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The French Revolution in Miniature

The French Revolution in Miniature: Section Droits-De-L'Homme, 1789-1795

Morris Slavin
Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 468
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zth70
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  • Book Info
    The French Revolution in Miniature
    Book Description:

    Focusing on the social, economic, and political developments in one neighborhood, and particularly on the origin, growth, and decline of its revolutionary institutions, he shows the impact of the Revolution on its citizens. At the same time, he reveals the contributions of average men and women, the so-called petits gens, to the changes that occurred in France between 1789 and 1795.

    Originally published in 1984.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5694-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xv)
  8. A Word of Explanation
    (pp. xvi-1)
  9. INTRODUCTION: The Setting
    (pp. 3-20)

    The Marais district, which embraces section Droits-de-l’Homme, is a vast triangle on the right bank of the Seine, bounded by the river and stretching north to the Place de la République, which acts as its apex. The great boulevards lead to this point, following the old ramparts of the city, with the streets Beaubourg and Temple swinging to the northeast. Historically, the Marais was a marsh (hence its name), which was gradually drained and transformed into meadows, farmlands, and, finally, into the suburbs of Paris.¹ Some of the more famous mansions of Paris, such as thehôtelsde Soubise, d’Ormesson,...

  10. I The Socioeconomic Base
    (pp. 21-52)

    Writing in theTableau de Paris, its publisher saw the Marais as a world of boredom and intolerance. He was convinced that

    there reigns … the total accumulation of all the old prejudices…. There one may see the old grumblers, gloomy enemies of all new ideas…. They call the philosophes people to be burned at the stake (gens à bruler). . One sees there antique furniture, which seems to concentrate the prejudices and ridiculous customs.

    Even the pretty women that a fatal star has consigned to this sad quarter, dare not receive anyone but the old military men or the...

  11. II The Districts and the Fall of the Bastille
    (pp. 53-75)

    The attack on the Bastille, which unleashed the Revolution, was but the culmination of a long struggle, as is well known, between the middle classes and their allies against the privileged orders of clergy and nobility. Every effort at reform of the most glaring injustices and irrationalities of the Old Regime was rejected out of hand by aristocrats and their dependents—a policy so rigid and unyielding that it finally brought on a financial and political crisis, which, in turn, aggravated class antagonisms during the period of the so-called prerevolution preceding the outburts of 14 July.¹ The financial emergency, itself...

  12. III From District to Section
    (pp. 76-103)

    The intervention of the common people had changed the complexion of French politics after 14 July. Their clash with defenders of the old order had made them less tolerant and more impatient with those who felt that the revolt had gone far enough. On 30 July Jacques Godard, as one of the presidents elected by the assembly of district Blancs-Manteaux, reported on a speech of Necker’s to the Commune and to the Electoral Assembly in which he had warned them against substituting popular justice for that of the regular courts. He had termed their acts “bloody executions,” citing the example...

  13. IV From Varennes to the Fall of the Monarchy
    (pp. 104-126)

    Louis’ flight to Varennes, like the fall of the Bastille, opened a new chapter in the history of the Revolution. Although a number of democrats and popular societies had mistrusted him from the very beginning, it was rare to find the kind of criticism of his policies and of his office that became common after 20 June 1791. On 21 June, the Cordeliers petitioned the Assembly to recognize the new situation, that France was “free and without a king.”¹ When this appeal was refused, the Cordeliers and their supporters of the Amis de la vérité decided on a demonstration at...

  14. V From the Fall of the Monarchy to the Fall of Robespierre
    (pp. 127-170)

    In whose hands lay the ultimate source of power now that the king had been overthrown? If it can be argued that until the fall of Louis there existed an uneasy balance between the Legislative Assembly and the court, the events of 10 August destroyed this equilibrium. It is true that political power had been seized by the bourgeoisie on 14 July 1789, and that the traditional structure on which Louis’ authority rested had been destroyed by the events that had culminated in the fall of the Bastille. Nevertheless, the attempt to create a limited monarchy carried with it the...

  15. VI Shortages and the Struggle for the Maximum
    (pp. 171-191)

    Among the many difficulties and concerns faced by thesans-culottesas consumers, the most pressing were shortages of bread and flour, and, when available, the high price of necessities. The Convention, like the Commune and the sections, recognized this and sought to deal with the whole complex of what Mathiez termedla vie chère. It established a Committee of Agriculture on 1 October 1792 for this purpose, and its first session, held jointly with the Committee of Commerce, considered a law against speculators and engrossers.¹ At its very next meeting it discussed seriously means of establishing a price ceiling on...

