French Revolution


National Assembly (Constituent Assembly)

1789 - 1791

A. The first French revolutionary legislature, made up primarily of representatives of the Third Estate and a few from the nobility and clergy, in session from 1789 to 1791.
B. They pretty much started the French Revolution. They drew up a constitution and took the Tennis Court Oath. They made many decisions throughout the revolution.

Meeting of Estates-General

May 5, 1789

A. Took place at Versailles. It was divided over the question of whether voting should be by order or by head. Called due to France being on the verge of a complete financial collapse. It hadn't met since 1614.
B. By calling the Estates-General, the government was virtually admitting that the consent of the nation was required to raise taxes. Their meeting later caused the formation of the National Assembly and other groups that participated and had an effect on the French Revolution.

Formation of National Assembly

June 17, 1789

A. The Third Estate's response to the First Estate declaring in favor of voting by order. They drew up a constitution. They took the Tennis Court Oath. The Third Estate actually had no legal right to act as the National Assembly.
B. This formation arguably started the French Revolution. They were writing a French constitution and participated in many revolutionary events.

Tennis Court Oath

June 20, 1789

A. An oath taken by the members of the National Assembly. It was taken at a tennis court because they had been locked out of their regular meeting place. This is where they committed to meeting until they established a new constitution of France.
B. This brought about change because it inspired many to commit to forming the new constitution and new government. It was one of the first actions taken by the National Assembly as part of the revolution.

Fall of the Bastille

July 14, 1789

A. On this day, a popular force organized by the Permanent Committee stormed the Bastille, a royal armory, and brought it down. They then dismantled the fortress. The marquis de Launay was the commander.
B. To the Parisians, this was viewed as a great victory and quickly became a popular symbol of triumph of despotism. It brought change because it inspired many other commoners. It had saved the National Assembly. Also, as one of the first events of the revolution, one could argue that it started the chain reaction.

Great Fear

July 20, 1789 - August 6, 1789

A. A vast panic that spread quickly through France. Fear of invasion by foreign troops, aided by a supposed aristocratic plot, encouraged the formation of more citizens' militias and permanent committees. agrarian revolts.
B. It had a great impact on the National Assembly meeting in Versailles. More citizens' militias were formed due to the Great Fear, and they were able to rally together to participate in the revolution.

Abolition of Feudalism

August 4, 1789

A. An act of the National Assembly. They voted to abolish seigneurial rights as well as the fiscal privileges of nobles, clergy, towns, and provinces. They wanted to destroy the relics of feudalism or aristocratic privileges in order to calm the peasants and restore order in the countryside.
B. This moved along the revolution and made the National Assembly some friends and some enemies. It destroyed the relics of feudalism or aristocratic privileges and changed the French government.

Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen

August 26, 1789

A. Charter of basic liberties. Adopted by the National Assembly. Reflected the ideas of the major philosophes of the French Enlightenment. Took many ideas from the American Declaration of Indepence.
B. This document provided the ideological foundation for the Assembly's actions and an educational device for the nation. It affirmed natural rights of man, the destruction of aristocratic privileges, freedom and equal rights for all men, and access to public office based on talent. The monarchy was restricted, and all citizens were to have the right to take part in the legislative process. It outlawed arbitrary arrests and secured freedom of speech and press.

Women's March to Versailles; King's Return to Paris

October 5, 1789 - October 6, 1789

A. A group of thousands of women had gathered at the Parisian city hall to demand bread. They then decided to march to Versailles, twelve miles away, to confront the king and the National Assembly. They had forced the National Guard under Lafayette to follow them to Versailles. They then got the royal family to march back to Paris.
B. Louis XVI promised to send grain supplies to Paris, but that didn't end the conflict. He and his family were forced to come back to Paris, never to return to Versailles. The king finally accepted the National Assembly's decrees.

Civil Constitution of the Clergy

July 12, 1790

A. An action to secularize the Catholic church that stated that both bishops and priests of the Catholic Church were to be elected by the people and paid by the state. All clergy were also required to swear an oath of allegiance to the Civil Constitution, but only 54% of the French parish clergy took it, and the majority of bishops refused as well.
B. This was a critical development because the Catholic Church, still an important institution in the life of the French people, now became an enemy of the Revolution. Often viewed as a serious tactical blunder on the part of the National Assembly because it aroused opposition of the church; a popular base from which the counterrevolution could operate.

Legislative Assembly

1791 - 1792

A. An assembly that reviewed many of the king's powers. It was to sit for two years and consist of 745 representatives chosen by an indirect system of election that preserved power in the hands of the more affluent members of society.
B. This helped establish the limited constitutional monarchy. It was a big step in the French Revolution. It also brought in a new system of voting.

Constitution of 1791


A. A constitution completed by the National Assembly. It kept the monarchy, but only a few powers were not subject to review by the new Legislative Assembly.
B. It brought about change because it established a limited constitutional monarchy. Subjected many of the king's powers to review by the new Legislative Assembly.

Flight of the King

June 20, 1791 - June 21, 1791

A. On this night, the royal family disguised themselves as servants and snuck out of the building in which they were being kept. They almost were able to leave France, but were recognized a few miles from the border.
B. This increased distrust in the king by the civilians. It seemed like he was trying to abandon or betray them. It made people angry and more enthusiastic to continue moving the revolution forward.

Declaration of Pillnitz

August 27, 1791

A. Issued by Emperor Leopold II of Austria and King Frederick William II of Prussia due to their concern about the French example and revolution spreading to their countries. It invited other European monarchs to take "the most effectual means... to put the king of France in a state to strengthen, in the most perfect liberty, the bases of a monarchical government equally becoming to the rights of sovereigns and to the well-being of the French Nation." However, many European monarchs didn't undertake such a plan.
B. This idea led France to declare war on Austria. It showed how the monarchs were distrustful of France and each other.

