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Chapter 1-10

HY 106 Chapter 1-10: Honors Western Civ The French Revolution and Human Rights Book Notes

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HY 106

The French Revolution and Human Rights Notes A Brief Documentary History Introduction: The Revolutionary Origins of Human Rights • Political rights: equal participation in voting, office holding, and other aspects of political participation • Civil rights: equal treatment before the law regarding marriage, property and inheritance – i.e. nonpolitical matters • Human rights are a combination of the two. In 1948 the United Nations adopted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world”. ➢ All human beings have certain inherent rights simply by virtue of being human, and not by virtue of their status in society ➢ These rights are consequently imagined as “natural”, as stemming from human nature itself, and they have in the past often been called “natural rights” ➢ Rights belong therefore to individuals and not to any social group, whether a sex, a race, an ethnicity, a group of families, a social class, an occupational group, a nation, or the like. ➢ These rights must be made equally available by law to all individuals and cannot be denied as long as an individual lives under the law ➢ The legitimacy of any government rests on its ability to guarantee the rights of all its members • Traditionally, rulers used extreme power because they believed by royal birth, military success or religious leadership that they were closer to God than peasants/ordinary people. • Nobles were granted certain privileges depending on the traditions of the country. • Privileges are associated with social rank and are vertical hierarchy while human rights are a horizontal conception of society. • People who believe in human rights emphasize the sanctity of the individual who was essentially equal to all other individuals. This supported democracy. • Traditional governments stressed the sanctity of one individual, the king or queen, and noted the importance of social differences. This supported aristocracy and monarchy. • Religion could justify both points of view but… ➢ Human rights believers insisted on the separation between church and state ➢ Traditional believers argued for a close connection between religion and politics • In centuries since the 17 century many have questioned the human rights theory. ➢ Jeremy Bentham said in the early 19 century that “natural rights is simple nonsense; natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense, nonsense upon stilts”. ➢ Later some argued that rights belonged only to communities or nations but not individuals. ➢ Some nations have recently rejected the relevance of human rights to their lands, saying that human rights is only a Western notion and is therefore unsuited to other cultures. • The British North American colonies were the first instance of human rights being accepted, however the meaning of the rights still caused great debate. ➢ Eventually resulted in the Civil War in the 1860s • The origin of the theory was in relation to the rights of men and religious minorities but has since expanded to the rights of women, nonwhites, and many other minorities such as disabled and homosexuals. • France in the 1790s debated the rights so intensely. The framers of the UN declaration of 1948 closely followed the French Declaration of Rights of Man and citizen of 1789. Defining Rights Before 1789 • The idea of universal human rights emerged in large part as a reaction to contemporary political conflicts in Great Britain with its colonies and in France. • It comes from varied new concepts of individual autonomy – the belief that individuals make their own decisions about marriage, etc. – to debates about the foundations of government. • Human rights are for all humans, not just certain groups. • The theory also has roots to the Greeks and Western imperialism and colonialism. • Philosopher Hugo Grotius in 1625 said natural laws derived from the study of human nature not religion, and existed independently from political powers and authorities. • Some argued that by colonizing the people they were actually destroying their natural rights. • John Locke wore the social contract theory in 1690 and it provided a crucial link between natural laws and universal rights. ➢ All government rested on an implicit social contract rooted in human nature. ➢ It expressed natural laws and served to protect natural rights. ➢ He maintained that all men had a natural right to life, liberty, and property. ➢ His view suggested that government should be designed to protect these rights and if it did not then it should be overthrown just as the English Parliament did when they overthrew King Charles I in the 1640s. ➢ However the suggesting of the rights of man was long debated – women, nonwhites, etc.? th ➢ He then wrote at the end of the 17 century in support of the English slave trade and justified slavery as the legal fruit of wars of conquest. • Jean Jacques Rousseau insisted in 1762 that society and government could be based not on tradition, custom, habit, or history but on rational principles ➢ Unlike Locke he believed that the principles should apply to all men, whether kings or peasants, property owners or property less, French or British. His views were even more universalistic than Locke’s. • Enlightenment writes held that reason revealed self-evident truths and that among those truths were the natural rights of all peoples – some thought this meant slaves and property owners and some thought women as well as men. th • The French Encyclopedia (1755) summarized many of the 18 century Enlightenment views but unlike present day encyclopedias, the French one edited by Denis Diderot and Jean d’Aembert between 1751-1780 provoked immediate political and religious controversy. It challenged