Reimagining Politics after the Terror

Reimagining Politics after the Terror: The Republican Origins of French Liberalism

Andrew Jainchill
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 336
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Reimagining Politics after the Terror
    Book Description:

    In the wake of the Terror, France's political and intellectual elites set out to refound the Republic and, in so doing, reimagined the nature of the political order. They argued vigorously over imperial expansion, constitutional power, personal liberty, and public morality. In Reimagining Politics after the Terror, Andrew Jainchill rewrites the history of the origins of French Liberalism by telling the story of France's underappreciated "republican moment" during the tumultuous years between 1794 and Napoleon's declaration of a new French Empire in 1804.

    Examining a wide range of political and theoretical debates, Jainchill offers a compelling reinterpretation of the political culture of post-Terror France and of the establishment of Napoleon's Consulate. He also provides new readings of works by the key architects of early French Liberalism, including Germaine de Staël, Benjamin Constant, and, in the epilogue, Alexis de Tocqueville. The political culture of the post-Terror period was decisively shaped by the classical republican tradition of the early modern Atlantic world and, as Jainchill persuasively argues, constituted France's "Machiavellian Moment." Out of this moment, a distinctly French version of liberalism began to take shape. Reimagining Politics after the Terror is essential reading for anyone concerned with the history of political thought, the origins and nature of French Liberalism, and the end of the French Revolution.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6353-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Note on Translations and Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-25)

    On 27 July 1794 a group of disaffected politicians acted to end the reign of Robespierre and with it the Terror. The coup against Robespierre, Saint-Just, and the radical Jacobins, immortalized in the annals of French history as “9 Thermidor,” its date in the revolutionary calendar, marked a new beginning in the French Revolution. The nation’s political and intellectual elites emerged from the furies of the Terror, took a collective deep breath, and set out to refound the Republic. They did so informed by the extraordinary experiences of the preceding five years. These experiences cast politics in a new light...

  6. 1 The Constitution of the Year III
    (pp. 26-61)

    In the summer of 1795, six years after the staggering events of 1789 and one year removed from the end of the Terror, the representatives of the French nation met and debated a proposed new constitution for France, the third of the Revolution. The newly emergent republican center sought to end the Revolution and establish the Republic on a lasting basis, to replace the “revolutionary state” with “a constitutional order.”¹ In their efforts to end the Revolution, the members of the National Convention addressed a vast array of constitutional issues and revisited many of the fundamental questions posed during the...

  7. 2 The Post-Terror Discourse of Moeurs
    (pp. 62-107)

    On 24 September 1794, just two months after the overthrow of Robespierre, Jean-Antoine-Joseph Debry delivered a speech to the National Convention on “the foundations of public morality.” Debry began his speech by explaining that the legislator’s task is to “direct the human passions to the public benefit.” To do this, he explained, the Convention must reform France’s moeurs by creating a new “empire of habits” among the population, habits that would fully attach people to the public good, fully integrate the private and the public. “It is by habits that a people becomes good or depraved; it is when there...

  8. 3 Liberal Republicanism during the Directory
    (pp. 108-140)

    Post-Terror France witnessed a veritable explosion of tracts, treatises, and essays reflecting on the nature of the republic as a political form. From obscure pamphlet writers such as Louis-François Cherhal Mont-Rèal to towering figures such as Jacques Necker, the proper organization of the polity was widely, fervently, discussed.¹ Pamphlets, journals, and books streamed off the presses, unpublished manuscripts were circulated, and speeches echoed through the halls of the National Institute. The Constitution of the Year III had established a new political order for the French Republic, and a host of didactic programs aimed to anchor the republic in virtuous moeurs,...

  9. 4 A Republican Empire? Debate on Expansion, 1794–99
    (pp. 141-196)

    Thus far this book has focused on debate about domestic political questions. The republican center, however, grappled just as fully with matters of foreign policy. From 1794 to 1799 questions relating to foreign policy and the international order were never far from the forefront of political discussion, reflecting the ongoing war and international crisis that marked the era. It was widely felt, not surprisingly, that the republic could be anchored in stable ground only when peace was achieved and the international situation settled. Indeed, in the summer of 1795 La Révellière-Lépeaux labeled “achieving peace in Europe” one of three keys...

  10. 5 Liberal Authoritarianism and the Constitution of the Year VIII
    (pp. 197-242)

    On 18 Brumaire of the Year VIII (9 November 1799) a group of disaffected political, intellectual, and military elites overthrew the Directorial regime. The coup’s primary organizer was Sieyès, who famously declared, “I’m looking for a sword” and turned to Bonaparte only after his first choice, General Joubert, died in battle and his second choice, General Moreau, suggested Bonaparte in the wake of Bonaparte’s daring return from Egypt in October of 1799.¹ Sieyès’s and Bonaparte’s “joint venture” aimed to put an end to the turmoil of the preceding years, the seemingly endless coups and crises, the lawlessness and brigandage engulfing...

  11. 6 Liberal Republicanism and Dissent against Bonaparte
    (pp. 243-286)

    The official proclamation upon the passage of the Constitution of the Year VIII declared that “the Revolution is established on the principles that began it: It is finished.”¹ Bonaparte and his collaborators then set about establishing a liberal-authoritarian political order and finishing the Revolution, but a significant schism developed over just what that meant. While Bonaparte and Minister of Police Fouché emphasized social order and turned the Consulate in an increasingly authoritarian direction, Brumairians such as P.-C.-F. Daunou and Marie-Joseph Chénier sought to uphold the liberal side of the Brumairian settlement and envisioned a robust program of civil liberties in...

  12. Epilogue: The Fate of French Liberal Republicanism
    (pp. 287-308)

    Liberalism, in a now familiar story, suffered a tragic fate in modern France, never gaining intellectual or political hegemony as it did in the Anglophone world. Following the demise of the First Republic, French history was marked by a series of nonliberal political regimes ranging from the Restoration monarchy to the radical republicanism of the Second Republic to the Bonapartist regime of the Second Empire to the cautious republicanism of the Third Republic. This story of liberalism’s failure, however, was punctuated by towering intellectual achievement, especially during the first half of the nineteenth century.¹ Benjamin Constant, Pierre-Paul Royer-Collard, François Guizot,...

  13. Index
    (pp. 309-318)