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Mid Eighteenth Century to the beginning of Napoleon's reign

The War of Jenkins' Ear

One of the conflicts involved in the War of the Austrian Succession; it was a war between Britain and Spain which broke out in 1739. British merchants and smugglers began eyeing and interloping into Spanish American Waters. The Spanish sent in their fleet and the British retaliated with the same. When Spain revoked the British share of the West Indies slave trade, Britain declared war. The reasons for going to war cited a long history of Spanish depredations. After several battles in the Caribbean and in North America, the war dragged on indecisively.

The Pragmatic Sanction

Emperor Charles VI died without a male heir. He declared his newly born daughter, Maria Theresa, to be the heir to the Hapsburg dominions.

The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle

By 1746, the belligerents involved in the War for the Austrian Succession were exhausted and near bankruptcy. In Oct. 1748, they signed a treaty settling the conflict. Maria Theresa and her husband were recognized as sovereigns of the Holy Roman Empire, Prussia got Silesia, France lost the Austrian Netherlands and Madras, India in Exchange for Louisbourg. No one was happy.

The Diplomatic Revolution

The months leading up to the Seven Years War in Europe were marked by a radical shifting of alliances. In Jan. 1756, Britain and Prussia signed a defensive alliance and in May of 1756, France and Austria signed a defensive alliance and then began negotiations with Russia. Centuries old alliances, changed.

The Battles of Rossbach and Leuthen

In one of his most dire situations of the Seven Years War, Frederick the Great would reverse the situation with the two most brilliant victories of his career. He defeated a Franco-German army and despite being outnumbered two-to-one, the Prussians routed the Franco-German force, the French never sent a force to fight Frederick again. Hurrying back to Silesia, Frederick attacked the Austrian force under Charles of Lorraine and despite the two-to-one odds, once again Frederick prevailed and staved off total catastrophe.

William Pitt

In December of 1756, a new party came to power in the British Parliament, the Whig Party. This man was put in as Secretary of State for the Southern Department in the new cabinet. He proposed a new strategy in the Seven Years War, by borrowing massive amounts of money, he proposed to send a large army to northern Germany to tie down French forces, subsidize the Prussians, and then use its superior sea power to drive the French out of North America and India (this strategy worked).

The Annus Mirabilis of 1759

The year 1759 witnessed great triumphs for British arms all around the world. In Europe at the battle of Minden the allied force won a crushing victory against the French (a serious psychological blow). In North America, the Britsh began capturing strategic French forts and cutting supply lines. They then took Quebec, Montreal, and then seized the French colonies in the Caribbean, completely driving the French from North America. In India, they seized Calcutta and then successfully held off French attempts to regain their lost bases. The Royal Navy swept the French fleet from the seas, breaking the striking power of the French fleet and establishing the British as the supreme naval power.

The Miracle of the House of Brandenburg

By 1761, all participants in the Seven Years War were approaching exhaustion and financial ruin. The Prussians still faced military threats from Russia, Austria, and France. But in Jan. of 1762 one of those threats was removed when Empress Elizabeth of Russia died. Her nephew, Peter III, an admirer of Frederick, removed Russia from the war. The year after, in 1763 a Treaty was signed which ended the Seven Years War. Leaving Prussia intact.

The Treaties of Paris and Hubertusburg (1763)

This treaty ended the French and Indian War. France ceded its territory west of the Mississippi to Spain and the territory east of the Mississippi to the British. Britain became the dominent power in India and traded Cuba and the Philippines to Spain in return for Florida. Five days later, this treaty ended the Seven Years War in Europe. It did not have a great impact on territorial holdings, but merely reconfirmed the borders of 1756. It did confirm Prussia as a Great Power. The end of the war saw that France had been utterly humiliated, Austria focused on internal reform, Russia continued to rise under Catherine the Great and out of all Britain was the chief victor, though the costs would have more of an impact than its victories.

