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Coup of 18 Brumaire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coup d'état of 18 Brumaire
Bouchot - Le general Bonaparte au Conseil des Cinq-Cents.jpg
General Bonaparte during the coup d'état of 18 Brumaire in Saint-Cloud, painting by François Bouchot, 1840
Date9 November 1799
LocationFrance
ParticipantsNapoleon Bonaparte, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, Charles-Maurice Talleyrand, Roger Ducos, Paul Barras, Lucien Bonaparte, Joseph Bonaparte, Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès, Charles François Lebrun and others
OutcomeThe Consulate; adoption of a constitution under which the First Consul, a position Bonaparte was to hold, had the most power in the French government

The Coup of 18 Brumaire brought General Napoleon Bonaparte to power as First Consul of France and in the view of most historians ended the French Revolution. This bloodless coup d'état overthrew the Directory, replacing it with the French Consulate. This occurred on 9 November 1799, which was 18 Brumaire, Year VIII under the French Republican Calendar.

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  • ✪ The French Revolution: Crash Course World History #29
  • ✪ Le coup d'État du 18 Brumaire (audio)
  • ✪ Coup of 18 Brumaire
  • ✪ History vs. Napoleon Bonaparte - Alex Gendler
  • ✪ Alain Decaux raconte "Le 18 Brumaire" | Archive INA

