10 Things We Owe to the French Revolution of 1789
10 Things We Owe to the French Revolution of 1789

10 Things We Owe to the French Revolution of 1789

Khalid Elhassan - February 24, 2018

The French Revolution of 1789 had a greater political, intellectual, and cultural impact, than any other revolution in history. It inaugurated a worldwide shift from the absolutist monarchies that had governed most of mankind for nearly all of recorded history, to democracies, republics, and modern states. With the possible exception of the US, the 1789 Revolution’s principles defined the terms of political debate, whether pro or anti French Revolutionary concepts, for nearly all political movements ever since.

The French Revolutionary regime disintegrated into chaos within a few years, and the Revolution was hijacked by Napoleon. However, Napoleon was a creature of the Revolution. He cemented its core results in his Napoleonic Code, and spread its principles wherever his soldiers marched. Just about every revolution and progressive movement in the world after 1789 drew from the French Revolution. Liberalism, secularism, nationalism, radicalism, socialism, feminism: all derive from the French Revolution. Social democracy? Traces back to the French Revolution. Socialism? Likewise. British liberalism? An attempt to avert a French style revolution in Britain. Communism? Extremist neo Montagnards. Fascism? That is simply Egalite + Nationalism + anti communism.

10 Things We Owe to the French Revolution of 1789
General Napoleon Bonaparte leading French Revolutionary soldiers across a bridge at Arcole. Foundation for Economic Education

Even today’s non secular or anti secular ideologies, such as political Islam, emerged as a reaction to the spread of the French Revolution’s political concepts. Al Qaeda, ISIS, and all religious extremist movements around the world today are, at core, a violent backlash against the world shaped by the 1789 upheaval. Today, just about all of us live in a world shaped by or in reaction to the French Revolution, and most of the world’s population lives under systems of law derived from or modeled upon the Code Napoleon. That is a long and long lasting shadow cast by a single revolution.

Following are ten ways, big and small, that the French Revolution impacted and shaped the modern world.

10 Things We Owe to the French Revolution of 1789
The execution of king Louis XVI. History Hit

The End of Feudalism and the Divine Right of Kings

Most people today are accustomed to egalitarianism and equal treatment before the law as basic concepts of governance and social organization. Even where such concepts are not actually practiced, they are at least given lip service. Before 1789, however, the majority of mankind lived in highly stratified societies with stark class divides, in which differing treatments under the law based on class were routine. In such societies, a small and parasitic aristocratic elite lorded it over a mass of exploited and oppressed commoners. And heading the aristocracy was a monarch, claiming a divine right to rule and exploit all.

Most commoners in such societies were peasants, tied to the land and toiling in conditions of peonage and serfdom. The remainder were otherwise engaged in trades or other service sector employments for the ultimate benefit of an aristocracy. The aristocrats seldom bothered to conceal their contempt for the commoners, particularly the peasants, whose very occupation’s name was often used as a pejorative.

Social custom and religion, with its promise of a better life in a world to come, did much to reconcile the commoners to their lowly lot in this world. However, custom and religion sometimes failed to keep the commoners content, and they rose to demand a fairer redistribution of the pie. When that happened, the aristocrats were often successful in using their monopoly of government to maintain their grip on power. Especially via their access to organized and disciplined military forces, which they unleashed on the commoners to cow and keep them in line.

Until 1789, France and most of Europe were such societies. The French Revolution would upend the system that had allowed such societies to exist for millennia. In 1789, forces were unleashed that would eventually consign government by aristocrats and absolute monarchs claiming a divine right to rule, to the dustbin of history. One of the French Revolution’s first steps was to abolish absolutist monarchy, and replace it with a constitutional one accountable to the nation, before getting rid of monarchy altogether. Simultaneously, all aristocratic privileges were abolished.

France’s Revolutionary armies would spread that hostility to absolutist monarchy and aristocratic privilege throughout Europe. Once that genie had left the bottle, there was no putting it back, neither in France nor in the rest of Europe. Even after the French monarchy was restored following the defeat of Napoleon, it was restored as a constitutional monarchy, not an absolutist one like in pre-1789 days. In the rest of Europe, the decades after Waterloo were marked by a conservative backlash against the French Revolution’s ideals. However, even amidst such backlash, the clock was not wound back completely to pre-1789 days. The ensuing 19th century was marked by a gradual shift towards increased liberalism and constitutionalism, while the power of monarchs and aristocrats steadily declined.

