Execution of Louis XVI
The execution of Louis XVI, by means of the guillotine, a major event of the French Revolution, took place on 21 January 1793 at the Place de la Révolution in Paris. The National Convention had convicted the king in a near-unanimous vote and condemned him to death by a simple majority. Louis XVI awoke at 5 o'clock and after dressing with the aid of his valet Jean-Baptiste Cléry, went to meet with the non-juring Irish priest Henry Essex Edgeworth to make his confession, he heard his last Mass, served by Cléry, received Communion. The Mass requisites were provided by special direction of the authorities. On Father Edgeworth's advice, Louis avoided a last farewell scene with his family. At 7 o'clock he confided his last wishes to the priest, his Royal seal was to go to his wedding ring to the Queen. After receiving the priest's blessing, he went to meet Antoine Joseph Santerre, Commander of the Guard. A green carriage was waiting in the second court, he seated himself in it with two militiamen sitting opposite them.
The carriage left the Temple at 9 o'clock. For more than an hour the carriage, preceded by drummers playing to drown out any support for the King and escorted by a cavalry troop with drawn sabres, made its way through Paris along a route lined with 80,000 men at arms and soldiers of the National Guard and sans-culottes. In the neighbourhood of the present rue de Cléry, the Baron de Batz, a supporter of the Royal family who had financed the flight to Varennes, had summoned 300 Royalists to enable the King's escape. Louis was to be hidden in a house in the rue de Cléry belonging to the Count of Marsan; the Baron leaped forward calling "Follow me, my friends, let us save the King!", but his associates had been denounced and only a few had been able to turn up. Three of them were killed. At 10 o'clock, the carriage arrived at Place de la Révolution and proceeded to an area where a scaffold had been erected, in a space surrounded by guns and drums, a crowd carrying pikes and bayonets. After refusing to have his hands tied, Louis XVI relented when the executioner proposed to use his handkerchief instead of rope.
After this his hair was cut and the collar of his shirt was removed. After being led upon the scaffold, Louis tried to give a speech but the noise of the drums made this difficult to understand, he was laid on the bench, the collar closed over his neck and the blade came down. According to reports the blade did not sever his neck but cut through the back of his skull and into his jaw. Edgeworth, Louis' Irish confessor, wrote in his memoirs: The path leading to the scaffold was rough and difficult to pass; the 13 February issue of the Thermomètre du jour, a moderate Republican newspaper, described the King as shouting "I am lost!", citing as its source the executioner, Charles-Henri Sanson. Charles-Henri Sanson responded to the story by offering his own version of events in a letter dated 20 February 1793; the account of Sanson states: Arriving at the foot of the guillotine, Louis XVI looked for a moment at the instruments of his execution and asked Sanson why the drums had stopped beating. He came forward to speak.
As he was strapped down, he exclaimed "My people, I die innocent!" Turning towards his executioners, Louis XVI declared "Gentlemen, I am innocent of everything of which I am accused. I hope that my blood may cement the good fortune of the French." The blade fell. It was 10:22 am. One of the assistants of Sanson showed the head of Louis XVI to the people, whereupon a huge cry of "Vive la Nation! Vive la République!" Arose and an artillery salute rang out. In his letter, published along with its French mistakes in the Thermomètre of Thursday, 21 February 1793, Sanson emphasises that the King "bore all this with a composure and a firmness which has surprised us all. I remained convinced that he derived this firmness from the principles of the religion by which he seemed penetrated and persuaded as no other man." In his Causeries, Alexandre Dumas refers to a meeting circa 1830 with Henri Sanson, eldest son of Charles-Henri Sanson, present at the execution. Henri Sanson was family appointed Executioner of Paris from April 1793, would execute Marie Antoinette.
