Compare the Old Regime and the New Regimes in France
Identify struggles facing the French Revolution and understand how they were overcome
Identify how foreign rulers impacted the French Revolution
Identify important political figures of the time period
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The next phase of the French Revolution began in October 1791 and lasted until August 10, 1792. The governing body was called the Legislative Assembly. However, no member of the National Assembly was allowed to serve in the Legislative Assembly. This restriction meant that the members of the Legislative Assembly had no experience running a government, and so the Legislative Assembly was destined to fail from the very beginning.
Under the rules of the Legislative Assembly, the King served in an executive role, much like the President of the United States. King Louis XVI could foresee the problems faced by the Legislative Assembly and tried to flee the country. The King was captured when some peasants recognized him after seeing his face on French coins. Louis XVI was taken back to Paris and watched very closely, but was allowed to remain as the executive of the Legislative Assembly.
During this time, more and more nobles and clergymen fled France. Peasants were given land that once belonged to the nobles and to the church. Some nobles who left received help from other nobles from other European countries. For instance, Queen Marie Antoinette’s brother was Emperor Joseph of Austria. Along with the King of Prussia, Joseph declared war on France in April 1792. France was at war for 22 years. The French people correctly feared that other European countries were surrounding France in order to reestablish an absolute monarch. The rulers of neighboring European countries wanted to prevent the same events from happening in their countries.
There were several problems during the period of the Legislative Assembly. The governing people had little or no experience, and those with experience were not a part of the Assembly. Taxes were almost impossible to collect and the best soldiers left France. The workers were angry because it was against the law to strike. Despite the many problems, the aggressive attitudes of European rules aided the growing Revolution. The French people became unified in the effort to defeat other European countries intent on returning France to its previous system of government.
Prussia invaded France in June 1792, greatly angering the revolutionaries. Paris was in great danger of invasion. The Prussian King told the French people that if any member of the royal family was injured, the French people would suffer. This announcement united the people of France and King Louis XVI and his family became more unpopular. The revolutionary spirit grew stronger and more established as foreign powers interfered with France.
As the Legislative Assembly was unable to control the French people, it decided a change was needed. On August 9th and 10th, Louis XVI was removed from power. The monarch was overthrown in France and the National Convention was convened. From August 10th to September 20, 1792, France was in turmoil from outside invaders and internal politics. The Prussians and Austrians were winning the war and making serious gains in France. The peasants and middle class had so much to lose if France was defeated that they rallied and defeated a large Prussian and Austrian army in early September. This defeat stunned the Prussian and Austrian soldiers, who left France to the revolutionary army. Members of the National Convention met and declared France a Republic. This is known as the First French Republic. A new constitution was written but never used.
King Louis XVI was arrested in December of 1792, and accused of treason and other crimes against France. He was found guilty in January of 1793 and the National Convention sentenced him to death. On January 21, 1793, at 10:21 a.m., King Louis XVI of France was beheaded.
From the end of 1792 to July 1794, France entered what is known as the “Reign of Terror.” About 21,000 French people were beheaded by French mobs. Queen Marie Antoinette was beheaded in October 1793. The leader during this time was Robespierre (robes-pee-year). French society underwent some changes, including a new calendar with no Sundays and new monthly names, no wearing of jewelry, no person named Louis, renamed churches, and addressing each person as “citizen ________”. This was to signify that all people were equal.
Some of the French leaders became victims of their own terror. Robespierre was beheaded in June 1794. The Reign of Terror ended in July 1794. In addition to the 21,000 people who were beheaded, 19,000 more were killed by other means during the Reign of Terror.
Fun Facts: The decision to execute King Louis XVI was determined by a vote, with 361 votes for execution and 288 against execution. Nicholas de Condorcet, a noble who had written one of the revolutionary constitutions, went into hiding during the Reign of Terror. While disguised, he traveled freely in the French countryside, but his aristocratic status was discovered when he ordered an omelet made of 12 eggs. He was quickly arrested, but committed suicide rather than face the guillotine.
There is one good thing that came from the French Revolution. The French Revolution demonstrated that a revolution against a “divine” monarch is possible and can be successful. Foreign powers were unable to stop the revolution from changing France, and greatly feared the influence the French Revolution would have on their peoples.
Identify important political figures of the time period
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