The Pugachev Revolt

After taking the throne, Catherine the Great attempted to institute reforms in the government and administrative system. However, restoring order in the provinces proved to be difficult, due to much resentment among the serfs and subject peoples of the empire. The Yaik Cossacks of the Ukraine, angry at imperial exploitation, killed a government inspector and instituted a revolt. The leader passed himself off as Peter III, and rallied many serfs and tribesmen to his standard. The force was defeated near the modern town of Volgograd and the leader was betrayed and executed. This revolt made Catherine cautious about implementing further reforms.

Prince Kaunitz

During the Seven Years War, this Prince opened negotiations with France and later negotiated the terms of the Austrian-French defensive alliance. After the Seven Years War, the second round of Theresian reforms was also directed by this Prince (her foreign minister). He implemented a Council of State to coordinate policy and her established a United Chancery in administer the core lands of the monarchy. After the war, he was in charge of addressing the crown's debt. By utilizing the United Chancery to more efficiently administer tax collection and squeezing more revenue out of the outer territories, he balanced the budget by 1775.

George III

In 1760, George II of Britain died and his grandson became king at age 22. His reign of almost six decades was one of the most tumultuous in British history. He was headstrong and had a deep sense of responsibility and inferiority. He was king during the American revolution. In 1788, he began displaying the symptoms of mental illness. His son acted as Regent, he died having reigned 59 years.

John Wilkes

He was a radical member of Parliament from Aylesbury and a bitter opponent of the king. He was the author of a periodical that savagely denounced the king and the Bute ministry. He was arrested on charges of libel, but later released. He was then arrested on charges on pornography and then expelled from the House of Commons and later fled to France. He remained a popular figure with the working class Londoners and radicals. He later returned to London and became a champion of the London mob. Massive riots occurred in the capital and he was again jailed. The House of Commons again expelled him, but he stood in three special elections to replace him from his jail cell and won all three time. The Commons renewed his expulsion all three times, provoking a constitutional crisis.

Lord North

When Lord Grafton resigned from Parliament in 1770, George III summoned this man to replace him. He dealt with the Wilkes fiasco by turning contested elections over to a special commission. He repealed all the Townshend Acts except the tax on tea. After the Boston Massacre, affairs in the colonies quieted down for three years, and this man proved an able financial manager and built a ministry of moderates. The East India Company was going bankrupt and asked Whitehall for assistance. This ministry passed the Tea Act with granted the company a monopoly on tea to be sold in the American colonies, this act resulted in the Boston Tea Party in America. He also passed the Coercive Acts and the Quartering Act which Americans called the Intolerable Acts. The Ministry was slow to react to the events in the colonies, and the leader himself was an able political leader, but no war leader. He often came in direct conflict with the official responsible for running the war, and often was responsible for undermining him and his policies. He resigned after the British defeat in the American colonies. (he is particularly well known for his unwillingness to spend money on the war, he wanted to win cheap)

The East India Company

This company was responsible for commerce in India and especially Britain's gains in India during the Seven Years War. The city financiers predicted new sources of wealth for the company which led to speculation in stock, seeking another source of revenue, it was forced to accept a sharp dividends hike and then Parliament confirmed the Company's territorial holdings for an annual payment. These measures led to the destabilization of its stock and assets. The company, going bankrupt, asked Whitehall for assistance and Parliament passed the Loan Act, the Regulating Act and the Tea Act. The Tea Act in particular was hated by the Americans because it gave the company a monopoly over the tea sold in the America's. This act resulted in the Boston Tea Party of 1773.

The Coercive Acts

In 1774, Parliament responded to the Boston Tea Party with legislation designed to punish the American colonists. These Acts stated that the port of Boston was closed to all commercial shipping until the city paid for the tea ruined, this crippled the city's maritime economy. The Massachusetts's colonial government was abolished and an army general was made governor, placing the colony under martial law. And a new Quartering Act required the colonists to pay for the upkeep and house of British soldiers garrisoned in Boston. In the colonies, these acts became known as the "Intolerable Acts."

