The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook

By Philip G. Dwyer; Peter McPhee | Go to book overview

3

CREATING A REGENERATED FRANCE

The August 1789 decrees on feudalism

The response of the National Assembly to the news of the 'Great Fear' was initially one of panic. On 4 August a series of prominent nobles made sweeping gestures to renounce their privileges. Over the succeeding days, however, the Assembly made a crucial distinction between instances of 'personal servitude', which were abolished out-right, and 'property rights' (seigneurial dues payable on harvests) for which peasants had to pay compensation before ceasing payment. The distinction was to create years of litigation and unrest in the countryside. State taxes and church tithes were also to continue for the time being. Nevertheless, the decrees were of great importance in legislating that henceforth all French people were to be citizens equal before the law and that careers were 'open to talents'. The age of privileged corporations and provinces was over.

Article 1. The National Assembly destroys the feudal regime completely. It decrees that both feudal and censuel [that is, levied on crops] rights and dues which stem from real or personal servitude or mortmain [a lord's inalienable hold over some land], and those who represent them, are abolished without compensation; all the others are declared redeemable, and the price and the manner of the redemption will be set by the National Assembly. Those of the said rights that are not abolished by this decree will continue nonetheless to be collected until redemption has been made.

Article 2. The exclusive right to bird shelters and dovecotes is abolished. Pigeons will be confined for periods determined by communities; during this time, they will be regarded as game, and each man will have the right to kill them on his land.

Article 3. The exclusive right to hunting and open rabbit warrens is equally abolished, and any property owner has the right to destroy and have destroyed,

-24-

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The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • A Note on the Revolutionary Calendar xv
  • Chronology xvi
  • 1 - The Ancien Régime Challenged 1
  • 2 - Revolutionary Action 16
  • 3 - Creating a Regenerated France 24
  • 4 - Exclusions and Inclusions 35
  • 5 - The Church and the Revolutionary State 43
  • 6 - Monarchy and Revolution 51
  • 7 - The Revolution at War 60
  • 8 - The End of the Monarchy 68
  • 9 - The Peasantry and the Rural Environment 80
  • 10 - A New Civic Culture 84
  • 11 - The Republic at War 90
  • 12 - Revolt in the Vendée 97
  • 13 - The Terror at Work 103
  • 14 - The Thermidorian Reaction 115
  • 15 - The Directory 121
  • 16 - Bonaparte 128
  • 17 - Law and Order 140
  • 18 - Rule by Plebiscite 149
  • 19 - Governing the Empire 155
  • 20 - Resistance and Repression 169
  • 21 - The Russian Catastrophe 175
  • 22 - Collapse 187
  • 23 - The Hundred Days 193
  • 24 - French Men and Women Reflect 202
  • Index 209
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