French Revolution 1791-1792

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17th July 1791 Champs de Mars Massacre

50 000 people went to the Champs de Mars (a big field in Paris where troops practice their marching), 3 days before the Feast of Federation was held there to celebrate the Fall of the Bastille, to sign a republican petition on the 'altar of the fatherland', which is a memorial to commemorate the revolution. It was a political demonstration by poorer Parisians, started by the more radical clubs who circulated petitions calling on the National Assembly to depose the King rather than grant him executive power as a constitutional monarch under the new constitution. Petition circulation actually violated a law passed on May the 10th, which had proscribed the criculation of petitions by clubs.

The Paris Commune pressured the Assembly into declaring martial law, which meant that restrictions on movement and suspension of civil liberties were imposed. Lafayette was sent with the National Guard to the Champs de Mars and the guards fired on a peaceful and unarmed crowd. There were about 50 casualties.

This was the first bloody clash amongst the Third Estate, which the Constituent Assembly liked. The provinces sent messages of support to the Assembly and martial law was in place for a month.

Some popular leaders of the Third Estate were arrested, while Hébert, Marat and Danton went into hiding as they feared a backlash against them.

It seemed that the 'Moderates' had won and it took nearly 1 year for the popular movement to recover.

The Feuillants wanted Louis to compromise without mob violence as long term success for them depended on cooperation from the King. However, they did not trust him and also lost populat support after they controlled Paris and the Assembly. Meanwhile, extremists wanted to overthrow the monarchy.

After the disastrous Flight to Varennes, the Assembly deputies decided that they would try to conceal Louis' escape by saying that he was kidnapped. They did not want people to find out that he had tried to run away as this would increase support for a republic and they did not want to waste the 2 years of hard work they had done to write the Constitution.

The Legislative Assembly had been elected almost wholly by the bourgeoisie and no previous members of the Constituent Assembly were allowed to stand for election (this was Robespierre's self-denying ordinance). This led to the new deputies being more idealistic, more radical and less experienced.

The Political Clubs

The Jacobins, the most famous political group, were founded in 1789 and were made up of wealthy, middle class men who had to pay high membership fees. Many were Assembly Deputies and so they often discussed the agenda 24 hours ahead of the Assembly so that they could influence their decisions. They started out associating themselves with the Enlightenment and were highly political. They moved further left as the Revolution progressed and favoured more centralisation (Paris becoming more powerful as a capital; the original consitution tried to decentralise the governments by creating the…

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