10 Things We Owe to the French Revolution of 1789
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Wikimedia

The Spread of Human Rights

In August of 1789, France’s National Constituent Assembly issued the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The document, comprised of 17 articles encapsulating the Enlightenment principles that inspired the French Revolution, was a landmark charter of basic human rights and liberties. It enshrined the concept that the individual should be safeguarded from arbitrary state action, and would serve as the preamble to the French Constitution of 1791 and subsequent constitutions. The Declaration revolutionized the relationship between citizen and state – or at least the understanding of what that relationship should be.

The Declaration drew from the doctrine of “natural right” – inalienable rights that exist independent of the laws and customs of any government or culture – to hold that the rights of man are universal. Drawing from the same Enlightenment sources as the American Declaration of Independence, the French Declaration held that all men have a natural right to life, liberty, and property. The purpose of government was the uphold and protect those rights.

The substance of the Declaration’s text was akin to a mixture of the American Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. The French document’s core, captured in Article 1, was that “all men are born and remain free and equal in rights“. Other articles set forth equality before the law; freedom of speech; freedom of religion; freedom from arrest without due process; and the right to participate in legislation, directly or indirectly.

However, a major difference between the French Declaration and the American Bill of Rights was the lack of practical guarantees. The French document, unlike the American one, was not associated with a constitutional structure, with an enforcement mechanism to give it teeth and ensure that its provisions were carried out. In practice, the French Declaration was aspirational – a statement of vision, rather than a reflection of realities on the ground. Its principles were not deeply rooted in French culture, society, or politics. Indeed, there was widespread resistance to the very concepts of individual rights and democracy, which many equated with anarchy. Nonetheless, the Declaration set out the ideals that France, and all Western democracies, pledged themselves to achieve.

Along with Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, and the American Bill of Rights, the Declaration of the Rights of Man was a milestone in human rights. It played a major role in the development of democracy and liberty in Europe and around the world. In 1948, the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights drew heavily from, and was modeled upon, the French Revolution’s Declaration.

10 Things We Owe to the French Revolution of 1789
La Marseillaise. Mr. Belo’s Blog

Modern Nationalism

The seeds of French nationalism were sown in the Hundred Years War, when the territory of what would become France was ravaged by English invaders. The later stages of the war in particular, during which the locals rid French soil of the hated invaders, produced a great national icon in the person of Joan of Arc. It was during the course of the French Revolution, however, that nationalism as it is commonly understood in the modern era first emerged.

Before 1789, the concept of loyalty in Europe was commonly understood as one that bound subjects to a sovereign – typically a monarch. When the French Revolution erupted and the monarchy fell, to be replaced by a Republic, France’s monarchic neighbors understandably felt threatened by the bad example to their own subjects. So they invaded France from all sides in order to nip the Revolution in the bud, and restore the French monarchy.

By 1792, foreign armies were pushing into France from all sides: from the Lowlands to the northeast; across the Rhine to the east; from what is now Italy in the southeast; British-backed insurrections on the Mediterranean coast; and Spanish armies crossing the Pyrenees to the southwest. The situation seemed hopeless for the Revolutionary government, particularly as most experienced military officers had left the country as emigres, many of whom now fought in the invaders’ ranks.

Republican France responded by introducing mass conscription, known as the levee en masse, which put the entire French population at the disposal of the war effort. The French army grew from about 645,000 in 1793, to over 1,500,000 by 1794. Significantly, the new mass armies were mobilized not as subjects fighting in the name of a monarch – by then the monarchy had been abolished and the king had been guillotined – but as citizens fighting for France itself, as a nation.

The new relationship of citizen to nation was captured in a new revolutionary song, La Marseillaise, which would go on to become France’s national anthem. The song did not extol a monarch or military commander, but was instead a patriotic call to mobilize all citizens to fight for the nation, and repel foreign invaders. Its opening lyrics, “Arise, children of the Fatherland – the day of glory has arrived!” was a fighting cry in which France itself, as a nation, was a sacred object to be defended.

The newly conscripted French armies were poorly trained when compared to the professional armies of the invaders. However, their morale was high, because they were fired up by revolutionary zeal, and especially the zeal of French nationalism. French commanders successfully tapped into the nationalist passions of their soldiers, and adapted to make best use of their forces’ edge in morale.

