8.11.07

French Revolutionary Calendar

It was not enough for the revolution to "overthrow" Christianity. To them every trace of the past must be undone. The measuring system which had lasted since the bible was changed to a decimal system. ...and then came the calendar. That system of counting days given to us by God could not stand in the rationality of the Revolution. Since it served as a means of calculation for Holy Days and Sundays itmust be mastered and so done away with.

The following is an essay written in 1934 by Brinton. He was a friend of the revolution.

Added this day of 16 of Brumaire CCXVI

Crane Brinton on the French Revolutionary calendar

The culmination...of revolutionary propaganda was its new calendar. Almanacs had been from the beginning of the Revolution a favorite and successful method of spreading the word. Collot d'Herbois himself had won, with his Almanach du Père Gérard, a prize offered by the Paris Jacobins for a work to spread the new ideas in simple language.

But for the Jacobins of 1794 it was not enough to print good republican moral counsels, after the manner of Franklin, at the appropriate dates and seasons. The whole calendar must be made over. The existing calendar perpetuated the "frauds" of the Christian church and was highly irrational and inconvenient.

The new calendar, based on a report of Fabre d'Églantine, was adopted by the Convention in October, 1793. By it the year began on September 22 of the old calendar, and was divided into twelve months of thirty days each, leaving five days (six in leap years) over at the end of the last month. These five or six days were to be known as the Sans-culottides, and were to be a series of national holidays. Each month was divided into three weeks, called décades, the last day of each décade being set aside as a day of rest corresponding to the old Sunday.

The months were grouped into four sets of three, by seasons, and given "natural" names, some of which are rather attractive-- vendémiaire, brumaire, frimaire (autumn); nivôse, pluviôse, ventôse (winter); germinal, floréal, prairial (spring); messidor, thermidor, fructidor (summer). The days of the décade were named arithmetically--primidi, duodi, on to décadi. In place of the old saints' days, each day was dedicated to a suitable fruit, vegetable, animal, agricultural implement.

The Sans-culottides were dedicated, the first to Genius, the second to Labor, the third to Noble Actions, the fourth to Awards, and the fifth to Opinion. This last was to be a sort of intellectual saturnalia, an opportunity for all citizens to say and write what they liked about any public man, without fear of the law of libel. The sixth Sans-culottide of leap years was dedicated to the Revolution, and was to be an especially solemn and grand affair. The republican era was to date from the declaration of the republic in September, 1792. When the calendar came into use, the year I had already elapsed.

In spite of its symmetry and its poetic months of budding and of mist, the new calendar was not a success, and Napoleon abandoned it in the year XII (1804). Workingmen preferred one day's rest in seven to one in ten; its terminology, appropriate to the climate of France, was singularly inappropriate to that of the Southern Hemisphere; it embodied a new cult, and that cult, though it profoundly influenced Christians then and since, failed completely to supplant Christian terminology. The calendar and its fate form in many ways a neat summary of Jacobin history.


--from A Decade of Revolution, 1789-1799 (1934)

7. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. 8. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting.

Galatians 6, 7-8
Douay-Rheims Bible

No comments: