The Republican Empire: A Revolutionary France TL

The Republican Empire
A Revolutionary France TL
Created by fjihr

Chapter 1: The Death of a General

“What is the Third Estate? Everything. What has it been until now in the political order? Nothing. What does it want to be? Something. “

-Future First Citizen Emmanuel Sieyes, in pamphlet Qu’est-ce que le Tiers Etat? (What is the Third Estate?), published early 1789 [Translated to English]​

From: “A History of France” by Philippe Berger (Marseilles, 1992) [Translated to English]

The French Revolution has a very divisive legacy. Some deem it the birthplace of European liberty, where republican and democratic ideals emerged, while others deem it a terrible example of the dangers, or “the excesses”, of radicalism and the state going rogue and killing its own people. As it is with such politically polarized conflicts, there are elements of truth with both of these viewpoints, but this truth is at the middle.

There are numerous causes of the Revolution, far too many to list in one book. Today, historians have summarized the causes of the revolution into the five categories of cultural, social, financial, political, and economic. The coinciding of these causes was necessary for the Revolution to occur.

The first reason the Revolution occurred was because of the Enlightenment, in which a number of liberal ideas emerged that undermined the power of the monarchy and the church. For instance, the enlightenment author Voltaire talked of a society led by reason and individuality rather than tradition. Today, such a society would be considered highly traditionalistic and droitist[1], but in the late eighteenth century these concepts were extremely gauchist[2]. He, amongst other writers, advocated for extremely controversial policies, including anti-clericalism, separation of the church and state, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. Rousseau, another Enlightenment author, was far more direct in his criticism of the ancien regime. He believed all faiths to be equal and by this he meant the modern meaning of individual religions we mean today, not the meaning of Christian denominations that was commonplace in this era. These extraordinarily radical views – especially for a nation extremely conservative even for the conservative eighteenth century – would lead to his extradition and eventual return due to his popularity amongst intellectuals. Liberal ideas disseminated amongst the plebeian[3] class and intellectuals, directly threating the power of the king and by extension the Roman Catholic Church in France. This talk of heavy societal reform can scarcely be compared to the radicalism of the later Revolution, but it certainly was an influence upon it

The second reason the Revolution occurred was because of the rise of the bourgeoisie[4] and its plebeian and equitarian[5] classes. The expansions of the cities of France led to the expansion of the equitarian class. They were ranked as being the same as plebeians in French government and had as few benefits as them, despite being of a higher socioeconomic class and playing a more authoritative role in the economy. They aspired for and wanted to be equals with the clerical class and the aristocratic class, but under the ancien regime, they were seen as a lesser class. They were the recipients of the majority of the Enlightenment ideals and rhetoric, seeing them as methods to gain their preordained (in their eyes) rights.

The third reason the Revolution occurred was because France was severely in debt. This crisis was rooted in the vast amounts of capital that Louis XIV required for his projects. He did not have enough money for them, so various bankers loaned France money. As a result, France had a high deficit but the condition of France improved little. Eventually, by the time of Louis XV, these high deficits continued and France had a high, but manageable, amount of debt. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on one’s own biases), then the Seven Years’ occurred. France borrowed tremendous amounts of money, gaining vast amounts of debt from it, worsening the state of France. By this point, their levels of debt were sky-high to the point of crisis. Added to that was their intervention in the American Revolution. Although it would prove to be successful and France and the US won the war, French debt continued to worsen, passing the point of no return. As a result, King Louis XVI was forced to rescind privileges and increase the tax. As one may expect, this increased resent towards the monarchy, attracting these resentful people to Enlightenment ideals

The fourth reason was political. As a result of the aforementioned accumulation of debt, Louis XVI was advised by various ministers and government officials to reform France and its tax structure. In doing so he angered conservatives –who made up a majority of the aristocracy – across France. Among them were provincial appellate courts known as parlements. These traditional conservative bodies blocked any attempt by Louis XVI and his chief ministers to increase taxes and progress, increasing resent in a government that was unable to solve the debt crisis.