Transcription

Hi, my name is John Green, this is Crash Course World History and today we’re going to talk about The French Revolution. Admittedly, this wasn’t the French flag until 1794, but we just felt like he looked good in stripes. [vertical = slimming] As does this guy. Huh? So, while the American Revolution is considered a pretty good thing, the French Revolution is often seen as a bloody, anarchic mess—which— Mr. Green, Mr. Green! I bet, like always, it’s way more complicated than that. Actually no. It was pretty terrible. Also, like a lot of revolutions, in the end it exchanged an authoritarian regime for an authoritarian regime. But even if the revolution was a mess, its ideas changed human history— far more, I will argue, than the American Revolution. [Intro music] [intro music] [intro music] [intro music] [intro music] [intro music] [intro music] Right, so France in the 18th century was a rich and populous country, but it had a systemic problem collecting taxes because of the way its society was structured. They had a system with kings and nobles we now call the ancien regime. Thank you, three years of high school French. [and Meredith the Interness] And for most French people, it sucked, [historical term] because the people with the money— the nobles and the clergy— never paid taxes. So by 1789, France was deeply in debt thanks to their funding the American Revolution— thank you, France, [also for Goddard and The Coneheads] we will get you back in World Wars I and II. And King Louis XVI was spending half of his national budget to service the federal debt. Louis tried to reform this system under various finance ministers. He even called for democracy on a local level, but all attempts to fix it failed and soon France basically declared bankruptcy. This nicely coincided with hailstorms that ruined a year’s harvest, [ah, hail] thereby raising food prices and causing widespread hunger, which really made the people of France angry, because they love to eat. Meanwhile, the King certainly did not look broke, as evidenced by his well-fed physique and fancy footwear. He and his wife Marie Antoinette also got to live in the very nice Palace at Versailles thanks to God’s mandate, but Enlightenment thinkers like Kant were challenging the whole idea of religion, writing things like: “The main point of enlightenment is of man’s release from his self-caused immaturity, primarily in matters of religion.” [while smacking folks in face w/ glove] So basically the peasants were hungry, the intellectuals were beginning to wonder whether God could or should save the King, and the nobility were dithering about, eating fois gras and songbirds, [I'd rather eat cake, personally] failing to make meaningful financial reform. In response to the crisis, Louis XVI called a meeting of the Estates General, the closest thing that France had to a national parliament, which hadn’t met since 1614. The Estates General was like a super parliament made up of representatives from the First Estate, the nobles, the Second Estate, the clergy, and the Third Estate, everyone else. The Third Estate showed up with about 600 representatives, the First and Second Estates both had about 300, and after several votes, everything was deadlocked, and then the Third Estate was like, “You know what? Forget you guys. [expletive deleted] We’re gonna leave and we’re gonna become our own National Assembly.” This did not please King Louis XVI. [everything can't be an eclair, Lou] So when the new National Assembly left the room for a break, he locked the doors, and he was like, "Sorry, guys, you can't go in there. And if you can't assemble, how you gonna be a national assembly?" […and with that, mischief managed!] Shockingly, the Third Estate representatives were able to find a different room in France, [D'oh!] this time an indoor tennis court where they swore the famous Tennis Court Oath. [Like McEnroe? You can't be serious..] And they agreed not to give up until a French constitution was established. So then Louis XVI responded by sending troops to Paris primarily to quell uprisings over food shortages, but the revolutionaries saw this as a provocation, so they responded by seizing the Bastille Prison on July 14th, which, coincidentally, is also Bastille Day. The Bastille was stormed ostensibly to free prisoners— although there were only seven in jail at the time— but mostly to get guns. But the really radical move in the National Assembly came on August 4, when they abolished most of the ancien regime. -- feudal rights, tithes, privileges for nobles, unequal taxation, they were all abolished -- in the name of writing a new constitution. And then, on August 26th, the National Assembly proclaimed the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen, which laid out a system of rights that applied to every person, and made those rights integral to the new constitution. That’s quite different from the American bill of rights, which was, like, begrudgingly tacked on at the end and only applied to non-slaves. The DoRoMaC, as I called it in high school, declared that everyone had the right to liberty, property, and security— rights that the French Revolution would do an exceptionally poor job of protecting, but as noted last week, the same can be argued for many other supposedly more successful revolutions. Okay, let’s go to the Thought Bubble. Meanwhile, back at Versailles, Louis XVI was still King of France, and it was looking like France might be a constitutional monarchy. Which might've meant that the royal family could hang on to their awesome house, but then, in October of 1789, a rumor started that Marie Antoinette was hoarding grain somewhere inside the palace. And in what became known as the Women's March, a bunch of armed peasant women stormed the palace and demanded that Louis and Marie Antoinette move from Versailles to Paris. Which they did, because everyone is afraid of armed peasant women. ["hell hath no rath" and all] And this is a nice reminder that to many people at the time, the French Revolution was not primarily about fancy Enlightenment ideas; it was mostly about lack of food and a political system that made economic contractions hardest on the poor. Now, a good argument can be made that this first phase of the revolution wasn’t all that revolutionary. The National Assembly wanted to create a constitutional monarchy; they believed that the king was necessary for a functioning state and they were mainly concerned that the voters and office holders be men of property. Only the most radical wing, the Jacobins, called for the creation of a republic. But things were about to get much more revolutionary— and also worse for France. First, the Jacobins had a huge petition drive that got a bit unruly, which led troops controlled not by the King but by the national assembly to fire on the crowd, killing 50 people. And that meant that the National Assembly, which had been the revolutionary voice of the people, had killed people in an attempt to reign in revolutionary fervor. You see this a lot throughout history during revolutions. What looked like radical hope and change suddenly becomes "The Man" as increasingly radical ideas are embraced. Thanks, Thought Bubble. Meanwhile, France’s monarchical neighbors were getting a little nervous about all this republic business, especially Leopold II, who in addition to being the not holy not roman and not imperial holy roman emperor, was Marie Antoinette’s brother. I should note, by the way, that at this point, the Holy Roman