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

This Etext prepared by Svend Rom The French Revolution, Volume 1. ^M The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 2^M ^M by Hippolyte A. Taine^M CONTENTS: ANARCHY PREFACE BOOK FIRST. Spontaneous Anarchy. CHAPTER I. The Beginnings of Anarchy CHAPTER II. Paris up to the 14th of July CHAPTER III. Anarchy from July 14th to October 6th,
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This Etext prepared by Svend Rom

The French Revolution, Volume 1.

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




BOOK FIRST. Spontaneous Anarchy.

CHAPTER I. The Beginnings of Anarchy

CHAPTER II. Paris up to the 14th of July

CHAPTER III. Anarchy from July 14th to October 6th, 1789


BOOK SECOND. The constituent Assembly, and the Result of its Labors

CHAPTER I. The Constituent Assembly

CHAPTER II. The Damage

CHAPTER III. The Constructions – The Constitution of 1791.

BOOK THIRD. The Application of the Constitution

CHAPTER I. The Federations

CHAPTER II. Sovereignty of Unrestrained Passions

CHAPTER III. Development of the ruling Passion


This second part of “Les Origines de la France Contemporaine” will consist of two volumes. – Popular insurrections and the laws of the Constituent Assembly end in destroying all government in France; this forms the subject of the present volume. – A party arises around an extreme doctrine, grabs control of the government, and rules in conformity with its doctrine. This will form the subject of the second volume.

A third volume would be required to criticize and evaluate the source material. I lack the necessary space: I merely state the rule that I have observed. The trustworthiest testimony will always be that of an eyewitness, especially

* When this witness is an honorable, attentive, and intelligent man,

* When he is writing on the spot, at the moment, and under the dictate of the facts themselves,

* When it is obvious that his sole object is to preserve or furnish information,

* When his work instead of a piece of polemics planned for the needs of a cause, or a passage of eloquence arranged for popular effect is a legal deposition, a secret report, a confidential dispatch, a private letter, or a personal memento.

The nearer a document approaches this type, the more it merits confidence, and supplies superior material. – I have found many of this kind in the national archives, principally in the manuscript correspondence of ministers, intendants, sub-delegates, magistrates, and other functionaries; of military commanders, officers in the army, and gendarmerie; of royal commissioners, and of the Assembly; of administrators of departments, districts, and municipalities, besides persons in private life who address the King, the National Assembly, or the ministry. Among these are men of every rank, profession, education, and party. They are distributed by hundreds and thousands over the whole surface of the territory. They write apart, without being able to consult each other, and without even knowing each other. No one is so well placed for collecting and transmitting accurate information. None of them seek literary effect, or even imagine that what they write will ever be published. They draw up their statements at once, under the direct impression of local events. Testimony of this character, of the highest order, and at first hand, provides the means by which all other testimony ought to be verified. – The footnotes at the bottom of the pages indicate the condition, office, name, and address of those decisive witnesses. For greater certainty I have transcribed as often as possible their own words. In this way the reader, confronting the texts, can interpret them for himself, and form his own opinions; he will have the same documents as myself for arriving at his conclusions, and, if he is pleased to do so, he may conclude otherwise. As for allusions, if he finds any, he himself will have introduced them, and if he applies them he is alone responsible for them. To my mind, the past has features of its own, and the portrait here presented resembles only the France of the past. I have drawn it without concerning myself with the discussions of the day; I have written as if my subject were the revolutions of Florence or Athens. This is history, and nothing more, and, if I may fully express myself, I esteem my vocation of historian too highly to make a cloak of it for the concealment of another. (December 1877).





Dearth the first cause. – Bad crops. The winter of 1788 and 1789. – High price and poor quality of bread. – In the provinces. – At Paris.

During the night of July 14-15, 1789, the Duc de la Rochefoucauld- Liancourt caused Louis XVI to be aroused to inform him of the taking of the Bastille. “It is a revolt, then?” exclaimed the King. “Sire!” replied the Duke; “it is a revolution!” The event was even more serious. Not only had power slipped from the hands of the King, but also it had not fallen into those of the Assembly. It now lay on the ground, ready to the hands of the unchained populace, the violent and over-excited crowd, the mobs, which picked it up like some weapon that had been thrown away in the street. In fact, there was no longer any government; the artificial structure of human society was giving way entirely; things were returning to a state of nature. This was not a revolution, but a dissolution.

Two causes excite and maintain the universal upheaval. The first one is food shortages and dearth, which being constant, lasting for ten years, and aggravated by the very disturbances which it excites, bids fair to inflame the popular passions to madness, and change the whole course of the Revolution into a series of spasmodic stumbles.

When a stream is brimful, a slight rise suffices to cause an overflow. So was it with the extreme distress of the eighteenth century. A poor man, who finds it difficult to live when bread is cheap, sees death staring him in the face when it is dear. In this state of suffering the animal instinct revolts, and the universal obedience which constitutes public peace depends on a degree more or less of dryness or damp, heat or cold. In 1788, a year of severe drought, the crops had been poor. In addition to this, on the eve of the harvest,[1] a terrible hail-storm burst over the region around Paris, from Normandy to Champagne, devastating sixty leagues of the most fertile territory, and causing damage to the amount of one hundred millions of francs. Winter came on, the severest that had been seen since 1709. At the close of December the Seine was frozen over from Paris to Havre, while the thermometer stood at 180 below zero. A third of the olive-trees died in Provence, and the rest suffered to such an extent that they were considered incapable of bearing fruit for two years to come. The same disaster befell Languedoc. In Vivarais, and in the Cevennes, whole forests of chestnuts had perished, along with all the grain and grass crops on the uplands. On the plain the Rhone remained in a state of overflow for two months. After the spring of 1789 the famine spread everywhere, and it increased from month to month like a rising flood. In vain did the Government order the farmers, proprietors, and corn-dealers to keep the markets supplied. In vain did it double the bounty on imports, resort to all sorts of expedients, involve itself in debt, and expend over forty millions of francs to furnish France with wheat. In vain do individuals, princes, noblemen, bishops, chapters, and communities multiply their charities. The Archbishop of Paris incurring a debt of 400,000 livres, one rich man distributing 40,000 francs the morning after the hailstorm, and a convent of Bernardines feeding twelve hundred poor persons for six weeks[2]. But it had been too devastating. Neither public measures nor private charity could meet the overwhelming need. In Normandy, where the last commercial treaty had ruined the manufacture of linen and of lace trimmings, forty thousand workmen were out of work. In many parishes one-fourth of the population[3] are beggars. Here, “nearly all the inhabitants, not excepting the farmers and landowners, are eating barley bread and drinking water;” there, “many poor creatures have to eat oat bread, and others soaked bran, which has caused the death of several children.” — “Above all,” writes the Rouen Parliament, “let help be sent to a perishing people . . .. Sire, most of your subjects are unable to pay the price of bread, and what bread is given to those who do buy it ” — Arthur Young,[4] who was traveling through France at this time, heard of nothing but the high cost of bread and the distress of the people. At Troyes bread costs four sous a pound — that is to say, eight sous of the present day; and unemployed artisans flock to the relief works, where they can earn only twelve sous a day. In Lorraine, according to the testimony of all observers, “the people are half dead with hunger.” In Paris the number of paupers has been trebled; there are thirty thousand in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine alone. Around Paris there is a short supply of grain, or it is spoilt[5]. In the beginning of July, at Montereau, the market is empty. “The bakers could not have baked” if the police officers had not increased the price of bread to five sous per pound; the rye and barley which the intendant is able to send “are of the worst possible quality, rotten and in a condition to produce dangerous diseases. Nevertheless, most of the small consumers are reduced to the hard necessity of using this spoilt grain.” At Villeneuve- le-Roi, writes the mayor, “the rye of the two lots last sent is so black and poor that it cannot be retailed without wheat.” At Sens the barley “tastes musty” to such an extent that buyers of it throw the detestable bread, which it makes in the face of the sub-delegate. At Chevreuse the barley has sprouted and smells bad; the ” poor wretches,” says an employee, “must be hard pressed with hunger to put up with it.” At Fontainebleau “the barley, half eaten away, produces more bran than flour, and to make bread of it, one is obliged to work it over several times.” This bread, such as it is, is an object of savage greed; “it has come to this, that it is impossible to distribute it except through wickets.” And those who thus obtain their ration, “are often attacked on the road and robbed of it by the more vigorous of the famished people.” At Nangis “the magistrates prohibit the same person from buying more than two bushels in the same market.” In short, provisions are so scarce that there is a difficulty in feeding the soldiers; the minister dispatches two letters one after another to order the cutting down of 250,000 bushels of rye before the harvest[6]. Paris thus, in a perfect state of tranquility, appears like a famished city put on rations at the end of a long siege, and the dearth will not be greater nor the food worse in December 1870, than in July 1789.

“The nearer the 14th of July approached,” says an eyewitness,[7] “the more did the dearth increase.” Every baker’s shop was surrounded by a crowd, to which bread was distributed with the most grudging economy. This bread was generally blackish, earthy, and bitter, producing inflammation of the throat and pain in the bowels. I have seen flour of detestable quality at the military school and at other depots. I have seen portions of it yellow in color, with an offensive smell; some forming blocks so hard that they had to be broken into fragments by repeated blows of a hatchet. For my own part, wearied with the difficulty of procuring this poor bread, and disgusted with that offered to me at the tables d’hôte, I avoided this kind of food altogether. In the evening I went to the Café du Caveau, where, fortunately, they were kind enough to reserve for me two of those rolls which are called flutes, and this is the only bread I have eaten for a week at a time.”

But this resource is only for the rich. As for the people, to get bread fit for dogs, they must stand in a line for hours. And here they fight for it; “they snatch food from one another.” There is no more work to be had; “the work-rooms are deserted;” often, after waiting a whole day, the workman returns home empty-handed. When he does bring back a four-pound loaf it costs him 3 francs 12 sous; that is, 12 sous for the bread, and 3 francs for the lost day. In this long line of unemployed, excited men, swaying to and fro before the shop-door, dark thoughts are fermenting: “if the bakers find no flour to-night to bake with, we shall have nothing to eat to- morrow.” An appalling idea; — in presence of which the whole power of the Government is not too strong; for to keep order in the midst of famine nothing avails but the sight of an armed force, palpable and threatening. Under Louis XIV and Louis XV there had been even greater hunger and misery; but the outbreaks, which were roughly and promptly put down, were only partial and passing disorders. Some rioters were at once hung, and others were sent to the galleys. The peasant or the workman, convinced of his impotence, at once returned to his stall or his plow. When a wall is too high one does not even think of scaling it. — But now the wall is cracking — all its custodians, the clergy, the nobles, the Third-Estate, men of letters, the politicians, and even the Government itself, making the breach wider. The wretched, for the first time, discover an issue: they dash through it, at first in driblets, then in a mass, and rebellion becomes as universal as resignation was in the past.


Expectations the second cause. – Separation and laxity of the administrative forces. – Investigations of local assemblies. – The people become aware of their condition. – Convocation of the States-General. – Hope is born. The coincidence of early Assemblies with early difficulties.