The fifth reason, and perhaps the most major of the five, was the increase of bread prices. The first time it occurred was fifteen years prior to the Revolution, during the deregulation of the grain market, which saw support by most liberal[6] economists who were able to influence Minister of Finance Turgot. This led to a collapse of bread (bread being a staple across France) prices across France in 1774. As a result of this, grain prices increased to tremendous amounts and resulted in the rebellion of starving plebeians in what was known as the Flour War of 1775. Although regulations were reimplemented and the rebellion was suppressed, resentment of the central government grew. In addition, just prior to the Revolution, a series of bad harvests and a bad winter from 1788-1789 led to resentment of the government increase further.

The failure of Finance Minister Turgot to enact any change and do anything to resolve these issues – indeed, making them worse – led to his dismissal in 1776 and his replacement by Jacques Necker, who was, most strangely, a Protestant and a foreigner (from the Swiss Confederacy). Due to his denomination, he could not be made an official finance minister and was made “Comptroller-General” instead. He realized that the French tax system, a strangely (to us modern people) regressive tax system that taxed the poor – and the rising middle class – more than the rich and gave the bourgeoisie substantially higher tax than the aristocracy and clergy. To this end, he created a plan that taxed the clergy and aristocracy a more reasonable amount and suggested cutting the power of the parlements.

The king’s advisors did not receive this plan well. As a result, Necker was dismissed and was replaced by Charles Alexandre de Callone. Callone came to similar realizations as Necker and suggested the implementation a tax code. It composed of the creation of a land tax for the nobility and clergy, which would have been quite high considering the amounts of land held by the two classes. Opposed by the parlements, de Callone summoned the Assembly of Notables (which, as the name suggests, was made up of notable nobility) for the first time in over one hundred years. However, as one would expect, the Assembly criticized de Callone’s plan and weakened his position. In response, Louis XIV reappointed Necker, this time to the post of official Minister of Finance, and Necker – who was seen by the people as their representative in the royal court –called the Estates-General, a directly elected meeting of the three estates (nobility, clergy, and everyone else) in contrast to the appointed nature of the Assembly of Notables – in 1789. This was the first time it was called in one hundred and seventy-five years. The subjecting of the government to the directly elected voice of the people was a sign of the sheer desperation France and the Bourbon monarchy fell into.

The elections for the Estate-General were held in the spring of 1789. As one would expect from an absolute monarchy, the Third Estate was the lowliest and least-ranked of the estates, but represented a disproportionately high – 95% – of France’s population. In addition, property requirements disenfranchised nearly all of this ninety five percent, allowing solely the equitarians to vote, and as a result, the Third Estate was made up of equitarians. Many who would play a major role in the Revolution, such as future President of the National Convention Maximilien Robespierre, were first elected to the Third Estate. This estate was supported by many including Catholic clergyman (and future First Citizen of France, of course) Emmanuel Sieyes, who, in his pamphlet What is the Third Estate?, asserted “What is the Third Estate? Everything. What has it been now in the Political Order? Nothing. What does it want to be? Something.” Many in both the First and Second Estates shared this opinion and recognized that it held an importance the former two did not, but those who held such opinions made up a minority in their respective estates.

The Third Estate was repetitively blocked in its attempts to reform France by the conservative and ultra-royalist majorities in the First and Second Estates and they found themselves unable to reform France. In addition, Necker, amongst others, saw it as an advisory body rather than it being a parliamentary body with the power to pass laws, the view of many commoners. As a result, the Estate, now called the Communes, or Commons, convened and voted on a measure far more radical (but far less radical in comparison with what was to come), becoming representatives not of the Estate, but of the People and the Commons renamed itself, as anyone with even an inkling of knowledge on the Revolution knows, the National Assembly. Louis XVI attempted to block their second convening and evicted them from their meeting spot, but they moved to a nearby tennis court and swore the Tennis Court Oath, in which they pledged not to leave each other until France gained a constitution. They would soon be joined by most of the First and some of the Second Estates.