What do you do when you have many poorly trained but highly motivated soldiers? You make a virtue out of necessity. French military doctrine was changed to emphasize attacks by massed troops in dense columns. That required relatively little training, and when such columns were thrown at vulnerable points in enemy battle lines, they could overwhelm and break them with sheer mass. As a result, a series of stunning French victories were won, radically changing the war. France went from hard pressed and on the edge of defeat in 1792, to victorious on all fronts, and on the offensive, fighting deep in enemy territory instead of on French soil.

Before long, French soldiers were tramping the length and breadth of Europe, and wherever French armies marched, French Revolutionary ideals and ideas marched with them. Nationalism in particular was an idea that readily caught on, and stayed even after the French armies had been beaten back into France. Much of Europe’s history – and that of the world, for that matter – has revolved around nationalist struggles ever since.

10 Things We Owe to the French Revolution of 1789
Execution at the Place de la Revolucion during the Reign of Terror. Daily Kos

Revolutionary Terror

The machinery and reach of a modern government, when combined with aroused public passions in order to repress dissent and enforce official state ideology and “revolutionary justice”, is a frightful thing to behold. That, however, was one of the darker legacies of the French Revolution, whose “Reign of Terror” from the summer of 1793 to the summer of 1794 set a sinister example that many have emulated since.

In 1793, France’s nascent republican government was hard pressed and threatened by enemies from without and within. Foreign armies, whose ranks included many French emigre royalists, were pressing in from all directions, with the avowed intent of crushing the Revolution and restoring the monarchy. Simultaneously, civil war and armed uprisings, particularly in the Vendee, posed a grave internal threat.

In response to the emergency, the Revolutionary government determined to crush the enemy within, and on September 5th, 1793, a proposal was adopted by the National Convention to “make terror the order of the day“. Legislation was passed authorizing the harshest of measures against enemies of the Revolution, actual and suspected, and targeting aristocrats, priests, hoarders and speculators.

As Maximilian Robespierre justified what came to be known as the Reign of Terror: “If the basis of popular government in peacetime is virtue, the basis of popular government during a revolution is both virtue and terror; virtue, without which terror is baneful; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing more than speedy, severe and inflexible justice; it is thus an emanation of virtue; it is less a principle in itself, than a consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing needs of the nation“.

A Committee of Public Safety was established, headed by Robespierre, and it proceeded to exercise dictatorial control over the French government. Public tribunals were set up to try suspected counterrevolutionaries, and tens of thousands were condemned to death after perfunctory “trials” that sometimes lasted no more than a minute. Eventually, even that was done away with, and legislation was enacted in June of 1794, stripping away the right to a public trial or to legal counsel. To further stack the odds against the accused and ensure more death sentences, the juries’ choices were limited to only two options: acquittal, or death.

As a result, the Reign of Terror reached its peak in the following month, which came to be known as “The Great Terror”, during which over 1400 people were executed. All the while, Robespierre and his Committee of Public Safety cast an ever wider net in search of more and more “enemies of the Revolution”. Paranoia soon became the rule, and a situation developed akin to that of the Salem Witch Trials. Anybody could be accused, and in the fevered atmosphere of the Terror, coupled with the absence of legal safeguards, an accusation was often all it took to ensure a death sentence.

That led to a backlash from Robespierre’s own party in the French legislature, whose members feared that Robespierre, having already purged his political opponents, might turn on them next. So on July 27th, 1794, in a dramatic showdown on the floor of the French National Convention, Robespierre and members of the Committee of Public Safety were stripped of their powers. Within hours they were hurriedly tried in one of their own public tribunals, sentenced to death, and guillotined.

The Reign of Terror was over, but its legacy remained. Over the following centuries, many revolutionary movements, upon seizing power, set up revolutionary tribunals to go after suspected counterrevolutionaries. Whether Bolshevik Red Terror; Nazi “People’s Courts”; Mao’s village tribunals; or the Khmer Rogue’s genocidal courts in Cambodia: all drew upon one of the French Revolution’s most sinister legacies.

10 Things We Owe to the French Revolution of 1789
Caricature of monks and nuns enjoying their newfound freedom after monastic vows were abolished. History Today

Decline of the Church and the Rise of Secularism

Before the French Revolution, the Catholic Church had been a powerful institution and presence in France. Catholicism was the official religion, and nearly all French were Catholic. As with nearly all institutions of the Ancien Regime, the Catholic Church was corrupt and inequitable. It owned ten percent of the land, making it the country’s single biggest landowner. It collected a ten percent tithe from the general population, which it hoarded for itself and seldom distributed to the needy. It was also exempt from taxation.