Lord George Germain

Lord North was an able political and financial manager but no war leader. As such, the new Secretary for the Colonies was the official directly responsible for running the war. A former army officer, he sought to vigorously prosecute the war, but received little support from North and was continually undermined throughout the conflict by military and naval commanders. He proposed a strategy of cutting off New England from the rest of the colonies, but this failed when the generals in charge decided to make their own strategy. He later proposed resorting to a naval strategy, but the navy was not up to the task of fighting against North America and the French. His last ditch strategy was to subdue the Americans in the south where there was believed to be a large number of Loyalists who would support them (he was mistaken). The British surrendered at Yorktown and he was forced out of office almost immediately.

The Gordon Riots (instigated by Lord George Gordon)

The winter of 1779-1780 was a period of crisis in Britain. The "Volunteer Movement" agitated for Irish independence and "No-Popery" riots occurred in Scotland. Petitions came into the House of Commons complaining of high taxation and waste. In response to Catholic tolerations proposed for Scotland, an anti-Catholic Scot, stoked opposition in London. This flared into what? which lasted for a week and 500 people were killed or wounded.

Lord Shelburne

The news of Cornwallis surrender at Yorktown reached Whitehall and the Rockingham Opposition swept into power. The Marquess died and was succeeded by a Lord who sought to open negotiations with the Americans while scoring a decisive victory against the French. The victory happened at the Battle of the Saintes in the Caribbean in which the British fleet decimated the French. This enabled the British to negotiate with their archrivals from a position of strength. A treaty formally ended the War for American Independence in which the British recognized American Independence. The Prime Minister resigned in 1784.

The Battle of the Saintes

The Prime Minister of Britain wanted to open negotiations with the Americans at the end of the War for American Independence while scoring a decisive victory against the French. On April 12, 1782 he got the victory he sought. The British fleet under Admiral George Rodney decimated the French in the Caribbean. This battle enabled the British to negotiate with their archrivals from a position of strength.

The Treaty of Paris (1783)

On September 3, 1783, this Treaty was signed formally ending the War for American Independence. In the treaty the British recognized American Independence. The United States gained all the territory from the original 13 colonies to the Mississippi River. The Americans gave up all claims to Canada and Spain regained Florida.

The "Opposition" (British Politics)

This group was opposed to the war for American Independence and sympathetic to the American cause. They (at first) held that the Americans desired reconciliation, thus the war was unjust, but the Declaration of Independence left them in an awkward position and they floundered in their efforts in Parliament. When they finally were reenergized after the British's surrender at Saratoga, they called for the recognition of American Independence. When the British surrendered at Yorktown this group swept into power. It opened negotiations with the Americans and also succeeded in scoring a decisive victory against the French.

William Pitt the Younger

Lord Shelburne resigned as prime minister and was followed by a coalition government led by Charles James Fox and Lord North. It however was forced to resign over George III's opposition to a bill reforming the East India Company. The Chancellor of the Exchequer became the youngest prime minister at the age of 24. He would provide strong and steady leadership throughout the years of the Wars of the French Revolution until his death in 1806.

David Hume

He was a Scotsman who became a scholar of the Greco-Roman classics, breaking with his family's Calvinism. He made his mark in philosophy as an empiricist, essentially following Locke's tabula rasa. He wrote: A Treatise of Human Nature, Enquires Concerning Human Understanding, Enquiries Concerning the Principles of Morals, and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. He broke with deism and embrace atheism. He postulated that primitive peoples developed religion to account for natural phenomena beyond their comprehension.

Immanuel Kant

He is considered a central figure in modern philosophy who embodied much of Enlightened thought. The son of an east Prussian artisan, originally educated in a Pietist school, he became a virulent opponent of Christianity. He wrote: Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason, and Critique of the Power of Judgment. He argued human understanding was the source of all natural laws. All knowledge, morality, and religious belief were consistent and secure due to resting on human autonomy.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

He was arguably the most influential thinker of the Late Enlightenment. His thought and works emerged as a bridge between the 18th century Enlightenment and 19th century Romanism. He wrote: A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Emile or On Education and The Confessions. He was born in Geneva, Switzerland, the son of a watchmaker. As a youth, he read Plutarch and other Greco-Roman authors and also briefly studied for the priesthood. He spent much of his life as a wanderer. His most influential work was The Social Contract, in this work he laid a political utopia based on the idea of the "general will."

