Modern history


October 1789 to July 1790

The Constituent Assembly in Paris – The journées of 5 and 6 October, the clubs, administrative reorganization, the Fête de la Fédération

Such a phenomenon in the history of the world will never be forgotten; as it discovered in the depth of human nature a possibility of moral progress that no man of politics had previously suspected.

– Kant, The Conflict of the Faculties

Financial crisis, provisions crisis

In early autumn 1789, while the Assembly was legislating nonstop and conflicts were coming to light within the Third Estate itself, what was already called a ‘crisis’ – a word with a great future – was raging throughout the country.

Necker had been forced to admit defeat in his great plan to borrow 30 million livres: three weeks after its launch, only two million had been subscribed. In Paris, the emigration of the aristocracy had led to massive unemployment in luxury industries and trades. Two hundred thousand passports had been applied for since July, and many domestic servants swelled the charity workshops of the École Militaire and Montmartre. Tailors, wig-makers and shoemakers demonstrated on 18 August, and bakers’ boys almost every day. Not only did bread cost over three sous a pound, it was increasingly scarce:1 ‘Today the horrors of dearth are felt once more, the bakeries are under siege, the people are short of bread; and it is after the richest harvest that we are on the verge of dying of hunger. Can there be any doubt that we are surrounded by traitors seeking to consummate our ruin?’ wrote Marat in the second issue of L’Ami du peuple (16 September). On 2 October he went further: ‘What is the remedy? Sweep from the Hôtel de Ville all suspect men, royal pensioners, prosecutors, advocates, academicians, advisers to the Châtelet, court clerks of the judiciary and Parlement, financiers, speculators and stock-exchange sharks, with the Bureau at their head.’

The journées of 5 and 6 October: women bring the king to Paris

An economic crisis and a crisis of supplies, against a background of political crisis: the conditions were ripe for an explosion. As often happens, it was a minor incident that served as a spark. On 1 October, a grand dinner was held at Versailles in the hall of the Opéra: the royal bodyguards invited the officers of the Flanders regiment to celebrate their arrival. The king and the queen, carrying the dauphin in her arms, came to greet the guests who, warmed up by wine and music, welcomed them with tremendous cheers. A little later, in the evening’s exaltation, a number of officers tore off the tricolour cockade and replaced it with a white one – or a black one, the colour of the queen. The banquet turned into a counter-revolutionary demonstration.

On 3 October reports of it reached Paris, already at boiling point, in Gorsas’s Courrier. ‘On Sunday 4th, circular letters, troop movements, commotions at the Palais-Royal and the shortage of bread that aggravates everything, all excited the liveliest ferment … On Monday morning, a throng of women went to the Hôtel de Ville and routed the guard there …, taking possession of the cannon of La Basoche and heading for Versailles.’2

This decisive journée of 5 October seems still more unexpected than the capture of the Bastille, as it was now women of the people, poor and anonymous, who made a loud and effective appearance on the revolutionary stage. In the morning, groups of angry women gathered in Paris, around the Halles and in the faubourg Saint-Antoine. They then converged outside the Hôtel de Ville, where they screamed for bread. Not getting an answer, they overwhelmed the guard, forced the doors and entered the building, making off with pikes, muskets, and four cannon. Then, taking one of the heroes of the Bastille, Stanislas Maillard, as their captain, they formed a procession and set off for Versailles.3 Towards five o’clock in the afternoon, there was a crowd of six or seven thousand women outside the palace railings, joined by workers and gardes-françaises whom they met along the way.

The women sent a delegation to the Assembly, with Maillard as their spokesperson: ‘We have come to Versailles to ask for bread, and at the same time to have the royal guards who insulted the patriotic cockade punished.’4 A national cockade was then presented to Maillard on behalf of the royal guards. He showed it to the women, and everyone shouted: ‘Long live the king, long live the guard!’ The Assembly sent Mounier, its president, to see the king, accompanied by some twenty deputies, and to request ‘the pure and simple acceptance of the Declaration of Rights, and the full force of the executive power to provide the capital with the grain and flour that it needs’. Louis XVI met with his council, rejected the suggestion of the monarchists that he should flee to Rouen, and at ten in the evening he at last validated the August decrees and the Declaration of Rights.

Around midnight, Lafayette arrived in Versailles with 15,000 men of the Paris National Guard. The night passed quietly, but on the morning of the 6th a slogan began to circulate among the crowd: ‘The king to Paris!’ A group entered the palace by a poorly guarded gate, breaking into the Marble Court. A guard fired, a man fell, the crowd flung themselves on the royal guards and killed two of them, carrying off their heads on pikes. The crowd invaded the royal apartments, almost reaching the queen’s bedroom. Lafayette managed with difficulty to clear the palace with the help of the National Guard. The king showed himself with the general on the balcony, followed by the queen with her children. At first she was booed, but Lafayette prevailed on her to return, kissed her hand, and the crowd decided to applaud, though shouting ‘À Paris!’ During this time, at Mirabeau’s suggestion, the Assembly decided that ‘the king and the National Assembly are inseparable during the present session.’5

Around one o’clock in the afternoon, a tremendous procession left Versailles to the sound of cannon fire. At its head marched the National Guard, with loafs of bread skewered on their bayonets, followed by carts with sacks of flour decorated with leaves, then the gardes soldés6 (the new name for the gardes-françaises) surrounding the royal bodyguards, who needed protecting. Behind them, the Flanders regiment and the Swiss Guard preceded the king in his carriage, with Lafayette prancing alongside. Finally a hundred or so members of the Assembly, and the immense crowd in which women carried poplar branches already tinged with autumnal yellow. ‘All of it gay, sad, violent, joyous and gloomy at the same time,’ wrote Michelet.

The procession, which was welcomed on the Champ-de-Mars by Bailly, reached the Hôtel de Ville at eight in the evening, and at ten o’clock the king and his family arrived in their new home, the Tuileries palace.

The Constituent Assembly in the Salle du Manège

The October journées close the heroic phase of 1789. The period that followed is often described, following Michelet, as that of ‘French unanimity’, or ‘the happy year’7 – which clearly highlights by contrast the abomination of the following phase, in which the revolution ‘got out of hand’. In actual fact, if there was an idyllic fraternity – and at times, in certain places, this is undeniable – it was not the dominant note. From October 1789 to the end of the Constituent Assembly (you could even say until the fall of the monarchy), the possessing classes and their representatives who controlled both the Assembly and the Commune de Paris did their utmost to keep the ‘low people’ at arm’s length, knowing they were capable of ungovernable reactions. They organized the repression of the people’s outbursts of anger and manoeuvred to retract the concessions obtained under pressure, so that this period was in fact a long phase of ebbing of the Revolution.

