Categories World History

Q. Identify and analyse the main phases of the French Revolution. फ्रांस की क्रांति के चरणों की पहचान और विश्लेषण कीजिए। [BPSC-1997]

Q. Identify and analyse the main phases of the French Revolution. फ्रांस की क्रांति के चरणों की पहचान और विश्लेषण कीजिए। [BPSC-1997]
Ans:

The french revolution (1789-1815) was a period of ideological, political and social upheaval in a political history of France, and Europe as a whole, during which the french polity, previously an absolute monarchy with feudal privileges for the aristocracy and catholic clergy, underwent a radical change to forms based on enlightenment principles of republicanism, citizenship and rights. ©selfstudyhistory.com

Broadly there are 5 phases of French revolution:

  • Phase-1: National assembly and constituent assembly(1789-1791)
    • Formation of National assembly– on 17 June the members of the Third estate declared themselves to be the National Assembly when there was deadlock resulted from the demand of joint session and voting per capita.
    • Tennis court oath (20 June 1789): The members of the Third estate found the door of the Estate General closed. Under the leadership of Abbe Sieyes and Mirabeau, they immediately gathered at an adjoining tennis court and pledged to remain united till they frame a new constitution for France.
    • The Louis XVI was forced to concede the demand for single casting and the right of the three Estates to sit together. This paved the way for the collapse of the ancient regime.
    • On 9 July 1789. the National Assembly became the National Constituent Assembly and was the new focus of the revolution.
    • Fall of Bastille on 14th July-1789-
      • On 12 July, the King dismissed Necker and called in army. Riot and looting broke out in different parts of France. The Parisian seized the Bastille on 14 July which, despite being an empty prison, symbolized the monarchical tyranny.
      • According to some historians, with fall of Bastille began the revolt. According to Goodwin, ‘No other single event in the Revolution had so many far-reaching results as the fall of the Bastille…. The fall of the fortress was widely acclaimed as heralding a new birth of liberty, not only in France, but through out the world’.
      • It had far reaching effect-
        • First, it put an end to the royal autocracy in France.
        • Second, all press censorship was lifted in its wake.
        • Third, the fall of the Bastille marked the success of armed uprising.
      • The king called of the army within three days and restored Necker to his post and aristocratic conspiracy had failed for the time being.
      • The permanent committee which had been formed in Paris prior to the upsurge of popular protest came to be known as the Paris Commune.
      • The king appointed Lafayette as the commander-in chief. As a result, the administrative power of Paris passed into the hands of the bourgeoisie.
      • Moreover, the fall of the Bastille added fuel to peasant uprisings all over France.
    • Peasant revolt– July-August-1789:
      • Peasant constituted a big part of France population.
      • The urban revolution paved the way for the rural upsurge.
      • the rural masses were discontented by feudal oppression. The Parisian revolution simply added fuel to the fire.
      • There was also economic crisis and so, the peasants of almost all the provinces of France stopped paying tithes. They refused to pay dues to their feudal lords and carry out their feudal duties.
      • The unrest which gripped rural areas of France is called ‘Great Fear‘ in history and such behaviour caused considerable embarrassment for the members of the National Assembly while simultaneously making them aware of their responsibility to remove the grievances of the peasants.
      • In fact, the support of sans-culottes or the urban populace, as well as that of farmers, was crucial for the National Assembly.
      • The attack on property unleashed in the wake of this widespread peasant revolt taught the members of the National Assembly a vital lesson.
      • It became evident that in order to ensure the safety of property, some swift concessions would have to be granted to farmers and the feudal burden had to be removed.
      • In a decree on 4 August 1789 as the clergy and aristocracy surrendered their special privileges and feudalism collapsed, the ancient regime came to an end.
    • On 26 August 1789, the French National Constituent Assembly issued the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen which defined individual and collective rights at the time of the French Revolution.
      • It consisted of 17 articles and modelled the American and English constitutions. It stated:
        • Every man is free and has equal rights.
        • Everyone is equal before the law.
        • All have equal rights in their choice of profession and royal post.
