French Revolution 1792

Condorcet’s Account of the Events of August 10, 1792

Source: Mortimer Ternaux, Histoire de la terreur, Paris, M. Lévy Frères, 1868;
Translated: by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2009.

For some time the people’s disquiet had been great, its agitation extreme and everything augured action for Thursday. Nine different sections, alarmed by the rumors of the King’s departure, which a number of circumstances rendered likely, had decided to head towards the castle and its environs arms in hand. At midnight the tocsin sounded in almost all quarters of the city; the drum calls were beaten. The Assembly went to its meeting place. The Mayor of Paris and the municipal officers went to the castle. Until 5:00 the only groups that were seen were not in the least alarming. Suddenly, armed citizens appeared from everywhere. En masse they went to the castle. The King became afraid and went with his family to the National Assembly, accompanied there by the members from the department. The people remained calm, and though they deployed a large military apparatus they appeared disposed not to commit any disorderly acts. The commissars of the sections, gathered at City Hall, took over all municipal powers, gave orders, named a commanding general and disposed of the armed force. The citizens manifested but one wish, but one will. The municipal gendarmes, the fédérés, the National Guardsmen, the pickets, all were of one mind and were ready to die for the same cause. Their force was so imposing that one couldn’t have expected the slightest resistance on the part of those in the castle, even less so because the Kings and his family had left. The artillerymen on guard expressed the sentiments that animated them in uniting with their fellow-citizens. A large number of National Guardsmen who were in the castle did the same. Some remained with the 1,000-1,200 Swiss Guards. They gave external signs of fraternity; they threw cartridge papers from the windows, they displayed the red cap. As a result the citizens, fooled by appearances, entered, thinking to render themselves masters of the castle without firing a shot. They had barely climbed the first steps of the stairway before the Swiss fired on them at point blank range. They retreated outside, pointed the cannon, and the combat began. A large number of citizens were killed or wounded, but very few Swiss escaped. Noted among the dead were several young men loyal to the castle, wearing the Swiss uniform.

The people conducted themselves with much courage. We saw the needy refuse to touch the remains of the vanquished and put back watches and snuffboxes in order to come to the assistance of widows whose husbands had perished. We saw them set aside kitchenware and silver. A few individuals having tried to pillage, the people rendered them immediate justice. Citizens known for their incivisme and their counter-revolutionary principles were victims of the first movement of indignation and fury. No stores were pillaged and the best order reigned everywhere except at the theatre of combat. Unfortunately, several buildings caught fire, either due to the artillery or the fusillades, or because of an accident whose cause is yet unknown. We hope that calm will be completely reestablished and that the measures that the Assembly just adopted will result in the consolidating of public tranquility.

Compared with a copy by us, President of the Extraordinary Commission of the National Assembly undersigned, August 11, 1792, year IV of Liberty.