10th Grade French Revolution Inquiry



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Supporting Question


Having examined the problems, ideals, and tumult of the French Revolution, students will be asked to assess whether or not Napoleon’s rise to power represented a continuation of or an end to revolutionary ideals. They will analyze documents that discuss Napoleon’s rise to power and the reimposition of order under Napoleon.

Formative Performance Task


The formative performance task requires students to address the supporting question by using sources to describe Napoleon’s role in the final phase of the French Revolution. In describing the impact of Napoleon’s rise to power, students should be able to expand their understanding of the Revolution’s success by noting the ways in which Napoleon either furthered or challenged revolutionary ideals. This task has students considering how the Revolution changed over time and, thus, working with the social studies practices of Chronological Reasoning and Causation as well as Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence. Depending on their experience with making claims supported with evidence, students may need examples or guided instruction on how to develop a claim and what constitutes a claim with evidence; the scaffold on page 28 could help them organize their claim(s) and evidence.


How did Napoleon change the course of the French Revolution?

Your “emerging” claim about how Napoleon changed the course of the French Revolution.

Napoleon directly challenged the democratic ideals of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, 1789, by reinstating the divine right of the emperor.

Evidence from the source that supports your claim

The French people, by a free and independent expression, then manifested its desire that the imperial dignity should pass down in a direct line through the legitimate or adopted descendants of Napoleon Bonaparte, or through the legitimate descendants of Joseph Bonaparte, or of Louis Bonaparte.

Source A: Excerpts from Napoleon’s account of the internal situation of France, 1804.

Featured Sources


Featured Source A is an excerpt from Napoleon’s own account of his coup d’état in 1799. Teachers should direct students to the ways in which Napoleon sees himself as continuing revolutionary ideals. For example, in the document, he argues:

The Council of Elders summoned me; I answered its appeal …
Frenchmen, you will doubtless recognize in this conduct the zeal of a soldier of liberty, a citizen devoted to the Republic.


Featured Source B is a painting depicting Napoleon’s coronation as emperor, entitled Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine by Jacques-Louis David. Teachers may want to use this painting as an introduction to another turning point in the Revolution: a return to autocracy. When analyzing the image, teachers will want to ask students a variety of questions, including “What do you see?” “What do you think is happening here?” “Who is present? Who isn’t present?” “What is the significance of Napoleon crowning himself?” “What is the perspective of the painter, Jacques-Louis David?” and “In his role as official painter of Napoleon, what does David’s depiction of the coronation convey?” The Louvre Museum has a resource that allows the viewer to zoom in on important details and people, which could help teachers facilitate a closer read of the painting: http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/consecration-emperor-napoleon-and-coronation-empress-josephine-december-2-1804. Teachers might use this initial analysis of the painting to launch a larger discussion about Napoleon’s leadership and its ramifications on the revolution.

Featured Source C is a type of state of the union address by Napoleon in 1804—students should bear in mind that Napoleon refers to himself in the third person. As students read through the source, teachers will want to have them consider Napoleon’s argument for hereditary power and from where that power derives. For example, in the document, he argues:

The French people, by a free and independent expression, then manifested its desire that the imperial dignity should pass down in a direct line through the legitimate or adopted descendants of Napoleon Bonaparte …

Students should consider how France has evolved over the course of the Revolution from the divine right of the king to the hereditary power of an emperor and the extent to which this change over time reflects the revolutionary ideals (see Formative Performance Task 2) or addresses the prerevolutionary problems in Formative Performance Task 1. For English language learners or students who require more assistance reading the text sources, teachers might consider shortening the text to examples of key ideas (as shown earlier) or highlight key ideas for students to pull claims from within the document. Teachers could also provide the original source and paraphrase key ideas or provide a vocabulary guide to help them better understand the language used by Napoleon.


Additional Resources


Teachers may choose to expand their students’ investigations of Napoleon by asking them to examine the Napoleonic Code. Why do some consider this codification of laws to be Napoleon’s most significant contribution to French society and beyond?

Napoleonic Code (excerpts), 1804

Teachers will also want to consider additional sources that paint a more complex portrait of Napoleon and allow students to practice the historical thinking skill of corroboration. A place to start would be The Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation by Benjamin Constant, leader of French Liberal Opposition to Napoleon, 1814: https://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/d/676/.


Supporting Question 4

Featured Source A

Source A: Napoleon Bonaparte, personal account, Napoleon’s Account of His Coup d’Etat (excerpt), November 10, 1799

On my return to Paris [from Egypt] I found division among all authorities, and agreement upon only one point, namely, that the Constitution was half destroyed and was unable to save liberty.

