The 65 terms included here assist readers in understanding the text, images, and essays in Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. You can browse the entries below or search for particular entries by keyword or topic on the search page.
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Those people who chose to or were forced to live outside France between 1789 and 1814. The fall of the Bastille prompted the first wave, led by the Kings brother, the Count of Artois. Over 150,000 nobles, clergy, and commoners became émigrés during the revolutionary era. The Kings brothers established a royalist center at Coblentz, just across the German border, and set up a military force commanded by the Prince of Condé that existed until 1801 with British, Austrian, and Russian support. However, the émigrés spread far and wide in Europe and the Americas. Upon Louis XVIs execution, the Count of Provence recognized Louis XVIs son as Louis XVII with himself as regent. When Louis XVII died in 1795, Provence proclaimed himself King as Louis XVIII with financial support from other European powers. The existence of the émigrés was a major cause of the war that began in the spring of 1792. The property of the émigrés was seized and later sold. Under the Directory, a huge number of émigrés returned to France. Bonaparte promulgated a partial amnesty in October 1800, and in April 1802 all but a thousand émigrés were allowed to return. Later, under the Restoration, Louis XVIII paid compensation of 1 billion francs to émigrés who lost property.
Literally translated, the word means abbot and in fact, abbé can refer to this church official. However, the title abbé was also given to those who completed the ecclesiastical curriculum in the lycée. For example, for the famous revolutionary abbé Sieyès, the title was merely a distinction as he was definitely not an abbot.
ASSEMBLY OF NOTABLES
An old regime advisory body that met twice (FebruaryMay 1787 and NovemberDecember 1788) for the purpose of approving royal reforms. The King created it to get around the obstreperous parlements. Composed of some of the highest-ranking nobles, clergy, and public officials, the first Assembly refused to endorse many reforms and, with the backing of public opinion, forced the monarchy to call for the Estates-General. This move precipitated the outbreak of the Revolution.
Paper money based on the confiscation of church lands to liquidate the national debt. Originally not legal tender, the assignats were supposed to carry interest, but far too many assignats were issued, thereby undermining the currency, jump- starting inflation, and encouraging the hoarding of specie. Only in May 1797 were the assignats withdrawn from circulation in the hopes of returning to metallic currency and greater economic stability.
Old regime law court for civil and criminal cases as well as the jurisdiction under its control. In most of the south, the equivalent institution was called the sénéchaussée. These jurisdictions elected deputies to the Estates-General.
A medieval fortress-prison in eastern Paris. Frequently used for the subjects/victims of arbitrary royal authority, it held only seven prisoners in 1789. Yet, the Bastille remained a potent symbol of royal power. It was seized by the Paris crowd on 14 July 1789; this event marked the end of the absolute monarchy and the beginning of a new era. The date of the fall of the Bastille is a French national holiday.
The Bourbon dynasty governed France from 1589 to 1793 and from 1814 to 1830, creating an absolute monarchy that reached its zenith under Louis XIV and was overthrown during the reign of Louis XVI. Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, and Charles X all served as constitutional monarchs. It was Charles Xs attempt to institute a more absolutist monarchy that led to the fall of the Bourbons and their replacement by the House of Orléans.
Term with many meanings that must be determined from context. Under the old regime, anyone who lived in an urban area was a bourgeois or member of the bourgeoisie, but the term was usually applied only to wealthier people who did no manual labor. Bourgeois were also those who lived from their invested income or property, thus living nobly and constituting a distinct social category that had its own representation in municipal politics. In addition, the bourgeoisie often enjoyed certain privileges that were called the rights of the city. After the Revolution, the term bourgeoisie became associated with the concept of a capitalist social class. In the nineteenth century, most notably in the work of Karl Marx and other socialist writers, the French Revolution was described as a bourgeois revolution in which a capitalist bourgeoisie overthrew the feudal aristocracy in order to remake society according to capitalist interests and values, thereby paving the way for the Industrial Revolution. Thus, when many nineteenth and twentieth century commentators write about the bourgeoisie, they mean something quite different from what contemporaries meant in the eighteenth century. Careful attention to the proper definition in use is essential.
