Sans-culottes

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Idealized sans-culotte by Louis-Leopold Boilly (1761-1845). Sans-culotte.jpg
Idealized sans-culotte by Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761–1845).

The sans-culottes (French:  [sɑ̃kylɔt] , literally "without breeches") were the common people of the lower classes in late 18th century France, a great many of whom became radical and militant partisans of the French Revolution in response to their poor quality of life under the Ancien Régime . [1] The word sans-culotte, which is opposed to that of the aristocrat, seems to have been used for the first time on 28 February 1791 by officer Gauthier in a deregatory sense, speaking about a "sans-culottes army". [2] The word came in vogue during the demonstration of 20 June 1792. [3]

Culottes womans split skirt; earlier, breeches or knickers

Culottes are an item of clothing worn on the lower half of the body. The term can refer to split skirts, historical men's breeches, or women's under-pants; this is an example of fashion-industry words taken from designs across history, languages and cultures, then being used to describe different garments, often creating confusion among historians and readers. The French word culotte is panties, pants, knickers, trousers, shorts, or (historically) breeches; derived from the French word culot, meaning the lower half of a thing, the lower garment in this case.

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Ancien Régime Monarchic, aristocratic, social and political system established in the Kingdom of France from approximately the 15th century until the later 18th century

The Ancien Régime was the political and social system of the Kingdom of France from the Late Middle Ages until 1789, when hereditary monarchy and the feudal system of French nobility were abolished by the French Revolution. The Ancien Régime was ruled by the late Valois and Bourbon dynasties. The term is occasionally used to refer to the similar feudal systems of the time elsewhere in Europe. The administrative and social structures of the Ancien Régime were the result of years of state-building, legislative acts, internal conflicts, and civil wars, but they remained and the Valois Dynasty's attempts at re-establishing control over the scattered political centres of the country were hindered by the Huguenot Wars. Much of the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII and the early years of Louis XIV were focused on administrative centralization. Despite, however, the notion of "absolute monarchy" and the efforts by the kings to create a centralized state, the Kingdom of France retained its irregularities: authority regularly overlapped and nobles struggled to retain autonomy.

Contents

The name sans-culottes refers to their clothing, and through that to their lower-class status: culottes were the fashionable silk knee-breeches of the 18th-century nobility and bourgeoisie, and the working class sans-culottes wore pantaloons, or trousers, instead. [4] The sans-culottes, most of them urban labourers, served as the driving popular force behind the revolution. They were judged by the other revolutionaries as "radicals" because they advocated a direct democracy, that is to say, without intermediaries such as members of parliament. Though ill-clad people and ill-equipped, with little or no support from the upper class, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars. [5] :1–22

Breeches knee-length trousers

Breeches are an article of clothing covering the body from the waist down, with separate coverings for each leg, usually stopping just below the knee, though in some cases reaching to the ankles. The breeches were normally closed and fastened about the leg, along its open seams at varied lengths, and to the knee, by either buttons or by a drawstring, or by one or more straps and buckle or brooches. Formerly a standard item of Western men's clothing, they had fallen out of use by the mid-19th century in favour of trousers. Modern athletic garments used for English riding and fencing, although called breeches or britches, differ from breeches in ways discussed below.

French nobility privileged social class in France during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period to the revolution in 1790

The French nobility was a privileged social class in France during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period to the revolution in 1790. The nobility was revived in 1805 with limited rights as a titled elite class from the First Empire to the fall of the July Monarchy in 1848, when all privileges were abolished for good. Hereditary titles, without privileges, continued to be granted until the Second Empire fell in 1870. They survive among their descendants as a social convention and as part of the legal name of the corresponding individuals.

Working class Social class composed of members of the society employed in lower tier jobs

The working class comprises those engaged in waged or salaried labour, especially in manual-labour occupations and industrial work. Working-class occupations include blue-collar jobs, some white-collar jobs, and most pink-collar jobs. Members of the working class rely for their income exclusively upon their earnings from wage labour; thus, according to the more inclusive definitions, the category can include almost all of the working population of industrialized economies, as well as those employed in the urban areas of non-industrialized economies or in the rural workforce.

