01:506:101 Lecture Notes - Lecture 9: Manorialism, Charles Alexandre De Calonne, Bakery

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Chapter IX. The French Revolution
pp. 361-415
France “replaced the ‘Old Regime’ with ‘modern society,’ and at its extreme phase it became very radical,
so much so that all later revolutionary movements have looked back to it as a predecessor to themselves.” The
French Revolution occurred in the most advanced country of the day, the center of the Enlightenment. It was the
most powerful, wealthy nation in Europe. It had the largest population (24 m) under one government. Paris was
smaller than London, but double Vienna and Amsterdam. Europeans took their ideas from France, and the
Revolution was to profoundly affect them.
41. Backgrounds
pp. 351-354
A. The Old Regime: The Three Estates
l. Legally an aristocratic, even feudal society; everyone belonged to an estate” or “order” of society. The
clergy was the First Estate; the nobility the Second Estate; and everyone else, from the wealthiest
businessman to the poorest peasant or city worker, was the Third Estate. Legal rights and personal
prestige depended on Estate, though these were politically and socially obsolescent.
2. The role of the Church was similar to the Anglican Church in tithing, bishops’ political power, and
the wealth and numbers of the clergy. The 100,000 clergy, owned 5-10% of the land with much of
the income going to the aristocratic holders of higher church offices.
3. Nobles numbered about 400,000. They virtually monopolized all high offices and honors --
government, church, army. They were largely tax exempt and had blocked all reforms.
4. The bourgeoisie, the elite of the Third Estate, was well off; for example, foreign trade had increased
five-fold, 1713 to 1789. They resented the privileges and arrogance of the aristocracy. Commoners
were as well off as in most nations, but they did not share in business prosperity. From 1730 to 1788
prices rose about 65%, wages only 22% --the wage-earning proletariat had real grievances.
B. The Agrarian System of the Old Regime
l. Most people (80%) were rural, but none were serfs: Peasants owed no labor and only a few token
services. They worked their own land, rented land, or were sharecroppers; some hired out as
laborers. Nobles’ retained a few feudal rights: hunting rights; collection of banalities for use of mill,
bakeshop, or wine press; and limited court and police powers.
2. Manor owners owned “eminent property” rights, with certain rents or transfer payments owed. But
ownership was widespread: peasants owned 40%, nobles 20%, the Church 10%, and the remainder
in crown, waste, or common land. The Revolution was to free land ownership from all indirect
encumbrances --manorial fees, eminent property rights, communal practices, and church tithes.
3. Peasants occupied almost all the land, through ownership or lease; France was a nation of small
farmers. There was no big agriculture, no manorial lords actually managing estates and selling his
own crops, as in England. By 1780, many manorial lords, pinched by inflation or seeking greater
returns, collected dues more rigorously and revived old dues that had fallen into disuse. Lease and
sharecropping terms became less favorable to the peasant. Resentments built, since the property
system bore no relation to economic usefulness.
4. France was unified, meaning that unpopular social conditions could bring national opinion and
agitation. The Revolution was to rouse a sense of brotherhood, and to turn that into a passion for
citizenship and civic rights to the public advantage.
42. The Revolution and the Reorganization of France
pp. 356-378
A. The Financial Crisis
1. The Revolution was precipitated by financial collapse owing mainly to war costs, present (25%) and
past (50%)--though the debt was smaller per capita than that of Britain or Holland. The key was low
revenue, due to exemptions and tax evasion. Aristocrats blocked tax reform by Mapei, Turgot, and
Necker. In 1786, Calonne suggested a land tax without exemptions; a lightening of indirect taxes; a
confiscation of some church property; and the establishment of provincial assemblies in which all
citizens would be represented.
2. The “assembly of notables” called to discuss the program resulted in a deadlock, and Calonne was fired. Brienne,
succeeded him, and tried to push the same program through the Parliament of Paris. The nobles insisted that only
an Estates -General could consider the matter--and fought off an attempt to
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replace the parliaments. Louis XVI agreed to call the Estates -General for May, with the classes
invited to elect reps and prepare lists of grievances.