CAHIER DE DOLÉANCES
List of grievances written by each order (estate) for every bailliage and sénéchaussée (as well as a few other institutions) in France as part of the electoral process of the spring of 1789. The cahiers were intended to inform and instruct the deputies of local views and authorize reform. Cahiers of the third estate were written at the parish level, then consolidated at the bailliage/sénéchaussée level by order, providing a superb source for those interested in public opinion in the spring of 1789. Nobles and clergy began on the bailliage/sénéchaussée level.
CHAMP DE MARS
A military parade ground in southwestern Paris. Many large revolutionary festivals were held there, and in July 1791 one such demonstration sponsored by the Cordeliers Club resulted in the death of several republicans at the hands of the National Guard. This massacre pushed a further wedge between the more conservative constitutional monarchists and democratic republicans and split many of the clubs down the middle, but they emerged more united and more radical.
A seigneurial tax levied on cultivated land and any other income-producing property. Paid with a fraction of what the land produced, this tax has been likened to a tithe of the Roman Catholic Church.
Agent of the central government to local administrations. Each municipality, district, and department had a locally elected agent who was to represent and report to the central state. Under the Directory (see Council of Five Hundred and Directory), these agents were named by the central state rather than locally.
COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC SAFETY
This provisional group was created by the Legislative Assembly after the fall of the monarchy on 15 August 1792. Composed of government ministers, this council was given executive power. After the start of the war in April 1792 and the initial series of reverses, a Committee of General Defense was created on 1 January 1793, to coordinate military matters. In March 1793 this committee formalized the older committee, the Committee of Public Safety, which was dominated by moderates and Girondins named by the National Convention. From 10 July 1793 to 27 July 1794, the Committee of Public Safety had a stable membership of twelve deputies and was delegated the authority to conduct the war and govern France. Working together and sharing responsibility, the so-called Great Committee initiated a number of radical measures to ensure Frances survival ranging from the institution of Maximums on wages and prices to a systematic use of Terror to cow opponents. The most notable members of the committee were Maximillien Robespierre, Georges Couthon, Louis-Antoine Saint-Just, and Lazare Carnot, the organizer of victory. Ultimately, fears of the continuing Terror, and of Robespierres personal power, led to a coup on 9 Thermidor (27 July), which broke the power of the Great Committee. The institution lasted another seventeen months until November 1795, but its powers were restricted to war and diplomacy.
Most famously, that of Paris, but commune was the name given to every municipal government under French control after 14 July. Although new municipal governments arose throughout France in the summer of 1789, the law establishing the new municipalities was not passed until 14 December 1789. Elected through the forty-eight sections (see section), the Paris Commune emerged as a center of radical thought and action. In command of the National Guard of the city, the Commune came to be dominated by the sans-culottes. The Commune precipitated most of the revolutionary journées (days), most notably 10 August 1792, which overthrew the monarchy, and 31 May2 June 1793, which led to the expulsion of the Girondins from the National Convention. The Paris Commune was a major factor in pushing the central government toward a policy of Terror. Brought under the control of the Committee of Public Safety in December 1793, it throttled back the popular movement. After the Terror, the Paris Commune was stripped of its political role and disappeared completely under Napoleon Bonaparte.
The National Assembly took this name on 9 July 1789, to reflect its self-appointed mission to write a constitution for France. The Constituent faced numerous crises until it disbanded at the end of September 1791. Not only did the King attempt to undermine the government, he even sought to flee the country for which he was suspended and eventually reinstated. This body also wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen and the Constitution of 1791 and tried to face up to the fiscal crisis by issuing new legal tender, the assignats. The results of these important efforts were quite mixed, but the Constituent Assembly was the first real legislature in French history.