Speaking to Victor Hugo in 1840, a man called Leboucher, who had arrived in Paris from Bourges in December 1792 and was present at the execution of Louis XVI, recalled vividly: Here are some unknown details. The executioners numbered four; the executioners wore breeches, coats in the French style as the Revolution had modified it, and
French Constitution of 1793
The Constitution of 1793 known as the Constitution of the Year I or the Montagnard Constitution, was the second constitution ratified for use during the French Revolution under the First Republic. Designed by the Montagnards, principally Maximilien Robespierre and Louis Saint-Just, it was intended to replace the outdated Constitution of 1791. With sweeping plans for democratization and wealth redistribution, the new document promised a significant departure from the moderate goals of the Revolution in previous years. However, the Constitution's radical provisions were never implemented; the government placed a moratorium upon it, ostensibly because of the need to employ emergency war powers during the French Revolutionary War. Those same emergency powers would permit the Committee of Public Safety to conduct the Reign of Terror, when that long period of violent political combat was over, the constitution was invalidated by its association with the defeated Robespierre. In the Thermidorian Reaction, it was discarded in favor of a more conservative document, the Constitution of 1795.
The National Convention chose Louis Saint-Just and several other deputies to serve on a committee that would draft a new governmental system for the established Republic. The new constitution was intended to supersede the Constitution of 1791, based on principles of constitutional monarchy that were now obsolete after the execution of King Louis XVI; the draftsmen were placed on the elite Committee of Public Safety to maximize their resources. The Convention deemed their work to be of supreme importance, to be completed "in the shortest possible time."The work took less than two weeks. A complete constitutional document was submitted to the Convention on 10 June 1793, it was subsequently put to a public referendum. Employing universal male suffrage, the vote was a resounding popular victory for the new constitution, which received the approval of 1,784,377 out of 1,800,000 voters; the Constitution expanded upon the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789, to which it added several rights: it proclaimed the superiority of popular sovereignty over national sovereignty.
It added several new economic and social rights, including right of association, right to work and public assistance, right to public education, right of rebellion, the abolition of slavery, all written into what is known as the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1793. Sections 1 through 6 spelled out who should be treated as a French Citizen and under what conditions citizenship could be revoked. All males over the age of 21 who worked, owned land or other property in France, lived in France for over a year, or had family ties to a French person, or those named by the legislative body, could be considered citizens. Citizenship could be lost if you were sentenced to corporal or dishonorable punishment, or had accepted offices or favors "which do not proceed from a democratic government". Sections 7 through 44 specify the sovereign powers of the People, the Primary Assemblies, the National Representation, of the Electoral Assemblies, of the Legislative Body; the Primary Assemblies were to be between 200 and 600 people, each representing an individual canton, who would vote to accept laws proposed by the Legislative Body, select deputies to the National Representation, select electors to the Electoral Assemblies.
The Constitution made explicit that population would be the only determiner of representation in the National Representation. In the case of a tie vote in the National Representation, the oldest member would supply the tie-breaking vote. Sections 45 to 52 lay out specific procedures to be followed the Legislative Body, specifying a quorum of 200 members. Sections 53 to 55 specify what issues are matters of law, while 56 through 61 establish the path for a bill to become a law. After being drafted and approved by the Legislative Body, the law would be considered a "proposed law" and voted on by all of the communes of France. No debate was to occur until 2 weeks after this distribution, the bill would become law provided that no more than 1/10ths of the communes voted to voice objection to the law. Sections 62 to 74 dealt with the Executive Power, to be placed in the hands of a 24-member executive council appointed by the Electoral Assembly; these members were to appoint agents to high administrative offices of the Republic.
The Constitution prescribed the relationship between the Executive Council and the Legislative Body, the governing of the Municipalities. It established the conduct of the Civil Justice System, mandating that arbitrators be elected and that citizens could select arbitrators for their case, of the Criminal Justice System, mandating trial by jury and representation for the accused, it specified that no citizen is exempt from taxation, establishes regulations for military leadership and conduct and foreign relations. The Constitution explicitly stated that France was a friend and ally of free nations, would not interfere with the government of other free nations, would harbor any refugees from nations ruled by tyrants, it forbid the establishment of peace with an enemy that possesses its territory. It guaranteed the right to equality, security, the public debt, free exercise of religion, general instr
Insurrection of 10 August 1792
The Insurrection of 10 August 1792 was a defining event of the French Revolution. The storming of the Tuileries Palace by the National Guard of the Paris Commune and fédérés from Marseille and Brittany caused the fall of the French monarchy. King Louis XVI and the royal family took shelter with the suspended Legislative Assembly; the formal end of the monarchy occurred six weeks as one of the first acts of the new National Convention. This insurrection and its outcomes are most referred to by historians of the Revolution as "the 10 August". War was declared on 20 April 1792 against the King of Hungary; the initial battles were a disaster for the French, Prussia joined Austria in active alliance against France. The blame for the disaster was put upon the King and his ministers, after upon the Girondin party; the Legislative Assembly passed decrees sentencing any priest denounced by 20 citizens to immediate deportation, dissolving the King's guard because it was manned by aristocrats, establishing in the vicinity of Paris a camp of 20,000 Fédérés.