The great winner of 5 and 6 October was Lafayette, who made the most of these journées he had not foreseen and had followed only unwillingly. Drawing closer to the royal couple, he persuaded them that the riot had been fomented by the duc d’Orléans, whom he managed to get sent to England on a ‘diplomatic mission’. Mirabeau, his other rival, persisted in his own manoeuvrings: he wanted to become a minister, but the Assembly was nervous of him and decided not to choose ministers from its own ranks. Mirabeau plotted unsuccessfully with the comte de Provence, and in 1790 ended up on the king’s payroll; the king settled his enormous debts and gave him 6,000 livres a month. He remained popular, but his venality, which was all but publicly known, prevented him from having any real influence. ‘What can we expect,’ wrote Marat in L’Ami du peuple on 10 August 1790, ‘from a man without principles, manners or honour? Now he has become the inspiration of scurvy wretches and ministerial hopefuls, the inspiration of plotters and conspirators.’

Lafayette, who seems to have won the trust of Louis XVI, tried to make him accept the idea of a constitutional monarchy, and the king, in a note sent on 15 April 1790, wrote in his own hand: ‘I promise M. de Lafayette my entire confidence in all matters which may concern the establishment of the Constitution, my legitimate authority as specified in the memorandum, and the return of public tranquillity.’8 Lafayette had become the ‘palace mayor’, writes Mathiez, repeating a phrase of Marat’s.9

The losers of October were the Moderates and monarchists: their project of an English-style constitution had been rejected, and they were terrified by the popular movement. Already on 8 October, their leader Mounier resigned the presidency of the Assembly for reasons of health and left Paris for his native Dauphiné, emigrating to Savoy shortly after.10 In the days that followed, close to 200 representatives of the people asked for a passport to emigrate or else took refuge in their home province, so fearful were they of taking their seats in Paris.11 The Assembly actually hesitated to follow the king. It did not leave Versailles until 19 October, settling first of all in a hall in the Archevêché, then in the Salle du Manège, alongside the Tuileries gardens next to the Terrasse des Feuillants. Tiers were hastily constructed for the deputies and platforms for the public, who constantly intervened in the debates of the successive revolutionary assemblies, making their loud, unruly voices heard at the heart of the representative system.

In the Salle du Manège, the deputies arranged themselves as they had done at Versailles, but instead of speaking of the ‘Palais-Royal side’ and the ‘queen’s side’, the terms now used were ‘left’ and ‘right’ in relation to the presidential dais. This was the time and the place that these words first acquired their political meaning. There were no parties in the modern sense of the term, but rather tendencies and personalities. From right to left were the noirs (the aristocrats, black being as we have seen the colour of the queen); the monarchists, or what was left of them; the partisans of a constitutional monarchy, soon dubbed the Fayettists; the left around the triumvirate of Barnave, Duport and Alexandre de Lameth; and finally a tiny far left (a term not used at the time) comprised of Buzot, Grégoire, Pétion and his friend Robespierre, the deputy for Arras.

The clubs: Jacobins and Cordeliers

These tendencies had their meeting places in Paris, along with organized clubs and the papers that supported them. The ideas of the aristocrats, who met on rue Royale at the Salon Français, were aired in Les Actes des Apôtres, to which Rivarol anonymously contributed, and in L’Ami du roi, whose animating spirit was the talented polemicist abbé Royou. The constitutionalists attended the Société de 89, founded by Sieyès, which held its meetings in luxurious premises at the Palais-Royal. The high entrance fee made this a club restricted to high society. Grand dinners were held there, attended by everyone who mattered among the ‘moderate’ revolutionaries – Lafayette and Bailly, Mirabeau and Condorcet, as well as financiers such as Clavière and farmer-general Lavoisier. The left side, for its part, met in two clubs whose names have retained their evocative power down to our own day: the Jacobins and the Cordeliers.

When the Constituent Assembly met in Paris, it was followed by the Breton club, which had set the pace in Versailles:

Premises were needed that were close to the sessions of the legislature, which had just been established in the Manège des Tuileries; the prior of the Jacobin convent on the rue Saint-Honoré was prepared to lend its library, and this is what was used. Le Chapelier was its first president, and myself the secretary; the members were all deputies, and only matters relating to the Constituent Assembly were discussed.12


The Breton club then became the Société des Amis de la Constitution. Though the name ‘Jacobins’ was given them in mockery, ‘They revelled in it, and the name was extended to all societies of the same kind established in the provinces.’13 The admission fee was fairly high (twelve livres), and the annual subscription twenty-four livres.14 Article 1 of its rules, drafted by Barnave, spelled out the objectives of the society, which met every day at six o’clock except when the Assembly had an evening session: ‘1) to discuss in advance questions to be decided in the National Assembly; 2) to work for the establishment and strengthening of the Constitution; 3) to correspond with other societies of the same kind that may be formed in the kingdom.’

The club rapidly expanded beyond deputies alone. It was sufficient to be nominated by five existing members, and by the end of 1790 there were over a thousand. On the whole, this co-option tended to recruit individuals who were well-off and educated. It was not until October 1791 that the club opened its doors to the public, and from then onwards the meetings at the Jacobins marked the rhythm of revolutionary life in Paris.

What distinguished the Jacobins from other clubs, and gradually gave them such power, was their spread throughout the country by way of affiliated groups. As Alexandre de Lameth recalled: ‘Round about December 1789, many leading inhabitants of the provinces, visiting Paris, were presented at the society and manifested the desire to establish one similar in the principal towns of France.’15 By August 1790, according to Aulard, there were 152 affiliated societies, and in year II over a thousand.16 Relations between the Paris club and its off shoots were close, in both directions. Abbé Grégoire recalled:

By prior agreement, one of us would take a suitable opportunity to raise his question in a session of the National Assembly. He was certain to be applauded by a very small number and booed by the majority; no matter, he asked for the question to be referred to a committee, where opponents hoped to bury it. The Jacobins would take it up in their circular invitations or their papers, it was discussed by four or five hundred affiliated societies, and three weeks later addresses poured into the Assembly asking for a decree on a matter that had initially been rejected, but which the Assembly then accepted by a large majority, since public opinion had been matured by discussion.17

The society and its branches operated as a system for spreading revolutionary ideas across the country. Nothing is more absurd than the idea of ‘Jacobinism’ as an authoritarian and meddlesome Paris dictatorship. That is an interpretation handed down by Thermidor, as lasting as hatred of the Revolution.18

The Cordeliers were altogether different. The club appeared in June 1790 under the name of the Société des Amis des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen. For a year, its meetings were held in the Cordeliers convent on rue de l’École-de-Médecine, but in May 1791 the municipality – now owning the building, which had become national property – had the premises closed. After a month of itinerancy the club settled in the Salle du Musée on rue Dauphine, where it would meet for the rest of its existence.19 Its aim, more modest and more practical than that of the Jacobins, was to ‘denounce to the tribunal of public opinion the abuses of the various powers and any kind of infringement on the rights of man’.20 As protectors of the oppressed and redressers of abuses of power, the Cordeliers had as their emblem the ‘eye of surveillance’, wide open on the failings of the elected representatives. ‘They made accusations, undertook inquiries, visited oppressed patriots in the prisons and found defenders for them, and addressed public opinion by way of posters. In short, they were a group of action and struggle.’21 The membership fee was minimal (one livre four sous per year, i.e. two sous per month), and the club accepted members of any condition, including passive citizens.22 Women could also attend the sessions and take part in discussions. Its members included lawyers such as Danton and Desmoulins, journalists such as Fréron, Robert and Chaumette, printers such as Momoro and Brune, but also many tradespeople, both retailers and wholesalers – the butcher Legendre, the brewer Santerre, the café-owner Berger …