In the aftermath of the coup of 18 Brumaire (9 November), the Constitution of the Year VIII (1799) gave executive power to three consuls who also exercised almost all legislative authority. Provisionally, the first consul was Napoléon Bonaparte; the second, Roger Ducos; and the third, Emannuel- Joseph Sieyès. Later, Ducos and Sieyès were replaced by Jean-Jacques-Réné Cambacérès and Charles-François Lebrun, who did much of the legislative work of government under the Consulate. The Consulate was replaced by the Empire in 1804.
CONTROLLER - GENERAL OF FINANCES
This post had control over the royal budget, tax collection, and many other aspects of administration. In the eighteenth century, the Controller- General of Finances was almost a prime minister. Under Louis XVI, many reform efforts emanated from this office.
A Paris political society that had a more popular orientation than the Jacobins. Officially named the Society of the Friends of the Rights of Man and Citizen, it met in a former Franciscan monastery on the rue des Cordeliers. Although expelled from the building, the club kept the nickname. The Cordeliers section, led by Georges-Jacques Danton, Jean- Paul Marat, and Camille Desmoulins, spearheaded democratic agitation in Paris in 178990. When the sections were created, the club soon dominated them. Women played a prominent role in the club. In the summer of 1791, the Cordeliers again championed democratization, this time of the new French constitution. Delegates met with a crowd on 17 July 1791, on the Champ de Mars, but the crowd was dispersed by the National Guard. Subsequent repression focused on the club. Restored to prominence by the summer of 1792, the Cordeliers were at the heart of the movement that overthrew the monarchy on 10 August, called for the election of the National Convention and the widening of the suffrage to include all men. The Cordeliers also played an important role in the expulsion of the Girondins from the National Convention in MayJune 1793 as they came under the influence of first the Enragés and then Jacques-Réné Hébert. In Ventôse, Year II (March 1794), the club was purged and the Hébertistes sent to the guillotine. The club then submitted to the Jacobins, and a few members continued to meet until the spring of 1795, but by this point the club had little influence.
Old regime unpaid labor service. The royal corvée was levied for the construction and upkeep of royal roads and the seigneurial corvée was for local labor needs. The former was newer and heavier than the latter, which almost never averaged more than four days a year. Both were primary targets of the cahiers de doléance, written in the spring of 1789 as part of the election to the Estates-General, and were abolished that summer.
COUNCIL OF ELDERS
The upper house of the legislature established by the Constitution of 1795. The Council of Five Hundred was the lower house. Deputies were elected (indirectly) to three-year terms. There was a major shift in the political views of the deputies selected in each election. Royalists did well in the Year V (1797), and the Jacobins recovered in the Year VI (1798). Each time the executive, known as the Directory, moved to arrest or exclude significant numbers of deputies. The councils staged their own coup in June 1799. Dissatisfied, a group led by Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès in turn planned their own coup, which took place on 18 Brumaire, Year VIII (9 November 1799) that put Napoleon Bonaparte in power.
COUNCIL OF FIVE HUNDRED
The lower house of the legislature established by the Constitution of 1795. The Council of Elders was the upper house. Deputies were elected (indirectly) to three-year terms. There was a major shift in the political views of the deputies selected in each election. Royalists did well in the Year V (1797), and the Jacobins recovered in the Year VI (1798). Each time, the executive, known as the Directory, moved to arrest or exclude significant numbers of deputies. The councils staged their own coup in June 1799. Dissatisfied, a group led by Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès, in turn planned their own coup, which took place on 18 Brumaire, Year VIII (9 November 1799) that put Napoleon Bonaparte in power.
COUNT OF ARTOIS
Charles-Philippe, the youngest brother of Louis XVI who later reigned as Charles X (182430). A prominent spendthrift and playboy, Artois helped undermine reform efforts in the years before 1789. Artois was the first member of the royal family to emigrate to foreign lands. He sought to convince the crowned heads of Europe to restore Louis XVIs authority. Intransigent and hotheaded, Artois joined his brother Provence at Coblentz and participated in various royalist conspiracies and military adventures. Upon his brothers assumption of power in 1814, Artois headed the ultraroyalist faction, and, when he became king, his policies were so extreme that they led to the overthrow of the Bourbon dynasty.