Political ideals

A sans-culotte with a halberd Sans-culotte avec sa redoutable pique - Lesueur.jpg
A sans-culotte with a halberd

They were expressing their demands through petitions of the sections presented to the assemblies (the Legislative, and Convention) by the delegates. The sans-culottes had a third way of putting pressure on the policy: the police and the courts received thousands of denunciations of traitors and supposed conspirators. [6] The most fundamental political ideals of the sans-culottes were social equality, economic equality, and popular democracy. They supported the abolition of all the authority and privileges of the monarchy, nobility, and Roman Catholic clergy, the establishment of fixed wages, the implementation of price controls to ensure affordable food and other essentials, and vigilance against counter-revolutionaries. [5] [7] The height of their influence spanned roughly from the original overthrow of the monarchy in 1792 to the Thermidorian Reaction in 1794. [4] Throughout the revolution, the sans-culottes provided the principal support behind the more radical and anti-bourgeoisie factions of the Paris Commune, such as the Enragés and the Hébertists, and were led by populist revolutionaries such as Jacques Roux and Jacques Hébert. [1] [8] The sans-culottes also populated the ranks of paramilitary forces charged with physically enforcing the policies and legislation of the revolutionary government, a task that commonly included violence and the carrying out of executions against perceived enemies of the revolution.

Social equality is a state of affairs in which all people within a specific society or isolated group have the same status in certain respects, possibly including civil rights, freedom of speech, property rights and equal access to certain social goods and social services. However, it may also include health equality, economic equality and other social securities. Social equality requires the absence of legally enforced social class or caste boundaries and the absence of discrimination motivated by an inalienable part of a person's identity. For example, sex, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, origin, caste or class, income or property, language, religion, convictions, opinions, health or disability must absolutely not result in unequal treatment under the law and should not reduce opportunities unjustifiably.

Popular democracy is a notion of direct democracy based on referendums and other devices of empowerment and concretization of popular will. The concept evolved out of the political philosophy of Populism, as a fully democratic version of this popular empowerment ideology, but since it has become independent of it, and some even discuss if they are antagonistic or unrelated now. Though the expression has been used since the 19th century and may be applied to English Civil War politics, at least the notion is deemed recent and has only recently been fully developed.

House of Bourbon European royal house of French origin

The House of Bourbon is a European royal house of French origin, a branch of the Capetian dynasty, the royal House of France. Bourbon kings first ruled France and Navarre in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Spanish Bourbon dynasty held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma. Spain and Luxembourg currently have monarchs of the House of Bourbon.

During the peak of their influence, the sans-culottes were seen as the truest and most authentic sons of the French Revolution, held up as living representations of the revolutionary spirit. During the height of revolutionary fervor, such as during the Reign of Terror when it was dangerous to be associated with anything counter-revolutionary, even public functionaries and officials actually from middle or upper-class backgrounds adopted the clothing and label of the sans-culottes as a demonstration of solidarity with the working class and patriotism for the new French Republic. [4]

Reign of Terror Period during the French Revolution

The Reign of Terror, or The Terror, refers to a period during the French Revolution after the First French Republic was established in which multiple massacres and public executions occurred in response to revolutionary fervor, anti-clerical sentiment, and frivolous accusations of treason by Maximilien Robespierre and his Committee of Public Safety.

French First Republic Republic governing France, 1792–1804

In the history of France, the First Republic, officially the French Republic, was founded on 22 September 1792 during the French Revolution. The First Republic lasted until the declaration of the First Empire in 1804 under Napoleon, although the form of the government changed several times. This period was characterized by the fall of the monarchy, the establishment of the National Convention and the Reign of Terror, the Thermidorian Reaction and the founding of the Directory, and, finally, the creation of the Consulate and Napoleon's rise to power.

But by early 1794, as the bourgeois and middle class elements of the revolution began to gain more political influence, the fervent working class radicalism of the sans-culottes rapidly began falling out of favor within the National Convention. [4] It was not long before Maximilien de Robespierre and the now dominant Jacobin Club turned against the radical factions of the National Convention, including the sans-culottes, despite their having previously been the strongest supporters of the revolution and its government. Several important leaders of the Enragés and Hébertists were imprisoned and executed by the very revolutionary tribunals they had supported. [4] The execution of radical leader Jacques Hébert spelled the decline of the sans-culottes, [4] and with the successive rise of even more conservative governments, the Thermidorian Convention and the French Directory, they were definitively silenced as a political force. [5] :258–259 After the defeat of the 1795 popular revolt in Paris, the sans-culottes ceased to play any effective political role in France until the July Revolution of 1830.

The term political radicalism denotes political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary or other means and changing value systems in fundamental ways.

