Louis XVI’s Flight

  • Louis XVI outwardly supported Revolution but contacted rulers of Austria, Prussia, and Sweden, asking help in restoring his power
  • June 1791, Louis XVI and family attempted to escape to Austria to meet Austrian army and arrange an attack on revolutionaries
  • Bourbons caught just before reaching border and brought back to Tuileries in Paris
  • Escape attempt greatly weakened the king’s position among French -> had little real power remaining but had faith of France

o    Sceptics believed Louis XVI would revoke constitution and its system of limited monarchy

o    Radical revolutionaries had never wanted a constitutional monarchy and distrusted king

o    Moderate revolutionaries,  proponents of constitutional monarchy, were hard-pressed to defend a king abandoning his responsibilities

The Declaration of Pillnitz

  • In response to Louis XVI’s capture and return to Paris, Prussia and Austria issued Declaration of Pillnitz on August 27, 1791, warning against harming king and demanding monarchy be restored
  • Declaration implied Prussia and Austria would intervene militarily in France if Bourbons were harmed
  • Prussia and Austria concerned that French revolutionary sentiment would influence own citizens
  • Pillnitz forced French Revolutionaries to reconsider actions

-> awareness that other nations were watching Revolution

The Constitution of 1791

  • September 1791, National Assembly released anticipated Constitution of 1791, which created constitutional (‘limited’) monarchy -> allowed Louis XVI to maintain control but King and Cabinet would answer to new legislature, Legislative Assembly
  • Constitution eliminated nobility as legal order and struck down monopolies and guilds
  • Established a poll tax and barred servants from voting, ensuring control of France stayed in hands of Bourgeoisie

The Jacobins and Girondins

  • Divisions formed within Legislative Assembly around two main camps; the Jacobins and the Girondins
  • The Jacobins were a group of radical liberals—mainly deputies, leading thinkers, and progressive society members—who wanted to drive Revolution forward aggressively

o    Jacobins found Louis contemptible and wanted to forgo the constitutional monarchy and declare France a republic

  • Disagreeing with Jacobin opinions were more moderate members of Assembly, who wanted constitutional monarchy; most notable was Jacques-Pierre Brissot whose supporters were thus called ‘Brissotins’, and then more commonly ‘Girondins(because many of them came from Gironde region of France)
  • Many historians attribute rivalry of Jacobins and Girondins to class differences, labelling Jacobins poorer, less prestigious
  • Number of other factors were involved, as two groups came from vastly different geographic and ideological backgrounds

o    Jacobins were modern urban idealists who wanted change and independence from any semblance of ancien regime

o    Jacobin radicals were students of enlightened, progressive thought of the time

  • Girondins wanted independence and equality but were more conservative, more loyal and had less contempt for  monarchy
  • Fundamental differences would cause schism that future revolutionary governments in France could

not overcome

The ‘Sans-culottes’

  • In cities throughout France, sans-culottes began to wield significant and unpredictable influence; their mocking name “without culottes” indicated their disdain for upper classes
  • Sans-culottes consisted mainly of urban labourers, peasants, and other poor who hated nobility; summer of 1792, sans-culottes became increasingly violent and difficult to control

War against Austria and Prussia

  • Girondin leader, Brissot, wanted Louis XVI to remain in power, but felt threatened by Declaration of Pillnitz so rallied Legislative Assembly to declare war against Austria on April 20, 1792
  • Austria and Prussia anticipated this reaction and had troops massed along French border à French army was trounced and fled, leaving France vulnerable to counterattack
  • Louis XVI had Brissot removed from command -> mob of Girondins marched on Tuileries on June 20 and demanded  Brissot be reinstated

The Storming of Tuileries Palace

  • August 10, anti-monarchy Jacobins rallied loyal sans-culottes and stormed Tuileries, capturing Louis XVI and family as they tried to escape -> mob ‘arrested’ king for treason
  • September 2, 1972, hysterical sans-culottes, hearing rumours of counterrevolutionary talk, raided Paris’s prisons and murdered more than 1,000 prisoners

The Danger of the Sans-culottes

  • Indication throughout Revolution that no governing body truly had control -> Proof found in sans-culottes; group easily swayed into mob hysteria (extraordinarily difficult to manage)
  • Bourgeoisie groups “in charge” of Revolution hoped to harness power of masses for own plans, but it became apparent the sans-culottes were uncontrollable.
  • Girondins, had originally rallied sans-culottes to Revolution, found that rabble was more radical than expected; massacres on September 2 revealed true power of sans-culottes and showed chaos they created
  • Despite their contributions to revolutionary cause, they had little input into government dominated by bourgeoisie; having gained freedom from monarchical oppression, sans-culottes switched their cry from “Liberty!” to “Equality!”

Failures of the Legislative Assembly

  • Legislative Assembly’s complacency in 1792 led to violence that followed; Revolution had accomplished everything desired, and new government had much legislation as proof
  • But assembly had not organized an army capable of taking on combined forces of Austria and Prussia, nor calmed its own internal feuds

-> new government was still too unstable to go to war – yet it did so, and was soundly defeated

  • Girondins were radical enough to want to go to war, yet conservative enough to do so only under rule of a constitutional monarch (same monarch over whom war was being fought)

-> this peculiar and baffling decision left little question as to why Jacobins and other more radical elements wanted to take control

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