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The French Revolution, Volume 1. The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 2 by Hippolyte A. Taine

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which was not ready, and in a week, trundling wheelbarrows and
handling the pick-ax as equals and comrades, all voluntarily yoked
in the same service, converted a flat surface into a valley between
two hills. - At Strasbourg, General Luckner, commander-in-chief,
worked a whole afternoon in his shirt-sleeves just like the
commonest laborer. The confederates are fed, housed, and have their
expenses paid everywhere on all the roads. At Paris the publicans
and keepers of furnished houses lower their prices of their own
accord, and do not think of robbing their new guests. "The
districts," moreover, "feast the provincials to their heart's
content.[6] There are meals every day for from twelve to fifteen
hundred people." Provincials and Parisians, soldiers and bourgeois,
seated and mingled together, drink each other's health and embrace.
The soldiers, especially, and the inferior officers are surrounded,
welcomed, and entertained to such an extent that they lose their
heads, their health, and more besides. One "old trooper, who had
been over fifty years in the service, died on the way home, used up
with cordials and excess of pleasure." In short, the joy is
excessive, as it should be on the great day when the wish of an
entire century is accomplished. - Behold ideal felicity, as
displayed in the books and illustrations of the time! The natural
man buried underneath an artificial civilization is disinterred, and
again appears as in early days, as in Tahiti, as in philosophic and
literary pastorals, as in bucolic and mythological operas,
confiding, affectionate, and happy. "The sight of all these beings
again restored to the sweet sentiments of primitive brotherhood is
an exquisite delight almost too great for the soul to support," and
the Frenchman, more light-hearted and far more childlike than he is
to-day, gives himself up unrestrainedly to his social, sympathetic,
and generous instincts. Whatever the imagination of the day offers
him to increase his emotions, all the classical, rhetorical, and
dramatic material at his command, are employed for the embellishment
of his festival. Already wildly enthusiastic, he is anxious to
increase his enthusiasm. - At Lyons, the fifty thousand confederates
from the south range themselves in line of battle around an
artificial rock, fifty feet high, covered with shrubs, and
surmounted by a Temple of Concord in which stands a huge statue of
Liberty; the steps of the rock are decked with flags, and a solemn
mass precedes the administration of the oath. - At Paris, an alter
dedicated to the nation is erected in the middle of the Champ de
Mars, which is transformed into a colossal circus. The regular
troops and the federations of the departments stand in position
around it, the King being in front with the Queen and the dauphin,
while near them are the princes and princesses in a gallery, and the
members of the National Assembly in an amphitheater; two hundred
priests, draped in their albs and with tricolored belts, officiate
around Talleyrand, Bishop of Autun; three hundred drums and twelve
hundred musicians all play at once; forty piece of cannon are
discharged at one volley, and four hundred thousand cheers go up as
if from one threat. Never was such an effort made to intoxicate the
senses and strain the nerves beyond their powers of endurance! - The
moral machine is made to vibrate to the same and even to a greater
extent. For more than a year past, harangues, proclamations,
addresses, newspapers and events have daily added one degree more to
the pressure. On this occasion, thousands of speeches, multiplied
by myriads of newspapers, carry the enthusiasm to the highest pitch.
Declamation foams and rolls along in a steady stream of rhetoric
everywhere throughout France.[7] In this state of excitement the
difference between magniloquence and sincerity, between the false
and the true, between show and substance, is no longer
distinguishable. The Federation becomes an opera which is seriously
played in the open street - children have parts assigned them in it;
it occurs to no one that they are puppets, and that the words taken
for an expression of the heart are simply memorized speeches that
have been put into their mouths. At Besançon, on the return of the
confederates, hundreds of "youthful citizens" from twelve to
fourteen years of age,[8] in the national uniform, "with sword in
hand," march up to the standard of Liberty. Three little girls from
eleven to thirteen years old and two little boy of nine years each
pronounce "a discourse full of fire and breathing nothing but
patriotism;" after which, a young lady of fourteen, raising her
voice and pointing to the flag, harangues in turn the crowd, the
deputies, the National Guard, the mayor, and the commander of the
troops, the scene ending with a ball. This is the universal finale
- men and women, children and adults, common people and men of the
world, chiefs and subordinates, all, everywhere, frisk about as in
the last act of a pastoral drama. At Paris, - writes an eye-
witness, "I saw chevaliers of Saint-Louis and chaplains dancing in
the street with people belonging to their department."[9] At the
Champ de Mars, on the day of the Federation, notwithstanding that
rain was falling in torrents, "the first arrivals began to dance,
and those who came after them, joining in, formed a circle which
soon spread over a portion of the Champ de Mars. . . .Three
hundred thousand spectators kept time with their hands." On the
following days dancing is kept up on the Champ de Mars and in the
streets, and there is drinking and carousing; "there was a ball with
refreshments at the Corn-Exchange, and on the site of the Bastille."
- At Tours, where fifty-two detachments from the neighboring
provinces are collected, about four o'clock in the afternoon,[10]
through an irresistible outburst of insane gaiety, "the officers,
inferior officers, and soldiers, pell-mell, race through the
streets, some with saber in hand and others dancing and shouting
'Vive le Roi!' 'Vive la Nation!' flinging up their hats and
compelling every one they met to join in the dance. One of the
canons of the cathedral, who happens to be passing quietly along,
has a grenadier's cap put on his head," and is dragged into the
circle, and after him two monks; "they are often embraced," and then
allowed to depart. The carriages of the mayor and the Marquise de
Montausier arrive; people mount up behind, get inside, and seat
themselves in front, as many as can find room, and force the
coachmen to parade through the principal streets in this fashion.
There is no malice in it, nothing but sport and the overflow of
spirits. "Nobody was maltreated or insulted, although almost every
one was drunk." - Nevertheless, there is one bad symptom: the
soldiers of the Anjou regiment leave their barracks the following
day and "pass the whole night abroad, no one being able to hinder
them." And there is another of still graver aspect; at Orleans,
after the companies of the National Militia had danced on the square
in the evening, "a large number of volunteers marched in procession
through the town with drums, shouting out with all their might that
the aristocracy must be destroyed, and that priests and aristocrats
should be strung up to the lamp post. They enter a suspected
coffee-house, drive out the inmates with insults, lay hands on a
gentleman who is supposed not to have cried out as correctly and as
lustily as themselves, and come near to hanging him.[11] - Such is
the fruit of the philosophy and the attitudes of the eighteenth
century. Men believed that, for the organization of a perfect
society and the permanent establishment of freedom, justice, and
happiness on earth, an inspiration of sentiments and an act of the
will would suffice. The inspiration came and the act was fulfilled;
they have been carried away, delighted, affected and out of their
minds. Now comes the reaction, when they have to fall back upon
themselves. The effort has succeeded in accomplishing all that it
could accomplish, namely, a deluge of emotional demonstrations and
slogans, a verbal and not a real contract ostentatious fraternity
skin-deep, a well-meaning masquerade, an outpouring of feeling
evaporating through its own pageantry - in short, an agreeable
carnival of a day's duration.

The reason is that in the human mind there are two strata. One
superficial, of which men are conscious, the other deep down, of
which they are unconscious.[12] The former unstable and vacillating
like shifting sand, the latter stable and fixed like a solid rock,
to which their caprices and agitation never descend. The latter
alone determines the general inclination of the soil, the main
current of human activity necessarily following the bent thus
prepared for it. - Certainly embraces have been interchanged and
oaths have been taken; but after, as before the ceremony, men are
just what many centuries of administrative thralldom and one century
of political literature have made them. Their ignorance and
presumption, their prejudices, hatreds, and distrusts, their
inveterate intellectual and emotional habits are still preserved.
They are human, and their stomachs need to be filled daily. They
have imagination, and, if bread be scarce, they fear that they may
not get enough of it. They prefer to keep their money rather than
to give it away. For this reason they spurn the claims which the
State and individuals have upon them as much as possible. They
avoid paying their debts. They willingly lay their hands on public
property which is badly protected; finally they are disposed to
regard gendarmes and proprietors as detrimental, and all the more so
because this has been repeated to them over and over again, day
after day, for a whole year. - On the other hand there is no change
in the situation of things. They are ever living in a disorganized
community, under an impracticable constitution, the passions which
sap public order being only the more stimulated by the semblance of
fraternity under which they seemed to be allayed. Men cannot be
persuaded with impunity that the millennium has come, for they will
want to enjoy it immediately, and will tolerate no deception
practiced on their expectations. In this violent state, fired by
boundless expectations, all their whims appear reasonable and all
their opinions rational. They are no longer able to find faults
with or control themselves. In their brain, overflowing with
emotions and enthusiasm, there is no room but for one intense,
absorbing, fixed idea. Each is confident and over-confident in his
own opinion; all become impassioned, imperious, and intractable.
Having assumed that all obstacles are taken out of the way, they
grow indignant at each obstacle they actually encounter. Whatever
it may be, they shatter it on the instant, and their over-excited
imagination covers with the fine name of patriotism their natural
appetite for despotism and domination.

France, accordingly, in the three years which follow the taking of
the Bastille, presents a strange spectacle. In the words we find
charity and in the laws symmetry; while the actual events present a
spectacle of disorder and violence. Afar, is the reign of
philosophy; close up is the chaos of the Carlovingian era.

"Foreigners," remarks an observer,[13] "are not aware that, with a
great extension of political rights, the liberty of the individual
is in law reduced to nothing, while in practice it is subject to the
caprice of sixty thousand constitutional assemblies; that no citizen
enjoys any protection against the annoyances of these popular
assemblies; that, according to the opinions which they entertain of
persons and things, they act in one place in one way and in another
place in another way. Here, a department, acting for itself and
without referring elsewhere, puts an embargo on vessels, while
another orders the expulsion of a military detachment essential for
the security of places devastated by ruffians; and the minister, who
responds to the demands of those interested, replies: 'Such are the
orders of the department.' Elsewhere are administrative bodies
which, the moment the Assembly decrees relief of consciences and the
freedom of nonjuring priests, order the latter out of their homes
within 24 hours. Always in advance of or lagging behind the laws;
alternately bold and cowardly; daring all things when seconded by
public license, and daring nothing to repress it; eager to abuse
their momentary authority against the weak in order to acquire
titles to popularity in the future; incapable of maintaining order
except at the expense of public safety and tranquility; entangled
in the reins of their new and complex administration, adding the
fury of passion to incapacity and inexperience; such are, for the
most part, the men sprung from nothing, void of ideas and drunk with
pretension, on whom now rests responsibility for public powers and
resources, the interest of security, and the foundations of the
power of government. In all sections of the nation, in every branch
of the administration, in every report, we detect the confusion of
authorities, the uncertainty of obedience, the dissolution of all
restraints, the absence of all resources, the deplorable
complication of enervated springs, without any of the means of real
power, and, for their sole support, laws which, in supposing France
to be peopled with men without vices or passions, abandon humanity
to its primitive state of independence."

A few months after this, in the beginning of 1792, Malouet sums up
all in one phrase:

"It is the Government of Algiers without the Dey."


Independence of the municipalities. - The causes of their
initiative. - Sentiment of danger.- Issy-l'Evêque in 1789. - Exalted
pride. - Brittany in 1790.- Usurpations of the municipalities. -
Capture of the citadels. - Violence increased against their
commanders. - Stoppage of convoys.- Powerlessness of the Directories
and the ministers. - Marseilles in 1790.

Things could not work otherwise. For, before the 6th of October,
and the King's captivity in Paris, the Government had already been
destroyed. Now, through the successive decrees of the Assembly, it
is legally done away with, and each local group is left to itself. -
The intendants have fled, military commanders are not obeyed, the
bailiwicks dare hold no courts, the parliaments are suspended, and
seven months elapse before the district and department
administrations are elected, a year before the new judgeships are
instituted, while afterwards, as well as before, the real power is
in the hands of the communes. - The commune must arm itself, appoint
its own chiefs, provide its own supplies, protect itself against
brigands, and feed its own poor. It has to sell its national
property, install the constitutional priest, and, amidst so many
eager passions and injured interest, accomplish the transformation
by which a new society replaces the ancient one. It alone has to
ward off the perpetual and constantly reviving dangers which assail
it or which it imagines. These are great, and it exaggerates them.
It is inexperienced and alarmed. It is not surprising that, in the
exercise of its extemporized power, it should pass beyond its
natural or legal limit, and without being aware of it, overstep the
metaphysical line which the Constitution defines between its rights
and the rights of the State. Neither hunger, fear, rage, nor any of
the popular passions can wait; there is no time to refer to Paris.
Action is necessary, immediate action, and, with the means at hand,
they must save themselves as well as they can. This or that mayor
of a village is soon to find himself a general and a legislator.
This or that petty town is to give itself a charter like Laon or
Vezelay in the twelfth century. "On the 6th of October, 1789,[14]
near Autun, the market-town of Issy-l'Evêque declares itself an
independent State. The parish assembly is convoked by the priest,
M. Carion, who is appointed member of the administrative committee
and of the new military staff. In full session he secures the
adoption of a complete code, political, judiciary, penal and
military, consisting of sixty articles. Nothing is overlooked; we
find ordinances concerning

"the town police, the laying out of streets and public squares, the
repairs of prisons, the road taxes and price of grain, the
administration of justice, fines, confiscations, and the diet of the
National Guards."