many beliefs and customs of its time and earned the writers constant harassment and condemnation by the Catholic Church. ➢ The “Natural Law” article cloaked serious challenges to the French monarchial system. ➢ It said it was a familiar idea because it was based on reason and common human feeling. ➢ It then said that by natural law the “general will” provides the only foundation of social and political duties. The general will then teaches people how to determine their natural rights. Thus this general will based on reason and nature had very little in common with the usual justifications of monarchy – the concept of general will might conceivably legitimize democracy instead. • Monarchy was the dominant form of government everywhere in the world at the time ➢ The French monarchy was based on “divine right”: monarchs ruled because God had chosen them for their positions and Kings were imagined as literally closer to God than all other humans. ➢ Kings subsequently had religious auras about them. ➢ An individual’s position was determined by his or her rank and one’s privileges followed from social position. The chain goes as follows: royalty  aristocrats (nobles)  commoners  merchants  servants  etc. • The Encyclopedia spoke the language of equal, individual human rights. The natural law article made no mention of social differences or of kings. It ended with a clear challenge to the monarchy: “the law should be made for everyone, not just one person [the king]”. Diderot was the writer but he never specified the content of the natural rights of humanity. He did say reason should be used to determine them but then stopped before providing a list. ➢ This made sense given the situation because the mere insistence on “natural” rights might be viewed as threatening to the established authority. Because the French monarchy considered itself above ordinary mortals and closely tied to the Catholic Church, it did not tolerate open criticism of its policies or variations in religious practice. Even vague accusations made in the Encyclopedia brought the wrath of French censors. • The idea of human rights continued to gain strength in the 18 century due to being propelled by campaigns for religious toleration and abolition of slavery. • In 1685 Louis XIV revoked all rights and privileges of French Calvinists (protestants who followed the teachings of the French-born reformer John Calvin), and required them to convert to Catholicism. ➢ He ordered to destroy their churches, forbade public worship, confiscated property of any Calvinist who fled, and condemned to the galleys any pastor who refused to renounce his religion. ➢ 200,000 Calvinists fled into exile and were joined by another 100,000 in the coming decades. Many stayed behind and practiced in secret. ➢ There was widespread support for this policy within the country but criticism grew inside and out of France and fueled the Enlightenment as a movement of reform. ➢ Throughout the 18 century public opinion grew favorable for Calvinists and the Calas Affair brought reform sentiment to a boil. o In 1761 the son of Calvinist Jean Calas apparently committed suicide at home. The family did not report it as suicide because that would have meant it was a crime and lead to a humiliating public trial. Local magistrates believed that Calas had killed his son to prevent him from converting from Calvinism to Catholicism they condemned the father to torture and death. o Throughout the tortures Calas refused to confess and after the execution Voltaire – an Enlightenment writer – took up the family case and won official rehabilitation of Calas’s reputation and earned the family compensation. o During this time Voltaire wrote Treatise on Toleration (1763) where he argued that freedom of conscience was guaranteed by natural law and that religious toleration would help endure social stability and prosperity. The French government immediately confiscated the book and arrested people that distributed copies. • Due to the mounting criticism that had been ongoing for decades the French monarchy gave way and granted, with much reluctance, certain civil rights to Calvinists. ➢ The Edict of Toleration of 1787 used a new language of rights by in their terms it was not universal or inherent but limited privileges bestowed by monarchial favor. It offered the rights of civil status (legally recognized births, marriages, and deaths), property and inheritance, and freedom to choose a profession but refused all political rights to Calvinists. • The French government did not persecute the Jewish population as horribly as the Calvinists but popular prejudices against them ran more deeply. In 1686 French monarchy declared that Portuguese and Spanish Jews could remain in the kingdom without converting. As France acquired more land in the east the Jewish population grew. The Jews in southern France (Portuguese and Spanish) were similar to the French but the new eastern Jews knew little French, wrote in Hebrew and spoke in Yiddish. ➢ By law the eastern Jews could not live in most big cities or practice most occupations – they were restricted to trading in animals and old clothes and loans with interest, which brought great animosity in the peasant-debtor population. ➢ The legal situation varied form region to region; they had no civil rights under French law but they could live in their own communities, practice their religion and decide their political and judicial affair for themselves – unlike the Calvinists. ➢ By the 1780s enlightened opinion thought reform of Jews was necessary. Most favored the reform so that Jews could assimilate with the French (Abbe Gregoire, an advocate of the human rights reform). The monarchy set up a commission to study the status of the Jews in 1788 but it never reached any decision. • In the 18 century both slave trading and colonial commerce in the Caribbean expanded