Empire was basically just Austria. Also, like a lot of monarchs, Leopold II liked the idea of monarchies, and he wanted to keep his job as a person who gets to stand around wearing a dress, pointing at nothing, owning winged lion-monkeys made out of gold. [must've been a real partier, that one] And who can blame him? So he and King William Frederick II of Prussia together issued the Declaration of Pilnitz, which promised to restore the French monarchy. At this point, Louis and the National Assembly developed a plan: Let’s invade Austria. [always a solid plan?] The idea was to plunder Austria’s wealth and maybe steal some Austrian grain to shore up French food supplies, and also, you know, spread revolutionary zeal. But what actually happened is that Prussia joined Austria in fighting the French. And then Louis encouraged the Prussians, which made him look like an enemy of the revolution, which, of course, he was. And as a result, the Assembly voted to suspend the monarchy, have new elections in which everyone could vote (as long as they were men), and create a new republican constitution. Soon, this Convention decided to have a trial for Louis XVI, who was found guilty and, by one vote, sentenced to die via guillotine. Which made it difficult for Austria and Prussia to restore him to the throne. Oh, it’s time for the open letter? [musical chairs undefeated champ rolls] An Open Letter to the Guillotine. But first, let’s see what’s in the secret compartment today. Oh, there’s nothing. Oh my gosh, Stan! Jeez. That’s not funny! [That's what Anne Boleyn said…] Dear Guillotine, I can think of no better example of Enlightenment thinking run amok. Dr. Joseph Guillotine, the inventor of the guillotine, envisioned it as an egalitarian way of dying. They said the guillotine was humane and it also made no distinction between rich or poor, noble or peasant. It killed equally. You were also celebrated for taking the torture out of execution. But I will remind you, you did not take the dying out of execution. [or have a self-cleaning function] Unfortunately for you, France hasn’t executed anyone since 1977. But you’ll be happy to know that the last legal execution in France was via guillotine. Plus, you’ve always got a future in horror movies. Best wishes, John Green The death of Louis XVI marks the beginning of The Terror, the best known or at least the most sensational phase of the revolution. I mean, if you can kill the king, you can kill pretty much anyone, which is what the government did under the leadership of the Committee of Public Safety (Motto: We suck at protecting public safety) led by Maximilien Robespierre. The terror saw the guillotining of 16,000 enemies of the revolution including Marie “I never actually said Let them eat cake” Antoinette and Maximilien Robespierre himself, who was guillotined in the month of Thermidor in the year Two. Oh, right. So while France was broke and fighting in like nine wars, the Committee of Public Safety changed the measurements of time because, you know, the traditional measurements are so irrational and religion-y. So they renamed all the months and decided that every day would have 10 hours and each hour 100 minutes. And then, after the Terror, the revolution pulled back a bit and another new constitution was put into place, this one giving a lot more power to wealthy people. At this point, France was still at war with Austria and Britain, wars that France ended up winning, largely [lol] thanks to a little corporal named Napoleon Bonaparte. The war was backdrop to a bunch of coups and counter coups that I won’t get into right now because they were very complicated, but the last coup that we’ll talk about, in 1799, established Napoleon Bonaparte as the First Consul of France. And it granted him almost unlimited executive power under yet another constitution. By which he presumably meant that France’s government had gone all the way from here to here to here. As with the American revolution, it’s easy to conclude that France’s revolution wasn’t all that revolutionary. I mean, Napoleon was basically an emperor and, in some ways, he was even more of an absolute monarch than Louis XVI had been. Gradually the nobles came back to France, although they had mostly lost their special privileges. The Catholic Church returned, too, although much weaker because it had lost land and the ability to collect tithes. And when Napoleon himself fell, France restored the monarchy, and except for a four-year period, between 1815 and 1870, France had a king who was either a Bourbon or a Bonaparte. Now, these were no longer absolute monarchs who claimed that their right to rule came from God; they were constitutional monarchs of the kind that the revolutionaries of 1789 had originally envisioned. But the fact remains that France had a king again, and a nobility, and an established religion and it was definitely not a democracy or a republic. And perhaps this is why the French Revolution is so controversial and open to interpretation. Some argue the revolution succeeded in spreading enlightenment ideals even if it didn’t bring democracy to France. Others argue that the real legacy of the Revolution wasn’t the enhancement of liberty, but of state power. Regardless, I’d argue that the French Revolution was ultimately far more revolutionary than its American counterpart. I mean, in some ways, America never had an aristocracy, but in other ways it continued to have one— the French enlightenment thinker, Diderot, felt that Americans should “fear a too unequal division of wealth resulting in a small number of opulent citizens and a multitude of citizens living in misery.” And the American Revolution did nothing to change that polarization of wealth. What made the French Revolution so radical was its insistence on the universality of its ideals. I mean, look at Article 6 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen: “Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes.” Those are radical ideas, that the laws come from citizens, not from kings or gods, and that those laws should apply to everyone equally. That’s a long way from Hammurabi— and in truth, it’s a long way from the slaveholding Thomas Jefferson. In the 1970s, Chinese President Zhou Enlai was asked what the affects of the French Revolution had been. And he said, “It’s too soon to say.” And in a way, it still is. The French Revolution asked new questions about the nature of people’s rights and the derivation of those rights. And we’re still answering those questions and sorting through how our answers should shape society today. —must government be of the people to be for the people? Do our rights derive from nature or from God or from neither? And what are those rights? As William Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller, our script supervisor is Danica Johnson, the show is written by my high school history teacher Raoul Meyer and myself, our graphics team is Thought Bubble, [If you <3 our graphics, Blame Canada!] and we are ably interned by Meredith Danko. [dba: The Interness or MTVCS] Last week’s phrase of the week was "Giant Tea Bag" [seriously, it totally was] If you want to suggest future phrases of the week, or guess at this week's you can do so in comments, where you can also ask questions about today’s video that will be answered by our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course, and as we say in my hometown, don’t forget, Metal Ball, I Can Hear You. [slides out like an ace photobomber] [music outro] [music outro]

