Chronology of French Revolution 1774 – 1794

[In progress . . . ]

How revolution has made possible in a good old France?

King was given many years before the storm (1774-1788), 2 more years for the constitution that gave him full veto power (1789 – Oct 1, 1791),  8 more month till crowd first attempt to storm the palace (Jun 20, 1792), 50 more days till final storm of the Tuileries Palace (August 10, 1792), and even few more months after that.  Let’s see how all this played out.

07-08 14;19 The Crypt of St Denis

The idea was . . .

to show how internal logic of events brought about the 1789 and beyond.  Irresponsible fiscal policies plus prolonged war with England in America brought royal finances into a sharp deficit.  Under a popular prime minister Jacques Necker a first royal budget was published (misleading).  Everything appeared in order, but most war expenses were hidden from the report.  Nice report did not solve the actual shortage. Under next finance ministers, attempts to raise more taxes would run into objection referencing to a nice budget report from Necker times.  Influentials (or Notables)  would demand another report to prove that situation is dare, but King wouldn’t want this to be a standard practice.  He wanted to get more tax money unconditionally.

After that, a series of very small tentative steps towards getting popular support to raise more taxes led to public realization that only wide representative body could authorize the new fiscal policy for the future. But King was constantly behind the reality, only slowly catching and agreeing to move forward, when a decision was already made on the streets.  He was constantly conceding and loosing, instead of leading and winning (just like Gorbachev 200 years later in 1987 – 1991).

This table below would be a collection of dates and events to try to understand what was pre-determined and inevitable, and what were mistakes, blunders and accidents.

 

 


 

