European History Pt. 39 — the second revolution of 1792

Last time, I looked at the national assembly as it went about drafting and then putting into practice the Constitution of 1791. From my reading this was a turbulent but relatively politically innovative time at which a lot of LAWS were passed to change things. From this point on, trust in the laws and the people making the declined sharply.

International Scene

At first many countries ignored the French. England thought that the French were finally trying to emulate them (a naive, complacent sentiment), and Hungarian landlords and polish aristocrats pointed to French upheaval as an example. The most trampled classes too responded. The Irish were enthused, as well as Silesian weavers, labor in Hamburg, and the Belgian underclass. There was, at this time of Wordsworth and Hegel, excitement in the air.

But as history teaches us, revolution breeds counter-revolution. Monarchs like Gustavus III (Sweden) and Catherine the Great were appalled. Expat French nobles wanted their manorial privileges back and conspired with the king’s brother, the Count of Artois to lead a reinstatement of the ancient regime.

Revolutionary Foreign Policy 

Other countries started to get nervous though. France took Avignon at the request of revolutionaries without talking with its owner, the pope. German princes with rights in Alsace lost them when feudalism was abolished at a stroke by the national assembly.

So, Leopold II, emperor of Austria and BROTHER to Marie Antoinette, started thinking about taking steps. He got together with Prussia and said that he would try to restore order in France IF (huge if) the other powers would help. Leopold hoped the other powers would never all consent to helping and so, his promise bound him to nothing. This was the famed DECLARATION OF PILNITZ.

France didn’t see through the diplomatic maneuvering. They thought the alliance was serious and threatening, and this turned them against the monarchies of Europe. War gathered popularity in two quarters. Loyalists to Louis XVI supported war because they thought it would restore his popularity and radical, internationalist Jacobins known as Girondins thought the revolution would never be safe unless it could spread to all of Europe.

The Second Revolution

And so everything changed. The lower classes were squeezed by war and they grew increasingly suspicious of the monarchy and the girondins. Why war at a time like this? Where was the support for labor and against property? They were whipped further into a fury by people like Robespierre, Danton, and Marat. Especially Marat. That guy was a lunatic. An insane bloodthirsty monster (my opinion, but please read about him).

Troops streamed into the city on their way to the front, and Paris was turned upside down. In August of 1792, the lower classes revolted, killed the king’s french guard and imprisoned the royal family. A revolutionary commune was set up to govern Paris, and a NEW constitutional assembly was chosen to draft a NEW constitution (France kept trying to draft a constitution, to no avail). Soon after, the September massacres occurred, in which priests and others were executed.

Next is the terror.


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