Ernest Belfort Bax

Sketches of the French Revolution

A Short History of the French Revolution for Socialists

(Part 1)

The Literary Prologue

The cardinal idea of the French Revolution was the political emancipation of the middle-class. The feudal hierarchy of the Middle Ages consisted in France, as in other countries, of three main social divisions, or estates, as they were termed, (1) The superior territorial clergy, (2) the nobles, and (3) the smaller landholders, the free tenants, and the citizens of the independent townships. The mere serf, villein (holding by servile tenure), or common labourer, was like the slave of antiquity, unclassified. The possession or (non-servile) tenure of land was the condition of freedom. This third estate was the germ of our middle-class. The great problem of the French Revolution, then, was to obtain the independence and domination of the third estate. It is expressed in the words of its representative, the Abbé Sièyes “What are we of the third estate? Nothing. What would we be? Everything.” But, although the political supremacy of the middle-class was the central idea, and the one which it realised (thereby effectually refuting a certain order of politicians that declares violent revolutions to be necessarily abortive), there were issues raised – and not merely raised, but carried for the time being -which went far beyond this. But the flood-tide of the Revolution did not represent the permanent gain of progress. The waters receded from the ground touched at the height of the crisis; leaving the enfranchisement of the bourgeoisie as the one achievement permanently effected.

Foremost among the precursors of this mighty change was the Genevese thinker Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-78). This remarkable personality may aptly be termed the Messiah of the Revolutionary Crisis. His writings were quoted and read as a new gospel by wellnigh all the prominent leaders of the time. Rousseau’s doctrines were contained in an early essay on civilisation, in his Emile, a treatise on Education, and in the Contrat Social, his chief work.

In his first essay, Rousseau maintained the superiority of the savage over the civilised, state, and the whole of his subsequent teaching centred in deprecation of the hollowness and artificiality of society, and in an inculcation of the imperative need of a return, as far as might be, to a state of nature in all our relations. This he especially applies to education in his Emile, in which he sketches the training of a hypothetical child.

The Social Contract, his, greatest work contains a discussion of the first principles of social and political order. It is to this work the magic formulas which served as watchwords during the Revolution, formulas such as “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity,” “Divine Right of Insurrection,” the term “Citizen,” employed as a style of address, and many other things are traceable. The title of the work was suggested by Locke’s (or perhaps Hobbes’) supposition of a primitive contract having been entered into between governor and governed. This idea Rousseau denies, in so far as any unconditionally binding agreement is concerned. No original distinction existed between, rulers and ruled. ‘Any contract of the kind that obtained was merely a political convenience strictly subject to conditions. Governors were merely the delegates or mandatories of the people. The form of government was to Rousseau more or less a minor matter, though a democracy had the most advantages, Yet it was quite possible for the mandates of the people to be adequately carried out by a special body of men (an aristocracy), or even by one man (a king. But every form of government was bound to recognize the will of the people as sovereign in all things.

The classification of the French Revolution is also largely traceable to Rousseau. The Roman constitution is invariably the source of his illustrations and the model to be copied or amended.. As regards toleration, Rousseau would allow the civil power the .right of suppressing views which were deemed contrary to good citizenship Like the Romans, he would tolerate all religions equally that did not menace the State. There is probably no single book that has produced such stupendous results within a few years, if at all, as Rousseau’s Social Contract. It is the text-book of the French Revolution. Every ordinance, every law, every draft of constitution bears the mark of its influence. Although unquestionably right in his repudiation of Locke’s crude theory, it is needless to say that Rousseau’s own views are singularly barren and unhistorical as every theory must be that deals only with the political side of things. One may admire his loathing at the artificiality of the world around him; at the “organised hypocrisy” called religion and morality; but in his day it was impossible to uncover its historical roots, and hence, to modern ears, his diatribes lose much of their effect.

The influence of the second important precursor of the French Revolution, Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778) was much more. indirect than that of Rousseau. Voltaire’s influence was almost purely negative. By his wit he scorched the reverence remaining in the minds of men for the forms of the old outworn feudal-Catholic organisation. Though there was a great amount of adroit self-seeking in Voltaire’s character, it is as impossible to deny that there was much that was genuine and truly noble in his indignation at cruelty, an his detestation of Christian hypocrisy, as that it produced a far-reaching effect on the events that followed. Voltaire, although personally a Frenchman of Frenchmen, breathes the spirit of conscious cosmopolitan and contempt for nationality in his writings in which for the first time in history became a popular creed during the Revolution, and was expressed in the famous appeal of 1793.

But in this, as in other respects, Voltaire was not alone. He partly created and partly reflected the prevalent tone of the French salon (drawing-room) culture of the eighteenth century. This, if we cared to do so, we might trace back in its main features to the revival of learning – to the courts of the Medicis. And here it may be well to remind our readers, in passing, of the truth that individual genius merely means the special faculty of expressing the “spirit of the age” to which that of preceding ages has led up and that Voltaire and Rousseau merely achieved the results they did by reason of their capacity for reproducing in words the shapeless thoughts of millions. To this, in the case of Voltaire, must be added a special width of intellectual sympathy which took in an unusually large number of different subjects.

Besides Rousseau and Voltaire, we must not omit to mention the brilliant group of contemporary workers and thinkers, headed by Diderot and D’Alembert, who built up that monument of laborious industry, the great French Encyclopaedia. Immense difficulties attended the publication of this important work, notwithstanding that care was taken to exclude any expressions of overt contempt or hostility towards current prejudices. Again, we must not forget the Materialist-Atheists, central among whom was Baron Holbach, the anonymous author of the celebrated System of Nature, a book which, though crude according to modern notions, did good work in its day – work, which a treatise of more intrinsic philosophical value probably would not have achieved. It is noteworthy that most of the other prominent names among the pre-revolutionary writers, including Rousseau and Voltaire, are those of ardent deists.

All these men contributed their share in preparing the mental foundation for the great upheaval which followed. It is strange, however, that not one of them lived to see the practical issue of their labours. Rousseau, the most directly powerful of them died eleven years before the taking of the Bastille, and Voltaire the same year. Diderot lived till 1784; D’Alembert died the previous year. Mirabeau, alone of all who had prepared the great crisis, lived to see its beginning. But even he succumbed in 1791, a year and a-half before the actual fall of the monarchy. These men saw only a free thinking, aristocracy and literary class. Of the movement below they recked little, scarcely, perhaps that there was such a movement. The throne seemed secure; religion as popular as ever, the same throne which in a few years was destined to be involved in so mighty an overthrow.

