Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity
Background to the Revolution
• 1789 was important in both French and American history.
The same year that George Washington became the first
President under the new Constitution, France’s Revolution
Causes of the French Revolution:
The Three Estates
• The First Estate
• Roman Catholic Clergy – between ½ and
1 % of the population, owning 10 % of the
land. The clergy were exempt from the
taille (land tax).
 Upper Clergy – archbishops, bishops, abbots
 Lower Clergy – local priests
 The tithe, 10 % of people’s earnings, went to the
Causes of the French Revolution:
The Three Estates (continued)
• The Second Estate
 Nobility or Aristocrats – Around
2 % of the population which
owned 25 % of the land.
 Held all the high posts in the
government and the military.
 Paid little or no taxes.
 Collected feudal dues from the
Causes of the French Revolution:
The Three Estates (continued)
• The Third Estate
 97% of the population which owned 40 % of the land.
 Three Groups
Peasants – lived on farms
Artisans, shopkeepers, and wage earners.
Bourgeoisie – middle class factory owners, traders,
and businessmen.
 No political rights. Important positions in the
government and church went to aristocrats.
 Had to pay tithes to the Church, feudal dues, fees, and
fines to the nobles, and the taille (land tax) to the king,
even though many did not have enough to eat.
Causes of the French Revolution:
Absolute Monarchy
 King Louis XVI and
Queen Marie
 The Nobility wanted
to increase their
power and limit the
king like Britain had
Causes of the French Revolution: Debt
 War debts, including the American Revolution
 Lavish spending on court luxuries while 1/3 of the
population was in severe poverty.
 In 1786, banks began to refuse to loan the
government money because they were not being
The Estates-General
• To raise money, Louis XVI
called a meeting of the
Estates-General. This council
had not been called since
1614, 175 years earlier.
• The Assembly was divided by
estates with each of the three
estates getting one vote.
The Estates-General (continued)
• The third estate wanted each member
to have a vote, but that the king
blocked idea.
• The third estate began calling itself the
National Assembly. When it was locked out
by the other two estates, it went across the
street to an indoor tennis court.
• The Tennis Court Oath was an agreement to
meet until a new constitution was written.
The Estates-General (continued)
• The people of Paris stormed the Bastille, a
royal armory and prison.
• The king raised an army to put down the
The Estates-General (continued)
• Local rebellions broke out throughout France
with peasants against the nobility. Many
nobles fled to other countries and began
asking other kings to invade France to restore
• Émigrés to Austria and Prussia.
• Throughout the country militias formed to train
in case foreigners attacked France.
The National Assembly
• The Declaration of the Rights
of Man and the Citizen
 Freedom and equal rights for all
 Access to public office based on
talent not ancestry
 End clergy and nobility exemptions
to taxes
 All citizens to have a right in taking
part in the making of the law
 Freedom of speech and press
The National Assembly
• Louis XVI refused to accept the laws of the National Assembly.
Thousands of Parisian women armed with pitchforks, swords,
and muskets went to the palace at Versailles and met with
the king to tell him about their starving children.
• These women brought the king to Paris. He gave the
women wagons of food from the royal storehouses, but
was put in house arrest in Paris.
The National Assembly
• The National Assembly seized
Church lands. Church officials
were to be elected and paid by
the state.
• The National Assembly wrote the
Constitution of 1791 creating a
constitutional monarchy and a
legislative Assembly.
.The Legislative Assembly
• Most of the people opposed the Legislative Assembly
from the beginning.
• Only men over 25 who paid a certain amount of tax
could vote.
• Other kings, mainly in Austria and Prussia,
threatened to help King Louis XVI.
• France declared war on Austria; in the beginning,
they lost several battles.
• Radicals calling themselves the sans-culottes
(“without fine clothes”) attacked the Legislative
Assembly and captured the king.
The National Convention
• The sans-culottes set
up the National
Convention in 1792 to
write another
constitution. They
wanted to end the
monarchy and
establish a republic.
• King Louis XVI was
beheaded using the
guillotine because it is
The National Convention (continued)
• The National Convention had a de-
christianization policy.
• The word “Saint” was removed from
street names and churches closed.
• Notre Dame was rededicated as a
“temple of reason.”
• Spain, Portugal, and Britain form a
coalition to invade France.
The Reign of Terror
• The Committee of Public Safety is
formed, headed by Maximilien
Robespierre said anyone not
submitting to the government
would be executed.
Close to 40,000 people were sent
to the guillotine during this time.
France’s armies began to change.
With huge numbers drafted into
the army, the French defeated the
coalition against them.
Once the foreign threat was gone,
Robespierre was guillotined.
The Directory
• The new constitution of 1795 set up the Directory,
a five man executive committee with a legislature
called the Council of 500 and The Council of
Elders (250 members).
• The Directory was very corrupt.
• In 1799, the Directory was overthrown in a coup
d’etat (sudden overthrow of the government) by
General Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Rise of Napoleon
• Napoleon was born in 1769 on the
island of Corsica in the
• He went to a military school in
France, and in 1785 became a
lieutenant in the French army.
• By age 25, Napoleon had risen to
the rank of general.
• In 1797, he won a series of victories
in Italy.
• He fought the British in Egypt, losing
the war, but taking the Rosetta Stone
to France.
The Rise of Napoleon
• In 1799, the led the coup d’etat and became
the first consul of the three man consulate
that ruled France.
• In 1802, Napoleon made himself consul for
• In 1804, Napoleon was
crowned Emperor Napoleon I.
The Rule of Napoleon
• Napoleon made peace with the
• In 1801, he recognized
Catholicism as the religion of
most of the French people,
though he did not give the land
of the Church back.
The Napoleonic Code.
• Before Napoleon, France had over 300
separate legal systems. He unified
these into one code.
 Equality before the law
 Right to choose a profession – economic
 Religious toleration
 End of serfdom and feudalism –nobility and
clergy lost their special privileges.
The Fall of Napoleon
Napoleon could not defeat Britain
because of its navy.
 Napoleon sells the Louisiana Purchase (1803)
to the US to have the money to build up his
army and navy.
 The British defeated the French-Spanish fleet at
the Battle of Trafalgar (1805).
The Fall of Napoleon
 Napoleon starts the Continental System to
try to hurt Britain’s economy. No country in
Napoleon’s empire could trade with the
 However, British trade with the US, Latin
America, and the Middle East actually
improved the British economy instead of
The Fall of Napoleon
 In 1812, Russia resumed trade with
Great Britain angering Napoleon.
Napoleon invaded Russia with 600,000
 The Russians adopted a scorched Earth
policy. They would fight to slow the
French down then destroy anything the
French might use as they retreated. The
Russians even burned Moscow before
the French entered the city.
The Fall of Napoleon
Napoleon began to retreat from
Moscow in October, but got
caught in an early winter storm.
By the time Napoleon got back to
France, his army was reduced to
The Fall of Napoleon
 Other European nations rose up
and attacked France.
 Paris was captured in 1814, and
Napoleon was exiled to the
island of Elba in the
Mediterranean. Louis XVIII,
brother of Louis XVI became the
king of France.
The Fall of Napoleon
 Napoleon escapes Elba.
The army forsakes the
king and sides with
 Napoleon was defeated
by British and Prussian
forces under command
of the Duke of Wellington
at Waterloo, Belgium in
The Fall of Napoleon
 Napoleon was exiled
to the island of St.
Helena in the south
Atlantic where he
remained until he died
in 1821.