Charles Harrison

Period 7


Reasons why the upheaval of 1789 was a revolution rather than just a rebellion

In 1789 revolution violently erupted in France and spread through all French political and social life. It started first as the aristocracy fighting the monarchy, but soon became the common citizen against the monarchy, aristocracy, and church. It took till the end of the 1700's to restore order by placing control in the hands of Napoleon.

The National Constituent Assembly decided that before writing a new constitution they should set political principles. On August 27, 1789, the National Constituent Assembly issued The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. This declaration called upon much of the political language of the Enlightenment. The declaration claimed that men were "born and remain free and equal rights." The natural rights claimed were "liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression." Government existed to protect those rights. This declaration played its role in the revolution by specifically attacking the previous aristocratic and absolutist rule.

The revolution was so vast that it even included women. On October 5 and 6, 1789, 7000 women marched to Versailles armed with pikes, guns, swords, and knives demanding more bread. The current king was Louis XIV. This upheaval frightened him enough that he and his family moved to Tuileries.

The Constitution of 1791, written by the National Constituent Assembly, established a constitutional monarchy. The major political authority was a unicameral Legislative Assembly; all laws would come from it. The monarch was allowed a suspensive veto that could delay but not stop legislation. Control of war and peace were left to the assembly. Citizens of France were split into two groups, active and passive. Only active citizens, men, who earned daily wages and paid taxes were allowed to vote. In 1791 a butcher's daughter named Olympe de Gouges, who became a big revolutionary radical in Paris, composed The Declaration of the Rights of Women. She addressed this to Queen Marie Antoinette.

The National Constituent Assembly abolished the ancient French provinces, and established 83 departments in their place. They were of almost equal size, and named after rivers and mountains. The National Constituent Assembly also abolished parlements and seigneural courts. Uniform courts with elected judges and prosecutors were put in their place. The most degrading of the current punishments were removed.

Chaplier Law, which the National Constituent Assembly approved, forbade workers’ associations. To help with the debt that still plagued France, the National Constituent Assembly would confiscate church property, and then sell it back. Assignates, forms of government bonds, were issued. The values of the bonds were assured by the selling of church property.

The Civil Constitution of the Clergy transformed the Roman Catholic Church within France into a branch of the secular state. The clergy who did not take an oath to support the constitution were known as "refractory" and removed from their clerical functions.

On the night of June 20, 1791, Louis XVI and his immediate family left Paris dressed as servants. They traveled as far as Varennes, until the king was recognized. On August 27, 1791, Emperor Leopold II of Austria, the brother of Marie and Fredrick II, King of Prussia, issued the Declaration of Pillnitz. The two monarchs promised to intervene in order to uphold the monarch and royal family if the other European powers agreed.

At this time the standard rebellion consisted of the storming of a government building and the killing of nobles. Peasant workers would sometimes stop working in order to get their aristocratic superiors to pay them higher wages. The revolution of 1789 contained these things, but also the much more complicated things mentioned above. These things changed France's future. It is for this reason that the upheaval in 1789 was a revolution.