History B 356: French Revolution and Napoleon Dr.Rebecca L. Spang

A brief and incomplete chronology of the period 1774-1804 

Background
1774 Louis XVI, great-great-grandson of Louis XIV (the "Sun King" who built Versailles), becomes king of France; in 1770 he was married to Marie Antoinette
   
1774-6 Turgot, Louis XVI's physiocrat Controller-General attempts to introduce free trade in grain and abolish the guilds; widespread popular protest, the so-called Flour War, leads to his dismissal.
   
July 1778 Allied with the American colonies, France declares war on Britain.
   
May 1781  `Ségur ordinance' (War Ministry decree) requires that only those with four noble grandparents can be promoted to highest military rank.
   
July 1782   Royal decree levies a third vingtième (tax equal to 1/20 of income) for period 1783-1786.
   
Sept. 1783  Peace of Versailles between France, American colonies, Britain.
   
Aug. 1785 "Diamond Necklace Affair" leads to widespread discrediting of Marie Antoinette.
Pre-Revolution
August 1786 Controller-General Calonne, faced with impending state bankruptcy, suggests reforms to Louis XVI: tax reductions, free grain trade, unitary land tax. Normally, any such reform would have to be "enregistered" (accepted) by the Parlement of Paris (sovereign law court), but the Parlement has often rejected reform attempts in the name of protecting historic liberties. Rather than presenting Calonne's reforms to the Parlement, then, the monarchy convokes an Assembly of Notables.
February 1787  Assembly of Notables meets; monarchy makes concessions(replacing Calonne with Brienne) to no avail, and in May the Assembly rejects all the proposed reforms. Brienne then carries through a series of reforms (free grain trade, stamp tax), which the Parlement of Paris refuses to accept, resulting in the Parlement being sent into exile in the small provincial city of Troyes (14 August).
Protests in favor of the Parlement lead to Brienne modifying reforms, and the Parlement being recalled. Parlement demands that the king call the Estates-General (the national representative body, which has not met since 1614).
November 1787 Louis XVI agrees to convoke Estates-General, and continues to struggle with the Paris Parlement over whether his actions constitute "despotism."
May 1788 Brienne's "May Edicts" reorganize judicial system; parlements protest. Popular protests, clergy, and nobles all support the parlements.
August 1788 De facto state bankruptcy.
January 1789 Sieyes publishes What is the Third Estate?; electioneering raises questions about how voting will proceed in Estates-General (by head or by estate).
Spring 1789 Cahiers de doléances (notebooks of grievances) drawn up by local assemblies; many show signs of being influenced by model cahiers circulated by the Society of Thirty (group of liberal aristocrats, including Lafayette, plus Sieyes, Condorcet). 
Bad grain harvests, over production of wine, difficulties in textile industry (in part provoked by 1787 treaty with Britain)--all lead to a series of peasant protests, urban bread riots.
Estates-General and Constituent Assembly (May 1789-September 1791)
5 May 1789 Opening of Estates-General, voting to be by order (i.e., one vote for the First Estate, one for the Second, and one for the Third) rather than by person. The latter is favoured by the Third Estate, as it is twice as big as either the First or Second. In voting by orders, each order meets separately to decide its vote.
6 May 1789 Delegates from the Third Estate refuse to meet as a separate group, call themselves "the Commons."
13 June 1789 Several members of the First join the Commons.
17 June 1789 The Commons, whose membership now includes about half the delegates to the Estates-General, takes the name "National Assembly."
20 June 1789 The National Assembly is accidentally locked out of its meeting place; suspecting a despotic move to destroy them, its members meet in an abandoned tennis court, and there swear not to disperse until a constitution has been written, ratified, and put in place (the Serment du jeu de paume or Tennis Court Oath). 
In the following days, many members of the First and Second join the National Assembly. Louis XVI vacillates and wobbles, but orders the army to surround Paris and Versailles.
9 July 1789 The National Assembly takes name "Constituent Assembly."
11 July 1789 Louis dismisses his chief minister, the popular Swiss banker, Necker, and replaces him with the reactionary Breteuil. 
12 July 1789 Word of Necker's being fired reaches Paris prompting protests in many different contexts (speeches in the gardens of the Palais Royal, closing of stock exchange, looting, etc.).
14 July 1789 A Paris crowd storms the Bastille Prison, looking for arms with which to defend itself against the army rumouredly massed around the city. Troops refuse to fire on crowd. 
In the following weeks, the Paris electors call themselves the Commune of Paris, electing Bailly, mayor, and Lafayette, head of the National Guard. Municipal government passes into the hands of 60 electoral districts. Political clubs form.
