Modern history


June to August 1792

The journée of 20 June, the Brunswick Manifesto, the taking of the Tuileries, the end of the monarchy, the September massacres

For too long you have ruled above my head,

You in the dark cloud, God of Time!

Too wild and fearful around me,

Whatever I look at wavers and breaks.

– Friedrich Hölderlin, ‘The Spirit of the Age’

The journée of 20 June

The head of the army plotting sedition, the Court speaking a double language, an indecisive majority in the Assembly: the situation was clearly favourable to any counter-revolutionary movement. But with the Revolution still in its ascendant phase, when such a stalemate appeared, it was the people who went into action.

They had already made themselves loudly heard on 15 April, even before the declaration of war, at an immense festival celebrating Châteauvieux’s Swiss Guards – the victims of Nancy, and the forty soldiers who had just been freed from the galleys. A procession from the faubourg Saint-Antoine crossed the whole of Paris to the Champ-de-Mars. ‘The table of the Declaration of Rights was positioned there, and around it they placed all the signs, emblems and flags that had decorated the march,’ with banners displaying the names of the eighty-three departments, along with the keys and flag of the Bastille … ‘These joyous dances,’ wrote Michelet, ‘had something of the ardour of the festivals of antiquity, with slaves intoxicated by their new freedom.’1

On 19 June, Cambon, a deputy for the Hérault, read from the Assembly rostrum an address from the Marseille patriots which can be seen as heralding what would happen just a few hours later: ‘Legislators, the liberty of France is in danger; the men of the Midi have risen to defend it. The people’s day of anger has arrived. This people, who so long have been massacred or enchained, are tired of parrying blows, and ready in their turn to deal them.’2

At dawn on the following day, two armed columns left the faubourg Saint-Antoine and the faubourg Saint-Marceau, converged close to the Pont-Neuf and approached the Assembly that was starting its session. The president read out a letter from Santerre, the brewer of Saint-Antoine, who commanded the faubourg’s battalion:

The inhabitants of the faubourg Saint-Antoine are today celebrating the anniversary of the Tennis Court oath. They wish to pay their respects to the National Assembly. Since their intentions have been slandered, today they request admittance to the bar to refute their cowardly detractors and prove that they are friends of liberty and the men of 14 July.3

Vergniaud and Guadet had the letter welcomed, but the Assembly hesitated, and only after a stormy discussion was the admission of armed petitioners agreed. The people poured into the Salle du Manège, and for several hours, close to 10,000 men ‘armed some with pikes, others with knives, twibills, axes and sticks … a number of women bearing sabres, marched through the hall dancing to the tune of the song “Ça ira”, and shouting: “Vivent les sans-culottes! Vivent les patriotes! À bas le veto!”’4

Emerging from the Assembly, the petitioners forced the gates of the Tuileries and reached the Œil-de-Bæuf room where the king was. A famous scene ensued: Louis XVI wedged into a window seat for two hours, the red bonnet on his head, drinking the nation’s health but refusing to give in, repeating that he was loyal to the Constitution. At last Pétion arrived with a delegation from the Assembly, and had the palace calmly evacuated.

A defeat, therefore, from which the royalists profited. The Paris department, run by the Feuillants, decreed the removal of Pétion, the Commune’s mayor, and Manuel, the Commune procureur, for doing nothing to stop the riot. The minister of justice announced an inquiry into the outrage of 20 June. Addresses flooded in from the provinces calling for vengeance ‘against the wretches who violated the safe haven of the hereditary representative of the Nation and insulted his inviolable and sacred person’.5

On 28 June, Lafayette, deserting his post in front of the enemy, arrived at the Assembly to deliver what was a formal notice: ‘I beg the National Assembly to order that the instigators of the crimes and violence committed on 20 June in the Tuileries be prosecuted and punished as criminals for lèse-nation, and to destroy a sect [the Jacobins] that infringes sovereignty and tyrannizes citizens, and whose public debates leave no room for doubt about the atrocity of the plans of those who lead it.’6 His speech was mostly applauded, and a motion proposed by Guadet, indicting him for having left his post without ministerial authorization, was rejected by 339 votes to 234. But Lafayette did not confine his hopes to the Assembly: he also planned to win over the bourgeois battalions of the Paris National Guard, which he was to review the next day together with the king. Being warned of this, Pétion called off the review, and Lafayette returned to his troops without having been able to try anything.