Ten years of bad harvests aggravated by an effete industrial, fiscal, and political system, culminated with the summer of 1788. A great drought was succeeded by a violent hailstorm, which dealt destruction all round. The harvest was worse than ever before. All kinds of agricultural crops failed miserably all over France, not alone wheat and grain generally, but vines, chestnuts, olives; in short; all the natural products of consumption and exportation. Even what was gathered in was so spoiled as to be almost unfit for use. From every province of France came the monotonous tale of ruin, famine, starvation. Even the comparatively well-to-do peasant-farmer could obtain nothing but barley bread of a bad quality, and water, while the less well-off had to put up with bread made from dried hay or moistened chaff, which we are told “caused the death of many children.” The Englishman, Arthur Young, who was travelling through France this year, wherever he went heard nothing but the story of the distress of the people and the dearness of bread. “Such bread as is to be obtained tastes of mould, and often produces dysentery and other diseases. The larger towns present the same condition, as though they had undergone the extremities of a long siege, in some places the whole store of corn and barley has the stench of putrefaction, and is full of maggots.” To add to the horrors of the situation, upon the hot and dry summer follows a winter of unparalled severity. The new year of 1789 opens with the Seine frozen over from Paris to Havre. No such weather had been experienced since 1709. As the spring advances the misery increases. The industrial crisis becomes acute in the towns, thousands of workmen are thrown out of employment. The riots and local disturbances which had for many years past been taking place sporadically in various districts, now became daily more frequent, so much so that from March onwards the whole peasantry of France may be said to have been in a state of open insurrection, three hundred separate risings is the provinces being counted for the four months preceding the taking of the Bastille.

The Economic Prelude in the Provinces

In 1787, the minister Lomerie de Brienne had created nineteen new provincial assemblies. Below the arrondissement, or district assembly, which had been instituted some years before now, came the assembly of the parish. In each of these primary assemblies of the parish; the arrondissement, and even of the province, the “people, farmers, &c., sat side by side with the local dignitaries,” a fact which, as may be imagined, considerably tended to obliterate the ancient feudal awe. In November, 1787, the King announced his intention of convoking the States General. On the 5th of July, 1788, the various local bodies we’re called upon to draw up cahiers, or statements of their grievances for presentment before the King and States General, in which a double representation of the “third estate,” was conceded. These cahiers form a mass of the most interesting material illustrative of the condition of France just before the revolution, and have not even yet been fully investigated. “The King,” said the proclamation, “ desires that from the extremities of his kingdom and the least known of its habitations each may feel assurance in bringing before him his views and grievances,” and this and other similar expressions were interpreted by the peasantry in the natural sense that the King was really desirous of rescuing them from starvation. It accordingly emboldened them to take the matter into their own hands. In January the cahiers were drawn up, which meant that the people had now for the first time formulated their ills. Discussion in the assemblies had excited them. The States-General was going to look to their ills, it was true, but the States-General did not meet till May, and meanwhile they were starving. One thing was clear, they must have bread. Accordingly, in defiance of local authorities and guardians of the peace, bands ranging up to three or four hundred and more, formed themselves all over France, seized and plundered granaries, religious houses, stares of all kinds, entered public buildings is the name of the people, destroying all legal documents, justly regarded as the instruments of their servitude, which they could lay hands on proclaimed the local dues and taxes abolished, summarily put to death all those who interfered with them in the name of law and order, and emboldened by success, finally took to the burning of the chateaux and the indiscriminate destruction and appropriation of the houses and property of the wealthy. That the numbers of these bands were augmented not only by the workmen out of employment in Paris, Rouen, &c., but also by professional thieves, &c., was only to be expected. The local authorities were hopelessly inadequate to cope with the insurgents, the central authority in Paris seemed paralysed.

Ordinary readers of the history of the Revolution are apt to forget in following the course of events in the metropolis that they were only an enlarged picture of what was going on in hundreds of towns and villages throughout the provinces. Both before and after the famous 14th of July, in most of the provinces of France all constituted authority was at an end. No one durst disobey the mandates of the popular insurgents. It would be impossible, and tedious if it were possible, to enumerate all the circumstances of even the principal revolts. The manner was pretty much the same in all, and the following account of an insurrection at Strasburg may serve to illustrate it. Five or six hundred peasants, artisans, unemployed, tramps, and others, seize the occasion of a public holiday to attack the Hotel de Ville, the assembled magistrates escaping precipitately by back doors. The windows disappear under a volley of stones, the doors are broken in with crowbars, and the crowd enters like a torrent. “Immediately,” the account states, “there was a rain of shutters, window-sashes, chains, tables, sofas, books, papers, &c.” The public archives are thrown to the winds, the neigbouring streets being covered with them. Deeds Charters, &c., perish in the flames. In the cellars tuns containing valuable wines are forced, the marauders, after drinking their fill, allowing them to run until there is a pond formed five feet deep, in which several people are drowned. Others, loaded with booty, run off with it under the eyes of the soldiers, who rather encourage the proceedings than otherwise. For three whole days the city is given over to the mob. All the houses belonging to persons of local distinction are sacked from cellar to attic. The revolt spreads instantly throughout the neighbouring country, (Taine, Origines, tom i. pp.81-82).

In some districts the leaders pretended to be acting under the orders of the King. The result is everywhere at least one thing, the enforcement of a law of maximum in the price of bread, and the abolition of taxes. Atrocities, of course, occur here and there. A lawyer is half-roasted to make him surrender a charter supposed to be in his possession; a lard is tortured to death; an ecclesiastic torn in pieces. Thus have threatened ruin and starvation, to which the political and financial necessities of the King have been the occasion of giving anti Mate expression, and the remedy for which is offered to those who can read, in he Social Contract of Rousseau, become the immediate cause of the French Revolution. Although the main thread of revolutionary history is to be sought in Paris, and consequently the reader’s attention in the course of the following articles will be largely occupied with the great political drama unfolding in Paris, it must never be forgotten that the life of the Revolution is simultaneously manifesting itself-that accessory dramas to that in Paris are being enacted in every town and village throughout France.

I. The Opening of Paris

On the 5th of May, 1789, the royal town of Versailles was gay – gay with decorations with music vocal and instrumental, with epaulettes, “etiquettes,” fair women and fair costumes. It was the opening of the States General, called together for the first time since 1614, as a last resource to rescue the realm from impending bankruptcy – the opening also of the French Revolution.

