An idealized portrait of Marie Antoinette at the moment of death. Unlike the pale, aged woman the contemporaries observed, this later print memorialized a beautiful, absolutely pure, woman. While in life she had been assailed as a lesbian, a pedophile, and an adulteress with men, here she is being depicted as nearly a saint. Indeed, a great problem that the revolutionaries had was that, as... Read More »
Some months after the execution of her husband, Marie Antoinette found herself in the dock of the public prosecutor, Antoine Quentin Fouquier–Tinville. The intervention of the radical journalist Jacques–René Hébert had pushed her case to the top, and she was accused most notably of immorality and treason. She defended herself bravely and calmly, as the above image suggests. But the judgment... Read More »
In 1774, on the accession of Louis XVI, Anne–Robert–Jacques Turgot was named Controller–General of Finances. In this position, he also became responsible for administrative policies relating to taxation, the economy, and local government. With his recent experience as an intendant in mind, Turgot directed his secretary (the economist, Pierre–Samuel Dupont de Nemours) to draft a long memorandum... Read More »
This project to free enslaved people in the French colonies was presented to the National Assembly. The defensive tone and rhetorical structure that emerge in the course of this document demonstrate the power of the interests opposed to even cautious steps toward emancipation.
The Declaration of Rights drafted in 1776 by George Mason for the state constitution of Virginia influenced both Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. It clearly states that rights are "the basis and foundation of government." The Virginia Declaration of Rights also influenced the drafting of the Bill of Rights added to the U.S.... Read More »
François–Marie Arouet, who wrote under the name Voltaire, was both the best–known and most tireless advocate of the Enlightenment and also a close associate of several European kings and many French aristocrats. In his widely read history, The Age of Louis XIV, he exalted the achievements of the Bourbon monarchy, which had brought such glory and honor to France. In this passage, Voltaire lauds... Read More »
Voltaire was the pen name of François–Marie Arouet (1694–1778), an Enlightenment writer known for his plays and histories and his acerbic criticism of the French Catholic Church. Although Voltaire eventually became a kind of cultural icon celebrated even by kings and ministers, he often faced harassment and persecution for his views in his early days. In Letters on England of 1733, Voltaire... Read More »