French Revolution Terms

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Three Estates
Type of social hierarchy that is divided into three "estates" or social classes.

The first estate was comprised of the clergy that made up 0.6% of the population. The first estate had a wide scope of powers and owned 10-15% of the land. Although the clergy possessed much land and power, they were tax exempt.

The second estate were the nobility who were also tax exempt. The nobles held the highest offices in the Church, government, and army.

The third estate consisted of the bourgeoisie, peasantry, and urban workers i.e everybody else. This was the bulk of the population with 25 million people. The Bourgeoisie had money but not status; they wanted to become land owners. The peasants were burdened with heavy taxes and the urban workers lived in poverty.

Active/Passive Citizen
Active citizen: Male citizens whose annual taxes equalled the local wages paid for three days of labor. These men held a stake in the government. Passive: Those who had no property rights or voting rights. Although entitled to protection by law in relation to their belongings and liberty, passive citizens had no say in the making of government bodies. All women were considered passive citizens.

Assembly of Notables
A group of notables (expanded version of King's council) invited by the King of France to consul on matters of state. These notables were selected by the king for their zeal, devotion, etc to the sovereign (included princes, archbishops, and peers).

August Decrees
Nineteen decrees made in August 1789 by the National Constituent Assembly during the French Revolution. Some of the decrees were the abolishment of the feudal system, the selling of judicial and municipal offices was abolished, and that fiscal privileges in the payment of taxes were abolished (everyone paid taxes).

The August Decrees were created with the intent of calming the people and encouraging them towards civility. The Decrees also paved the way for the Assembly to make the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Brunswick Manifesto
A proclamation issued by the Duke of Brunswick to the populace of Paris during the French Revolution. It threatened that if the French royal family were harmed, then French civilians would also be harmed.

While it was declared to intimidate Paris, it instead propelled the angry radical nature of the French Revolution and led to the war between revolutionary France and counter-revolutionary monarchies.

Civil Constitution of the the Clergy
A law passed during the French Revolution that subordinated the Roman Catholic Church in France to the French government. It caused a schism within the French Church and caused many Catholics to turn against the Revolution.

Committee of Public Safety
Composed of twelve members, they were given power over military, judicial, and legislative efforts. The committee was formed as an administrative body but it became more powerful under the leadership of Maximilien Robespierre. Formed to protect the newly established French republic against foreign attacks and internal rebellion, the committee implemented terror to repress domestic opposition.

Constitution of 1791
Created by the National Assembly during the French Revolution, it retained the monarchy but power effectively resided in the Legislative assembly which was elected by a system of indirect voting. It lasted less than a year.

Constitution of 1792
A popular Constitution that was inspired by the Declaration of the rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789. It added several rights such as the superiority of the popular sovereignty over national sovereignty, right to work, right of public assistance, right to public education, right of rebellion (duty to rebel when government violates rights of the people, and the abolition of slavery.

Constitution of 1795
A Constitution that aimed to continue a moderate Revolution which which create a stable social order based on personal liberty with...
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