He is a provincial Solon,[15] zealous for the public welfare, and a
man of executive power, he expounds his ordinances from the pulpit,
and threatens the refractory. He passes decrees and renders
judgments in the town-hall: outside the town limits, at the head of
the National Guard, saber in hand, he will enforce his own
decisions. He causes it to be decided that, on the written order of
the committee, every citizen may be imprisoned. He imposes and
collects taxes; he has boundary walls torn down; he goes in person
to the houses of cultivators and makes requisitions for grain; he
seizes the convoys which have not deposited their quote in his own
richly stored granaries. One day, preceded by a drummer, he marches
outside the walls, makes proclamation of "his agrarian laws," and
proceeds at once to the partition of the territory, and, by virtue
of the ancient communal or church property rights, to assign to
himself a portion of it. All this is done in public and
consciously, the notary and the scrivener being called in to draw up
the official record of his acts; he is satisfied that human society
has come to an end, and that each local group has the right to begin
over again and apply in its own way the Constitution which it has
accorded to itself without reference to anybody else. - This man,
undoubtedly, talks too loudly, an proceeds too quickly; and first
the bailiwick, next the Châtelet, and afterwards the National
Assembly temporarily put a stop to his proceedings; but his
principle is a popular one, and the forty thousand communes of
France are about to act like so many distinct republics, under the
sentimental and constantly more powerless reprimands of the central

Excited and invigorated by a new sentiment, men now abandon
themselves to the proud consciousness of their own power and
independence. Nowhere is greater satisfaction found than among the
new local chiefs, the municipal officers and commanders of the
National Guard, for never before has such supreme authority and such
great dignity fallen upon men previously so submissive and so
insignificant. - Formerly the subordinates of an intendant or sub-
delegate, appointed, maintained, and ill-used by him, kept aloof
from transactions of any importance, unable to defend themselves
except by humble protestations against the aggravation of taxation,
concerned with precedence and the conflicts of etiquette,[16] plain
townspeople or peasants who never dreamt of interfering in military
matters, henceforth become sovereigns in all military and civil
affairs. This or that mayor or syndic of a little town or parish, a
petty bourgeois or villager in a blouse, whom the intendant or
military commander could imprison at will, now orders a gentleman, a
captain of dragoons, to march or stand still, and the captain stands
still or marches at his command. On the same bourgeois or villager
depends the safety of the neighboring chateau, of the large land-
owner and his family, of the prelate, and of all the prominent
personages of the district. in order that they may be out of harm's
way he must protect them; they will be pillaged if, in case of
insurrection, he does not send troops and the National Guard to
their assistance. It is he who, lending or refusing public force to
the collection of their rents, gives them or deprives them of the
means of living. He accordingly rules, and on the sole condition of
ruling according to the wishes of his equals, the vociferous
multitude, the restless, dominant mob which has elected him. - In
the towns, especially, and notably in the large towns, the contrast
between what he was and what he is immense, since to the plenitude
of his power is added the extent of his jurisdiction. Judge of the
effect on his brain in cities like those of Marseilles, Bordeaux,
Nantes, Rouen and Lyons, where he holds in his hand the lives and
property of eighty or a hundred thousand men. And the more as, amid
the municipal officers of the towns, three-quarters of them,
prosecutors or lawyers, are imbued with the new dogmas, and are
persuaded that in themselves alone, the directly elected of the
people, is vested all legitimate authority. Bewildered by their
recent elevation, distrustful as upstarts, in revolt against all
ancient or rival powers, they are additionally alarmed by their
imagination and ignorance, their minds being vaguely disturbed by
the contrast between their role in the past and their present role:
anxious on their own account, they find no security but in abuse and
use of power. The municipalities, on the strength of the reports
emanating from the coffee-houses, decide that the ministry are
traitors. With an obstinacy of conviction and a boldness of
presumption alike extraordinary, they believe that they have the
right to act without and against their orders, and against the
orders of the National Assembly itself, as if, in the now
disintegrated France, each municipality constituted the nation.

Thus, if the armed force of the country is now obedient to any body,
it is to them and to them alone, and not only the National Guard,
but also the regular troops which, placed under the orders of
municipalities by a decree of the National Assembly,[17] will comply
with no other. Military commanders in the provinces, after
September, 1787, declare themselves powerless; when they and the
municipality give orders, it is only those of the municipality which
the troops recognize. "However pressing may be the necessity for
moving the troops where their presence is required, they are stopped
by the resistance of the village committee."[18] "Without any
reasonable motive," writes the commander of the forces in Brittany,
"Vannes and Auray made opposition to the detachment which I thought
it prudent to send to Belle-Ile, to replace another one . . . The
Government cannot move without encountering obstacles. . . . The
Minister of War no longer has the direction of the army. . . .
No orders are executed. . . Every one wants to command, and no
one to obey. . . How could the King, the Government, or the
Minister of War send troops where they are wanted if the towns
believe that they have the right to countermand the orders given to
the regiments and change their destination? "-And it is still worse,
for, "on the false supposition of brigands and conspiracies which do
not exist,[19] the towns and villages make demands on me for arms
and even cannon. . . The whole of Brittany will soon be in a
frightful belligerent state on this account, for, having no real
enemies, they will turn their arms against each other." - This is
of no consequence. The panic is an "epidemic." People are
determined to believe in "brigands and enemies." At Nantes, the
assertion is constantly repeated that the Spaniards are going to
land, that the French regiments are going to make an attack, that an
army of brigands is approaching, that the castle is threatened, that
it is threatening, and that it contains too many engines of war.
The commandant of the province writes in vain to the mayor to
reassure him, and to explain to him that "the municipality, being
master of the chateau, is likewise master of its magazine. Why then
should it entertain fear about that which is in its own possession?
Why should any surprise be manifested at an arsenal containing arms
and gunpowder? " - Nothing is of any effect. The chateau is
invaded; two hundred workmen set to work to demolish the
fortifications; they listen only to their fears, and cannot exercise
too great precaution. However inoffensive the citadels may be, they
are held to be dangerous; however accommodating the commanders may
be, they are regarded with suspicion. The people chafe against the
bridle, relaxed and slack as it is. It is broken and cast aside,
that it may not be used again when occasion requires. Each
municipal body, each company of the National Guard, wants to reign
on its own plot of ground out of the way of any foreign control; and
this is what is called liberty. Its adversary, therefore, is the
central power. This must be disarmed for fear that it may
interpose. On all sides, with a sure and persistent instinct,
through the capture of fortresses, the pillage of arsenals, the
seduction of the soldiery, and the expulsion of generals, the
municipality ensures its omnipotence by guaranteeing itself
beforehand against all repression.

At Brest the municipal authorities insist that a naval officer shall
be surrendered to the people, and on the refusal of the King's
lieutenant to give him up, the permanent committee orders the
National Guard to load its guns.[20] At Nantes the municipal body
refuses to recognize M. d'Hervilly, sent to take command of a camp,
and the towns of the province write to declare that they will suffer
no other than the federated troops on their territory. At Lille the
permanent committee insists that the military authorities shall
place the keys of the town in its keeping every evening, and, a few
months after this, the National Guard, joined by mutinous soldiers,
seize the citadel and the person of Livarot, its commander. At
Toulon the commander of the arsenal, M. de Rioms, and several naval
officers, are put in the dungeon. At Montpellier the citadel is
surprised, and the club writes to the National Assembly to demand
its demolition. At Valence, the commandant, M. de Voisin, on
taking measures of defense, is massacred, and henceforth the
municipality issues all orders to the garrison. At Bastia, Colonel
de Rully falls under a shower of bullets, and the National Guard
takes possession of the citadel and the powder magazine. These are
not passing outbursts: at the end of two years the same
insubordinate spirit is apparent everywhere.[21] In vain do the
commissioners of the National Assembly seek to transfer the Nassau
regiment from Metz. Sedan refuses to receive it; while Thionville
declares that, if it comes, she will blow up the bridges, and
Sarrebuis threatens, if it approaches, that it will open fire on it.
At Caen neither the municipality nor the directory dares enforce the
law which assigns the castle to the troops of the line; the National
Guard refuses to leave it, and forbids the director of the artillery
to inspect the munitions. - In this state of things a Government
subsists in name but not in fact, for it no longer possesses the
means of enforcing obedience. Each commune arrogates to itself the
right of suspending or preventing the execution of the simplest and
most urgent orders. Arnay-le-Duc, in spite of passports and legal
injunctions, persists in retaining Mesdames; Arcis-sur-Aube retains
Necker, and Montigny is about to retain M. Caillard, Ambassador of
France.[22] - In the month of June, 1791, a convoy of eighty
thousand crowns of six livres sets out from Paris for Switzerland;
this is a repayment by the French Government to that of Soleure; the
date of payment is fixed, the itinerary marked out; all the
necessary documents are provided; it is important that it should
arrive on the day when the bill falls due. But they have counted
without the municipalities and the National Guards. Arrested at
Bar-sur-Aube, it is only at the end of a month, and on a decree of
the National Assembly, that the convoy can resume. its march. At
Belfort it is seized again, and it still remains there in the month
of November. In vain has the directory of the Bas-Rhin ordered its
release; the Belfort municipality paid no attention to the order.
In vain the same directory dispatches a commissioner, who is near
being cut to pieces. The personal interference of General Luckner,
with the strong arm, is necessary, before the convoy can pass the
frontier, after five months of delay.[23] In the month of July 1791,
a French vessel on the way from Rouen to Caudebec, said to be loaded
with kegs of gold and silver, is stopped. On the examination being
made, it has a right to leave; its papers are all correct, and the
department enjoins the district to respect the law. The district,
however, replies that it is impossible, since "all the
municipalities on the banks of the Seine have armed and are awaiting
the passing of the vessel," and the National Assembly itself is
obliged to pass a decree that the vessel shall be discharged.

If the rebellion of the small communes is of this stamp, what must
be that of the larger ones?[24] The departments and districts summon
the municipality in vain; it disobeys or pays no attention to the

"Since the session began," writes the directory of Saône-et-Loire;
"the municipality of Maçon has taken no step in relation to us which
has not been an encroachment. It has not uttered a word, which has
not been an insult. It has not entered upon a deliberation which
has not been an outrage."

"If the regiment of Aunis is not ordered here immediately," writes
the directory of Calvados, "if prompt and efficient measures are not
taken to provide us with an armed force, we shall abandon a post
which we can not longer hold due to insubordination, license,
contempt for all the authorities. We shall in this case be unable to
perform the duties which were imposed upon us."