The great strength of the Cordeliers was their links to the fraternal societies, local clubs in the Paris quartiers that began to mushroom in winter 1790. The first and most famous, known simply as the Société Fraternelle, was founded in February of that year by Claude Dansard, a boarding-house keeper who invited every evening, to a small room in the Jacobins, ‘artisans, fruit and vegetable sellers from the quarter, along with their wives and children, and read to them, by the light of a candle that he carried in his pocket, the decrees of the Constituent Assembly which he went on to explain’.23 Soon there were popular societies in every Parisian neighbourhood, whose founders were often members of the Cordeliers: the fraternal society of the Friends of the Rights of Man and Enemies of Despotism, inspired by Santerre, which met in the Montreuil section; the fraternal society of the Enfants-Rouges section, which met at the Minimes on place Royale, freely accepting all citizens male and female without distinction, even children over the age of twelve; the fraternal society of Les Halles, founded by the engraver François Sergent, which met on rue Mondétour; the society of Sainte-Geneviève on place Maubert; the society of Indigent Friends of the Constitution, on rue Jacob … Their activities were coordinated by a central committee chaired by François Robert, a journalist on the Mercure National.24 It was in these societies, constantly encouraged by Marat and all the democrats, that the people of Paris, the people who would soon be called the sansculottes, acquired their political education.



This efflorescence went hand in hand with the extraordinary development of a ‘democratic’ press (the great word of the time). Clearly there was nothing comparable to the newspaper kiosks of today; news-sheets were distributed by subscription – at a fairly high price: thirty-six livres per year, for example, for Le Patriote français – but they were also cried in the streets and posted on walls, despite repeated prohibitions by the Commune. Public readings of them were given, they were consulted in cafés; as the sole source of information, the press played a role that is hard to imagine today.

The moderate papers (in the present-day sense: at that time ‘Moderate’ meant counter-revolutionary) were so numerous that it is impossible to mention them all. La Chronique de Paris was an austere periodical whose main contributor was Condorcet. Le Courrier,25 launched in July 1789 by Gorsas – a future member of the Convention, sitting with the Girondins – championed advanced ideas while deploring disorder, and took a republican position after Varennes. Les Révolutions de Paris, a weekly founded by Louis Prudhomme who was also a printer, had the young and brilliant Élysée Loustalot as its sole writer until his premature death. ‘Ready to sacrifice even his reputation to the public good, he demonstrated to the end a perseverance and style that served as a model to us all’, Camille Desmoulins said of him in his funeral oration, delivered before the Jacobins.26 After Loustalot, Sylvain Maréchal, Fabre d’Églantine, Sonthonax and Chaumette are believed to have contributed to Les Révolutions de Paris.27 The weekly moved steadily to the left, taking a stand for democracy and for equality – not only of rights but also of wealth – and against ‘the idols’, namely Lafayette, the Lameth brothers and Barnave. According to Desmoulins, the paper had up to 200,000 readers: while the number of copies distributed was lower than this, each was read by several people.

Le Patriote français, founded by Brissot in July 1789, was a daily containing chronicles in the form of letters written by Condorcet, Pétion, Grégoire, Manuel, Clavière and other notable figures, including Roland and his wife. Its print run is estimated at 10,000 copies, and it was distributed throughout France, especially in the regions that would subsequently be girondines (Lyon, Bordeaux, Bouches-du-Rhône). Under the Constituent Assembly the paper was against despotism, defended the name of ‘citizen’ and the renaming of streets that evoked royalty; it became discreetly republican from the end of 1790. On the colonial question, it took the position of the Société des Amis des Noirs (of which Brissot had been one of the founders), demanding an improvement in the condition of slaves rather than the abolition of slavery.

We should also mention the Bouche de fer, the organ of the Cercle Social – a Masonic institution – edited by Bonneville and abbé Fauchet; the door of the Cercle had a box (an ‘iron mouth’) for receiving letters, notes and messages from passers-by, which the paper published; and the Annales patriotiques, founded in October 1789 by Mercier and Carra, which proved so popular that Carra was elected to the Convention by seven departments.28

The section of the press most committed to the Revolution was dominated by three illustrious figures, each of them the founder, director and sole writer of his paper: Desmoulins, Marat, and Hébert – and each detesting the others.

Les Révolutions de France et de Brabant, launched by Desmoulins in November 1789, was read throughout the country despite a rather irregular rhythm of publication.29 It cost ten sous, with a three-month subscription at six livres. In a letter to his father, Desmoulins spoke of 3,000 subscribers, and in another letter: ‘Judge for yourself the success of my paper. I have 100 subscribers in Marseille alone, and 140 in Dunkirk. If I had foreseen such numbers, I would not have made the deal with my publishers for 2,000 écus a year.’30 Each issue carried three sections: France, Brabant (‘and other countries sporting the cockade’), and Variétés (book reviews, theatre, etc.). The paper violently attacked the monarchy and was very early in declaring itself republican. It was Desmoulins who, after Varennes, took the Cordeliers’ petition for the deposition of the king to the Paris municipality. The 86th and final issue appeared in July 1791, at the time of the massacre on the Champ-de-Mars (see below, p. 130), when Desmoulins was forced into hiding by the repression.

Marat launched the first issue of L’Ami du peuple in September 1789, and published over a thousand issues under different titles until his death in 1793, despite several interruptions due to warrants for his arrest – in October 1789, in January 1790 when he had to take refuge in England for three months, and in July 1791 after the Champ-de-Mars. He often had to move premises, though he worked for the most part in the Cordeliers district. He also changed printer several times, even becoming his own printer when required. The print run, estimated at 2,000 copies, was not among the highest, but its influence was great: L’Ami du peuple was read in groups by sansculottes, many of whom were illiterate. Each issue was eight or twelve pages in small format, composed around a single long article – what would today be called an editorial – which was sometimes continued from one issue to the next. The paper published letters, as part of a dialogue between Marat and his readers. For example, the builders of the former Sainte-Geneviève church (now the Panthéon) wrote to him: ‘Dear prophet, true defender of the class of the destitute, allow us workers to reveal to you all the embezzlements and turpitudes that our master builders are plotting.’31

The title of Le Père Duchesne refers to a fairground character, a kind of Guignol symbolizing the man of the people – several plays, books and pamphlets had used the name, and Hébert would face a number of counterfeits. His paper, the first issue of which was dated January 1791,32 appeared four times a décade.33 It had eight pages and sold for two sous, with a summary designed to be cried in the street. The prose was fairly rough and ready – which was never the case with Marat – but written with intensity, verve and humour. Politically, Le Père Duchesne attacked both abbé Maury and Lafayette, both Mirabeau and Bailly, and demanded the Republic after Varennes. ‘In singular fashion, Le Père Duchesne enjoyed success in the highest social classes as well as in the lower depths … It was bought ostentatiously and perused with simulated joy to give the impression of civic virtue, to “sans-cullotize” oneself, as Hébert put it.’34

Martial law

For its part, the Paris municipality or Commune – that is, the Council of Three Hundred (electors) that had imposed itself after 14 July – organized its authority by appointing from among its number a city council: sixty administrators divided into eight departments,35 forming a veritable executive that would soon have much to attend to.