These attempts by Louis XVI to stymie the Assembly, which renamed itself the National Constituent Assembly, were met by opposition by pro-revolutionary Parisians, who made up the majority, or at least the false majority[7] in Paris. Many were scared that arriving mercenaries came with the objective of brutally shutting down the Assembly. The King’s dismissal of popular Finance Minister Jacques Necker led to public anger. Soon, Paris was consumed by riots, looting and chaos. These rebels, who had support from the National Guard, set their eyes on the prison of Bastille, a fortress that held large amounts of weaponry and was also seen as a centre of royal power. On 14 July, after merely a few hours of combat, the fortress submitted and fell to the rebels, who killed the governor of the Bastille Bernard de Launay and put his head on a pike, which was paraded around the city. Arriving at the city hall, these rebels killed and butchered the mayor of Paris, Jacques de Flesselles.

Louis XVI was convinced by these riots to allow the Assembly to become the official Parliament of France. He accepted a tricolour cockade (this being the symbol of the revolutionaries and the predecessor to the future flag of France) and the crowd surrounding Louis cheered Vive la Roi (quite ironically considering the future of the Revolution). In addition, a new government system, the municipal commune, was created.

As the authority of the nation weakened and revolutionary fervour spread with the rise of looting and riots not unlike that of Paris, many aristocrats fled into neighbouring states, fearing for their lives and as the Revolution progressed, these emigres, as they were called, funded counter-revolutionaries and urged foreign intervention (a task which of course would be impossible, as shown with the great expansion of French power in the eventual European Revolutionary Wars[8]).

Feudalism was abolished by the Assembly on August 4 in the August Decrees, eradicating the rights of seigneurs (lords) and the ten percent tax to the Church known as the tithe. In a few hours, the rights of nobility, clergy, cities, and companies were abolished. In addition, the parlements, which had resisted any change and a symbol of ancien regime oppression, were abolished. The aristocratic society of France was abolished, replaced by a much fairer (although not very fair) and more egalitarian one.

On the twenty-fifth of August, the Assembly established the Declaration of the Rights of Man. This declaration, itself influenced by the American Constitution, would be a major inspiration for democracies and republics internationally. Even today, the Declaration is considered a hallmark of democratic and republican government. In addition, the government created the French Constitution of 1791, the first of the four French revolutionary constitutions. It established the Assembly as a directly elected unicameral body. Also, the traditional province subdivisions were replaced by 83 departments, which had approximately equal populations. In addition, the king’s powers were highly restricted; he no longer had supreme power and all he had was a suspensive veto, the power to delay bills being passed into law, but not to outright refuse to do so.

Power that was formerly held by the Church was shifted to the government. Prior to these reforms, everyone had to pay the aforementioned tithe to the church, which was at the same time was exempt from taxes from the government. After the Assembly came to power, this church land was placed under government control and it also used church land, which was used to back a currency known as the assignat. Necker’s refusal to trust this extreme measure led to the evaporation of his popularity and his eventual dismissal with a broken reputation. However, when the government began to sell this ecumenical property to raise money, hyperinflation of the assignat occurred. In addition, all clergy were turned into state employees and the government established an electoral system for priests and bishops and created a set wage for clergy, who had to swear an oath of allegiance to the French government. However, only twenty-four percent of clergy swore this oath, the rest being forced to resign or flee.

Factions within the Assembly began to emerge. One such faction was the droitist faction which called itself the monarchiens (Monarchists), the faction opposed to further revolution, led by Jacques de Casales, which sat on the right (droit being the word for “right” in French) side of the King and aimed to create a constitutional monarchy using the British system as a model. The “National Party, the centrist faction of the Assembly, was at the time the major gauchist faction of France. Nearly alone in his extreme gauchistism was lawyer Maximilen Robespierre. In addition, political “clubs” began to emerge, one of which was the famous Jacobin Club. Originally formed as a broad forum for political debate, factions within the club began to form.

