10th Grade French Revolution Inquiry



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Supporting Question


This supporting question focuses on a turning point in the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, by encouraging students to grapple with the unintended consequences of the Revolution. However, rather than only examining a simple narrative of the Reign of Terror’s destruction, students should also consider the range of motivations behind it. Teachers might use the first featured source to spark student interest while using the second featured source to complete the formative performance task.

Formative Performance Task


The formative performance task requires students to closely read the Robespierre speech and identify a rationale for the Reign of Terror, along with two supporting details. In trying to understand why the Reign of Terror happened, students will practice the skill of Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence. For example, students could use the following two excerpts to support Robespierre’s rationale that terror is just when it is in the service of the common good:

Supporting Detail One: Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore [part] of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country’s most urgent needs …

Supporting Detail Two: Society owes protection only to peaceable citizens; the only citizens in the Republic are the republicans. For it, the royalists, the conspirators are only strangers or, rather, enemies.

Featured Sources


Teachers will likely want to share images of the guillotine and data about the number of people killed during the Reign of Terror to spark students’ interest. Featured Source A is an engraving of Robespierre guillotining the executioner after having guillotined everyone else in France (1793). The text at the bottom of the engraving reads (translated): “Robespierre, after having all the French guillotined, beheads the executioner with his own hand.” This image could be used to introduce students to the radicalization of the Revolution. The death toll during the Reign of Terror ranged in the tens of thousands; 16,594 were executed by guillotine (2,639 in Paris) and another 25,000 were killed in summary executions across France. Teachers using this source will want to direct students to the symbols (i.e., number of guillotines), the distortions (i.e., the text on the tomb says “All of France”) and the use of irony (i.e., the executioner is executed by Robespierre) to more fully understand the artist’s intent.

Ultimately, this period in the Revolution should jar students as they consider the aims of the declarations juxtaposed against the Reign of Terror. Teachers should move them to explore how Robespierre, as a revolutionary, could justify and administer the Terror. Featured Source B, Robespierre’s speech to the National Convention, delivered on February 5, 1794, should help students confirm, modify, or reject their initial ideas.

As students examine the speech, they should consider the unintended consequences of the Revolution and begin to record information that might be used as evidence to support a claim that the Revolution had some negative consequences. For English language learners or students who need assistance navigating the text, consider adapting the text or including a vocabulary sheet to help them understand the complex phrases used by Robespierre. Additionally, the text could be shortened to help students more easily identify Robespierre’s rationale. The following paragraph would be a good place to focus students:

We must smother the internal and external enemies of the Republic or perish with it; now in this situation, the first maxim of your policy ought to be to lead the people by reason and the people’s enemies by terror. If the spring of popular government in time of peace is virtue, the springs of popular government in revolution are at once virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore [part] of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country’s most urgent needs . . .

Additional Resources


Additionally, it might be helpful to read outraged accounts of the violence of the Reign of Terror from outside France, including the article from the London Times on the execution of King Louis XVI and Edmund Burke’s account of the killing of Marie Antoinette.

“Execution of Louis XVI,” London Times article. http://oldsite.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ayliu/research/around-1800/FR/times-1-25-1793.html.

Edmund Burke, The Death of Marie Antoinette, Modern History Sourcebook. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1793burke.asp.


Supporting Question 3

Featured Source A

Source A: Unknown artist, engraving of Robespierre and the guillotine, Robespierre, After Having All The French Guillotined, Beheads the Executioner with His Own Hand, 1793

Public Domain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reign_of_Terror#mediaviewer/File:Robespierre_exécutant_le_bourreau.jpg.




Supporting Question 3

Featured Source B

Source B: Maximilien Robespierre, speech to the National Convention, “On the Moral and Political Principles of Domestic Policy,” (excerpt), February 5, 1794

To found and consolidate democracy, to achieve the peaceable reign of the constitutional laws, we must end the war of liberty against tyranny and pass safely across the storms of the revolution: such is the aim of the revolutionary system that you have enacted. Your conduct, then, ought also to be regulated by the stormy circumstances in which the republic is placed; and the plan of your administration must result from the spirit of the revolutionary government combined with the general principles of democracy...

Now, what is the fundamental principle of the democratic or popular government—that is, the essential spring which makes it move? It is virtue; I am speaking of the public virtue which effected so many prodigies in Greece and Rome and which ought to produce much more surprising ones in republican France; of that virtue which is nothing other than the love of country and of its laws...

The whole development of our theory would end here if you had only to pilot the vessel of the Republic through calm waters; but the tempest roars, and the revolution imposes on you another task.

We must smother the internal and external enemies of the Republic or perish with it; now in this situation, the first maxim of your policy ought to be to lead the people by reason and the people’s enemies by terror.

If the spring of popular government in time of peace is virtue, the springs of popular government in revolution are at once virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore [part] of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country’s most urgent needs...

Society owes protection only to peaceable citizens; the only citizens in the Republic are the republicans. For it, the royalists, the conspirators are only strangers or, rather, enemies. This terrible war waged by liberty against tyranny- is it not indivisible? Are the enemies within not the allies of the enemies without? The assassins who tear our country apart, the intriguers who buy the consciences that hold the people’s mandate; the traitors who sell them; the mercenary pamphleteers hired to dishonor the people’s cause, to kill public virtue, to stir up the fire of civil discord, and to prepare political counterrevolution by moral counterrevolution-are all those men less guilty or less dangerous than the tyrants whom they serve?



Reprinted with permission from Modern History Sourcebook, http://www.fordham.edu/HALSAll/MOD/robespierre-terror.asp.


Supporting Question 4

Supporting
Question


How does Napoleon’s rise to power represent a continuation of or an end to revolutionary ideals?

Formative Performance Task

Develop a claim, supported by evidence, about whether Napoleon’s rise to power represents a continuation of or an end to revolutionary ideals.

Featured Source(s)

Source A: Napoleon’s account of his coup d’etat

Source B: Painting of the Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine

Source C: Excerpts from Napoleon’s account of the internal situation of France

Conceptual Understandings

(10.2c) Individuals and groups drew upon principles of the Enlightenment to spread rebellions and call for revolutions in France and the Americas.

Content Specifications

Students will examine evidence related to the preconditions of the French Revolution and the course of the revolution, noting the roles of Olympe de Gouges, Maximilien Robespierre, and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Social Studies Practices

Chronological Reasoning and Causation Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence



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