It is just through this breach that hope steals like a beam of light, and gradually finds its way down to the depths below. For the last fifty years it has been rising, and its rays, which first illuminated the upper class in their splendid apartments in the first story, and next the middle class in their entresol and on the ground floor. They have now for two years penetrated to the cellars where the people toil, and even to the deep sinks and obscure corners where rogues and vagabonds and malefactors, a foul and swarming herd, crowd and hide themselves from the persecution of the law. — To the first two provincial assemblies instituted by Necker in 1778 and 1779, Loménie de Brienne has in 1787 just added nineteen others; under each of these are assemblies of the arrondissement, under each assembly of the arrondissement are parish assemblies[8]. Thus the whole machinery of administration has been changed. It is the new assemblies which assess the taxes and superintend their collection; which determine upon and direct all public works; and which form the court of final appeal in regard to matters in dispute. The intendant, the sub-delegate, the elected representative[9], thus lose three-quarters of their authority. Conflicts arise, consequently, between rival powers whose frontiers are not clearly defined; command shifts about, and obedience is diminished. The subject no longer feels on his shoulders the commanding weight of the one hand which, without possibility of interference or resistance, held him in, urged him forward, and made him move on. Meanwhile, in each assembly of the parish arrondissement, and even of the province, plebeians, “husband- men,”[10] and often common farmers, sit by the side of lords and prelates. They listen to and remember the vast figure of the taxes which are paid exclusively, or almost exclusively, by them — the taille and its accessories, the poll-tax and road dues, and assuredly on their return home they talk all this over with their neighbor. These figures are all printed; the village attorney discusses the matter with his clients, the artisans and rustics, on Sunday as they leave the mass, or in the evening in the large public room of the tavern. These little gatherings, moreover, are sanctioned, encouraged by the powers above. In the earliest days of 1788 the provincial assemblies order a board of inquiry to be held by the syndics and inhabitants of each parish. Knowledge is wanted in detail of their grievances. What part of the revenue is chargeable to each impost? What must the cultivator pay and how much does he suffer? How many privileged persons there are in the parish, what is the amount of their fortune, are they residents, and what their exemptions amount to? In replying, the attorney who holds the pen, names and points out with his finger each privileged individual, criticizes his way of living, and estimates his fortune, calculates the injury done to the village by his immunities, inveighs against the taxes and the tax-collectors. On leaving these assemblies the villager broods over what he has just heard. He sees his grievances no longer singly as before, but in mass, and coupled with the enormity of evils under which his fellows suffer. Besides this, they begin to disentangle the causes of their misery: the King is good — why then do his collectors take so much of our money? This or that canon or nobleman is not unkind — why then do they make us pay in their place? — Imagine that a sudden gleam of reason should allow a beast of burden to comprehend the contrast between the species of horse and mankind. Imagine, if you can, what its first ideas would be in relation to the coachmen and drivers who bridle and whip it and again in relation to the good-natured travelers and sensitive ladies who pity it, but who to the weight of the vehicle add their own and that of their luggage.

Likewise, in the mind of the peasant, athwart his perplexed brooding, a new idea, slowly, little by little, is unfolded: — that of an oppressed multitude of which he makes one, a vast herd scattered far beyond the visible horizon, everywhere ill used, starved, and fleeced. Towards the end of 1788 we begin to detect in the correspondence of the intendants and military commandants the dull universal muttering of coming wrath. Men’s characters seem to change; they become suspicious and restive. — And just at this moment, the Government, dropping the reins, calls upon them to direct themselves.[11]. In the month of November 1787, the King declared that he would convoke the States-General. On the 5th of July 1788, he calls for memoranda (des mémoires) on this subject from every competent person and body. On the 8th of August he fixes the date of the session. On the 5th of October he convokes the notables, in order to consider the subject with them. On the 27th of December he grants a double representation to the Third-Estate, because “its cause is allied with generous sentiments, and it will always obtain the support of public opinion.” The same day he introduces into the electoral assemblies of the clergy a majority of curés[12], “because good and useful pastors are daily and closely associated with the indigence and relief of the people,” from which it follows “that they are much more familiar with their sufferings” and necessities. On the 24th January 1789, he prescribes the procedure and method of the meetings. After the 7th of February writs of summons are sent out one after the other. Eight days after, each parish assembly begins to draw up its memorial of grievances, and becomes excited over the detailed enumeration of all the miseries which it sets down in writing. — All these appeals and all these acts are so many strokes, which reverberate, in the popular imagination. “It is the desire of His Majesty,” says the order issued, “that every one, from the extremities of his kingdom, and from the most obscure of its hamlets, should be certain of his wishes and protests reaching him.” Thus, it is all quite true: there can be no mistake about it, the thing is sure. The people are invited to speak out, they are summoned, and they are consulted. There is a disposition to relieve them; henceforth their misery shall be less; better times are coming. This is all they know about it. A few month after, in July,[13] the only answer a peasant girl can make to Arthur Young is, “something was to be done by some great folks for such poor ones, but she did not know who nor how.” The thing is too complicated, beyond the reach of a stupefied and mechanical brain. – One idea alone emerges, the hope of immediate relief. The persuasion that one is entitled to it, the resolution to aid it with every possible means. Consequently, an anxious waiting, a ready fervor, a tension of the will simply due to the waiting for the opportunity to let go and take off like a irresistible arrow towards the unknown end which will reveal itself all of a sudden. Hunger is to mark this sudden target out for them.

The market must be supplied with wheat; the farmers and land-owners must bring it; wholesale buyers, whether the Government or individuals, must not be allowed to send it elsewhere. The wheat must be sold at a low price; the price must be cut down and fixed, so that the baker can sell bread at two sous the pound. Grain, flour, wine, salt, and provisions must pay no more duties. Seignorial dues and claims, ecclesiastical tithes, and royal or municipal taxes must no longer exist. On the strength of this idea disturbances broke out on all sides in March, April, and May. Contemporaries ” do not know what to think of such a scourge;[14] they cannot comprehend how such a vast number of criminals, without visible leaders, agree amongst themselves everywhere to commit the same excesses just at the time when the States-General are going to begin their sittings.” The reason is that, under the ancient régime, the conflagration was smoldering in a closed chamber; the great door is suddenly opened, the air enters, and immediately the flame breaks out.

The provinces during the first six months of 1789. – Effects of the famine.

At first there are only intermittent, isolated fires, which are extinguished or go out of themselves; but, a moment after, in the same place, or very near it, the sparks again appear. Their number, like their recurrence, shows the vastness, depth, and heat of the combustible matter, which is about to explode. In the four months, which precede the taking of the Bastille, over three hundred outbreaks may be counted in France. They take place from month to month and from week to week, in Poitou, Brittany, Touraine, Orléanais, Normandy, Ile-de-France, Picardy, Champagne, Alsace, Burgundy, Nivernais, Auvergne, Languedoc, and Provence. On the 28th of May the parliament of Rouen announces robberies of grain, “violent and bloody tumults, in which men on both sides have fallen,” throughout the province, at Caen, Saint-Lô, Mortain, Granville, Evreux, Bernay, Pont-Andemer, Elboeuf; Louviers, and in other sections besides. On the 20th of April Baron de Bezenval, military commander in the Central Provinces, writes: “I once more lay before M. Necker a picture of the frightful condition of Touraine and of Orléanais. Every letter I receive from these two provinces is the narrative of three or four riots, which are put down with difficulty by the troops and constabulary,”[15] — and throughout the whole extent of the kingdom a similar state of things is seen. The women, as is natural, are generally at the head of these outbreaks. It is they who, at Montlhéry, rip open the sacks of grain with their scissors. On learning each week, on market day that the price of a loaf of bread advances three, four, or seven sous, they break out into shrieks of rage: at this rate for bread, with the small salaries of the men, and when work fails,[16] how can a family be fed? Crowds gather around the sacks of flour and the doors of the bakers. Amidst outcries and reproaches some one in the crowd makes a push; the proprietor or dealer is hustled and knocked down. The shop is invaded, the commodity is in the hands of the buyers and of the famished, each one grabbing for himself, pay or no pay, and running away with the booty. — Sometimes a party is made up beforehand[17] At Bray-sur-Seine, on the 1st of May, the villagers for four leagues around, armed with stones, knives, and cudgels, to the number of four thousand, compel the metayers and farmers, who have brought grain with them, to sell it at 3 livres, instead of 4 livres 10 sous the bushel. They threaten to do the same thing on the following market-day: but the farmers do not return, the storehouse remains empty. Now soldiers must be at hand, or the inhabitants of Bray will be pillaged. At Bagnols, in Languedoc, on the 1st and 2nd of April, the peasants, armed with cudgels and assembled by tap of drum, “traverse the town, threatening to burn and destroy everything if flour and money are not given to them.” They go to private houses for grain, divide it amongst themselves at a reduced price, “promising to pay when the next crop comes round,” and force the Consuls to put bread at two sous the pound, and to increase the day’s wages four sous. — Indeed this is now the regular thing; it is not the people who obey the authorities, but the authorities who obey the people. Consuls, sheriffs, mayors, municipal officers, town-clerks, become confused and hesitating in the face of this huge clamor; they feel that they are likely to be trodden under foot or thrown out of the windows. Others, with more firmness, being aware that a riotous crowd is mad, and having scruples to spill blood; yield for the time being, hoping that at the next market-day there will be more soldiers and better precautions taken. At Amiens, “after a very violent outbreak,”[18] they decide to take the wheat belonging to the Jacobin monks, and, protected by the troops, to sell it to the people at a third below its value. At Nantes, where the town hall is attacked, they are forced to lower the price of bread one sou per pound. At Angoulême, to avoid a recourse to arms, they request the Comte d’Artois to renounce his dues on flour for two months, reduce the price of bread, and compensate the bakers. At Cette they are so maltreated they let everything take its course; the people sack their dwellings and get the upper hand; they announce by sound of trumpet that all their demands are granted. On other occasions, the mob dispenses with their services and acts for itself. If there happens to be no grain on the market-place, the people go after it wherever they can find it — to proprietors and farmers who are unable to bring it for fear of pillage; to convents, which by royal edict are obliged always to have one year’s crop in store; to granaries where the Government keeps its supplies; and to convoys which are dispatched by the intendants to the relief of famished towns. Each for himself — so much the worse for his neighbor. The inhabitants of Fougères beat and drive out those who come from Ernée to buy in their market; a similar violence is shown at Vitré to the in-habitants of Maine.[19] At Sainte-Léonard the people stop the grain started for Limoges; at Bost that intended for Aurillac; at Saint-Didier that ordered for Moulins; and at Tournus that dispatched to Macon. In vain are escorts added to the convoys; troops of men and women, armed with hatchets and guns, put themselves in ambush in the woods along the road, and seize the horses by their bridles; the saber has to be used to secure any advance. In vain are arguments and kind words offered, “and in vain even is wheat offered for money; they refuse, shouting out that the convoy shall not go on.” They have taken a stubborn stand, their resolution being that of a bull planted in the middle of the road and lowering his horns. Since the wheat is in the district, it is theirs; whoever carries it off or withholds it is a robber. This fixed idea cannot be driven out of their minds. At Chant-nay, near Mans,[20] they prevent a miller from carrying that which he had just bought to his mill. At Montdragon, in Languedoc, they stone a dealer in the act of sending his last wagon load elsewhere. At Thiers, workmen go in force to gather wheat in the fields; a proprietor with whom some is found is nearly killed; they drink wine in the cellars, and leave the taps running. At Nevers, the bakers not having put bread on their counters for four days, the mob force the granaries of private persons, of dealers and religious communities. “The frightened corn-dealers part with their grain at any price; most of it is stolen in the face of the guards,” and, in the tumult of these searches of homes, a number of houses are sacked. — In these days woe to all who are concerned in the acquisition, commerce, and manipulation of grain! Popular imagination requires living beings to who it may impute its misfortunes, and on whom it may gratify its resentments. To it, all such persons are monopolists, and, at any rate, public enemies. Near Angers the Benedictine establishment is invaded, and its fields and woods are devastated.[21] At Amiens “the people are arranging to pillage and perhaps burn the houses of two merchants, who have built labor-saving mills.” Restrained by the soldiers, they confine themselves to breaking windows; but other “groups come to destroy or plunder the houses of two or three persons whom they suspect of being monopolists.” At Nantes, a sieur Geslin, being deputized by the people to inspect a house, and finding no wheat, a shout is set up that he is a receiver, an accomplice! The crowd rush at him, and he is wounded and almost cut in pieces. — It is very evident that there is no more security in France; property, even life, is in danger. The primary possession, food, is violated in hundreds of places, and is everywhere menaced and precarious. The local officials everywhere call for aid, declare the constabulary incompetent, and demand regular troops. And mark how public authority, everywhere inadequate, disorganized, and tottering, finds stirred up against it not only the blind madness of hunger, but, in addition, the evil instincts which profit by every disorder and the inveterate lusts which every political commotion frees from restraint.


Intervention of ruffians and vagabonds.