The French army was in substantial disarray. The leadership of the army were almost entirely noblemen (for obvious reasons) and as a result, lower-class soldiers with revolutionary fervour in many cases attacked them. Generals such as Francois de Bouille crushed such rebellions, only to be called counter-revolutionary. These attacks resulted in the desertion of many commanding officers and a loss of a lot of good leadership.

Increasingly angered by the direction of the revolution and fearing for his own safety, upon the word of his brother and his wife, Louis XVI decided to flee to Austria. With the help of the aforementioned General Bouille, on the night of June 20, 1791, he and his wife fled the royal palace dressed as servants and with his servants dressed as nobility. However, Louis was recognized when he reached the city of Varennes and returned to Paris and him and his wife were placed under guard.

Louis was forced to swear an oath to the yet-uncreated Constitution. However, even this was not enough to satisfy revolutionary Jacques Pierre Brissot, who drafted a petition for the eradication of the monarchy. These protestors were fired upon by the National Guard. This cost them and their leader, General Lafayette, public support. In the wake of this, many political clubs and other revolutionary organizations were closed off by the government.

The constitution, which was nearly completed by this point, was ratified and the King signed it, making it the law of France. With the job of the National Constituent Assembly completed, it adjourned for its final session on September 30, 1791.

The successor assembly, the Legislative Assembly, was made up 165 Feuilliants (constitutional monarchists), 330 Girondists (moderate republicans) and Montagnards (radical republicans) both of which were members of the Jacobin Club, and about 250 unaffliated deputies. Bills such as the Civil Consitition of the Clergy were vetoed by the King, who used his suspensive veto multiple times in an attempt to avoid further secularization. This, alongside the lack of either of the Assemblies to combat the debt problem, instead focusing on other less immediate issues, led to a constitutional crisis.

On the night of August 10, 1792, insurgents and various militias associated with the Paris Commune (commune being the term for the revolutionary municipal government in Paris) attacked the palace of the King, killed the Swiss Guards who were responsible for his protection, and arrested the royal family. A rump session of the Assembly consisting of mainly the republican Jacobins, now dependent on the Commune for the retaining of any semblance of national government, suspended the monarchy. The Commune sent the National Guard across Paris to murder imprisoned priests and the like – this being the first instance of the purges that characterized the Revolution. The Commune then sent a letter to other cities to follow this example and many cities also conducted purges of suspected counter-revolutionary prisoners. The Assembly was unable to do anything beyond weak protest to resist this chaos. In addition, the radical Montagnards began to emerge as a major group largely due to their support of the Commune.

The Assembly was soon dissolved and the National Convention that replaced it abolished the monarchy on September 21, 1792. The following day, after the French victory in the Battle of Valmy in the European Revolutionary War, would be considered Year One of the French Republican Calendar after its creation three days later. The French revolutionary republican phase had begun.

This moderate-dominated “Girondist Convention” suffered from infighting between the departments and the federal government in Paris. Many of these departments felt that the political domination of Paris over France was unfair. At the time, even the Girondists sought the moving of the Convention from a city made up of “agitators and flatterers of the people” and a hotbed of radicalism, French federalism not having reached the heights we know that it later would.

The Convention held the first French republican election from 2 to 6 September 1792. This election broke up the populace between active and passive citizens, with taxpayers (who paid the tax of four and a half livres) – who consisted of about five million men – being enfranchised, while the rest of the population, although now having codified rights in the form of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, was unable to vote. There was an eleven point nine voter turnout – only about one million men – but these men came from all walks of life, and they were certainly representative of the active citizens. Remarkably, not even one deputy was elected as a monarchist, with the electoral divide having now turned into one between moderate and radical republicans. Every fortnight, the Convention elected a President. Throughout both the Girondist and Montagnard stages, this system was retained and as one would expect, there were many Presidents of the National Convention from 1793 to 1795 – forty-seven in total. However, despite this instability and the reoccurring replacement of leaders, the biggest issue was the trial of the King.

