The sans-culottes were a diverse group of people who played a key role in the revolution. They staged protests, fought against the forces of tyranny and oppression, and participated in uprisings like the Reign of Terror. They also provided manpower for the revolution by joining militias and helping to overthrow the monarchy.
Who were Sans-culottes? and How did they look?
The sans-culottes were the working class of Paris during the French Revolution. They were a diverse group of artisans, shopkeepers, peasants, beggars and small merchants who made up about a third of the population of Paris, known as the “bottom of society.”
The term Sans-Culottes literally ‘without breeches’ was used to describe the most recognizable item of their clothing was their loose knee-length trousers (pants) which gave them their name (sans-culottes means “without breeches”) as opposed to the more expensive tight breeches worn by wealthier men.
Such clothes are in use even today to protect the body and hide some parts. But they wore this during the revolution to show social differences.
Men of the higher social classes wore short culottes and tight-fitting pants. The lower classes of society wore long, baggy pants. Thus, they became known as sans-culottes, those without culottes, for not wearing them.
The iconic representation of the sans-culotte has come to represent the average man’s enthusiasm, passion, and devotion during the French Revolution. This idealized portrayal and the underlying principles are referred to as sans-culottism.
Political and Social position of the Sans-culottes
The sans-culottes believed in three political principles: economic, social, and public democracy. They wanted to eliminate all royal, aristocratic, and Roman Catholic church power and benefits. They also wanted to ensure that everyone had access to food and other necessities and that they were protected from counter-revolutionaries.
The political and social position of the sans-culottes during the French Revolution was marked by radical republicanism because of the miserable living conditions and inequality they faced and their eagerness for change, constituting the support base of popular politicians.
These would implement the most radical policies from the state apparatus, especially during the period called the Terror, between 1793-1795, led by the Jacobins.
They defended the end of the monarchy, achieved in 1792, in addition to pressing for the execution of King Louis XVI. But they were also supporters of a form of equality that involved the direct participation of all in political decisions. Therefore, they were against the census vote established in the Constitution of 1791.
That’s why they were viewed as “extremists” by the other revolutionary movements, as they favored direct democracy or democracy without middlemen like members of the parliament.
A storm that destroyed grain crops in 1788 and raised bread costs harmed many lower-class working poor. The French agricultural peasants could support themselves through their farmland, and the wealthy nobility could still be bought bread, but the urban French workers—the sans-culottes suffered significantly.
The sans-culottes and all these decadent aristocracies began to split up in the city, creating a particular hatred “towards individuals with massive property fortunes.”
Who were the sans-culottes?
During the French Revolution, several social groups stood out for their rights and freedom. One of these groups that had a lot of influence was made up of the poorest people in Paris and for seeking, through radical practical actions, to execute the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity: they were the sans-culottes.
Did the sans-culottes support the French Revolution?
Sans-culottes were the most prominent supporter of the French Revolution. They describe the movement’s more devoted, particularly between 1792 and 1795. And pretended to be representatives of the lower classes during the Reign of Terror, many educated people and public servants also accepted the title to show their loyalty.
Why were Jacobins known as sans-culottes?
The Jacobin Club was a popular political club during the French Revolution. It had a specific purpose – to end the control of the wealthy aristocracy. To do this, they believed members should not dress like the wealthy elite in knee-breeches. And since they wore lookalike dresses of the lower class people, Jacobins thus were also known as sans-culottes.
What did the sans-culottes dress represent?
The term “sans-culottes” refers to the less formal trousers used by the poor and working-class and means “without breeches.” The sans-culottes used their dress to express their newfound liberties, turning what had signified their lack of wealth into a symbol of pride. They exclaimed to the entire globe that what had formerly been a symbol of oppression—their clothing—was now a symbol of freedom.
How were the sans culottes different from Jacobins?
French revolutionaries, the sans-culottes, and Jacobins were both in favor of the republican system of governance. But, the sans-culottes were the lower working class of Paris who weren’t members of the Legislative Council. The Jacobins were a radical political group composed primarily of attorneys and thinkers from the middle class. The Legislative Assembly included some of them.
So, this ends our post on ‘What role did the sans-culottes play in the French revolution?’