We have seen how numerous the smugglers, dealers in contraband salt, poachers, vagabonds, beggars, and escaped convicts[22] have become, and how a year of famine increases the number. All are so many recruits for the mobs, and whether in a disturbance or by means of a disturbance each one of them fills his pouch. Around Caux,[23] even up to the environs of Rouen, at Roncherolles, Quévrevilly, Préaux, Saint-Jacques, and in the entire surrounding neighborhood bands of armed bandits force their way into the houses, particularly the parsonages, and lay their hands on whatever they please. To the south of Chartres “three or four hundred woodcutters, from the forests of Bellème, chop away everything that opposes them, and force grain to be given up to them at their own price.” In the vicinity of Étampes, fifteen bandits enter the farmhouses at night and put the farmer to ransom, threatening him with a conflagration. In Cambrésis they pillage the abbeys of Vauchelles, of Verger, and of Guillemans, the château of the Marquis de Besselard, the estate of M. Doisy, two farms, the wagons of wheat passing along the road to Saint-Quentin, and, besides this, seven farms in Picardy. “The seat of this revolt is in some villages bordering on Picardy and Cambrésis, familiar with smuggling operations and to the license of that pursuit.” The peasants allow themselves to be enticed away by the bandits. Man slips rapidly down the incline of dishonesty; one who is half-honest, and takes part in a riot inadvertently or in spite of himself; repeats the act, allured on by impunity or by gain. In fact, “it is not dire necessity which impels them;” they make a speculation of cupidity, a new sort of illicit trade. An old soldier, saber in hand, a forest-keeper, and “about eight persons sufficiently lax, put themselves at the head of four or five hundred men, go off each day to three or four villages. Here they force everybody who has any wheat to give it to them at 24 livres,” and even at 18 livres, the sack. Those among the band, who say that they have no money, carry away their portion without payment. Others, after having paid what they please, re-sell at a profit, which amounts to even 45 livres the sack. This is a good business, and one in which greed takes poverty for its accomplice. At the next harvest the temptation will be similar: “they have threatened to come and do our harvesting for us, and also to take our cattle and sell the meat in the villages at the rate of two sous the pound.” — In every important insurrection there are similar evil- does and vagabonds, enemies to the law, savage, prowling desperadoes, who, like wolves, roam about wherever they scent a prey. It is they who serve as the directors and executioners of public or private malice. Near Uzès twenty-five masked men, with guns and clubs, enter the house of a notary, fire a pistol at him, beat him, wreck the premises, and burn his registers along with the title-deeds and papers which be has in keeping for the Count de Rouvres. Seven of them are arrested, but the people are on their side, and fall on the constabulary and free them.[24] — They are known by their acts, by their love of destruction for the sake of destruction, by their foreign accent, by their savage faces and their rags. Some of them come from Paris to Rouen, and, for four days, the town is at their mercy.[25] The stores are forced open, train wagons are discharged, wheat is wasted, and convents and seminaries are put to ransom. They invade the dwelling of the attorney-general, who has begun proceedings against them, and want to tear him to pieces. They break his mirrors and his furniture, leave the premises laden with booty, and go into the town and its outskirts to pillage the manufactories and break up or burn all the machinery. — Henceforth these constitute the new leaders: for in every mob it is the boldest and least scrupulous who march ahead and set the example in destruction. The example is contagious: the beginning was the craving for bread, the end is murder and arson; the savagery which is unchained adding its unlimited violence to the limited revolt of necessity.


Effect on the Population of the New Ideas.

Bad as it is, this savagery might, perhaps, have been overcome, in spite of the dearth and of the brigands; but what renders it irresistible is the belief of its being authorized, and that by those whose duty it is to repress it. Here and there words and actions of a brutal frankness break forth, and reveal beyond the somber present a more threatening future — After the 9th of January, 1789, among the mob which attacks the Hôtel-de-Ville and besieges the bakers’ shops of Nantes, “shouts of Vive la Liberté![26] .mingled with those of Vive le Roi! are heard.” A few months later, around Ploërmel, the peasants refuse to pay tithes, alleging that the memorial of their seneschal’s court demands their abolition. In Alsace, after March, there is the same refusal “in many places;” many of the communities even maintain that they will pay no more taxes until their deputies to the States-General shall have fixed the precise amount of the public contributions. In Isère it is decided, by proceedings, printed and published, that “personal dues” shall no longer be paid, while the landowners who are affected by this dare not prosecute in the tribunals. At Lyons, the people have come to the conclusion “that all levies of taxes are to cease,” and, on the 29th of June, on hearing of the meeting of the three orders, “astonished by the illuminations and signs of public rejoicing,” they believe that the good time has come.” They think of forcing the delivery of meat to them at four sous the pound, and wine at the same rate. The publicans insinuate to them the prospective abolition of octrois.[27] and that, meanwhile, the King, in favor of the re-assembling of the three orders, has granted three days’ freedom from all duties at Paris, and that Lyons ought to enjoy the same privilege.” Upon this the crowd, rushing off to the barriers, to the gates of Sainte-Claire and Perrache, and to the Guillotière bridge, burn or demolish the bureaux, destroy the registers, sack the lodgings of the clerks, carry off the money and pillage the wine on hand in the depot. In the mean time a rumor has circulated all round through the country that there is free entrance into the town for all provisions. During the following days the peasantry stream in with enormous files of wagons loaded with wine and drawn by several oxen, so that, in spite of the re- established guard, it is necessary to let them enter all day without paying the dues. It is only on the 7th of July that these can again be collected. — The same thing occurs in the southern provinces, where the principal imposts are levied on provisions. There also the collections are suspended in the name of public authority. At Agde,[28] “the people, considering the so-called will of the King as to equality of classes, are foolish enough to think that they are everything and can do everything.” Thus do they interpret in their own way and in their own terms the double representation accorded to the Third-Estate. They threaten the town, consequently, with general pillage if the prices of all provisions are not reduced, and if the duties of the province on wine, fish, and meat are not suppressed. They also wish to nominate consuls who have sprung up out of their body.” The bishop, the lord of the manor, the mayor and the notables, against whom they forcibly stir up the peasantry in the country, are obliged to proclaim by sound of trumpet that their demands shall be granted. Three days afterwards they exact a diminution of one-half of the tax on grinding, and go in quest of the bishop who owns the mills. The prelate, who is ill, sinks down in the street and seats himself on a stone; they compel him forthwith to sign an act of renunciation, and hence “his mill, valued at 15,000 livres, is reduced to 7,500 livres.” — At Limoux, under the pretext of searching for grain, they enter the houses of the comptroller and tax contractors, carry off their registers, and throw them into the water along with the furniture of their clerks. — In Provence it is worse; for most unjustly, and through inconceivable imprudence, the taxes of the towns are all levied on flour. It is therefore to this impost that the dearness of bread is directly attributed. Hence the fiscal agent becomes a manifest enemy, and revolts on account of hunger are transformed into insurrections against the State.


The first jacquerie in Province. – Feebleness or ineffectiveness of repressive measures.

Here, again, political novelties are the spark that ignites the mass of gunpowder. Everywhere, the uprising of the people takes place on the very day on which the electoral assembly meets. From forty to fifty riots occur in the provinces in less than a fortnight. Popular imagination, like that of a child, goes straight to its mark. The reforms having been announced, people think them accomplished and, to make sure of them, steps are at once taken to carry them out. Now that we are to have relief, let us relieve ourselves. “This is not an isolated riot as usual,” writes the commander of the troops;[29] “here the faction is united and governed by uniform principles; the same errors are diffused through all minds. . . . . The principles impressed on the people are that the King desires equality. No more bishops or lords, no more distinctions of rank, no tithes, and no seignorial privileges. Thus, these misguided people fancy that they are exercising their rights, and obeying the will of the King.” — The effect of sonorous phrases is apparent. The people have been told that the States-General were to bring about the “regeneration of the kingdom” The inference is “that the date of their assembly was to be one of an entire and absolute change of conditions and fortunes.” Hence, “the insurrection against the nobles and the clergy is as active as it is widespread.” “In many places it was distinctly announced that there was a sort of war declared against landowners and property,” and “in the towns as well as in the rural districts the people persist in declaring that they will pay nothing, neither taxes, duties, nor debts.” — Naturally, the first assault is against the piquèt, or flour-tax. At Aix, Marseilles, Toulon, and in more than forty towns and market-villages, this is summarily abolished; at Aupt and at Luc nothing remains of the weighing-house but the four walls. At Marseilles the home of the slaughter-house contractor and at Brignolles that of the director of the leather excise, are sacked. The determination is “to purge the land of excise-men. ” – – This is only a beginning; bread and other provisions must become cheap, and that without delay. At Arles, the Corporation of sailors, presided over by M. de Barras, consul, had just elected its representatives. By way of conclusion to the meeting, they pass a resolution insisting that M. de Barras should reduce the price of all comestibles. On his refusal, they “open the window, exclaiming, ‘We hold him, and we have only to throw him into the street for the rest to pick him up.'” Compliance is inevitable. The resolution is proclaimed by the town-criers, and at each article which is reduced in price the crowd shout, “Vive le Roi, vive M. Barras !” — One must yield to brute force. But the inconvenience is great for, through the suppression of the flour-tax, the towns have no longer a revenue. On the other hand, as they are obliged to indemnify the butchers and bakers, Toulon, for instance, incurs a debt of 2,500 livres a day.

In this state of disorder, woe to those who are under suspicion of having contributed, directly or indirectly, to the evils, which the people endure! At Toulon a demand is made for the head of the mayor, who signs the tax-list, and of the keeper of the records. They are trodden under foot, and their houses are ransacked. At Manosque, the Bishop of Sisteron, who is visiting the seminary, is accused of favoring a monopolist. On his way to his carriage, on foot, he is hooted and menaced. He is first pelted with mud, and then with stones. The consuls in attendance, and the sub-delegate, who come to his assistance, are mauled and repulsed. Meanwhile, some of the most furious begin, before his eyes, “to dig a ditch to bury him in.” Protected by five or six brave fellows, amidst a volley of stones, and wounded on the head and on many parts of his body, he succeeds in reaching his carriage. He is finally only saved because the horses, which are likewise stoned, run away. Foreigners, Italians, bandits, are mingled with the peasants and artisans, and expressions are heard and acts are seen which indicate a jacquerie.[30] “The most excited said to the bishop, ‘we are poor and you are rich, and we mean to have all your property.'”[31] Elsewhere, “the seditious mob exacts contributions from all people in good circumstances. At Brignolles, thirteen houses are pillaged from top to bottom, and thirty others partly half. — At Aupt, M. de Montferrat, in defending himself, is killed and “hacked to pieces.” — At La Seyne, the mob, led by a peasant, assembles by beat of drum. Some women fetch a bier, and set it down before the house of a leading bourgeois, telling him to prepare for death, and that “they will have the honor of burying him.” He escapes; his house is pillaged, as well as the bureau of the flour-tax. The following day, the chief of the band “obliges the principal inhabitants to give him a sum of money to indemnify, as he states it, the peasants who have abandoned their work,” and devoted the day to serving the public. — At Peinier, the Président de Peinier, an octogenarian, is “besieged in his chateau by a band of a hundred and fifty artisans and peasants,” who bring with them a consul and a notary. Aided by these two functionaries, they force the president “to pass an act by which he renounces his seignorial rights of every description ” — At Sollier they destroy the mills belonging to M. de Forbin-Janson. They sack the house of his business agent, pillage the château, and demolish the roof, chapel, altar, railings, and escutcheons. They enter the cellars, stave in the casks, and carry away everything that can be carried, “the transportation taking two days;” all of which cause damages of a hundred thousand crowns to the marquis. — At Riez they surround the episcopal palace with fagots, threatening to burn it, “and compromise with the bishop on a promise of fifty thousand livres,” and want him to burn his archives. — In short, the sedition is social for it singles out for attack all that profit by, or stand at the head of, the established order of things.

