French Revolution figures and terms

French Revolution figures
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created April 1, 2016
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Jacques-Pierre BrissotA member of the Legislative Assembly and National Convention who held a moderate stance and believed in the idea of a constitutional monarchy. His followers eventually became known more generally as the Girondins. After unsuccessfully declaring war on Austria and Prussia, he was removed from the National Convention and, like many Girondin leaders, lost his life at the guillotine during the Reign of Terror in 1793–1794.
Charles de CalonneThe controller general of finance appointed by King Louis XVI  in 1781. He proposed a daring plan to shift the French tax burden from the poor to wealthy nobles and businessmen, suggesting a tax on land proportional to land values and a lessened tax burden for peasants. The French nobility, however, refused to pay these taxes.
Lazare CarnotA French soldier appointed by the Committee of Public Safety to help reorganize the failing war effort against Austria and Prussia. He did so very effectively and made enough of a name for himself to earn a seat as one of the first members of the Directory. Although he was removed from this position during the overthrow of September 4, 1797, he went on to hold various posts in future governments.
Jacques NeckerA Swiss-born banker who served as France’s director general of finance in the late 1770s, with high hopes of instituting reform. As it turned out, he was able only to propose small efforts at eliminating costly inefficiencies. He did produce a government budget, however, for the first time in French history.
Maximilien RobespierreA brilliant political tactician and leader of the radicalJacobins in the National Assembly. As chairman of the Committee of Public Safety, He pursued a planned economy and vigorous mobilization for war. He grew increasingly paranoid about counterrevolutionary opposition, however, and during the Reign of Terror of 1793–1794 attempted to silence all enemies of the Revolution in an effort to save France from invasion. After the moderates regained power and the Thermidorian Reaction was under way, they had him executed on July 28, 1794.
Emmanuel-Joseph SieyèsA liberal member of the clergy, supporter of the Third Estate, and author of the fiery 1789 pamphlet “What Is the Third Estate?” He was one of the primary leaders of the Third Estate’s effort at political and economic reform in France. He was also involved in Napoleon's overthrow of the Directory
August DecreesA series of decrees issued by the National Assembly in August 1789 that successfully suppressed the Great Fear by releasing all peasants from feudal contracts.
Civil Constitution of the ClergyA document, issued by the National Assembly in July 1790, that broke ties with the Catholic Church and established a national church system in France with a process for the election of regional bishops. The document angered the pope and church officials and turned many French Catholics against the revolutionaries.
Constitution of 1791The new French constitution that established a constitutional monarchy, or limited monarchy, with all executive power answerable to a legislative assembly. Under the new constitution, King Louis XVI could only temporarily veto legislation passed by the assembly. The constitution restricted voting in the assembly to the upper and middle classes of French society and abolished “nobility” as a legal order.
Declaration of PillnitzAn August 27, 1791, warning from Prussia and Austriaannouncing that they would intervene militarily in France if any harm came to King Louis XVI, who had just been captured trying to escape with his family from Paris. The declaration prompted then–Legislative Assembly leader Jacques-Pierre Brissotto declare war on Austria and Prussia.
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the CitizenA document, issued by the National Assembly on August 26, 1789, that granted sovereignty to all French people. The declaration, which drew from the ideas of some of the Enlightenment’s greatest thinkers, asserted that liberty is a “natural” and “imprescriptible” right of man and that “men are born and remain free and equal in rights.”
GirondinsThe name given to the moderates in the National Convention. They controlled the legislative assembly until 1793, when, with the war going poorly and food shortages hurting French peasants, theJacobins ousted them from power.
Great FearA period in July and August 1789 during which rural peasants revolted against their feudal landlords and wreaked havoc in the French countryside.
JacobinsThe radical wing of representatives in the National Convention, named for their secret meeting place of their club, in an abandoned Paris monastery. Led by Maximilien Robespierre, they called for democratic solutions to France’s problems and spoke for the urban poor and French peasantry. They took control of the convention, and France itself, from 1793 to 1794. As Robespierre became increasingly concerned with counterrevolutionary threats, he instituted a brutal period of public executions known as the Reign of Terror.
National AssemblyThe name given to the Third Estate after it separated from the Estates-General in 1789. As a body, it claimed to legitimately represent the French population. The body was dissolved in 1791 so that new elections could take place under the new constitution.
National ConventionThe body that replaced the Legislative Assembly following a successful election in 1792. As one of its first actions, it declared the French monarchy abolished on September 21, 1792, and on the following day declared France a republic. Though originally dominated by moderates, it became controlled by radical Jacobins in 1793.
ParlementsA set of thirteen provincial judicial boards—one based in Paris and the other twelve in major provincial cities—that constituted the independentjudiciary of France. They held the power of recording royal decrees, meaning that if they refused to record an edict, the edict would never be implemented in that district.
Sans-culottesUrban workers and peasants, whose name signified their wish to distinguish themselves from the high classes. The mob mentality of the sans-culottes constituted the most radical element of the Revolution.
Tennis Court OathA June 20, 1789, sworn by members of the Third Estate who had just formed the National Assembly and were locked out of the meeting of the Estates-General. Meeting at a nearby tennis court, these members of the Third Estate pledged to remain together until they had drafted and passed a new constitution.
George DantonA leading figure in the early stages of the French Revolution and the first President of the Committee of Public Safety. His role in the onset of the Revolution has been disputed; many historians describe him as the chief force in the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the First French Republic. A moderating influence on the Jacobins, he was guillotined by the advocates of revolutionary terror after accusations of venality and leniency to the enemies of the Revolution.
Louis de Saint-JustThe youngest of the deputies elected to the National Convention in 1792, he rose quickly in their ranks and became a major leader of the government of the French First Republic. He spearheaded the movement to execute King Louis XVI and later drafted the radical French Constitution of 1793. He became the enduring public face of the Reign of Terror and was dubbed the "Angel of Death"
Comte de Mirabeauleader of the early stages of the French revolution. A noble, he was involved before 1789 in numerous scandals that left his reputation in ruins. However, during the early yearsof the French Revolution he rose to the top and became a voice of the people. A successful orator, he was the leader of the moderate position, favoring a constitutional monarchy built on the model of Great Britain. The later discovery that starting in 1790 he was in the pay of the king and the Austrian enemies of France caused his disgrace.
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