Many Girondists believed that the former King could and should be spared. However, as Montagnard (and future President) Maximilien Robespierre stated, “If the king is not guilty, then those who have dethroned him are”. In addition, it was impossible for Louis not to be put on trial as a result of him calling in the support of foreign states that France was at war with, such as Austria. Ultimately, documents stored in a cabinet in his (quite comfortable) prison cell that proved without a doubt his correspondence with enemy states and his sedition. On December 10, the trial of former King Louis XVI, now mockingly called “Citoyen Louis Capet”, or “Citizen Louis Capet” (Capet being his royal house) began. The astounding amount of evidence against him was presented, and the Convention voted unanimously for his guilt. There was not any popular referendum as many Girondists had hoped would occur. However, the fatal vote would prove to be far more divided. Of the seven hundred and fifty one deputies present, three hundred and thirty four deputies voted against it whereas three hundred and eighty seven voted for it. On the morning of January 21 1794, Louis Capet was put to his death by the guillotine.

It seems that most French accepted the death of their former king in silence. However, it made a profound impression. Louis was put to death like any mortal, any ordinary man. In addition, many of the crowned heads of Europe feared republican revolution would lead to their deaths and began more zealous campaigns against France.

The Convention was initially a stable assembly. However, neither the Girondists nor the Montagnards were able to gain a majority in the body, and as a result, both sides needed to appeal to dangerously extreme wings. The Girondists appealed to constitutional monarchists, whereas the Montagnards appealed to lower-class sans-culottes. This threatened the stability of the assailing republic.

Influence from the intensely radical sans-culottes led to the Convention becoming increasingly radical. It was forced to form the Committee of Public Safety and the Revolutionary Tribunal. In addition, a counter-revolution in the Vendee and Coalition victories in the European Revolutionary War led to a weakening of morale. Ultimately, the Girondists arrested the ultra-revolutionary journalist Jean-Paul Marat and his supporters. On May 25, the Paris Commune demanded the release of these prisoners, but in reply, Maximin Isnard, the President of the National Convention, stated “If any attack is made on the persons of the representatives of the nation, then I declare to you in the name of the whole country that Paris would be destroyed”. The next day, a Commune insurrection began against the Girondist-controlled Convention. This insurgency would continue until June 2, when sans-culottes surrounded the Convention, forcing deputies to declare the arrest of twenty-nine Girondist leaders. This brought the Convention in the favour of the Montagnards led by Parisian lawyer Maximilien Robespierre. Radicalism unconceivable by even the most arduous revolutionaries five years ago was now the guiding ideology of France.

Many were afraid the Montagnards would initiate vast purges and would abolish private property. To reassure them, the Convention passed the Constitution of 1793 (or Year 1). This constitution went far beyond that of 1789, affirming freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and equality and establishing new freedoms such as the right of public assistance, work, education, and most curiously a right to insurrection. Although they went no more in the direction of democracy and in practice these values were ignored, this constitution became a model for republicans and democrats across Europe and the world. This Constitution had the aim to ensure the supreme role of deputies in the Convention, which was seen as the basis for French representative democracy. It was submitted for ratification by referendum and was accepted by a vast majority of 1.8 million to 17 thousand against. Despite this supermajority, its eventual ratification was postponed until peace was achieved.

Indeed, the Montagnards most certainly saw dire circumstances. They saw a federalist revolt and a war in the Vendee. In total, sixty departments were in open rebellion. Although fortunately the border departments were loyal and the rebellions did not have widespread support and were divided themselves, the rebellion was a danger to the government. At the same time, a series of military defeats occurred in which Coalition forces were successfully able to push into territory that was originally French prior to the beginning of the war and Corsican forces under Pasquale Paoli were able to establish an independent kingdom. Compounded to this was the British siege of Dunkirk and the Coalition invasion of Alsace. All of these factors led to emergence of the Reign of Terror.