The directory of the Bouches-du-Rhone, on being attacked, flies
before the bayonets of Marseilles. The members of the directory of
Gers, in conflict with the municipality of Auch, are almost beaten
to death. As to the ministers, who are distrusted by virtue of
their office, they are still less respected than the directories,
They are constantly denounced to the Assembly, while the
municipalities send back their dispatches without deigning to open
them,[25] and, towards the end of 1791, their increasing
powerlessness ends in complete annihilation. We can judge of this
by one example. In the month of December 1791, Limoges is not
allowed to carry away the grain, which it had just purchased in
Indre, a force of sixty horsemen being necessary to protect its
transportation. The directory of Indre at once calls upon the
ministers to furnish them with this small troop.[26] After trying
for three weeks, the minister replies that it is out of his power;
he has knocked at all doors in vain. "I have pointed out one way,"
he says, "to the deputies of your department in the National
Assembly, namely, to withdraw the 20th regiment of cavalry from
Orleans, and I have recommended them to broach the matter to the
deputies of Loiret." The answer is still delayed: the deputies of
the two departments have to come to an agreement, for, otherwise,
the minister dares not displace sixty men to protect a convoy of
grain. It is plain enough that there is no longer any executive
power. There is no longer a central authority. There is no longer
a France, but merely so many disintegrated and independent communes,
like Orleans and Limoges, which, through their representatives,
carry on negotiations with each other, one to secure itself from a
deficiency of troops, and the other to secure itself from a want of

Let us consider this general dissolution on the spot, and take up a
case in detail. On the 18th of January 1790, the new municipal
authorities of Marseilles enter upon their duties. As is generally
the case, the majority of the electors have had nothing to do with
the balloting. The mayor, Martin, having been elected by only an
eighth of the active citizens.[27] If, however, the dominant
minority is a small one, it is resolute and not inclined to stop at
trifles. "Scarcely is it organized,"[28] when it sends deputies to
the King to have him withdraw his troops from Marseilles. The King,
always weak and accommodating, finally consents; and, the orders to
march being prepared, the municipality is duly advised of them. But
the municipality will tolerate no delay, and immediately "draws up,
prints, and issues a denunciation to the National Assembly" against
the commandant and the two ministers who, according to it, are
guilty of having forged or suppressed the King's orders. In the
meantime it equips and fortifies itself as for a combat. At its
first establishment the municipality broke up the bourgeois guard,
which was too great a lover of order, and organized a National
Guard, in which those who have no property are soon to be admitted.
"Daily additions are made to its military apparatus;[29]
entrenchments and barricades at the Hôtel-de-Ville, are increasing,
the artillery is increased; the town is filled with the excitement
of a military camp in the immediate presence of an enemy." Thus, in
possession of force, it makes use of it, and in the first place
against justice. -- A popular insurrection had been suppressed in
the month of August 1789, and the three principal leaders, Rebecqui,
Pascal, and Granet, had been imprisoned in the Chateau d'If. They
are the friends of the municipal authorities, and they must be set
free. At the demand of this body the affair is taken out of the
hands of the grand-prévôt and put into those of the sénéchaussée,
the former, meanwhile, together with his councilors, undergoing
punishment for having performed their duty. The municipality, on
its own authority, forbids them from further exercise of their
functions. They are publicly denounced, "threatened with poniards,
the scaffold, and every species of assassination." [30] No printer
dares publish their defense, for fear of "municipal annoyances." It
is not long before the royal procureur and a councillor are reduced
to seeking refuge in Fort Saint-Jean, while the grand-prévôt after
having resisted a little longer, leaves Marseilles in order to save
his life. As to the three imprisoned men, the municipal authorities
visit them in a body and demand their provisional release. One of
them having made his escape, they refuse to give the commandant the
order for his re-arrest. The other two triumphantly leave the
chateau on the 11th of April, escorted by eight hundred National
Guards. They go, for form's sake, to the prisons of the
sénéchaussée but the next day are set at liberty, and further
prosecution ceases. As an offset to this, M. d'Ambert, colonel in
the Royal Marine, guilty of expressing himself too warmly against
the National Guard, although acquitted by the tribunal before which
he was brought, can be set at liberty only in secret and under the
protection of two thousand soldiers. The populace want to burn the
house of the criminal lieutenant that dared absolve him. The
magistrate himself is in danger, and is forced to take refuge in the
house of the military commander.[31] Meanwhile, printed and written
papers, insulting libels by the municipal body and the club, the
seditious or violent discussions of the district assemblies, and a
lot of pamphlets, are freely distributed among the people and the
soldiers: the latter are purposely stirred up in advance against
their chiefs. - - In vain are the officers mild, conciliatory, and
cautious. In vain does the commander-in-chief depart with a portion
of the troops. The object now is to dislodge the regiment occupying
the three forts. The club sets the ball in motion, and, forcibly or
otherwise, the will of the people must be carried out. On the 29th
of April, two actors, supported by fifty volunteers, surprise a
sentinel and get possession of Notre-Dame de la Garde. On the same
day, six thousand National Guards invest the forts of Saint-Jean and
Saint-Nicolas. The municipal authorities, summoned to respect the
fortresses, reply by demanding the opening of the gates to the
National Guard, that it may do duty jointly with the soldiers. The
commandants hesitate, refer to the law, and demand time to consult
their superiors. A second requisition, more urgent, is made; the
commandants are held responsible for the disturbances they provoke
by their refusal. If they resist they are declared promoters of
civil war.[32] They accordingly yield and sign a capitulation.
One among them, the Chevalier de Beausset, major in Fort Saint-Jean,
is opposed to this, and refuses his signature. On the following day
he is seized as he is about to enter the Hôtel-de-Ville, and
massacred, his head being borne about on the end of a pike, while
the band of assassins, the soldiers, and the rabble dance about and
shout over his remains. - " It is a sad accident," writes the
municipality.[33] How does it happen that, "after having thus far
merited and obtained all praise, a Beausset, whom we were unable to
protect against the decrees of Providence, should sully our laurels?
Having had nothing to do with this tragic affair, it is not for us
to prosecute the authors of it." Moreover, he was "culpable . . ..
rebellious, condemned by public opinion, and Providence itself seems
to have abandoned him to the irrevocable decrees of its vengeance."
- As to the taking of the forts, nothing is more legitimate. "These
places were in the hands of the enemies of the State, while now they
are in the hands of the defenders of the Constitution of the empire.
Woe to whoever would take them from us again, to convert them into a
focus of counter-revolution " - M. de Miran, commandant of the
province, has, it is true, made a demand for them. But, "is it not
somewhat pitiable to see the requisition of a Sieur de Miran, made
in the name of the King he betrays, to surrender to his Majesty's
troops places which, henceforth in our hands, guarantee public
security to the nation, to the law, and to the King?" In vain does
the King, at the request of the National Assembly,[34] order the
municipality to restore the forts to the commandants, and to make
the National Guards leave them. The municipal authorities become
indignant, and resist. According to them the wrong is all on the
side of the commandant and the ministers. It is the commandants
who, "with the threatening equipment of their citadels, their stores
of provisions and of artillery, are disturbers of the public peace.
What does the minister mean by driving the national troops out of
the forts, in order to entrust their guardianship to foreign troops?
His object is apparent in this plan . . . . he wants to kindle
civil war." - "All the misfortunes of Marseilles originate in the
secret under-standing existing between the ministers and the enemies
of the State." The municipal corps is at last obliged to evacuate
the forts, but it is determined not to give them up. The day
following that on which it receives the decree of the National
Assembly, it conceives the design of demolishing them. On the 17th
of May, two hundred laborers, paid in advance, begin the work of
destruction. To save appearances the municipal body betakes itself
at eleven o'clock in the morning to the different localities, and
orders them to stop. But, on its departure, the laborers keep on;
and, at six o'clock in the evening, a resolution is passed that, "to
prevent the entire demolition of the citadel, it is deemed advisable
to authorize only that of the part overlooking the town." On the
18th of May the Jacobin club, at once agent, accomplice, and
councilor of the municipal body, compels private individuals to
contribute something towards defraying the expenses of the
demolition. It "sends round to every house, and to the syndics of
all corporations, exacting their quotas, and making all citizens
subscribe a document by which they appear to sanction the action of
the municipal body, and to express their thanks to it. People had
to sign it, pay, and keep silent. Woe to any one that refused !" On
the 20th of May the municipal body presumes to write to the
Assembly, that "this threatening citadel, this odious monument of a
stupendous despotism, is about to disappear." To justify its
disobedience, it takes occasion to remark, "that the love of country
is the most powerful and most enduring of an empire's ramparts." On
the 28th of May it secures the performance in two theaters of a
piece representing the capture of the forts of Marseilles, for the
benefit of the men engaged in their demolition. Meanwhile, it has
summoned the Paris Jacobins to its support; it has proposed to
invite the Lyons federation and all the municipalities of the
kingdom to denounce the minister. It has forced M. de Miran,
threatened with death and watched by a party in ambush on the road,
to quit Aix, and then demands his recall.[35] Only on the 6th of
June does it decide, at the express command of the National
Assembly, to suspend the almost completed demolition. - ?Authorities
to which obedience is due could not be treated more insolently. The
end, however, is attained; there is no longer a citadel, and the
troops have departed; the regiment commanded by Ernest alone
remains, to be tampered with, insulted, and then sent off. It is
ordered to Aix, and the National Guard of Marseilles will go there
to disarm and disband it. Henceforth the municipal body has full
sway. It "observes only those laws which suit it, makes others to
its own liking, and, in short, governs in the most despotic and
arbitrary manner."[36] And not only at Marseilles, but throughout
the department where, under no authority but its own, it undertakes
armed expeditions and makes raids and sudden attacks.


Independent Assemblies. - Why they took the initiative. - The people
in council. - Powerlessness of the municipalities. - the violence to
which they are subject. - Aix in 1790. - Government disobeyed and
perverted everywhere.

Were it but possible for the dissolution to stop here! But each
commune is far from being a tranquil little state under the rule of
a body of respected magistrates. The same causes which render
municipalities rebellious against the central authority render
individuals rebellious against local authority. They also feel that
they are in danger and want to provide for their own safety. They
also, in virtue of the Constitution and of circumstances, believe
themselves appointed to save the country. They also consider
themselves qualified to judge for themselves on all points and
entitled to carry out their judgments with their own hands. The
shopkeeper, workman or peasant, at once elector and National Guard,
furnished with his vote and a musket, suddenly becomes the equal and
master of his superiors; instead of obeying, he commands, while all
who see him again after some years' absence, find that "in his
demeanor and manner all is changed." "There was great agitation
everywhere,"[37] says M. de Ségur; "I noticed groups of men talking
earnestly in the streets and on the squares. The sound of the drum
struck my ear in the villages, while I was astonished at the great
number of armed men I encountered in the little towns. On
interrogating various persons among the lower classes they would
reply with a proud look and in a bold and confident tone. I
observed everywhere the effect of those sentiments of equality and
liberty which had then become such violent passions." - Thus
exalted in their own eyes they believed themselves qualified to take
the lead in everything, not only in local affairs, but also in
general matters. France is to be governed by them; by virtue of the
Constitution they arrogate to themselves the right, and, by dint of
ignorance, attribute to themselves the capacity, to govern it. A
torrent of new, shapeless, and disproportionate ideas have taken
possession of their brains in the space of a few months. Vast
interests about which they have never thought, have to be
considered. Government, royalty, the church, creeds, foreign
powers, internal and external dangers, what is occurring at Paris
and at Coblentz, the insurrection in the Low Countries, the acts of
the cabinets of London, Vienna, Madrid, Berlin; and, of all this,
they inform themselves as they best can. An officer,[38] who
traverses France at this time, narrates that at the post-stations
they made him wait for horses until he had "given them details. The
peasants stopped my carriage in the middle of the road and
overwhelmed me with questions. At Autun, I was obliged, in spite of
the cold, to talk out of a window opening upon the square and tell
what I knew about the Assembly." - These on-dits are all changed
and amplified in passing from mouth to mouth. They finally become
circumstantial stories adapted to the caliber of the minds they pass
into and to the dominant passion that propagates them. Trace the
effect of these fables in the house of a peasant or fish-woman in an
outlying village or a populous suburb, on brutish or almost brutal
minds, especially when they are lively, heated, and over-excited -
the effect is tremendous. For, in minds of this stamp, belief is at
once converted into action, and into rude and destructive action.
It is an acquired self-control, reflection, and culture which
interposes between belief and action the solicitude for social
interests, the observance of forms and respect for the law. These
restraints are all wanting in the new sovereign. He does not know
how to stop and will not suffer himself to be stopped. Why so many
delays when the peril is urgent? What is the use of observing
formalities when the safety of the people is at stake? What is there
sacred in the law when it protects public enemies? What is more
pernicious than passive deference and patient waiting under timid or
blind officials? What can be more just than to do one's self justice
at once and on the spot? - Precipitation and passion, in their
eyes, are both duties and merits. One day "the militia of Lorient
decide upon marching to Versailles and to Paris without considering
how they are to get over the ground or what they will do on their
arrival."[39] Were the central government within reach they would
lay their hands on it. In default of this they substitute
themselves for it on their own territory, and exercise its functions
with a full conviction of right, principally those of gendarme,
judge, and executioner.