‘La patrie en danger’

In one of those sudden accelerations of revolutionary time, this counter-revolutionary situation led in less than six weeks to the insurrection that would bring down the monarchy.

The Prussian army, under the command of the duke of Brunswick, was now massed on the frontier. The king of Prussia was in Coblenz with 50,000 men, backed by the army of the princes under the orders of Condé. Lafayette had scarcely returned to his post when the news of Luckner’s retreat came through. After a timid offensive towards Courtrai he had pulled back to Lille, on the pretext that the Belgians had not come out en masse and thrown themselves into the arms of the republican soldiers. It was clear that the war would rapidly move onto French territory, and no less clear that the greatest danger came from the defeatism of the king and the generals.

At the same moment there was royalist agitation in the provinces. The marquis de la Rouerie attempted to bring together in the west those nobles who had not emigrated; in the southern Ardèche, colonel de Saillans holed up with a force of several thousand in the château de Bannes; in the departments of Côtes-du-Nord, Finistère and Loire-Inférieure, insurrections broke out to prevent the departure of refractory priests. A general uprising was expected to follow the first successes of the enemy kings on the frontiers.

Despite the gravity of the situation, the Girondins remained hesitant. Their newspapers and spokesmen constantly named Louis XVI as the main obstacle to national defence. On 3 July, Vergniaud thundered:

It is in the name of the king that the French princes have sought to move all the courts of Europe against the Nation; it is to avenge the dignity of the king that the treaty of Pillnitz has been concluded, and a monstrous alliance formed between the courts of Vienna and Berlin; it is to defend the king that former companies of the royal bodyguard have gathered in Germany under the flags of rebellion; it is to come to the aid of the king that the émigrés solicit and obtain employment in the Austrian armies, and prepare to tear the breast of their patrie.7

The logical conclusion of such a charge-sheet could only be to demand the king’s immediate deposition. But no: Vergniaud was content to propose a message to the king from the Assembly, asking him to speedily refute these terrible accusations. The Girondins were afraid, in fact, that the king’s deposition would unleash an uncontrollable popular movement. Brissot and his friends still hoped that Louis XVI would finally bow to pressure, and summon them back to government.

On 9 July, during an interminable speech, Brissot demanded an immediate proclamation of la patrie en danger, and a declaration that the ministers now in office did not enjoy the confidence of the Assembly.8 The next day, the Garde des Sceaux, Dejoly, came to the Assembly and announced that, no longer able to do what was needed, the six ministers had handed the king their collective resignation.

On 11 July, at the proposal of Hérault de Séchelles, the Assembly officially proclaimed la patrie en danger. The same evening, Robespierre said at the Jacobins: ‘Before this declaration, we knew that a conspiring general was at the head of our armies; we knew that a corrupt court was ceaselessly machinating against our liberty and our Constitution … The nation knew these dangers very well, but it seemed paralysed on the edge of the abyss, and the National Assembly has now sought to rouse it from this lethargy.’9

As there was no sign of this arousal, a few days later Robespierre demanded the dismissal of both the king and the Assembly: ‘Has the head of the executive power been faithful to the nation? Then he must be maintained. Has he betrayed it? Then he must be dismissed. The National Assembly is unwilling to pronounce this dismissal, and if the king is deemed to be guilty, then the Assembly itself is complicit in his offences.’10 Robespierre proposed the calling of a National Convention, this time elected by universal suffrage:

Let us therefore expiate this crime of lèse-nation and lèse-humanité by effacing such injurious distinctions, which measure the virtues and rights of a man by the amount he is taxed … Only by this action will you revive the patriotism and energy of the people; multiply our country’s resources to infinity; destroy the influence of aristocracy and intrigue; and prepare a genuine national convention, the only legitimate and complete one that France will ever have seen.11

The Paris fédérés, advance signs of insurrection, the Brunswick Manifesto

The king had vetoed the encampment of 20,000 fédérés, but the Assembly found a way round. Those who were already en route – and there were many of them, especially coming from the Midi – would receive five sous for every league they travelled between their home department and Paris, as well as accommodation when they arrived in the capital. The largest contingent came from Marseille. On their departure, the mayor of Marseille, old Mouraille, harangued them: ‘Go and make the tyrant blanch on the throne he no longer deserves! Go and tell him that the sovereign people are here to sanction the decrees he struck down with his monstrous veto!’12 The battalion took twenty-seven days to reach Paris, spreading as it went the words of the ‘Marseillaise’13 and everywhere transmitting the patriotic passion that inspired it.

