Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 

 


The Modern Era

1789 - 1914

 


In Europe, the revolutionary transformation of the ruling systems and state structures began with a bang: In 1789 the French Revolution broke out in Paris, and its motto "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite"—Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood—took on an irrepressible force. A fundamental reorganization of society followed the French Revolution. The ideas behind the revolution were manifest in Napoleon's Code Civil, which he imposed on many European nations. The 19th century also experienced a transformation of society from another source: The Industrial Revolution established within society a poorer working class that stood in opposition to the merchant and trading middle class. The nascent United States was shaken by an embittered civil war. The economic growth that set in following that war was accompanied by the development of imperialist endeavors and its rise to the status of a Great Power.

 





Liberty Leading the People,
allegory of the 1830 July revolution that deposed the French monarchy,
with Marianne as the personification of liberty,
contemporary painting by Eugene Delacroix.

 
see also:

Between Two Revolutions

(From David to Delacroix)

 

 


The French Revolution
 


1789 - 1799
 

 

The French Revolution had far-reaching consequences not only for France but for all of Europe as it challenged the fundamental institutions that shaped the political structure of Europe. It was an attempt to establish in common laws the equality of all persons regardless of their origin. The Revolution led by the bourgeoisie had as its goals the abolition of aristocratic rule, a constitution, and intellectual freedom. It stressed social mobility without class barriers ("Let ability win through!") and strove for a moral society, the nation, in which the common good took precedence over self-interests: "Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood!" Radicalism, however, along with outside pressure, transformed at times the rule of virtue into a despotism of its own kind.

 


Beginning of the Revolution
 

The internal crisis of the monarchy brought about the convening of the Estates General in 1789. At the same time, the destitute masses revolted in Paris.

 

In May 1789, King Louis XVI summoned together representatives of the three estates, aristocracy, clergy, and bourgeoisie, to bring France's catastrophic financial situation under control. The third estate, the bourgeoisie, composed 98 percent of the population and carried the tax burden but in fact had few rights.

On June 20,1789, to counter the attempt of the king and the aristocracy to dissolve the National Assembly, the members took the 4 "Tennis Court Oath" not to disband and announced their opposition.

The king, however, installed an ultra conservative government, after which the people of Paris revolted and on July 14,1789, stormed and destroyed the 1 Bastille- a prison and symbol of the power of the state. The Revolution had started.



4 The National Assembly takes the Tennis Court Oath in Versailles on June 20, 1789
Sketch by
Jacques-Louis David



1 The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789

"The Storming of the Bastille", Visible in the center is the arrest of Bernard René Jourdan, marquis de Launay (1740-1789)
by Jean-Pierre Houel.




Arrest of de Launay by an anonymous artist



Arrest of de Launay, by Jean-Baptiste Lallemand, 1790
 

 

French Revolution

1787-99
also called Revolution of 1789

Main
the revolutionary movement that shook France between 1787 and 1799 and reached its first climax there in 1789. Hence the conventional term “Revolution of 1789,” denoting the end of the ancien régime in France and serving also to distinguish that event from the later French revolutions of 1830 and 1848.

Although historians disagree on the causes of the Revolution, the following reasons are commonly adduced: (1) the increasingly prosperous elite of wealthy commoners—merchants, manufacturers, and professionals, often called the bourgeoisie—produced by the 18th century’s economic growth resented its exclusion from political power and positions of honour; (2) the peasants were acutely aware of their situation and were less and less willing to support the anachronistic and burdensome feudal system; (3) the philosophes, who advocated social and political reform, had been read more widely in France than anywhere else; (4) French participation in the American Revolution had driven the government to the brink of bankruptcy; and (5) crop failures in much of the country in 1788, coming on top of a long period of economic difficulties, made the population particularly restless.