At midday might have been seen the feudal procession entering the Church of St. Louis. After the King and Royal Family, the clergy occupied the first place, the “superior clergy” attired in purple robe and lawn sleeves, the less “superior” in cassock, cloak and square bonnet. Next came the nobles, habited to black with silver-faced vest, lace cravat, and plumed hat; while bringing up the rear followed the humble tiers-etat – the representatives of the middle-class, the merchants, the farmers, and the small landowners – dressed also in black, but adorned with merely a short cloak and plain hat. With this memorable procession the constitution of the middle ages, moribund for over two centuries, spasmodically gasped its last breath.

The business of the States-General did not pass off as gaily as the opening. Conflict between the orders followed immediately, with the result that the third estate constituted itself the National Assembly of France, refusing to admit the other orders to its deliberations except on a basis of equality. The King manifested his displeasure closing the door of the Hall of the States against them. The assembly answered by the celebrated oath in the tennis court of Versailles, by which it pledged itself not to separate till it had given France a constitution. The assembly triumphed over the court two days after its oath, inasmuch as it regained possession of its Hall, openly defied the King in person, got rid of the body of the clergy and noblesse, formally confirmed its decrees of the previous day which the King had quashed, and proceeded with its deliberations. Thus the curtain rose on the first act of the revolutionary drama:

Meanwhile the popular ferment had taken complete possession of the capital and was rapidly spreading into the provinces. On the 12th of July, Necker, the minister of finance, beloved by the middle-class, was dismissed from office. Necker it should be observed was one of the less bad of the scoundrels called finance ministers, who had been malversating the national funds, in succession, for years past. By comparison he appeared almost virtuous and the “populace” whose charity and admiration is always boundless toward official personages, when not quite so bad as one would expect, had converted him into an object of adoration. The city was soon in an uproar. The Palais-Royal, the great place of public assembly and political discussion, was packed with over ten thousand persons. On the table which served for a tribune, stood a young man, of fine cut features, and gentle mien who was haranguing the crowd. “Citizens,” said he, “there is not a moment to lose! The removal of Meeker is the tocsin for a St. Bartholemew of patriots! This evening all the Swiss and German battalions are coming from the Champ de Mars to slaughter us! There remains but one resource let us rush to arms?” So saying, he placed in his hat a sprig of a tree – green being the emblem of hope. His example was followed till the chesnut trees of Paris were denuded.

The crowd proceeded through the streets, bearing in triumph the busts of Necker and Phillippe Egalité, its numerical strength increasing with every yard traversed, till its course was arrested on the Pont-Royal by a detachment of the Royal German Cavalry. The latter were driven back by showers of stones and the concourse swept onwards as far as the Place Louis XV. Here a formidable street fight took place, the people being opposed by a squadron of dragoons. The regulars of the King after encountering a vigorous resistance at length routed the insurgent Parisians, but the victory was more fatal to the cause they represented than any defeat could have been. The dispersed multitude carried the indignant cry, “To arms,” from end to end of Paris. The regiment of the French Guards quartered in Paris mutinied and put to flight the mercenary foreign troops intended to overawe them.

The whole night long the tocsin rang out from the Hotel de Ville, where a committee of prominent citizens was sitting to organise a search for arms. The morning of the 13th July saw Paris in full revolt; the tocsins of all the churches were pealing; drums were beating along all the main streets; excited crowds collecting in every open space, gunsmith’s shops being ransacked; on all sides a mad search for weapons was the order of the day. The committee at the Hotel de Ville in response to importunate demands for arms could only reply that they had none. The civic authorities next appealed to, temporised and evasively promised assistance. In the confusion there were naturally not wanting ruffians who sought to make use of the state of things prevailing for purposes of plunder. Such excesses were peremptorily put down with the cry of “death to the thieves.” The equipages and other property of the “aristocrats” when seized by the people were always either destroyed or carried to a central station at the Place de Greve. In the afternoon the “provost of the merchants” (a dignitary of the effete medieval hierarchy) announced the speedy arrival of the muskets and ammunition so eagerly clamoured for on all sides. A citizen militia was formed, under the name of the Parisian Guard, numbering 48,000 men; cockades of red, blue and green were everywhere distributed; but the hours passed on and no muskets arrived. A panic seized the city that the mercenary troops were about to march on Paris during the ensuing night. At last chests purporting to contain ammunition did appear, were eagerly torn open and found to contain – old linen and broken pieces of wood.

The committee men and the “provost of the merchants” alike narrowly escaped with their lives. But the provost, pleading that he had been himself deceived, tried to divert the attention of the people by sending them on a futile expedition to Chartreux. The committee finally hit upon the device of arming the citizens with pikes, in default of firearms, and accordingly ordered 50,000 to be forged. As a measure of protection against thieves and plunderers, the city was illuminated throughout the night.

E. Belfort Bax.

P.S. Typographers have made me responsible in my last article for a couple of errors in dates, the correction of which I subjoin: – Voltaire died in 1778 – not 1718; Mirabeau died in the spring of 1791 – not 1790.

II. The Bastille

Next morning (the 14th) early, the word was passed among the populace “to the Invalides.” There at least arms must be forthcoming. And surely enough the people were rewarded for their courage in braving the troops assembled on the Champ de Mars, and forcing their way into the great military depôt. Twenty-eight thousand muskets besides cannon, sabres and spears were carried off in triumph. Meanwhile the alarm had been given that the royal regiments posted at St. Denis were on the way to the capital and above all that the cannon of the Bastille itself was pointed toward the Boulevard St. Antoine.

The attention of Paris was at once directed to the latter point, which really commanded the most populous districts of the city. The whole morning, there was but one cry, “To the Bastille!” Armed crowds assembled at this place from all quarters, till the great fortress seemed confronted by the whole city in arms. Negotiations took place with the governor, Delaunay, but the people persistently shouted “We want the Bastille!” The die was cast by the destruction of the great bridge, which was battered down by blows from hatchets, it is said, by two men only. The concourse poured in; the second drawbridge was attacked and vigorously defended by the small garrison. Numbers of the assailants fell killed and wounded. The siege continued over four hours, when the French Guard who, as we have seen, had already sided with the revolution, arrived with cannon. The garrison, seeing the case hopeless, themselves urged the governor to surrender. But old Delaunay preferred blowing the place up and burying himself amidst the ruins. His companions alone prevented him carrying out this design. The soldiers thereupon surrendered on condition that their lives should be spared. The leaders of the people who were in the forefront and had given their word to this effect, did their utmost to protect the garrison from the indignation of the crowd. But among the thousands that thronged in there were probably few who knew, anything of what had taken place. As a consequence, Delaunay and some of the Swiss garrison fell victims to the popular fury.