After centuries of corruption, abuse, and unearned privilege, the Church was held in low regard by the time revolution broke out in 1789. Particularly among the Revolution’s leaders, who wasted little time in reducing the Church’s power and influence. One of the earliest steps taken by the National Assembly in August of 1789 was to deprive the Church of its authority to tithe. Soon thereafter, the Church’s vast holdings were nationalized, placed “at the disposal of the nation“, and used to back a new currency. Having taken over the Church’s property, the Revolutionary government assumed the Church’s responsibilities of taking care of the poor, orphaned, and sick – which duties the Church had neglected. Legislation was passed abolishing monastic vows, and in early 1790, all religious orders were dissolved.

In the summer of 1790, the government assumed responsibility for paying the clergy’s salaries, turning them into government employees. A system was set up to elect priests and bishops, which created a backlash because it interfered with the authority of the Pope over the French Church. The Revolutionary government did not back down, however, and in late 1790, required an oath of loyalty from all remaining clergy. Most clergy refused, leading to a schism, and even armed uprisings in defense of the Church, which were ruthlessly put down.

The Revolution’s crackdown on the Church reached its height in the Reign of Terror, during which thousands of priests were jailed or massacred, while churches and religious images were destroyed across France. A short-lived “Cult of Reason” was introduced in an effort to replace Christianity, but widespread opposition forced even the radicals to beat a partial retreat. In 1801, Napoleon reached a Concordat with the Church, which normalized and regulated relations between the Catholic Church and France. By then, however, secularism had taken hold, and the Church never came close to regaining the power and influence it had wielded before the French Revolution. The Concordat signed with Napoleon remained in force until 1905, when France finally legislated a complete separation between Church and state.

10 Things We Owe to the French Revolution of 1789
A sans culottes. Wikimedia

Simplified Clothing Fashion

Before the French Revolution, clothing had served as a visible marker of aristocratic privilege and social status. High fashion was derived from the French court’s dress code, based on unbending etiquette introduced by Louis XIV during the seventeenth century. During the eighteenth century, as the French court and government grew increasingly corrupt and outdated, the fashion associated with the regime came to be seen by the enlightened as outmoded symbols of corruption.

The fashion divide was at its most obvious in the early days of the French Revolution, when the king was forced to call the Estates General – an assembly of the aristocracy, the clergy, and the commoners. The aristocrats of the First Estate were clearly marked by their extravagant coats, cloaks, and vests, embroidered with gold; breeches; and powdered wigs; and expensive hats adorned with feathers. The clergy of the Second Estate were dressed in elaborate robes of purple, red, and gold. Everybody else in the Third Estate was dressed in plain suits, with white shirts and simple hats.

When the Ancien Regime was overthrown, and as the Jacobins and radicals came to dominate the revolutionary ranks, a backlash developed against high fashion. The extravagant clothing and elaborate styles prevalent during the Ancien Regime were out, because of their association with royalty and the despised aristocracy. They were replaced by a type of anti-fashion, that emphasized simplicity and modesty for both men and women.

When the Revolution was at its highest fever pitch, fashion ceased being an expression of individual taste, and became an important political statement that could mean the difference between life and death. Ignoring that could be dangerous, and dressing in the elaborate fashions of the Ancien Regime was a surefire way to mark the wearer as suspect, and probably worthy of a date with the Guillotine.

In Revolutionary France, the extravagant fashions of the despised nobility came to be seen expressions and symbols of counterrevolutionary intent. As such, the Revolution set out to suppress elements of dress associated with the aristocracy. Expensive silks, velvets, and other pricey items of clothing were prohibited, as the revolutionaries set out to create a new order marked by fraternity, rather than privilege. Thus, during the Reign of Terror, the workaday outfits of the sans culottes (“without breeches” – the common people of the lower classes) came to the fore, as symbols of revolutionary egalitarianism.

The revolution in fashion was permanent. The Revolution itself went off track, and the revolutionary regime was replaced in turn by the Directory, the Consulate, the Empire, and finally, a restoration of the monarchy following Napoleon’s defeat. However, the extravagant fashions of the Ancien Regime did not return, breeches did not make a comeback, and the elaborate powdered wigs and feathered hats for men were consigned to history.

