THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

Table of Contents

THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

Answer the following questions:

Q 1.) How was the system of estates organized in French society?

Answer –

The French society was divided into three states namely –

a) 1st estate – Its members were clergies.

b) 2nd estate – Its members were the nobilities.

c) 3rd estate – Its members were the big businessmen, merchants, court officials, lawyers, peasants,               artisans, small peasants, landless labour, servants, etc.

  • Peasants made up about 90 per cent of the population but only a small number of them owned the land they cultivated.
  • About 60 per cent of the land was owned by nobles, the Church and other richer members of the third estate.
  • The members of the first two estates, that is, the clergy and the nobility, enjoyed certain privileges by birth like the exemption from paying taxes to the state.
  • The nobles further enjoyed feudal privileges. These included feudal dues, which they extracted from the peasants.
  • Peasants were obliged to render services to the lord – to work in his house and fields – to serve in the army or to participate in building roads.

Q 2.) What were tithes and tailles?

 Answer –

Tithe – It was the tax levied by the church, comprising one-tenth of the agricultural produce in the old regime of the French Society.

Taille – Tax to be paid directly to the state.

Q 3.) What ideas were put forward by the philosophers Jean Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Montesquieu regarding the French society?

Answer –

Philosophers such as John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau put forward the ideas envisaging a society based on freedom and equal laws and opportunities for all.

In his Two Treatises of Government, Locke sought to refute the doctrine of the divine and absolute right of the monarch.

Rousseau carried the idea forward and proposed a form of government based on a social contract between people and their representatives.

In The Spirit of the Laws, Montesquieu proposed a division of power within the government between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary.

Q 4.) What was the estate general?

Answer –

The Estates-General was a political body to which the three estates sent their representatives. In France of the Old Regime, the monarch did not have the power to impose taxes according to his will alone. Rather he had to call a meeting of the Estates-General which would then pass his proposals for new taxes.

However, the monarch alone could decide when to call a meeting of this body. The last time it was done was in 1614.

Q 5.) Who wrote the book, “The Social Contract”?

Answer –

Jean Jacques Rousseau.

Q 6.) Who wrote the influential pamphlet called ‘What is the Third Estate’?

Answer –

Abbé Sieyès.

Q 7.) What was the main objective of the Constitution of 1791 in France?

Answer –

The National Assembly completed the draft of the constitution in 1791. Its main object was to limit the powers of the monarch. These powers instead of being concentrated in the hands of one person were now separated and assigned to different institutions – the legislature, executive and judiciary. This made France a constitutional monarchy.

Q 8.) How were the laws made in France after adopting the Constitution of 1791?

Answer –

The Constitution of 1791 vested the power to make laws in the National Assembly, which was indirectly elected. That is, citizens voted for a group of electors, who in turn chose the Assembly. Not all citizens, however, had the right to vote. Only men above 25 years of age who paid taxes equal to at least 3 days of a labourer’s wage were given the status of active citizens, that is, they were entitled to vote. The remaining men and all women were classed as passive citizens. To qualify as an elector and then as a member of the Assembly, a man had to belong to the highest bracket of taxpayers.

Q 8.) What was the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen?

Answer –

According to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, rights such as the right to life, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, and equality before the law, were established as ‘natural and inalienable’ rights, that is, they belonged to each human being by birth and could not be taken away. It was the duty of the state to protect each citizen’s natural rights.

Q 9.)What did the following images symbolize?

The broken chain: Chains were used to fetter slaves. A broken chain stands for the act of becoming free.

The bundle of rods or fasces: One rod can be easily broken, but not an entire bundle. Strength lies in unity.

The eye within a triangle radiating light: The Seeing Eye stands for knowledge. The rays of the sun will drive away from the clouds of ignorance.

Snake biting its tail to form a ring: Symbol of Eternity. A ring has neither beginning nor end.

Sceptre: Symbol of royal power.

Red Phrygian cap: Cap is worn by a slave upon becoming free.

Blue-white-red: The national colours of France.

The winged woman: Personification of the law.

The Law Tablet: The law is the same for all, and all are equal before it.

Q 10.)What is the national anthem of France? Who composed it? How does it get its name?

Answer –

The Marseillaise is the national anthem of France.

It was composed by the poet Roget de L’Isle.

It was sung for the first time by volunteers from Marseilles as they marched into Paris and so got its name.

Q 11.)Write a short note on the Jacobins?

Answer –

During the revolutionary war in France, among all the political parties, Jacobin was the most popular and most successful. The leader of the club was Maximilian Robespierre.