Chronology of French Revolution

Date Event
 1756 – 1763 Seven Years’ War exhausted the country without bringing any benefits – 17 May 1756 – 15 February 1763
 1774-05-10 Louis XV dies in  Versailles.  His 59-year old reign ends.
Louis XVI of France at the age of 19 becomes the new king of France
1774-08-24 **01** Anne Robert Jacques Turgot appointed first Controller-General of Finances of the new king.  Turgot warns the king to save money and not go into another war to bring back financial health.
1775-06-11 On Sunday, June 11th, around seven o’clock, His Majesty—with the greatest pomp—went back to the Cathedral of Rheims and was crowned in the usual ways
 1776  Let’s start 13 years before the French revolution, when France saw a convenient moment to intervene into Anglo-American conflict on the side of United States to weaken British Empire and regain prominence for French colonies.
1776 Spring Foreign Secretary Vergennes persuades the king to interfere and start financing 13 the war with England, and in April secret supplies begin trickling into America.
 1776-06-29  Turgot – can’t find ways to finance the new war and falls from power
 1777-06  **02** Jacques Necker  appointed Director-General of Finance.  He finds the way to finance aid to America and war with Britain by 520 million livres in new loans and without new taxes between 1777 and 1781.  A noose continues to tighten.
 1778-02-06  A treaty of  Treaty of Alliance with United States and another unnecessary 5 war with Britain
 1781-02  To boost public confidence in crown loans Necker publishes falsified incomes and expenditures on royal budget – Compte rendu au roi.  Records shows a peachy 10 million surplus.
 1781-05-19  Necker resigns as king do not include him in his inner circle as a protestant
 1781-05-21  **03** Joseph Omer Joly de Fleury appointed Controller-General.  He issues another 252 mil in loans to pay interest on all previous loans.
 1783-11-03  **04**  Charles Alexandre de Calonne becomes Controller-General of Finances has to continue borrowing because outstanding debt is 110 mil livres.  Popular with other ministers and the king himself he did not impose are restrictions on royal spending and was able to borrow additional 653 mil.
 1785-12-19  Parlement of Paris (central seat of French court system) refused to register another loan for 80 mil as it was rumored that Calonne will be be soon replaced. First taste of opposing the kings minister and indirectly king himself.
 Start of chain reaction leading to revolution  Somewhere here, somewhere at this point we can trace the earliest traces of events that almost inevitable lead to more and more discussion, opposition, doubt, resistance and finally open revolt.  How amazingly intricate is the net of causes and consequences.
 1786-08-20 Calonne: it is impossible to tax further. Something needs to be done to combat budget deficit of 112 million livres and war tax expiring by the end of the year (three years after war with Britain was over).   After working on the plan for two years, prime minister Calonne proposes to King a comprehensive plan of financial reform: value land tax that eliminates all exemptions and privileges and collected through local authorities,  plus free trade in grain, plus streamlining and rationalizing, plus removing internal customs and barriers.   And to let reform to start bringing results further loans are needed in meantime.
  However,  to avoid hostile (at this point) Parlements Calonne proposes to call a hand-pickled body of influential people – an Assembly of Notables. First time a sentiment is voiced that royal will alone is not enough to push legislature through.
 1786-12-29  After several month of convincing King finally agrees to convene Assembly of Notables on January 29, 1787.  No one yet realizes that French history just entered into a new stage – closing of Monarchy.
 1787-02-13  Opening of Assembly of Notables delayed many times  due to illness of the most trusted adviser and minister Vergennes.  But he dies anyway.
1787-02-14 Calonne invites 33-year-young Talleyrand (among others) to Versailles (“Memoirs of the Prince de Talleyrand”, Volume 1, page 80) to participate in preparation of presentation for Assembly of Notables  to deliver proposed reforms and new taxes in a favorable light.  He is given a heap of documents and one week to finish his task.  It means that Government had plenty of bureaucratic and thinking talent to come up with a plan of reforms, but they (Government) had no people who can prepare, present,  and deliver the message.  All this was too new.  It turns out, if you are looking for an approval of your plans from an board of people, you need professional staff to prepare your plans to be presented.  All this have to be improvised one week before already delayed Assembly of Notables.   Even the most glorious plans and project will drawn in deliberations without proper presentation and skills to run a meeting with finesse.  Calonne needed the whole new PR department.  This was a completely new modus operandi for a royal minister
 1787-02-22  Assembly of Notables finally opens with 144 members hand picked by King himself and his advisers.   Secret proceeding begin.  King only needs an approval.  Notables want to deliberate in earnest and understand the problem.
1787-03-02 Assembly of Notables wants to see the whole picture of financial crisis.  Why do we need to approve all these new drastic measures?  Show us the numbers, so that we do not make our decision with closed eyes.   Prime minister did not expected all this.  He only needed an outright approval.  Finally Calonne  timidly opens up the books and records.  That shows a huge deficit inherited from the times of Necker, and confuses things even more due to incompleteness.