10 Things We Owe to the French Revolution of 1789
Introduction of the Metric System. The Gist

The Metric System

Before the French Revolution, it was common for units of weight and measurement to vary not only between countries, but between different regions, or even towns, within the same country. In line with the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, the Revolution sought to bring order to that confusing and conflicting systems of weights and measurements.

The need for a uniform system was obvious to educated people, scientists, and merchants throughout Europe. However, the power of inertia was strong: most people had grown up with and were used to their own traditional systems of weight and measurement, irrational as they might have been. Such systems might have been confusing to outsiders, and might have required conversions that added unnecessary complexity to trade between towns, regions, and countries. However, they were not confusing to most people who used them in their day to day lives, and who were thus loathe to replace them with a new system that they would have to learn from scratch.

Because of that inertia and reluctance to change, it was only within the context of a major revolutionary upheaval that upended and swept all before it that such a major change could be considered. Luckily, the French Revolution was just such a major upheaval. The Metric System was first proposed in the National Assembly in 1791. Legislation was passed in 1795, and in 1799, the first standard meter bar and kilogram bars were adopted.

Unlike the panoply of traditional units based on the human body, such as feet or thumbs that varied from person to person, the Metric System used the Earth itself as the measuring stick. A meter was defined as one ten-millionth of the distance between the North Pole and the Equator. A liter was the volume of one cubic decimeter. A kilogram was the weight of a liter of pure water. It was simple, elegant, and based on the decimal system, lending itself to easy calculations.

It took a while for the new system to take hold, and it was not made compulsory in France until 1837. Indeed, while the Metric System was French in origin, France was not the first country to require its use: the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg made the system compulsory in 1820. However, it was such a rational and simple system, superior to all others, that its use could not help but spread.

By 1850, a global economy was developing, the need for global uniformity in weights and measurements became obvious, and so a movement began in favor of an international system. The Metric System was the only viable option: its only competitor was the British Imperial System, but in addition to being confusing, it was too closely associated with the British Empire for those outside it. In 1875, all industrialized countries, with the exception of Britain, signed a treaty that established the International Bureau of Weights of Measures. It presides to this day over the International System of Units, which governs global measurements and weights.

10 Things We Owe to the French Revolution of 1789
The Napoleonic Code. Boston University

The Napoleonic Code

Although Napoleon hijacked the French Revolution, he cemented its core principles and outcomes in the 1804 French Civil Code, which came to be known as the Napoleonic Code, or Code Napoleon. It was the culmination of efforts, begun by the previous Revolutionary governments, to replace the existing patchwork of feudal laws with clearly written and accessible laws.

Before 1789, French courts had operated under different, and often conflicting, legal system, causing Voltaire to quip that a traveler in France “changes his law almost as often as he changes his horses“. Northern France, including Paris, was governed by customary laws derived from Frankish and Germanic feudal institutions, somewhat similar to English common law. Southern France, by contrast, was governed by Roman law. In the meantime, the Catholic Church’s canon law governed marriage and family relations. Simultaneously, a growing body of case law, beginning in the 16th century, developed out of royal decrees and the decisions of various parlements.

Codification became necessary after the French Revolution. The Church had been suppressed, the provinces had been transformed into subdivisions of a new nation-state, and a uniform legal code was required to help unify the new France. Thus, in 1791, the National Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution that “there shall be a code of civil laws common for the entire realm“. Commissions were appointed to begin the codification process, and their work continued, in fits and starts, throughout the turmoil of the Revolutionary government, and its successors of the Directorate, Consulate, and Empire, before a final version was enacted in 1804.

The Napoleonic Code underwent various revisions in the centuries since its enactment, but it remains operative in France to this day. It went on to become the world’s most influential legal code, influencing the civil codes of most European and Latin American countries. Today, the majority of mankind – with the notable exception of the Anglophone countries, with their common law traditions – lives under the Napoleonic Code or derivatives thereof.

10 Things We Owe to the French Revolution of 1789
France and ‘Sister Republics’ in 1799. University of Oregon

The Spread of Republics

The inherent attractiveness of the French Revolution’s Enlightenment ideals, particularly the espousal of freedom and equality, played a great role in the spread and dissemination of such ideals throughout Europe. However, French Revolutionary armies played an even greater role in spreading and disseminating the Revolution’s ideals throughout Europe.