After the festival of 14 July 1792, most of the fédérés set out for the camp prepared for them at Soissons, but a good thousand or so remained in Paris, especially the most resolute patriots. The Jacobins found lodgings for them, collected money, invited them in and offered meals, so that the club became something of a headquarters for the Revolution.

On 18 July, the fédérés presented a petition to the Assembly calling for the deposition of the king: ‘Do with the executive power what the salvation of the state, and the very Constitution, demand if ever the nation were betrayed by the executive power.’ On several occasions it seemed as if insurrection would imminently break out, but Pétion and the Girondin Commune succeeded in forestalling this – particularly on 5 August, when the Marseille fédérés led by Chaumette and Momoro had established themselves in the Cordeliers convent, in the Théâtre-Français section on the left bank.14 They acted as guards for this section after the minister of justice launched a prosecution against the Cordeliers for signing a resounding declaration against the status of passive citizens.15

At the end of July, the Paris sections had established a central correspondence bureau that met every day in the Hôtel de Ville. Information was exchanged, but there were no debates. In the first days of August a very different body came together: a meeting of the section commissioners, a kind of central directorate whose role in the impending action would be crucial.16

From this point on, events accelerated. On 23 July, the section of La Fontaine-de-Grenelle proposed the deposition of Louis XVI. On 31 July, the Mauconseil section declared that it no longer recognized the dethroned king. On 2 August, the Gravilliers section declared that if the Assembly could not save the patrie, the people would rise to save it themselves. ‘More than 3,000 citizens gathered on the Champ-de-Mars had signed a petition to the same effect, attaching to it a demand for the formal accusation of Lafayette and the dismissal of the army general staff. The petition was borne by a very large procession, preceded by a red bonnet on the end of a pike with the words: “Depose the king”.’17 On 3 August, forty-seven of the forty-eight sections signed the deposition petition, which Pétion presented to the Assembly in their name.

It was amid this tension that news reached Paris of the Brunswick Manifesto – written by an émigré and signed on 27 July – in which the commander in chief of the Austrian and Prussian armies proclaimed:

If the Tuileries palace is breached or insulted, if the slightest violence or outrage is done to Their Majesties, the king, the queen and the royal family, if their safety, their preservation and their liberty are not immediately guaranteed, they [the Austrian emperor and the king of Prussia] will take an exemplary and unforgettable revenge, delivering the city of Paris to military invasion and total destruction, and the rebels guilty of the attack to the punishments they deserve.

This text, which was widely distributed, only increased popular fury. On 9 August, the sections of Gravilliers, Montreuil, Quinze-Vingt, Innocents, Gobelins and Tuileries proclaimed that ‘at midnight, the sovereign [people] will rise up to reconquer their rights.’18During the night, twenty-eight of the forty-eight sections sent commissioners to the Hôtel de Ville with unlimited powers. The commissioner of the Fontaine-de-Grenelle section explained: ‘The people made their way in a crowd to the Hôtel de Ville, and invited the commissioners to take over the Commune administration on a provisional basis. Having established themselves as representatives of the Commune, they [the commissioners] abolished the municipality, dismissed the commander-general [Mandat] and elected Santerre, whose nomination was confirmed by shouts of joy on the part of the people.’19 It was in this strange and magnificent fashion that the insurrectional Commune was born on the night of 9–10 August, ready to play a leading role from now on vis-à-vis the Assembly.

