As tensions grew and violence erupted, Jefferson traveled to Versailles and Paris to observe events first-hand. We join Jefferson's story as tensions escalate to violence on July "July 12 In the afternoon a body of about German cavalry were advanced and drawn up in the Place Louis XV. This drew people to that spot, who naturally formed themselves in front of the troops, at first merely to look at them. The horse charged, but the advantageous position of the people, and the showers of stones obliged them to retire, and even to quit the field altogether, leaving one of their number on the ground.
The Swiss in their rear were observed never to stir. This was the signal for universal insurrection, and this body of cavalry, to avoid being massacred, retired towards Versailles. The people now armed themselves with such weapons as they could find in Armourer's shops and private houses, and with bludgeons, and were roaming all night through all parts of the city without any decided and practicable object.
The next day the States press on the king to send away the troops, to permit the Bourgeoisie of Paris to arm for the preservation of order in the city, and offer to send a deputation from their body to tranquillize them. He refuses all their propositions. A Committee of magistrates and electors of the city are appointed, by their bodies, to take upon them it's government.
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The mob, now openly joined by the French guards, force the prisons of St. Lazare, release all the prisoners, and take a great store of corn, which they carry to the corn market. Here they get some arms, and the French guards begin to form and train them. The City committee determines to raise 48, Bourgeois, or rather to restrain their numbers to 48, The "Tennis Court Oath. June 20, On the 14th, they send one of their members Monsieur de Corny, whom we knew in America to the Hotel des Invalides to ask arms for their Garde Bourgeoise.
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He was followed by, or he found there, a great mob. The Governor of the Invalids came out and represented the impossibility of his delivering arms without the orders of those from whom he received them. De Corney advised the people then to retire, retired himself, and the people took possession of the arms. It was remarkable that not only the Invalids themselves made no opposition, but that a body of foreign troops, encamped within yards, never stirred. Monsieur de Corny and five others were then sent to ask arms of Monsieur de Launai, Governor of the Bastille.
They found a great collection of people already before the place, and they immediately planted a flag of truce, which was answered by a like flag hoisted on the parapet. The deputation prevailed on the people to fall back a little, advanced themselves to make their demand of the Governor, and in that instant a discharge from the Bastille killed 4. The deputies retired, the people rushed against the place, and almost in an instant were in possession of a fortification, defended by men, of infinite strength, which in other times had stood several regular sieges and had never been taken.
How they got in, has as yet been impossible to discover. Those, who pretend to have been of the party tell so many different stories as to destroy the credit of them all. They took all the arms, discharged the prisoners and such of the garrison as were not killed in the first moment of fury, carried the Governor and Lieutenant governor to the Greve the place of public execution cut off their heads, and set them through the city in triumph to the Palais royal.
About the same instant, a treacherous correspondence having been discovered in Monsieur de Flesselles prevot des marchands, they seize him in the hotel de ville, where he was in the exercise of his office, and cut off his head. These events carried imperfectly to Versailles were the subject of two successive deputations from the States to the King, to both of which he gave dry and hard answers, for it has transpired that it had been proposed and agitated in Council to seize on the principal members of the States general, to march the whole army down upon Paris and to suppress it's tumults by the sword.
On June 17, with talks over procedure stalled, the Third Estate met alone and formally adopted the title of National Assembly; three days later, they met in a nearby indoor tennis court and took the so-called Tennis Court Oath serment du jeu de paume , vowing not to disperse until constitutional reform had been achieved. Within a week, most of the clerical deputies and 47 liberal nobles had joined them, and on June 27 Louis XVI grudgingly absorbed all three orders into the new assembly. On June 12, as the National Assembly known as the National Constituent Assembly during its work on a constitution continued to meet at Versailles, fear and violence consumed the capital.
Though enthusiastic about the recent breakdown of royal power, Parisians grew panicked as rumors of an impending military coup began to circulate. A popular insurgency culminated on July 14 when rioters stormed the Bastille fortress in an attempt to secure gunpowder and weapons; many consider this event, now commemorated in France as a national holiday, as the start of the French Revolution.
The wave of revolutionary fervor and widespread hysteria quickly swept the countryside. Revolting against years of exploitation, peasants looted and burned the homes of tax collectors, landlords and the seigniorial elite. Drafting a formal constitution proved much more of a challenge for the National Constituent Assembly, which had the added burden of functioning as a legislature during harsh economic times.
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For instance, who would be responsible for electing delegates? Would the clergy owe allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church or the French government? Perhaps most importantly, how much authority would the king, his public image further weakened after a failed attempt to flee the country in June , retain?
This compromise did not sit well with influential radicals like Maximilien de Robespierre , Camille Desmoulins and Georges Danton, who began drumming up popular support for a more republican form of government and for the trial of Louis XVI. On the domestic front, meanwhile, the political crisis took a radical turn when a group of insurgents led by the extremist Jacobins attacked the royal residence in Paris and arrested the king on August 10, The following month, amid a wave of violence in which Parisian insurrectionists massacred hundreds of accused counterrevolutionaries, the Legislative Assembly was replaced by the National Convention, which proclaimed the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of the French republic.
On January 21, , it sent King Louis XVI, condemned to death for high treason and crimes against the state, to the guillotine; his wife Marie-Antoinette suffered the same fate nine months later.
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In June , the Jacobins seized control of the National Convention from the more moderate Girondins and instituted a series of radical measures, including the establishment of a new calendar and the eradication of Christianity. They also unleashed the bloody Reign of Terror la Terreur , a month period in which suspected enemies of the revolution were guillotined by the thousands.
Historical Context for the French Revolution | The Core Curriculum
Many of the killings were carried out under orders from Robespierre, who dominated the draconian Committee of Public Safety until his own execution on July 28, Executive power would lie in the hands of a five-member Directory Directoire appointed by parliament. Royalists and Jacobins protested the new regime but were swiftly silenced by the army, now led by a young and successful general named Napoleon Bonaparte.
By the late s, the directors relied almost entirely on the military to maintain their authority and had ceded much of their power to the generals in the field. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!