dramatically, linked together by the establishment of sugar, indigo, coffee, and cotton plantations worked by slaves imported from Africa. ➢ At the end of the 17 century the French supplied the colonies with 1000-2000 slaves annually but by 1780 that had risen to 37000 slaves. ➢ Slowly this began to raise opposition. In Great Britain and North American colonies, antislavery agitation had religious roots in evangelical Protestantism especially among the Quakers. But in Catholic France antislavery was rooted from the Enlightenment’s very secular influence on universal human rights. ➢ Some of the greatest beneficiaries of the social system in French monarchy took a stand for the antislavery movement that emerged in the 1780s. o Marquis de Condorcet wrote against slavery and the burning of sodomites (homosexuals) saying that as long as an activity did not violate any human rights, it should not be criminalized. He joined the Society of the Friends of Blacks which was to agitate collectively against the slave trade. Their pamphlets argued that slavery should be abolished but did not advocate a plan to make this happen – due to the still strict reign of the monarchy. • During this time women were unsuited to political life. There was a lack of interest for women’s rights unlike the Jews or slavery. Most women even believed that they belonged in the private sphere of the home and did not play a role in public affairs. The woman question received a boost during the Revolution period. ➢ The monarchy faced a financial crisis in the 1780s (brought on by supporting the North American colonies war against Great Britain) and struggled to find an answer to the debt. After failing to get agreement from Parliament or the nobles assembly, Louis XVI called a meeting of the Estates General in 1789 (hadn’t metrd since 1614). He invited the three estates: the clergy, the nobility and the 3 estate (everyone who was not a noble or cleric) to elect deputies to draw up lists of grievances. ➢ The king had not invited women so a few took the matter in their own hands and sent him their own petitions outlining their concerns. The women were modest and did not demand full civil and political rights. ➢ By 1789 communication had evolved, mail was easier, and the monarchy could not control the vast amount of pamphlets issued on every political topic. ➢ Voting was of the highest concern. The king gave the 3 estate twice the number of deputies and left it to the Estates General to decide whether it would vote by order (estate – would give the clergy and nobility virtual veto) or head (individually – would give 3 estate the upper hand). The political future of the country depended on this matter. ➢ A pamphlet by Abbe Sieyes showed the wider implications for the nature of the French society. He attacked every form of legal privilege and said the nobility was a parasite. He gave a new vision of the nation in which individuals were not judged and ranked only by their contribution to productive life, not by their family background and inherited privileges. The 3 estate would be dominant. It electrified readers and helped the 3 estate hold strong against the two “privileged” orders. Sieyes was elected deputy of the 3 estate. The idea of nobility and aristocracy was called into question. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, 1789 • The American War of Independence helped make notions of human rights more influential in France because many of the French officers who served in North America came home fired up with the ideals of the liberty they had seen in action in the New World. • Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence of 1776 put the Enlightenment position on rights into a declarative, political form. The protection of these rights justified the colonial resistance against Great Britain but it had no legal relationship to the constitutions that were written later. When the Americans declared their rights they drew on the constitutional tradition they inherited from the English. • The idea of proclaiming a bill of rights passed over to the American colonies in the 1770s where several state legislatures drew up such bills when they wrote new state constitutions. The best was the Virginia Bill of Rights by George Mason in 1776. It influenced the French deputies when they met in1789. Like Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, it proclaimed the rights of all men not just Americans or Virginians. The new US Congress was discussing a federal bill of rights about the same time as the French National Assembly considered drafting a declaration of their own – the idea of making a solemn declaration of rights was definitely in the air. • On June 17, 1789 the deputies of the 3 estate proclaimed themselves the true representatives of the nation and invited the deputies of the two other estates to rd join them as deputies of a National Assembly. The 3 estate had changed the political situation of the country and as a National Assembly they began writing a constitution based on their new principles. Marquis de Lafayette offered the first proposal on July 11, 1789 of a declaration of rights. • July 13: Parisians learned Lourd XIV has secretly fired his finance minister, Jacques Necker, a supporter of the 3 estate. This led to bands of Parisians arming themselves. • July 14: an armed crowd attacked the most imposing symbol of royal power in Paris, the Bastille prison. The crowd cut off the head of the prison governor and paraded it through the streets. They feared that the movement of thousands of army troops into their city presaged an attack on the new National Assembly which met in nearby Versailles. The old leaders, from the king and down, began to lose their authority. The need for a declaration of rights was more pressing and urgent than ever. • Debate in August on the declaration revealed great diversity on opinions about