Aristocratic revolt, 1787–89
The Revolution took shape in France when the controller general of finances, Charles-Alexandre de Calonne, arranged the summoning of an assembly of “notables” (prelates, great noblemen, and a few representatives of the bourgeoisie) in February 1787 to propose reforms designed to eliminate the budget deficit by increasing the taxation of the privileged classes. The assembly refused to take responsibility for the reforms and suggested the calling of the Estates-General, which represented the clergy, the nobility, and the Third Estate (the commoners) and which had not met since 1614. The efforts made by Calonne’s successors to enforce fiscal reforms in spite of resistance by the privileged classes led to the so-called revolt of the “aristocratic bodies,” notably that of the parlements (the most important courts of justice), whose powers were curtailed by the edict of May 1788. During the spring and summer of 1788, there was unrest among the populace in Paris, Grenoble, Dijon, Toulouse, Pau, and Rennes. The king, Louis XVI, had to yield; reappointing reform-minded Jacques Necker as the finance minister, he promised to convene the Estates-General on May 5, 1789. He also, in practice, granted freedom of the press, and France was flooded with pamphlets addressing the reconstruction of the state. The elections to the Estates-General, held between January and April 1789, coincided with further disturbances, as the harvest of 1788 had been a bad one. There were practically no exclusions from the voting; and the electors drew up cahiers de doléances, which listed their grievances and hopes. They elected 600 deputies for the Third Estate, 300 for the nobility, and 300 for the clergy.


Events of 1789
The Estates-General met at Versailles on May 5, 1789. They were immediately divided over a fundamental issue: should they vote by head, giving the advantage to the Third Estate, or by estate, in which case the two privileged orders of the realm might outvote the third? On June 17 the bitter struggle over this legal issue finally drove the deputies of the Third Estate to declare themselves the National Assembly; they threatened to proceed, if necessary, without the other two orders. They were supported by many of the parish priests, who outnumbered the aristocratic upper clergy among the church’s deputies. When royal officials locked the deputies out of their regular meeting hall on June 20, they occupied the king’s indoor tennis court (jeu de paume) and swore an oath not to disperse until they had given France a new constitution. The king grudgingly gave in and urged the nobles and the remaining clergy to join the assembly, which took the official title of National Constituent Assembly on July 9; at the same time, however, he began gathering troops to dissolve it.

These two months of prevarication at a time when the problem of maintaining food supplies had reached its climax infuriated the towns and the provinces. Rumours of an “aristocratic conspiracy” by the king and the privileged to overthrow the Third Estate led to the Great Fear of July 1789, when the peasants were nearly panic-stricken. The gathering of troops around Paris and the dismissal of Necker provoked insurrection in the capital. On July 14, 1789, the Parisian crowd seized the Bastille, a symbol of royal tyranny. Again the king had to yield; visiting Paris, he showed his recognition of the sovereignty of the people by wearing the tricolour cockade.

In the provinces, the Great Fear of July led the peasants to rise against their lords. The nobles and the bourgeois now took fright. The National Constituent Assembly could see only one way to check the peasants; on the night of August 4, 1789, it decreed the abolition of the feudal regime and of the tithe. Then on August 26 it introduced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, proclaiming liberty, equality, the inviolability of property, and the right to resist oppression.

The decrees of August 4 and the Declaration were such innovations that the king refused to sanction them. The Parisians rose again and on October 5 marched to Versailles. The next day they brought the royal family back to Paris. The National Constituent Assembly followed the court, and in Paris it continued to work on the new constitution.

The French population participated actively in the new political culture created by the Revolution. Dozens of uncensored newspapers kept citizens abreast of events, and political clubs allowed them to voice their opinions. Public ceremonies such as the planting of “trees of liberty” in small villages and the Festival of Federation, held in Paris in 1790 on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, were symbolic affirmations of the new order.


The new regime
The National Constituent Assembly completed the abolition of feudalism, suppressed the old “orders,” established civil equality among men (at least in metropolitan France, since slavery was retained in the colonies), and made more than half the adult male population eligible to vote, although only a small minority met the requirement for becoming a deputy. The decision to nationalize the lands of the Roman Catholic church in France to pay off the public debt led to a widespread redistribution of property. The bourgeoisie and the peasant landowners were undoubtedly the chief beneficiaries, but some farm workers also were able to buy land. Having deprived the church of its resources, the assembly then resolved to reorganize the church, enacting the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which was rejected by the pope and by many of the French clergy. This produced a schism that aggravated the violence of the accompanying controversies.