Indeed, after a few days of relative calm in Paris, agitation began brewing once more in October 1789. The question of subsistence, bread above all, became acute – free trade in grain had led to an artificial shortage, and sentinels had to be placed outside bakers’ shops. A riot broke out at the Halle aux Farines, where women looted the sacks of flour, and rumours spread that the flour was polluted. An incendiary article appeared in L’Ami du peuple, ‘When will we have bread?’, which focused the Commune’s attention on Marat. On 21 October, a baker by the name of François, accused – no doubt falsely – of being a hoarder, was seized from the police committee by the crowd and hanged from a lamppost.36 His head was cut off, stuck on the end of a pike and paraded through Paris.

News of this led the Commune to send a delegation to the Assembly and request ‘a law against gatherings to be decreed right away’, otherwise ‘the Paris Commune and National Guard will be unable to contain the gatherings that are daily becoming more alarming’.37 In the course of discussions, Barnave, Buzot and Pétion abdicated responsibility: ‘It would be dangerous’, said Pétion, ‘for the people to believe we can exercise a surveillance that lies beyond our remit.’

Only two voices were raised against the principle of martial law. Robespierre protested:

Those who have followed the Revolution foresaw the point you are at now; they foresaw that terrible situations would require you to demand violent measures, with the aim of destroying at one stroke both yourselves and liberty. The demand is for bread and soldiers, in other words: the people have gathered wanting bread; give us soldiers to immolate the people. You have been told that the soldiers refuse to march … Indeed! Can they attack an unhappy people whose misfortune they share?38

And Mirabeau added: ‘Everything is silence, everything has to be silenced, everything must give way faced by a hungry people; what use would martial law be, if the people gather and shout “There is no bread at the bakery!” What monster would answer this with gunshots?’39

But they were ignored. The constitution committee of the Assembly seized the opportunity and immediately met to draft the decree of martial law.

The recourse to military force would be announced ‘by displaying a red flag40 at the main window of the Hôtel de Ville and carrying it through every street … At the simple signal of this flag, all gatherings, armed or otherwise, become criminal and shall be dispersed by force’ (Article 3). After three summonses, the soldiers could open fire. Persons arrested could expect a year in prison if they were unarmed, three years if they were armed, and the death sentence if they were ‘convicted of having committed violence. The leaders and instigators of this sedition will be likewise condemned to death.’41 This martial law was immediately given royal assent.

The following day,

a dreadful and lugubrious ceremony spread terror in the city at the decrees of the previous day … The officials of the Hôtel de Ville, dressed in ceremonial costume, progressed on horseback, each escorted by a sergeant and four city guards. Before them marched a body of infantry in two lines that each occupied one side of the street. When this procession reached the places appointed, it halted and stood to attention. The drums rolled, the trumpets sounded, and the official read aloud the law passed the day before. Everywhere that it passed, this ceremony left a deep feeling of anger and terror.42

At the same time, the man who had hanged François and been sentenced to death was executed.

Loustalot, in Les Révolutions de Paris, was one of the few to voice a criticism: ‘They assure us in vain that this law will give citizens tranquillity and liberty for the work of the National Assembly, and prevent bloody sacrifices. It exists simply to deprive us of popular insurrection, a frightful and disastrous resource, but the only one that has saved us until now.’ On 10 November, in L’Ami du peuple, Marat also attacked the Paris municipality that had demanded this law: ‘Fools! Do you think that a piece of red cloth will protect you from the effects of popular indignation? Do you think that a few devoted satellites will defend you from the just fury of your fellow citizens?’

The decree on martial law – to which Bailly, the mayor of Paris and president of the city council, was a major contributor – was an event of prime importance in the course of the Revolution. This law would be used to repress many popular movements in Paris and across the country. But right away, it acted as the spark for a conflict that was already latent between the Commune and the sixty districts. On 23 October, a certain Martin put a motion to the assembly of the Saint-Martin-des-Champs district: ‘Considering the inconveniences that could result from the imposition of martial law, [the Assembly] decrees that this martial law will not be imposed, and that the present decree be communicated to the fifty-nine [other] districts so that they can agree this object.’ At which another member proposed an amendment: that until the law was withdrawn, the citizens of the district would abstain from wearing uniform. The district president proposed sending envoys ‘to inquire of the representatives of the Commune what motives impelled them to ask, on two occasions, for martial law, and summon them to approach the National Assembly to beg it to revoke this law’.43

The next day several districts passed similar motions, and on 25 October the presidents of forty districts met in order to form a ‘correspondence bureau’, a kind of central committee charged with coordinating their actions. On 11 November the Cordeliers district, presided by Danton, took up the defence of Marat, who had been threatened with arrest, and made its representatives swear an oath to the effect that their mandate became imperative. This was the start of a series of district initiatives towards genuine democracy, via the creation of systems of liaison between them and against the Commune — like the assembly in the Archevêché that from spring 1790 onwards developed its own plan of communal government. This muffled movement grew when the Commune decided, in May 1790, to suppress the sixty districts and replace them by forty-eight sections (or subdivisions) of the Commune. The centre of gravity of the Paris quartiers was shifted slightly, but the unrest continued. It would come to a head on the night of 9–10 August 1792, when the Commune of the possessor class and notables was expelled and the insurrectional Commune arising from the sections, from communal democracy, took its place in the Hôtel de Ville.

The electoral system: active and passive citizens

The activity of the Constituent Assembly was not confined to issuing decrees for the maintenance of order. During the latter months of 1789 and the two years that followed, it undertook a tremendous constitutional and legislative work, elements of which, such as the division of the country into departments, are still with us today. Politically speaking, the Constituent members, many of whom belonged to – or represented – the possessor class, and who were committed to the idea of a constitutional monarchy, conducted their work with two distinct but coherent goals: to limit the executive powers of the monarchy, and to keep the people well away from major decisions and the distribution of wealth.

Louis XVI was now no longer ‘king of France’ but ‘king of the French’, ‘by the grace of God and the Constitution of the state’. The state paid him a civil list, the administration of which was entrusted to an official. The ministers, whom he chose, were tightly controlled by the legislature: each of them had to account monthly for the use of his ministry’s funds, and their decisions only became effective once their management had been approved by the Assembly. The king could neither sign treaties nor declare war without the Assembly’s consent.44 There remained the right of suspensive veto, but this was itself limited, not applying to constitutional laws but only to regular ones, apart from tax legislation and decisions that challenged ministers. This primacy of the legislative and active distrust of the executive would be further reinforced during the Legislative Assembly, and especially by the Convention, before Thermidor, and it was only under the Directory that this great revolutionary principle would be reversed, and for a long time.