France declares war on Austria

April 20, 1792

A. After the Declaration of Pillnitz, France declared war on Austria due to its enthusiasm for war. DEclared by the Legislative Assembly. Many people in France wanted war. Reactionaries hoped that a preoccupation with war would cool off the Revolution; French defeat, which seemed likely in view of the army's disintegration, might even lead to the restoration of the old regime. Leftists hoped that war would consolidate the Revolution at home and spread it to all of Europe.
B. The French fared badly in the initial fighting and had caused Paris to fear invasion by the Austrians and Prussians. From this war came the French national anthem, the "Marseillaise."

Attack on the Royal Palace

August 10, 1792

A. Organized by Radical Parisian political groups. They took the king captive and forced the Legislative Assembly to suspend the monarchy and call for a national convention to decide on the future form of government.
B. From this, the French Revolution entered a more radical stage as power passed from the assembly to the new Paris Commune. It showed the people's discontent with the king and the government and sparked more revolutionary action.

National Convention

September 1792 - 1795

A. It was called to draft a new constitution and also acted as the sovereign ruling body of France. Dominated by lawyers, professionals, and property owners, and a handful of artisans. Split into Girondins and the Mountain. Almost all were members of the Jacobin club.
B. Its first major step was to abolish the monarchy and establish a republic. This was one of the biggest steps in the Revolution and got rid of Louis XVI's power.

Abolition of the Monarchy

September 21, 1792

A. Decided on by the National Convention. In place of a monarchy, they established a republic. It was one of the only things the Girondins and the Mountain could agree on.
B. This completely changed the governmental system in France. It removed Louis XVI from having any power and was one of the biggest steps in the French Revolution.


October 1792 - 1795

A. A policy, adopted in the radical phase of the French Revolution, aimed at creating a secular society by eliminating Christian forms and institutions from French society.
B. The word "saint" was removed from street names, churches were pillaged and closed by revolutionary armies, and priests were encouraged to marry. The cathedral of Notre-Dame was designated the Temple of Reason. It ended up creating more enemies than friends.

Committee of Public Safetly

1793 - 1794

A. An executive committee which was dominated initially by Georges Danton. Given powers by the National Convention to administer the government. Made of twelve members.
B. It gave the country the leadership it needed to weather the domestic and foreign crises of 1793. It helped move along the Revolution and gave Maximilien Robespierre a forum to express his political views and purify France of any "enemies."

Execution of the King

January 21, 1793

A. Decreed by the National Convention. It was accomplished by the new guillotine. Mostly wanted by the Mountain when the National Convention found the king guilty of treason.
B. This completed the destruction of the old regime. There was no turning back after his execution. However, it created new enemies for the Revolution both at home and abroad while strengthening those who were already its enemies.

Universal Mobilization of the Nation

August 23, 1793

A. Decreed by the Committee for Public Safety in order to meet the foreign crisis and save the Republic from its foreign enemies. It called an army and for those not eligible to be in the army to help in any way they could.
B. It had raised an army of 1,169,000 by September 1794. This was the largest ever seen in European history. It pushed the allies back across the Rhine and even conquered the Austrian Netherlands.

Reign of Terror

September 5, 1793 - July 28, 1794

A. A period of time in which revolutionary courts were organized to protect the Republic from its internal enemies. Established by the National Convention and the Committee of Public Safety to meet the domestic crisis.
B. There were many victims of the Terror, such as royalists, Queen Marie Antoinette, to former revolutionary Girondins, including Olympe de Gouges, and peasants. 16,000 died.

New Calendar

October 5, 1793

A. As a part of de-Christianization, a new republican calendar was adopted. Years would no longer be numbered from the birth of Jesus but from September 22, 1792, the day the French Republic was proclaimed. The calendar contained twelve months; each month consisted of three ten-day weeks with the tenth day of each week a rest day.
B. This eliminated Sundays and Sunday worship services and put an end to the ordering of French lives by a Christian calendar. It furthered de-Christianization.

Execution of Robespierre

July 28, 1794

A. The National Convention feared Robespierre, which led to his execution. He had allowing the Terror to continue because he was obsessed with purifying the body politic of all the corrupt.They had feared that they were not safe while Robespierre was free to act. An anti-Robespierre coalition in the National Convention, eager to destroy Robespierre before he destroyed them, gathered enough votes to condemn him.
B. The reaction of his execution brought an end to the radical stage of the French Revolution that was taking place. It contributed to the decline of the Committee of Public Safety.


1795 - 1799

A. The period of the Directory was an era of materialistic reaction to the suffering and sacrifices that had been demanded in the Reign of Terror and the Republic of Virtue. Tho government of the Directory had to contend with political enemies from both ends of the political spectrum. It had to rely on the military for survival.
B. This caused people to make money in property off of the government's monetary problems. Elaborate fashions had come back in style. Gambling became popular again. It pretty much ended the French Revolution.

Constitution of 1795 is Adopted

August 22, 1795

A. This constitution reflected conservative republicanism or a desire for a stability that did not sacrifice the ideals of 1789. It established a national legislative assembly consisting of two chambers: a lower house, known as the Council of 500, whose function was to initiate legislation, and an upper house of 250 members, the Council of Elders, composed of married or widowed members over age forty, which accepted or rejected the proposed laws.
B. Because the members were elected, this furthered the idea of republicanism and getting rid of a monarch. It also helped avoid the dangers of another single legislative assembly. It also produced disturbances in Paris and an insurrection at the beginning of October. It was the last time in the French Revolution that Paris would attempt to impose its wishes on the central government.