Seeing them act in this way, one would say that the theory of the Contrat-Social had been instilled into them. They treat magistrates as domestics, promulgate laws, and conduct themselves like sovereigns. They exercise public power, and establish, summarily, arbitrarily, and brutally, whatever they think to be in conformity with natural right. — At Peinier they exact a second electoral assembly, and, for themselves, the right of suffrage. — At Saint- Maximin they themselves elect new consuls and officers of justice. — At Solliez they oblige the judge’s lieutenant to give in his resignation, and they break his staff of office. — At Barjols “they use consuls and judges as their town servants, announcing that they are masters and that they will themselves administer justice.” — In fact, they do administer it, as they understand it — that is to say, through many exactions and robberies! One man has wheat; he must share it with him who has none. Another has money; he must give it to him who has not enough to buy bread with. On this principle, at Barjols, they tax the Ursulin nuns 1,800 livres, carry off fifty loads of wheat from the Chapter, eighteen from one poor artisan, and forty from another, and constrain canons and beneficiaries to give acquittances to their farmers. Then, from house to house, with club in hand, they oblige some to hand over money, others to abandon their claims on their debtors, “one to desist from criminal proceedings, another to nullify a decree obtained, a third to reimburse the expenses of a lawsuit gained years before, a father to give his consent to the marriage of his son.” — All their grievances are brought to mind, and we all know the tenacity of a peasant’s memory. Having become the master, he redresses wrongs, and especially those of which he thinks himself the object. There must be a general restitution; and first, of the feudal dues which have been collected. They take of M. de Montmeyan’s business agent all the money he has as compensation for that received by him during fifteen years as a notary. A former consul of Brignolles had, in 1775, inflicted penalties to the amount of 1,500 or 1,800 francs, which had been given to the poor; this sum is taken from his strong box. Moreover, if consuls and law officers are wrongdoers, the title deeds, rent-rolls, and other documents by which they do their business are still worse. To the fire with all old writings — not only office registers, but also, at Hyères, all the papers in the town hall and those of the principal notary. — In the matter of papers none are good but new ones — those which convey some discharge, quittance, or obligation to the advantage of the people. At Brignolles the owners of the gristmills are constrained to execute a contract of sale by which they convey their mills to the commune in consideration of 5,000 francs per annum, payable in ten years without interest — an arrangement which ruins them. On seeing the contract signed the peasants shout and cheer, and so great is their faith in this piece of stamped paper that they at once cause a mass of thanksgiving to be celebrated in the Cordeliers. Formidable omens these! Which mark the inward purpose, the determined will, and the coming deeds of this rising power. If it prevails, its first work will be to destroy all ancient documents, all title deeds, rent-rolls, contracts, and claims to which force compels it to submit. By force likewise it will draw up others to its own advantage, and the scribes who do it will be its own deputies and administrators whom it holds in its rude grasp.

Those who are in high places are not alarmed; they even find that there is some good in the revolt, inasmuch as it compels the towns to suppress unjust taxation.[32] The new Marseilles guard, formed of young men, is allowed to march to Aubagne, “to insist that M. le lieutenant criminel and M. l’avocat du Roi release the prisoners.” The disobedience of Marseilles, which refuses to receive the magistrates sent under letters patent to take testimony, is tolerated. And better still, in spite of the remonstrances of the parliament of Aix, a general amnesty is proclaimed; “no one is excepted but a few of the leaders, to whom is allowed the liberty of leaving the kingdom.” The mildness of the King and of the military authorities is admirable. It is admitted that the people are children, that they err only through ignorance, that faith must be had in their repentance, and, as soon as they return to order, they must be received with paternal effusions. — The truth is, that the child is a blind Colossus, exasperated by sufferings. hence whatever it takes hold of is shattered — not only the local wheels of the provinces, which, if temporarily deranged, may be repaired, but even the incentive at the center which puts the rest in motion, and the destruction of which will throw the whole machinery into confusion.



[1] Marmontel, “Mémoires,” II. 221. — Albert Babeau, “Histoire de la Révolution Française,” I. 91, 187. (Letter by Huez Mayor of Troyes, July 30, 1788.)- — Archives Nationales, H. 1274. (Letter by M. de Caraman, April 22, 1789.) H. 942 (Cahier des demandes des Etats de Languedoc). – Buchez et Roux, “Histoire Parlementaire,” I. 283.

[2] See ” The Ancient Régime,” p.34. Albert Babeau, I. 91. (The Bishop of Troyes gives 12,000 francs, and the chapter 6,000, for the relief workshops.)

[3] “The Ancient Regime,” 350, 387.–Floquet, “Histoire du Parlement de Normandie,” VII. 505-518. (Reports of the Parliament of Normandy, May 3,1788. Letter from the Parliament to the King, July 15, 1789.)

[4] Arthur Young, “Voyages in France,” June 29th, July 2nd and 18th — ” Journal de Paris,” January 2, 1789. Letter of the curé of Sainte-Marguerite.

[5] Buchez and Roux, IV. 79-82. (Letter from the intermediary bureau of Montereau, July 9, 1789; from the maire of Villeneuve-le- Roi, July 10th; from M. Baudry, July 10th; from M. Prioreau, July 11th, etc.) — Montjoie, “Histoire de la Révolution de France,” 2nd part, ch. XXI, p. 5.

[6] Roux et Buchez, ibid. “It is very unfortunate,” writes the Marquis d’Autichamp, “to be obliged to cut down the standing crops ready to be gathered in; but it is dangerous to let the troops die of hunger.”

[7] Montjoie, “Histoire de la Révolution de France,” ch. XXXIX, V, 37. — De Goncourt, “La Société Française pendant la Révolution,” p. 5l3. — Deposition of Maillard (Criminal Inquiry of the Châtelet concerning the events of October 5th and 6th).

[8] De Tocqueville, “L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution,” 272-290. De Lavergne, “Les Assemblées provinciales,” 109. Procès-verbaux des assemblées provinciales, passim.

[9] A magistrate who gives judgment in a lower court in cases relative to taxation. These terms are retained because there are no equivalents in English. (Tr.)

[10] “Laboureurs,” — this term, at this epoch, is applied to those who till their own land. (Tr.)

[11] Duvergier. “Collection des lois et décrets,” I. 1 to 23, and particularly p. 15.

[12] Parish priests. (SR.)

[13] Arthur Young, July 12th , 1789 (in Champagne).

[14] Montjoie, 1st part, 102.

[15] Floquet, “Histoire du Parlement de Normandie,” VII. 508. — ” Archives Nationales,” H. 1453.

[16] Arthur Young, June 29th (at Nangis).

[17] “Archives Nationales,” H.1453. Letter of the Duc de Mortemart, Seigneur of Bray, May 4th; of M. de Ballainvilliers, intendant of Languedoc, April 15th.

[18] “Archives Nationales,” H.1453. Letter of the intendant, M. d’Agay, April 30th; of the municipal officers of Nantes, January 9th; of the intendant, M. Meulan d’Ablois, June 22nd; of M. de Ballainvilliers, April 15th.

[19] “Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Letter of the Count de Langeron, July 4th; of M. de Meulan d’Ablois, June 5th; “Minutes of the meeting of la Maréchaussée de Bost,” April 29th. Letters of M. de Chazerat, May 29th; of M. de Bezenval, June 2nd; of the intendant, M. Amelot, April 25th.

[20] ‘”Archives Nationales,” H.1453. Letter of M. de Bezenval, May 27th; of M. de Ballainvilliers, April 25th; of M. de Foullonde, April 19th.

[21] “Archives Nationales,” H.1453. Letter of the intendant, M. d’Aine, March 12th; of M. d’Agay, April 30th; of M. Amelot, April 25th; of the municipal authorities of Nantes, January 9th, etc.

[22] “The Ancient Régime,” pp. 380-389.

[23] Floquet, VII. 508, (Report of February 27th). – Hippeau, “La Gouvernement de Normandie,” IV. 377. (Letter of M. Perrot, June 23rd.) — ” Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Letter of M. de Sainte-Suzanne, April 29th. Ibid. F7, 3250. Letter of M. de Rochambeau, May 16th Ibid. F7, 3250. Letter of the Abbé Duplaquet, Deputy of the Third Estate of Saint-Quentin, May 17th. Letter of three husbandmen in the environs of Saint-Quentin, May 14th.

[24] “Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Letter of the Count de Perigord, military commandant of Languedoc, April 22nd.

[25] Floquet, VII. 511 (from the 11th to the 14th July).

[26] “Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Letter of the municipal authorities of Nantes, January 9th; of the sub-delegate of Ploërmel, July 4th; ibid. F7, 2353. Letter of the intermediary commission of Alsace, September 8th ibid. F7, 3227. Letter of the intendant, Caze de la Bove, June 16th ; ibid. H. 1453. Letter of Terray, intendant of Lyons, July 4th; of the prévot des échevins, July 5th and 7th.

[27] (A tax on all goods entering a town. SR.)

[28] “Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Letter of the mayor and councils of Agde, April 21st; of M. de Perigord, April 19th, May 5th.

[29] “Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Letters of M. de Caraman, March 23rd, 26th 27th 28th; of the seneschal Missiessy, March 24th; of the mayor of Hyères, March 25th, etc.; ibid. H. 1274; of M. de Montmayran, April 2nd; of M. de Caraman, March 18th , April 12th; of the intendant, M. de la Tour, April 2nd; of the procureur-géneral, M. d’Antheman, April 17th, and the report of June 15th; of the municipal authorities of Toulon, April 11th; of the sub-delegate of Manosque, March 14th; of M. de Saint-Tropez, March 21st. – Minutes of the meeting, signed by 119 witnesses, of the insurrection at Aix, March 5th, etc.

[30] An uprising of the peasants. The term is used to indicate a country mob in contradistinction to a city or town mob.-Tr.

[31] “Archives Nationales,” H.1274. Letter of M. de la Tour, April 2nd (with a detailed memorandum and depositions).

[32] “Archives Nationales,” H. 1274. Letter of M. de Caraman, April 22nd: —“One real benefit results from this misfortune. . . The well-to-do class is brought to sustain that which exceeded the strength of the poor daily laborers. We see the nobles and people in good circumstances a little more attentive to the poor peasants: they are now habituated to speaking to them with more gentleness.” M. de Caraman was wounded, as well as his Son, at Aix, and if the Soldiery, who were stoned, at length fired on the crowd, he did not give the order. — Ibid, letter of M. d’Anthéman, April 17th; of M. de Barentin, June 11th.



Mob recruits in the vicinity.- Entry of vagabonds. – The number of paupers.

INDEED it is in the center that the convulsive shocks are strongest. Nothing is lacking to aggravate the insurrection — neither the liveliest provocation to stimulate it, nor the most numerous bands to carry it out. The environs of Paris all furnish recruits for it; nowhere are there so many miserable wretches, so many of the famished, and so many rebellious beings. Robberies of grain take place everywhere — at Orleans, at Cosne, at Rambouillet, at Jouy, at Pont-Saint-Maxence, at Bray-sur-Seine, at Sens, at Nangis.[1] Wheat flour is so scarce at Meudon, that every purchaser is ordered to buy at the same time an equal quantity of barley. At Viroflay, thirty women, with a rear-guard of men, stop on the main road vehicles, which they suppose to be loaded with grain. At Montlhéry stones and clubs disperse seven brigades of the police. An immense throng of eight thousand persons, women and men, provided with bags, fall upon the grain exposed for sale. They force the delivery to them of wheat worth 40 francs at 24 francs, pillaging the half of it and conveying it off without payment. “The constabulary is disheartened,” writes the sub-delegate; “the determination of the people is wonderful; I am frightened at what I have seen and heard.” — After the 13th of July, 1788, the day of the hail-storm, despair seized the peasantry; well disposed as the proprietors may have been, it was impossible to assist them. “Not a workshop is open;[2] the noblemen and the bourgeois, obliged to grant delays in the payment of their incomes, can give no work.” Accordingly, “the famished people are on the point of risking life for life,” and, publicly and boldly, they seek food wherever it can be found. At Conflans-Saint-Honorine, Eragny, Neuville, Chenevières, at Cergy, Pontoise, Ile-Adam, Presle, and Beaumont, men, women, and children, the hole parish, range the country, set snares, and destroy the burrows. “The rumor is current that the Government, informed of the damage done by the game to cultivators, allows its destruction . . . and really the hares ravaged about a fifth of the crop. At first an arrest is made of nine of these poachers; but they are released, “taking circumstances into account.” Consequently, for two months, there is a slaughter on the property of the Prince de Conti and of the Ambassador Mercy d’Argenteau; in default of bread they eat rabbits. — Along with the abuse of property they are led, by a natural impulse, to attack property itself. Near Saint-Denis the woods belonging to the abbey are devastated. “The farmers of the neighborhood carry away loads of wood, drawn by four and five horses;” the inhabitants of the villages of Ville-Parisis, Tremblay, Vert-Galant, Villepinte, sell it publicly, and threaten the wood- rangers with a beating. On the 15th of June the damage is already estimated at 60,000 livres. — It makes little difference whether the proprietor has been benevolent, like M. de Talaru,[3] who had supported the poor on his estate at Issy the preceding winter. The peasants destroy the dike which conducts water to his communal mill; condemned by the parliament to restore it, they declare that not only will they not obey. Should M. de Talaru try to rebuild it they will return with three hundred armed men, and tear it away the second time.