Revolutionary Tribunal Tribunal during the French revolution

The Revolutionary Tribunal was a court instituted by the National Convention during the French Revolution for the trial of political offenders. It eventually became one of the most powerful engines of the Reign of Terror.

Jacques Hébert 1757-1794 French journalist and politician

Jacques René Hébert was a French journalist and the founder and editor of the extreme radical newspaper Le Père Duchesne during the French Revolution.

Appearance

The distinctive costume of typical sans-culottes featured: [4]

Events

Francois Hanriot chef de la section des Sans-Culottes (Rue Mouffetard); drawing by Gabriel in the Carnavalet Museum Hanriot.jpg
François Hanriot chef de la section des Sans-Culottes (Rue Mouffetard); drawing by Gabriel in the Carnavalet Museum
The uprising of the Parisian sans-culottes from 31 May to 2 June 1793. The scene takes place in front of the Deputies Chamber in the Tuileries. The depiction shows Marie-Jean Herault de Sechelles and Pierre Victurnien Vergniaud. The elimination of Girondins.jpg
The uprising of the Parisian sans-culottes from 31 May to 2 June 1793. The scene takes place in front of the Deputies Chamber in the Tuileries. The depiction shows Marie-Jean Hérault de Séchelles and Pierre Victurnien Vergniaud.

In April 1792 Robespierre urged in his magazine the creation of an "armée révolutionnaire" in Paris, consisting of 20,000 men, [9] with the goal to defend "liberty" (the revolution), maintain order in the sections and educate the members in democratic principles; an idea he borrowed from Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Machiavelli. [10] According to Jean Jaures, he considered this even more important than the right to strike.[ citation needed ] [11]

Following the king's veto of the Assembly's efforts to raise a militia of volunteers, the reinstatement of Brissotin ministers and suppress non-juring priests, the monarchy faced an abortive Demonstration of 20 June 1792. [12] Sergent-Marceau and Panis, the administrators of police, urged the Sans-culottes to lay down their weapons, telling them it was illegal to present a petition in arms, although their march to the Tuileries was not banned. They invited the officials join the procession and march along with them. [13]

Early in the morning (10 August 1792) 30,000 Fédérés, and Sans-culottes militants from the sections led a successful assault upon the Tuileries; [14] according to Robespierre a triumph for the "passive" (non-voting) citizens. Sulpice Huguenin, head of the sans-culottes in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, was appointed provisional president of the Insurrectionary Commune.

In Spring 1793, after the treason of Dumouriez, he urged the creation of a "Sans-culotte army" to sweep away any conspirator.

On 1 May the crowds threatened armed insurrection if the emergency measures demanded [price control] were not adopted. [15] On 8 and 12 May Robespierre repeated in the Jacobin club the necessity of founding a revolutionary army consisting of Sans-culottes, paid by a tax on the rich, to beat the aristocrats inside France and the Convention. Every public square should be used to produce arms and pikes. [16] [17] On 18 May Guadet proposed to examine the "exactions" and to replace municipal authorities. [18] [19] [20]

Who was the "true protector" of the Sans-culottes against the rich, Brissot or Robespierre? [21] -->As rioting persisted a commission of inquiry of twelve members, with a very strong Girondin majority, was set up to investigate the anarchy in the communes and the activities of the Sans-culottes. On 28 May the Paris Commune accepted the creation of a sans-culottes army to enforce revolutionary laws. [22] Petitioners from the sections and the Commune appeared at the bar of the Convention at about five o'clock in the afternoon on 31 May. They demanded that a domestic revolutionary army should be raised and that the price of bread should be fixed at three sous a pound, that nobles holding senior rank in the army should be dismissed, that armories should be created for arming the sans-culottes, the departments of State purged, suspects arrested, the right to vote provisionally reserved to sans-culottes only, and a fund set apart for the relatives of those defending their country and for the relief of aged and infirm. [23] [24] [25] According to Hampson, the subject is quite extraordinary complicated and obscure. [26] --> The next day all Paris was in arms.

Hanriot was ordered to march his National Guard, by this time mostly existing of Sans-culottes, from the town hall to the Palais National. [27] On 2 June 1793, a large force of supposedly 80,000 Sans-culottes and National Guards led by Hanriot, surrounded the Convention with 160-172 guns.

