der Revolutionszeit (5 vols., Stuttgart, 1853–1879). It is strongest in those parts which relate to international affairs and foreign policy. There is an English translation.
None of the general histories of the Revolution above named is really satisfactory. The immense mass of material has not yet been thoroughly sifted; and the passions of that age still disturb the judgment of the historian. More successful have been the attempts to treat particular aspects of the Revolution.
The foreign relations of France during the Revolution have been most ably unravelled by A. Sorel in L’Europe et la Révolution Française (8 vols., Paris, 1885–1904) carrying the story down to the settlement of Vienna. Five volumes cover the years 1789–1799.
The financial history of the Revolution has been traced by C. Gomel, Histoire financière de l’Assemblée Constituante (2 vols., Paris, 1897), and R. Stourm, Les Finances de l’Ancien Régime et de la Révolution (2 vols., Paris, 1885).
The relations of Church and State are sketched in E. Pressensé’s L’Église et la Révolution Française (Paris, 1889).
The general legislation of the period has been discussed by Ph. Sagnac, La Législation civile de la Révolution Française (Paris, 1898). The best work upon the social life of the period is the Histoire de la société française sous la Révolution, by E. and J. de Goncourt (Paris, 1889). For military history see A. Duruy, L’Armée royale en 1789 (Paris, 1888); E. de Hauterive, L’Armée sous la Révolution, 1789–1794 (Paris, 1894); A. Chuquet, Les Guerres de la Révolution (Paris, 1886, &c.). See also the memoirs and biographies of the distinguished soldiers of the Republic and Empire, too numerous for citation here.
Modern lives of the principal actors in the Revolution are numerous. Among the most important are Mémoires de Mirabeau, by L. de Montigny (Paris, 1834); Les Mirabeau, by L. de Loménie (Paris, 1889–1891); H. L. de Lanzac de Laborie’s Jean Joseph Mounier (Paris, 1889); B. Mallet’s Mallet du Pan and the French Revolution (London, 1902); Robinet’s Danton (Paris, 1889); Hamel’s Histoire de Robespierre (Paris, 1865–1867) and Histoire de St-Just (2 vols., Brussels, 1860); A. Bigeon, Sieyès (Paris, 1893); Memoirs of Carnot, by his son (2 vols., Paris, 1861–1864).
For fuller information see M. Tourneux, Les Sources bibliographiques de l’histoire de la Révolution Française (Paris, 1898, etc.), and Bibliographie de l’histoire de Paris pendant la Révolution (Paris, 1890, etc.). (F. C. M.)
French Republican Calendar.—Among the changes made during the Revolution was the substitution of a new calendar, usually called the revolutionary or republican calendar, for the prevailing Gregorian system. Something of the sort had been suggested in 1785 by a certain Riboud, and a definite scheme had been promulgated by Pierre Sylvain Maréchal (1750–1803) in his Almanach des honnêtes gens (1788). The objects which the advocates of a new calendar had in view were to strike a blow at the clergy and to divorce all calculations of time from the Christian associations with which they were loaded, in short, to abolish the Christian year; and enthusiasts were already speaking of “the first year of liberty” and “the first year of the republic” when the national convention took up the matter in 1793. The business of drawing up the new calendar was entrusted to the president of the committee of public instruction, Charles Gilbert Romme (1750–1795), who was aided in the work by the mathematicians Gaspard Monge and Joseph Louis Lagrange, the poet Fabre d’Églantine and others. The result of their labours was submitted to the convention in September; it was accepted, and the new calendar became law on the 5th of October 1793. The new arrangement was regarded as beginning on the 22nd of September 1792, this day being chosen because on it the republic was proclaimed and because it was in this year the day of the autumnal equinox.
By the new calendar the year of 365 days was divided into twelve months of thirty days each, every month being divided into three periods of ten days, each of which were called décades, and the tenth, or last, day of each decade being a day of rest. It was also proposed to divide the day on the decimal system, but this arrangement was found to be highly inconvenient and it was never put into practice. Five days of the 365 still remained to be dealt with, and these were set aside for national festivals and holidays and were called Sans-culottides. They were to fall at the end of the year, i.e. on the five days between the 17th and the 21st of September inclusive, and were called the festivals of virtue, of genius, of labour, of opinion and of rewards. A similar course was adopted with regard to the extra day which occurred once in every four years, but the first of these was to fall in the year III., i.e. in 1795, and not in 1796, the leap year in the Gregorian calendar. This day was set apart for the festival of the Revolution and was to be the last of the Sans-culottides. Each period of four years was to be called a Franciade.