"General Will"

The public spirit seeking the common good, based on "liberty" and "equality." According to Rousseau, this was the primary determinant of morality. Citizens would think only in terms of the welfare of the community. Those who found themselves in the minority would realize the error of their ways and conform to the will of the majority. the virtuous patriot subordinates personal to social objectives. The definition of virtue is the citizen's willingness to subordinate himself to the common good.

"Grubb Street"

The philosophes looked down on the common folk (the rabble), but Enlightenment criticism of the social order, however, made its presence known among the lower classes. On the Continent, this took the form of a black market of banned books, pamphlets, and newspapers (this was especially prevalent in France). This material consisted of novels, stories, and cartoons which lampooned the upper classes (some of this literature crossed into the realm of the pornographic). It served to create disrespect for the monarchy, the church and other established institutions.

Comte de Vergennes

Upon ascending to the throne, Louis XVI appointed this man as Foreign Minister. He assumed the office with a strong sense of mission to restore France's lost Great Power status. The brewing rebellion in North America present an opportunity for France to strike back at the hated rival. At the outbreak of hostilities France began shipping arms and military supplies to the rebels. He was eager to actively involved France in the war, but only if the Americans stood a good chance at victory. There was one dissenting voice, though, the Minister of Finance who warned against military adventures, due to France's unstable finances. When he fell from power, this man gained the upper hand in foreign policy debates and persuaded the cabinet to go to war with Britain at the first opportunity.

Turgot

This Minister of Finance warned against military adventures (particularly against the War for American Independence), due to France's unstable finances. He was the successor of the abbe Terray, he was able to further stabilize the financial system through budget cuts and debt retirement. He however fell from power and France entered the War for American Independence and France's finances were destroyed.

Jacques Necker

This Finance Minister was popular with the public. He succeeded Turgot and realized that further reforms were necessary to France's long-term financial health. He cut courtiers' pensions and other similar annuities, he streamlined the administration by reducing the number of intendants, and he kept the public consistently informed of the state's financial situation through regular reports. He sought to assure both financiers and the general public that the crown could meet its financial obligations out of its ordinary revenue. While his reforms succeeded, many within the crown bureaucracy and other nobles were angered by Necker's reforms and he was dismissed in May 1781. The new finance minister abandoned most of his reforms. As unrest grew in France, the king asked the former finance minister to return and the public greeted this news with enthusiasm. Just before the fall of the Bastille, he was once again dismissed and ordered to leave the country. However, after the fall of the Bastille he was once again restored as Finance Minister.

The Estates-General

This was a national legislative body dating back to the Middle Ages. It consisted of representatives of the three estates meeting as a collective body. Historically, each estate voted as a single entity. It had not met since 1614. The meeting of this body came in response to the call of the people demanding the meeting of this body. They were to help with the financial crisis plaguing France at the time.

The cahiers de doleance

Throughout France, a variety of citizens, communities, and interest groups from every walk of life met and drew up lists of grievances, demands, and proposed reforms. The representatives pooled these for debate during their deliberations. These concerns addressed many more issues than those of taxation and the financial system: administrative corruption, the justice system, police regulations, and freedoms of expression, petition, and press. They all expressed respect for the institution of the monarchy.

The Tennis Court Oath

The issue of voting in the Estates-General led to a deadlock in the debates. By late May, the delegates of the Third estate began meeting separately. They were joined by sympathetic clergy and nobles. In June they proclaimed themselves to be the National Assembly. On June 20, the delegates arrived to discover their hall locked and an edict stating that it was closed for a joint session to be held on June 22. They found shelter from the rain in a nearby handball court, led by their presiding officer they vowed to stay in session until a constitution was in place.