The complicated administrative system of the ancien régime was swept away by the National Constituent Assembly, which substituted a rational system based on the division of France into départements, districts, cantons, and communes administered by elected assemblies. The principles underlying the administration of justice were also radically changed, and the system was adapted to the new administrative divisions. Significantly, the judges were to be elected.

The National Constituent Assembly tried to create a monarchical regime in which the legislative and executive powers were shared between the king and an assembly. This regime might have worked if the king had really wanted to govern with the new authorities, but Louis XVI was weak and vacillating and was the prisoner of his aristocratic advisers. On June 20–21, 1791, he tried to flee the country, but he was stopped at Varennes and brought back to Paris.


Counterrevolution, regicide, and the Reign of Terror
The events in France gave new hope to the revolutionaries who had been defeated a few years previously in the United Provinces, Belgium, and Switzerland. Likewise, all those who wanted changes in England, Ireland, the German states, the Austrian lands, or Italy looked upon the Revolution with sympathy.

A number of French counterrevolutionaries—nobles, ecclesiastics, and some bourgeois—abandoned the struggle in their own country and emigrated. As “émigrés,” many formed armed groups close to the northeastern frontier of France and sought help from the rulers of Europe. The rulers were at first indifferent to the Revolution but began to worry when the National Constituent Assembly proclaimed a revolutionary principle of international law—namely, that a people had the right of self-determination. In accordance with this principle, the papal territory of Avignon was reunited with France on September 13, 1791. By early 1792 both radicals, eager to spread the principles of the Revolution, and the king, hopeful that war would either strengthen his authority or allow foreign armies to rescue him, supported an aggressive policy. France declared war against Austria on April 20, 1792.

In the first phase of the war (April–September 1792), France suffered defeats; Prussia joined the war in July, and an Austro-Prussian army crossed the frontier and advanced rapidly toward Paris. Believing that they had been betrayed by the king and the aristocrats, the Paris revolutionaries rose on August 10, 1792, occupied Tuileries Palace, where Louis XVI was living, and imprisoned the royal family in the Temple. At the beginning of September, the Parisian crowd broke into the prisons and massacred the nobles and clergy held there. Meanwhile, volunteers were pouring into the army as the Revolution had awakened French nationalism. In a final effort the French forces checked the Prussians on September 20, 1792, at Valmy. On the same day, a new assembly, the National Convention, met. The next day it proclaimed the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of the republic.

In the second phase of the war (September 1792–April 1793), the revolutionaries got the better of the enemy. Belgium, the Rhineland, Savoy, and the county of Nice were occupied by French armies. Meanwhile, the National Convention was divided between the Girondins, who wanted to organize a bourgeois republic in France and to spread the Revolution over the whole of Europe, and the Montagnards (“Mountain Men”), who, with Robespierre, wanted to give the lower classes a greater share in political and economic power. Despite efforts made by the Girondins, Louis XVI was judged by the Convention, condemned to death for treason, and executed on January 21, 1793; the queen, Marie-Antoinette, was guillotined nine months later.

In the spring of 1793, the war entered a third phase, marked by new French defeats. Austria, Prussia, and Great Britain formed a coalition (later called the First Coalition), to which most of the rulers of Europe adhered. France lost Belgium and the Rhineland, and invading forces threatened Paris. These reverses, as those of 1792 had done, strengthened the extremists. The Girondin leaders were driven from the National Convention, and the Montagnards, who had the support of the Paris sansculottes (workers, craftsmen, and shopkeepers), seized power and kept it until 9 Thermidor, year II, of the new French republican calendar (July 27, 1794). The Montagnards were bourgeois liberals like the Girondins but under pressure from the sansculottes, and, in order to meet the requirements of defense, they adopted a radical economic and social policy. They introduced the Maximum (government control of prices), taxed the rich, brought national assistance to the poor and to the disabled, declared that education should be free and compulsory, and ordered the confiscation and sale of the property of émigrés. These exceptional measures provoked violent reactions: the Wars of the Vendée, the “federalist” risings in Normandy and in Provence, the revolts of Lyon and Bordeaux, and the insurrection of the Chouans in Brittany. Opposition, however, was broken by the Reign of Terror (19 Fructidor, year I–9 Thermidor, year II [September 5, 1793–July 27, 1794]), which entailed the arrest of at least 300,000 suspects, 17,000 of whom were sentenced to death and executed while more died in prisons or were killed without any form of trial. At the same time, the revolutionary government raised an army of more than one million men.