|1 Vendémiaire||22 Sept.||1793||22 Sept.||1794||23 Sept.||1795||22 Sept.||1796||22 Sept.||1797||22 Sept.||1798||23 Sept.||1799||23 Sept.||1800|
|1 Brumaire||22 Oct.||”||22 Oct.||”||23 Oct.||”||22 Oct.||”||22 Oct.||”||22 Oct.||”||23 Oct.||”||23 Oct.||”|
|1 Frimaire||21 Nov.||”||21 Nov.||”||22 Nov.||”||21 Nov.||”||21 Nov.||”||21 Nov.||”||22 Nov.||”||22 Nov.||”|
|1 Nivôse||21 Déc.||”||21 Déc.||”||22 Déc.||”||21 Déc.||”||21 Déc.||”||21 Déc.||”||22 Déc.||”||22 Déc.||”|
|1 Pluviôse||20 Janv.||1794||20 Janv.||1795||21 Janv.||1796||20 Janv.||1797||20 Janv.||1798||20 Janv.||1799||21 Janv.||1800||21 Janv.||1801|
|1 Ventôse||19 Févr.||”||19 Févr.||”||20 Févr.||”||19 Févr.||”||19 Fév.||”||19 Fév.||”||20 Fév.||”||20 Fév.||”|
|1 Germinal||21 Mars||”||21 Mars||”||21 Mars||”||21 Mars||”||1 Mars||”||21 Mars||”||22 Mars||”||22 Mars||”|
|1 Floréal||20 Avr.||”||20 Avr.||”||20 Avr.||”||20 Avr.||”||20 Avr.||”||20 Avr.||”||21 Avr.||”||21 Avr.||”|
|1 Prairial||20 Mai||”||20 Mai||”||20 Mai||”||20 Mai||”||20 Mai||”||20 Mai||”||21 Mai||”||21 Mai||”|
|1 Messidor||19 Juin||”||19 Juin||”||19 Juin||”||19 Juin||”||19 Juin||”||19 Juin||”||20 Juin||”||20 Juin||”|
|1 Thermidor||19 Juil.||”||19 Juil.||”||19 Juil.||”||19 Juil.||”||19 Juil.||”||19 Juil.||”||20 Juil.||”||20 Juil.||”|
|1 Fructidor||18 Août||”||18 Août||”||18 Août||”||18 Août||”||18 Août||”||18 Août||”||19 Août||”||19 Août||”|
|1 Sans-culottides||17 Sept.||1794||17 Sept.||1795||17 Sept.||1796||17 Sept.||1797||17 Sept.||1798||17 Sept.||1799||18 Sept.||1800||18 Sept.||1801|
|6 ”||22 ”||”||22 ”||”|
|1 Vendémiaire||23 Septembre||1801||23 Septembre||1802||24 Septembre||1803||23 Septembre||1804||23 Septembre||1805|
|1 Brumaire||23 Octobre||”||23 Octobre||”||24 Octobre||”||23 Octobre||”||23 Octobre||”|
|1 Frimaire||22 Novembre||”||22 Novembre||”||23 Novembre||”||22 Novembre||”||22 Novembre||”|
|1 Nivôse||22 Décembre||”||22 Décembre||”||23 Décembre||”||22 Décembre||”||22 Décembre||”|
|1 Pluviôse||21 Janvier||1802||21 Janvier||1803||22 Janvier||1804||21 Janvier||1805|
|1 Ventôse||20 Février||”||20 Février||”||21 Février||”||20 Février||”|
|1 Germinal||22 Mars||”||22 Mars||”||22 Mars||”||22 Mars||”|
|1 Floréal||21 Avril||”||21 Avril||”||21 Avril||”||21 Avril||”|
|1 Prairial||21 Mai||”||21 Mai||”||21 Mai||”||21 Mai||”|
|1 Messidor||20 Juin||”||20 Juin||”||20 Juin||”||20 Juin||”|
|1 Thermidor||20 Juillet||”||20 Juillet||”||20 Juillet||”||20 Juillet||”|
|1 Fructidor||19 Août||”||19 Août||”||19 Août||”||19 Août||”|
|1 Sans-culottides||18 Septembre||1802||18 Septembre||1803||18 Septembre||1804||18 Septembre||1805|
Some discussion took place about the nomenclature of the new divisions of time. Eventually this work was entrusted to Fabre d’Églantine, who gave to each month a name taken from some seasonal event therein. Beginning with the new year on the 22nd of September the autumn months were Vendémiaire, the month of vintage, Brumaire, the months of fog, and Frimaire, the month of frost. The winter months were Nivôse, the snowy, Pluviôse, the rainy, and Ventôse, the windy month; then followed the spring months, Germinal, the month of buds, Floréal, the month of flowers, and Prairial, the month of meadows; and lastly the summer months, Messidor, the month of reaping, Thermidor, the month of heat, and Fructidor, the month of fruit. To the days Fabre d’Églantine gave names which retained the idea of their numerical order, calling them Primedi, Duodi, &c., the last day of the ten, the day of rest, being named Décadi. The new order was soon in force in France and the new method was employed in all public documents, but it did not last many years. In September 1805 it was decided to restore the Gregorian calendar, and the republican one was officially discontinued on the 1st of January 1806.
It will easily be seen that the connecting link between the old and the new calendars is very slight indeed and that the expression of a date in one calendar in terms of the other is a matter of some difficulty. A simple method of doing this, however, is afforded by the table on the preceding page, which is taken from the article by J. Dubourdieu in La Grande Encyclopédie.
Thus Robespierre was executed on 10 Thermidor An II., i.e. the 28th of July 1794. The insurrection of 12 Germinal An III. took place on the 1st of April 1795. The famous 18 Brumaire An VIII. fell on the 9th of November 1799, and the coup d’état of 18 Fructidor An V. on the 4th of September 1797.
For a complete concordance of the Gregorian and the republican calendars see Stokvis, Manuel d’histoire, tome iii. (Leiden, 1889); also G. Villain, “Le Calendrier républicain,” in La Révolution Française for 1884–1885. (A. W. H.*)