4 August 1789 National Assembly "abolishes" privileges.
Throughout the summer, the Great Fear (an almost nationwide panic) sweeps France, especially rural areas. Rumors of impending famine, crazed brigands, and aristocratic plots abound.
26 August 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (a composite, committee-written work).
5-6 October 1789 A crowd of Parisians, mainly women, marches to Versailles to protest economic hardship and demand that the royal family move to the Tuileries Palace in Paris.
2 November 1789 The Assembly nationalizes all Church property; in exchange, the state is to fund poor relief and public worship.
19 December 1789 After extensive debate, Assembly orders first assignats ("paper money") to be issued.
January 1790 A radical political club begins meeting at the former Jacobin monastery in Paris; members take the name "Jacobins." The 24 livres annual membership fee guarantees a fairly affluent membership.
April 1790 More assignats to be issued; declared to be valid for all transactions (not just purchase of biens as they had been in December 1789).
21 May 1790 Paris government reorganizes from 60 districts into 48 local "sections."
July 1790 Civil Constitution of the Clergy (i.e., Catholic Church is reorganized as branch of state; bishops to be elected and all clergy must swear oath to uphold national constitution).
14 July 1790 Festival of Federation: to celebrate the first anniversary of the Fall of the Bastille, deputies from all across France gather in Paris for an enormous festival/ceremony of Federation (declaration of loyalty and national solidarity).
31 Oct. 1790 Abolition of internal trade barriers.
2 March 1791 D'Allarde Law abolishes guilds.
14 June 1791 Le Chapelier Law forbids workers' organizations or strikes.
20 June 1791 Royal family attempts to flee France, but is arrested at Varennes (monarchy's reputation is irreparably damaged).
17 July 1791 The National Guard fires on crowd meeting to show support for the Cordeliers Club's petition for a republican government (the "Champs de Mars Massacre").
22 Aug. 1791 Slave revolt in Saint Domingue (West Indies).
27 Sept. 1791 Slavery abolished in France (not in the colonies).
Sept. 1791 Assembly finishes Constitution, Louis promises to uphold it; Constituent Assembly dissolves itself and is replaced by Legislative Assembly.
Legislative Assembly (Oct. 1791-Sept. 1792)
Nov. 1791 Law against émigrés: aristocrats who fled France must either return or be declared traitors and forfeit their lands.
Winter 1791-92 Shortages (coffee, sugar, bread, soap) lead to riots; counter-revolution begins in Western France (the Vendée).
March 1792 Girondin deputies (so-called because many of them come from the Gironde, the region around Bordeaux) form a majority in the Legislative Assembly, and a "Girondin" ministry is formed (Roland, Dumouriez, Clavière; other important Girondins include Brissot, Vergniaud).
4 April 1792 Equal political rights decreed for mulattos and free blacks in colonies.
6 April 1792 Wearing of religious dress forbidden.
20 April 1792 Declaration of war against Austria and German states for harbouring émigrés and favouring the return of a strong French monarchy.
20 June 1792 Paris crowds invade the Tuileries Palace, say King should not have veto right; he dons revolutionary garb (tri-color cockade, "bonnet of liberty") but keeps the veto.
28 June 1792 Lafayette calls for abolition of Jacobin clubs and punishment of 20th June demonstrators.
11 July 1792 Legislative Assembly declares "La patrie en danger"("the fatherland is in danger"), thereby giving itself emergency powers (including ignoring king's veto); Prussian army on the French border.
25 July 1792 Brunswick Manifesto: most of Europe allies and declares war on revolutionary France, promising that any renewed violence like that of 20 June will result in an "exemplary and unforgettable act of vengeance."
3 August 1792 47 of 48 Paris sections sign petition calling for overthrow of king; Assembly agrees to discuss on 9 August.
9-10 August 1792 Assembly agrees nothing about king; popular protests at Tuileries and Legislative Assembly lead to abolition of monarchy; voting by universal manhood suffrage to occur for National Assembly.
For the next six weeks, power is divided among the Legislative Assembly, the Paris Commune (municipal government), and a Provisional Executive Committee (headed by Danton).
12 August 1792 Royal family placed in Temple Prison
19 August 1792 Lafayette flees abroad (is imprisoned there).
28 August 1792 Legislative Assembly allows house-to-house searches for arms or people suspected of anti-revolutionary sympathies.
2-6 Sept. 1792 "September Massacres" in Paris: alarm at impending fall of Verdun to European Allies leads to panic and the murder of over 1000 prison inmates 

Church ornaments requisitioned and melted down for war effort; Divorce legalized.