Thanks to this army, the war entered its fourth phase (beginning in the spring of 1794). A brilliant victory over the Austrians at Fleurus on 8 Messidor, year II (June 26, 1794), enabled the French to reoccupy Belgium. Victory made the Terror and the economic and social restrictions seem pointless. Robespierre, “the Incorruptible,” who had sponsored the restrictions, was overthrown in the National Convention on 9 Thermidor, year II (July 27, 1794), and executed the following day. Soon after his fall the Maximum was abolished, the social laws were no longer applied, and efforts toward economic equality were abandoned. Reaction set in; the National Convention began to debate a new constitution; and, meanwhile, in the west and in the southeast, a royalist “White Terror” broke out. Royalists even tried to seize power in Paris but were crushed by the young general Napoleon Bonaparte on 13 Vendémiaire, year IV (October 5, 1795). A few days later the National Convention dispersed.


The Directory and revolutionary expansion
The constitution of the year III, which the National Convention had approved, placed executive power in a Directory of five members and legislative power in two chambers, the Council of Ancients and the Council of the Five Hundred (together called the Corps Législatif). This regime, a bourgeois republic, might have achieved stability had not war perpetuated the struggle between revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries throughout Europe. The war, moreover, embittered existing antagonisms between the Directory and the legislative councils in France and often gave rise to new ones. These disputes were settled by coups d’état, chiefly those of 18 Fructidor, year V (September 4, 1797), which removed the royalists from the Directory and from the councils, and of 18 Brumaire, year VIII (November 9, 1799), in which Bonaparte abolished the Directory and became the leader of France as its “first consul.”

After the victory of Fleurus, the progress of the French armies in Europe had continued. The Rhineland and Holland were occupied, and in 1795 Holland, Tuscany, Prussia, and Spain negotiated for peace. When the French army under Bonaparte entered Italy (1796), Sardinia came quickly to terms. Austria was the last to give in (Treaty of Campo Formio, 1797). Most of the countries occupied by the French were organized as “sister republics,” with institutions modeled on those of Revolutionary France.

Peace on the continent of Europe, however, did not end revolutionary expansion. The majority of the directors had inherited the Girondin desire to spread the Revolution over Europe and listened to the appeals of Jacobins abroad. Thus French troops in 1798 and 1799 entered Switzerland, the Papal States, and Naples and set up the Helvetic, Roman, and Parthenopean republics. Great Britain, however, remained at war with France. Unable to effect a landing in England, the Directory, on Bonaparte’s request, decided to threaten the British in India by occupying Egypt. An expeditionary corps under Bonaparte easily occupied Malta and Egypt, but the squadron that had convoyed it was destroyed by Horatio Nelson’s fleet at the Battle of the Nile on 14 Thermidor, year VI (August 1, 1798). This disaster encouraged the formation of a Second Coalition of powers alarmed by the progress of the Revolution. This coalition of Austria, Russia, Turkey, and Great Britain won great successes during the spring and summer of 1799 and drove back the French armies to the frontiers. Bonaparte thereupon returned to France to exploit his own great prestige and the disrepute into which the military reverses had brought the government. His coup d’état of 18 Brumaire overthrew the Directory and substituted the consulate. Although Bonaparte proclaimed the end of the Revolution, he himself was to spread it in new forms throughout Europe.

Encyclopaedia Britannica
 

Two days later the National Assembly forced the king to accept the revolutionary Tricolore in the 2 national colors blue-white-red as symbol of the "alliance of king and people."