        • Mere shall be no discrimination based on birth.
        • The right to property is inalienable.
        • No person shall be arrested and imprisoned illegally.
        • Every person shall have the unfettered right to freedom of speech and expression, activity, and earning.
      • It was a revolutionary declaration because it was an attack on privilege based social structure representing old France.
      • Women March to Versailles in Octuber-1789:
        • This was march by women as a result of bread crisis from Paris to Versailles.
        • They began to march through Paris demanding bread at a fair price. As they marched, more people joined the group and soon there were thousands of marchers.
        • Many of the soldiers in the National Guard also sided with the women marchers.
  • Phase II: Constitutional monarchy and Legislative assembly (1791-92)
    • The framing of new constitution was finally materialized on 30 September 1791. The purpose of constitutional assembly was over and a new body legislative assembly was formed.
    • The principle of national sovereignty became applicable in all spheres. The French administration was completely decentralised: France was divided into 83 departments, which was divided into districts, which were split up into cantons and finally, into communes.
    • The power of enacting legislation to curb royal authority became vested in the unicameral Legislative Assembly.
    • The king could only exercise a veto right to put on hold any legislation passed by the Assembly, but could not nullify it altogether.
    • The king had no authority to dissolve the Assembly. The Assembly was invested with the responsibility of regulating foreign policy and it reigned supreme in monetary affairs.
    • Though the king had control over diplomatic affairs, he enjoyed no power to declare war or conclude any treaty without legislative approval.
    • New judicial system enabled people, irrespective of their social status, to seek justice.
    • Following the separation of power, the executive had no control over the judiciary.
    • Tax were imposed on every landowner and on industry and commerce. To increase the government revenue the Church property was nationalised and confiscated.
    • Catholicism henceforth ceased to be the state religion and protestants were allowed complete freedom of religion. The Church in the France was made subservient to the state under the new law and the clergy thereafter became government employee.
    • However, the constitution despite incorporating human rights, reflected narrow class interests of the bourgeoisie. That’s why it was in reality a bourgeois republic.
      • It failed to mention political and social equality, let alone the economic liberty.
      • A substantial amount of tax payment criteria and property criteria for voting. i.e. limited equality.
      • The document was silent on the duties and responsibilities of citizens, and lacked democratic spirit.
      • Under new system, the King and his ministers were still entrusted with the task of executive governance but were given no power to make or amend laws. On the other hand, members of the legislature could enact legislation and criticise the King and his ministers freely.
        • This disparity led to a growing conflict between the King and legislature.
      • The Constituent assembly failed to develop a modern budgetary system.
      • The Church reforms created religious differences in the France.
  • Phase-III: National convention (1792-95)
    • in August 1792, the Constitution of 1791 collapsed when Paris commune, encouraged by by the Jacobins (a group in Legislative Assembly), incarcerated the Royal family. This goes down in history as the ‘Second French Revolution’.
    • With collapse of constitution and electoral law no longer in force and so the Legislative Assembly issued order for a general election based universal male suffrage. The Assembly formed after the elections in 1792 came to be known as the National Convention.
      • Later, the National convention pronounced the King guilty and passed his death sentence by the margin of a single vote. The King was guillotined in January 1793.
    • It proclaimed a new constituion, proclaimed France a Republic (1st republic in France), and envisaged a legislative body based on universal franchise.
      • However, the new constitution could not be put into effect because of the emergency situation known as the ‘Reign of Terror‘ (between 1793-1794).
    • Jacobins were very radical and became dominant in National Convention and they began to shape the policies.
      • Jacobins enjoyed the support from Sans-culottes and Paris commune. It made them a force to reckon with, despite being a relatively small faction.
      • The Jacobins expelled the Girondists (another group who opposed the Kings execution) from the National convention and set up an autocratic revolutionary government to deal with the emergency which was growing out of external invasions and internal revolt.