Contents

Context

After Habsburg-controlled Austria declared war on France on 12 March 1799, emergency measures were adopted and the pro-war Jacobin faction triumphed in the April election. With Napoleon and the republic's best army engaged in the Egypt and Syria campaign, France suffered a series of reverses on the battlefield in the spring and summer of 1799. The Coup of 30 Prairial VII (18 June) ousted the Jacobins and left Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, a member of the five-man ruling Directory, the dominant figure in the government. France's military situation improved following the Second Battle of Zurich, fought on 25–26 September. As the prospect of invasion receded, the Jacobins feared a revival of the pro-peace Royalist faction. When Napoleon returned to France on 9 October, both factions hailed him as the country's savior.

Dazzled by Napoleon's campaign in the Middle East, the public received him with an ardor that convinced Sieyès he had found the general indispensable to his planned coup.[1] However, from the moment of his return, Napoleon plotted a coup within the coup, ultimately gaining power for himself rather than Sieyès.

Probably the weightiest possible obstacles to a coup were in the army. Some generals, such as Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, honestly believed in republicanism; others, such as Jean Bernadotte, believed themselves capable of governing France. Napoleon worked on the feelings of all, keeping secret his own intentions.[1]

Prior to the coup, troops were conveniently deployed around Paris. The plan was, first, to persuade the Directors to resign, then, second, to get the Council of Ancients and the Council of Five Hundred (the upper and lower houses of the legislature) to appoint a pliant commission that would draw up a new constitution to the plotters' specifications.

Events of 18 Brumaire, Year VIII

Lucien Bonaparte, President of the Council of Five Hundred, who engineered the coup that brought his brother to power
Lucien Bonaparte, President of the Council of Five Hundred, who engineered the coup that brought his brother to power

On the morning of 18 Brumaire, Lucien Bonaparte falsely persuaded the Councils that a Jacobin coup was at hand in Paris, and induced them to depart for the safety of the suburban Château de Saint-Cloud.[2] Napoleon was charged with the safety of the two Councils and given command of all available local troops.[3]

Later that morning, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès and Roger Ducos resigned as Directors.[1] The now former 1797-1799 2nd Minister of Foreign Affairs Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a close ally of Napoleon, pressured Director Paul Barras to do the same.

The resignation of three of the five Directors on day one of the coup prevented a quorum and thus practically abolished the five man Directory, but the two Jacobin Directors, Louis-Jérôme Gohier and Jean-François-Auguste Moulin, continued to protest furiously. Both men were arrested on day two by Napoleon's ally General Jean Victor Marie Moreau, and by the following day they were compelled to give up their resistance.[4]

In contrast to the Directory, the two Councils were not yet intimidated and continued meeting.

Events of 19 Brumaire

By the following day, the deputies had, for the most part, realized that they were facing an attempted coup rather than being protected from a Jacobin rebellion. Faced with their recalcitrance, Napoleon stormed into the chambers, escorted by a small force of grenadiers. While perhaps unplanned, this proved to be the coup within the coup: from this point, this was a military affair.