B. From Estates General to National Assembly
1. Nobles, through Parliaments, ruled that the Estates -General should meet and vote by Estates --
giving them a 2/3 majority; the aristocracy would rule. Many nobles talked of a constitutional
government with freedoms and limited tax privileges.
2. Led by the Abbé Sieyès, the middle class had other ideas: What Is the Third Estate? Everything!
Using Rousseau’s ideas of the social contract, Sieyès insisted that the Third Estate was the Ge neural
Will of the nation. Class antagonisms built, making peaceful solutions impossible. When the Estates -
General met in May it was boycotted by the Third Estate which insisted on one man, one vote. After
six weeks of debate they were joined by the clergy, and the Third Estate declared itself the National
Assembly. Shut out of their meeting hall by troops, they met in a nearby indoor tennis court and
swore the Tennis Court Oath on June 20--declaring they would not disband until they had written a
new national constitution. They (echoing Rousseau) claimed to be sovereign.
3. Louis XVI had failed: “He lost control over the Estates General, exerted no leadership, offered no
program until it was too late, and provided no symbol behind which parties could rally. He failed to
make use of the profound loyalty to himself felt by the bourgeoisie and common people.” Defied by
the National Assembly, he yielded to conservative opinion (especially his brothers) and moved
18,000 troops to Versailles to dissolve the Estates -General by force.
C. The Lower Classes in Action
1. The harvest of 1788 had been poor, and 1789 was a year of depression--falling wages and
unemployment, while food prices rose. The government, paralyzed by the crisis, was unable to act
to relieve distress. Workers rioted in Paris, peasants refused to pay taxes, and vagrants and beggars
increased. Townspeople feared social violence and began to arm.
2. On July 14 a crowd became a mob, was fired on, assaulted and captured the Bastille, murdering six
soldiers, the governor of the Bastille, and the Mayor of Paris; army units near Paris did not act. The
king accepted a citizen committee as the government of Paris, sent away the troops he had called to
Versailles, and ordered all to join the National Assembly. A bourgeois national guard was created
to keep order in Paris, headed by Lafayette.
3. In the countryside, a general panic called the Great Fear began--becoming part of a general agrarian
insurrection in which peasants burned some manor houses and in general attacked any records of fees
and dues. A wave of emigres, mainly nobles, fled France.
D. The Initial Reforms of the National Assembly
1. Fearing loss of rents, the National Assembly on the “night of August 4” ended all remaining vestiges of
feudalism, all titles and tax exemptions. Dues were ended, with compensation (later eliminated). On
August 26 the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen: “Men are born, and remain, free
and equal in rights;” the “rights of man” included liberty, property, and resistance to oppression;
freedom of thought and religion were guaranteed; careers were to be open to all; law was to express
the General Will; powers of government were to be separated in branches.
2. Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man (1791) carried the message in English. Olympia de Gouges wrote
The Rights of Woman (1792), and her ideas were seconded by Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication
of the Rights of Woman (1792) --but few men argued for women’s rights.
3. The National Assemble lee remained divided, with “patriots” vs conservatives. Finally, a crowd of
market women and revolutionary militants, followed by the Paris national guard, besieged
Versailles and moved both Louis and his family and the National Assembly to Paris (October).
4. Influenced by radical elements, the National Assembly became more liberal--as conservatives formed a
second wave of emigres. The more liberal now began to form into clubs, of which the most important
was the Society of the Friends of the Constitution, known as Jacobins. The Jacobins used the club as
a caucus to discuss policies and plan change.
E. Constitutional Changes
The National Assembly/Constituent Assembly governed France from 1789 to 1791. It wrote a new
constitution destroying the Old Regime: France was to have 83 Departments of about the same size, with
uniform municipal organization. Officials were to be elected locally, with no one to act for the central
government. Sovereign power was vested in a unicameral assembly. The executive branch was kept weak;
the king could only suspend or postpone laws. In July, 1791 the king tried to flee but was caught; he had
left behind papers repudiating the Revolution. Thus no one favored a strong central executive; France was
to be ruled by a debating society with more than the usual number of hotheads. The new Legislative
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