From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Twenty-five. What is the difference between a Jacobin and a Jacobite?

Recruiting for the Prince L_tcm4-566104 JacobiteJacobin-club Lesueur

If a Jacobin is a French revolutionary, member of the increasingly radical Jacobin Club (1789-95; pictured on the right), what is a Jacobite (pictured on the left)?

  1. A person belonging to a movement called the Jacobites. They took their name from Jacobus, the Renaissance Latin form of Iacomus, the original Latin form of James. Adherents rebelled against the British government on several occasions between 1688 and 1746.
  2. A member of a political movement in Great Britain and Ireland that aimed to restore the Roman Catholic Stuart King James II of England and his heirs to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland
  3. A Catholic who hoped the Stuarts would end the ostracism of Catholics (or recusancy). Since 1593, Catholics were subject to penalties and called “Popish recusants.” The Jacobites hoped to repeal such laws.
  4. All of the above. Now we can see how important it is to know the difference!

From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Twenty-two. Word!

Lioncel103356 Dat a new word New Orleans

Slang terms and popular idioms are endlessly fascinating. Just think of the street smarts of the US, expressions like “Who dat?” and especially, “Word dat” (heard punctuating dialogue in the soulful New Orleans-based show, Treme), and the latest, “That’s dope” (featured in the gritty and likeable film, Dope). Not to mention the heavily charged words from our political scene: “Change,” for example, or “Life.” And then there are the new words that appear, “factoid,” “emoticon,” “meme.”  Incredible to see words rise and mutate into new meanings right before our eyes!

The revolutionary period also witnessed an explosion of new words and new meanings. And there were people like us witnessing it happen, and writing dictionaries and novels expressing their opinion about those words.  It was controversial then as it is now.

In Lioncel ou l’émigré (1795, 1800), a writer named Louis de Bruno provides a fascinating example of commentary on Jacobin speech. We know when he considers the revolutionaries ironically, because he puts their words in italics! (“Tu es un insigne menteur, un modéré, un honnête homme.”)

But words were also coined out of thin air or built on existing roots, as in our day. Which word from the following list was not invented in the 1790s?

  1. le terroriste
  2. la gauche / la droite
  3. la guillotine
  4. le traître

From Prairial to Pop Culture: Day Nineteen. Anger Management

pict99 indignes
The Occupy Wall Street movement was called Les Indignés in France. What revolutionary-era group shared a similarly exasperated name?
1. Les Fâchés
2. Les Colériques
3. Les Enragés
4. Les Furieux

From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Sixteen: Who declared that happiness was a “new idea” in Europe in 1794?

Young doomed deputyCamille-DesmoulinsGeorges_DantonRobespierre

In March 1794, when he was just 26 years old, this deputy gave hope to the working man by declaring: “Le bonheur est une idée neuve en Europe” [Happiness is a new idea in Europe]. By making it a common value, he suggested that the pursuit of happiness should apply in France as well as in the young United States, and he proposed a redistribution of wealth –by confiscating émigré property–to alleviate the suffering of the poor.

  1. Maximilien Robespierre
  2. Georges Danton
  3. Camille Desmoulins
  4. Louis-Antoine de Saint-Just

From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Fourteen. Did class consciousness exist before 1789? Yes, thanks to a woman writer

Sieyes Qu'est_ce_que_le_Tiers_Etat

In 1789, Abbé Emmanuel Sieyès became famous for articulating the essential problem plaguing the so-called “Third Estate” in 1789, that is, their lack of a political identity. Since the Third Estate included 98% of the population, that is, everybody who was neither a member of the Catholic clergy or the Nobility, this was a significant problem and Sieyès’s pamphlet made a powerful statement.
In his pamphlet, Sieyès coined the slogan: “Qu’est-ce que le tiers état? Tout. Qu’a-t-il été jusqu’à présent dans l’ordre politique? Rien. Que demande-t-il? A y devenir quelque chose.” [What is the Third Estate? Everything. What has it been in the political order up to now? Nothing. What does it want? To become something.]
An earlier writer articulated a similar anxiety in her book, published well before 1789, where she put the following words into the mouth of an intelligent heroine who suddenly realizes her social nullity:
“Je n’ai ni or, ni terres, ni industrie, je fais nécessairement partie des citoyens de cette ville. Ô ciel! dans quelle classe dois-je me ranger?”
I have neither gold, nor land, nor skill, [yet] I am necessarily a citizen of this town. Oh Heavens! What class do I belong to?
Some critics have seen this passage as proof that a sense of class consciousness existed before the Revolution, even in the heyday of Old Regime France. Others have interpreted the author as working in a proto-socialist mode that prefigures 19th-century theorists such as Karl Marx and Charles Fourier. After a long period of obscurity, this novelist is now considered a major figure in French literary history. What is the name of that prescient writer and the title of her novel?