For those who are most compromised Paris is the nearest refuge. For the poorest and most exasperated, the door of nomadic life stands wide open. Bands rise up around the capital, just as in countries where human society has not yet been formed, or has ceased to exist. During the first two weeks of May[4] near Villejuif a band of five or six hundred vagabonds strive to force Bicêtre and approach Saint- Cloud. They arrive from thirty, forty, and sixty leagues off, from Champagne, from Lorraine, from the whole circuit of country devastated by the hailstorm. All hover around Paris and are there engulfed as in a sewer, the unfortunate along with criminals, some to find work, others to beg and to rove about under the injurious prompting of hunger and the rumors of the public thoroughfares. During the last days of April,[5] the clerks at the tollhouses note the entrance of “a frightful number of poorly clad men of sinister aspect.” During the first days of May a change in the appearance of the crowd is remarked. There mingle in it “a number of foreigners, from all countries, most of them in rags, armed with big sticks, and whose very aspect announces what is to be feared from them.” Already, before this final influx, the public sink is full to overflowing. Think of the extraordinary and rapid increase of population in Paris, the multitude of artisans brought there by recent demolition and constructions. Think of all the craftsmen whom the stagnation of manufactures, the augmentation of octrois, the rigor of winter, and the dearness of bread have reduced to extreme distress. Remember that in 1786 “two hundred thousand persons are counted whose property, all told, has not the intrinsic worth of fifty crowns.” Remember that, from time immemorial, these have been at war with the city watchmen. Remember that in 1789 there are twenty thousand poachers in the capital and that, to provide them with work, it is found necessary to establish national workshops. Remember “that twelve thousand are kept uselessly occupied digging on the hill of Montmartre, and paid twenty sous per day. Remember that the wharves and quays are covered with them, that the Hôtel-de-Ville is invested by them, and that, around the palace, they seem to be a reproach to the inactivity of disarmed justice.” Daily they grow bitter and excited around the doors of the bakeries, where, kept waiting a long time, they are not sure of obtaining bread. You can imagine the fury and the force with which they will storm any obstacle to which their attention may be directed.

II. The Press.

Excitement of the press and of opinion. – The people make their choice.

Such an obstacle has been pointed out to them during the last two years, it is the Ministry, the Court, the Government, in short the entire ancient régime. Whoever protests against it in favor of the people is sure to be followed as far, and perhaps even farther, than he chooses to lead. — The moment the Parliament of a large city refuses to register fiscal edicts it finds a riot at its service. On the 7th of June 1788, at Grenoble, tiles rain down on the heads of the soldiery, and the military force is powerless. At Rennes, to put down the rebellious city, an army and after this a permanent camp of four regiments of infantry and two of cavalry, under the command of a Marshal of France, is required.[6] – The following year, when the Parliaments now side with the privileged class, the disturbances again begin, but this time against the Parliaments. In February 1789, at Besançon and at Aix, the magistrates are hooted at, chased in the streets, besieged in the town hall, and obliged to conceal themselves or take to flight. — If such is the disposition in the provincial capitals, what must it be in the capital of the kingdom? For a start, in the month of August, 1788, after the dismissal of Brienne and Lamoignon, the mob, collected on the Place Dauphine, constitutes itself judge, burns both ministers in effigy, disperses the watch, and resists the troops: no sedition, as bloody as this, had been seen for a century. Two days later, the riot bursts out a second time; the people are seized with a resolve to go and burn the residences of the two ministers and that of Dubois, the lieutenant of police. — Clearly a new ferment has been infused among the ignorant and brutal masses, and the new ideas are producing their effect. They have for a long time imperceptibly been filtering downwards from layer to layer After having gained over the aristocracy, the whole of the lettered portion of the Third-Estate, the lawyers, the schools, all the young, they have insinuated themselves drop by drop and by a thousand fissures into the class which supports itself by the labor of its own hands. Noblemen, at their toilettes, have scoffed at Christianity, and affirmed the rights of man before their valets, hairdressers, purveyors, and all those that are in attendance upon them. Men of letters, lawyers, and attorneys have repeated, in the bitterest tone, the same diatribes and the same theories in the coffee-houses and in the restaurants, on the promenades and in all public places. They have spoken out before the lower class as if it were not present, and, from all this eloquence poured out without precaution, some bubbles besprinkle the brain of the artisan, the publican, the messenger, the shopkeeper, and the soldier.

Hence it is that a year suffices to convert mute discontent into political passion. From the 5th of July 1787, on the invitation of the King, who convokes the States-General and demands advice from everybody, both speech and the press alter in tone.[7] Instead of general conversation of a speculative turn there is preaching, with a view to practical effect, sudden, radical, and close at hand, preaching as shrill and thrilling as the blast of a trumpet. Revolutionary pamphlets appear in quick succession: “Qu’est-ce que le Tiers?” by Sieyès; “Mémoire pour le Peuple Français,” by Cerutti; “Considerations sur les Intérêts des Tiers-Etat,” by Rabtau Saint- Etienne; “Ma Pétition,” by Target; “Les Droits des Etats-généraux,” by M. d’Entraigues, and, a little later, “La France libre,” par Camille Desmoulins, and others by hundreds and thousands.[8] All of which are repeated and amplified in the electoral assemblies, where new-made citizens come to declaim and increase their own excitement.[9] The unanimous, universal and daily shout rolls along from echo to echo, into barracks and into faubourgs, into markets, workshops, and garrets. In the month of February, 1789, Necker avows “that obedience is not to be found anywhere, and that even the troops are not to be relied on.” In the month of May, the fisherwomen, and next the greengrocers, of the town market halls come to recommend the interests of the people to the bodies of electors, and to sing rhymes in honor of the Third-Estate. In the month of June pamphlets are in all hands; “even lackeys are poring over them at the gates of hotels.” In the month of July, as the King is signing an order, a patriotic valet becomes alarmed and reads it over his shoulder. — There is no illusion here; it is not merely the bourgeoisie which ranges itself against the legal authorities and against the established regime. It is the entire people as well. The craftsmen, the shopkeepers and the domestics, workmen of every kind and degree, the mob underneath the people, the vagabonds, street rovers, and beggars, the whole multitude, which, bound down by anxiety for its daily bread, had never lifted its eyes to look at the great social order of which it is the lowest stratum, and the whole weight of which it bears.


The Réveillon affair.

Suddenly the people stirs, and the superposed scaffolding totters. It is the movement of a brute nature exasperated by want and maddened by suspicion. — Have paid hands, which are invisible goaded it on from beneath? Contemporaries are convinced of this, and it is probably the case.[10] But the uproar made around the suffering brute would alone suffice to make it shy, and explain its arousal. – On the 21st of April the Electoral Assemblies have begun in Paris; there is one in each quarter, one for the clergy, one for the nobles, and one for the Third-Estate. Every day, for almost a month, files of electors are seen passing along the streets. Those of the first degree continue to meet after having nominated those of the second: the nation must needs watch its mandatories and maintain its imprescriptible rights. If this exercise of their rights has been delegated to them, they still belong to the nation, and it reserves to itself the privilege of interposing when it pleases. A pretension of this kind travels fast; immediately after the Third-Estate of the Assemblies it reaches the Third-Estate of the streets. Nothing is more natural than the desire to lead one’s leaders: the first time any dissatisfaction occurs, they lay hands on those who halt and make them march on as directed. On a Saturday, April 25th,[11] a rumor is current that Réveillon, an elector and manufacturer of wall- paper, Rue Saint-Antoine, and Lerat, a commissioner, have “spoken badly” at the Electoral Assembly of Sainte-Marguerite. To speak badly means to speak badly of the people. What has Réveillon said? Nobody knows, but popular imagination with its terrible powers of invention and precision, readily fabricates or welcomes a murderous phrase. He said that “a working-man with a wife and children could live on fifteen sous a day.” Such a man is a traitor, and must be disposed of at once; “all his belongings must be put to fire and sword.” The rumor, it must be noted, is false.[12] Réveillon pays his poorest workman twenty-five sous a day, he provides work for three hundred and fifty, and, in spite of a dull season the previous winter, he kept all on at the same rate of wages. He himself was once a workman, and obtained a medal for his inventions, and is benevolent and respected by all respectable persons. — All this avails nothing; bands of vagabonds and foreigners, who have just passed through the barriers, do not look so closely into matters, while the Journeymen, the carters, the cobblers, the masons, the braziers, and the stone-cutters whom they go to solicit in their lodgings are just as ignorant as they are. When irritation has accumulated, it breaks out haphazardly.

Just at this time the clergy of Paris renounce their privileges in way of imposts,[13] and the people, taking friends for adversaries, add in their invectives the name of the clergy to that of Réveillon. During the whole of the day, and also during the leisure of Sunday, the fermentation increases; on Monday the 27th, another day of idleness and drunkenness, the bands begin to move. Certain witnesses encounter one of these in the Rue Saint-Sévérin, “armed with clubs,” and so numerous as to bar the passage. “Shops and doors are closed on all sides, and the people cry out, ‘There’s the revolt!'” The seditious crowd belch out curses and invectives against the clergy, “and, catching sight of an abbé, shout ‘Priest!'” Another band parades an effigy of Réveillon decorated with the ribbon of the order of St. Michael, which undergoes the parody of a sentence and is burnt on the Place de Grève, after which they threaten his house. Driven back by the guard, they invade that of a manufacturer of saltpeter, who is his friend, and burn and smash his effects and furniture.[14] It is only towards midnight that the crowd is dispersed and the insurrection is supposed to have ended. On the following day it begins again with greater violence; for, besides the ordinary stimulants of misery[15] and the craving for license, they have a new stimulant in the idea of a cause to defend, the conviction that they are fighting “for the Third- Estate.” In a cause like this each one should help himself; and all should help each other. “We should be lost,” one of them exclaimed, “if we did not sustain each other.” Strong in this belief, they sent deputations three times into the Faubourg Saint-Marceau to obtain recruits, and on their way, with uplifted clubs they enrol, willingly or unwillingly, all they encounter. Others, at the gate of Saint-Antoine, arrest people who are returning from the races, demanding of them if they are for the nobles or for the Third- Estate, and force women to descend from their vehicles and to cry “Vive le Tiers-Etat “[16]. Meanwhile the crowd has increased before Réveillon’s dwelling; the thirty men on guard are unable to resist; the house is invaded and sacked from top to bottom; the furniture, provisions, clothing, registers, wagons, even the poultry in the back-yard, all is cast into blazing bonfires lighted in three different places; five hundred louis d’or, the ready money, and the silver plate are stolen. Several roam through the cellars, drink liquor or varnish at haphazard until they fall down dead drunk or expire in convulsions. Against this howling horde, a corps of the watch, mounted and on foot, is seen approaching;[17] also a hundred cavalry of the “Royal Croats,” the French Guards, and later on the Swiss Guards. “Tiles and chimneys are rained down on the soldiers,” who fire back four files at a time. The rioters, drunk with brandy and rage, defend themselves desperately for several hours; more than two hundred are killed, and nearly three hundred are wounded; they are only put down by cannon, while the mob keeps active until far into the night. – Towards eight in the evening, in the rue Vieille-du-Temple, the Paris Guard continue to make charges in order to protect the doors which the miscreants try to force. Two doors are forced at half-past eleven o’clock in the Rue Saintonge and in the Rue de Bretagne, that of a pork-dealer and that of a baker. Even to this last wave of the outbreak which is subsiding we can distinguish the elements which have produced the insurrection, and which are about to produce the Revolution. — Starvation is one of these: in the Rue de Bretagne the band robbing the baker’s shop carries bread off to the women staying at the corner of the Rue Saintonge. — Brigandage is another: in the middle of the night M. du Châtelet’s spies, gliding alongside of a ditch, “see a group of ruffians” assembled beyond the Barrière du Trône, their leader, mounted on a little knoll, urging them to begin again; and the following days, on the highways, vagabonds are saying to each other, “We can do no more at Paris, because they are too sharp on the look- out; let us go to Lyons!” There are, finally, the patriots: on the evening of the insurrection, between the Pont-au-Change and the Pont-Marie, the half-naked ragamuffins, besmeared with dirt, bearing along their hand-barrows, are fully alive to their cause; they beg alms in a loud tone of voice, and stretch out their hats to the passers, saying, “Take pity on this poor Third-Estate!” — The starving, the ruffians, and the patriots, all form one body, and henceforth misery, crime, and public spirit unite to provide an ever-ready insurrection for the agitators who desire to raise one.

