Remember that these are general statements, which must be revised and adapted to the particular documents and events you have chosen for your paper. You may also argue against one of these positions. If you want to come up with a position not on this list that you want to argue, by all means do so. But come see me about it first.
1. Despite the excesses of the Terror, the use of violence and political repression was necessary to ensure the survival of the Republic in the years 1793-1794.
2. The legislative enactments of the Constituent and/or Legislative Assemblies failed to live up to the principles proclaimed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.
3. The Revolution might have been averted but for the blunders and indecision of Louis XVI and his court.
4. Of all groups in French society, the nobility bore the greatest responsibility for the outbreak of revolution in 1789.
5. The pre-revolutionary writer whose ideas had the greatest influence of the French Revolution was Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
6. The Night of August 4 and the “August Decrees” that followed showed plainly that the Constituent Assembly was middle-class in its interests and orientation.
7. Louis XVI was clearly guilty of conspiring against the Revolution, and his execution was both just and politically necessary.
8. The French Revolution did more to curtail the legal and political rights of women than it did to advance them.
9. Napoleon is often credited with creating a new kind of army and a new style of warfare, but the most important changes in the military came before Bonaparte took power.
10. The power and influence of the Catholic Church in France was incompatible with the principles of the French Revolution, and the legislators had no choice but to reform the Church in accordance with those principles.
11. The Reign of Terror (or the advent of Napoleon) showed that equality and liberty were not always compatible, and that, in moments of crisis, Frenchmen were willing to sacrifice liberty for equality.
12. The legal, administrative and political institutions created by the French Revolution and perfected by Napoleon vastly increased the power of the central government and its agents over the lives of ordinary Frenchmen.
13. The French Revolutionary Wars were a genuine attempt to liberate Europe from tyrannical regimes and from the grip of aristocratic privilege.
14. Napoleon’s conquests, however bloody or self-serving, did more than anything else to spread the ideals of the French Revolution abroad.
15. Thomas Jefferson’s critics saw better than he did how the French Revolution differed in spirit from the American Revolution and how the principles of the French Revolution were a threat to the American Republic.
16. Napoleon was an unprincipled adventurer who merely used France and the ideals of the French Revolution to satisfy his personal ambition.
17. Napoleon’s major domestic reforms, like the Civil Code, the Concordat, and his reorganization of France’s administrative structure, helped consolidate the most important achievements of the Revolution, which might otherwise have been lost.
18. The leaders of the Enlightenment in France before the Revolution would not have supported the ideals of the Constituent Assembly.
19. The vision of ‘direct democracy’ supported by Parisian radicals was faithful to the democratic ideas of Rousseau.
20. Robespierre fell from power as a direct result of his excessive idealism.
21. It was inevitable that the Directory would lead to an authoritarian dictatorship.
22. The moderate Republic created by the Constitution of 1795 had effectively ceased to exist before the coup d’etat of 18 Brumaire.
23. Napoleon’s fall was caused less by military defeat than by political miscalculations.
24. For the most part, the Civil Code of Napoleon was a betrayal of the principles of the French Revolution.
25. Given the divisions in French politics and society, the Constitution of 1791 was doomed to fail from the very beginning.
26. Despite all the rhetoric about the sovereignty of the ‘people’, the French Revolution did relatively little to improve the lives of ordinary people.
27. The Condordat of 1801 was more advantageous to Napoleon than to the Catholic Church.
28. The sans-culottes were the true voice of the Parisian working class.
29. The fall of the Girondins was caused more by their own mistakes than by the maneuvering of the Montagnards (Jacobins).
30. The most important legacy of the French Revolution was not in the area of political rights, but in guaranteeing the economic rights of individual private property and freedom of contract.
31. The piece of legislation with the most disastrous consequences of the entire revolutionary era was the Civil Constitution of the Clergy.
32. The stringent controls placed by the Jacobin-led Convention on economic life were the only reasonable response to a desperate situation.
33. The decision by the Constituent Assembly and, later, the Thermidorian Convention, to restrict full citizenship – i.e., the right to make political decisions – to an elite of propertied and educated men was the only rational course for the time.
34. Despite the abolition of feudalism, the peasantry gained little from the French Revolution.
35. The educational reforms of the Revolution and/or Napoleon laid the groundwork for educational systems in the modern world.
36. The course of the Revolution was dictated mainly by events in Paris, with the rest of the country either looking on or actively hostile to the various revolutionary governments.
37. Napoleon was justified in claiming that his authority came from the French people themselves.
38. The issue of slavery showed how powerful economic and social interests could compromise the ideals of the Revolution.
39. The persecution of refractory priests by the revolutionary authorities after 1790 was fully justified by the opposition of those priests to the Revolution and its principles.
40. Edmund Burke was right to see that the leaders of the Constituent Assembly were impractical idealists, who relied too much on principles, and not enough on compromise and common-sense.
41. The revolutionaries themselves were responsible for the outbreak of war in 1792.
42. Contrary to what the revolutionaries themselves believed, the counter-revolution was not an aristocratic conspiracy, but a mass movement that showed the discontent of ordinary Frenchmen with the acts of the revolutionary authorities.
43. The violent overthrow of the constitutional monarchy by armed radicals on August 10, 1792 was unavoidable if the Revolution was to survive at all.