Meanwhile the Hôtel de Ville was in trepidation. Above all the “provost of the merchants,” Flesselles, trembled lest he should be made to suffer for his treachery. These fears were not allayed when shouts of “Victory,” “Liberty,” issuing from thousands of throats, assailed the ears of the inmates, and grew louder minute by minute. It was the conquerors of the Bastille carrying their heroes in triumph to the municipal head quarters. Presently there entered the great hall, an enthusiastic but disorderly, ragged, and bloodstained crowd, promiscuously armed with pikes, muskets, hatchets, and well-nigh every other conceivable weapon. Above the heads of the crowd one held up the keys of the Bastille, another the “orders” of Delaunay, a third the collar of the governor. A general amnesty for all the prisoners captured was agreed to after much opposition. But the “provost of the merchants” did not get off so easily. On the corpse of Delaunay a letter had been found, in which Flesselles had stated that he was amusing the Parisians with cockades and promises, and that if the fortress could only hold out till nightfall relief should come. A court was to have been improvised in the Palais Royal to judge him, but on the way thither he was laid dead by a pistol shot from one of the crowd.

The excitement of the day’s action over, the fears of designs against the capital on the part of the Court redoubled. Everywhere barricades were raised, paving-stones torn up, pikes forged. The whole population was all night long at work in the streets. How well-grounded were the fears of the Parisians would have been evident to anyone behind the scenes at Versailles, where Breteuil, the prince minister, had just promised the king to restore the royal authority in three days this very right having been fixed for the expedition; and wine and presents distributed among the army in anticipation.

The assembly, which was sitting en permanence, was about to send one more deputation to the king (it had already sent two) when he appeared in person in its midst. On being informed of the events that had taken place by the “grand master of the wardrobe,” he exclaimed “It is a revolt.” “No, Sire!” replied the “grand master,” “it is a revolution.” On the king’s subsequent protestations of affection for his subjects, and his statement that he had just given orders for the withdrawal of the foreign troops front Paris and Versailles, that he confided his person to the representatives of the nation alone &c., the assembly gave way to transports of joy, rose en masse and escorted him to the palace. The news spread rapidly. A revulsion of feeling took place all round, from terror to elation, from hatred to gratitude. The general jubilation was increased by the restoration of Necker, the entry of Louis XVI into Paris, and his acceptance of the tricolour cockade. Thus ended the preparatory period of the Revolution. It is needless to say the moral effect of the popular victory throughout France was immense, every town becoming henceforth a revolutionary centre.

There are one or two useful hints to be learned from this old and aft-repeated story of the fall of the Bastille. The first is of the eminent utility of popular “force” if only employed at the right moment. Beforehand it would have seemed preposterous that an “undisciplined mob” could take a fortress and paralyse the efforts of a reaction possessed of a trained army. Yet so it was.

Another point to note is the untrustworthiness of men who belong to the class which makes the revolution, and who even profess to represent it, when their personal interest and position are bound up with the maintenance of the existing order. Flesselles, a man of the third estate, its leading dignitary in the city of Paris, was yet the man who was least anxious to see the feudal hierarchy overthrown. And why? Because he played a part in it. The “third estate” had been incorporated into the medieval system. He was its representative as one of the feudal orders. Its position was subordinate indeed, but, now that it was growing in importance its leading men had much more to gain by clinging to the skirts of the noblesse, and aiding them in frustrating that complete revolution which the rank and file of the class were seeking, than in assisting the accomplishment of this revolution, which could only mean the effacement of their own personal positron. History repeats itself. Trades’ Unions have won for themselves recognition and patronage in the middle-class world of to-day. Their leaders, in a similar way, do not exhibit any special desire for a change, which, though it would mean the liberation and triumph of the class they represent, would at the same time render Trades’ Unions a thing of the past, no less than the Lord Mayors and Cabinet Ministers who stroke the backs of the parliamentary elect of Trades’ Unions. No, verily, this is not a nice prospect – for the Trades’ Union leaders.

III. The Constitution-Mongers

The constitution was now in full train. The Revolution up to the latter point was officially recognised. There was no harking back for any one. The first stratum of revolutionists was to the fore. Mirabeau, Lafayette and Bailly, are the central figures of the “Constituent Assembly,” as this first legislature was termed; Duport, Barnave, and Lameth, its extreme men. The Comte de Mirabeau (1749-1791) one of the pre-revolutionary writers was the leader of the “moderate” party in the Assembly. His stupendous powers of oratory made him a useful ally and a dangerous, foe. This the court was not slow in discovering, and accordingly Mirabeau was soon won over by bribes to do his best to frustrate every popular measure in the assembly, while all the time professing devotion to the cause of liberty and the people. When this failed, the popular (?) orator did not disdain to resort to actual plotting.

The Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), of American Independence notoriety, was another member of the noblesse, who had adopted previously to the Revolution the quasi-advanced views then fashionable with his class, was the military representative of the “moderate” party, in his capacity of commandant of the National Guard, besides the henchman of Mirabeau in the assembly. Bailly (1736-1793), who was elected Mayor or Paris the day after the taking of the Bastille, coadjutated in the work of moderating the Revolution alike in his official capacity and in the Assembly. As to the “extreme men,” they really represented but the most moderate form of constitutional monarchy. The situation of parties may be estimated by the fact that Barnave advocated a suspensory veto on the part of the King, while Mirabeau strenuously supported the absolute veto. And be it remembered at such a time, the right of vetoing obnoxious measures, would have been no mere matter of form. It appears, then, that even the most advanced Parliamentarians of the day were not prepared to go beyond the present Prussian constitution. Nevertheless, circumstances early forced upon this timid and comparatively reactionary assembly, some drastic political measures, such for instance as the abolition of all seignorial rights and privileges.

Its first important performance after the fall of the Bastille was the declaration of the Rights of Man, in imitation of the Americans after the successful termination of the War of Independence. The question which arose immediately subsequent to this, on the constitution of the chamber and its relations to the King, need not detain us. It is sufficient to state that while the assembly was amusing itself discussing “suspensory veto” or “absolute veto,” the court, viz. Queen and Company at Versailles, were meditating the transference of the King to Metz, where the mercenary German troops were stationed and whence communication with the French noblesse who had emigrated and the reactionary foreign powers was easy, the idea being to declare Paris and the assembly rebels and march upon the capital with the view of restoring the absolute monarchy. These machinations at Versailles are interesting as having given the direction to the first great demonstration of the Proletariat during the Revolution. I say the direction, as the ultimate cause was the advice Marat had given some days before in the Ami du Peuple, when discussing the scarcity of bread.