The Great Fear

During the summer of 1789, several disturbances spread panic among the peasantry throughout much of the French countryside. The events of July in Paris (ie: the fall of the Bastille) created fear of an aristocratic conspiracy. Peasants were afraid they would use foreign armies and brigands to regain control. Peasants committed acts of violence and destroyed property: chateaux and abbeys were sacked, common lands and pasturage were reclaimed from landowners, forests were invaded, enclosures destroyed, and grain riots occurred. The panic dissipated by August, but it left its mark on the country.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen

On August 26, the delegates of the National Assembly drafted and issued a document. It embodied the ideals and goals of the Revolution: Men are born and remain free and equal in rights and the state's purpose is to preserve and protect those rights. In decreeing liberty and equality of rights the Assembly served the interest of the dominant bourgeoisie, and also attracted support from the French people from all walks of life. It echoed the ideals and sentiments of the American Declaration of Independence. However it did have significant differences: in leveling the old social barriers, Revolutionary leaders would attempt to enforce equality upon the nation; also French leaders would emphasize "public safety" in applying these principles, making their application relative to circumstances; and revolutionary leaders would feel free in dire circumstances to limit or even deny rights to citizens.

The National Assembly

This body functioned as the government of France during the Revolution's early stages. It was made up of delegates from the third estates who declared themselves to be this body. They enacted reforms including: religious toleration to Protestants and Jews; restructuring of the criminal justice system and dividing the old provinces into 83 departments. During this period, this body wielded absolute authority "in the name of the people." In the new order, the French people were held to be sovereign in the new order, however, they only exercised that sovereignty when electing new delegates, thus this body ruled supreme. It was this body that passed France's new "Declaration of Independence."

The Declaration of Pillnitz

The rest of Europe had a mixed reaction to the French Revolution. On the one hand, the turmoil seems to end any threat of French expansion, but on the other hand, the fear of the spread of Revolutionary sentiment steadily increased in states near French borders. The Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold II of Austria and King Frederick William II of Prussia formed a defensive alliance. The two monarchs jointly announced the restoration of the French monarch was the in the best interest of European stability. French aristocratic emigres took encouragement from this declaration and continued to plot to bring down the Revolution. This declaration frightened the Legislative Assembly and the press framed it to the nation as a threat to France. The Assembly issued an ultimatum to the Emperor Leopold II to renounce the Declaration. He refused and the Legislative Assembly declared war on Austria alone.

The Jacobins

The Legislative Assembly quickly split into warring factions, this group was a more radical faction and was just beginning to emerge at the creation of the Legislative Assembly (this faction was headed by Danton, Marat and Robespierre). At the time of elections, some 150 of this new faction were elected to the Legislative Assembly. Their control of much of the press would aid their rise to dominance. After the declaration of Austria and Prussia, the Assembly demanded Louis' XVI brother return to France, when he refused, the Assembly declared all emigres to be traitors. In return, the Emperor declared this group to be the enemies of the French people, Louis XVI and all Europe. This new government demanded the dissolution of the monarch and a new constitution. They were the head of the government that demanded the heads of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. They were also in power during the Reign of Terror.

The Storming of the Tulieries

When news of the defeats of the French army in Belgium reached the capital the people of Paris panicked. The Assembly declared a state of national emergency. The Jacobins demanded the exile of the king and the arrest of Lafayette and others deemed "public enemies", however when the news of the Brunswick Manifesto arrived the city erupted. Convinced Louis was in contact with the Allies, a mob stormed their living place. They butchered the guards and imprisoned the royal family in the Temple fortress. The new government of Paris demanded the dissolution of the monarchy and a new constitution. This event was major turning point in the Revolution. Lafayette and other liberal nobles were forced to flee and power passed to the Jacobins. The French Revolution entered into a bloodier phase.

The Battle of Valmy

On September 20, the French army was deployed on the heights near a town on the road between Verdun and Paris to block the Prussian advance. After several exchanges of artillery fire, the 60-year-old Duke of Bruswick ordered a retreat. While not much of a Battle, the outcome made for a strategic French victory. The Prussians abandoned France, and shortly withdrew from the war. The Revolution was saved. The commander Kellerman (made commander by Dumouriez just before the battle) was hailed as a national hero.

