Thermidorian Reaction

Colin Burlison1/9/13 AP European HistoryThermidorian Reaction DBQ In the time of the National Convention, (a governmental body existent for three years of the French Revolution) the government desired for total change from the Old Regime. The final change stemming from this desire was the introduction of the French Republican Calendar.

In 1789, the Cahier de doleances (report of grievances), from the Third Estate of Chateau-Thierry, said that they asked for the number of religious holidays be reduced because each of them enchains the activity of a great people, being of considerable detriment to the state and the numerous disadvantages of idleness. This shows that the new calendar was more secular because of the decrease in the amount of religious holidays. The illustrations of newly named months also show that the new calendar shows more secular-slanted ideas. As shown in Document 4, the new months are named for prosperity and things they are known for.

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For example, the month between August 18 and September 16, is named Fructidor, after harvest time. In a letter to the National Convention from a peasant from Etampes, it says that with nine long, hard days of labor, the simple citizens want small distractions on their day of rest. During the use of the new calendar in France, people went to church a lot less because with the new calendar they would only go every tenth day, instead of going on Sundays during the Gregorian calendar (Document 7) This change to the French Republican Calendar marked the end of the old regime and the silencing of the old ways.

This break from the old ways caused discontent within the people’s hearts and minds, and thus the Thermidorian reaction occured. The calendar was created mainly due to the idea that the Gregorian calendar was a Church created idea, and the government wanted to break from the church. According to Document 5, the National Convention issued a decree called the “Instruction Concerning the Era of the Republic and the Division of the Year,” This decree stated that along with the foretold progress of trade and commerce, there needed to be a new standard of time, to fic the mistakes of the old calendar.

The government issued the calendar as the new standard for time, leaving nothing to be decided by anything but reason and philosophy. As stated in Document 9, by Francois-Sebastien Letourneux, French Minister of Interior, “They say that the interval between days of rest is too long, that the artisan and farmer cannot work nine days in a row. This objection must be welcomed by the lazy. Industrious and active citizens are grateful to their legislators for having reduced the number of days spent in rest.

” The government believed that the new system of time would promote an economically stable and ever-growing country. When the idea of a new calendar first appeared, it represented a break from the old ideas found in the Gregorian calendar. According to the Third Estate’s Cahier de doleances, the large number of holidays were hurting the state and the people wanted them gone (Document 1). Written in 1789, the authors penned the document before they had control over the government.

The authors, the members of the Third Estate, were trying to speak to the rest of the country, although their grievances went unheard, eventually prompting them to break away. Gilbert Romme, head of the calendar reform committee, had a similar outlook on the problem of holidays. According to Document Two, he argued that the Church calendar was for “ignorant people,” and that it represented “fanaticism” and “royalty”. Thus, a change needed to be made; the French needed to break away from the past and start a new history, free of the characteristics of their politically and religiously oppressive past.

Romme presented these ideas in a speech, and so probably exaggerated people’s negative feelings about the past, since his goal was to inspire a change. Nevertheless, he was not alone in his use of powerful language to support the cause of instituting a new calendar. In a government document circulated to all the departments throughout France in 1797, the Minister of Interior said that the reason for the new calendar was to “correct the vices and errors of the old” (Document 9). He was trying to convince the government that the calendar was right and that it was unrevolutionary to go against it.

Thus, the proponents of the new calendar pushed for its adoption in order to break with a national history that they did not want to see continued. The old holidays represented an old, oppressive France, and they wanted the change in government to be complete, such that its effects could be seen in cultural arenas, such as the calendar, as well. This change unfortunately for the government, brought about feelings of discontent from the people. As the calendar destroyed the last connection the French had to their culture, so too did it end their hereditary tradition.

People were no longer tied to the ideas of their ancestors, which looking at the revolutionary circumstances, could be viewed as the greatest achievement of the new government. But this was not the case. The people felt that this change seperated them from all they knew, and they were not ready for that. The calendar’s inception marked the culmination of the robbery of the French people’s memories of the past. People commemorated the reinstatement of the Gregorian calendar and the abrogation of the Republican Calendar, while they continued to curse the institution of the Republican Calendar in the first place.

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