During the month of October, 1789, at Paris, after the assassination
of the baker François, the leading murderer, who is a porter at the
grain depot, declares "that he wanted to avenge the nation." It is
quite probable that this declaration is sincere. In his mind,
assassination is one of the forms of patriotism, and it does not
take long for his way of thinking to become prevalent. In ordinary
times, social and political ideas slumber in uncultured minds in the
shape of vague antipathies, restrained aspirations, and fleeting
desires. Behold them aroused - energetic, imperious, stubborn, and
unbridled. Objection or opposition is not to be tolerated; dissent,
with them, is a sure sign of treachery. - Apropos of the nonjuring
priests,[40] five hundred and twenty-seven of the National Guards of
Arras write, "that no one could doubt their iniquity without being
suspected of being their accomplices. . . . Should the whole
town combine and express a contrary opinion, it would simply show
that it is filled with enemies of the Constitution;" and forthwith,
in spite of the law and the remonstrances of the authorities, they
insist on the closing of the churches. At Boulogne-sur-Mer, an
English vessel having shipped a quantity of poultry, game, and eggs,
"the National Guards, of their own authority," go on board and
remove the cargo. On the strength of this, the accommodating
municipal body approves of the act, declares the cargo confiscated,
orders it to be sold, and awards one-half of the proceeds to the
National Guards and the other half to charitable purposes. The
concession is a vain one, for the National Guards consider that one-
half is too little, "insult and threaten the municipal officers,"
and immediately proceed to divide the booty in kind, each one going
home with a share of stolen hams and chickens.[41] The magistrates
must necessarily keep quiet with the guns of those they govern
pointed at them. - Sometimes, and it is generally the case, they are
timid, and do not try to resist. At Douai,[42] the municipal
officers, on being summoned three times to proclaim martial law,
refuse, and end by avowing that they dare not unfold the red flag:
"Were we to take this course we should all be sacrificed on the
spot." Neither the troops nor the National Guards, in fact, are to
be relied on. In this universal state of apathy the field is open
to savages, and a dealer in wheat is hung. - Sometimes the
administrative corps tries to resist, but in the end it has to
succumb to violence. "For more than six hours," writes one of the
members of the district of Etampes,[43] "we were closed in by
bayonets leveled at us and with pistols at our breasts ; and they
were obliged to sign a dismissal of the troops which had arrived to
protect the market. At present "we are all away from Etampes; there
is no longer a district or a municipality;" almost all have handed
in their resignations, or are to return for that purpose. -
Sometimes, and this is the rarest case,[44] the officials do their
duty to the end, and perish. In this same town, six months later,
Simoneau, the mayor, having refused to cut down the price of wheat,
is beaten with iron-pointed sticks, and his corpse is riddled with
balls by the murderers. - Municipal bodies must take heed how they
undertake to stem the torrent; the, slightest opposition will soon
be at the expense of their lives. In Touraine,[45] "as the
publication of the tax-rolls takes place, riots break out against
the municipal authorities; they are forced to surrender the rolls
they have drawn up, and their papers are torn up." And still more,
"they kill, they assassinate the municipal authorities." In that
large commune men and women "beat and kick them with their fists and
sabots. . . . The mayor is laid up after it, and the procureur
of the commune died between nine and ten o'clock in the morning.
Véteau, a municipal officer, received the last sacrament this
morning ;" the rest have fled, being constantly threatened with
death and incendiarism. They do not, consequently, return, and "no
one now will take the office of either mayor or administrator." -
The outrages which the municipalities thus commit against their
superiors are committed against themselves. The National Guards,
the mob, the controlling faction, arrogating to themselves in the
commune the same violent sovereignty which the commune pretends to
exercise against the State.

I should never finish if I undertook to enumerate the outbreaks in
which the magistrates are constrained to tolerate or to sanction
popular usurpations, to shut up churches, to drive off or imprison
priests, to suppress octrois, tax grain, and allow clerks; bakers,
corn-dealers, ecclesiastics, nobles, and officers to be hung, beaten
to death, or to have their throats cut. Ninety-four thick files of
records in the national archives are filled with these acts of
violence, and do not contain two-thirds of them. It is worth while
to take in detail one case more, a special one, and one that is
authentic, which serves as a specimen, and which presents a
foreshortened image of France during one tranquil year. At Aix, in
the month of December, 1790,[46] in Opposition to the two Jacobin
clubs, a club had been organized, had complied with all the
formalities, and, like the " Club des Monarchiens" at Paris, claimed
the same right of meeting as the others. But here, as at Paris, the
Jacobins recognize no rights but for themselves alone, and refuse to
admit their adversaries to the privileges of the law. Moreover,
alarming rumors are circulated. A person who has arrived from Nice
states that he had "heard that there were twenty thousand men
between Turin and Nice, under the pay of the emigrants, and that at
Nice a neuvaine[47] was held in Saint François-de-Paule to pray God
to enlighten the French." A counter-revolution is certainly under
way. Some of the aristocrats have stated "with an air of triumph,
that the National Guard and municipalities are a mere toy, and that
this sort of thing will not last long." One of the leading members
of the new club, M. de Guiraitiand, an old officer of seventy-eight
years, makes speeches in public against the National Assembly, tries
to enlist artisans in his party, "affects to wear a white button on
his hat fastened by pins with their points jutting out," and, as it
is stated, he has given to several mercers a large order for white
cockades. In reality, on examination, not one is found in any shop,
and all the dealers in ribbons, on being interrogated, reply that
they know of no transaction of that description. But this simply
proves that the culprit is a clever dissimulator, and the more
dangerous because he is eager to save the country. - On the 12th of
December, at four o'clock in the afternoon, the two Jacobin clubs
fraternise, and pass in long procession before the place of meeting,
"where some of the members, a few officers of the Lyons regiment and
other individuals, are quietly engaged at play or seeing others
play." The crowd hoot, but they remain quiet. The procession passes
by again, and they hoot and shout, "Down with the aristocrats to the
lamp post with them! " Two or three of the officers standing on the
threshold of the door become irritated, and one of them, drawing his
sword, threatens to strike a young man if he keeps on. Upon this
the crowd cries out, "Guard! Help! An assassin!" and rushes at the
officer, who withdraws into the house, exclaiming, "To arms!" His
comrades, sword in hand, descend in order to defend the door; M. de
Guiramand fires two pistol shots and receives a stab in the thigh.
A shower of stones smashes in the windows, and the door is on the
point of being burst open when several of the members of the club
save themselves by taking to the roof. About a dozen others, most
of them officers, form in line, penetrate the crowd with uplifted
swords, strike and get struck, and escape, five of them being
wounded. The municipality orders the doors and windows of the club-
house to be walled up, sends the Lyons regiment away, decrees the
arrest of seven officers and of M. de Guiramand, and all this in a
few hours, with no other testimony than that of the conquerors.

But these prompt, vigorous and partial measures are not sufficient
for the Jacobin club; other conspirators must be seized, and it is
the club which designates them and goes to take them. - Three months
before this, M. Pascalis, an advocate, on addressing along with
some of his professional brethren the dissolved parliament, deplored
the blindness of the people, "exalted by prerogatives of which they
knew not the danger." A man who dared talk in this way is evidently
a traitor. - There is another, M. Morellet de la Roquette, who
refused to join the proscribed club. His former vassals, however,
had been obliged to bring an action against him to make him accept
the redemption of his feudal dues; also, six years before this, his
carriage, passing along the public promenade, had run over a child;
he likewise is an enemy of the people. While the municipal officers
are deliberating, "a few members of the club" get together and
decide that M. Pascalis and M. de la Roquette must be arrested.
At eleven o'clock at night eighty trustworthy National Guards, led
by the president of the club, travel a league off to seize them in
their beds and lodge them in the town prison. - Zeal of this kind
excites some uneasiness, and if the municipality tolerates the
arrests, it is because it is desirous of preventing murder.
Consequently, on the following day, December 13th, it sends to
Marseilles for four hundred men of the Swiss Guard commanded by
Ernest, and four hundred National Guards, adding to these the
National Guard of Aix, and orders this company to protect the prison
against any violence. But, along with the Marseilles National
Guards, there came a lot of armed people who are volunteers of
disorder. On the afternoon of the 13th the first mob strives to
force the prison, and the next day, fresh squads congregate around
it demanding the head of M. Pascalis. The members of the club head
the riot with "a crowd of unknown men from outside the town, who
give orders and carry them out." During the night the populace of
Aix are tampered with, and the dikes all give way at the same
moment. At the first clamors the National Guard on duty on the
public promenade disband and disperse, while, as there is no signal
for the assemblage of the others, notwithstanding the regulations,
the general alarm is not sounded. "The largest portion of the
National Guard draws off so as not to appear to authorize by its
presence outrages which it has not been ordered to prevent.
Peaceable Citizens are in great consternation;" each one takes to
flight or shuts himself up in his house, the streets being deserted
and silent. Meanwhile the prison gates are shattered with axes.
The procureur-syndic of the department, who requests the commandant
of the Swiss regiment to protect the prisoners, is seized, borne
off, and runs the risk of losing his life. Three municipal officers
in their scarves, who arrive on the ground, dare not give the order
required by the commandant. At this decisive moment, when it is
necessary to shed blood and kill a number of men, they obviously
fear to take the responsibility; their reply is, "We have no orders
to give." - An extraordinary spectacle now presents itself in this
barrack courtyard surrounding the prison. On the side of the law
stand eight hundred armed men, four hundred of the "Swiss" and four
hundred of the National Guard of Marseilles. They are drawn up in
battle array, with guns to their shoulders, with special orders
repeated the evening before at three different times by the
municipal district and departmental authorities and they have the
sympathies of all honest people and of most of the National Guard.
But the legal indispensable phrase does not pass the lips of those
who by virtue of the Constitution should utter it, and a small group
of convicts are found to be sovereign. -- The three municipal
officers are seized in their turn under the eyes of their own
soldiers who remain motionless, and "with bayonets at their breasts
they sign, under constraint, the order to give up M. Pascalis to
the people." M. de la Roquette is likewise surrendered. "The only
portion of the National Guard of Aix which was visible," that is to
say, the Jacobin minority, form a circle around the gate of the
prison and organize themselves into a council of war. And there
they stand; at once "accusers, witnesses, judges, and executioners."
A captain conducts the two victims to the public promenade where
they are hung. Very soon after this old M. de Guiramand, whom the
National Guard of his village have brought a prisoner to Aix, is
hung in the same manner.

There is no prosecution of the assassins. The new tribunal,
frightened or forestalled, has for some time back ranged itself on
the popular side; its writs, consequently, are served on the
oppressed, against the members of the assaulted dub. Writs of
arrest, summonses to attend court, searches, seizures of
correspondence, and other proceedings, rain down upon them. Three
hundred witnesses are examined. Some of the arrested officers are
"loaded with chains and thrust into dungeons." Henceforth the club
rules, and "makes everybody tremble."[48] "From the 23rd to the
27th of December, more than ten thousand passports are delivered at
Aix." "If the emigrations continue," write the commissioners, "there
will be no one left at Aix but workmen without work and with no
resources. Whole streets are uninhabited. . . . . As long as
such crimes can be permitted with impunity fear will drive out of
this town every one who has the means of living elsewhere." - ?Many
come back after the arrival of the commissioners, hoping to obtain
justice and security through them. But, "if a prosecution is not
ordered, we shall scarcely have departed from Aix when three or four
hundred families will abandon it. . . . And what man in his
senses would dare guarantee that each village will not soon have
some one hung in it? . . . Country valets arrest their masters.
. . . The expectation of impunity leads the inhabitants of
villages to commit all sorts of depredations in the forests, which
is very harmful in a region where woods are very scarce. They set
up the most absurd and most unjust pretensions against rich
proprietors, and the fatal rope is ever the interpreter and the
signal of their will." There is no refuge against these outrages.
"The department, the districts, the municipalities, administer only
in conformity with the multiplied petitions of the club." In the
sight of all, and on one solemn day, a crushing defeat has
demonstrated the weakness of the government officials; and, bowed
beneath the yoke of their new masters, they preserve their legal
authority only on the condition that it remains at the service of
the victorious party.



[1] Festivals approving the federation of all the National Guards in
France. (SR.)

[2] See the address of the commune of Paris, June 5, 1790. "Let the
most touching of all utterances be heard on this day (the
anniversary of the taking of the Bastille), Frenchmen, we are
brothers! Yes, brothers, freemen and with a country!" Roux et
Buchez, VI. 275.

[3] Buchez and Roux, IV. 3, 309; V. 123; VI. 274, 399. -
Duvergier, Collection of Laws and Decrees. Decree of June 8 and 9,

[4] For one who, like myself, has lived for years among the Moslems,
the 5 daily ritual prayers all performed while turned towards Mecca,
this description of the French taking of the oath, has something
familiar in it. (SR.)