As for the people, the Assembly sought to curtail the expression of their discontent, particularly its electoral expression. But this would mean violating the Declaration of Rights: how could they deprive men ‘equal in rights’ of an equal right to vote? How to get around Article VI, according to which ‘The law is the expression of the general will. All citizens have the right to contribute to its formation, personally or through their representatives.’ It was Sieyès who proposed the necessary contrivance: there would be two categories of free and equal men, ‘active citizens’, ‘the true stakeholders of the great social undertaking’, those who paid tax to a minimum equivalent to three days’ pay, and ‘passive citizens’, ‘labouring machines’ who owned no property and were excluded from the electoral system.

On 22 October 1789 the Assembly debated the ‘criteria of eligibility’:45 to be a Frenchman, aged twenty-five or above, living for at least a year in the constituency of the primary assembly, not a domestic servant, neither bankrupt nor insolvent, and above all paying a direct tax of the local value of three days’ wages.

This article was attacked by Grégoire, who feared an ‘aristocracy of the rich’, by Duport (‘This article gives credence to wealth, which is nothing in the order of nature. It is contrary to the Declaration of Rights’), and by Robespierre:

If the person who pays a contribution equivalent to no more than a day’s wage has fewer rights than the one who pays the value of three days, the person who pays ten days has more rights than the one whose tax is worth only three; from now on the person with a hundred thousand livres in rentes has a hundred times more rights than the one who has only an income of a thousand livres. [Yet] it follows from all your decrees that every citizen has the right to cooperate in legislation, and hence to be elector or eligible, without distinction of fortune.46

In the end, the electoral system was fixed by the law of 22 December 1789: active citizens (somewhat over four million, against around three million poor or passive citizens), meeting in primary assemblies in the capital of the canton, would elect the municipalities and appoint the electors on the basis of one for a hundred active citizens. Being an elector required a tax liability equal to the local value of ten days’ wages. The electors would meet in the local capital and select the judges, the members of the departmental assemblies, and above all the deputies to the National Assembly (which would then be the Legislative Assembly). To be elected a deputy, it was necessary to own land and pay a tax equal to the value of a silver marc, or 50 livres.47

Having learned from experience, the Assembly also decreed that the electoral assemblies would no longer have the right to meet once the elections were over. The municipal law marked a regression in relation to the regime established after the municipal revolution of July: general assemblies of the inhabitants were forbidden. Only active citizens had the right to meet, once a year, to appoint the mayor and the municipality. Thus all municipal powers – including local taxes, and maintenance of order with the possibility of declaring martial law – were concentrated in the hands of a minority of possessors elected by a propertied suffrage. Finally, the Assembly decided that only active citizens had the right to enrol in the National Guard: they wanted a people both mute and disarmed.

The democratic press were unanimously against these laws. Loustalot: ‘Already the pure aristocracy of the rich has been shamelessly established. Indeed, who knows if it is not already a crime to say that the Nation is sovereign’ (Révolutions de Paris, no. 21); Desmoulins: ‘To realize the full absurdity of this decree, suffice it to observe that Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Corneille and Mably would not have been eligible’ (Révolutions de France et de Brabant, no. 3); Marat: ‘A representation that has become proportionate to direct taxation will place the realm in the hands of the rich; and the fate of the poor, always subject, always subjugated and always oppressed, can never be improved by peaceful means … Besides, laws only hold sway so long as people are willing to submit to them’ (L’Ami du peuple, no. 52; the threat is scarcely concealed).48

But the Constituent Assembly did not have to deal with the protests of these malcontents. It was faced with two great questions that needed tackling: the financial crisis and the administrative reorganization of the country.

Clerical property placed at the nation’s disposal; the civil constitution of the clergy

Necker’s last expedient – a new loan, the compulsory ‘patriotic contribution’ – had led to nothing, the state treasury was empty, the Caisse d’Escompte faced a shortfall of 30 million livres. It was at this point that Talleyrand, the bishop of Autun, made a remarkable proposal – to put the properties of the clergy at the disposition of the nation:

No matter how sacred the nature of a property held under the law might be, the law can only maintain what its founders have granted. We all know that the portion of these properties that is needed for the subsistence of its beneficiaries is all that belongs to them; the rest is the property of the churches and the poor. If the nation assures this subsistence, the property of the beneficiaries is in no way attacked … There are 80,000 ecclesiastics in France, whose subsistence has to be assured, including 40,000 parish priests … who need at least 1,200 livres [per year] apiece, not including lodging.49

In the days that followed, this idea received strong support from Mirabeau, who proposed a decree in the following sober terms: ‘It is declared that all goods of the clergy are the property of the nation, save in so far as the decency of religious practice and the subsistence of those ministering to the altars be provided for in an acceptable manner.’50 Abbé Maury, one of the heavyweights on the right wing, eloquently asserted his opposition: ‘In this crisis of runaway impiety we may confidently remind the legislative body that religion is the only solid foundation of the law … France is not yet reduced to the deplorable extremity of being able to avoid bankruptcy only by confiscation.’51 In the end, on 2 November 1789 Mirabeau’s motion was adopted by a fair majority of 568 votes to 346.

To implement this measure, on 19 December a Caisse de l’Extraordinaire was established, financed by the sale of ecclesiastical property (to which would later be added the funds from the sale of crown property, and above all property confiscated from émigrés, the whole ensemble being rebranded as ‘national property’). To start with, 400 million livres’ worth of properties were put on sale, with assignats issued in parallel for an equal sum. At that initial point, the assignat was not a unit of currency so much as a treasury bond bearing interest at 5 per cent and secured on the goods of the clergy. As these goods were sold, a corresponding quantity of assignats would be destroyed, which would end up in principle extinguishing the debt of the state. Unfortunately, however, that is not what happened. The transformation of the assignat into paper money, its steady devaluation, its hopeless competition with hard currency, and the establishment of a forced exchange rage – all these difficulties would weigh heavily on the future course of events.

By nationalizing the property of the clergy, the whole structure of the Church was turned upside down; it had to be reorganized. There was not yet any question of the separation of Church and state, still less of de-Christianization. The members of the Constituent Assembly, even if followers of Voltaire, were respectful of Catholicism, which remained the de facto dominant religion and the only one subsidized by the state. But as teaching and hospitals were in the hands of the Church, it was necessary to close down some religious establishments, otherwise the incomes from the properties sold would be spent on their operation. On 13 February 1790, the monastic orders were abolished, and soon afterward another law relieved the church of the management of its properties.

On 12 July 1790, the civil constitution of the clergy spelled out the new organization.52 The number of dioceses was reduced from 130 to eighty-three, to coincide with the departments. Bishops, like other magistrates, would be selected by the departmental council, and priests by the electors of their district. Their investiture would no longer come from the pope, but from their superior in the hierarchy. Like all public officials, these employees of the state were required to swear loyalty to the constitution (‘The appointee shall take a solemn oath, in the presence of the municipal officers, the people and the clergy, to watch over the faithful of the diocese, to be loyal to the nation, to the law and to the king, and to maintain with all his power the Constitution decreed by the National Assembly and accepted by the king.’)