On 4 September, the Sans-culottes again invaded the Convention. They demanded tougher measures against rising prices and the setting up of a system of terror to root out the counter-revolution. [28] The Sans-culottes took an especially active interest in the revolutionary army. [29]

A "Sans-culotte army" was formed in Paris, to sweep away conspirators. [30] (A force of citizen-soldiers which could go into the countryside to supervise the requisition of grain, to prevent the manoeuvres of rich égoistes and deliver them up to the vengeance of the laws'. [31] )

Three months later, on 4 December the departmental armées revolutionnaires (except in Paris) were banned on proposal of Tallien. [32] [33] [34] [35] The sections lost all rights to control their delegates and officials.

On 4 March 1794 there were rumours of uprising in the Cordeliers club. The Hébertists hoped that the National Convention would expel Robespierre and his Montagnard supporters. [36] sansculottes did not respond and Hanriot refused to cooperate? On 13 March Hébert, the voice of the Sans-culottes, had been using the latest issue of Le Père Duchesne to criticise Robespierre. On 18 March Bourdon attacked the Commune and the Sans-culottes army. (Ronsin, Vincent, Momoro, Clootz, etc.) were arrested on charges of complicity with foreign powers (William Pitt the Younger), etc. and guillotined on 24 March. (Hanriot was denounced by the Revolutionary Tribunal as an accomplice of Hébert, but seems to have been protected by Robespierre. [37] )

Montagnard influence

The working class was especially hurt by a hail storm which damaged grain crops in 1788, which caused bread prices to skyrocket. [38] While the peasants of rural France could sustain themselves with their farms, and the wealthy aristocracy could still afford bread, the urban workers of France, the group that comprised the sans-culottes, suffered. In the city, division grew between the sans-culottes and these wealthy aristocrats; the former had a particular hostility “towards those with large private incomes.” [39]

The faction known as the Montagnards expressed concern for the working classes of France. [40] When the National Convention met to discuss the fate of the former king Louis XVI in 1792, the sans-culottes vehemently opposed a proper trial, instead opting for an immediate execution. The moderate Girondin faction voted for a trial, but the radical Montagnards sided with the sans-culottes, deeming that a trial was not necessary, and won with a slim majority. Louis XVI was executed on January 17, 1793. [41]

The demands of the sans-culottes did not stop with the execution of the King, and the Montagnards worked hard to fulfill their mounting orders. This increased pressure from the radical masses exacerbated the ideological split between the Montagnards and the Girondins, and tensions began to grow within the Convention. [42] Eventually, by May of 1793, the Montagnards worked with the National Guard -- which was, at this time, mostly sans-culottes -- to depose many of the Girondin deputies. Jeremy Popkin writes, “[the Montagnards and the sans-culottes] surrounded the Convention, and two days later the intimidated assembly suspended twenty-nine Girondin deputies. The defeated Girondin leaders fled to the provinces. The Montagnards were left in control of the Convention, which itself was clearly at the mercy of whoever could command the armed sans-culottes battalions.” [43] Now, whoever was in control of France’s destiny had to answer to the sans-culottes, who “effectively exercised legislative power” in situations of unrest. [44] Otherwise, they would risk a similar uprising and their own exile, or possibly even execution. This political shift towards radicalism would soon turn into the Reign of Terror.

Reign of Terror

(left) Sans-culotte, compare figures wearing culottes right. Sansculottes.jpg
(left) Sans-culotte, compare figures wearing culottes right.

The mass violence of the sans-culottes created a lasting impact during the Reign of Terror. These revolutionaries allied themselves most readily with those in power who promised radical change. The sans-culottes believed in a complete upheaval of the government, pushing for the execution of any that were considered corrupt by the leaders, even going as far as wanting “the enemies of the republic [to] hang-main and the guillotine to stand like the first patriots, the finisher of the law.” [45] The support of the sans-culottes could be used as a political weapon to get rid of enemies of the Revolution. The key to Robespierre’s Terror lay in their willingness and ability to mobilize. Thus, the Committee leaders used speeches to gain their support. In a speech On the Principles of Political Morality. [46] Robespierre proclaimed: “It has been said that terror was the mainspring of despotic government. Does your government, then, resemble a despotism? Yes, as the sword which glitters in the hands of liberty's heroes resembles the one with which tyranny's lackeys are armed.” Robespierre expressed a desire for liberty that the sans-culottes admired. They pushed the Committee for radical changes and often found a voice with Robespierre. Their desperate desire for immediate changes and their aptitude for violence made the sans-culottes a necessary group in implementing the Terror.