The Montagnard Convention built upon Girondist committees, most notably the infamous Committee of Public Safety and the less well-known Committee of General Security. In addition, the failing war led to a sans-culotte leader by the name of Jacques Roux to call for a planned economy in order to direct the nation’s resources to the war. The Convention disliked this idea due to many of them believing in argentine[9] economic policy, but the mobilization of resources was logical and ultimately trumped economic policy. The first modern instance of a war economy[10] was established in this way. By passing a series of laws, the Convention gained total economic control establishing maximums[11] over grain and other food and forcing farmers to set aside “granaries of plenty” for soldiers fighting in the European Revolutionary War. In addition, conscription (levee en masse) was decreed, making hundreds of thousands of able-bodies civilians into soldiers.

The establishment of a war economy did not help the people of France much. Large amounts of goods were sold to the government for very low prices. As a result, not much of a profit was made. However, many large gun factories were built, creating jobs. In addition, the government increased wages all around France by one half. Sans-culottes were also recruited to fight in the war and worked in business and a series of major victories in the war calmed the situation.

By 1794, the army reached 650,000. This is a vast army even by our modern standards and for the time period it was considered ultra-massive. This French Revolutionary Army, under the leadership of some of the greatest generals of the era, was able to not only stand ground against all of Europe, but was able to conquer vast amounts of land. By using its numbers and technological innovations, it was able to overwhelm opponents, and these victories improved morale substantially.

However, the Reign of Terror, today a textbook example of revolution gone wrong and bloody, emerged in October 1793. Anyone suspected of being counter-revolutionary and later those whose revolutionary zeal surpassed the Convention were put to death. Where threats of revolt were highest, suppression and terror was highest. Its victims belonged to largely the aristocratic class but there were victims from all walks of society. Fear of brutal suppression was enough to quell revolts in places like the Girondist-dominated west.

By late September, a divide within the Montagnard movement between the Hebertists – led by radical leader Jacques Hebert – who argued that the Reign of Terror was insufficient and needed to expand into a larger movement, and the Dantonists – led by moderate leader Georges Danton – who wished to de-radicalize the Convention and decentralize France. The revolutionary government sought to walk the line between these two wings. However, the winter of 1793 proved to be brutal. The Convention lowered the maximums further and seized large amounts of grains for the purpose of distributing amongst the needy. Although it seemed that the Convention was now listening to the Hebertists, they had decided they were too radical to exist and they were put to the death. At the same time, a series of scandals implicated the right of sedition, and the Dantonists were put to the death.

The sans-culottes were stunned by the execution of the Hebertists; their positions fell apart. The Commune was purged and replaced with members of committees.

The destruction of all of its domestic enemies led to the end of a sense of emergency amongst the Montagnard Convention, this being the chief reason that it did not fall to infighting. Committees such as Public Safety were ruled by a multitude of factions. Even the smallest differences led to disagreements between government bodies, destroying the sense of camaraderie that had previously existed between them. This bickering grew so great that, after veiled attacks at him, Robespierre ceased to attend the Committee from June to the end of July 1794. He, along with leaders of other factions, believed in reconciliation to avoid the fragmentation of government. However, Robespierre believed that the other leaders were insincere. On July 26 (20 Thermidor, Year II), he vaguely denounced his political opponents and called for a “unity of government”. But when he was asked to state at whom this denouncing was directed towards, he refused. The next day, in what was known as the Thermidorean Reaction (for the month that this occurred according to the French Republican Calendar was the month of Thermidor), a coalition of his opponents refused to let him and his allies speak and, most shockingly, they indicted him.

The Commune, loyal to the man that inspired their formation, declared an insurrection against the government once more, but this time as (relatively) moderate revolutionaries. The night of July 27-28 was extremely confusing, as both the Commune and the Convention sought for the support of the French army. The Convention declared the forces of the Commune traitors. Convention forces took control over the town hall of Paris and captured and executed Robespierre and ninety-three of his political allies in what was the single largest purge in French revolutionary history. This purge also marks the end of the radical portion of the Revolution.