Maximilen Robespierre

A Jacobin that quickly rose to prominence. He was a lawyer from Arras in northern France and ran an influential newspaper. When Paris erupted with riots the Committee assumed "emergency powers" to deal with the situation and voted this man to the Committee of Public Safety. He was nicknamed "The Incorruptible," an intense and humorless individual with no interest in pleasure or money. While he was the Committee's dominant figure during the Reign of Terror, he never held supreme power. At the end the Terror turned on its creators and after a failed suicide attempt, he went to the guillotine.

The Committee of Public Safety

With the war effort not going well, in April of 1793, the Convention established a twelve-member committee to act as the national executive. When riots broke out in Paris the Committee assumed "emergency power" to deal with the situation. The Committee implemented radical measures: it suspended the Constitution of 1793, voted terror to be the "order of the day," and a new Law of the Maximum set prices and wages nationally. This institution helped to conduct the "Reign of Terror" and issued decrees and appointed Convention members to enforce the Terror in the provinces. This Committee turner on its own members and many of them were sent to the guillotine including Danton, Desmoulins and Robespierre. After the Reign of Terror the Convention declared that the powers of the committee were limited to war and foreign policy.

The Reign of Terror

The Jacobin Clubs and other governmental institutions conducted this throughout France. The Committee of Public Safety issued decrees. The clubs, aided by the Committee of Public Security, rooted out "traitors" and "enemies of the people." The Tribunal tried cases day and night and victim's sentenceswere immediately carried out this no possibility of appeal. While this lasted some 2600 people were executed in Paris. The purging also took place in the countryside, in fact some the worst atrocities occurred in the Provinces. During this time there was also a "dechristianizing" of France. At the end, this horror turned on its makers and thus came to an end.

The Thermidorian Reaction

With the purge of the Robespierreists, power in France passed back to the Convention. Many of the delegates who now assumed leadership were of the political center. Their first task was to dismantle the administrative apparatus of the Terror. Robespierre's Law of Suspects was repealed. The Revolutionary Tribunal was to operate under the established rules of legal procedure. The powers of the Committee of Public Safety were limited to war and foreign policy and the membership of both was rotated.

The Directory

In August of 1795 the Convention ratified a Constitution. In a reaction to the abuse of centralized authority during the Terror, power was to be divided not only among executive, legislative, and judicial branches but within branches. The executive branch consisted of a five-man group chosen by the Council of Elders. In October 1795, a Paris mob threatened to storm the Tulieries and lynch this group. Napoleon Bonaparte defended the building and men which put the group in his debt. They promoted him to major general and commander of the Army of Italy. He later became a hero and a significant threat to this group. He later instigated a coup and took over the government of France (presumably dissolving this group).

Napoleon Bonaparte

Born to minor Corsican nobility in 1769. Through his father's influence, he received a military education and was commissioned a lieutenant of artillery. At the outbreak of the Revolution he joined the Corsican independence movement but after feuding with leadership he was obliged to flee to France. He won recognition for his skillful handing of the artillery during the siege of Toulon and was promoted to brigadier general. He later saved the Directory from the Paris mob with put the Directory in his debt. Since he was a potential threat to the government they promoted him to major general and commander of the Army of Italy. Between 1796 and 1797 he swept the Austrians out of northern Italy, conquering the region and forcing Vienna to sue for peace. He was now France's newest hero. As a now major threat, he was put in command of an expedition to conquer Egypt. While he brushed aside Arab forces, the British fleet sunk the French ships, leaving the army stranded. He returned to Paris in a triumphal procession and proceeded to take over the government.

The Coup of 18-19 Brumaire

Bonaparte returned to France on October 1799, his journey to Paris became a triumphal procession. The various factions in the divided French government began courting him. He entered into negotiations with the faction led by the Abbe Sieyes and the foreign minister, Marice de Talleyrand faction to assume power. Bonaparte addressed the legislature concerning a Jacobin threat to the Republic, the delegates became angry and roughed him up. The troops charged into the chamber, scattering the delegates. Bonaparte, Sieyes, and Roger Ducos became provisional "Consuls" charged with overseeing the drafting of a new constitution. With this action, Bonaparte became master of France at the age of thirty.

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