Civilization Week 13 The French Revolution

Question 1: What happened (involving the Third Estate) during the meeting of the Estates General that set the French Revolution in motion?

Meetings of the Estates General were made up of three estates: the Nobles (royalty), the Clergy (church), and the Third Estate (most of the common people of France). Each estate had a number of delegates who would debate and discuss proposed ideas, then each estate had one vote on the issue. The problem was that even though the Third Estate vastly outnumbered both the Nobles and Clergy combined, they still only got one vote. This meant that the Nobles and Clergy could easily gang up against the Third Estate, and continually create laws that hurt the common people. The Third estate spoke up against this, proposing votes should be given in regard to the number of civilians under an estate. But the Nobles and Clergy, not wanting to lose the upper hand, dismissed this proposition and instead allowed the Third Estate to have six hundred delegates instead of only one hundred. But this in no way solved the issue with votes. The common people eventually stood up, and along with most of the clergy and a few choice nobles created the National Convention. The National Convention was the group that initially suggested a reformation.

Question 2: Look online for additional resources about one of the atrocities described in the lesson on the Reign of Terror and summarize what happened in 200-250 words.

Following the execution of Louie XVI (and later in that same year Marie Antoinette), Maximilien Robespierre was responsible for the mass murder and fear that spread throughout France. Robespierre was the head of the Committee of Public Safety, but ironically he questioned, accused, and executed many prominent revolutionaries for being “domestic threats”. He killed many of these former allies for seemingly insignificant errors. For example, when Georges Danton, a leading revolutionary, merely suggested these mass murders were unreasonable he was immediately murdered himself. Robespierre and others also carried out mass execution of prisoners and clergyman, usually by guillotine or drowning. The Republican Drowning was a favored method of execution, which involved tying together a naked man and woman, ridiculing them, then drowning them both in the river Nantes. Paranoia racked the French community, as it seemed Robespierre was looking for any reason to have them killed. He seemed to be developing more dictator like tendencies as his power grew, and this was very bad for any French Christians at the time. If one was found having any Christian or Catholic tendencies they were declared a threat and executed. Doing something as simple as making rosaries or prayer beads was deemed an alliance to the Catholic church and thereby a threat to the revolution.

Priests were a prime target for execution, as several laws meant to dechristianize France were released. Laws were sent out to destroy crosses, bells, statues and any other form of Christian worship. Robespierre and others instituted several revolutionary and civic cults, including the Cult of Reason, and the Cult of the Supreme Being. Robespierre’s Cult of the Supreme Being was meant to be a replacement for Catholicism, and was meant to eventually become a national religion across France. Robespierre held a festival for the Cult of the Supreme Being in Paris, declaring the truth and “social utility” created by this new religion. The enactment of a law on the 21st of October 1793 made it so any nonjuring priest caught in France, and any household protecting them, would be executed on sight. Priests fled France for their lives, publicly thanking and praising England for their generosity and mercy compared to the intolerance and brutality exhibited by the French at the time.

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