[5] Michelet, "Histoire de la Révolution Française," II, 470, 474.

[6] De Ferrières, II. 91. - Albert Babeau, I. 340. (Letter
addressed to the Chevalier de Poterat, July 18, 1790.) - De
Dampmartin, "Evénements qui se sont passés sous mes yeux,"etc., 155.

[7] One may imagine the impression Taine's description made upon the
thousands of political science students and others in the years
after this book was printed and widely sold all over Europe. (SR.)

[8] Sauzay, I. 202.

[9] Albert Babeau, ib. I, 339 - De Ferrières, II, 92.

[10] "Archives Nationales," H. 1453, Correspondence of M. de
Bercheney, May 23, 1790.

[11] "Archives Nationales," ibid, May 13, 1790. "M. de la
Rifaudière was dragged from his carriage and brought to the guard-
house, which was immediately filled with people, shouting, 'To the
lamp post, the aristocrat!' - The fact is this: after his having
repeatedly shouted Vive le Roi et la Nation! They wanted him to
shout Vive la Nation! alone, upon which he gave Vive la Nation tant
qu'elle pourra." - At Blois, on the day of the Federation, a mob
promenades the streets with a wooden head covered with a wig, and a
placard stating that the aristocrats must be decapitated.

[12] Might Freud ( 1856- 1939) have been inspired, directly or
indirectly, by Taine's observation? 'La Révolution' vol. I, was
published in 1877 when Freud was 21 years old!! (SR.)

[13] Mercure de France, the articles by Mallet du Pan (June 18th and
August 16, 1791; April 14, 1792).

[14] Moniteur, IV. 560. (sitting of June 5, 1790) report of M.
Freteau. "These facts are attested by fifty witnesses." - Cf.
The number of April 19, 1791.

[15] Solon was a famous legislator who reformed Athens some 2500
years ago. (SR.)

[16] "Archives Nationales," KK, 1105, Correspondence of M. de
Thiard, military commandant in Brittany (September, 1789), "There
are in every petty village three conflicting powers, the présidial,
the bourgeois militia, and the permanent committee. Each is anxious
to outrank the other, and, on this occasion, a scene happened to
come under my eyes at Landivisiau which might have had a bloody
termination, but which turned out to be simply ridiculous. A lively
dispute arose between three speakers to determine which should make
the first address. They appealed to me to decide. Not to offend
either of the parties, I decided that all three should speak at the
same time; which decision was immediately carried out.

[17] Decree of August 10-14, 1789.

[18] "Archives Nationales," KK, 1105. Correspondence of M. de
Thiard, September 21, 1789. "The troops now obey the municipalities
only." -- Also July 30th, August 11, 1790.

[19] "Archives Nationales," KK, 1105. Correspondence of 31. M. de
Thiard, September 11 and 25, November 20, December 25 and 30, 1789.

[20] Buchez and Roux, V.304 (April, 1790). - "Archives Nationales,"
Papers of the committee of Investigation, DXXIX. I (note of M.
Latour-du-Pin, October 28, 1789) - ? Buchez and Roux, IV. 3
(December 1, 1789); IV. 390 (February, 1790); VI. 179 (April and
May, 1790).

[21] Mercure de France, Report of M. Emery, sitting of July 21,
1790, Number for July 32. -- "Archives Nationales," F7, 3200.
Letter of the directory of Calvados, September 26 and October 20,

[22] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3207. Letter of the minister
Dumouriez, June 15, 1792. Report of M. Caillard, May 29, 1792.

[23] Mercure de France, No. for July, 1791 (sitting of the 6th);
Nos. for November 5 and 26, 1791.

[24] Albert Babeau, "Histoire de Troyes," vol. I. passim. -- "
Archives Nationales," F7, 3257. Address of the Directory of Saône-
et-Loire to the National Assembly, November 1, 1790. -- F7, 3200.
Letter of the Directory of Calvados, November 9, 1791. -- F 7,
3195. Minutes of the meeting of the municipality of Aix, March 1,
1792 (on the events of February 26th); letter of M. Villard,
President of the Directory, March 20, 1792. -- F7, 3220. Extracts
from the deliberations of the Directory of Gers, and a letter to the
King, January 28, 1792. Letter of M. Lafitau, President of the
Directory, January 30. (He was dragged along by his hair and
obliged to leave the town.)

[25] Mercure de France, No. for October 30, 1790.

[26] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3226. Letter of the directory of
Indre to M. Cahier, minister, December 6, 1791. -- Letter of M.
Delessart, minister, to the directory of Indre, December 31, 1791.

[27] Fabre, "Histoire de Marseille," II. 442. Martin had but 3,555
votes, when shortly after the National Guard numbered 24,000 men.

[28] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3196. Letter of the minister, M.
de Saint-Priest, to the President of the National Assembly, May 11,

[29] "Archives Nationales," F7 3196. Letters of the military
commandant, M. de Miran, March 6, 14, 30, 1790.

[30] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3196. Letter of M. de Bournissac,
grand-privot, March 6,1790.

[31] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3196. Letters of M. du Miran,
April 11th and 16th, and May 1, 1790.

[32] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3196. Procés-verbal of events on
the 30th of April.

[33] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3196. Letters of the Municipality
of Marseilles to the National Assembly, May 5 and 20, 1790.

[34] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3196. Order of the king, May10.
Letter of M. de Saint-Priest to the National Assembly, May 11.
Decree of the National Assembly, May 12. Letter of the Municipality
to the King. May 20. Letter of M. de Rubum, May 20. Note sent
from Marseilles, May 31. Address of the Municipality to the
President of the Friends of the Constitution, at Paris, May 5. In
his narration of the taking of the forts we read the following
sentence: "We arrived without hindrance in the presence of the
commandant, whom we brought to an agreement by means of the
influence which force, fear and reason give to persuasion."

[35] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3196, Letter of M. de Miran, May 5.
-- The spirit of the ruling party at Marseilles is indicated by
several printed documents joined to the dossier, and, among others,
by a "Requéte à Desmoulins, procureur-général de la Lanterne." It
relates to a "patriotic inkstand," recently made out of the stones
of the demolished citadel, representing a hydra with four heads,
symbolizing the nobility, the clergy, the ministry and the judges.
"It is from the four patriotic skulls of the hydra that the ink of
proscription will he taken for the enemies of the Constitution.
This inkstand, cut out of the first stone that fell in the
demolition of Fort Saint-Nicolas, is dedicated to the patriotic
Assembly of Marseilles. The magic art of the hero of the liberty of
Marseilles, that Renaud who, under the mask of devotion, surprised
the watchful sentinel of Notre-Dame de la Garde, and whose manly
courage and cunning ensured the conquest of that key of the great
focus of counter-revolution, has just given birth to a new trait of
genius a new Deucalion, he personifies this stone which Liberty has
flung from the summit of our menacing Bastilles, etc."

[36] "Archives Nationales," F7. 3198. Letters of the royal
commissioners, April 13 and 5, 1791.

[37] De Ségur, "Memoires," III, 482 (early in 1790).

[38] De Dampmartin, I. 184 (January, 1791).

[39] "Archives Nationales," KK, 1105. Correspondence of M. de
Thiard (October 12, 1789).

[40] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3250. Minutes from the meeting of
the directory of the department. March 28, 1792. "As the ferment
was at the highest point and fears were entertained that greater
evils would follow, M. le Président, with painful emotion declared
that he yielded and passed the unconstitutional act." Reply of the
minister, June 23: " If the constituted authorities are thus forced
to yield to the arbitrary will of a wild multitude, government no
longer exists and we are in the saddest stage of anarchy. If you
think it best I will propose to the King to reverse your last

[41] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3250. Letter of M. Duport,
minister of justice, December 24, 1791.

[42] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3248, Report of the members of the
department, finished March 18, 1792. -- Buchez and Roux, IX. 240
(Report of M. Alquier).

[43] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3268. Extract from the
deliberations of the directory of Seine-et-Oise, with the documents
relating to the insurrection at Etampes, September 16, 1791. Letter
of M. Venard, administrator of the district, September 20 -- " I
shall not set foot in Etampes until the re-establishment of order
and tranquility, and the first thing I shall do will be to record
my resignation in the register. I am tired of making sacrifices,
for ungrateful wretches."

[44] Moniteur, March 16, 1792. -- Mortimer-Ternaux, "Histoire de la
Terreur" (Proceedings against the assassins of Simoneau), I. 381.

[45] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3226. Letter and memorandum of
Chenantin, cultivator, November 7, 1792. Extract from the
deliberations of the directory of Langeais, November 5, 1792
(sedition at Chapelle-Blanche, near Langeais, October 5, 1792).

[46] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3105. Report of the commissioners
sent by the National Assembly and the King, February 23, 1791. (On
the events of December 12 and 14, 1790) -- Mercure de France,
February 29, 5791. (Letters from Aix, and notably a letter from
seven officers shut up in prison at Aix, January 30, 1791.) The
oldest Jacobin Club formed in February, 1790, was entitled "(Club
des vrais amis de la Constitution." The second Jacobin club, formed
in October, 1790, was "composed from the beginning of artisans and
laborers from the faubourgs and suburbs." Its title was" Société des
frères anti-politiques," or "frères vrais, justes et utiles à la
patrie." The opposition club, formed in December, 1790, bore the
title, according to some, of "Les Amis du Roi, de la paix et de la
religion;" according to others, "Les amis de la paix;" and finally,
according to another report, "Les Défenseurs de la religion, des
personnes et des proprietés."

[47] A special series of religious services. (TR)

[48] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3195. Letters of the commissioners,
March 20, February 11, May 10, 1791.


Under these conditions when passions are freed; any determined and
competent man who can gather a couple of hundred men may form a band
and slip through the enlarged or weakened meshes of the net held by
the passive or ineffective government. An experiment on a grand
scale is about to be made on human society; owing to the slackening
of the regular restraints which have maintained it, it is now
possible to measure the force of the permanent instincts which
attack it. They are always there even in ordinary times; we do not
notice them because they are kept in check; but they are not the
less energetic and effective, and, moreover, indestructible. The
moment their repression ceases, their power of mischief becomes
evident; just as that of the water which floats a ship, but which,
at the first leak enters into it and sinks it.


Old Religious Grudges - Montauban and Nîmes in 1790.

Religious passions, to begin with, are not to be kept down by
federations, embraces, and effusions of fraternity. In the south,
where the Protestants have been persecuted for more than a century,
hatreds exist more than a century old.[1] In vain have the odious
edicts which oppressed them fallen into desuetude for the past
twenty years; in vain have civil rights been restored to them since
1787: The past still lives in transmitted recollections; and two
groups are confronting each other, one Protestant and the other
Catholic, each defiant, hostile, ready to act on the defensive, and
interpreting the preparations of its adversary as a plan of attack.
Under such circumstances the guns go off of their own accord. - On
a sudden alarm at Uzès[2] the Catholics, two thousand in number,
take possession of the bishop's palace and the Hôtel-de-Ville; while
the Protestants, numbering four hundred, assemble outside the walls
on the esplanade, and pass the night under arms, each troop
persuaded that the other is going to massacre it, one party
summoning the Catholics of Jalès to its aid, and the other the
Protestants of Gardonnenque. - There is but one way of avoiding
civil war between parties in such an attitude, and that is the
ascendancy of an energetic third party, impartial and on the spot.
A plan to this effect, which promises well, is proposed by the
military commandant of Languedoc.[3] According to him the two
firebrands are, on the one hand, the bishops of Lower Languedoc, and
on the other, MM. Rabaut-Saint-Etienne, father and two sons, all
three being pastors. Let them be responsible "with their heads" for
any mob, insurrection, or attempt to debauch the army; let a
tribunal of twelve judges be selected from the municipal bodies of
twelve towns, and all delinquents be brought before it; let this be
the court of final appeal, and its sentence immediately executed.
The system in vogue, however, is just the reverse. Both parties
being organized into a body of militia, each takes care of itself,
and is sure to fire on the other; and the more readily, inasmuch as
the new ecclesiastical regulations, which are issued from month to
month, strike like so many hammers on Catholic sensibility, and
scatter showers of sparks on the primings of the already loaded

At Montauban, on the 10th of May, 1790, the day of the inventory and
expropriation of the religious communities,[4] the commissioners are
not allowed to enter. Women in a state of frenzy lie across the
thresholds of the doors, and it would be necessary to pass over
their bodies; a large mob gathers around the "Cordeliers," and a
petition is signed to have the convents maintained. - The
Protestants who witness this commotion become alarmed, and eighty of
their National Guards march to the Hôtel-de-Ville, and take forcible
possession of the guard-house which protects it. The municipal
authorities order them to withdraw, which they refuse to do.
Thereupon the Catholics assembled at the "Cordeliers" begin a riot,
throw stones, and drive in the doors with pieces of timber, while a
cry is heard that the Protestants, who have taken refuge in the
guard-house, are firing from the windows. The enraged multitude
immediately invade the arsenal, seize all the guns they can lay
their hands on, and fire volleys on the guard-house, the effect of
which is to kill five of the Protestants and wound twenty-four
others. The rest are saved by a municipal officer and the police;
but they are obliged to appear, two and two, before the cathedral in
their shirts, and do public penance, after which they are put in
prison. During the tumult political shouts have been heard: "Hurrah
for the nobles! Hurrah for the aristocracy! Down with the nation!
Down with the tricolor flag!" Bordeaux, regarding Montauban as in
rebellion against France, dispatches fifteen hundred of its National
Guard to set the prisoners free. Toulouse gives its aid to
Bordeaux. The fermentation is frightful. Four thousand of the
Protestants of Montauban take flight; armed cities are about to
contend with each other, as formerly in Italy. It is necessary that
a commissioner of the National Assembly and of the King, Mathieu
Dumas, should be dispatched to harangue the people of Montauban,
obtain the release of the prisoners, and re-establish order.