In an unexpected manner, it was this oath of loyalty to the Constitution that would compromise the whole arrangement. The bishops, traditionally Gallican, and even the king who had signed the civil constitution without demur, believed that the pope would accept the new system. But Pius VI, pressed by the émigrés and the Catholic powers, ended up rejecting it categorically in March 1791, condemning the Declaration of Rights as heretical into the bargain. From this point on, the oath became a serious matter of division among the French clergy: out of 160 bishops, only seven agreed to take the oath. Among the lower clergy who had previously been favourable to the Revolution, around a half accepted, but there were many retractions after the pope announced that he would suspend all priests who did not withdraw their oaths. This gave rise to a serious religious schism, which would be of great benefit to the counter-revolution.

Administrative reorganization, the departments

The administrative and judicial reorganization carried out from November 1789 to January 1790 aroused less opposition. The Assembly voted to divide the country into 83 départements, whose boundaries, following Mirabeau’s idea, were – and remain – drawn, not with a ruler like many North American states, but following borders inspired by physical geography and the pattern of the former provinces. The electoral assembly of each department was to elect a council of thirty-six members, who appointed a directorate of eight members responsible for the departmental administration – without a representative or any control from the central power. The department was divided into cantons, and the canton into communes. This was a system of property-based decentralization, which gave great autonomy of management to the possessor class. ‘It is no longer possible to doubt,’ wrote Loustalot in December 1789, ‘that the will of the twelve hundred [of the Assembly] is simply the will of the municipalities, that is, of the rich families, and does not uphold the will of the communes.’

The reform of the judiciary abolished all existing jurisdictions, in particular the Parlements (invited to ‘remain on leave’), establishing a hierarchy of courts that followed the new administrative divisions: a justice of the peace for each canton, elected for two years from among all those ‘eligible’ on the basis of a tax liability of ten days’ wages, a district court, and in the departmental capital a criminal court for penal matters that operated with a dual popular jury, one for investigation (charged with determining whether prosecution should take place) and the other for judgement. The jurors would be drawn by lot, and professional judges appointed by the electoral assemblies, choosing from those with legal qualifications. Measures were taken to protect the accused: court appearance within twenty-four hours of arrest, suppression of the ‘question’ (torture), compulsory presence of an advocate, public trials, penalties that were equal for all.

This set of reforms, no matter how ‘bourgeois’ in terms of property qualification, was striking in its scope. The Assembly, a disparate set of landowners, rentiers, nobles, advocates and priests, managed to construct a coherent system on the ruins of the Ancien Régime, one that was both decentralized and unified, democratic in appearance and aristocratic/anti-popular in reality. And despite all the modifications made since, it is still in the spirit of the Constituent Assembly that we are living two centuries later.

Economic liberalism

In order to understand how close this Assembly was to what is today called ‘liberalism’,53 the most telling aspect is its economic policy, bent above all on liberalizing trade and finance. Trade in grain had already been deregulated in August 1789, but from September the price of wheat could be set with no legal limit, which benefited the large producers but made it difficult to supply the poor peasants and the towns, especially as prices were rising steadily. Free movement of goods throughout the territory was established step by step by suppressing the gabelle, internal duties, and the tolls at city gates, but here again, the expected reduction in prices did not take place. The Bourse operated freely, and large-scale trade was favoured by the removal of the trading companies’ or city monopolies, such as that of the Compagnie des Indes for trade beyond the Cape of Good Hope, or the privilege of Marseille for trade with the Levant, etc. The power of businessmen in the Assembly, however, managed to maintain the so-called ‘exclusive’ system: the colonies (essentially Saint-Domingue, the world’s leading producer of sugar) were still allowed to trade only with the metropolis.

The rapid rise in the price of wheat, the slow progress – and even regression – with regard to feudal rights,54 the reactionary attitude of lords who called in all arrears and generated hundreds of lawsuits in the villages, the impossibility for the great majority of peasants to acquire the lands confiscated from the Church – this sum of disappointments and frustrations led to a new upsurge of violence in the countryside in the early months of 1790. In February, Grégoire, as rapporteur of the committee on feudalism, reported that insurrection was spreading. Thirty-seven châteaux had been burned in Brittany. In January the town of Sarlat had been invaded by peasants who had opened the prison, freed their companions inside, and put the lord in jail instead. In the Bourbonnais, Charolais and Nivernais, rebel peasants demanded the fixing of grain prices and an ‘agrarian law’ (the division of lands). ‘Brigands’ invaded the town of Decize. At Saint-Étienne de Forez the people killed a hoarder and appointed a new municipality, which it forced to reduce the price of bread.55

By 2 June, the Assembly was downright panic-stricken at the ‘disorders’ in the countryside, particularly in the Limousin and the region of Tulle. ‘How can it possibly be a crime’ – demanded the Tulle deputies – ‘to open fire, without having read the proclamation of martial law, on people caught in flagrante delicto, gathered in a crowd of seven or eight hundred, piercing the dykes and causeways of ponds, pillaging châteaux, etc.?’ The repressive law now voted was preceded by a preamble that says much about the fears of the people’s representatives:

The National Assembly, informed of and deeply afflicted by the excesses that have been committed by gangs of brigands and thieves in the departments of Cher, Nièvre and Allier, and that have spread to that of Corrèze, excesses that attack the public tranquillity as well as properties and possessions, the safety and boundaries of houses and inheritances, that sow terror everywhere and would quickly lead, if they were not repressed, to the calamity of famine …

The final decree stipulated that: ‘All those who excite the people of town and country to action and violence against properties, possessions, and boundaries of patrimonies, the life and safety of citizens, the collection of taxes, and the free sale and circulation of goods, are hereby declared enemies of the Constitution, of the work of the National Assembly, of Nature and of the King.’56

Martial law would be proclaimed against them, with tens of deaths and hundreds imprisoned. In Lyon, the tension between a militia recruited by the possessor class and the National Guard led to a riot in which the arsenal was raided and arms distributed to the population. The city’s elite was forced to give in; it dissolved its militia and agreed to make a large number of plebeians into active citizens.

The foreign plot

Among the causes of these popular rebellions was one particular fear: that of a counter-revolutionary plot in the royal entourage, a foreign invasion, a vengeful return of the émigrés. This fear was not unfounded. In Turin, the comte d’Artois was organizing an uprising in the south of France. At Montauban in May 1790, and at Nîmes in June, there were confrontations between royalist Catholics and Protestant patriots. In August, 20,000 National Guards holed up in the château of Jalès, in the Ardèche, with the cross as their flag and the white cockade on their hats. The leaders of this movement launched a manifesto, proclaiming that they would not lay down their weapons before having ‘re-established the king in his glory, the clergy in its possessions, the nobility in its honours, the Parlements in their former functions’. The encampment at Jalès would not be forcibly dissolved until February 1791.

