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The Abbe Gregoire and the French RevolutionThe Making of Modern Universalism$
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Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780520241800

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520241800.001.0001

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Creating a French Nation

Creating a French Nation

Chapter:
(p.89) Chapter 4 Creating a French Nation
Source:
The Abbe Gregoire and the French Revolution
Author(s):

Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520241800.003.0005

The choice of the Declaration's universalistic language was one of these practical solutions. Though it might seem that the deputies were consciously thinking of issues like the unequal status of the Jews, they used this language, as Marcel Gauchet and other scholars have argued, for reasons both more pragmatic and more circumscribed. First, the deputies were aiming to destroy the system of privilege that had given the Third Estate far fewer privileges than aristocratic and clerical elites. The revolutionaries thus faced an unexpected challenge: how to apply the universalism of their Declaration to the realities of society in France. How could they create a unified nation out of a country seemingly bursting with diversity—in religion, language, wealth, gender, geography, and race? These questions coincided with anxieties over the French nation; as David A. Bell has pointed out, at the very moment when it needed to emerge, people worried that it did not really exist.

Keywords:   Declaration, Jews, language, Marcel Gauchet, Third Estate, universalism, society, France

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