One month after this a more bloody affray takes place at Nîmes[5]
against the Catholics. The Protestants, in fact, are but twelve
thousand out of fifty-four thousand inhabitants, but the principal
trade of the place is in their hands; they hold the manufactories
and support thirty thousand workmen; in the elections of 1789 they
furnished five out of the eight deputies. The sympathies of that
time were in their favor; nobody then imagined that the dominant
Church was exposed to any risk. It is to be attacked in its turn,
and the two parties are seen confronting each other. - The
Catholics sign a petition,[6] hunt up recruits among the market-
gardeners of the suburbs, retain the white cockade, and, when this
is prohibited, replace it with a red rosette, another sign of
recognition. At their head is an energetic man named Froment, who
has vast projects in view; but as the soil on which he treads is
undermined, he cannot prevent the explosion. It takes place
naturally, by chance, through the simple collision of two equally
distrustful bodies; and before the final day it has commenced and
recommenced twenty times, through mutual provocations and
denunciations, through insults, libels, scuffles, stone-throwing,
and gun-shots. - On the 13th of June, 1790, the question is which
party shall furnish administrators for the district and department,
and the conflict begins in relation to the elections. The Electoral
Assembly is held at the guard-house of the bishop's palace, where
the Protestant dragoons and patriots have come "three times as many
as usual, with loaded muskets and pistols, and with full cartridge-
boxes," and they patrol the surrounding neighborhood. On their
side, the red rosettes, royalists and Catholics, complain of being
threatened and "treated contemptuously" (nargués). They give notice
to the gate-keeper "not to let any dragoon enter the town either on
foot or mounted, at the peril of his life," and declare that "the
bishop's quarters were not made for a guard-house." - A mob
forms, and shouting takes place under the windows; stones are
thrown; the bugle of a dragoon, who sounds the roll-call, is broken
and two shots are fired.[7] The dragoons immediately fire a volley,
which wounds a good many people and kills seven. From this moment,
firing goes on during the evening and all night, in every quarter of
the town, each party believing that the other wants to exterminate
it, the Protestants satisfied that it is another St. Bartholomew,
and the Catholics that it is "a Michelade."[8] There is no one to
act between them. The municipality authorities, far from issuing
orders, receive them: they are roughly handled, hustled and jostled
about, and made to march about like servants. The patriots seize
the Abbé de Belmont, a municipal officer, at the Hôtel-de-Ville,
order him, on pain of death, to proclaim martial -law, and place the
red flag in his hand. "March, rascal, you bastard! Hold up your
flag - higher up still - you are big enough to do that!" Blows
follow with the but-ends of their muskets. The poor man spits
blood, but this is of no consequence; he must be in full sight at
the head of the crowd, like a target, whilst his conductors
prudently remain behind. Thus does he advance, exposed to bullets,
holding the flag, and finally becomes the prisoner of the red
rosettes, who release him, but keep his flag. There is a second
march with a red flag held by a town valet, and fresh gunshots; the
red rosettes capture this flag also, as well as another municipal
officer. The rest of the municipal body, with a royal commissioner,
take refuge in the barracks and order out the troops. Meanwhile
Froment, with his three companies, posted in their towers and in the
houses on the ramparts, resist to the last extremity. Daylight
comes, the tocsin is sounded, the drums beat to arms, and the
patriot militia of the neighborhood, the Protestants from the
mountains, the rude Cévenols, arrive in crowds. The red rosettes
are besieged; a Capuchin convent, from which it is pretended that
they have fired, is sacked, and five of the monks are killed.
Froment's tower is demolished with cannon and taken by assault. His
brother is massacred and thrown from the walls, while a Jacobin
convent next to the ramparts is sacked. Towards night, all the red
rosettes who have fought are slain or have fled, and there is no
longer any resistance.-- But the fury still lasts; the fifteen
thousand rustics who have flooded the town think that they have not
yet done enough. In vain are they told that the other fifteen
companies of red rosettes have not moved; that the pretended
aggressors "did not even put themselves in a state of defense;" that
during the battle they remained at home, and that afterwards,
through extra precaution, the municipal authorities had made them
give up their arms. In vain does the Electoral Assembly, preceded
by a white flag, march to the public square and exhort the people to
keep the peace. "Under the pretext of searching suspicious houses,
they pillage or destroy, and what-ever cannot be carried away is
broken." One hundred and twenty houses are sacked in Nîmes alone,
while the same ravages are committed in the environs, the damage, at
the end of three days, amounting to seven or eight hundred thousand
livres. A number of poor creatures, workmen, merchants, old and
infirm men, are massacred in their houses; some, "who have been
bedridden for many years, are dragged to the sills of their doors to
be shot." Others are hung on the esplanade and at the Cours Neuf,
while others have their noses, ears, feet, and hands cut off; and
are hacked to pieces with sabers and scythes. Horrible stories, as
is commonly the case, provoke the most atrocious acts.

A publican, who refuses to distribute anti-Catholic lists, is
supposed to have a mine in his cellar filled with kegs of gunpowder
and with sulfur matches all ready; he is hacked to pieces with a
saber, and twenty guns are discharged into his corpse: they expose
the body before his house with a long loaf of bread on his breast,
and they again stab him with bayonets, saying to him: "Eat, you
bastard, eat" - More than five hundred Catholics were
assassinated, and many others, covered with blood, "are crowded
together in the prisons, while the search for the proscribed is
continued; whenever they are seen, they are fired upon like so many
wolves." Thousands of the inhabitants, accordingly, demand their
passports and leave the town. The rural Catholics, meanwhile, on
their side, massacre six Protestants in the environs - an old man
of eighty-two years, a youth of fifteen, and a husband and his wife
in their farm-house. In order to put a stop to the murderous acts,
the National Guard of Montpellier have to be summoned. But the
restoration of order is for the benefit of the victorious party.
Three-fifths of the electors have fled; one-third of the district
and departmental administrators have been appointed in their
absence, and the majority of the new directories is taken from the
club of patriots. It is for this reason that the prisoners are
prejudged as guilty. "No bailiff of the court dares give them the
benefit of his services; they are not allowed to bring forward
justifying facts in evidence, while everybody knows that the judges
are not impartial."[9]

Thus do the violent measures of political and religious discord come
to an end. The victor stops the mouth of the law when it is about
to speak in his adversary's behalf; and, under the legal iniquity of
an administration which he has himself established, he crushes those
whom the illegal force of his own strong hand has stricken down.


Passion Supreme. - Dread of hunger its most acute form. - The
non-circulation of grain. - Intervention and usurpations of the
electoral assemblies. - The rural code in Nivernais. - The four
central provinces in 1790. - Why high prices are kept up. -
Anxiety and insecurity. - Stagnation of the grain market. -
The departments near Paris in 1791. - The supply and price of
grain regulated by force. - The mobs in 1792. - Village armies
of Eure and of the lower Seine and of Aisne. - Aggravation of the
disorder after August 10th. - The dictatorship of unbridled
instinct. - Its practical and political expedients.

Passions of this stamp are the product of human cultivation, and
break loose only within narrow bounds. Another passion exists which
is neither historic nor local, but natural and universal, the most
indomitable, most imperious, and most formidable of all, namely, the
fear of hunger. There is no such thing with this passion as delay,
or reflection, or looking beyond itself. Each commune or canton
wants its bread, and a sure and unlimited supply of it. Our
neighbor may provide for himself as best he can, but let us look out
for ourselves first and then for other people. Each group of
people, accordingly, through its own decrees, or by main force,
keeps for itself whatever subsistence it possesses, or takes from
others the subsistence which it does not possess. ii

At the end of 1789,[10] "Roussillon refuses aid to Languedoc; Upper
Languedoc to the rest of the province, and Burgundy to Lyonnais;
Dauphiny shuts herself up, and Normandy retains the wheat purchased
for the relief of Paris." At Paris, sentinels are posted at the
doors of all the bakers; on the 21st of October one of the latter is
hung, and his head is borne about on a pike. On the 27th of
October, at Vernon, a corn-merchant named Planter, who the preceding
winter had supported the poor for six leagues around, has to take
his turn. At the present moment the people do not forgive him for
having sent flour to Paris, and he is hung twice, but is saved
through the breaking of the rope each time. -- It is only by force
and under an escort that it is possible to insure the arrival of
grain in a town; the excited people or the National Guards
constantly seize it on its passage. In Normandy the militia of Caen
stops wheat on the highways which is destined for Harcourt and
elsewhere.[11] In Brittany, Auray and Vannes retain the convoys for
Nantes, and Lannion those for Brest. Brest having attempted to
negotiate, its commissioners are seized, and, with knives at their
throats, are forced to sign a renunciation, pure and simple, of the
grain which they have paid for, and they are led out of Lannion and
stoned on the way. Eighteen hundred men, consequently, leave Brest
with four cannon, and go to recover their property with their guns
loaded. These are the customs prevalent during the great famines of
feudal times; and, from one end of France to the other, to say
nothing of the out-breaks of the famished in the large towns,
similar outrages or attempts at recovery are constantly occurring.
- " The armed population of Nantua, Saint-Claude, and Septmoncel,"
says a dispatch,[12] "have again cut off provisions from the Gex
region; there is no wheat coming there from any direction, all the
roads being guarded. Without the aid of the government of Geneva,
which is willing to lend to this region eight hundred Cuttings of
wheat, we should either die of starvation or be compelled to take
grain by force from the municipalities which keep it to themselves."
Narbonne starves Toulon; the navigation of the Languedoc canal is
intercepted; the people on its banks repulse two companies of
soldiers, burn a large building, and want to destroy the canal
itself." Boats are stopped, wagons are pillaged, bread is forcibly
lowered in price, stones are thrown and guns discharged; the
populace contend with the National Guard, peasants with townsmen,
purchasers with dealers, artisans and laborers with farmers and
land-owners, at Castelnaudary, Niort, Saint-Etienne, in Aisne, in
Pas-de-Calais, and especially along the line stretching from
Montbrison to Angers - that is to say, for almost the whole of the
extent of the vast basin of the Loire, - such is the spectacle
presented by the year 1790. - And yet the crop has not been a bad
one. But there is no circulation of grain. Each petty center has
formed a league for the monopoly of food; and hence the fasting of
others and the convulsions of the entire body are the first effects
of the unbridled freedom which the Constitution and circumstances
have conferred on each local group.