A revolutionary fervor spread throughout the country.

On August 8,1789, the rights of man were where 3 "liberty trees" were planted in celebration.

Freedom of the press made possible a flood of new newspapers and pamphlets. Diverse opinions and parties developed. The National Assembly carried out judicial and constitutional reforms and abolished the feudal system in France. The new system of census voting provoked a major confrontation because it allowed only the wealthiest taxpayers to take part in the political process. The poor and peasants, who had been involved in the events since the beginning, fought for universal suffrage.

At first, the monarchy was retained as the form of government.
 


Liberty Leading the People,
allegory of the 1830 July revolution, with Marianne as the personification of
liberty, by
Eugene Delacroix (detail)

The "tricolor" (three-color) flag is an emblem of the Fifth Republic.


2 Cockade in the colors of
the Tricolore






3 National Guard planting a liberty tree,
gouache, ca. 1790

Most of the members of the Assembly, above all 5 the powerfully eloquent leader of the early revolutionary phase, Honore Gabriel Riqueti Comte de Mirabeau, supported a constitutional monarchy based on the English model.


5 Mirabeau during the session of the
Estates General on June 23, 1789

 

 

Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau



Mirabeau


French politician and orator

born March 9, 1749, Bignon, near Nemours, France
died April 2, 1791, Paris

Main
French politician and orator, one of the greatest figures in the National Assembly that governed France during the early phases of the French Revolution. A moderate and an advocate of constitutional monarchy, he died before the Revolution reached its radical climax.

Troubled youth
Mirabeau was the elder son of the noted economist Victor Riqueti, marquis de Mirabeau, by his unhappy marriage to Marie-Geneviève de Vassan. Disfigured by smallpox at age three, the precocious Honoré-Gabriel suffered even in early childhood the disfavour of his formidable father. At age 15 he was sent as a pupil to the strict Abbé Choquard in Paris, and at 18 he went as a volunteer to serve in a cavalry regiment at Saintes, where his father hoped that military discipline would curb him. His misbehaviour, however, led to his imprisonment on the Île de Ré, under a lettre de cachet, a written order permitting imprisonment without trial. Released to serve in Corsica with the rank of sublieutenant in the army, he distinguished himself there in 1769.

Reconciled with his father, he married a rich Provençal heiress, Émilie de Marignane, in 1772, but his heavy spending and further misconduct led his father to have him imprisoned under another lettre de cachet in order to put him out of reach of his creditors. He was detained first at the Château d’If (1774), then at the Fort de Joux, near Pontarlier. Having obtained permission to visit the town of Pontarlier, he there met his “Sophie”—who, in fact, was the marquise de Monnier, Marie-Thérèse-Richard de Ruffey, the young wife of a very old man. He eventually escaped to Switzerland, where Sophie joined him; the couple then made their way to Holland, where Mirabeau was arrested in 1777.

The tribunal at Pontarlier had meanwhile sentenced him to death for seduction and abduction, but Mirabeau escaped execution by submitting to further imprisonment under a lettre de cachet. In the château of Vincennes he composed the Lettres à Sophie, some erotic works, and his essay Des lettres de cachet et des prisons d’état (“Of Lettres de Cachet and of State Prisons”). Released in December 1780, he finally had to surrender himself to arrest at Pontarlier in order to have the death sentence revoked, but by August 1782 he was entirely free. He now became involved in a lawsuit against his wife, who wanted a judicial separation. Pleading on his own behalf, he gained the sympathy of the public but lost his case (1783). Rejected by his wife and by his father, he had to renounce the aristocratic society into which he had been born.

For the next five years Mirabeau lived the life of an adventurer. He was employed sometimes as a hired pamphleteer, sometimes as a secret agent. He came into contact with Louis XVI’s ministers Charles-Alexandre de Calonne; Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes; and Armand-Marc, comte de Montmorin-Saint-Hérem. He also made an enemy of the Swiss banker Jacques Necker, at that time director of the finances, and engaged the playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais in controversy.