the desirability of making any kind of proclamation of specific rights. At this early stage of discussion the connection between natural rights and democracy as a form of government had already emerged – some argued that democracy would work for America but not for France. The National Assembly ultimately created a document of rights with seventeen articles. • The Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen spoke the language of “the natural, inalienable and sacred rights of man”. ➢ It stood as a preamble to the constitution and provided the principles of political legitimacy. It provided the basis for government itself and was consequently drafted before the constitution. ➢ It laid out a vision of government based on principles completely different than those of the monarchy. ➢ The legitimacy of government must flow from the guarantee of individual rights by the law unlike the monarchy, which depended on the king’s will and his maintenance of a historic order that granted privileges according to rank and status. Debates Over Citizenship and Rights During the Revolution • After the declaration had been adopted the question of who was included in the definition of “man and citizen” was brought up. Where should the lines be drawn? Women? Nonwhites? Slaves? The question of citizenship helped drive the Revolution into increasingly radical directions after 1789 ad one excluded group after another began to assert its claims. • French legislators approached the question of citizenship step by step for 5 years after 1789. • Between 1789-1791 the National Assembly drafted legislation to establish a constitutional monarchy. To qualify for voting, men had to be property owners, but all other noble titles were eliminated. • An elected Legislative Assembly subsequently took office in 1791 but was not stable because 1) the king tried to flee to the border in disguise and 2) large numbers of former nobles left the country to form armies to combat revolutionaries. • War brought political conflicts to a head. April 1792 France went to war with Austria and lost a series of critical battles. ➢ They were then threatened by foreign invasion and a popular uprising in Paris on August 10, 1792 forced the Legislative Assembly to depose the king from his position. ➢ The second revolution opened a much more radical period in French politics. The voters elected new deputies, who abolished the monarchy and established a republic. Meeting as a National Convention the deputies tried the king for treason and ordered his execution. ➢ The republic faced an increasingly broad and desperate war with all the major European powers, most of them monarchies deeply suspicious of republican or democratic forms of government. • Between 1792-1795 the National Convention ruled by a combination of laws and emergency decrees. It suppressed property qualifications for voting and eventually abolished slavery in French colonies but still forbade women to set up their own political clubs, and established new forms of censorship and repressed most forms of political dissent. • Under a regime known as Terror until 1794, revolutionary tribunals sentenced thousands of opponents of the government to death at the newly invented guillotine. Rights and revolution had a paradoxical relationship: some rights were opened (abolishing slavery) but suppressed others (freedom of speech). • After 1795 constitution came into force and the political situation became steadier. The guillotine was used less frequently to terrorize opponents and it tried to rule by law rather than emergency decree. • The discussion of rights had reached its end and political divisions erupted. ➢ Royalists wanted to reestablish the monarchy and bring back the nobility ➢ Left-wing republicans wanted to revive the political fervor of 1792-1794 ➢ Right-wing republicans wanted a more authoritarian form of government with strong central leadership. • In 1799 General Napoleon Bonaparte seized opportunity in the midst of uncertainty took charge of an entirely new government that turned in an increasingly authoritarian, militaristic direction. ➢ 1802: reestablished slavery in French colonies ➢ 1804: new Civil Code relegated women to a legally inferior status ➢ Throughout he strictly controlled the press and other publications. ➢ The glory of the nation now took precedence over the rights of the individual, however he did guarantee freedom of religion, access to official positions based on merit, and equality before the law. • Human rights philosophy helped undermine the traditional monarchy and provided legitimacy of the revolutionary regimes. • The Declaration of the Rights for Man and Citizen announced universal principles applicable to every individual in the nation, if not world. The force of its universal logic seemed to support and provoke demands for inclusion in the political process. It therefore pushed the Revolution into radical directions but did not by itself create a permanent foundation for rule. ➢ Some argue that it was sound but too far ahead of its time, that it gained advocates too slowly. ➢ Others say it and human rights are inherently flawed because they are too universalistic and too abstract. The Poor and the Propertied • The decision to impose property qualifications for voting and holding office commanded nearly unanimous assent at first but came under attack not long after. • In 1789 they voted to establish a constitutional distinction between active and passive citizens – those who could vote and hold office (political rights) and those who enjoyed equal protection under the law in matters of marriage, property, or religion (civil rights). • Abbe Sieyes was the one who argued for the elimination of the privileges of the nobility and the clergy then proposed the active-passive distinction in July 1789. They believed that officeholders first had to prove their own worth by