"We are told to assemble, vote, and elect men that will attend to
our business; let us attend to it ourselves. We have had enough of
talk and hypocrisy. Bread at two sous, and let us go after wheat
where it can be found!" Such is the reasoning of the peasantry, and,
in Nivernais, Bourbonnais, Berri, and Touraine, electoral gatherings
are the firebrands of the insurrections.[13] At Saint-Sauge, "the
first work of the primary meeting is to oblige the municipal
officers to fix the price of wheat under the penalty of being
decapitated." At Saint-Géran the same course is taken with regard to
bread, wheat, and meat; at Châtillon-en-Bayait it is done with all
supplies, and always a third or a half under the market price,
without mentioning other exactions. - They come by degrees to the
drafting of a tariff for all the valuables they know, proclaiming
the maximum price which an article may reach, and so establishing a
complete code of rural and social economy. We see in the turbulent
and spasmodic wording of this instrument their dispositions and
sentiments, as in a mirror.[14] It is the program of villagers.
Its diverse articles, save local variations, must be executed, now
one and now the other, according to the occasion, the need, and the
time, and, above all, whatever concerns provisions. - The wish, as
usual, is the father of the thought; the peasantry thinks that it is
acting by authority: here, through a decree of the King and the
National Assembly, there, by a commission directly entrusted to the
Comte d'Estrées. Even before this, in the market-place of Saint-
Amand, "a man jumped on a heap of wheat and cried out, 'In the name
of the King and the nation, wheat at one-half the market-price!"' An
old officer of the Royal Grenadiers, a chevalier of the order of
Saint-Louis, is reported to be marching at the head of several
parishes, and promulgating ordinances in his own name and that of
the King, imposing a fine of eight livres on whoever may refuse to
join him. - On all sides there is a swarm of working people, and
resistance is fruitless. There are too many of them, the
constabulary being drowned in the flood. For, these rustic
legislators are the National Guard itself, and when they vote
reductions upon, or requisitions for, supplies, they enforce their
demands with their guns. The municipal officials, willingly or
unwillingly, must needs serve the insurgents. At Donjon the
Electoral Assembly has seized the mayor of the place and threatened
to kill him, or to burn his house, if he did not put the cutting of
wheat at forty sous; whereupon he signs, and all the mayors with
him, "under the penalty of death." As soon as this is done the
peasants, "to the sound of fifes and drums," spread through the
neighboring parishes and force the delivery of wheat at forty sous,
and show such a determined spirit that the four brigades of
gendarmes sent out against them think it best to retire. - Not
content with taking what they want, they provide for reserve
supplies; wheat is a prisoner. In Nivernais and Bourbonnais, the
peasants trace a boundary line over which no sack of grain of that
region must pass; in case of any infraction of this law the rope and
the torch are close at hand for the delinquent. - It remains to
make sure that this rule is enforced. In Berri bands of peasants
visit the markets to see that their tariff is everywhere maintained.
In vain are they told that they are emptying the markets; "they
reply that they know how to make grain come, that they will take it
from private hands, and money besides, if necessary." In fact, the
granaries and cellars belonging to a large number of persons are
pillaged. Farmers are constrained to put their crops into a common
granary, and the rich are put to ransom; "the nobles are compelled
to contribute, and obliged to give entire domains as donations;
cattle are carried off; and they want to take the lives of the
proprietors," while the towns, which defend their storehouses and
markets, are openly attacked.[15] Bourbon-Lancy, Bourbon-
l'Archambault, Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier, Montluçon, Saint-Amand,
Chateau-Gontier, Decises, each petty community is an islet assailed
by the mounting tide of rustic insurrection. The militia pass the
night under arms; detachments of the National Guards of the large
towns with regular troops come and garrison them. The red flag is
continuously raised for eight days at Bourbon-Lancy, and cannon
stand loaded and pointed in the public square. On the 24th of May
an attack is made on Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier, and fusillades take
place all night on both sides. On the 2nd of June, Saint-Amand,
menaced by twenty-seven parishes, is saved only by the preparations
it makes and by the garrison. About the same time Bourbon-Lancy is
attacked by twelve parishes combined, and Chateau-Gontier by the
sabotiers of the forests in the vicinity. A band of from four to
five hundred villagers arrests the convoys of Saint-Amand, and
forces their escorts to capitulate; another band entrenches itself
in the Chateau de la Fin, and fires throughout the day on the
regulars and the National Guard. - The large towns themselves are
not safe. Three or four hundred rustics, led by their municipal
officers, forcibly enter Tours, to compel the municipality to lower
the price of corn and diminish the rate of leases. Two thousand
slate-quarry-men, armed with guns, spits, and forks, force their way
into Angers to obtain a reduction on bread, fire upon the guard, and
are charged by the troops and the National Guard; a number remain
dead in the streets, two are hung that very evening, and the red
flag is displayed for eight days. "The town," say the dispatches,
"would have been pillaged and burnt had it not been for the Picardy
regiment." Fortunately, as the crop promises to be a good one,
prices fall. As the Electoral Assemblies are closed, the
fermentation subsides; and towards the end of the year, like a clear
spell in a steady storm, the gleam of a truce appears in the civil
war excited by hunger.

But the truce does not last long, as it is broken in twenty places
by isolated explosions; and towards the month of July, 1791, the
disturbances arising from the uncertainty of basic food supplies
begin again, to cease no more. We will consider but one group in
this universal state of disorder - that of the eight or ten
departments which surround Paris and furnish it with supplies.
These districts, Brie and Beauce, are rich wheat regions, and not
only was the crop of 1790 good, but that of 1791 is ample.
Information is sent to the minister from Laon[16] that, in the
department of Aisne, "there is a supply of wheat for two years . .
. that the barns, generally empty by the month of April, will not
be so this season before July," and, consequently, "subsistence is
assured." But this does not suffice, for the source of the evil is
not in a scarcity of wheat. In order that everybody, in a vast and
populous country, where the soil, cultivation, and occupations
differ, may eat, it is essential that food should be attainable by
the non-producers; and for it to reach them freely, without delay,
solely by the natural operation of supply and demand, it is
essential that there should be a police able to protect property,
transactions, and transport. Just in proportion as the authority of
a State becomes weakened, and in proportion as security diminishes,
the distribution of subsistence becomes more and more difficult: a
gendarmerie, therefore, is an indispensable wheel in the machine by
which we are able to secure our daily bread. Hence it is that, in
1791, daily bread is wanting to a large number of men. Simply
through the working of the Constitution, all restraints, already
slackened both at the extremities and at the center, are becoming
looser and more loose each day. The municipalities, which are
really sovereign, repress the people more feebly, some because the
latter are the bolder and themselves more timid, and others because
they are more radical and always consider them in the right. The
National Guard is wearied, never comes forward, or refuses to use
its arms. The active citizens are disgusted, and remain at home.
At Étampes,[17] where they are convoked by the commissioners of the
department to take steps to re-establish some kind of order, only
twenty assemble; the others excuse themselves by saying that, if the
populace knew that they opposed its will, "their houses would be
burnt," and they accordingly stay away. "Thus," write the
commissioners, "the common-weal is given up to artisans and laborers
whose views are limited to their own existence." - It is,
accordingly, the lower class which rules, and the information upon
which it bases its decrees consists of rumors which it accepts or
manufactures, to hide by an appearance of right the outrages which
are due to its cupidity or to the brutalities of its hunger. At
Étampes, "they have been made to believe that the grain which had
been sold for supplying the departments below the Loire, is shipped
at Paimbœuf and taken out of the kingdom from there to be sold
abroad." In the suburbs of Rouen they imagine that grain is
purposely " engulfed in the swamps, ponds, and clay-pits." At Laon,
imbecile and Jacobin committees attribute the dearness of provisions
to the avidity of the rich and the malevolence of the aristocrats
according to them, "jealous millionaires grow rich at the expense of
the people. They know the popular strength," and, not daring to
measure their forces with it, "in an honorable fight," have recourse
"to treachery." To conquer the people easily they have determined to
reduce them in advance by extreme suffering and by the length of
their fast, and hence they monopolize "wheat, rye, and meal, soap,
sugar, and brandy."[18] - Similar reports suffice to excite a
suffering crowd to acts of violence, and it must inevitably accept
for its leaders and advisers those who urge it forward on the side
to which it is inclined. The people always require leaders, and
they are chosen wherever they can be found, at one time amongst the
elite, and at another amongst the dregs. Now that the nobles are
driven out, the bourgeoisie in retirement, the large cultivators
under suspicion, while animal necessities exercise their blind and
intermittent despotism, the appropriate popular ministers consist of
adventurers and of bandits. They need not be very numerous, for in
a place full of combustible matter a few firebrands suffice to start
the conflagration. "About twenty, at most, can be counted in the
towns of Étampes and Dourdan, men with nothing to lose and
everything to gain by disturbances; they are those who always
produce excitement and disorder, while other citizens afford them
the means through their indifference." Those whose names are known
among the new guides of the crowd are almost all escaped convicts
whose previous habits have accustomed them to blows, violence,
frequently to murder, and always to contempt for the law. At
Brunoy,[19] the leaders of the outbreak are "two deserters of the
18th regiment, sentenced and unpunished, who, in company with the
vilest and most desperate of the parish, always go about armed and
threatening." At Étampes, "the two principal assassins of the mayor
are a poacher repeatedly condemned for poaching, and an old
carabiniere dismissed from his regiment with a bad record against
him."[20] Around these are artisans "without a known residence,"
wandering workmen, journeymen and apprentices, vagrants and highway
rovers, who flock into the towns on market-days and are always -
ready for mischief when an opportunity occurs. Vagabonds, indeed,
now roam about the country everywhere, all restrictions against them
having ceased.

"For a year past," write several parishes in the neighborhood of
Versailles, "we have seen no gendarmes except those who come with
decrees," and hence the multiplication of "murders and brigandage "
between Étampes and Versailles, on the highways and in the country.
Bands of thirteen, fifteen, twenty and twenty-two beggars rob the
vineyards, enter farm-houses at night, and compel their inmates to
lodge and feed them, returning in the same way every fortnight, all
farms or isolated dwellings being their prey. An ecclesiastic is
killed in his own house in the suburbs of Versailles, on the 26th of
September, 1791, and, on the same day, a bourgeois and his wife are
garroted and robbed. On the 22nd of September, near Saint-Rémi-
Honoré, eight bandits ransack the dwelling of a farmer. On the 25th
of September, at Villers-le-Sec, thirteen others strip another
farmer, and then add with much politeness, "It is lucky for your
masters that they are not here, for we would have roasted them at
yonder fire." Six similar outrages are committed by armed ruffians
in dwelling-places, within a radius of from three to four leagues,
accompanied with the threats of the chauffeurs.[21] "After
enterprises of such force and boldness," write the people of this
region, "there is not a well-to-do man in the country who can rely
upon an hour's security in his house. Already many of our best
cultivators are giving up their business, while others threaten to
do the same in case these disorders continue." - What is worse
still is the fact that in these outrages most of the bandits were
"in the national uniform." The most ignorant, the poorest, and most
fanatical of the National Guard thus enlist for the sake of plunder.
It is so natural for men to believe in their right to that of which
they feel the need, that the possessors of wheat thus become its
monopolists, and the superfluity of the rich the property of the
poor! This is what the peasants say who devastate the forest of
Bruyères-le-Chatel: "We have neither wood, bread, nor work -
necessity knows no law."

The necessaries of life are not to be had cheap under such a system.
There is too much anxiety, and property is too precarious; there are
too many obstacles to commerce ; purchases, sales, shipments,
arrivals and payments are too uncertain. How are goods to be stored
and transported in a country where neither the central government,
the local authorities, the National Guard, nor the regular troops
perform their duties, and where every transaction in produce, even
the most legal and the most serviceable, is subject to the caprice
of a dozen villains whom the populace obey. - Wheat remains in the
barn, or is secreted, or is kept waiting, and only reaches by
stealth the hands of those who are rich enough to pay, not only its
price, but the extra cost of the risk. Thus forced into a narrow
channel, it rises to a rate which the depreciation of the assignats
augments, its dearness being not only maintained, but ever on the
increase. -- Thereupon popular instinct invents for the cure of the
evil a remedy which serves to aggravate it: henceforth, wheat must
not travel; it is impounded in the canton in which it is gathered.
At Laon, "the people have sworn to die rather than let their food be
carried off." At Étampes, to which the municipality of Angers
dispatches an administrator of its hospital to buy two hundred and
fifty sacks of flour, the commission cannot be executed, the
delegate not even daring to avow for several days the object of his
coming; all he can do is "to visit incognito, and at night, the
different flour-dealers in the valley, who would offer to furnish
the supply, but fear for their lives and dare not even leave their
houses." - The same violence is shown in the more distant circle of
departments which surround the first circle. At Aubigny, in
Cher,[22] grain-wagons are stopped, the district administrators are
menaced; two have a price set on their heads; a portion of the
National Guard sides with the mutineers. At Chaumont, in Haute-
Marne, the whole of the National Guard is in a state of mutiny; a
convoy of over three hundred sacks is stopped, the Hôtel-de-Ville
forced, and the insurrection lasts four days; the directory of the
department takes flight; and the people seize on the powder and
cannons. At Douai, in the "Nord," to save a grain-dealer, he is put
in prison; the mob forces the gates, the soldiers refuse to fire,
and the man is hung, while the directory of the department takes
refuge in Lille. At Montreuil-sur-Mer, in Pas-de-Calais, the two
leaders of the insurrection, a brazier and a horse-shoer, "Bèquelin,
called Petit-Gueux," the latter with his saber in hand, reply to the
summons of the municipal authorities, that "not a grain shall go now
that they are masters," and that if they dare to make such
proclamations "they will cut off their heads." There are no means of
resistance. The National Guard, when it is convoked, does not
respond; the volunteers when called upon turn their muskets down,
and the crowd, assembled beneath the windows, shouts out its
huzzahs. So much the worse for the law when it opposes popular
passion: "We will not obey it," they say; "people make laws to
please themselves." - By way of practical illustration, at Tortes,
in Seine-Inférieure, six thousand armed men belonging to the
surrounding parishes form a deliberative armed body; the better to
establish their rights, they bring two cannon with them fastened by
ropes on a couple of carts; twenty-two companies of the National
Guard, each under its own banner, march beside them, while all
peaceable inhabitants are compelled to fall in "under penalty of
death," the municipal officers being at their head. This improvised
parliament promulgates a complete law in relation to grain, which,
as a matter of form, is sent for acceptance to the department, and
to the National Assembly; and one of its articles declares that all
husbandmen shall be forbidden "to sell their wheat elsewhere than on
the market-places." With no other outlet for it, wheat must be
brought to the corn markets (halles), and when these are full the
price must necessarily fall.