Napoleon found the Ancients resistant "despite a massive show of military strength."[3] He met with heckling as he addressed them with such "home truths" as, "the Republic has no government" and, most likely, "the Revolution is over." One deputy called out, "And the Constitution?" Napoleon replied, referring to earlier parliamentary coups, "The Constitution! You yourselves have destroyed it. You violated it on 18 Fructidor; you violated it on 22 Floreal; you violated it on 30 Prairial. It no longer has the respect of anyone."

In Exit liberté à la François (1799), James Gillray caricatured Napoleon and his grenadiers driving the Council of Five Hundred from the Orangerie
In Exit liberté à la François (1799), James Gillray caricatured Napoleon and his grenadiers driving the Council of Five Hundred from the Orangerie

Napoleon's reception by the Council of Five Hundred was even more hostile.[3] His grenadiers entered just as the legality of Barras' resignation was being challenged by the Jacobins in the chamber. Upon entering, Napoleon was first jostled, then outright assaulted. Depending on whose account is accepted, he may or may not have come close to fainting. It was not Napoleon himself, but his brother Lucien, President of the Council, who called upon the grenadiers to defend their leader. Napoleon escaped, but only through the use of military force.[1]

A motion was raised in the Council of Five Hundred to declare Napoleon an outlaw. At this point, Lucien Bonaparte apparently slipped out of the chamber and told the soldiers guarding the Councils that the majority of the Five Hundred were being terrorized by a group of deputies brandishing daggers. Then, according to Michael Rapport, "He pointed to Napoleon's bloody, pallid face as proof. Then, in a theatrical gesture, he seized a sword and promised to plunge it through his own brother's heart if he were a traitor."[5] Lucien ordered the troops to expel the violent deputies from the chamber.[3] Grenadiers under the command of General Joachim Murat marched into the Orangerie and dispersed the Council. This was effectively the end of the Directory.[3]

The Ancients passed a decree which adjourned the Councils for three months, appointed Napoleon, Sieyès, and Ducos provisional consuls, and named the Corps législatif. Some tractable members of the Five Hundred, rounded up afterwards, served to give these measures the confirmation of their House. Thus the Directory and the Councils came to an end.[1]

Aftermath

Completion of the coup

The Directory was crushed, but the coup within the coup was not yet complete. The use of military force had certainly strengthened Napoleon's hand vis à vis Sieyès and the other plotters. With the Council routed, the plotters convened two commissions, each consisting of twenty-five deputies from the two Councils. The plotters essentially intimidated the commissions into declaring a provisional government, the first form of the Consulate with Napoleon, Sieyès, and Ducos as Consuls. The lack of reaction from the streets proved that the revolution was, indeed, over. "A shabby compound of brute force and imposture, the 18th Brumaire was nevertheless condoned, nay applauded, by the French nation. Weary of revolution, men sought no more than to be wisely and firmly governed."[1] Resistance by Jacobin officeholders in the provinces was quickly crushed. Twenty Jacobin deputies were exiled, and others were arrested. The commissions then drew up the "short and obscure Constitution of the Year VIII", the first of the constitutions since the Revolution without a Declaration of Rights.[6]

Bonaparte thus completed his coup within a coup by the adoption of a constitution under which the First Consul, a position he was sure to hold, had greater power than the other two. In particular, he appointed the Senate and the Senate interpreted the constitution. The Sénat conservateur allowed him to rule by decree, so the more independent Conseil d'État and Tribunat were relegated to unimportant roles. It led ultimately to the rise of the First French Empire.

Reception by Karl Marx

In 1852, Karl Marx wrote The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon about a much later event, the coup d'état of 1851 against the Second Republic by Napoleon III, who was Napoleon's nephew. Marx considered Louis Napoleon a trifling politician compared to his world-conquering uncle, as expressed in Marx's oft-quoted opening bon mot: "Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."[7]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Holland 1911.
  2. ^ Doyle, p.374.
  3. ^ a b c d e Doyle, p. 375.
  4. ^ Lefebvre, p. 199.
  5. ^ Rapport, 1998
  6. ^ Crook, Malcolm (1999). "The Myth Of The 18 Brumaire". H-France Napoleon Forum. Archived from the original on 18 January 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2007.
  7. ^ Marx, Karl (1852). "Chapter I" . The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon . New York, New York: Die Revolution – via Wikisource.

Sources

External links

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