1787-04-08 Politician in a shaky times can’t stay if public convinced that he act not as a patriot, but in his self-interest.  Calonne action perceived as self-promotion and gamble.  King is frustrated by the luck of progress.  Calonne is dismissed.  Who would replace him?
 1787-05-01  Several weeks wasted and now King appoints Brienne – Archbishop of Toulouse – as the next prime minister – a very talented member of Notables himself (Chief of the Royal Council of Finances).
 1787-05-09  Brienne presents a modified version of Calonne  measures, but at this point Assembly of Notables more confused than pacified.  Now they want a permanent commission of auditors to monitor King’s finances.  King adamantly against it.
 1787-05-25  All constructive activity stopped. Assembly of Notables is dismissed with negative result.  There is no approval achieved, and plus everyone knows now how bad the situation really is.   And now there is a taste of disobeying the king and not being killed or punished for that.  Plus members of nobility achieved a pleasant admiration of the wider public by their actions (or inaction).Now, how to get a popular approval for new taxation? –  Let’s push new legislation through existing system of courts (parlements).
 1787-07  Government sends legislation for approval to courts.  All crucial pieces are rejected. Mostly by the same Notables that composed Assembly of Notables.    As a pre-condition for the approval, they again request a complete picture of the budget, and once again hear a rejection from the King.
 1787-08-15  Members of parlements (courts) exiled to Troyes.   For the next several weeks Government seems to get in control of the situation:  crowds are dispersing, street are patrolled, booksellers ordered to remove inflammatory pamphlets, discussion clubs are closed.
1787-09-13 Prussian troops cross into Dutch Republic to restore .  Good pretext to divert attention and start a small victorious campaign, but . . .
 1787-09-28  French Foreign Secretary Montmorin announces that there is no money for the war.  One more blow for Government prestige.
1787-11-19 It is arranged to have a parlements session with King.  Prime minister Brienne prepares everything to cultivate an atmosphere of good will.  The plan is to borrow 420 million livre in the next 5 years (1788 – 1792)  and convene a legislative assembly some time in 1792.   Deliberations are going great and constructive.  A clear majority to approve seems to appear.  But King authority questioned, some unfortunate words uttered, atmosphere ruined and legislation rejected.  Now Notables learned how to say now to King himself, not just to his ministers.
 1788-07-13  Record-breaking hail storm kills crops around Paris area.  That will contribute to record-breaking bread prices in Paris next year.
 1788-08-08 Treasury is empty and government can’t get short term loans under anticipated incomes.
Under bankruptcy pressure and to raise confidence in country future finance minister Brienne [brienn] sets the date for Estates-Général [eta ʒeneʁo] – May 1, 1789
 1788-08-16  Treasury suspends payments on its obligations.  Creditors receive IOU (I owe you) – a type of a forced loan.
 1788-08-24  After a week of deliberations king agrees to offer a top minister position to Necker and return him to power. Necker agrees to serve as a new top minister.
 1788-09 24-25  Parlement of Paris gathers to discuss forms of future Estates-General on the backdrop of tumult and rising bread prices.  Parlement registers Necker verdict to convene Estates-General in January 1789.  Parlement doesn’t anything about questions
01 how to elect deputies, and
02 how Estates-General should vote.
A very strange ,and diplomatic, and catastrophic decision is made.  Parlement rules that new Estates-General  should be convened and operate by the rules of old forgotten Estates-General of 1614.  One more ticking bomb is set under the current political order.
Days after Parlement decision Within days wider public learns about archaic rules and procedures that has been long outgrown by many other local elections and proceedings. A huge wave of political activism and mass public indoctrination into politics begins.  Points of interest are few and they a very clearly defined for mass consumption.
 1788-10-05  Necker announces that Second Assembly of Notables will be reconvened in November to help King to answer questions about Estates-General procedures.
 1788-11-06  Second Assembly of Notables under immense pressure from Paris public opinion nobles try to discuss and vote on two questions:
01 should Third Estate be doubled in size? and
02 Should Estates General vote by head or by Estate?
On both questions no positive decision has been made.  Nobles won over king in the first Assembly of Notables (Feb-May 1787) , and just fell behind and lost to the public in the Second Assembly.  Before it was Revolution of Notables.  Now it was opened up to become a Revolution of the Third Estate.
 1788-12-05  Parlement of Paris tries to save face and narrowly clarifies its previous statement from 09-25.  By forms of 1614 it meant only the electoral districts and not the other procedures, like aicient forms of voting by Estate.
 1788-12-27  A document “Results of the King’s Council of State” from Necker’s office appears and addresses (or failed to address) the questions on the agenda about forthcoming :
01 Number of deputies from Third Estate to be doubled;
02 Deputies can be elected from and by other Estates;
03 Head vote or vote by Estate will be decided by Estates General themselves.
That last “indecision” allows for 5 more months of brooding and deliberation on the streets and in the press.
 1789-01  One of many, but most eloquent brochure “What is the Third Estate?” appears in Paris (by Sieyès 1748-1836)
1789-07-14  What day of the week was it?
1789-07-16  Last formal
1792-08-10  Storm of Tuileries Palace

 

Terminology

French English
avis aux provinces Notice to provinces

 

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