All parties came to me, confided to me their designs, disclosed their secrets, and requested my support; I refused to be the man of a party.

The Council of Elders summoned me; I answered its appeal. A plan of general restoration had been devised by men whom the nation has been accustomed to regard as the defenders of liberty, equality, and property; this plan required an examination, calm, free, exempt from all influence and all fear. Accordingly, the Council of Elders resolved upon the removal of the legislative Body to Saint-Cloud; it gave me the responsibility of disposing the force necessary for its independence. I believe it my duty to my fellow citizens, to the soldiers perishing in our armies, to the national glory acquired at the cost of their blood, to accept the command.

The Councils assembled at Saint-Cloud; republican troops guaranteed their security from without, but assassins created terror within. Several deputies of the Council of Five Hundred, armed with stilettos and firearms, circulated threats of death around them. The plans which ought to have been developed were withheld, the majority disorganized, the boldest orators disconcerted, and the futility of every wise proposition was evident.

I took my indignation and grief to the Council of Elders. I besought it to assure the execution of its generous designs; I directed its attention to the evils of the Patrie [Fatherland] … ; it concurred with me by new evidence of its steadfast will.

I presented myself at the Council of Five Hundred, alone, unarmed, my head uncovered, just as the Elders had received and applauded me; I came to remind the majority of its wishes, and to assure it of its power.

The stilettos which menaced the deputies were instantly raised against their liberator; twenty assassins threw themselves upon me and aimed at my breast. The grenadiers of the Legislative Body whom I had left at the door of the hall ran forward, placed themselves between the assassins and myself. One of these brave grenadiers had his clothes pierced by a stiletto. They bore me out.

At the same moment cries of “Outlaw” were raised against the defender of the law. It was the fierce cry of assassins against the power destined to repress them.

They crowded around the president, uttering threats, arms in their hands they commanded him to outlaw me; I was informed of this: I ordered him to be rescued from their fury, and six grenadiers of the Legislative Body secured him. Immediately afterwards some grenadiers of the legislative body charged into the hall and cleared it.

The factions, intimidated, dispersed and fled. The majority, freed from their attacks, returned freely and peaceably into the meeting hall, listened to the proposals on behalf of public safety, deliberated, and prepared the salutary resolution which is to become the new and provisional law of the Republic.

Frenchmen, you will doubtless recognize in this conduct the zeal of a soldier of liberty, a citizen devoted to the Republic. Conservative, tutelary, and liberal ideas have been restored to their rights through the dispersal of the rebels who oppressed the Councils.

STEWART, JOHN HALL, DOCUMENTARY SURVEY OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, 1st, © 1951. Printed and electronically reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.


Supporting Question 4

Featured Source B

Source B: Jacques-Louis David, painting, Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine, 1804


g10_frrev01_14

© RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY.



Supporting Question 4

Featured Source C

Source C: Napoleon Bonaparte, personal account delivered to the Legislative Body, Napoleon’s Account of the Internal Situation of France, December 31, 1804

The internal situation of France is today as calm as it has ever been in the most peaceful periods. There is no agitation to disturb the public tranquility, no suggestion of those crimes which recall the Revolution. Everywhere useful enterprises are in progress, and the general improvements, both public and private, attest the universal confidence and sense of security. …

It was clearly seen that for a great nation the only salvation lies in hereditary power, which can alone assure a continuous political life which may endure for generations, even for centuries. …

After prolonged consideration, repeated conferences with the members of the Senate, discussion in the councils, and the suggestions of the most prudent advisers, a series of provisions was drawn up which regulate the succession to the imperial throne… The French people, by a free and independent expression, then manifested its desire that the imperial dignity should pass down in a direct line through the legitimate or adopted descendants of Napoleon Bonaparte, or through the legitimate descendants of Joseph Bonaparte, or of Louis Bonaparte.

From this moment Napoleon was, by the most unquestionable of titles, emperor of the French. No other act was necessary to sanction his right and consecrate his authority. But he wished to restore in France the ancient forms and recall those institutions which divinity itself seems to have inspired. He wished to impress the seal of religion itself upon the opening of his reign. The head of the Church, in order to give the French a striking proof of his paternal affection, consented to officiate at this august ceremony. What deep and enduring impressions did this leave on the mind of Napoleon and in the memory of the nation! What thoughts for future races! What a subject of wonder for all Europe!