The King dismissed Girondists from the Ministry. When the King formed a new cabinet of constitutional monarchists, this widened the breach between the King and the Assembly and the majority of the common people of Paris; these events happened on 16 June when Lafayette sent a letter to the Assembly, recommending suppression of "anarchists" and political clubs in the capital. The King's veto of the Legislative Assembly's decrees was published on 19 June, one day before the 3rd anniversary of the Tennis Court Oath, which had inaugurated the Revolution; the popular journée of 20 June 1792 was organized to put pressure on the King. Appearing before the crowd, the King put on the bonnet rouge of liberty and drank to the health of the nation, but refused to ratify decrees or to recall the ministers; the Paris mayor, Pétion, was suspended. On 28 June, Lafayette left his post with the army and appeared before the Assembly to call on the deputies to dissolve the Jacobin Club and punish those who were responsible for the demonstration of 20 June.
The deputies indicted the general for deserting his command. The King rejected all suggestions of escape from the man who had long presided over his imprisonment; the crowd burnt him in effigy at the Palais-Royal. There was no place for Lafayette beside the republican emblem, nor in the country which had adopted it. Within six weeks he was arrested whilst immured in an Austrian prison. Lafayette failed because his views clashed with French national sentiment, his passive leadership of French armies had given the Prussians time to finish their preparations and concentrate upon the Rhine undisturbed. A decree of 2 July authorized national guards, many of whom were on their way to Paris, to come to the Federation ceremony. A decree of 5 July declared that in the event of danger to the nation all able-bodied men could be called to service and necessary arms requisitioned. Six days the Assembly declared la patrie est en danger. Banners were placed in the public squares, with the words:Would you allow foreign hordes to spread like a destroying torrent over your countryside!
That they ravage our harvest! That they devastate our fatherland through fire and murder! In a word, that they overcome you with chains dyed with the blood of those whom you hold the most dear... Citizens, the country is in danger! On 3 July Pierre Vergniaud gave a wider scope to the debate by uttering a terrible threat against the King's person: "It is in the King's name that the French princes have tried to rouse all the courts of Europe against the nation, it is to avenge the dignity of the King that the treaty of Pillnitz was concluded and the monstrous alliance formed between the Courts of Vienna and Berlin. Vergniaud recalled the royal veto, the disorders it had caused in the provinces, the deliberate inaction of the generals who had opened the way to invasion. By this means he put the idea of deposing the King into the minds of the public, his speech, was circulated by the Assembly through all the departments. Evading the royal veto on an armed camp, the Assembly had invited National Guards from the provinces, on their way to the front, to come to Paris, ostensibly for 14 July celebrations.
By mid-July the Fédérés were petitioning the Assembly to dethrone the king. The Fédérés were reluctant to leave Paris before a decisive blow had been struck, the arrival on 25 July of 300 from Brest and five days of 500 Marseillais, who made the streets of Paris echo with the song to which they gave their name, provided the revolutionaries with a formidable force; the Fédérés set up a central committee and a secret directory that included some of the Parisian leaders and to assure direct contact with the sections. A c
The Ancien Régime was the political and social system of the Kingdom of France from the Late Middle Ages until 1789, when hereditary monarchy and the feudal system of French nobility were abolished by the French Revolution. The Ancien Régime was ruled by Bourbon dynasties; the term is used to refer to the similar feudal systems of the time elsewhere in Europe. The administrative and social structures of the Ancien Régime were the result of years of state-building, legislative acts, internal conflicts, civil wars, but they remained and the Valois Dynasty's attempts at re-establishing control over the scattered political centres of the country were hindered by the Huguenot Wars. Much of the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII and the early years of Louis XIV were focused on administrative centralization. Despite, the notion of "absolute monarchy" and the efforts by the kings to create a centralized state, the Kingdom of France retained its irregularities: authority overlapped and nobles struggled to retain autonomy.