The revolt broke out in this way. A woman beating a drum patrolled the streets crying bread! bread! She was soon surrounded by large numbers of women, who repaired to the Hotel de Ville demanding bread and arms, at the same time raising the cry “to Versailles” which was taken up by the populace generally, with the suddenness characteristic of Parisian outbreaks. The National Guard, and the French Guard eventually joined in, with such persistence and unanimity, that Lafayette after some hours of expostulation was compelled to place himself at their head, the troops having begun to march without him.

The unexpected appearance of a concourse headed by women and backed by a large armed force naturally threw the queen and court into a state of “amazement and admiration” (in the Shakespearean sense). The “household troops” at once surrounded the palace. The women however expressed peaceable intentions, and through their spokeswoman laid their grievances before the King and Assembly, describing the direness of the famine prevailing Meanwhile in the courtyard of the palace which was filled with a motley crowd a quarrel arose, an officer of the King’s troop having struck a National Guard. This was the signal for immediate conflict between the two armed bodies. The people and the Nationals were furious and the collision must have resulted in bloodshed had it not been for the darkness of the night which was coming on and the prudent order given the Royal soldiers to cease from firing and to retreat.

The disturbance was eventually quelled, the crowds melting away gradually, as the night advanced. The royal family retired to rest at two o’clock; Lafayette who had remained up all night, in vain endeavoured to snatch repose for an hour or two at five a.m. Before six some members of the previous evening’s crowd who had remained at Versailles, insulted one of the bodyguard, who drew upon them wounding one of their number. The sleepless “hero of two worlds” was soon upon the scene; he found considerable remnants of yesterday’s gathering furiously forcing their way into the palace. The assailants were temporarily dispersed, but soon reassembled clamouring for the king. The king eventually appeared upon the balcony promising, in reply to the popular demands, that he would go to Paris with his family. The queen, the head and front of all the recent offending, next stepped on to the balcony in the company of the arch-courtier, Lafayette, who with a profound obeisance kissed the hand of the woman who had been plotting the massacre of that very “People” for whom this hypocritical charlatan had been all along professing zeal and devotion. But the humiliation of the Parisians was not even yet ended. Lafayette retiring, reappeared with one of the obnoxious bodyguard, and placing the tricolour cockade upon his breast, embraced him. At each of these “points” the assembled crowd duly cheered. The royal family then set out for Paris, and the Tuilieries became henceforth their permanent residence.

IV. King and People or The New Constitution

After the pacific evolution of parties and events we have lately described, which occurred on the 5th and 6th of October, 1789, the course of the revolution was, for some considerable time, peaceful and parliamentary. The Assembly soon followed the Court to Paris. Its migration seemed the signal for a vigorous application of the pickaxe to the old feudal system. The chief bulwark attacked was the property and independent organisation of the Church. Prior to this, however, the Assembly had reconstituted the map of France, by abolishing the old division into Provinces, substituting for it the present one into Departments. The provinces had formed de facto independent states. The division into Departments placed the whole realm under one central administration and included the entire reorganisation of the judicial system. There were eighty-three Departments formed, which were divided into districts and these into cantons. The department had its administrative council and executive directory, as had also the district; the canton was merely an electoral subdivision. The commune or township was confided to a general council and a municipality, which were, however, subordinated to the departmental council. The whole elaborate and complex scheme seemed carefully arranged to exclude, as far as possible, the working classes and peasantry from any voice in legislation.

The nationalisation of the church lands and property generally was precipitated by the old trouble; the exhausted state of the treasury. Necker had devised every conceivable plan for raising the wind, and failed, when the last-named project was suggested as a means of at least temporarily satisfying the exigencies of the situation. It would be tiresome to describe in detail the stages by which the Assembly arrived at the final result. It is sufficient to say that the decree expropriating the church was carried on the 2nd December, and that from henceforth the churchmen as a body became the determined enemies of the new regime. At first the clergy seemed more inclined than the noblesse to compromise matters in the hope of retaining their wealth, but now that the die was cast they were implacable. The difficulties attending the sale of the ecclesiastical property, however, were too great to admit of its realisation in time for the pressing needs of the exchequer; hence the issue of assignats, or notes having a forced currency, in short the adoption of a system of paper money.

All these measures were very interesting and shoved a laudable activity on the part of the body politic, but they did not affect the crowds to be seen daily at the bakers’ shops, ever and anon breaking out into tumult. The working-classes of Paris had gone to Versailles demanding simply bread, and Lafayette had given them the royal family. Any further grumbling was obviously to be suppressed with drastic measures. Accordingly martial law was proclaimed, and the municipality empowered to forcibly disperse any assembly of people after having once summoned them to retire. Lafayette was there to put this regulation into effect at the first opportunity. But it did not come yet.

The clubs were now beginning to play a part in influencing public opinion. The principal were these of the Feuillants, the Jacobins, and the Cordeliers. The first was “ministerial,” that is, it was in possession of the constitutionalists, Lafayette being its guiding star. The second, destined subsequently to become the great unofficial expression of the Revolution, counted but few adherents in the Assembly, though Barnave and Lameth were among its members, and it was occasionally patronised by several of the constitution makers, including Mirabeau himself, One cadaverous figure was always conspicuous at the Jacobins – his dress and speeches alike carefully prepared – by name Maximilian Robespierre, by profession briefless barrister, a native of Arras. The third or club of the Cordeliers, was composed of an advanced section of the Jacobins. Among its constant attendants might have been seen the stalwart yeoman Danton, and the short, thick-set, sharp-featured, journalist Marat. But neither the clubs nor their rising orators at this time exercised any but a very indirect influence on the course of events, though, they energetically debated every question as it arose.

Meanwhile in spite of occasional disturbances, panics as to the King’s plotting his flight, &c. affairs moved along with comparative smoothness towards the completion of the constitution, the consummation of the middle-class political order. Preparations for celebrating the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille with due solemnity went on apace. A national confederation was to be held in the Champ de Mars on this occasion in honour of the constitution. The “advanced” members of the noblesse, not to be behindhand in “patriotism” proposed in view of the national fête the abolition of titles, amorial bearings and the feudal insignia generally. The proposition was enthusiastically carried by the Assembly. Its result was naturally to rouse the keenest indignation among the nobles outside and to lead to an organised movement of aristocratic emigration.