1. Marie-Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne, comtesse de Lafayette, La Princesse de Clèves (1678)
2. Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni, Lettres de Mistriss Fanni Butlerd (1757)
3. Françoise de Graffigny, Lettres d’une Péruvienne (1747)
4. Madeleine de Scudéry, Clélie (1654-61)

From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Thirteen. What happened today, June 24th, in Paris in 1793?

Do you realize what happened today, June 24th, in Paris in 1793?!
a. The Constitution de l’An I / Year One (1793) was adopted.
“To many, especially the Jacobins, the Constitution of 1793 provided a model framework for an egalitarian, democratic republic; however, owing to the ongoing war the Convention suspended constitutional rule in October 1793 in favor of ‘revolutionary government . . . until the peace’.”*
b. Radical journalist Jean-Paul Marat was murdered by royalist Charlotte Corday.
The murder of this man, the self-styled Friend of the People, set off a rapid-fire popular movement to commemorate and sanctify Marat, exemplified by Jacques-Louis David’s state-sponsored portrait, The Death of Marat.
c. The execution of the queen of France.
Queen Marie-Antoinette was sent to the guillotine, leaving her two children behind as wards of the state.
d. The Insurrection of 24 June 1793.
This insurrection was one of the determining moments of the French Revolution. It resulted in the fall of the French monarchy after storming the Tuileries Palace by the National Guard of the Insurrectional Paris Commune and revolutionary fédérés from Marseilles and Brittany. King Louis XVI and the royal family took shelter with the Legislative Assembly. The formal end of the monarchy occurred six weeks later as one of the first acts of the new National Convention.

*This explanation is from the fabulous “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution” website,

From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Eleven. A History quiz


Ending the Revolution in history books is perhaps even more fraught than in fiction, because it forces the historian to choose a moment when the turmoil wound down and to explain what it all meant.   Match the historians and titles to the text excerpt from the end of their books.

  1.  “In the age of Wordsworth, Beethoven, Goya, and Foscolo (all of them close to the Jacobins’ message at some point in their lives), French revolutionaries daringly (and disastrously) tried to transcend their lived circumstance to politicize Western culture’s age-old longing for freedom and social complementarity. We should not ignore that historical experience. Jacobinism’s triumphs and disasters are our own. Our task is not just to understand their failure but also to see why the Jacobins sensibly hoped to succeed; and it is these hopes that should be most vivid to us. ‘Remember me,’ sighs the impassioned, spurned, self-destructive, and dying queen of Carthage in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, ‘remember me, but forget my fate.'”
  2.  “The problems of how to achieve a form of stable representative politics that was not mired in corruption continued through the troubled years of the Directory. It was an attempt that climaxed in the politics of Napoléon’s coup d’état, and the rise of a militarist regime in which glory, not virtue, was at the ideological forefront. Many more would die for Napoleon’s glory than ever died for the Jacobins’ virtue. Robespierre had long warned of the danger of letting generals take political power. But that, as they say, is another story.”
  3. “Neither totalitarianism nor democratic republicanism was the most important outcome of the French Revolution. Rather, the Faustian pact citizens made with the instruments of repression sapped the foundations of an organic society and fostered the emergence of a modern security state, one whose legitimacy derived above all from restoring and then preserving order. The French Revolution ended with the triumph of Hobbes over Rousseau.”
  4. “The transformation in the way farmers and peasants talked about their land was of more significance than any constitution: it marked the end of an immemorial world of thought and experience. Old and strong forces were woken by the Revolution, they began to know themselves in a new way, and they changed the world.”
  1. Patrice Higonnet, Goodness beyond Virtue: Jacobins during the French Revolution (1998)
  2. James Livesey, Making Democracy in the French Revolution (2001)
  3. Howard G. Brown, Ending the French Revolution: Violence, Justice, and Repression from the Terror to Napoleon (2006)
  4. Marisa Linton, Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution (2013)

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