The need for centralization in this period was directly linked to the question of royal finances and the ability to wage war. The internal conflicts and dynastic crises of the 16th and 17th centuries and the territorial expansion of France in the 17th century demanded great sums which needed to be raised through taxes, such as the land tax and the tax on salt and by contributions of men and service from the nobility. One key to this centralization was the replacing of personal patronage systems organized around the king and other nobles by institutional systems around the state; the creation of intendants—representatives of royal power in the provinces—did much to undermine local control by regional nobles. The same was true of the greater reliance shown by the royal court on the noblesse de robe as judges and royal counselors; the creation of regional parlements had the same goal of facilitating the introduction of royal power into newly assimilated territories, but as the parlements gained in self-assurance, they began to be sources of disunity.
The term in French means "old regime" or "former regime". However, most English language books use the French term Ancien Régime; the term first appeared in print in English in 1794, was pejorative in nature. It conjured up a society so encrusted with anachronisms that only a shock of great violence could free the living organism within. Institutionally torpid, economically immobile, culturally atrophied and stratified, this'old regime' was incapable of self-modernization."More ancien régime refers to any political and social system having the principal features of the French Ancien Régime. Europe's other anciens régimes had diverse fates; the Nine Years' War was a major conflict between France and a European-wide coalition of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire, the Dutch Republic, Spain and Savoy. It was fought on the European continent and the surrounding seas, in Ireland, North America, India, it was the first global war. Louis XIV had emerged from the Franco-Dutch War in 1678 as the most powerful monarch in Europe, an absolute ruler who had won numerous military victories.
Using a combination of aggression and quasilegal means, Louis XIV set about extending his gains to stabilize and strengthen France's frontiers, culminating in the brief War of the Reunions. The resulting Truce of Ratisbon guaranteed France's new borders for 20 years, but Louis XIV's subsequent actions – notably his revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 – led to the deterioration of his military and political dominance. Louis XIV's decision to cross the Rhine in September 1688 was designed to extend his influence and pressure the Holy Roman Empire into accepting his territorial and dynastic claims, but when Leopold I and the German princes resolved to resist, when the States General and William III brought the Dutch and the English into the war against France, the French King at last faced a powerful coalition aimed at curtailing his ambitions; the main fighting took place around France's borders, in the Spanish Netherlands, the Rhineland, Duchy of Savoy, Catalonia. The fighting favoured Louis XIV's armies, but by 1696, his country was in the grip of an economic crisis.
The Maritime Powers were financially exhausted, when Savoy defected from the alliance, all parties were keen for a negotiated settlement. By the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick, Louis XIV retained the whole of Alsace, but he was forced to return Lorraine to its ruler and give up any gains on the right bank of the Rhine. Louis XIV accepted William III as the rightful King of England, while the Dutch acquired their barrier fortress system in the Spanish Netherlands to help secure their own borders. However, with the ailing and childless Charles II of Spain approaching his end, a new conflict over the inheritance of the Spanish Empire would soon embroil Louis XIV and the Grand Alliance in a final war – the War of the Spanish Succession. Spain had a number of major assets, apart from its homeland itself, it controlled important territory in the New World. S
Abolition of feudalism in France
One of the central events of the French Revolution was to abolish feudalism, the old rules and privileges left over from the age of feudalism. The National Constituent Assembly, acting on the night of 4 August 1789, announced, "The National Assembly abolishes the feudal system entirely." It abolished both the seigneurial rights of the Second Estate and the tithes gathered by the First Estate. The old judicial system, founded on the 13 regional parlements, was suspended in November 1789, abolished in 1790. On August 3, 1789, the Duke d'Aiguillon proposed in the Club Breton the abolition of feudal rights and the suppression of personal servitude. On the evening of August 4, the Viscount de Noailles proposed to abolish the privileges of the nobility to restore calm in French provinces. Members of the First Estate were at first reluctant to enter into the patriotic fervour of the night but the Bishops of Nancy and Chartres sacrificed their titles. Guy Le Guen de Kerangal, the Viscount de Beauharnais, Jean-Baptiste-Joseph de Lubersac, the Bishop de La Fare proposed to suppress the Banalités, the seigniorial jurisdictions, game-laws, the ecclesiastic privileges.
