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Why was there a counterrevolution or counterrevolutions?

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Link between revolution and counterrevolution.
  3. To what extent did the Revolution breed its own enemies?
  4. Intellectual support.
  5. The work of the National Constituent Assembly.
  6. Disenchantment of French citizens.
  7. Repressive action towards royalism.
  8. Denunciation of the Civil Constitution of the clergy.
  9. Conclusion.
  10. Bibliography.

As J.C. Martin noticed, the awkward itinerary of the Comte d'Antraigues may be an outstanding example of the characteristic ambiguity of counterrevolution. After having published a scathing criticism of nobility in 1788, he turned out to be, from 1790, a strong-willed counterrevolutionary activist till the time he died. His puzzling metamorphosis may seem paradoxical to say the least, but it actually highlights the danger of defining counterrevolutionaries as a united category holding a grudge against any sign of advance. Truth be told, many historians have long either disregarded this complex phenomenon or caricatured it as an outdated wish to reverse the order of things. This neglect has led to an overly simplified and incomplete vision of these movements. A British thinker, Edmund Burke, was the first to put the emphasis on the indefectible link between Revolution and Counterrevolution and to view things in a different light. Throughout his ideological analysis of the first events, he blamed revolutionaries for their utopian pretension to believe in the construction of an utterly renewed political and social order.

[...] Moreover, the targeting of the Church was increasingly ill-perceived by a mostly catholic people, especially after the Pope's solemn denunciation of the Civil Constitution of the clergy (12 July 1790): the nation was being constructed against ecclesiastical ancestral yoke. Regular clergy could not help but rejecting the compulsory civic oath institutionalized in November 1790, which not only subordinated faith to law, but also caused a repression of local non-juring priests accused of non patriotism. According to Doyle, from the explicit papal refusal of the Constitution, antirevolution, if not necessarily counterrevolution, would attract more activists now that himself was on their side.? Brittany knew an astounding rise of the oath-refusal phenomenon, and accordingly reaffirmed its status of a privileged ground for counterrevolutionary feelings to flourish. [...]


[...] Both the fall of the Bastille and the October days produced a tense climate which would incite many citizens to join the ranks of counterrevolution and would contribute to its diversification. However, it should be borne in mind that reformism had had an opportunity to replace a radical erasing of the past (the ?tabula prior to 1789. Indeed, royal finance minister Calonne had relentlessly defended a revolution by the upper half of society (sort of a self- revolution) concretized by the tax program he had devised in 1787. [...]


[...] By then, counterrevolution was not based on will any more and suspicion against anyone who had not demonstrated an unconditioned devotion to the safeguard of the Revolution had found a legal legitimation. The tense context, both abroad and within France partly account for the revolutionary paranoia. Drafted on 25th July 1792, following the violence of June, the Brunswick manifesto had increased anxiety about a possible antirepublican plot by its threats of revenge. Similarly, the discovery of Louis XVI's correspondence with foreign sovereigns had worsened the situation, as well as the fact that Great Britain had committed to a large scale into counterrevolution in order to weaken the country. [...]

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