His activities necessitated much traveling. In London he was introduced into the best Whig society by Gilbert Elliot (later 1st earl of Minto), who had been his fellow pupil under the Abbé Choquard; he had to take refuge in Liège when his Dénonciation de l’agiotage (against stockjobbing) annoyed Calonne; and he undertook a secret mission to Berlin in 1786. With the active assistance of a Brunswick friend, Jakob Mauvillon, he wrote De la monarchie prussienne sous Frédéric le Grand (1788; “The Prussian Monarchy Under Frederick the Great”), which he dedicated to his father; but Histoire secrète de la cour de Berlin (“Secret History of the Court of Berlin”), in which he made unscrupulous use of material derived from his mission in Germany, created a scandal in 1789.


Election to the Estates-General
Within France, affairs were moving toward a crisis. The country, bankrupted by its 18th-century wars, was burdened with an archaic system of taxation and social privilege. The Estates-General, an assembly of the three estates of the realm—the clergy, the nobility, and the commons—was summoned to meet in Paris in May 1789 in an attempt to implement the necessary reforms. It was that meeting that set in motion the great French Revolution of 1789.

When the Estates-General was summoned, Mirabeau hoped to be elected as a deputy for the nobility of Provence. For this he needed his father’s support. Pleased by the book dedicated to him, the marquis had summoned Mirabeau to Argenteuil in the autumn of 1788 but had not given him any real help. Mirabeau presented himself in the chamber of the nobility in the estates of Provence in January 1789 and uttered violent diatribes against the privileged classes but was not elected deputy, as he held no fief. Turning reluctantly to the Third Estate, he was elected to represent both Marseille and Aix-en-Provence, and he chose to represent the latter.

Mirabeau came to the Estates-General without any precise constitutional doctrine. An avowed enemy of despotism (he had written Essai sur le despotisme [“Essay on Despotism”] before he was 25), he was, nevertheless, a firm supporter of the monarchy and of the executive power. Without expressly adhering to the English system, he wanted representative government. A nobleman rejected by his class, he opposed the idea of an aristocratic second chamber. Like most of his contemporaries, he had no political experience, but his intelligence and his knowledge of men made him supremely capable of acquiring such experience rapidly. Lack of money, however, exposed him to pressure and to temptation.

From May to October 1789 Mirabeau played a decisive part in the battle between the Third Estate and the privileged orders. His aim was to become the spokesman of the nation to the king and at the same time to moderate the expression of the nation’s wishes. Thus, on June 15 and 16 he was careful not to suggest the name National Assembly, which was the rallying cry of the Third Estate in its Revolutionary debate of June 17, when it set itself up as representative of the whole nation. Yet, at the ending of the “royal session” of June 23, when Henri Évrard, marquis de Dreux-Brézé, in the king’s name ordered the assembled estates to return each to its separate chamber, Mirabeau’s answer did much to confirm the deputies in their resolution to disobey and establish the National Assembly, and, in the feverish atmosphere of the early days of July, his speeches inspired the Assembly to demand the dispersal of the troops concentrated around Paris.

After the fall of the Bastille (July 14), he urged the Assembly to demand the dismissal of the ministers who were to blame for the disorders. His popularity in Paris was then considerable. On the other hand, he disapproved of the Assembly’s precipitate action in abolishing feudalism (on the night of August 4) and of the abstract Declaration of Rights, and, while he was openly against a second chamber, he yet wanted the king to have an absolute veto. In October, when the Parisians marched on Versailles and took Louis XVI back to Paris, Mirabeau’s attitude was ambiguous and gave rise to the suspicion that he might be plotting against the king. To clear himself and to keep open the door to the court’s favour, he addressed a memorandum to the king, advising him to leave Paris for Rouen, to secure the support of a small army, and to appeal to the provinces.

Mirabeau’s prime concern, however, was to win “the battle of the ministry.” Ostensibly a supporter of Necker, Mirabeau, in fact, did his utmost to destroy him: his brilliant speech on the bankruptcy of the nation was a masterstroke against this minister. Furthermore, he tried skillfully to induce the Assembly to grant to the king the option of choosing members of it to be his ministers, but the Assembly’s decree of November 7, 1789, which precluded all deputies from the ministry for the duration of the session, frustrated his hopes of ministerial office for himself.