    • The rule of this revolutionary government is known as the ‘Reign of Terror‘.
      • The Committee of Public Safety was formed to supervise all the activities. The elected head of the Committee of Public Safety, Robespierre introduced an individual dictatorship in France for about a hundred days.
      • The leader of Jacobins was Robespierre who pursued highly radical policy towards the anti-revolutionary forces.
      • The Reign of Terror was made effective through the use of the twin organs of:
        • The Committee of General Security: Looked after law and order.
        • The Revolutionary Tribunal: It was a criminal court to judge anti-revolutionaries.
      • During Reign of Terror more than 20,000 people were executed by the guillotine.
    • Eventually, the authoritarianism unleashed by Robespierre evoked discontent and a broad united front was formed against Robespierre. He was guillotines in July 1794.
    • The post-Robespierre phase of the Convention later came to be regarded as the Thermidorian Reaction.
      • The Covention undertook the task of drafting a new constitution which purported to defenf France against the twin danger of Democracy and dictatorship.
    • The French revolution had undergone fundamental changes which were reflected in the functioning of the National Convention.
    • The extremism during phase of the National Convention gave the way to political moderation.
  • Phase IV: Directory (1795-1799):
    • The system of governance ushered in by the new constitution in 1795 (following the thermidorian Reaction), is known as the Directory.
    • The Franchise was based on wealth, the rule of the Directory was called a bourgeois republic.
    • Far from being a document of human and civil rights as incorporated in the constitution of 1789, this constitution was a declaration of the rights and duties of citizens, of which the right to property was foremost.
    • The power of legislation was vested in the Council of Elders, the Council of Five Hundred. (i.e. Bicameralism)
    • The responsibility of administration generally rested with the five member of the Directory.
    • The Conspiracy of Equals (1796-97):
      • Directory suppressed the Babeuf’s movement. This was under the leadership of Babeuf who was highly radical personality, a staunch supporter of the idea of equality.
      • Babeuf is knwon as first modern communist.
    • Limitations of directory:
      • The power of common people and the aristocracy had not been recognised under the rule of the Directory which was in fact characterised by political uncertainty due to:
        • constitutional weaknesses and limitation
        • the incompetence and inefficiency of the Directory.
      • There were steep rise in price of commodities and the Directors could neither contain the price spiral nor restore internal order.
      • The directory failed on both domestic and external front.
      • There were growing popular discontent against the directory and the Directors owed their continued existence to the army.
  • Phase V: Consulate (1799 – 1804):
    • The misrule of the Directory coused popular resentment. Abbe Sieyes took the initiative of introducing a new form of government in place of Directory . He took it upon himself to draft a new constitution based on the principle of ‘Authority from above and confidence from below’.
    • Napoleon stages a coup d’etat in collusion with Abbe Sieyes (a Director) to end the rule of Directory and form the Consulate.
    • Under the Consulate the power was invested in three Consuls but Napoleon, as the First Consul was all-powerful.
    • He was appointed Consul for life following a national plebiscite.
    • Between 1799 to 1804, he undertook widespread reforms covering all fields which came to be known as Napoleonic reforms
      • These reforms symbolised the revolution as it represented the ideas of revolution. Due to these reforms, he is known as the child of French revolution.
    • His rule saw the acceptance of elements of ancient regime as well as acceptance of elements of revolutionary ideas.
      • Acceptance of revolutionary ideas like civil equality, giving birth to new banking system, emancipation of serfs, abolition of feudal privileges etc.
      • Acceptance of elements of ancient regime is visible in: declaring himself as emperor, replacing elective officials by perfects and sub-perfcts appointed by Napoleon, highly centralised system, discarding liberty, discrding doctrine of laissez faire, regulation of education by the state etc.
    • In 1804, Napoleon declared himself to be the Emperor of France and abolished consulate system.

Thus, the French revolution went through different phases. It was not an event, rather a process. And it’s end was also a process starting 1799 and ended in 1804. ©selfstudyhistory.com

Leave a Reply