  16. VII The Primary, General, and Electoral Assemblies
    (pp. 192-213)

    Prior to the fall of the Bastille, the elections held in Paris in the spring of 1789 returned, as might be expected, men from the business and professional classes, almost to the exclusion of other social categories. Table 7 illustrates this trend clearly.

    The essentially bourgeois nature of the electors in the capital is reflected in districts Petit-Saint-Antoine and Blancs-Manteaux, as well. In the former, a total of 307 individuals out of 407 (or 75 percent), belonged to the first two categories, that is, either law or business. Out of 209 electors of Petit-Saint-Antoine, 183 (or 87.5 percent) and 159...

  17. VIII The Civil Committee
    (pp. 214-243)

    Although the general, primary, and electoral assemblies were first in importance to sectional politics, the leading administrative organ was the section’s civil committee, which acted as the intermediary between the neighborhood and the municipal authorities. These committees were established by the Municipal Law of 21 May-27 June 1790 as organs of surveillance and execution of the ordinances of the Commune. Charged expressly with supporting the work of police commissioners, who had consultative voice within the committees, they also transmitted information and advice to municipal and departmental administrations. Originally composed of sixteen members and later reduced to twelve, they elected their...

  18. IX The Revolutionary Committee
    (pp. 244-277)

    The destruction of the Old Regime ended the old police system in 1789 and gave way to thecomité permanentof the Paris Commune. Police commissioners were suppressed on 4 August and on the 6th the newly established district committees were sanctioned by the Provisional Commune. On 21 October acomité des recherches(an investigating committee), was established with the right to interrogate and arrest suspects, a function that it continued to perform until 1 October 1791. The municipal law of May-June 1790, Title IV, granted police powers to commissioners acting jointly with their civil committees. In February 1791 these...

  19. X The Committee of Welfare, the Justice of the Peace, and the Police Commissioner
    (pp. 278-311)

    Poverty in the eighteenth century was as much a product of nature as of social institutions. Disease and the plague, loss of work due to declining demand caused by the changing seasons, illiteracy, unsanitary living conditions, the birth of an unwanted child—all made for chronic misery. In 1788 Condorcet observed: “any family which possesses neither real estate, personal property, nor capital, is subject to fall into poverty at the least accident.”¹ This lack of the slightest reserve to fall back on was itself a product of myriad causes rooted in nature and history.²

    In 1778, the curé Saint-Etienne-du-Mont estimated...

  20. XI The Armed Force and the Popular Society
    (pp. 312-343)

    The organization of the National Guard and the contribution of the districts and Commune to its early consolidation in the summer of 1789 could not advance it beyond the limits of its bourgeois form. The division between active and passive citizens perpetuated by the law of 12-23 September 1791¹ was abolished only by a decree of the General Council on 13 August 1792 that authorized each section to form military companies without distinction, enrolling all citizens for personal service, and reducing the sixty battalions to forty-eight to correspond to the new structure of the capital. At the same time an...

  21. XII Patriotism and Religion
    (pp. 344-363)

    If there was one common sentiment among Frenchmen of the middle and lower classes, it was their devotion to thepatrie. Enragés and Girondists, laborers and shopkeepers, men and women, became zealous partisans of the fatherland. The sacrifices at the front or the Vendée, the financial contributions, the reverence for the colors, all bespoke a new creed—patriotism. Beginning with a veneration of king and country, it changed to a republican cult with its own symbols, heroes, and martyrs, gradually supplanting the worship of the cross with a salute to the flag.¹

    Residents of section Droits-de-l’Homme published numerous manifestos expressing...

  22. XIII Germinal, Prairial, Vendémiaire
    (pp. 364-395)

    The insurrections of germinal and prairial, although motivated to some extent by political developments, were fundamentally caused by hunger. Inflation, shortages, and high prices continued to ravage the troubled capital, as theassignatfell to new depths. Its precipitous decline tells a dramatic story—from 36 percent in July 1794, to 20 percent in December and to the low of 7½ percent in May 1795.¹ The abolition of themaximumon 4 nivôse, Year III (24 December 1794) raised prices to new levels, making it impossible for the government to supply food at controlled costs as in the past, and...

  23. Conclusion
    (pp. 396-412)

    The Revolution found an identity within the boundaries of section Droits-de-l’Homme, where it became both tangible and personal. Although residents of the section had more than a formal relationship with the Commune, the development of a sense of intimacy and closeness resulting from long association with neighbors and friends could be nourished only within a narrow precinct. Because of this intimacy, the proclamations or decisions of a local committee impinged directly on the lives of the inhabitants. Proximity developed new loyalties that sometimes clashed with the wider concerns of the capital and the nation. Yet it was this factor that...

  24. Bibliography
    (pp. 413-438)
  25. Index
    (pp. 439-449)
  26. Back Matter
    (pp. 450-450)