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The Night the Old Regime Ended

August 4, 1789 and the French Revolution

Michael P. Fitzsimmons

Publication Year: 2003

If the Fall of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, marks the symbolic beginning of the French Revolution, then August 4 is the day the Old Regime ended, for it was on that day (or, more precisely, that night) that the National Assembly met and undertook sweeping reforms that ultimately led to a complete reconstruction of the French polity. What began as a prearranged meeting with limited objectives suddenly took on a frenzied atmosphere during which dozens of noble deputies renounced their traditional privileges and dues. By the end of the night, the Assembly had instituted more meaningful reform than had the monarchy in decades of futile efforts. In The Night the Old Regime Ended, Michael Fitzsimmons offers the ¹rst full-length study in English of the night of August 4 and its importance to the French Revolution. Fitzsimmons argues against François Furet and others who maintain that the Terror was implicit in the events of 1789. To the contrary, Fitzsimmons shows that the period from 1789 to 1791 was a genuine moderate phase of the Revolution. Unlike all of its successor bodies, the National Assembly passed no punitive legislation against recalcitrant clergy or émigrés, and it amnestied all those imprisoned for political offenses before it disbanded. In the ¹nal analysis, the remarkable degree of change accomplished peacefully is what distinguishes the early period of the Revolution and gives it world-historical importance.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Front Cover

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Copyright Page

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Preface

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pp. ix-x

Of the major turning points of the French Revolution universally recognized by day and month alone, few have a more indeterminate legacy than the night of August 4. Although the question of their relative significance might occasionally be debated, July 14, August 10, 9 Thermidor, and others...

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1 The National Assembly and the Night of August 4

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pp. 1-46

The change in this country, since you left it, is such as you can form no idea of. The frivolities of conversation have given way entirely to politicks—men, women, and children talk nothing else: and all you know talk. When deputies of the three estates of the kingdom entered the Salle des Menus Plaisirs at Versailles on May 4, 1789, most of them must have felt as...

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2 The Impact on the Church

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pp. 47-92

As the First Estate of the kingdom during the Old Regime, the church was profoundly affected by the meeting of the night of August 4, 1789. Its position under the Old Regime had been not merely preeminent, but unique, and, as a result, the changes in the polity brought about by the National...

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3 The Abolition of Nobility

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pp. 93-136

As great an impact as the renunciations of the meeting of the night of August 4 had on the church, their effect on the nobility was even greater. Although it was substantially modified and transformed, the church as an institution survived. The nobility did not. The National Assembly abolished nobility on June 19, 1790, an action that emanated from the implementa-...

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4 The Ramifications in the Countryside

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pp. 137-172

Adrien Duport felt that it was the very principle of the existence of the feudal regime that should be struck dead. ...He therefore proposed the most laconic decree, yet one that was, at the same time, the most comprehensive in its consequences that has ever been enacted concerning human, More than anything else, the meeting of the night of August 4, 1789, is asso-...

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5 The Reverberation in the Cities

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pp. 173-214

All is political at Strasbourg. The corner of every street is covered with Programmas, and the walls of every church decorated with Proclamations and Decrees. ...One scarcely walks twenty yards now, without meeting in places of public observation—a declaration of civil rights; and all the shops of music and prints, are hung with national ballads and...

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Conclusion

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pp. 215-221

Their grievances will appear by the following resolutions, which on the 4th of August 1789, the National Assembly unanimously agreed to, as a proof of their great patriotism to the people, as their affectionate and disinterested representatives, devoid of every motive but the common good; and, to give a great example to nations and ages, in the sacrifice of every...

Bibliography

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pp. 223-236

Index

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pp. 237-245

Back Cover

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p. 257-257


E-ISBN-13: 9780271052762
E-ISBN-10: 0271052767
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271028996
Print-ISBN-10: 0271028998

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2003