COUNT OF PROVENCE
Louis-Stanislas-Xavier, younger brother of Louis XVI, later ruled as Louis XVIII (181424). More liberal than his brothers, Provence was no friend to reform before 1789. He left the country in June 1791, establishing a royalist center at Coblentz. He fomented conspiracies in and outside of France against the revolutionary government and slowly gathered a military force of émigrés. When Louis XVI was executed, Provence declared the dauphin Louis-Charles King as Louis XVII, assuming the post of regent. When the imprisoned Louis XVII died in 1795, Provence declared himself Louis XVIII. Perpetually in exile, he moved from Italy to Poland to England to Germany. In January 1814, he declared himself willing to accept some of the revolutions changes, paving the way for the Charter of 1814 and the Restoration of the Bourbons.
A person born in a European colony of either European or African parentage. The term was used to distinguish those born in the colonies from both aboriginal peoples and those who came directly from Europe or Africa. The word was also used to refer to languages developed in the New World out of a mixture of European and African roots.
Heir of the body to the King of France. Successively in this period: Louis-Auguste (176974), grandson of Louis XV who became Louis XVI; and Louis-Charles (178595), declared King as Louis XVII in January 1793.
Unit of copper money during the old regime and equal to 1/240th of a livre. Twelve deniers made up a sou and 20 sous made up a livre. Prior to the Revolution, journeymen outside of Paris might make around 200 livres annually while provincial attorneys earned around 2,000 livres.
This five-member group functioned as the executive for the governmental system created by the Constitution of 1795. As its most visible component, the Directory gave its name to the entire government. It existed from October 1795 to November 1799, when it was overthrown by Napoléon Bonaparte with the assistance of one of the directors, Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès. The directors staged a series of coups in Fructidor Year V (August-September 1797) and Floréal Year VI (April-May 1798) to overturn electoral results that they did not like, and the legislature purged the directors in Prairial Year VII. The Directory consolidated many of the gains of the first years of the Revolution and prosecuted the war successfully with the help of its brilliant young general Napoléon Bonaparte, but proved incapable of protecting the republic.
An old regime representative body that last met in 1614, which grouped together the three orders or estates of the kingdom: clergy, nobility, and everybody else. This Third Estate made up 95 percent of the population. Each order had one vote. The powers of the body were vague, but contemporaries believed they had the right to deny new tax appropriations. When the monarchys fiscal problems left it with almost no other choices, Louis XVI called for the convening of the Estates-General in May 1789. He also asked that each order meet at the parish level and draw up cahiers [notebooks] that would express their grievances. This request to consult public opinion and the protracted electoral process were crucial to politicization. At the same time, as the parlements inveighed for the forms of 1614, the Third Estate would always be outvoted by the two privileged orders that paid few taxes. Reformers called for both the doubling of the third, meaning that this group would comprise half the assembly and for voting by head. The King granted the former but not the latter, which deadlocked the Estates-General in May and June until a group of deputies declared themselves the National Assembly on 17 June 1789, in the belief that this was where sovereignty truly lay.
A political club founded in the summer of 1791, officially known as the Society of the Friends of the Constitution and sitting at the Feuillant (convent). After the Champ de Mars massacre of 17 July 1791, those deputies who had been members of the Jacobins withdrew and formed their own club, the Feuillants, which dominated political affairs in Paris that summer. Slowly the rump of the Jacobins recovered the initiative by developing their popular appeal. By the spring of 1792, the club had dwindled into insignificance.
A non-white person who was free and not slave in legal status. The categories of free black and mulatto overlapped but were not identical. Mulatto referred to racial background; free black referred to legal status. Included among free blacks were all those with any African blood who were free. Thus free mulattos would be counted among free blacks but slave mulattos would not. Some free blacks were not mulattos but rather the offspring of two African parents who had gained their freedom.