Such was the background noise of this period, sometimes described as a time of calm and reconciliation – and indeed experienced in this way by many contemporaries, despite the warnings given by Marat:

When I hear Parisians singing their victories, when I see them regarding the enemies of the revolution as a defeated party, floored and disabled, when I see them prostrate themselves before the National Assembly and worship every one of its decrees, swearing to uphold them to the death and blessing Providence for the great work of the Constitution, it is like hearing a man at death’s door, peacefully congratulating himself on his good health.57

The Fête de la Fédération

The crucial event, inflated to mythic levels to celebrate that rediscovered unanimity, was the Fête de la Fédération, a great festival organized for the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. It had been preceded by a series of local federations between patriotic National Guards, in the Dauphiné, in Brittany, in Alsace and in the Nord: mutual assistance and fraternal friendship were sworn. For example, a letter sent from Saint-Omer on 1 June noted that

Detachments of National Guard from Boulogne, Calais, Ardres and Andrecies passed through here yesterday on their way to Arras in order to form a federal pact of all the National Guard of the Pas-de-Calais department, and from there on to Lille, to a general federation of all those of the Belgian provinces. They were given a very fine meal, attended by every corps, at which the officers of the Provence regiment mingled fraternally with their soldiers and their drummers.58

The Assembly decided to profit from this movement while at the same time controlling it. The symbolic value that the moment has preserved to this day is due in large measure to the account of it given by Michelet: ‘Fraternity overcame every obstacle, all the federations came to bind together, a union tending to unity. No more federations, they are not needed, only one is needed, that of France. It appears transfigured in the light of July.’59

Michelet describes the work on the Champ-de-Mars to create the hill on which the altar of the patrie would be erected: ‘The whole population took part. It was an amazing spectacle. By day and by night, men of all classes and ages, even children, everybody, citizens, soldiers, priests, monks, actors, sisters of mercy, fine ladies, market women, all wielded an axe, rolled a barrow or pulled a cart.’60 He relates the day of the Fête with its ‘bold and stubborn gaiety’ despite driving rain, the 160,000 people packed on the tiers of the Champde-Mars, the 50,000 armed men showing off their paces in the great amphitheatre, Lafayette on his white horse, Talleyrand officiating in the midst of two hundred priests wearing the tricolour sash, the 1,200 musicians. Suddenly ‘a silence fell: the fire of forty cannon made the ground shake. At this clap of thunder all rose and raised their hands to the sky … O king, o people! Wait … the sky was listening, the sun deliberately broke through the cloud … Be sure to keep your oaths!’61

In the days that followed, a section of the press echoed the upbeat mood. Brissot, in Le Patriote français of 17 July: ‘This people that blessed the revolution, that shook our hands as we went,62 encouraged us with their cries … One could read the pleasure felt by brothers on seeing their brothers, slaves casting off their fetters.’ Or again, the same day, in Les Annales patriotiques: ‘80,000 armed men, representing more than 3 million, formed for themselves and for their representatives a fearsome alliance, eternal, invincible, and worthy at last of the great sentiments of human reason.’ But there were others who were not fooled – always the same ones, in fact. Loustalot, who faithfully followed the feelings of the people:

A king who braves the heaviest rain when hunting, but on account of the rain will not walk beside the law-making and arms-bearing representatives of the nation, who does not take the trouble to go from his throne to the altar to give his people, who allow him 25 million livres, the satisfaction of seeing him take an oath there … The conquerors of the Bastille are ignored, and not a word, not the least homage in memory of those who, on such a day, perished beneath the walls of that dreadful fortress.63

And Marat, on 16 July, in L’Ami du peuple:

Immediately after the universal oath comes a great Te Deum to thank the Supreme Being for all the benefits that have been showered on France since the Revolution. It is scarcely surprising that the city administration, Bailly and all the rogues that handle major affairs, dream only of prosperity and happiness; they are swimming in opulence … Do they think to impose, by means of this false image of public felicity, on men who have constantly before their eyes the hordes of the destitute and the multitude of citizens reduced to beggary by the revolution? Do they flatter themselves that their scandalous wastefulness will be pardoned if they speak of public happiness?

The status of actors and Jews

The Constituent Assembly, united in this celebration of fraternity, was by no means so on the subject of those excluded from the status of citizen: in France, actors and Jews; in the colonies, freemen of colour and slaves (see ‘Excursus’, p. 138).

On 23 December 1789, Clermont-Tonnerre had argued that ‘profession and religion can never be grounds for ineligibility’.64 He proposed a vote on the notion that ‘no active citizen combining the conditions of eligibility required by the law will be kept off the list of the eligible, or excluded from public functions, by reason of the profession he practises or the religion he professes.’65 On the subject of actors, abbé Maury spoke rather weakly against the decree: ‘Morality is the first law; the theatrical profession fundamentally violates this law, by removing a son from paternal authority.’ On Jews he was far more incisive:

The Jews have gone through seventeen centuries without mixing with other nations. They have never done anything but trade in money; they have been the plague of agricultural provinces; none of them has been able to ennoble his hands by guiding the plough … In Alsace they have 12 million livres of mortgages on lands. In a month they will own half that province; in ten years they will have conquered it entirely, it will be no more than a Jewish colony. The people have a hatred for the Jews that this expansion will be sure to bring to bursting point. For their sake, we need not deliberate this point.

To which Robespierre replied:

How can [the Jews] be blamed for the persecutions that different peoples have inflicted on them? … They are furthermore charged with vices, prejudices, sectarian spirit and self-interest. But what can we ascribe these to, except our own injustice? Having debarred them from all honours, even the right to public esteem, we have left them no other goal than that of financial speculation. Let us restore them to happiness, to the patrie, to virtue, by restoring to them the dignity of men and of citizens.

On 24 December, the Assembly passed Clermont-Tonnerre’s decree ‘without intending to prejudge anything relating to the Jews, on whose state the National Assembly will pronounce at a later date’. The Jews of the Midi obtained civil rights on 28 January 1790, and those of Alsace after the end of the Constituent Assembly, in December 1791.

1The 1789 harvest had been good, but threshing took a great deal of time, so that supplies were not assured until late in the autumn.

2Mirabeau, in Le Courrier de Provence, 5–6 October 1789.

3Maillard, a strange bailiff’s clerk still dressed in black, was prominent in three episodes of the Revolution: the storming of the Bastille, the journée of 5 October, and the September massacres of 1792.

4A. P., vol. 9, pp. 346–7.

5Ibid., p. 349.

6[The name indicating that they were paid, whereas the National Guard were volunteers. – Translator]

7A chapter title in François Furet and Denis Richet, The French Revolution, London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1970.

8Cited by Mathiez, The French Revolution, p. 70.

9[In the Merovingian period, the maire du palais was the head of the royal household, with a power that eventually led to Charles Martel becoming the French sovereign. – Translator]

10On 26 October he would send the Assembly a long justification, ‘It indeed is a duty to brave every danger in the service of the country, but there must be no more useful means, and one must still have a hope of success’, A. P., vol. 9, p. 570.

11In Paris, the offices of the Hôtel de Ville were besieged by people demanding passports. This second emigration, following that of the princes in July, was numerically significant: one report counted 60,000 émigrés in Switzerland alone.