On the 14th of July 1790, notwithstanding bad weather, might have seen the population of streaming from all sides in holiday attire, amid a blaze of tricolour-banners, hangings, cockades, to the Champ de Mars where a gigantic altar been erected, in the centre of a vast amphitheatre. The royal Family, the Assembly and the Municipality were grouped around this altar before which the Bishop of Autun performed mass in high pontifical robes, assisted by four hundred clergy in white surplices. Lafayette first ascended the altar and in the name of the national guards, of the whole realm, took the civic oath of fidelity to “the nation, the land, and the King.” This was followed by salvos of artillery and prolonged shouts of “vive la nation!” “Vive le roi!” The president of the Assembly, and all the deputies the department councils, &c., next took the same oath. But the grand item of the day’s programme was reached when Louis XVI. himself rose to swear, as King of France, to maintain the constitution decreed by the Assembly. This part of the performance terminated (as usual on “grand” occasions) with the appearance of the Queen holding the dauphin up aloft to the homage and admiration of the assembled multitude, who responded in one long and continuous acclamation. Chants of thanksgiving and exultant jubilation generally, closed the day’s proceedings.

Such was the inauguration of the first French constitution! But despite the new and glorious liberty crowds of hungry Parisians continued to be daily turned away from the baker’s shops.

V. A Constitution on its Beam Ends

All State functionaries, military, civil and eccelesiastical, were now compelled to take the oath of allegiance to the new order. This led to a revolt on the part of the majority of the nobles and ecclesiastics whose indignation was already roused to boiling point by the loss respectively of their privileges and revenues. Numbers of aristocratic officers left the army and the country to join their brethren across the frontier. Others, such as Bouillé, gave in with the view of gaining over the army for the counter-revolution.

Most of the clergy refused either to take the oath of allegiance or to leave their benefices, except by force being backed up in this by the enormous majority of the Bishops with the Pope at their head. The new Constitution in subordinating the ecclesiastical to the civil power was declared to involve an encroachment on ecclesiastical privilege, the Pope refusing to consecrate bishops in place of those deposed for non-compliance, and proclaiming the creation of all ecclesiastics, nominated according to the civic forms to be null and void. The ejection of non-conforming priests continued, notwithstanding, their successors being instituted by the bishops of Autun and Lida who had accepted the constitution. The opposite party retaliated by excommunicating all who acknowledged the intruders as they termed them. Thus began civil war between the Revolution and the Church. The clergy themselves prepared the soil of the popular mind for the reception and germination of the teachings of the pre-revolutionary writers which until now had been chiefly confined to the leisured and cultivated classes, by forcing it to the logical dilemma of friendship with the revolution, and enmity with Christianity, or friendship with Christianity and enmity with the revolution.

As regards the “emigrant” aristocrats, their object was to foment the hatred of the foreign powers against the revolution and to cement a coalition to effect its forcible overthrow by the invasion of the country. For well-nigh three years these intrigues with “the foreigner” were going on with the connivance of the court, until the fall of the monarchy precipitated “war to the knife” with the powers, in the shape of the campaign known as the “revolutionary war.” To understand the position of affairs it is necessary to remember that since the collapse of Feudalism as a living political order, with its quarrels between the titular King and his more or less nominally vassal barons, power had been concentrated more and more in royal hands, while nationalities had become definitely fixed. The result was that the mainly internal politics of the feudal period had from the sixteenth century onwards been giving place to external politics, in which the sovereigns of Europe, having ceased to fear the rivalry of nobles within then jurisdiction, discovered causes of quarrel with their brother sovereigns without usually in the hope of gaining territory. The French Revolution marks the opening, for the continent at least, of the modern period of the struggle of sovereigns not with their nobles or with each other, but with peoples, that is with the middle-class backed by the proletariat. This struggle began is England more than a hundred years earlier than on the continent, but practically subsided again with the revolution of 1689. In a subsequent article I shall hope to go more fully into the position of England at the time of the French Revolution.

The three principal European powers were at this time England, France and Austria. Prussia was a rising monarchy and the great Muscovite empire loomed in the background. The petty German princelets might be reckoned upon to side with the greater powers.

The death of Mirabeau, in April, 1791, having removed all hope of making a successful stroke on behalf of Royalism in the Assembly, the Court turned its attention to military plotting within increased energy. On the other hand the King felt some misgivings at being re-established exclusively by the aid of foreign bayonets, more especially as his cousin, the Comte d’Artois, was the leader in the movement, and if it were successful might possibly obtain more than his due share of influence in the resuscitated realm. These considerations led the Court to turn a favourable ear to General Bouillé, whose plan was to conquer the revolution by means of the troops already at hand in the service of the King. The army was to be moved to the frontier, the royal family were then to escape into its midst, after which war was to be declared against the Assembly, and the troops to march on the capital. This arrangement was effected up to the point of the King’s flight on the 21st June, 1791, almost without a hitch. Bouillé with his army was ready and waiting for the Royal party, when poor Louis was accidentally recognised at Varennes, and brouht back a prisoner to Paris. The indignation of the populace knew no bounds. The royal cortege re-entered Paris n the midst of sullen and angry crowds. For the first time talk of a Republic was heard. Barnave and the Lameth became the leaders of the Constitutionalist party in the Assembly now that Mirabeau was dead. But it was with difficulty that the Constitutionalists could reinstate the King after hits voluntary and treacherous abdication. They were only successful in their efforts, having thrown as a sop to Cerberus the condition that if he retracted his oath to the constitution, if he should place himself at the head of an army, or permit others to do so, he should lose his inviolability and be considered and treated as an ordinary citizen.

