French Revolution

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Lecture 13 The French Revolution: The Radical Stage, 1792-1794 The proof necessary to convict the enemies of the people is every kind of evidence, either material or moral or verbal or written. . . . Every citizen has the right to seize conspirators and counter-revolutionaries and to arraign them before magistrates. He is required to denounce them when he knows of them. Law of 22 Prairial Year II (June 10, 1794) Inflamed by their poverty and hatred of wealth, the SANS-CULOTTES insisted that it was the duty of the government to guarantee them the right to existence. Such a policy ran counter to the bourgeois aspirations of the National Assembly. The sans-culottes demanded that the revolutionary government immediately increase wages, fix prices, end food shortages, punish hoarders and most important, deal with the existence of counter-revolutionaries. In terms of social ideals the sans-culottes wanted laws to prevent extremes of both wealth and property. Their vision was of a nation of small shopkeepers and small farmers. They favored a democratic republic in which the voice of the common man could be heard. In this respect, their ideology falls into line with that of Thomas Paine (1737-1809), the English radical who argued that the best form of government was the one which governed least: government should guarantee basic natural rights and then lay off the citizen (on Paine, see Lecture 14). In other words, and this is important to grasp, the social and economic ideas of the sans-culottes were politicized by the Revolution itself.

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Lecture 13: The French Revolution, The Radical Stage, 1792-1794

On AUGUST 10, 1792, The enraged Parisian men and women attacked the king¡¯s palace and killed several hundred Swiss Guards. The result of this journee was the radicalization of the Revolution. Louis and Marie Antoinette were forced to flee the Tuileries and took refuge in the Legislative Assembly itself. The royal family was placed under house arrest, and lived rather comfortably, but the king could not perform any of his political functions. Although the revolutionaries had drafted a constitution, now they had no monarch. By September, Paris was in turmoil. Fearing counter-revolution, the sans-culottes destroyed prisons because they believed they were secretly sheltering conspirators. More than one thousand people were killed. Street fights broke out everywhere and barricades were set up in various quarters of the city. All this was done in order to consolidate the Revolution ¨C to keep it moving forward. On September 21st and 22nd , 1792, the monarchy was officially abolished and a republic established. The 22nd of September, 1792 was now known as day one of the year one. In December, Louis XVI was placed on TRIAL for violating the liberty of his subjects and on January 21, 1793, Louis was executed like an ordinary criminal. From this time on, the Revolution had no recourse but to move forward. After the execution of Louis, the National Assembly, now known as the National Convention, faced enormous problems. The value of paper currency (assignats) used to finance the Revolution had fallen by 50%. There was price inflation, continued food shortages, and various peasant rebellions against the Revolution occurred across the countryside. France was close to civil war. Meanwhile, the revolutionaries found themselves not only at war with Austria and Prussia, but with Holland, Spain and Great Britain. As the Revolution stumbled under the weight of foreign war and civil war, the revolutionary leadership grew more radical. Up to June 1793, moderate reformers had dominated the National Convention. These were the Girondins, men who favored a decentralized government in which the various provinces or departments would determine their own affairs. The Girondins also opposed government interference in the...
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