Copyright © Hanover Historical Texts Collection. Used by permission of Hanover College, Hanover, IN.



Summative Performance Task

Summative Performance Task

Argument Was the French Revolution successful? Construct an argument that addresses the compelling question, using specific claims and relevant evidence from historical sources, while acknowledging competing views.

Extension Express these arguments in a perspective-taking exercise using the medium of Twitter.

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

Comparison and Contextualization Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence

Building an Argument


In this task, students construct an extended, evidence-based argument responding to the prompt “Was the French Revolution successful?” At this point in the students’ inquiry, they have examined the economic, political, and social problems in prerevolutionary France and tracked the intended and unintended consequences of its first stages, the Reign of Terror, and the early Napoleonic period. Students should be expected to demonstrate the breadth of their understandings and their abilities to use evidence from multiple sources to support their distinct claims. As students work through the Summative Performance task, they are demonstrating the social studies skills of Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence as well as Comparison and Contextualization.

Before the Summative Performance Task, it may be helpful for students to review the sources provided and the graphic organizers created during the formative performance tasks; doing so should help them develop their claims and highlight the appropriate evidence to support their arguments. The Evidence to Argument Chart on page 37 can be used to provide students with support as they build their arguments with claims and evidence.

Students’ arguments likely will vary but could include any of the following:

The French Revolution was successful because it gave many citizens a taste of liberty, equality, and power, however briefly it lasted.

The French Revolution was unsuccessful because it led to several rapid changes of regime, culminating in military dictatorship, the Napoleonic Empire, and the restoration of the monarchy.

The French Revolution was successful in changing the tax code for the Three Estates, abolishing feudalism, and redistributing land from the Church to the state. Although the Revolution addressed some of the prerevolutionary problems, the successes came at a very high price.

It is possible for students to find support for any of these arguments in the sources provided and through their analysis of the sources.

It is important to note that students’ arguments may take a variety of forms. In some cases, teachers may have them complete a detailed outline that includes claims with evidentiary support, and in other cases, teachers may want them to write a paper that formalizes their argument. Their decision to do either may be predicated on whether they plan to do the Summative Performance Extension Task.


Extension


In this task, students will construct an imaginary dialogue between historical and modern figures around the compelling question of whether the French Revolution was successful. At this point in the students’ inquiry, they have examined the problems of prerevolutionary France, the successes of the Revolution’s first years, the Reign of Terror, and Napoleon’s rule. This extension offers students the opportunity to use evidence from all of these lessons to make and support competing claims and interpretations.

Once students have selected their historical figures, they should articulate what they think that person’s perspective on the question might be. It might also be helpful for students to construct a three-column chart of all the evidence from the various historical sources they have encountered that could be used to support a view of the Revolution’s success or lack thereof. Additionally, it would be important for students to conduct background research on the selected historical figures to avoid overly speculative dialogue. Perspective-taking exercises will always be subject to anachronistic interpretations; however, by foregrounding the exercise with evidenced-based argumentation, the extension is offered in the hopes that students might engage more authentically with the inquiry.

It might also be helpful for students to offer a menu of choices for the historical figures. Examples might include the following.

Enlightenment thinkers: Olympe de Gouges, Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, Mary Wollstonecraft

French Revolution figures: Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charlotte Corday, Georges Danton, Camille Desmoulins, Olympe de Gouges, Louis XVI, Toussaint L’Overture, Jean-Paul Marat, Jacques Necker, Maximilien Robespierre, Madame Roland, Abbé Sieyès

In requiring students to construct a dialogue, make sure the conversations include claims, refutations of these claims, and further defenses and reevaluations of positions in light of the new evidence each participant in the conversation offers.

Twitter was intentionally chosen as a medium for these conversations for three reasons. First, by asking students to use a modern discourse, it can lead to higher engagement and allow the cognitive load for this task to rest primarily on the historical thinking, setting students up for more complex and mature forms of communication throughout the year. Second, by asking them to translate historical discourse into a modern form of communication, they gain a greater ownership and fluency with the content itself. Finally, Twitter’s 140-character limit demands efficiency in students’ communication, ensuring a focus on the fundamentals of articulating claims and supporting them with evidence.

Teachers might ask students to create actual Twitter accounts with fake names. Alternatively, students could construct a script of an imaginary conversation. Of course, if the Twitter aspect of the assignment unnecessarily complicates things for students (or teachers), any form of scripted conversation could accomplish the same historical and literacy goals for this assignment.

