Weekly Discussion and Review Questions
Chapter 1 The French Revolution
Questions of the Documents:
- Concerning the nature of the French political constitution
what is the major difference between the views of Lamoignon (1787)
and Abbé Sieyes (1788)?
- Why does the latter reject the traditional organization of
the Estates General?
- List the most important demands and requests made by the
clergy, the nobility, and the third estate in their cahiers.
Compare and contrast these demands and requests, i.e. what do they
seem to agree on, and where do they differ. Can you account for
these similarities and differences?
- Why is the countryside plagued with unrest during these
early months? What do the peasants seem to want? Why do they
attack the squires and chateaus?
- On 4 August 1789, "The National Assembly completely
abolishes the feudal regime." What was feudalism? What was radical
about this decision and how did it affect the social order of
- To what extent did the Declaration of the Rights of Man and
the Citizen and the decree abolishing the feudalism address the
goals listed in the cahiers? Where do they fail to meet the
demands of the estates?
- Why was there no response to the appeal of Olympe de
- What are the October days and why are they so important?
- Today, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy might seem
trivial. What was so important about it in 1790? What did it mean
in terms of Church-State relations? How did the Enlightenment
influence the rhetoric in the debate over this Civil Constitution
of the Clergy?
- What is the significance of the flight to Varennes?
- What arguments are used in the debate on the war in
1791-92. What kinds of agendas lie hidden behind these arguments?
- What are the August Days and the September massacres? Why
are they considered a "radicalization" of the revolution? What
kind of forces come to power as a result?
- What impact could you imagine these accounts of events in
Paris would have upon Europe?
- What is the "reign of terror and why was it employed by the
- What characterizes the early stages of the executions?
- How are they related to foreign affairs?
- What is significant in the Decree of 6 April 1793 setting
up the "Committee of Public Safety?"
- Analyze the Law of Suspects of 17 September 1793. On what
grounds may one be arrested? How does one prove one's innocence?
- Why has the terror escalated? Why was it particularly
brutal in the countryside? Why did it turn into a campaign of
- Who are the sans culottes and what are their goals?
How are their goals different from the original demands of the
third estate before the fall of 1789? What new role do they demand
of the government?
- Why does Minister Roland (Gironde) oppose them?
- In March 1791, what are the demands of the Jacobins as
formulated by Robespierre? Why is citizenship an issue? How does
his position differ from the way the ancien regime and the early
revolutionaries thought political roles should be determined?
- Compare and contrast Robespierre's proposed revised version
of 1793 with the original Declaration of the Rights of Man and the
Citizen of 27 August 1789. What are the major differences?
Chapter Summary Questions:
- The cahiers de doleances make a number of specific demands
of the French king. Yet none of them demand a republic, an end to
feudalism, the terror, war against Holy Roman Empire, or Napoleon.
List four events which most significantly change the course of the
revolution. Explain your choices.
- Is there an pattern in the French Revolution, in which
initial "revolutionary" plans get surpassed as time goes on with
more and more "radical" proposals so that eventually the
"Revolution devours its own children?"
- It has frequently been said that Jacobins (and especially
Robespierre) originated modern democracy. What are the elements of
Jacobin democracy? How does Robespierre's speech of 5 February
1794 fit in with democracy?
- What is a revolution? Is violence a necessary part of a
revolution? Why? Can "revolutionary" changes occur in any other
- Would you agree with this statement: "In the French
Revolution, the highest ideals of modern democratic government
find expression. On the contary, the individual finds itself less
protected than ever before."
- Is there reason to suggest that the French Revolution was a
first step in the development of the all-powerful state?
Terms to Know:
Doubling the Third
cahiers de doleances
Declaration of the Rights of Man and the
Civil Constitution of the Clergy
French Revolutionary Governments
Estates General: May -October 1789
National Assembly: October 1789-1792
National Convention: August 1792-1794 [Com. of Public
Safety, April 1793-July 1794]
Directory: July (Thermidor) 1794-1799
Consulate (Napoleon as First Consul): 1799-1801
Empire (Napoleon): 1801-1814