12Dubois-Crancé, Analyse de la Révolution française, cited in Aulard, La Société des Jacobins, Paris: Jouaust et Noblet et Quentin, 1889, vol. 1, ‘Introduction’, p. xviii. The library later became too small, and from May 1791 the club held its sessions in the convent chapel.

13Mounier, De l’influence attribuée aux philosophes, p. 118, cited by Aulard, La Société des Jacobins, vol. 1, p. xxiii. The club officially became the Société des Jacobins in September 1792, with the proclamation of the Republic.

14A deputy in the Constituent Assembly was paid eighteen livres per day.

15A. de Lameth, Histoire de l’Assemblée constituante, vol. 1, p. 422, note 4. Cited by Aulard, La Société des Jacobins, vol. 1, p. xix.

16To give an idea of the spread of affiliated societies even in small towns, the following appear under the letter ‘B’: Bar-le-Duc, Barjac, Bayonne, Beaune, Beauvais, Bédarieux, Bergerac, Bergues, Besançon, Béthune, Béziers, Blois, Bolbec, Bordeaux, Boulogne, Bourbonne, Bourg, Bourges, Brest, Brignoles, Brioude, Brive, Buxy.

17Mémoires de Grégoire, vol. 1, p. 387.

18See Florence Gauthier, ‘Centralisme “jacobin”, vraiment?’, in Utopie Critique, 2005, no. 32, pp. 75–86, also available at On the same website, see Yannick Bosc and Marc Belissa, ‘L’essence du jacobinisme: un universalisme blanc, masculin et catholique?’

19The Musée de Paris was a literary and scientific academy, with premises for lectures and meetings.

20Albert Mathiez, Le Club des Cordeliers pendant la crise de Varennes et le massacre du Champ-de-Mars, Paris: Champion, 1910, p. 6.

21Ibid., p. 7.

22On the distinction between active and passive citizens, see below, p. 105.

23Mathiez, Le Club des Cordeliers, p. 14.

24The Mercure National had been founded by Robert’s wife, Louise de Kéralio, who also led the Société Fraternelle de l’Un et l’Autre Sexe.

25The title of the Courrier changed several times. It was initially the Courrier de Versailles à Paris et de Paris à Versailles; eventually it became the Courrier des 83 départements.

26Gilles Feyel, ‘Le journalisme au temps de la Révolution’, AHRF, no. 333, July–September 2003, p. 33.

27Fernand Mitton, La Presse française sous la Révolution, le Consulat, l’Empire, Paris: Guy Le Prat, 1945, vol. 2, p. 85.

28For a deeper study, see C. Bellanter, J. Godechot, P. Guiral and F. Terron, Histoire générale de la presse française, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1969, vol. 1.

29From no. 73 on, ‘Brabant’ disappeared from the title, as a result of the disastrous course of the Belgian revolution. [The Duchy of Brabant, finally conquered by the Revolutionary armies in 1794, comprised the greater part of the southern Netherlands not already under French rule. – Translator]

30Mitton, La Presse française sous la Révolution, p. 100.

31Cited in Michel Vovelle, Marat, écrits, Paris: Messidor, 1988, p. 22.

32Hébert had already published, from August 1790, various part-works bearing the name Le Père Duchesne.

33[The ten-day period that replaced the week in the revolutionary calendar. – Translator]

34Mitton, La Presse française sous la Révolution, p. 98.

35These were: supplies, police, public works, hospitals, education, land, taxes, and National Guard.

36François’s shop was on rue du Marché-Palu, close to the seat of the Assembly at the Archevêché, and the crowd, discovering there bread destined for the deputies, believed he was keeping it back to boost the price. On this affair, see Riho Hayakawa, ‘L’assassinat du boulanger Denis François’, AHRF no. 333, July–Sept 2003, pp. 1–19.

37A. P., vol. 9, p. 472.

38Ibid., p. 474.

39Ibid., p. 475.

40It was only after the journées of June 1832 that the red flag ceased to be a sign of repression and passed to the side of insurrection.

41Ibid., p. 476.

42Buchez and Roux, Histoire parlementaire, vol. 3, p. 209.

43Buchez and Roux, Histoire parlementaire, vol. 3, p. 219. Citizen Martin was arrested by the Commune’s investigation committee on 25 October.

44This measure was taken at the time of a new threat of war, in May 1790. Spain, which had entered into conflict with England in a remote territory of North America, asked the help of France under a ‘family pact’. In a kind of prefiguration of the events of 1792, the left denounced a counter-revolutionary plot while the right wing – Mirabeau, Lafayette – exalted patriotic fibre. After vigorous popular agitation, the Assembly declared that the king could propose peace or war, but it was up to the Assembly to make the decision.

45At this time, ‘eligibility’ meant the right to take part in the primary assemblies that appointed the electors; it was these who chose the deputies.

46A. P., vol. 9, p. 479.

47In August 1791, after the king’s flight to Varennes, the Constituent Assembly withdrew the obligation of the silver marc. But elections to the Legislative Assembly were by then almost over, and had been conducted on the former basis.

48In April 1791, Robespierre would write one of his finest speeches, demanding that the qualification of the silver marc and the whole system of property qualification be abolished. Owing to systematic obstruction, this speech was never delivered in the Assembly, but it was printed and discussed in the popular societies. See Maximilien Robespierre, Virtue and Terror, London: Verso, 2007, pp. 5–19.

49A. P., vol. 9, pp. 398–404.

50Ibid., p. 415.

51Ibid., p. 424.

52A. P., vol. 17, pp. 55–60.

53This word only appeared some thirty years later, under the Restoration. ‘Liberals’ such as Benjamin Constant were then champions of economic freedom, but also of political freedom, in particular that of the press.

54The Assembly made redemption almost impossible for the peasants, by making each feudal charge redeemable only as an indivisible sum. On top of this, on 15 March 1790 it passed a law that made it compulsory to redeem rights that the lord could prove he had held for more than thirty years. ‘If peasants rebelling in August 1789 had forced a lord to renounce certain of his rights, or had burned his titles, now he needed only produce proof of possession for thirty years for these rights to be re-established’ (P. Sagnac, La législation civile de la Révolution française, Paris: Hachette, 1898, pp. 105–6).

55On this new ‘jacquerie’, see Pëtr Kropotkin, The Great French Revolution [1909], the, chapter 16.

56Le Moniteur, vol. 4, p. 539.

57L’Ami du peuple, 8 July 1790. Marat had just returned from England, where he had fled after an arrest warrant was issued against him.

58Le Moniteur, vol. 4, p. 550.

59Michelet, Histoire de la Révolution française [1847], Paris: Robert Laffont, 1999, vol. 1, p. 324.

60Ibid., p. 335.

61Ibid., p. 339.

62Brissot was a member of the Commune, for the district of Les Filles-Saint-Thomas.

63Les Révolutions de Paris, no. 53, 17 July 1790.

64It should be remembered that ‘eligibility’ meant the right to vote in the primary assemblies, that is, the status of active citizen.

65A. P., vol. 10, pp. 754–8. The excluded professions also included that of executioner, on which there scarcely seems to have been any discussion.

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