IV. The Palais-Royal.

But the agitators are already in permanent session. The Palais- Royal is an open-air club where, all day and even far into the night, one excites the other and urges on the crowd to blows. In this enclosure, protected by the privileges of the House of Orleans, the police dare not enter. Speech is free, and the public who avail themselves of this freedom seem purposely chosen to abuse it. — The public and the place are adapted to each other.[18] The Palais- Royal, the center of prostitution, of play, of idleness, and of pamphlets, attracts the whole of that uprooted population which floats about in a great city, and which, without occupation or home, lives only for curiosity or for pleasure — the frequenters of the coffee-houses, the runners for gambling halls, adventurers, and social outcasts, the runaway children or forlorn hopefuls of literature, arts, and the bar, attorneys’ clerks, students of the institutions of higher learning, the curious, loungers, strangers, and the occupants of furnished lodgings, these amounting, it is said, to forty thousand in Paris. They fill the garden and the galleries; “one would hardly find here one of what were called the “Six Bodies,”[19] a bourgeois settled down and occupied with his own affairs, a man whom business and family cares render serious and influential. There is no place here for industrious and orderly bees; it is the rendezvous of political and literary drones. They flock into it from every quarter of Paris, and the tumultuous, buzzing swarm covers the ground like an overturned hive. “Ten thousand people,” writes Arthur Young,[20] “have been all this day in the Palais-Royal;” the press is so great that an apple thrown from a balcony on the moving floor of heads would not reach the ground. The condition of these heads may be imagined; they are emptier of ballast than any in France, the most inflated with speculative ideas, the most excitable and the most excited. In this pell-mell of improvised politicians no one knows who is speaking; nobody is responsible for what he says. Each is there as in the theater, unknown among the unknown, requiring sensational impressions and strong emotions, a prey to the contagion of the passions around him, borne along in the whirl of sounding phrases, of ready-made news, growing rumors, and other exaggerations by which fanatics keep outdoing each other. There are shouting, tears, applause, stamping and clapping, as at the performance of a tragedy; one or another individual becomes so inflamed and hoarse that he dies on the spot with fever and exhaustion. In vain has Arthur Young been accustomed to the tumult of political liberty; he is dumb-founded at what he sees.[21] According to him, the excitement is “incredible. . . . We think sometimes that Debrett’s or Stockdale’s shops at London are crowded; but they are mere deserts compared to Desenne’s and some others here, in which one can scarcely squeeze from the door to the counter . . . .Every hour produces its pamphlet; 13 came out to-day, 16 yesterday, and 92 last week. 95% of these productions are in favor of liberty;” and by liberty is meant the extinction of privileges, numerical sovereignty, the application of the Contrat-Social, “The Republic”, and even more besides, a universal leveling, permanent anarchy, and even the jacquerie. Camille Desmoulins, one of the orators, commonly there, announces it and urges it in precise terms:

“Now that the animal is in the trap, let him be battered to death… Never will the victors have a richer prey. Forty thousand palaces, mansions, and châteaux, two-fifth of the property of France, will be the recompense of valor. Those who pretend to be the conquerors will be conquered in turn. The nation shall be purged.”

Here, in advance, is the program of the Reign of Terror.

Now all this is not only read, but declaimed, amplified, and turned to practical account. In front of the coffee-houses “those who have stentorian lungs relieve each other every evening.”[22] “They get up on a chair or a table, they read the strongest articles on current affairs, . .. . the eagerness with which they are heard, and the thunder of applause they receive for every sentiment of more than common hardiness or violence against the present Government, cannot easily be imagined.” “Three days ago a child of four years, well taught and intelligent, was promenaded around the garden, in broad daylight, at least twenty times, borne on the shoulders of a street porter, crying out, ‘Verdict of the French people: Polignac exiled one hundred leagues from Paris; Condé the same; Conti the same; Artois the same; the Queen, — I dare not write it.'” A hall made of boards in the middle of the Palais-Royal is always full, especially of young men, who carry on their deliberations in parliamentary fashion : in the evening the president invites the spectators to come forward and sign motions passed during the day, and of which the originals are placed in the Café Foy.[23] They count on their fingers the enemies of the country; “and first two Royal Highnesses (Monsieur and the Count d’Artois), three Most Serene Highnesses (the Prince de Condé, Duc de Bourbon, and the Prince de Conti), one favorite (Madame de Polignac), MM. de Vandreuil, de la Trémoille, du Châtelet, de Villedeuil, de Barentin, de la Galaisière, Vidaud de la Tour, Berthier, Foulon, and also M. Linguet.” Placards are posted demanding the pillory on the Pont-Neuf for the Abbeé Maury. One speaker proposes “to burn the house of M. d’Espréménil, his wife, children and furniture, and himself: this is passed unanimously.” — No opposition is tolerated. One of those present having manifested some horror at such sanguinary motions, “is seized by the collar, obliged to kneel down, to make an apology, and to kiss the ground. The punishment inflicted on children is given to him; he is ducked repeatedly in one of the fountain-basins, after which they him over to the mob, who roll him in the mud.” On the following day an ecclesiastic is trodden under foot, and flung from hand to hand. A few days after, on the 22nd of June, there are two similar events. The sovereign mob exercises all the functions of sovereign authority, with those of the legislator those of the judge, and those of the judge with those of the executioner. — Its idols are sacred; if any one fails to show them respect he is guilty of lése-majesté, and at once punished. In the first week of July, an abbé who speaks ill of Necker is flogged; a woman who insults the bust of Necker is stripped by the fishwomen, and beaten until she is covered with blood. War is declared against suspicious uniforms. “On the appearance of a hussar,” writes Desmoulins, “they shout, ‘There goes Punch!’ and the stone-cutters fling stones at him. Last night two officers of the hussars, MM. de Sombreuil and de Polignac, came to the Palais-Royal. . . chairs were flung at them, and they would have been knocked down if they had not run away. The day before yesterday they seized a spy of the police and gave him a ducking in the fountain. They ran him down like a stag, hustled him, pelted him with stones, struck him with canes, forced one of his eyes out of its socket, and finally, in spite of his entreaties and cries for mercy, plunged him a second time in the fountain. His torments lasted from noon until half-past five o’clock, and he had about ten thousand executioners.” — Consider the effect of such a focal center at a time like this. A new power has sprung up alongside the legal powers, a legislature of the highways and public squares, anonymous, irresponsible, without restraint. It is driven onward by coffeehouse theories, by strong emotions and the vehemence of mountebanks, while the bare arms which have just accomplished the work of destruction in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, form its bodyguard and ministerial cabinet.


Popular mobs become a political force. – Pressure on the Assembly. – Defection of the soldiery.

This is the dictatorship of a mob, and its proceedings, conforming to its nature, consist in acts of violence, wherever it finds resistance, it strikes. — The people of Versailles, in the streets and at the doors of the Assembly, daily “come and insult those whom they call aristocrats.”[24] On Monday, June 22nd, “d’Espréménil barely escapes being knocked down; the Abbé Maury. . . owes his escape to the strength of a curé, who takes him up in his arms and tosses him into the carriage of the Archbishop of Arles.” On the 23rd, “the Archbishop of Paris and the Keeper of the Seals are hooted, railed at, scoffed at, and derided, until they almost sink with shame and rage.” So formidable is the tempest of rage with which they are greeted, that Passeret, the King’s secretary, who accompanies the minister, dies of the excitement that very day. On the 24th, the Bishop of Beauvais is almost knocked down by a stone striking him on the head. On the 25th, the Archbishop of Paris is saved only by the speed of his horses, the multitude pursuing him and pelting him with stones. His mansion is besieged, the windows are all shattered, and, notwithstanding the intervention of the French Guards, the peril is so great that he is obliged to promise that he will join the deputies of the Third-Estate. This is the way in which the rude hand of the people effects a reunion of the Orders. It bears as heavily on its own representatives as on its adversaries. “Although our hall was closed to the public,” says Bailly, “there were always more than six hundred spectators.”[25] These were not respectful and silent, but active and noisy, mingling with the deputies, raising their hands to vote in all cases, taking part in the deliberations, by their applause and hisses: a collateral Assembly which often imposes its own will on the other. They take note of and put down the names of their opponents, transmit them to the chair-bearers in attendance at the entrance of the hall, and from them to the mob waiting for the departure of the deputies, these names are from now considered as the names of public enemies.[26] Lists are made out and printed, and, at the Palais- Royal in the evening, they become the lists of the proscribed. — It is under this brutal pressure that many decrees are passed, and, amongst them, that by which the commons declare themselves the National Assembly and assume supreme power. The night before, Malouet had proposed to ascertain, by a preliminary vote, on which side the majority was. In an instant all those against had gathered around him to the number of three hundred. “Upon which a mans springs out from the galleries, falls upon him and takes him by the collar exclaiming, ‘Hold your tongue, you false citizen!’ ” Malouet is released and the guard comes forward, “but terror has spread through the hall, threats are uttered against opponents, and the next day we were only ninety.” Moreover, the lists of their names had been circulated; some of them, deputies from Paris, went to see Bailly that very evening. One amongst them, “a very honest man and good patriot,” had been told that his house was to be set on fire. Now his wife had just given birth to a child, and the slightest tumult before the house would have been fatal. Such arguments are decisive. Consequently, three days afterwards, at the Tennis-court, but one deputy, Martin d’Auch, dares to write the word “opposing” after his name. Insulted by many of colleagues, “at once denounced to the people who had collected at the entrance of the building, he is obliged to escape by a side door to avoid being cut to pieces,” and, for several days, to keep away from the meetings.[27] – Owing to this intervention of the galleries the radical minority, numbering about thirty,[28] lead the majority, and they do not allow them to free themselves. — On the 28th of May, Malouet, having demanded a secret session to discuss the conciliatory measures which the King had proposed, the galleries hoot at him, and a deputy, M. Bourche, addresses him in very plain terms. “You must know, sir, that we are deliberating here in the presence of our masters, and that we must account to them for our opinions.” This is the doctrine of the Contrat-Social. Through timidity, fear of the Court and of the privileged class, through optimism and faith in human nature, through enthusiasm and the necessity of adhering to previous actions, the deputies, who are novices, provincial, and given up to theories, neither dare nor know how to escape from the tyranny of the prevailing dogma. — Henceforth it becomes the law. All the Assemblies, the Constituent, the Legislative, the Convention,[29] submit to it entirely. The public in the galleries is the admitted representatives of the people, under the same title, and even under a higher title, than the deputies. Now, this public is that of the Palais-Royal, consisting of strangers, idlers, lovers of novelties, Paris romancers, leaders of the coffee-houses, the future pillars of the clubs, in short, the wild enthusiasts among the middle-class, just as the crowd which threatens doors and throws stones is recruited from among the wild enthusiasts of the lowest class. Thus by an involuntary selection, the faction which constitutes itself a public power is composed of nothing but violent minds and violent hands. Spontaneously and without previous concert dangerous fanatics are joined with dangerous brutes, and in the increasing discord between the legal authorities this is the illegal league which is certain to overthrow all.