The 10th of August, the taking of the Tuileries

As distinct from the two great revolutionary moments of 1789 – 14 July and 5–6 October – when the spontaneous surge of the people carried all before it, the insurrection of 10 August 1792 was carefully prepared and led by the Paris sections. They received decisive support, as we have seen, from the fédérés: those from Marseille, linked to the section of Théâtre-Français, and those from Brest with the faubourg Saint-Marceau section, which took the name of Finistère in their honour. ‘At the sound of the tocsin ringing out in the clear night, first from the bell-towers of the Théâtre-Français section and gradually extending to the centre and east of the city, the National Guard unhurriedly took up their arms and made for the assembly point. The streets of the faubourg Antoine were lit up. A general mobilization was called.’20

The left bank sections concentrated their forces around the barracks of the Marseillais. Under the command of Alexandre, a leading figure from the faubourg Saint-Marceau, they came down the rue Dauphine to the Pont-Neuf, where an artillery battery blocked the way. Manuel, procureur of the legal Commune, had the cannon withdrawn, and around six o’clock in the morning the column reached the Carrousel.21

The right bank sections gathered around the Enfants-Trouvés battalion, in the faubourg Saint-Antoine. Santerre divided these forces into three columns: one would proceed along the river, protecting the flank from a possible attack by the royalist battalions on the Île Saint-Louis, in Saint-Étienne-du-Mont and Les-Thermes-du-Julien; another went along the boulevards to secure the sections of Petits-Pères and Filles-de-Saint-Thomas; and in the centre, the bulk of the troops marched in a straight line down the rues Saint-Antoine and Saint-Honoré.

At the palace, the defence forces were made up of gentlemen of the Court, detachments of the National Guard from sections loyal to the king, gendarmes on foot and on horse, and above all three battalions of Swiss Guards: a total of between two and three thousand men who took up position with their cannon on two sides of the palace, in the courtyards and in the Tuileries gardens.

After Mandat had left for the Hôtel de Ville,22 Ræderer, the chief procureur of the Paris department, managed to convince the king to seek sanctuary at the Assembly. Between two lines of Swiss Guards, the king and queen, surrounded by ministers and members of the department, crossed the Tuileries gardens and made their entrance into the hall of the Manège. ‘Gentlemen,’ said the king, ‘I come here to prevent a great crime. I shall always believe myself and my family to be safe amid the representatives of the nation.’ To which Vergniaud, who was presiding, replied: ‘The National Assembly is aware of all its duties, and sees one of the dearest of these to be the maintenance of all established authorities’, which amounted to a commitment to maintaining the monarchy. When the triumph of the insurrection began to seem increasingly inevitable, this commitment was watered down until it turned into its opposite.

During this time, the Marseillais and the faubourg Saint-Marceau, who had occupied the place du Carrousel, began to fraternize with the National Guard, particularly the gunners positioned in the courtyards. These first of all removed the ammunition from their guns, then turned them against the palace, leaving it with no artillery except on the garden side. Resistance was becoming problematic, and the National Guard, who had already begun to defect, withdrew almost entirely. The gendarmes were scattered in external positions where they could hardly be useful. All that remained for the defence of the palace were seven or eight hundred Swiss Guards, 200 gentlemen, and a few dozen grenadiers of the National Guard. At nine in the morning, the order was given to abandon the courtyards and retreat into the palace.

The insurgents entered the courtyards and managed to penetrate the building by the main door, which had not been well secured. Slipping along the walls, they started to fraternize with the Swiss Guards, promising to treat them as brothers if they went over to the side of the nation. Many of the Swiss responded to these advances at once, throwing cartridges from the top of the staircase to the people occupying the courtyard and vestibule, to show that these were only powder. But suddenly a shot rang out, no doubt fired by one of the gentlemen positioned in the Louvre gallery. This was the signal for a general volley of gunfire. The Swiss Guards fired down on the courtyard from the first floor, and from the top of the staircase into the vestibule. The insurgents were caught off guard bywhat seemed to them to be a betrayal. Captain Durler, the commander of the Swiss Guards, came out at their head and raked the courtyard of the Carrousel. The dead and wounded lay scattered on the ground and the insurgents panicked, some of them falling back to the Hôtel de Ville.

But the Marseillais and the faubourg Saint-Marceau stood their ground. The Marseille gunners stopped the Swiss advance and forced them to retreat into the palace. Reinforcements arrived from the faubourg Saint-Antoine, with cannon that backed up the fire of the Marseillais:

Sprayed with bullets, choked by smoke, overwhelmed by the evergrowing number of their attackers, the Swiss found it hard to stand their ground in the courtyards. Around eleven o’clock, the maréchal de camp d’Hervilly, hatless and unarmed, ran out amid gunshots shouting for them to cease fire at the king’s request, and withdraw into the National Assembly … The retreat across the Tuileries gardens was deadly, under a hail of bullets. The disarmed Swiss, between one and two hundred, were taken into an outbuilding of the Feuillants convent to protect them from the rage of the crowd.23

In these two hours of battle, the Paris insurgents and the fédérés had nearly a thousand of their number killed or wounded. The losses among the besieged were certainly greater still, but no inquiry was launched to establish them precisely.