This inquiry includes a sample handout (see page 37) that could be used with students for this task. Teachers will likely need to adapt it to fit the conventions of their class and school, particularly around length and medium of submission.

Evidence Chart



Initial Claim

What is your opening claim about the success of the French Revolution? This claim should appear in the opening section of your argument. Make sure to cite your sources.







Evidence

What evidence do you have from the sources you investigated to support your initial claim? Make sure to cite your sources.







Additional Claims

What are some additional claims you can make that extend your initial one? Make sure to cite your sources.







Additional Evidence

What additional evidence do you have from the sources you investigated that support your additional claims? Make sure to cite your source.







Double Check

What ideas from the sources contradict your claims? Have you forgotten anything? Make sure to cite your sources.







Pulling it Together

What is your overall understanding of the compelling question? This should be included in your conclusion. Make sure to cite your sources.




Handout for Summative Extension (Optional)

Over the past few classes, you have sought to answer the question “Was the French Revolution successful?” At this point, you have examined the problems of prerevolutionary France, the successes of its first years, the Reign of Terror, and Napoleon’s rule. For your final assignment, you will seek to demonstrate the understandings, knowledge, and skills you have developed throughout the inquiry. You are expected to use evidence from these lessons, as well as any additional evidence you find, to make and support competing claims about the Revolution.


Task:


Construct an imagined Twitter conversation among three historical figures: an Enlightenment thinker, someone from the French Revolution, and an intelligent 10th grader living today. The topic of the conversation is “Was the French Revolution successful?”

Below is a list of options for the figures in your dialogue. You are welcome to propose alternatives in each category:



Enlightenment Thinker:

Olympe de Gouges, Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, Mary Wollstonecraft



French Revolution Figure:

Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, Georges Danton, Charlotte Corday, Camille Desmoulins, Olympe de Gouges, Louis XVI, Toussaint L’Overture, Jean-Paul Marat, Jacques Necker, Maximilien Robespierre, Madame Roland, Abbé Sieyès



Intelligent 10th Grader:

Yourself, someone in the class you admire and respect, how you imagine your teacher as a 10th grader


Guidelines:


Each participant in the conversation should make a clear claim about the success of the Revolution; there should be disagreement among the claims.

Each participant should cite specific evidence from the historical sources analyzed in the inquiry. You could find support for any of these arguments or additional arguments in the sources provided and through carefully reading and analyzing the sources.



Taking Informed Action

Taking Informed
Action


Understand Investigate a current “unfinished revolution,” focusing on a group of people who are currently trying to revolutionize some aspect of society. This could be an additional political revolution but could also be an economic, social, or even technological revolution.

Assess Examine the extent to which the current attempt at revolution is successful and state one’s personal stance on the justification for the revolution or whether it is, in fact, a revolution.

Act Write an editorial for the school or local newspaper on a current “unfinished revolution.” Within the editorial, students could discuss their positions on the efforts of those trying to revolutionize and the extent to which those efforts are currently successful.

Taking informed action can manifest itself in a variety of forms and in a range of venues: Students may express action through discussions, debates, surveys, video productions, and the like; these actions may take place in the classroom, in the school, in the local community, across the state, and around the world. The three activities described in this inquiry represent a logic that asks students to (1) understand the issues evident from the inquiry in a larger and current context, (2) assess the relevance and impact of the issues, and (3) act in ways that allow students to demonstrate agency in a real-world context.

For this inquiry, students draw on their conceptual understanding of the term “revolution” to think about the nature of contemporary revolutions. Clearly, there are many modern-day examples of political revolutions they could investigate, but they should also consider other types of revolutions, including economic, social, or even technological revolutions. In this way, students will be able to transfer their knowledge around the French Revolution to other contexts, evaluating the ways in which revolutions can be similar or different and ultimately successful or not.

To understand the situation, students could identify a current unfinished revolution, focusing on a group of people who are currently trying to revolutionize some element or aspect of contemporary society. They might select a political revolution (e.g., Egypt), but students might also choose a social, economic, or technological revolution. Students should read about the effort and assess the extent to which this group has been successful and the challenges they currently face. Additionally, students should take a stand on the revolution, taking into account their personal reactions and support of the revolutionary effort. In doing so, they may also consider the overuse of the term “revolution” and the extent to which the effort is, in fact, revolutionary. Lastly, students could write an editorial for the school or local newspaper. Within the editorial, students might discuss their positions on the efforts of those engaged in revolution and the extent to which those efforts are currently successful.


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