The most visible manifestation of that came in the form of “Sister Republics”, which proliferated throughout Europe in the 1790s. Most such republics were established directly by French Revolutionary armies in neighboring countries, after beating back foreign attacks and going on the counteroffensive. Others were created by local revolutionaries, and assisted by the French revolutionary government.

Popular sovereignty, representative government, and the rule of law were the expressed ideals of the French revolutionary government. Spreading those republican principles across Europe was seen as a desirable end in of itself, and also as a prophylactic means of protecting the French Revolution at home. Accordingly, dozens of “Sister Republics”, of various sizes, were created in the 1790s, and eventually consolidated into a few larger republics around France’s borders. The logic was similar to that of the USSR seeking to safeguard itself by spreading communism around the world, or that of the US seeking to do the same by spreading free market capitalism and Western democracy.

Many “Sister Republics” did not survive fall of the First French Republic, and many of them were turned into constitutional monarchies by Napoleon, who parceled them off to his relatives. After Napoleon’s final defeat, the victors rearranged the map of Europe, parceling and altering the revolutionary republics beyond all recognition. Nonetheless, there was no returning the republican genie to bottle after it had been freed by the French Revolution.

In the century after Waterloo, nearly all of Europe was governed by restored monarchies, of varying levels of absolutism. It was clear, however, to enlightened thinkers, that they were anachronisms living on borrowed time. That time came to an end with World War I, whose conclusion saw the disappearance of Europe’s biggest absolutist monarchies – the German, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian. The remaining monarchies survived as constitutional figureheads, whose monarchs reigned ceremoniously, but did not rule.

10 Things We Owe to the French Revolution of 1789
Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death. Slide Player

“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, and the Spread of Secular Idealism

Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, French for “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, was an early motto of the French Revolution that expressed its ideals and aspirations. It was first uttered by Maximilian Robespierre in a 1790 speech that struck a chord, and was widely disseminated. The term, which captured much and condensed it into a brief phrase that had the added benefit of rolling off the tongue easily, entered the popular revolutionary lexicon.

Robespierre drew from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in coining the phrase. Article 4 of the Declaration held that “Liberty consists of being able to do anything that does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of every man or woman has no bounds other than those that guarantee other members of society the enjoyment of these same rights“.

For the definition of equality, he turned to Article 6 of the Declaration, which held that the law: “must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in its eyes, shall be equally eligible to all high offices, public positions and employments, according to their ability, and without other distinction than that of their virtues and talents.”

Fraternity, by contrast was not as readily defined, because it referred to a subjective aspiration and moral obligation, as opposed to a specific right that could be spelled out. Various interpretations were offered, but the definition of fraternity remained rather nebulous, generally revolving around the concept of brotherhood and comradeship. However it was understood, the motto caught contemporary imaginations, and triggered widespread idealistic enthusiasm in France and throughout Europe.

In practice, the Revolutionaries had often fallen short of living up to their motto. Their failure was similar to that of their contemporaries across the Atlantic, who combined “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” with chattel slavery. Nonetheless, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, just like the ideals of the American Revolution, were and remained attractive aspirations for idealists, then and ever since.

The motto went out of fashion with the fall of Robespierre in 1794, and when Napoleon assumed power, he replaced it with “liberty and public order”. The restored French monarchy banned it altogether after Napoleon’s defeat, but it remained in circulation in secret Republican societies. It was officially adopted by the Second Republic after the 1848 Revolution, only to be banned again during the French Empire of Napoleon III. It was restored again by the Third Republic, and today, Liberté, égalité, fraternité is the national motto of France.

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Sources & Further Reading

Andress, David – The Terror: Civil War in the French Revolution (2006)

Burke, Edmund – Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)

Doyle, William – The Oxford History of the French Revolution, 2nd Edition (2002)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Lazare Carnot

Encyclopedia Britannica – Maximilien Robespierre

Encyclopedia.Com – Fashion During the French Revolution

Jenkins, Cecil – A Brief History of France (2011)

Palmer, Robert Roswell – The Age of the Democratic Revolution: The struggle (1959)

Palmer, Robert Roswell – Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of Terror in the French Revolution (2005)

Paxton, John – Companion to the French Revolution (1987)

Rowlett, Prof. Russ, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – How Many? A Dictionary of Units of Measurement: The Metric System

Schama, Simon – Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution (1989)

ThoughtCo – The Napoleonic Code

Wikipedia – 1775-95 in Western Fashion

Wikipedia – Louis Antoine de Saint-Just

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