The members of the Jacobin club belonged mainly to the less prosperous sections of society. They included small shopkeepers, artisans such as shoemakers, pastry cooks, watch-makers, printers, as well as servants and daily-wage workers.

A large group among the Jacobins decided to start wearing long striped trousers similar to those worn by dock workers. This was to set themselves apart from the fashionable sections of society, especially nobles, who wore knee-breeches. It was a way of proclaiming the end of the power wielded by the wearers of knee-breeches. These Jacobins came to be known as the sans-culottes, literally meaning ‘those without knee-breeches.

Sans-culottes men wore, in addition, the red cap that symbolised liberty.

Women however were not allowed to do so.

Q 12.)When was Louis XVI sentenced to death?

Answer –

Louis XVI was sentenced to death by a court on the charge of treason. On 21 January 1793, he was executed publicly at the Place de la Concorde. Queen Marie Antoinette met with the same fate shortly after.

Q 13.)Which period was known as the ‘Reign of terror’ and why?

Answer –

The period from 1793 to 1794 is referred to as the Reign of Terror.

Robespierre followed a policy of severe control and punishment. All those whom he saw as being ‘enemies’ of the republic like ex-nobles and clergy, members of other political parties, and even members of his own party who did not agree with his methods were arrested, imprisoned and then tried by a revolutionary tribunal. If the court found them ‘guilty’ they were guillotined.

Q 14.) Mention the policies of Robespierre’s government.

Answer –

The following policies were made by the Robespierre’s government –

  1. Robespierre’s government issued laws placing a maximum ceiling on wages and prices.
  2. Meat and bread were rationed.
  3. Peasants were forced to transport their grain to the cities and sell it at prices fixed by the government.
  4. The use of more expensive white flour was forbidden.
  5. All citizens were required to eat the pain d’égalité (equality bread), a loaf made of wholewheat.
  6. Instead of the traditional Monsieur (Sir) and Madame (Madam), all French men and women were henceforth Citoyen and Citoyenne (Citizen).
  7. Churches were shut down and their buildings converted into barracks or offices.

Q 14.)What led to the dictatorship rule under Napoleon Bonaparte in France?

Answer –

With the fall of the Jacobin government, the wealthier middle classes began to seize the power. A new constitution was introduced which denied the vote to non-propertied sections of society. It provided for two elected legislative councils.

These then appointed a Directory, an executive made up of five members. This was meant as a safeguard against the concentration of power in a one-man executive as under the Jacobins. However, the Directors often clashed with the legislative councils, who then sought to dismiss them.

The political instability of the Directory paved the way for the rise of a military dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Q 15.) Explain the participation of women in the French Revolution.

Answer –

In order to discuss and voice their interests, women started their own political clubs and newspapers. About sixty women’s clubs came up in different French cities. The Society of Revolutionary and Republican Women was the most famous of them.

One of their main demands was that women enjoy the same political rights as men.

Women were disappointed that the Constitution of 1791 reduced them to passive citizens.

They demanded the right to vote, be elected to the Assembly and hold political office.

Q 16.)When did the women of France win the right to vote?

Answer –

In 1946 that women in France won the right to vote.

Q 17.) Write a short note on Olympe de Gouges.

Answer –

Olympe de Gouges was one of the most important politically active women in revolutionary France. She protested against the Constitution and the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen as they excluded women from basic rights that each human being was entitled to. So, in 1791, she wrote a Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizen, which she addressed to the Queen and to the members of the National Assembly, demanding that they act upon it.

In 1793, Olympe de Gouges criticised the Jacobin government for forcibly closing down women’s clubs. She was tried by the National Convention, which charged her with treason. Soon after this, she was executed.

Q 18.)Write a short note on the Slave trade that existed in European countries.

Answer –

The colonies in the Caribbean – Martinique, Guadeloupe and San Domingo were important suppliers of commodities such as tobacco, indigo, sugar and coffee. But the reluctance of Europeans to go and work in distant and unfamiliar lands meant a shortage of labour on the plantations. So this was met by a triangular slave trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas.

The slave trade began in the seventeenth century. French merchants sailed from the ports of Bordeaux or Nantes to the African coast, where they bought slaves from local chieftains. Branded and shackled, the slaves were packed tightly into ships for the three-month-long voyage across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. There they were sold to plantation owners. The exploitation of slave labour made it possible to meet the growing demand in European markets for sugar, coffee, and indigo. Port cities like Bordeaux and Nantes owed their economic prosperity to the flourishing slave trade.

Q 19.)When was Slavery abolished in France?

Answer –

Slavery was finally abolished in French colonies in 1848.

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