From: “A History of European War” by Manuel Ardizzone (Florence, 2010) [Translated to English]

The European Revolutionary War would begin even before the declaration of a republic in 1793. Even as early as 1791, when little beyond the rhetoric of the Revolution was revolutionary, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II, brother of Queen Marie Antoinette, was disturbed by it, although being an englightened absolutist he was initially approving. In an act of conciliation with King Frederick William II, monarch of Austrian enemy Prussia, with French emigre support, the Declaration of Pillnitz was issued by both nations, which made foreign support of King Louis XVI against the Revolution official and threatened vague but severe consequences if any harm comes to the monarchy. Although Leopold saw this as little more than a gesture to placate emigres, the revolutionary government saw this as a serious threat.

France would eventually issue an ultimatum demanding that Austria revoke this declaration and withdraw troops from the French border. The reply was vague and on April 20, 1792, France declared war on Austria. French foreign minister Charles Dumoriez prepared an immediate invasion of the Austrian Netherlands and expected a revolution, as had occurred earlier in 1790. However, the French revolutionary army suffered from desertion of aristocratic soldiers, leading to their momentary defeat.

As France was forced to conduct a massive reforming of its armies, Prussian soldiers under the Duke of Brunswick assembled at Koblenz at the Rhine. They conducted an invasion of French territory. The Brunswick Manifesto was issued by the duke, which declared the Austro-Prussian allies’ intent to restore the king to his absolute powers and to treat any village and town that did not support them as rebels to be executed under martial law. However, this only strengthened French resolved and this manifesto was a direct event that led to the Insurrection of 10 August. The Prussian invasion of France continued until a French victory at Valmy on September 20 that substantially improved morale and led to the proclamation of a Republic and the retaking of the Austrian Netherlands. Meanwhile, on other fronts, France was doing well. France took control over Savoy and Nice, parts of the Kingdom of Sardinia, and France went into Germany, reaching as far as Frankfurt before the winter of 1792.

However, France’s military success caught the attention of many other European powers. Spain and Portugal entered the Coalition against France and Britain issued an ultimatum requiring France to give up its conquests or face the might of Britain. In the wake of these threats, France conscripted hundreds of thousands of men. Despite this, the Coalition initiated an initially successful offensive that led to them being driven out of the Austrian Netherlands and the emergence of serious revolts against the French government within French borders. However, these large new armies reversed these new offensives and the Reign of Terror, a term for the Montagnards’ oppression of counter-revolutionaries, led to a string of victories that pushed back the nascent Coalition by the time the winter of 1793 set in.

The following year brought further success and glory to France. On the Alpine front, there were no major changes, with a failure of a French invasion of Piedmont. However, on the Spanish border, the French under General Jacques Dugommier – who would die in this campaign – drove back a Spanish invasion and began an invasion of Catalonia. In the Netherlands, both the French and the Austrians initiated a stream of offensives along their mutual border. The armies of the Coalition were pushed beyond the Rhine, assuring French control over the Austrian Netherlands, and pushing Coalition forces east of the northern Rhine and the southern Netherlands. In the mid-Rhine front, little occurred beyond two offensives, one of which was successful but was beaten back before the year’s end. However, at sea, a major defeat occurred in which Corsican rebels led by former Corsican president Pasquale Paoli with British assistance established a short-lived kingdom with its king being, most strangely, British monarch George III. Nevertheless, on all fronts except for this one, France advanced on all fronts by the end of 1794.