20 Sept. 1792 Against all odds, the French defeat Prussians at the Battle of Valmy; the war, however, continues for years
The National Convention
20 Sept. 1792 First meeting of National Convention.
22 Sept. 1792 Convention declares a Republic.
13 Nov. 1792 Debate on Louis Capet's fate begins.
10 Dec. 1792 Louis' trial begins.
27 Dec. 1792 Girondins propose a referendum on Louis' fate.
14 Jan. 1793 Convention votes on case of Louis: he is unanimously found guilty; by vote of 424 to 283 there will be no referendum.
16-17 Jan. 1793 Meeting late into the night, the Convention votes that Louis be beheaded (387 to 334).
20 Jan. 1793 LePeletier de Saint Fargeau assassinated for having voted "yes" on killing the former king.
21 Jan. 1793 Execution of former Louis XVI.
1 Feb. 1793 France declares war on Great Britain and Holland; war continues for years, as does civil war in Vendée, opposition to revolutionary centralisation erupts violently in Lyon and Marseille; Convention sends "representatives on mission" to supervise war effort and report on counter-revolutionary activity.
6 April 1793 Convention creates Committee of Public Safety
2 June 1793 Paris sections, encouraged by enragés Roux and Hébert, demonstrate, calling for administrative purges, low fixed bread price, voting rights for sans-culottes alone; with backing of National Guard, they convince Convention to arrest Girondins. War continues everywhere.
24 June 1793 Convention completes new constitution (Constitution of 1793).
13 July 1793 Charlotte Corday kills Marat in his bathtub.
23 Aug. 1793 Levée en masse (general mobilisation for war).
29 Aug. 1793 Toulon surrenders to British fleet.
5 Sept. 1793 Paris sections march on Convention, leading to most radical period of the Revolution, the Terror; "revolutionary armies" established, Law of Suspects passed, and wage and price controls (the maximum) put in place.
10 Oct. 1793 Convention decrees that "the government of France will be revolutionary until the peace," i.e., suspends the constitution.
16 Oct. 1793 Marie Antoinette executed.
For the next nine months, government is largely led by the Commitee of Public Safety (most famous members: Robespierre, Danton, Barère, Couthon, Saint-Just). Constitution of 1793 is never put in place due to the war effort; however, a revolutionary calendar is implemented (22 Sept. 1793 is the first day of the Year II).
30 Oct. 1793 (9 brumaire II) Women's political societies banned.
31 Oct. 1793 Execution of Girondins.
19 Dec. 1793 (29 frimaire II) Toulon recaptured by Dugommier and Bonaparte; to be called "Port-la-Montagne."
11 Jan. 1794 (22 nivose II) Grégoire denounces vandalism; speaks of importance of guarding national patrimony.
4 Feb. 1794 Slavery abolished in the colonies.
5 Feb. 1794 (17 pluviôse II) Robespierre's report, "On the Principles of Political Morality."
13 March 1794 (23 ventôse II) Hébert and other members of populist Cordelier Club arrested as conspirators; executed ten days later.
29 March 1794 (9 germinal II) Danton and "Indulgents" arrested; they are executed a week later.
7 May 1794 (18 floréal II) Decree institutes Cult of Supreme Being.
8 June 1794 (20 prairial II) Festival of Supreme Being.
27 July 1794 (9 thermidor II) Robespierre and the Mountain overthrown; most guillotined, a few jailed.
Convention continues to govern for a year; this is the period known as the Thermidorean Convention. Revolutionary tribunals are suspended and suspects freed. Price controls are lifted, war continues, bad harvest--all leads to severe shortages.
Nov. 1794 (brumaire III) Militant sans-culottes purged from Paris sections, and Jacobin Club shut.
9 Feb. 1795 (21 pluviôse III) Images of Marat, Le Peletier removed from Convention (under pressure from the so-called jeunesse dorée).
1-2 April 1795 (12-13 germinal III) Popular demonstration in Convention calls for Constitution of 1793 and measures to alleviate economic hardship; Conv. declares state of siege, deports or arrests number of ex-Montagnards.
20-21 May 1795 (1-2 prairial III) Another insurrectionary crowd demands bread and the Constitution of 1793; more former Montagnards arrested and protests repressed miiltarily.
8 June 1795 (20 prairial III) Louis XVI's and Marie Antoinette's son dies in Temple Prison.
23 Sept.1795 (1 vendémiaire IV) Constitution of Year III ratified.
The Directory: Oct. 1795 (brumaire IV)-Nov. 1799 (brumaire VIII)
Government by a five-man executive (the Directory) and a bicameral legislative.
1796 Civil war in Western France comes to a close, and Bonaparte made head of Army of Italy--extraordinary series of victories.
16 April 1796 (27 germinal IV) Death penalty for those who support either Constitution of 1793 or return of monarchy.
Power struggles within the Directory continue for next several years, debating legacy of Revolution and Terror.
May 1798 Bonaparte and his army head to Egypt, conquering Malta.
The Consulate: Nov. 1799 (bru. VIII)-Dec. 1804
9 Nov. 1799 (18 brumaire VIII)  In a coup d'état, Bonaparte takes over government; Constitution of Year VIII establishes Consulate (3 man executive) with Bonaparte as First Consul.
April 1802 Concordat re-establishes ties of France and papacy.
May 1802 Bonaparte elected First Consul for Life (by plebiscite).
Dec. 1804 Bonaparte becomes Emperor Napoleon.

 

this page was written by Rebecca Spang & Ralph Kingston
it is maintained by Ralph Kingston  [c] 1999