Intrigue with the court
From November 1789, notwithstanding his oratorical triumphs of January–April 1790 in the cause of the Revolution, Mirabeau was a prey to despondency and aimlessness until his friend Auguste, prince d’Arenberg, comte de La Marck—with the approval of Florimund, Graf (count) Mercy d’Argenteau, Austrian ambassador to Paris and confidant of Queen Marie-Antoinette—approached him with the proposal from Louis XVI and the queen that he should become their secret counselor. Mirabeau accepted with delight: “I shall make it my chief business to see that the executive power has its place in the constitution” (letter of May 10). Part of the promised remuneration was to be the paying off of his debts.

In May 1790, when the Assembly was debating the king’s right to make war and peace, Mirabeau successfully opposed the left-wing orator Antoine Barnave, whom he challenged with the words: “Tell us that there should be no king, do not tell us that there should only be a powerless, superfluous king.” He impeded the progress of the Jacobins but risked his own popularity, and a pamphlet accusing him of treason was circulated (Trahison découverte du comte de Mirabeau [“The Uncovered Treason of the Comte de Mirabeau”]).

From June to October he had to work to recapture his prestige. This was the more necessary because the king and the queen, despite their secret interview of July 3 with Mirabeau at Saint-Cloud, took little notice of his advice and continued to be influenced by his rival for court favour, the marquis de Lafayette, who had scorned Mirabeau’s offer of alliance. In October 1790 the Assembly further disappointed Mirabeau by refusing, after more discussion, to revoke the decree of November 1789 on the noneligibility of its members for the ministry.

While the court was displeased by some of Mirabeau’s outbursts and by his “incurable mania of running after popularity,” Mirabeau, for his part, was enraged to see a new ministry formed under the influence of his rivals Lafayette and Alexandre, comte de Lameth. By the end of November 1790 his relations with the court were severely strained. He restored them by submitting to the king’s adviser Montmorin a “Plan” concocted to bring pressure to bear by various means on the Assembly, on Paris, and on the provinces so as to coordinate “the means of reconciling public opinion with the sovereign’s authority.”

The plan was perfect in theory but very difficult to put into practice. From January 1791 it was clear that Mirabeau had no intention of doing anything that might compromise his own popularity, though he was willing enough to sabotage the Assembly by getting it to adopt ill-considered measures of religious persecution, and he was eagerly and adroitly working to discredit Lameth’s faction at court. His popularity rose to its zenith, and the eyes of all of Europe were on him.

As spokesman of the diplomatic committee, on January 28, 1791, he made a speech that bore the unmistakable stamp of statesmanship. Anxious to avoid anything that might compromise France’s relations with neighbouring countries, particularly with England, he yet would not repudiate any of the Revolution’s political victories or allow any necessary military precautions to be overlooked. On the following day he at last became president of the Assembly for a fortnight. In this office, from which he had been so long excluded, his control of the debates was masterly.

Mirabeau’s problem was to know how and for how long his Machiavellian game could be continued before his intrigue with the court would be exposed. The people of Paris were restless, worried by rumours. Mirabeau’s position was made difficult by his intervention on behalf of the king’s aunts (who had fled from Paris), by his hostility to the law against the émigrés, and by his harsh words against the Lameths and their satellites in the Assembly (“Silence to the factious! Silence to the 33!”). On February 28 he was sorely pressed to justify himself to the Jacobins after a pitiless attack by Alexandre, comte de Lameth. The newspapers of the left redoubled their accusations of treason against him, and in March he experienced some notable reverses in the Assembly.

Death may have saved him from political defeat. Gravely ill since his presidency of the Assembly, he worsened his condition by excessive indulgence. He took to his bed on March 27, 1791, and died a week later. The people’s grief for him was boundless; he was given a magnificent funeral, and it was for him that the new church of Sainte-Geneviève was converted into the Panthéon, for the burial of great men. In the insurrection of August 10, 1792, however, papers proving Mirabeau’s relations with the court were found in an iron chest in the Tuileries Palace, and on September 21, 1794, his remains were dislodged from the Panthéon by order of the National Convention.