When a commanding general sits in council with his staff-officers and his counselors, and discusses the plan of a campaign, the chief public interest is that discipline should remain intact, and that intruders, soldiers, or menials, should not throw the weight of their turbulence and thoughtlessness into the scales which have to be cautiously and firmly held by their chiefs. This was the express demand of the Government;[30] but the demand was not regarded; and against the persistent usurpation of the multitude nothing is left to it but the employment of force. But force itself is slipping from its hands, while growing disobedience, like a contagion, after having gained the people is spreading among the troops. – From the 23rd of June,[31] two companies of the French Guards refused to do duty. Confined to their barracks, they on the 27th break out, and henceforth “they are seen every evening entering the Palais-Royal, marching in double file.” They know the place well; it is the general rendezvous of the abandoned women whose lovers and parasites they are.[32] “The patriots all gather around them, treat them to ice cream and wine, and debauch them in the face of their officers.” — To this, moreover, must be added the fact that their colonel, M. du Châtelet, has long been odious to them, that he has fatigued them with forced drills, worried them and diminished the number of their sergeants; that he suppressed the school for the education of the children of their musicians; that he uses the stick in punishing the men, and picks quarrels with them about their appearance, their board, and their clothing. This regiment is lost to discipline: a secret society has been formed in it, and the soldiers have pledged themselves to their ensigns not to act against the National Assembly. Thus the confederation between them and the Palais-Royal is established. — On the 30th of June, eleven of their leaders, taken off to the Abbaye, write to claim their assistance. A young man mounts a chair in front of the Café Foy and reads their letter aloud; a band sets out on the instant, forces the gate with a sledge-hammer and iron bars, brings back the prisoners in triumph, gives them a feast in the garden and mounts guard around them to prevent their being re-taken. — When disorders of this kind go unpunished, order cannot be maintained; in fact, on the morning of the 14th of July, five out of six battalions had deserted. — As to the other corps, they are no better and are also seduced. “Yesterday,” Desmoulins writes, “the artillery regiment followed the example of the French Guards, overpowering the sentinels and coming over to mingle with the patriots in the Palais-Royal . . .. We see nothing but the rabble attaching themselves to soldiers whom they chance to encounter. ‘Allons, Vive le Tiers-Etat!’ and they lead them off to a tavern to drink the health of the Commons.” Dragoons tell the officers who are marching them to Versailles: “We obey you, but you may tell the ministers on our arrival that if we are ordered to use the least violence against our fellow-citizens, the first shot shall be for you.” At the Invalides twenty men, ordered to remove the cocks and ramrods from the guns stored in a threatened arsenal, devote six hours to rendering twenty guns useless; their object is to keep them intact for plunder and for the arming of the people.

In short, the largest portion of the army has deserted. However kind a superior officer might be, the fact of his being a superior officer secures for him the treatment of an enemy. The governor, “M. de Sombreuil, against whom these people could utter no reproach,” will soon see his artillerists point their guns at his apartment, and will just escape being hung on the iron-railings by their own hands. Thus the force which is brought forward to suppress insurrection only serves to furnish it with recruits. And even worse, for the display of arms that was relied on to restrain the mob, furnished the instigation to rebellion.


July 13th and 14th 1789.

The fatal moment has arrived; it is no longer a government which falls that it may give way to another; it is all government which ceases to exist in order to make way for an intermittent despotism, for factions blindly impelled on by enthusiasm, credulity, misery, and fear.[33] Like a tame elephant suddenly become wild again, the mob throws off it ordinary driver, and the new guides who it tolerates perched on its neck are there simply for show. In future it will move along as it pleases, freed from control, and abandoned to its own feelings, instincts, and appetites. — Apparently, there was no desire to do more than anticipate its aberrations. The King has forbidden all violence; the commanders order the troops not to fire;[34] but the excited and wild animal takes all precautions for insults; in future, it intends to be its own conductor, and, to begin, it treads its guides under foot. — On the 12th of July, near noon,[35] on the news of the dismissal of Necker, a cry of rage arises in the Palais-Royal; Camille Desmoulins, mounted on a table, announces that the Court meditates “a St. Bartholomew of patriots.” The crowd embrace him, adopt the green cockade which he has proposed, and oblige the dancing-saloons and theaters to close in sign of mourning: they hurry off to the residence of Curtius, and take the busts of the Duke of Orleans and of Necker and carry them about in triumph. — Meanwhile, the dragoons of the Prince de Lambesc, drawn up on the Place Louis-Quinze, find a barricade of chairs at the entrance of the Tuileries, and are greeted with a shower of stones and bottles.[36] Elsewhere, on the Boulevard, before the Hôtel Montmorency, some of the French Guards, escaped from their barracks, fired on a loyal detachment of the “Royal Allemand.” – The alarm bell is sounding on all sides, the shops where arms are sold are pillaged, and the Hôtel-de-Ville is invaded; fifteen or sixteen well-disposed electors, who meet there, order the districts to be assembled and armed. — The new sovereign, the people in arms and in the street, has declared himself.

The dregs of society at once come to the surface. During the night between the 12th and 13th of July,[37] “all the barriers, from the Faubourg Saint-Antoine to the Faubourg Saint-Honoré, besides those of the Faubourgs Saint-Marcel and Saint-Jacques, are forced and set on fire.” There is no longer an octroi; the city is without a revenue just at the moment when it is obliged to make the heaviest expenditures; but this is of no consequence to the mob, which, above all things, wants to have cheap wine. “Ruffians, armed with pikes and sticks, proceed in several parties to give up to pillage the houses of those who are regarded as enemies to the public welfare.” “They go from door to door crying, ‘Arms and bread!’ During this fearful night, the bourgeoisie kept themselves shut up, each trembling at home for himself and those belonging to him.” On the following day, the 13th, the capital appears to be given up to bandits and the lowest of the low. One of the bands hews down the gate of the Lazarists, destroys the library and clothes-presses, the pictures, the windows and laboratory, and rushes to the cellars; where it staves in the casks and gets drunk: twenty-four hours after this, about thirty of them are found dead and dying, drowned in wine, men and women, one of these being at the point of childbirth. In front of the house[38] the street is full of the wreckage, and of ruffians who hold in their hands, ” some, eatables, others a jug, forcing the passers-by to drink, and pouring out wine to all comers. Wine runs down into the gutter, and the scent of it fills the air;” it is a drinking bout: meanwhile they carry away the grain and flour which the monks kept on hand according to law, fifty-two loads of it being taken to the market. Another troop comes to La Force, to deliver those imprisoned for debt; a third breaks into the Garde Meuble, carrying away valuable arms and armour. Mobs assemble before the hotel of Madame de Breteuil and the Palais-Bourbon, which they intend to ransack, in order to punish their proprietors. M. de Crosne, one of the most liberal and most respected men of Paris, but, unfortunately for himself a lieutenant of the police, is pursued, escaping with difficulty, and his hotel is sacked. — During the night between the 13th and 14th of May, the baker’s shops and the wine shops are pillaged; “men of the vilest class, armed with guns, pikes, and turnspits, make people open their doors and give them something to eat and drink, as well as money and arms.” Vagrants, ragged men, several of them “almost naked,” and “most of them armed like savages, and of hideous appearance;” they are ” such as one does not remember to have seen in broad daylight;” many of them are strangers, come from nobody knows where.[39] It is stated that there were 50,000 of them, and that they had taken possession of the principal guard-houses.

During these two days and nights, says Bailly, “Paris ran the risk of being pillaged, and was only saved from the marauders by the National Guard.” Already, in the open street,[40] “these creatures tore off women’s shoes and earrings,” and the robbers were beginning to have full sway. — Fortunately the militia organized itself and the principal inhabitants and gentlemen enrolled themselves; 48,000 men are formed into battalions and companies; the bourgeoisie buy guns of the vagabonds for three livres apiece, and sabers or pistols for twelve sous. At last, some of the offenders are hung on the spot, and others disarmed, and the insurrection again becomes political. But, whatever its object, it remains always wild, because it is in the hands of the mob. Dusaulx, its panegyrist, confesses[41] that “he thought he was witnessing the total dissolution of society.” There is no leader, no management. The electors who have converted themselves into the representatives of Paris seem to command the crowd, but it is the crowd which commands them. One of them, Legrand, to save the Hôtel-de-Ville, has no other resource but to send for six barrels of gun-powder, and to declare to the assailants that he is about to blow everything into the air. The commandant whom they themselves have chosen, M. de Salles, has twenty bayonets at his breast during a quarter of an hour, and, more than once, the whole committee is near being massacred. Let the reader imagine, on the premises where the discussions are going on, and petitions are being made, “a concourse of fifteen hundred men pressed by a hundred thousand others who are forcing an entrance,” the wainscoting cracking, the benches upset one over another, the enclosure of the bureau pushed back against the president’s chair, a tumult such as to bring to mind ‘the day of judgment,” the death-shrieks, songs, yells, and “people beside themselves, for the most part not knowing where they are nor what they want.” — Each district is also a petty center, while the Palais-Royal is the main center. Propositions, ” accusations, and deputations travel to and fro from one to the other, along with the human torrent which is obstructed or rushes ahead with no other guide than its own inclination and the chances of the way. One wave gathers here and another there, their strategy consisting in pushing and in being pushed. Yet, their entrance is effected only because they are let in. If they get into the Invalides it is owing to the connivance of the soldiers. — At the Bastille, firearms are discharged from ten in the morning to five in the evening against walls forty feet high and thirty feet thick, and it is by chance that one of their shots reaches an invalid on the towers. They are treated the same as children whom one wishes to hurt as little as possible. The governor, on the first summons to surrender, orders the cannon to be withdrawn from the embrasures; he makes the garrison swear not to fire if it is not attacked; he invites the first of the deputations to lunch; he allows the messenger dispatched from the Hôtel-de-Ville to inspect the fortress; he receives several discharges without returning them, and lets the first bridge be carried without firing a shot.[42] When, at length, he does fire, it is at the last extremity, to defend the second bridge, and after having notified the assailants that he is going to do so. In short, his forbearance and patience are excessive, in conformity with the humanity of the times. The people, in turn, are infatuated with the novel sensations of attack and resistance, with the smell of gunpowder, with the excitement of the contest; all they can think of doing is to rush against the mass of stone, their expedients being on a level with their tactics. A brewer fancies that he can set fire to this block of masonry by pumping over it spikenard and poppy-seed oil mixed with phosphorus. A young carpenter, who has some archaeological notions, proposes to construct a catapult. Some of them think that they have seized the governor’s daughter, and want to burn her in order to make the father surrender. Others set fire to a projecting mass of buildings filled with straw, and thus close up the passage. “The Bastille was not taken by main force,” says the brave Elie, one of the combatants; “it surrendered before even it was attacked,”[43] by capitulation, on the promise that no harm should be done to anybody. The garrison, being perfectly secure, had no longer the heart to fire on human beings while themselves risking nothing,[44] and, on the other hand, they were unnerved by the sight of the immense crowd. Eight or nine hundred men only[45] were concerned in the attack, most of them workmen or shopkeepers belonging to the faubourg, tailors, wheelwrights, mercers and wine-dealers, mixed with the French Guards. The Place de la Bastille, however, and all the streets in the vicinity, were crowded with the curious who came to witness the sight; “among them,” says a witness,[46] “were a number of fashionable women of very good appearance, who had left their carriages at some distance.” To the hundred and twenty men of the garrison looking down from their parapets it seemed as though all Paris had come out against them. It is they, also, who lower the drawbridge an introduce the enemy: everybody has lost his head, the besieged as well as the besiegers, the latter more completely because they are intoxicated with the sense of victory. Scarcely have they entered when they begin the work of destruction, and the latest arrivals shoot at random those that come earlier; “each one fires without heeding where or on whom his shot tells.” Sudden omnipotence and the liberty to kill are a wine too strong for human nature; giddiness is the result; men see red, and their frenzy ends in ferocity.