In our day there is an image behind this word: a man wearing a short jacket with metal buttons (the Carmagnole), and cloth trousers instead of the silk breeches and stockings of the aristocrats. On his head is a red woollen bonnet, the headgear of freed slaves in Rome. He is armed with a pike, the popular weapon par excellence. But beyond this iconography, who were the sans-culottes?

A sans-culotte, you rogues, is a man who always goes on foot, who has neither millions nor a château, no valets to serve him, but dwells simply with his wife and children, if he has any, on the fourth or fifth floor … In the evening he attends his section, not powdered, perfumed and booted in the hope of being noticed by every woman citizen on the benches, but to support good motions with all his might and demolish those that come from the abominable faction of men of condition.24

Sans-culottes worked for their living, and more precisely, with their hands. It was they, wrote Hébert in Le Père Duchesne in September 1793, ‘who make the fabrics in which we are clothed, who work the metals and manufacture the weapons that serve to defend the Republic’. Many of them received a wage, but they also included plenty of small employers, as well as artisans in solitary workshops. The majority of sans-culottes thus belonged to the artisan class, even if the number of wage-earners in the manufactories scattered across Paris has perhaps been underestimated.25 We must also count the many poverty-stricken patriots in the faubourgs Saint-Antoine and Saint-Marceau, which may explain the political activism of those quartiers.

The sans-culottes clearly detested the aristocrats, but by this term they included not only the former nobles but also the upper layers of the former Third Estate. ‘On 21 May 1793, a popular orator from the Section du Mail stated that “aristocrats are the rich, wealthy merchants, monopolists, middlemen, bankers, trading clerks, quibbling lawyers and citizens who own anything”.’26

The demands of the sans-culottes focused on three distinct issues: the price of provisions, equality of consumption, and democracy in the sections.

On provisions, there was a wide gulf between them and the assemblies – not just the Legislative but also the Convention – in which the majority supported the ideas of the Physiocrats: free trade, particularly in grain, had been brought into being by the Revolution. The sans-culottes, for their part, believed that the rise in prices and the constant devaluation of the assignats made it essential to fix the prices of staple foods and household supplies, if they were to be able to feed and clothe themselves. Popular movements for wage increases were far rarer than those that pressed for a price cap on subsistence goods, by force if need be.

This demand was coupled with a quest for equality in all areas of life. The rich should live no better than the poor, their surplus should be taken away, they should be compelled to share. Money should not enable them to eat better. The general council of the insurrectional Commune decided that there would henceforth be only one kind of bread, ‘equality bread’. Since ‘Wealth and poverty must disappear in a world based on equality’, it was announced: ‘In future the rich will not have their bread made from wheaten flour whilst the poor have theirs made from bran.’27

In their sections the sans-culottes applied a principle of radical democracy. On 25 August 1792, the assembly of the section of Marché-des-Innocents proposed that ‘public officials can be recalled by their electors, whose decisions they are obliged to implement’. On the same day, the assembly of Bonne-Nouvelle reminded its delegates of ‘the imprescriptible right which they [the sections] possess to deprive them of their authority’.28 For the Convention elections, several sections decided that electors would vote aloud and in the presence of the public.29 During the crisis of spring 1793 the sans-culottes imposed voting by acclamation, or by standing up, as the only way of displaying popular unanimity. It was around this time too that fraternization appeared, sealing the unity of sansculottes across the sections. ‘On 21 April 1793, a large deputation from the general assembly of the Section des Lombards visited the general assembly in the Section du Contrat-Social. Its speaker denounced “the intrigues, anarchy, and endless disturbances produced by the royalist party of Dumouriez, and the bitter divisions which result in the assemblies”.’ The two sections swore a solemn oath ‘to live and correspond with one another fraternally in a close and affectionate union, and to crush the aristocratic monster under their feet’.30

Soboul has been criticized for having made the sans-culotte into ‘an ideal type, a kind of abstraction constructed as a function of the political context from which he emerged’.31 It is true that the notion is fairly elastic, sometimes conjuring up by metonymy the world of popular Paris, sometimes the crowds of the great revolutionary journées, sometimes again the militants who dominated the life of the sections. But the often violent confrontations with the assemblies and established authorities were not the work of a stereotyped ideal: they show the very real presence of this being of flesh and blood, the Parisian sans-culotte.