But opinion outside the Assembly was far from satisfied. The leaders of the Jacobin club (which was now the centre of a federation of similar clubs throughout the country) among whom were confounded in one cause Brissot, Pétion, Robespierre, Danton, Marat, &c., men of the “advanced” middle-class and men of the people, combined to rouse the nation against this decree, insisting on the abdication of Louis, and denying (the competency of the Assembly. They drew up a petition in which they appealed from the Assembly to (the sovereignty of the people. This petition was taken to the Champ de Mars and laid upon “the altar of the country.” Thousands came to sign it; the assemblage being dispersed by Lafayette, returned subsequently in greater numbers than before. Next time the commandant of the National Guard came accompanied by Bailly, the mayor. The red flag, the then symbol of martial law, was unfurled, the summons to disperse proclaimed, after which Lafayette gave the order to fire. A murderous charge followed, in which hundreds were killed and wounded. But notwithstanding that the Republicans were cowed for the time being, the court-sycophant and his accomplices in the work of the Constitution were well-nigh played out, though the old farce had first to be gone, through. The King once more accepted the Constitution, and in addition to the terms of his re-instatement in possession of his functions, made a touching and heart-stirring speech to the Assembly, was received thereupon with effusive demonstrations of affection, &c., &c. The Constituent Assembly which had been made up out of the abortive “States-General” then formally proclaimed itself dissolved. In the opinion of most men it was time.

VI. The Legislative Assembly.

The new “Legislative Assembly” as it was called to distinguish it from the first or Constituent Assembly, commenced its sittings on the 1st of October, 1791. Without, the coalition of, Europe against the Revolution was complete. England was united with Russia, Prussia and Austria, while the petty German states eagerly joined in this conspiracy to suppress the French nation. The famous treaty of Pilnitz was the expression of the determination and temper of the “powers” great and small. Within, the fabric of the constitutional monarchy was standing indeed, but as Carlyle expresses it, like an inverted pyramid, which may topple over any moment. Friction began at once between the King and Assembly on questions of reciprocal etiquette which it is unnecessary to dilate upon, but the “speech from the throne,” was well received. The dominant party in this Assembly was that of the Girondists, or party of compromise, the buffer so to speak between the constitutionalists proper now in the minority, and the popular and avowedly Republican party whose leaders in the clubs, Robespierre, Danton, Marat, &c., were gaining in influence every day.

Almost the first act of the new Assembly was the issue of a decree ordering the emigrants to return on penalty of death, and confiscation of goods. This order the King peremptorily vetoed. The same fate befell another order of the Assembly, by which “refractory” priests should lose their pay and be placed under surveillance. His action in these matters in view of the imminent invasion of the foreign powers and the peasant revolt in the Vendée in favour of royalism (which was led by the clergy) were fatal to him and to the constitutionalists who supported him. The constitutional ministry fell, and a Girondin ministry was appointed in its place, with Roland, one of the principal Girondin leaders, as minister of the interior, and Dumouriez as minister of foreign affairs.

The first act of the new ministry was to take the bull by the horns and declare war with Austria, a measure popular on all sides. This, declaration of war was made on the 20th of April, 1792. Three columns proceeded to the frontier, but the projected action on the offensive was a fiasco – a panic seizing the troops on the approach of the enemy. Thenceforward the French assumed the defensive. Such was the beginning of the revolutionary war. The news of the disaster led to bitter recriminations on the part of the popular party, against the Girondins. The Girondins in their turn threw the blame on the constitutionalists, and their commanders Lafayette, Dillon, &c., while the generals themselves threw it on Dumouriez. The Jacobins openly accused they “moderate” parties of treachery and connivance with the Government. Suspicion and distrust were universal. It was now that Marat issued his memorable placards calling for the heads of traitors. Meanwhile to appease the people the ministry instituted a permanent camp of 20,000 men in the neighbourhood of Paris, in spite of the vehement opposition of the constitutionalists, and agreed to the introduction into the new national guard of promiscuously selected companies armed with pikes – the weapons which had played such a prominent part at an early stage of the Revolution. The Assembly, which declared itself sitting in permanence added to these resolutions one ordering the abolition of the King’s body-guard. This last decree Louis at once refused to ratify, and on being remonstrated with by Roland, dismissed all the Girondin ministers and appointed obscure members of the constitutionalist party in their stead. At the same time he sent a secret messenger to negotiate with the coalition – for his “deliverance.”

The Girondins finding themselves thus left out in the cold, joined the Jacobins who were now the advanced guard of the revolution and whose organisation was rapidly becoming a rival to the Assembly, and by this means were enabled to pose as martyrs in the cause of liberty. The only hope of the party actually in power lay in Lafayette’s army Lafayette, seeing the situation, played out his last card and published a manifesto openly defying and threatening the Jacobins. The Jacobins’ reply to this was the, insurrection of the 20th of June, 1792, when a concourse numbering some 8,000 people left the faubourg St. Antoine for the hall of the Assembly. The orator who represented the crowd spoke in ruenacing terms, saying that the people were ready to employ all their powers in the resistance to oppression. He proceeded to state that grave complaint was found with the conduct of the war into which the people demanded an immediate investigation, but that the heaviest grievance of all was the dismissal of the patriot ministers. The Assembly replied that the memorial of the people should be taken into consideration and ?????? while exhorted them to respect the laws. By this time the multitude numbered some 30,000 men women and children, including many national guards and with a liberal sprinkling of pikes, flags and revolutionary emblems among them this motley concourse poured into the hall singing the Ça ira, and shouting ‘‘Long live the people!” “Long live sans-culottes!” On leaving Assembly the cry was to the palace, where the crowd swept through the open gates into the apartments and corridors, and were proceeding to demolish the doors with blows when Louis himself appeared accompanied by only a few attendants. The multitude still pressing in, he took his station in the opening of a window. There he remained seated on a chair, placed on a table and protected from the pressure of the crowd by a cordon of national guards. To the cries of the people for his sanction to the decrees, he replied, – as the royalist historians assure us, with intense dignity – “This is neither the manner for it to be demanded of me, nor the moment to obtain it.” The result of his refusal might have been awkward for him had he not had the presence of mind to take advantage of an incident which presented itself just at the moment. A red Phrygian cap, the symbol of the” people” and on “liberty” was prevented by one of the crowd on the point of a pike. This he took and placed on his head, an act which was greeted with tumultuous applause. At last Pétion, the Mayor arrived with several prominent Girondist deputies, and quietly dispersed the gathering.

Thus the silly Parisian populace were once again cajoled out of their demands, by a senseless piece of buffoonery. But it was the last time. The Constitutionalists were enraged at the outrage offered to the person of the King and to the “law.” Lafayette left the army and suddenly appeared at the bar of the Assembly demanding the impeachment of the instigators of the movement of the 20th of July, and the suppression of the popular clubs. But the Jacobins had by this time got the upper hand, and could defy the champion of middle-class “law and order.” Lafayette narrowly escaped arrest far deserting his army, and had ignominiously to slink back. The whole force of the popular sentiment was with the Girondins and the Jacobins. Events were fast hurrying to a crisis.