Legacy

The popular image of the sans-culotte has gained currency as an enduring symbol for the passion, idealism and patriotism of the common man of the French Revolution. [47] The term sans-culottism, sans-culottisme in French, refers to this idealized image and the themes associated with it. [47] Many public figures and revolutionaries who were not strictly working class styled themselves citoyens sans-culottes in solidarity and recognition. [4] However, in the period immediately following the Thermidorian Reaction the sans-culottes and other far-left political factions were heavily persecuted and repressed by the likes of the Muscadins. [4]

The French Republican Calendar at first termed the complementary days at the end of the year Sansculottides ; however, the National Convention suppressed the name when adopting the Constitution of the Year III (1795) and substituted the name jours complémentaires ("additional days"). [4]

Analysis

According to Sally Waller, part of the sans-culottes mantra was "permanent anticipation of betrayal and treachery". [48] The members of the sans-culottes were constantly on edge and fearing betrayal, which can be attributed to their violent and radical rebellion tactics. [49] Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm observes that the sans-culottes were a "shapeless, mostly urban movement of the labouring poor, small craftsmen, shopkeepers, artisans, tiny entrepreneurs and the like". [50] He further notes they were organised notably in the local political clubs of Paris and "provided the main striking-force of the revolution". [50] Hobsbawm writes that these were the actual demonstrators, rioters and constructors of street barricades. However, Hobsbawm maintains, sans-culottism provided no real alternative to the bourgeois radicalism of the Jacobins; [50] from Hobsbawm's Marxist perspective, the ideal of the sans-culottes, which sought to express the interests of the 'little men' who existed between the poles of the bourgeois and the proletarian, was contradictory and ultimately unrealizable. [50]

The Marxist historian Albert Soboul emphasized the importance of the sans-culottes as a social class, a sort of proto-proletariat that played a central role in the French Revolution. That view has been sharply attacked by scholars who say the sans-culottes were not a class at all. Indeed, as one historian points out, Soboul's concept has not been used by scholars in any other period of French history. [51]

Modern colloquial usage

Ironically, given its origin as a term to describe men's breeches, the term "culottes" in French is now used to describe women's underpants, an article of clothing that has little or no relation to the historic culottes. The term "sans-culottes" has been used colloquially to mean not wearing underpants. [52]

See also

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  25. Ternaux, Mortimer (1869). Histoire de la terreur, 1792-1794. Vol 7. Michel Lévy frères. p. 341.
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  32. Cobb, R. (1987) The People's Armies, p. 523-526
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  34. "The Terror in the French Revolution by Marisa Linton, Kingston University, UK How was the Terror organized?" (PDF).
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  37. The Morning Chronicle (18 August) and Gazette Nationale ou Le Moniteur Universel (29 July)
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  39. Albert Soboul, The Sans-culottes: The Popular Movement and Revolutionary Government 1793-1794. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton U.P., 1980), 10.
  40. Popkin, A Short History, 68.
  41. Popkin, A Short History, 64.
  42. Popkin, A Short History, 66.
  43. Popkin, A Short History, 67.
  44. Soboul, The Sans-culottes, 97.
  45. The Appearance, Predictions and Advice of the Devil, to the National Convention of France, in the Month of Nov. 1793.Taken from the Sans Culottes Gazette. (London: N.p, 1793).
  46. Maximilien Robespierre, "On the Principles of Political Morality" (speech, Paris, February 1794), Internet History Sourcebooks, https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/mod/1794robespierre.asp.
  47. 1 2 Sansculottism. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, 2011. Web. 17 Feb. 2011.
  48. Waller, Sally. "How Significant was the Part Played by the Crowd and the Sans Culottes?" France in Revolution, 1776–1830. Oxford: Heinemann, 2002. 162. Print.
  49. Soboul, Albert (1980). The Sans-culottes: The Popular Movement and Revolutionary Government, 1793-1794. Princeton University Press. ISBN   0691007829.
  50. 1 2 3 4 Eric Hobsbawm 'The Age of Revolution' (St Ives, 1962; repr. 2008), p.84
  51. Paul R. Hanson (2009). Contesting the French Revolution. John Wiley. pp. 95–96.
  52. "sans-culotte", Passons de la sans-soutif de l'Upper East Side à la sans-culotte de Times Square, And from no bra on the Upper East Side ... ... to no panties in Times Square.

Further reading