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French Revolutionary Calendar

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The establishment of a new calendar in 1789 in France was an attempt to break free from the fanaticism of a failing government, but it failed to coincide with the needs of the French working class. The National Convention wished to celebrate the French republic, and enlisted poets, mathematicians and astronomers to create a new calendar based on nature and sensibility. The creators of the new calendar wished it to be secularized, as they believed the Gregorian calendar to be too focused on religious celebrations and frivolity. The reformed calendar was largely unsupported by the French working class, as it was disconnected from the past and other countries.

Emerging from a series of wars in the late eighteenth century, the French government was deeply in debt, and the people's frustration with the persistently failing monarchy led them to implement many rational social and political reforms inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment, including the adoption of a new calendar. After the Seven Years War, the French monarchy was severely indebted, and due to consecutively failing attempts by the bureaucracy's ministers of finance to tax the nobility, Louis XVI eventually rescinded, and reestablished all the rights of the nobility and called the Estates General. Louis XVI's weak convictions were a perfect example the monarchy's inability to effectively rule France. The Gregorian calendar was equally as useless and burdensome in the eyes of the National Convention, and the new calendar served as a symbol for change and the beginning of a country free from oppression, fanaticism, and ineffective governments.

Champions of the new calendar viewed a rational and secular calendar as celebrating the achievements of the republic and breaking free from the ways of the old regime and Catholicism. As many other practices departed from tradition in the 1780's and 1790's, calendar reformers though it only rational to implement a calendar embodying precision and clarity. For example, the National Convention argued that since a uniform system of measurement, the metric system, was being enforced, the new calendar, similarly based in tens, should also enhance productivity and be based on nature rather than religion (doc 5). Many French reformers associated Roman Catholicism with the ancien regime, and therefore wished to break free from the church. The days of the new secularized calendar were therefore named after animals, plants, minerals and tools, instead of saints. In a list of grievances addressed to the National Convention, the Third Estate, frustrated by many of the practices of the ancien regime, expressed the belief that the religious holidays observed in the Gregorian calendar were excessive and bred idleness (doc 1). The head of the calendar reform committee, Gilbert Romme, believed the new calendar could help to free French society from such frivolity, and well as the cruel tyranny French people were



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