What a profound deception! Even in the granary of France wheat
remains dear, and costs about one-third more than would be necessary
to secure the sale of bread at two sous the pound, in conformity
with the will of the people. For instance,[23] at Gonesse, Dourdan,
Corbeil, Mennecy, Brunoy, Limours, Brie-Comte-Robert, and especially
at Étampes and Montlhéry, the holders of grain are compelled almost
weekly, through the clamors and violence of the people, to reduce
prices one-third and more. It is impossible for the authorities to
maintain, on their corn-exchange, the freedom of buying and selling.
The regular troops have been sent off by the people beforehand.
Whatever the tolerance or connivance of the soldiers may be, the
people have a vague sentiment that they are not there to permit the
ripping open of sacks of flour, or the seizing of farmers by the
throat. To get rid of all obstacles and of being watched, they make
use of the municipality itself, and force it to effect its own
disarmament. The municipal officers, besieged in the town-hall, at
times threatened with pistols and bayonets,[24] dispatch to the
detachments they are expecting an order to turn back, and entreat
the Directory not to send any more troops, for, if any come, they
have been told that "they will be sorry for it." Nowhere are there
regular troops. At Étampes, the people repeat that "they are sent
for and paid by the flour-dealers;" at Montlhéry, that "they merely
serve to arm citizens against each other;" at Limours, that "they
make grain dearer." All pretexts seem good in this direction; the
popular will is absolute, and the authorities complacently meet its
decrees half-way. At Montlhéry, the municipal body orders the
gendarmerie to remain at the gates of the town, which gives full
play to the insurrection. - The administrators, however, are not
relieved by leaving the people free to act; they are obliged to
sanction their exactions by ordinances. They are taken out of the
Hôtel-de-Ville, led to the marketplace, and there forthwith, under
the dictation of the uproar which establishes prices, they, like
simple clerks, proclaim the reduction. When, moreover, the armed
rabble of a village marches forth to tyrannize over a neighboring
market, it carries its mayor along with it in spite of himself, as
an official instrument which belongs to it.[25] "There is no
resistance against force," writes the mayor of Vert-le-Petit; "we
had to set forth immediately." - " They assured me," says the
Mayor of Fontenay, "that, if I did not obey them, they would hang
me." - On any municipal officer hazarding a remonstrance, they
tell him that "he is getting to be an aristocrat." Aristocrat and
hung, the argument is irresistible, and all the more so because it
is actually applied. At Corbeil, the procureur-syndic who tries to
enforce the law is almost beaten to death, and three houses in which
they try to find him are demolished. At Montlhéry, a seed merchant,
accused of mixing the flour of beans (twice as dear) with wheaten
flour, is massacred in his own house. At Étampes, the mayor who
promulgates the law is cudgeled to death. Mobs talk of nothing but
"burning and destroying," while the farmers, abused, hooted at,
forced to sell, threatened with death and robbed, run away,
declaring they will never return to the market again.

Such is the first effect of popular dictatorship. Like all
unintelligent forces, it operates in a direction the reverse of its
intention: to dearness it adds dearth, and empties, instead of
replenishing, the markets. That of Étampes often contained fifteen
or sixteen hundred sacks of flour; the week following this
insurrection there were, at most, sixty brought to it. At
Montlhéry, where six thousand men had collected together, each one
obtains for his share only a small measure, while the bakers of the
town have none at all. This being the case, the enraged National
Guards tell the farmers that they are coming to see them on their
farms. And they really go.[26] Drums roll constantly on the roads
around Montlhéry, Limours, and other large market-towns. Columns of
two, three, and four hundred men are seen passing under the lead of
their commandant and of the mayor whom they take along with them.
They enter each farm, mount into the granaries, estimate the
quantity of grain thrashed out, and force the proprietor to sign an
agreement to bring it to market the following week. Sometimes, as
they are hungry, they compel people to give them something to eat
and drink on the spot, and it will not do to enrage them, - a
farmer and his wife come near being hung in their own barn.

Their effort is useless: Wheat is impounded and hunted up in vain;
it takes to the earth or slips off like a frightened animal. In
vain do insurrections continue. In vain do armed mobs, in all the
market-towns of the department,[27] subject grain to a forced
reduction of price. Wheat becomes scarcer and dearer from month to
month, rising in price from twenty-six francs to thirty-three. And
because the outraged farmer "brings now a very little," just "what
is necessary to sacrifice in order to avoid threats, he sells at
home, or in the inns, to the flour-dealers from Paris." - The
people, in running after abundance, have thus fallen deeper down
into want: their brutality has aggravated their misery, and it is to
themselves that their starvation is owing. But they are far from
attributing all this to their own insubordination; the magistrates
are accused; these, in the eyes of the populace, are "in league with
the monopolists." On this incline no stoppage is possible. Distress
increases rage, and rage increases distress; and on this fatal
declivity men are precipitated from one outrage to another.

After the month of February, 1792, such outrages are innumerable;
the mobs which go in quest of grain or which cut down its price
consist of armies. One of six thousand men comes to control the
market of Montlhéry.[28] There are seven to eight -thousand men who
invade the market-place of Verneuil, and there is an army of ten and
another of twenty-five thousand men, who remain organized for ten
days near Laon. One hundred and fifty parishes have sounded the
tocsin, and the insurrection spreads for ten leagues around. Five
boats loaded with grain are stopped, and, in spite of the orders of
district, department, minister, King, and National Assembly, they
refuse to surrender them. Their contents, in the meantime, are made
the most of: "The municipal officers of the different parishes,
assembled together, pay themselves their fees, to wit : one hundred
sous per diem for the mayor, three livres for the municipal
officers, two livres ten sous for the guards, two livres for the
porters. They have ordered that these sums should be paid in grain,
and they reduce grain, it is said, fifteen livres the sack. It is
certain that they have divided it amongst themselves, and that
fourteen hundred sacks have been distributed." In vain do the
commissioners of the National Assembly make speeches to them three
hours in length. The discourse being finished, they deliberate, in
presence of the commissioners, whether the latter shall be hung,
drowned, or cut up, and their heads put on the five points of the
middle of the abbey railing. On being threatened with military
force, they make their dispositions accordingly. Nine hundred men
who relieve each other watch day and night on the ground, in a well
chosen and permanent encampment, while lookouts stationed in the
belfries of the surrounding villages have only to sound the alarm to
bring together twenty-five thousand men in a few hours. - So long
as the Government remains on its feet it carries on the combat as
well as it can; but it grows weaker from month to month, and, after
the 10th of August, when it lies on the ground, the mob takes its
place and becomes the universal sovereign. From this time forth not
only is the law which protects provisioning powerless against the
disturbers of sale and circulation, but the Assembly actually
sanctions their acts, since it decrees[29] the stoppage of all
proceedings commenced against them, remits sentences already passed,
and sets free all who are imprisoned or in irons. Behold every
administration, with merchants, proprietors, and farmers abandoned
to the famished, the furious, and to robbers; henceforth food
supplies are for those who are disposed and able to take them.

"You will be told," says a petition,[30] "that we violate the law.
We reply to these perfidious insinuations that the salvation of the
people is the supreme law. We come in order to keep the markets
supplied, and to insure an uniform price for wheat throughout the
Republic. For, there is no doubt about it, the purest patriotism
dies out (sic) when there is no bread to be had. . . .
Resistance to oppression - yes, resistance to oppression is the
most sacred of duties; is there any oppression more terrible than
that of wanting bread? Undoubtedly, no . . . . Join us and 'Ça
ira, ça ira!' We cannot end our petition better than with this
patriotic air."

This supplication was written on a drum, amidst a circle of
firearms; and with such accompaniments it is equivalent to a
command. - They are well aware of it, and of their own authority
they often confer upon themselves not only the right but also the
title. In Loire-et-Cher,[31] a band of from four to five thousand
men assume the name of "Sovereign Power." They go from one market-
town to another, to Saint-Calais, Montdoubleau, Blois, Vendôme,
reducing the cost of provisions, their troop increasing like a
snowball - for they threaten "to burn the effects and set fire to
the houses of all who are not as courageous as themselves."

In this state of social disintegration, insurrection is a gangrene
in which the healthy are infected by the morbid parts. Mobs are
everywhere produced and re-produced, incessantly, large and small,
like abscesses which break out side by side, and painfully irritate
each other and finally combine. There are the towns against the
rural districts and rural districts against the towns. On the one
hand "every farmer who transports anything to the market passes (at
home) for an aristocrat,[32] and becomes the horror of his fellow-
citizens in the village." On the other hand the National Guards of
the towns spread themselves through the rural districts and make
raids to save themselves from death by hunger.[33] It is admitted
in the rural districts that each municipality has the right to
isolate itself from the rest. It is admitted in the towns that each
town has the right to derive its provisions from the country. It is
admitted by the indigent of each commune that the commune must
provide bread gratis or at a cheap rate. On the strength of this
there is a shower of stones and a fusillade; department against
department, district against district, canton against canton, all
fight for food, and the strongest get it and keep it for themselves.
- I have simply described the North, where, for the past three
years, the crops are good. I have omitted the South, where trade is
interrupted on the canal of the Deux Mers, where the procureur-
syndic of Aude has lately been massacred for trying to secure the
passage of a convoy; where the harvest has been poor; where, in many
places, bread costs eight sous the pound; where, in almost every
department, a bushel of wheat is sold twice as dear as in the North!

Strange phenomenon! and the most instructive of all, for in it we
see down into the depths of humanity; for, as on a raft of
shipwrecked beings without food, there is a reversion to a state of
nature. The light tissue of habit and of rational ideas in which
civilization has enveloped man, is torn asunder and is floating in
rags around him; the bare arms of the savage show themselves, and
they are striking out. The only guide he has for his conduct is
that of primitive days, the startled instinct of a craving stomach.
Henceforth that which rules in him and through him is animal
necessity with its train of violent and narrow suggestions,
sometimes sanguinary and sometimes grotesque. Incompetent or
savage, in all respects like a Negro monarch, his sole political
expedients are either the methods of a slaughter house or the dreams
of a carnival. Two commissioners whom Roland, Minister of the
Interior, sends to Lyons, are able to see within a few days the
carnival and the slaughter-house.[34] - On the one hand the
peasants, all along the road, arrest everybody; the people regard
every traveler as an aristocrat who is running away - which is so
much the worse for those who fall into their hands. Near Autun,
four priests who, to obey the law, are betaking themselves to the
frontier, are put in prison "for their own protection;" they are
taken out a quarter of an hour later, and, in spite of thirty-two of
the mounted police, are massacred. "Their carriage was still
burning as I passed, and the corpses were stretched out not far off.
Their driver was still in durance, and it was it vain that I
solicited his release." - On the other hand, at Lyons, the power
has fallen into the hands of the degraded women of the streets.
"They seized the central club, constituted themselves commissaries

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