During the winter of early 1795, the French conducted a lightning campaign in which they took over the (independent) Netherlands, establishing the Batavian Republic (getting its name from the Latin name for the Netherlands) as a client state with popular Dutch support in the form of the Batavian Revolution. With this great French conquest, Prussia dropped out of the war and ceding the west bank of the Rhine to France, giving Prussia breathing room to focus on their occupation of Poland. In Spain, France advanced in Catalonia, beginning to approach Castile. In March, Spain was forced to make peace with France and would eventually join it as an ally. Meanwhile, British attempts to support a royalist insurrection and an anti-republican conspiracy led to the establishment of the Directory. In addition, a French victory at the Battle of Loano led to French access to the Italian peninsula before the year’s end.

In 1796, France prepared a massive advance with the ambitious goal of taking Vienna. However, the armies that were to advance from the Rhine led by generals Jean Moreau and Jean-Baptiste Jourdan were forced to retreat. Despite these major setback, an entirely successful invasion of Italy under General Napoleon Bonaparte led to the formal conquest of Savoy and Nice and French hegemony over northern Italy following a series of unsuccessful Austrian offensives that all led to failure. Although the Rebellion in the Vendee was crushed, a French attempt to initiate an invasion of Ireland ended in failure. France was able to make massive gains in Italy, but elsewhere their offensives were stopped by the year’s end.

In 1797, the British Navy under Admiral John Jervis saw a victory against Spain off the coast of Portugal and the successful stopping of a French invasion of Britain. In Italy, the quickest-advancing front, Bonaparte continued his offensive and crossed the Alps, initiating an invasion of Austria. Eventually, he came into a position directly threatening Vienna. Although General Bonaparte was killed by a stray bullet at the Battle of Klagenfurt[12], Klagenfurt was very close to Vienna and a French occupation of it scared the Austrians into making peace with France – a stroke of luck considering that without a commanding officer, the French could have very well been defeated in Austria and even in Italy. However, the absence of French troops resulted in a rebellion in Italy, one that was small enough to be destroyed by the French troops in fifteen days[13], even without their commanding general.

Although Britain was still at war at France, with no other countries fighting it, historians consider the first creation of peace between Austria and France the end of the First Stage of the European Revolutionary War.


[1] Right-wing, derived from droit, French for right
[2] Left-wing, derived from gauche, French for left
[3] Proletarian, as defined by Marx.
[4] The people who live in a borough, or city. ITTL, the word has retained its original meaning of people who live in the city.
[5] Upper business class of urban areas. Comes from the knight class of the Roman social hierarchy.
[6] Classical liberal, not the social liberalism of the US. ITTL, "liberal" is just a term meaning "of liberty" rather than the multitude of meanings liberal holds IOTL.
[7] A minority that appears to be a majority.
[8] France was able to expand its territory and establish client states even before the rise of Napoleon IOTL.
[9] Capitalist
[10] Total war economy.
[11] Price controls
[12] That’s the POD.
[13] This rebellion was crushed within eight days IOTL, but without a general, it would take longer, but it would not be impossible at all.
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Wow. We'll have to see how this plays out, but I'm intrigued. I suspect you see Hoche or Murat as First Consult, but we'll see.
I am entirely into a French revolutionary timeline with some more domestic politics instead of Napoleon. Excited to see where this goes :).
Good start.

Waiting for more, of course...:D

Cool beans.

I am entirely into a French revolutionary timeline with some more domestic politics instead of Napoleon. Excited to see where this goes :).

Thanks for the support. Updates will take some time because they're incredibly long.

Wow. We'll have to see how this plays out, but I'm intrigued. I suspect you see Hoche or Murat as First Consult, but we'll see.

I put a clue on who's going to be leader of France in the quote at the top of the chapter.
Looking forward to this one.

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, ou la Mort !

Thanks for your support. It means a lot that such an extraordinary writer like you is following my TL.

Why was there so much intro to the POD?

To create the setting. It's unlikely readers will understand references to "Batavia" or the "Roman Republic" otherwise, considering how obscure those French clients are.
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From the opening, it sounds like this revolution might actually be successful instead of lapsing back into monarchy like OTL.
Looking forward to more. What are the dynamics between the different strands of republicanism? Are they are extreme in variation? More solidarity? Less divergence of opinion?