VII. The 10th of August

Shortly after the event last described the Assembly felt itself compelled in face of the open connivance of the court with the enemy to solemnly declare the country in danger. All citizens capable of bearing arms were called upon to enrol themselves is the National Guard which was placed on a footing of active service.

On the 14th of July, the Bastille anniversary, Pétion was the hero of the day – Pétion or death being the popular watchword. All battalions of the National Guard showing signs of attachment to constitutionalism instantly became objects of popular resentment. The hatred between Constitutionalists and Republicans was daily growing. At length the popular party obtained the disbandment of the companies of Grenadiers and Chasseurs the main support of the official middle class in the National Guard together with the closing of the Feuillant’s Club.

Events further helped on the popular party. On the 25th of July, the Duke of Brunswick published his manifesto in the name of the Emperor and King of Prussia in which he declared that the allied sovereigns had taken up arms to put an end to anarchy in France, threatening all the towns which dared to resist, with total destruction, the members of the Assembly with the rigours of martial law, etc. The active coalition which was at this time confined to Prussia, Austria, the German princedoms, and the principality of Turin had formed the plan of marching concentrically upon Paris from three different points, the Moselle, the Rhine, and the Netherlands. It was on the day of the movement of the Rhenish division from Coblentz under the command of the Duke of Brunswick that this famous manifesto was issued. The following day, July 26th a contingent of six hundred Marseillais entered Paris on their way to the camp at Soissons, a continent rendered immortal by the hymn they sang as they marched along, tine well known strains,

Allons, enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé.

having been heard for the first time is the streets of Paris on that day. The advent of the Marseillais, though it did not, as was anticipated, result in an immediate outbreak, did, nevertheless, stir Paris to its foundations. The sections, or wards into which the city was divided became daily more importunate in demanding the dethronement of the king. A petition to this effect was drawn up by the Municipality and the sections and presented to the Assembly by Pétion on the 3rd of August. The impeachment of Lafayette was next demanded on the 8th but after a warm discussion was rejected to a considerable majority. This acquittal of Lafayette now regarded by the people as the personification of treachery and reaction, destroyed the last vestige of popular confidence in the Assembly. The following day the section Quinze Vings sent to notify to the legislature that if the decree of dethronement were not voted before nightfall the tocsin should be sounded, the générale beaten and open insurrection proclaimed, a determination which was transmitted to the forty-eight sections of the city and approved with only one dissentient, The same evening the Jacobins proceeded in a body to the Faubourg St. Antoine and there organised the attack on the Tuilieries which it was decided should take place the next day.

Measures pregnant wish import for the future course of the revolution were determined at this meeting; such as, the dismissal of Pétion, the annulment of the Departmental Assembly, the replacement of the council of the Municipality by a Revolutionary Commune.

At midnight the tocsin pealed, the générale beat, the sections assembled, the newly nominated commune took possession of the Hotel de Ville. At the same time the “loyal” battalions of the National Guard were marched to the palace, which was now filled with Swiss Guards and Chevaliers du Cour, and the Assembly hastily called together. On hearing that Pétion was detained at the Tuilieries the moribund legislature at once ordered his release and restored him to his functions. But he no sooner entered the Hotel de Ville than he was placed under a guard of three hundred men by order of the new Commune. Poor Pétion! between two fires. The Commune then sent for the Commander of the National Guard, Mandat, who was at the Tuilieries with the “loyal” battalions aforesaid. Mandat, not knowing of the creation of the new Commune, incautiously obeyed the summons, but turned pale on discovering new faces when he had expected to find the old Municipality. He was accused of having authorised the troops to defend the Palace against the sovereign people, was ordered to the prison of the Abbaye but assassinated on the steps of the Hotel de Ville as he was being conveyed within. Santeen was then nominated commander-in-chief in his stead.

Meanwhile not a few “nationals” at the palace, in spite of their loyalty to the Constitution winced at finding themselves in the same gallery with aristocratic adventurers, avowed enemies of the revolution in any form or shape and with mercenary foreign soldiers. Their leader gone, a division broke out as Louis found when he came to review them, for while the cry vive le roi was responded to by some, vive la nation was responded to by more. But what was most ominous was the arrival of two fresh battalions armed with pikes as well as guns, who after jeeringly greeting the King with shouts of vive la nation, “down with the veto,” “down with the traitor,” took up position at the Pont Royal and pointed their cannon straight at the Palace. It was evident the loyalty of these battalions was more than a doubtful quality. The insurgents were now advancing in columns of various strength from different points. The Procurator Syndic, Roederer met them as they were converging upon the palace, and suggested their sending a deputation to the king. This was peremptorily refused. He then addressed himself to the National Guard, reading out the Articles of the law which enjoined them to suppress revolt. But the response was so feeble that the Procurator fled in all haste back to the Tuileries to urge the royal family to leave their quarters, and place itself in the midst of the Assembly, out of harm’s reach. Marie-Antoinette rejected the advice in right transpontine melodramatic style, talked very “tall” about being “nailed to the halls of the palace,” and presented a pistol to Louis with the words “Now; sire, is the moment to show your courage.” The procurator evidently thought mock heroics ill-timed, and sternly remonstrated. Louis himself seemed to share this opinion, or at least was not prepared “to show” his “courage” just then, and moved to go to the Assembly. Marie-Antoinette followed with the royal youth, and thus what bid fair to be a dramatic “situation” came to an ignominious ending.

Meanwhile the insurgents surrounded the palace, the defence of which was left to the Swiss Guard, who though they fought with a valour worthy of a better cause, were ultimately overwhelmed by numbers and exterminated. The palace taken, shouts of victory rent the air (as epic historians would say). The Assembly trembled expecting every minute the hall to be forced. In vain it issued a proclamation conjuring the people to respect magistrates, laws, and justice, &c. At length the new Commune presented itself, claiming the recognition of its powers, the dethronement of the king, and the convocation of a national convention. Deputation after deputation followed with the same prayer, or rather the same peremptory order. The Assembly over-awed, on the motion of the Girondist Vergniaud, passed a resolution in pursuance of the demands, that is, suspending the King, dismissing the constitutionalist ministers and ordering the convocation of a national convention. The person of Louis was handed over to the Commune, by whose order he was conveyed a virtual prisoner to the Temple. Thus ended the 10th of August, 1792. The critical struggle is henceforth not, as heretofore between the middle classes and the nobles or the king, but between, the middle classes and the Proletariat.


Last updated on 6.8.2003