doing well enough to own property. • The second revolution of August 10, 1792 forced the Legislative Assembly to abolish the active-passive distinction and grant the vote to all men except servants and unemployed. The Constitution of 1793 was passed but then shelved (never put into action) gave servants the full right of citizenship but the Constitution of 1795 excluded them once again. • Debates over the status of servants, the propertyless, and the poor continued in France and elsewhere in the Western world throughout the nineteenth century and were not definitely resolved until the twentieth century. Religious Minorities and Questionable Professions • In December 1789 the deputies began to debate the unresolved status of non- Catholics. There was debate over whether the declaration automatically included all Protestants or not. • Economic and political rivalries between the competing religious groups exploded in violent street fighting in June 1790 where nearly 400 people died, the majority were Catholics. • With the issue of Protestants rising came debate over the status of Jews, actors, and executioners. • The status of the Jews proved to be much more divisive than the Calvinists because their civil rights had already been guaranteed by the monarchy in the Edict of Toleration of 1787. ➢ Unlike the Protestants, the Jews did not seem to be automatically French because they did not speak French and their social customs were very different from those of the French communities surrounding them. ➢ Those who favored full citizenship for the Jews did so on the ground that the Jews would not longer enjoy any separate status. The Jews could no longer be a nation within a nation and they had to assimilate to the French nation. ➢ The majority of the deputies refused immediate action and tabled the question and leave it for future consideration. ➢ By tabling the decision rights were actually taken away from the Portuguese and Spanish Jews in the south of France. They sent a delegation to Paris to plead their case and on January 28, 1790 the National Assembly declared that Portuguese and Spanish Jews would enjoy their previous rights and would have to meet the other requirements to qualify as active citizens. ➢ The Jews of Paris and Eastern Europe prepared a case of their own that they become full citizens of France but the deputies turned down their request. ➢ Due to the opposition to Jewish emancipation led to peasant riots against the Jews in eastern villages in the summer of 1789 – peasants singled out who owed them money. These disturbances continued sporadically in 1790 and 1791. ➢ On September 27, 1791 the National Assembly finally acted in favor of the Jews – they had to renounce their privileges as a separate group in order to enjoy the rights of an individual French citizen. • The question of national identity would emerge later in more purely linguistic form. People all over the nation spoke different languages. At the beginning of the Revolutions the deputies paid little attention to the linguistic differences but some worried for the potential divisiveness. The government made some attempts to stifle the use of languages other than French in 1794 but made little headway and they soon dropped the plans. • Actors and executioners fared better than the Jews in the debates of December 1789. They had been denied voting rights before 1789 because they practiced disreputable professions but now the deputies agreed that a man’s profession could not disqualify him from rights that applied inherently to all men. Even though these groups were given rights the deputies continued to believe that some groups should be excluded. • As the Revolution turned increasingly radical after 1792 religious minorities and sometimes majorities found themselves confronted by a new form of intolerance. • In addition to drawing up a new calendar in 1792, the most radical republicans mounted a de-Christianization campaign to attack the prerogatives of the churches. ➢ The Catholic Church was their main target but they also closed synagogues and Protestant churches, burned religious books, exiled rabbis, pastors, and priests and confiscated religious objects. Free Blacks and Slaves • Most deputies feared the effects of the loss of commerce that would result from either the abolition of slavery or the elimination of the slave trade. • Lost of wealth depended on slavery – shipbuilding, sugar refining, coffee consumption, and a host of subsidiary industries rested on the slave trade. Slave owners and shippers did not intend to give up their prospects without a fight. • The US’s refusal to give up slavery or the slave trade added fuel for their position. • The Society of the Friends of Blacks continued to fight for limitation or abolition of the slave trade but came under intense attack for their views. The result was apologetic tones when proposing for abolition of slavery. ➢ They continued their fight in the National Assembly but were confronted with growing hostility to their position so they retreated from abolition of slavery and instead fought for the abolition of the slave trade. • The Caribbean colony of Saint Domingue wanted representation in the new National Assembly and sent delegates to France – the mulattos sent delegates as well. Both failed to gain representation. • The agitation in favor of granting rights to free blacks and abolishing the slave trade created uncertainty in the colonies and raised expectations from the blacks. White planters mounted their own counterattack and even began to contemplate demanding independence from France. ➢ To quiet the unrest among the powerful white planters, the colonial committee of the National Assembly proposed in March 1790 to exempt the colonies from the constitution and to prosecute anyone who attempted to prompt uprisings against the sl
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