Assessment
As a statesman, Mirabeau failed in his main objective, that of reconciling the monarchy with the Revolution and a strong executive with national liberty. He was too much of a monarchist for the Revolution, too revolutionary for the monarchy. As an orator, he was unsurpassed. Even though his eloquence was fed by material gathered from every quarter and by a “workshop” of collaborators, it was Mirabeau who found the striking images and expressions that give to his speeches their brilliant individuality. Generally bad at extemporizing, Mirabeau could be moved by anger or by injured pride to an impassioned tone that would carry the Assembly with him.

Jean-Jacques Chevallier

Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

 


Declaration of Man and of the Citizen, 1789

"Men are born and remain free and equal in rights.

Social distinctions can only be founded on communal utility."


(Article I)




Declaration of Man and of the Citizen, 1789

 

 

 

 

 


Declaration of the Rights of Man - 1789

Approved by the National Assembly of France, August 26, 1789

The representatives of the French people, organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being constantly before all the members of the Social body, shall remind them continually of their rights and duties; in order that the acts of the legislative power, as well as those of the executive power, may be compared at any moment with the objects and purposes of all political institutions and may thus be more respected, and, lastly, in order that the grievances of the citizens, based hereafter upon simple and incontestable principles, shall tend to the maintenance of the constitution and redound to the happiness of all. Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen:

Articles:

1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.

2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.

5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.

6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.

7. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.

8. The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.

9. As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner's person shall be severely repressed by law.

10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.

12. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.

13. A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.

14. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.

15. Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.

16. A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.

17. Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.

 



 

 

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

France [1789]

French Declaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen

Main
one of the basic charters of human liberties, containing the principles that inspired the French Revolution. Its 17 articles, adopted between August 20 and August 26, 1789, by France’s National Assembly, served as the preamble to the Constitution of 1791. Similar documents served as the preamble to the Constitution of 1793 (retitled simply Declaration of the Rights of Man) and to the Constitution of 1795 (retitled Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the Citizen).

The basic principle of the Declaration was that all “men are born and remain free and equal in rights” (Article 1), which were specified as the rights of liberty, private property, the inviolability of the person, and resistance to oppression (Article 2). All citizens were equal before the law and were to have the right to participate in legislation directly or indirectly (Article 6); no one was to be arrested without a judicial order (Article 7). Freedom of religion (Article 10) and freedom of speech (Article 11) were safeguarded within the bounds of public “order” and “law.” The document reflects the interests of the elites who wrote it: property was given the status of an inviolable right, which could be taken by the state only if an indemnity were given (Article 17); offices and position were opened to all citizens (Article 6).

The sources of the Declaration included the major thinkers of the French Enlightenment, such as Montesquieu, who had urged the separation of powers, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote of general will—the concept that the state represents the general will of the citizens. The idea that the individual must be safeguarded against arbitrary police or judicial action was anticipated by the 18th-century parlements, as well as by writers such as Voltaire. French jurists and economists such as the physiocrats had insisted on the inviolability of private property. Other influences on the authors of the Declaration were foreign documents such as the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) in North America and the manifestos of the Dutch Patriot movement of the 1780s. The French Declaration went beyond these models, however, in its scope and in its claim to be based on principles that are fundamental to man and therefore universally applicable.

On the other hand, the Declaration is also explicable as an attack on the pre-Revolutionary monarchical regime. Equality before the law was to replace the system of privileges that characterized the old regime. Judicial procedures were insisted upon to prevent abuses by the king or his administration, such as the lettre de cachet, a private communication from the king, often used to give summary notice of imprisonment.

Despite the limited aims of the framers of the Declaration, its principles (especially Article 1) could be extended logically to mean political and even social democracy. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen came to be, as was recognized by the 19th-century historian Jules Michelet, “the credo of the new age.”
 

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