French Revolution - Constitutional Monarchy

The breakdown of the general consensus and the fall of the constitutional monarchy.


Why did constitutional monarchy fail?

1790-1791 'constitutional experimentation'

Factors attributiing to failures:

Civil Constitution of the Clergy.


Varrenes - Actions and personality of Louis XVI.

Radical assembly - Try to push Revolution further.

Radicals: Marat, Desmoulins, Robespierre, Danton.

Moderates, however, try to make constitutional monarchy work.

Moderates: Barnave, Mirabeau, Lafayette.

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Factors continued...

Assembly originally largely moderate.

However, eventually became more radical.

According to Doyle - Three main factors:

Religion - Civil Constitution of the Clergy.

Monarchy - Flight to Varennes.

War - Internal and external.

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Actions of the Monarchy.

Flight to Varennes

King originally accepted new constitution.

But flight to Varennes on 20th June 1791 shows true attitudes:

'The king does not think it would be possible to govern so large and important a kingdom as France by the means established by the National Assembly as they exist at present'

Fled to Montmedy with hopes to renegotiate the constituation with strength.

However, was recognised by the local postmaster and arrested.

This shows that he has under-estimated the Constitution.

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Actions of the Monarchy continued...

Moderates attempted to slavage Constitution.

- Invented story that king has been abducted.

King was returned to Paris.

Cobban - Louis was 'King at the same time of the Revolution and Counter-Revolution'.

King seen as 'Janus-faced'.

'Too monarchial to be a republic, too republican to be a monarchy'

Two sided: Was it Louis who made the Constitutional Monarchy unworkable?

Or was it flawed from the start?

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Radical Clubs

Radical Clubs

Started to appear after 1789 - both on left and right.

Right - Club des Valois, Club Monarchique.

Cobban estimated no. of clubs by 1793 at between 5-8,000.

Total Membership c.500,000:  75-100 people per club.

However, Paris is not France.

Clubs organise revolutionary activites and produce disseminating literature.

Main Clubs : Jacobins, Cordeliers.

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Radical Clubs continued...

Jacobins - Largest club, middle class, originally largely moderate.

After Varennes: Jacobins split - extreme Republicans and moderate Feuillantes.

Main leader from 1790 - Robespierre 'The Incorruptable'.

After Varennes called Louis a 'perfidious, traitorous fugitive'.

Cordeliers - Supported by sans-culottes, allowed passive citizens as members.

Radical - Leaders include Marat, Desmoulins, Danton.

Behind Champs-de-Mars massacre in July 1791.

Allowed moderates to turn on radicals - Danton fled to England, Desmoulins arrested and Marat's presses were seized. - Temporary victory for moderates.

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Civil Constitution of the Clergy

Early policies on religion were - Toleration and freedom of worship.

Also - Closure of some religious orders, abolition of tithe and sale of Church lands.

The C.C of the C. was neccessary due to the sale of Church property -

The Church had to fit in with the new France.

Bishop and Parish priests were to be elected.

On the whole - quite popular.

However - the trouble came when the Assembly tried to force an oath of allegiance.

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C.C of the C. cont...

Pope Pius IV - taking too long in deciding whether to advise preists to accept.

Assembly therefore opted to force clergy to swear allegiance.

April 1791 - Pope officially condemned the Civil Constitution.

This split the clergy - only 2/44 bishops and 33% clergy took the oath in the assembly.

In France - 7 bishops and 55% of clergy took oath.

Many clergy who originally took oath retracted after Pope's condemnation.

Those who took oath = jurors or constitutionals

Those who refused oath = non-jurors or refractories.

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Pillnitz August 1791 - Prussia and Austrai welcome new constitution.

Reluctant to act without GB.

Leopold dies in 1792 - Francis II is more agressive - Alliance with Prussia.

Girondins believe that war would unify France.

Economy failing - war would stabilise economy.

Monarchy supported war - Austria would reinstate monarchy.

- France would see Louis as patriotic.

Therefore, war was declared on 20th April 1792.

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War cont...

However, early defeats led to French retreat.

Panic when Prussia joined in May 1792 - leads to more radical desires.

Assignat value falls - riots and radicalisation.

Louis vetoes 2 more laws - deporting refractories and establishing national guard posts outside of Paris.

Cordeliers force Louis to wear the bonnet rouge and drink to the health of the nation.

Brunswick Manifesto 1st August 1792 - Paris would suffer if royal family harmed.

Threat backfired - created animosity towards royals.

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Moonview Highway


Really helpful, thank you :)

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