Historian Georges Lefebvre summarizes the night's work: Without debate the Assembly enthusiastically adopted equality of taxation and redemption of all manorial rights except for those involving personal servitude — which were to be abolished without indemnification. Other proposals followed with the same success: the equality of legal punishment, admission of all to public office, abolition of venality in office, conversion of the tithe into payments subject to redemption, freedom of worship, prohibition of plural holding of benefices, suppression of annates.... Privileges of provinces and towns were offered as a last sacrifice. In the course of a few hours, France abolished game-laws, manorial courts, venal offices, the purchase and sale of pecuniary immunities, favoritism in taxation, of surplice money, first-fruits and unmerited pensions. Towns, provinces and cities sacrificed their special privileges. A medal was struck to commemorate the day, the Assembly declared Louis XVI the "Restorer of French Liberty."
Furet emphasizes that the decisions of August 1789 survived and became an integral part of the founding texts of modern France. They destroyed aristocratic society from top to bottom, along with its structure of dependencies and privileges. For this structure they substituted the modern, autonomous individual, free to do whatever was not prohibited by law.... The Revolution thus distinguished itself quite early by its radical individualism; this "Saint Bartholomew of abuses," as François Mignet calls it, has been the subject of hyperbole in the analyses of contemporaries and historians. The atmosphere inside the Assembly was so heady that confusion reigned in the provinces for months afterwards as to the true meaning of the laws; the real product of the night was not formalised until the Feudal Committee reported back on 5 March 1790. The Committee reintroduced the mainmorte and set a rate of redemption for real interests, impossible for the majority of peasants to pay; the Russian anarchist Prince Peter Kropotkin wrote: The Assembly was carried away by its enthusiasm, in this enthusiasm nobody remarked the clause for redeeming the feudal rights and tithes, which the two nobles and the two bishops had introduced into their speeches – a clause terrible in its vagueness, since it might mean all or nothing, did, in fact, postpone… the abolition of feudal rights for five years – until August 1793.
Kropotkin concludes "The Feudal rights remain" and scorns the other historians "The historic legend is lovingly used to embellish this night, the majority of historians, copying the story as it has been given by a few contemporaries, represent it as a night full of enthusiasm and saintly abnegation.". The August Decrees were nineteen decrees made on 4–11 August 1789 by the National Constituent Assembly during the French Revolution. There were 18 decrees or articles adopted concerning the abolition of feudalism, other privileges of the nobility, seigneurial rights; the fall of the Bastille on 14 July 1789 was followed by a mass uproar spreading from Paris to the countryside. Noble families were attacked and many aristocratic manors were burned. Abbeys and castles were attacked and destroyed; the season of La Grande Peur – the Great Fear – was characterised by social hysteria and anxiety over, going to be the next victim. In many cases, the violence was begun not by homeless people or hunger-driven peasants but by settled countrymen who took this opportunity to further their own cause.
The Great Fear opened up the vulnerability of the French government – there was a lack of authority at the center of it. The prolonged riots and massacres led to a general anxiety that things might get out of control, they did, it was an experience. By late July 1789, as the peasant revolt reports poured into Paris from every part of the country, the Assembly decided to reform the social pattern of the country in order to pacify the outraged peasants and encourage them towards peace and harmony; the discussion continued through the night of the fourth of August, on the morning of the fifth the Assembly abolished the feudal system, eliminated many clerical and noble rights and privileges. The August decrees were completed a week later. There were nineteen decrees in all, with a revised list published on 11 Augu