For the peculiarity of a popular insurrection is that nobody obeys anybody; the bad passions are free as well as the generous ones; heroes are unable to restrain assassins. Elie, who is the first to enter the fortress, Cholat, Hulin, the brave fellows who are in advance, the French Guards who are cognizant of the laws of war, try to keep their word of honor; but the crowd pressing on behind them know not whom to strike, and they strike at random. They spare the Swiss soldiers who have fired at them, and who, in their blue smocks, seem to them to be prisoners; on the other hand, by way of compensation, they fall furiously on the invalides who opened the gates to them; the man who prevented the governor from blowing up the fortress has his wrist severed by the blow of a saber, is twice pierced with a sword and is hung, and the hand which had saved one of the districts of Paris is promenaded through the streets in triumph. The officers are dragged along and five of them are killed, with three soldiers, on the spot, or on the way. During the long hours of firing, the murderous instinct has become aroused, and the wish to kill, changed into a fixed idea, spreads afar among the crowd which has hitherto remained inactive. It is convinced by its own clamor; a hue and cry is all that it now needs; the moment one strikes, all want to strike. “Those who had no arms,” says an officer, “threw stones at me;[47] the women ground their teeth and shook their fists at me. Two of my men had already been assassinated behind me. I finally got to within some hundreds of paces of the Hôtel-de-Ville, amidst a general cry that I should be hung, when a head, stuck on a pike, was presented to me to look at, while at. the same moment I was told that it was that of M. de Launay,” the governor. – The latter, on going out, had received the cut of a sword on his right shoulder; n reaching the Rue Saint- Antoine “everybody pulled his hair out and struck him.” Under the arcade of Saint-Jean he was already “severely wounded.” Around him, some said, “his head ought to be struck off;” others, “let him be hung;” and others, “he ought to be tied to a horse’s tail.” Then, in despair, and wishing to put an end to his torments, he cried out, “Kill me,” and, in struggling, kicked one of the men who held him in the lower abdomen. On the instant he is pierced with bayonets, dragged in the gutter, and, striking his corpse, they exclaim, “He’s a scurvy wretch (galeux) and a monster who has betrayed us; the nation demands his head to exhibit to the public,” and the man who was kicked is asked to cut it off. — This man, an unemployed cook, a simpleton who “went to the Bastille to see what was going on,” thinks that as it is the general opinion, the act is patriotic, and even believes that he “deserves a medal for destroying a monster.” Taking a saber which is lent to him, he strikes the bare neck, but the dull saber not doing its work, he takes a small black- handled knife from his pocket, and, “as in his capacity of cook he knows how to cut meat,” he finishes the operation successfully. Then, placing the head on the end of a three-pronged pitchfork, and accompanied by over two hundred armed men, “not counting the mob,” he marches along, and, in the Rue Saint-Honoré, he has two inscriptions attached to the head, to indicate without mistake whose head it is. — They grow merry over it: after filing alongside of the Palais-Royal, the procession arrives at the Pont-Neuf, where, before the statue of Henry IV., they bow the head three times, saying, “Salute thy master ! ” — This is the last joke: it is to be found in every triumph, and inside the butcher, we find the rogue.


Murders of Foulon and Berthier.

Meanwhile, at the Palais-Royal, other buffoons, who with the levity of gossips sport with lives as freely as with words, have drawn u. During the night between the 13th and 14th of July, a list of proscriptions, copies of which are hawked about. Care is taken to address one of them to each of the persons designated, the Comte d’Artois, Marshal de Broglie, the Prince de Lambesc, Baron de Bezenval, MM. de Breteuil, Foulon, Berthier, Maury, d’Espréménil, Lefèvre d’Amécourt, and others besides.[48] A reward is promised to whoever will bring their heads to the Café de Caveau. Here are names for the unchained multitude; all that now is necessary is that some band should encounter a man who is denounced; he will go as far as the lamppost at the street corner, but not beyond it. – Throughout the day of the 14th, this improvised tribunal holds a permanent session, and follows up its decisions with its actions. M. de Flesselles, provost of the merchants and president of the electors at the Hôtel-de-Ville, having shown himself somewhat lukewarm,[49] the Palais-Royal declares him a traitor and sends him off to be hung. On the way a young man fells him with a pistol- shot, others fall upon his body, while his head, borne upon a pike, goes to join that of M. de Launay. — Equally deadly accusations and of equally speedy execution float in the air and from every direction. “On the slightest pretext,” says an elector, “they denounced to us those whom they thought opposed to the Revolution, which already signified the same as enemies of the State. Without any investigation, there was only talk of the seizure of their persons, the ruin of their homes, and the razing of their houses. One young man exclaimed: ‘Follow me at once, let us start off at once to Bezenval’s!'” — Their brains are so frightened, and their minds so distrustful, that at every step in the streets “one’s name has to be given, one’s profession declared, one’s residence, and one’s intentions . . .. One can neither enter nor leave Paris without being suspected of treason.” The Prince de Montbarrey, advocate of the new ideas, and his wife, are stopped in their carriage at the barrier, and are on the point of being cut to pieces. A deputy of the nobles, on his way to the National Assembly, is seized in his cab and conducted to the Place de Grève; the corpse of M. de Launay is shown to him, and he is told that he is to be treated in the same fashion. – Every life hangs by a thread, and, on the following days, when the King had sent away his troops, dismissed his Ministers, recalled Necker, and granted everything, the danger remains just as great. The multitude, abandoned to the revolutionaries and to itself, continues the same bloody antics, while the municipal chiefs[50] whom it has elected, Bailly, Mayor of Paris, and Lafayette, commandant of the National Guard, are obliged to use cunning, to implore, to throw themselves between the multitude and the unfortunates whom they wish to destroy.

On the 15th of July, in the night, a woman disguised as a man is arrested in the court of the Hôtel-de-Ville, and so maltreated that she faints away; Bailly, in order to save her, is obliged to feign anger against her and have her sent immediately to prison. From the 14th to the 22nd of July, Lafayette, at the risk of his life, saves with his own hand seventeen persons in different quarters.[51] — On the 22nd of July, upon the denunciations which multiply around Paris like trains of gunpowder, two administrators of high rank, M. Foulon, Councillor of State, and M. Berthier, his son-in-law, are arrested, one near Fontainebleau, and the other near Compiègne. M. Foulon, a strict master,[52] but intelligent and useful, expended sixty thousand francs the previous winter on his estate in giving employment to the poor. M. Berthier, an industrious and capable man, had officially surveyed and valued Ile-de-France, to equalize the taxes, and had reduced the overcharged quotas first one-eighth and then a quarter. But both of these gentlemen have arranged the details of the camp against which Paris has risen; both are publicly proscribed for eight days previously by the Palais-Royal, and, with a people frightened by disorder, exasperated by hunger, and stupefied by suspicion, an accused person is a guilty one. — With regard to Foulon, as with Réveillon, a story is made up, coined in the same mint, a sort of currency for popular circulation, and which the people itself manufactures by casting into one tragic expression the sum of its sufferings and rankling memories:[53] “He said that we were worth no more than his horses; and that if we had no bread we had only to eat grass.” — The old man of seventy-four is brought to Paris, with a truss of hay on his head, a collar of thistles around his neck, and his mouth stuffed with hay. In vain does the electoral bureau order his imprisonment that he may be saved; the crowd yells out: “Sentenced and hung!” and, authoritatively, appoints the judges. In vain does Lafayette insist and entreat three times that the judgment be regularly rendered, and that the accused be sent to the Abbaye. A new wave of people comes up, and one man, “well dressed,” cries out: “What is the need of a sentence for a man who has been condemned for thirty years?” Foulon is carried off; dragged across the square, and hung to the lamp post. The cord breaks twice, and twice he falls upon the pavement. Re- hung with a fresh cord and then cut down, his head is severed from his body and placed on the end of a pike.[54] Meanwhile, Berthier, sent away from Compiègne by the municipality, afraid to keep him in his prison where he was constantly menaced, arrives in a cabriolet under escort. The people carry placards around him filled with opprobrious epithets; in changing horses they threw hard black bread into the carriage, exclaiming, “There, wretch, see the bread you made us eat!” On reaching the church of Saint-Merry, a fearful storm of insults burst forth against him. He is called a monopolist, “although he had never bought or sold a grain of wheat.” In the eyes of the multitude, who has to explain the evil as caused by some evil-doer, he is the author of the famine. Conducted to the Abbaye, his escort is dispersed and he is pushed over to the lamp post. Then, seeing that all is lost, he snatches a gun from one of his murderers and bravely defends himself. A soldier of the “Royal Croats” gives him a cut with his saber across the stomach, and another tears out his heart. As the cook, who had cut off the head of M. de Launay, happens to be on the spot, they hand him the heart to carry while the soldiers take the head, and both go to the Hôtel- de-Ville to show their trophies to M. de Lafayette. On their return to the Palais-Royal, and while they are seated at table in a tavern, the people demand these two remains. They throw them out of the window and finish their supper, whilst the heart is marched about below in a bouquet of white carnations. — Such are the spectacles which this garden presents where, a year before, “good society in full dress” came on leaving the Opera to chat, often until two o’clock in the morning, under the mild light of the moon, listening now to the violin of Saint-Georges, and now to the charming voice of Garat.


Paris in the hands of the people.

Henceforth it is clear that no one is safe: neither the new militia nor the new authorities suffice to enforce respect for the law. “They did not dare,” says Bailly,[55] “oppose the people who, eight days before this, had taken the Bastille.” — In vain, after the last two murders, do Bailly and Lafayette indignantly threaten to withdraw; they are forced to remain; their protection, such as it is, is all that is left, and, if the National Guard is unable to prevent every murder, it prevents some of them. People live as they can under the constant expectation of fresh popular violence. “To every impartial man,” says Malouet, “the Terror dates from the 14th of July”. – On the 17th, before setting out for Paris, the King attends communion and makes his will in anticipation of assassination. From the 16th to the 18th, twenty personages of high rank, among others most of those on whose heads a price is set by the Palais-Royal, leave France: The Count d’Artois, Marshal de Broglie, the Princes de Condé, de Conti, de Lambesc, de Vaudemont, the Countess de Polignac, and the Duchesses de Polignac and de Guiche. — The day following the two murders, M. de Crosne, M. Doumer, M. Sureau, the most zealous and most valuable members of the committee on subsistence, all those appointed to make purchases and to take care of the storehouses, conceal themselves or fly. On the eve of the two murders, the notaries of Paris, being menaced with a riot, had to advance 45,000 francs which were promised to the workmen of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine; while the public treasury, almost empty, is drained of 30,000 livres per day to diminish the cost of bread. — Persons and possessions, great and small, private individuals and public functionaries, the Government itself, all is in the hands of the mob. “From this moment,” says a deputy,[56] “liberty did not exist even in the National Assembly . . . France stood dumb before thirty factious persons. The Assembly became in their hands a passive instrument, which they forced to serve them in the execution of their projects.” — They themselves do not lead, although they seem to lead. The great brute, which has taken the bit in its mouth, holds on to it, and it’s plunging becomes more violent. Not only do both spurs which maddened it, I mean the desire for innovation and the daily scarcity of food, continue to prick it on. But also the political hornets which, increasing by thousands, buzz around its ears. And the license in which it revels for the first time, joined to the applause lavished upon it, urges it forward more violently each day. The insurrection is glorified. Not one of the assassins is sought out. It is against the conspiracy of Ministers that the Assembly institutes an inquiry. Rewards are bestowed upon the conquerors of the Bastille; it is