The Assembly and the insurrectional Commune

Once the outcome of the battle was decided, the session of 10 August in the Assembly was long, agitated and confused.32 The president of the insurrectional Commune, Huguenin, who the previous day had been simply a customs clerk, addressed the deputies in an imperious and almost brutal tone:

It is the new magistrates of the people who present themselves at your bar … The people have charged us with declaring to you that they invest you anew with their trust, but it has charged us at the same time with declaring to you that they can only recognize, as sole judge of the extraordinary measures to which necessity and resistance to oppression have brought them, the French people, your sovereign and ours, gathered together in their primary assemblies.33

– which clearly meant the end of the Legislative Assembly. Guadet, presiding, replied in vague terms, urging the petitioners to restore calm to the city.

In the same sitting, however, Vergniaud proposed that the head of the executive power should be ‘provisionally suspended’, and the French people invited to elect a National Convention on the basis of universal suffrage. The king and his family would be placed in safety at the Luxembourg palace. Six ministers would be provisionally appointed by the Assembly, by individual election. They could only be drawn from its ranks. In theory, therefore, the monarchy would remain; indeed, Vergniaud had already persuaded the Assembly to appoint a ‘tutor for the Prince Royal’.34

The measures taken over the following weeks reflected the confrontation between the Assembly and Gironde on the one hand, and the Commune and the majority of the Jacobins club on the other. On 11 August, Robespierre was elected to the Commune by his section, that of place Vendôme.35

A number of decisions would tip the balance towards the Brissotin side, starting with a non-decision: there was no proclamation to depose the king or found a republic. But the idea of a tutor for the dauphin was very vigorously opposed. Anthoine, for example, at the Jacobins on 13 August: ‘What, you are launching an attack on the monarchy, you have pulled down the statues of kings and now here is a decree for the education of a Prince Royal! But what use have we for this Prince Royal?’36 In the same speech, Anthoine demanded the condemnation of Lafayette and the sacking of the general staff, which the Assembly refused to do until Lafayette went over to the enemy on the 19th.

The ministers it appointed to replace those resigning were the three Brissotins dismissed by the king in June: Roland at interior, Servan at war, and Clavière at finance. To them were added Monge at the navy, Lebrun at foreign affairs and, as a token to the people, Danton was elected minister of justice by 222 out of 284 votes.

Universal (male) suffrage was decided at the same session of 10 August. On a report by Jean Debry, the Assembly voted without debate that all citizens over twenty-five would be electors. This spelled the end of the property qualification and the distinction between active and passive citizens, but Robespierre demanded more: the direct election of deputies by the primary assemblies, instead of a two-tier system. Since 1789, in fact, the primary assemblies had functioned on a democratic basis, and it was not uncommon for women to be able to vote in them. Robespierre was not supported, leading him to write: ‘The useless and dangerous intermediary of the electoral bodies ought to have been suppressed, and the people enabled to choose their representatives themselves. The Assembly has followed routine rather than principles.’37 And Marat echoed: ‘On hearing the manner decreed for the election of deputies to the Convention, I exclaimed aloud. I saw this simply as an artificial means for filling the supreme council of the nation with corrupt men, conferring the choice of the people’s representatives on the electoral bodies.’38

On the other hand, the Commune succeeded in getting rid of the Paris department, ‘a name that has become odious in Paris’ (Robespierre). On 21 August, the general council of the Commune requested the Assembly to jettison it, ‘considering that, in order to assure public safety and liberty, it needs all the powers delegated to it by the people at the moment when they were forced to take back the exercise of their rights.’39

Marat unreservedly supported the Commune against the Assembly. He wrote in L’Ami du peuple, 13 August: ‘Oh you, worthy commissioners of the Paris sections, true representatives of the people, beware of the traps laid for you by the faithless deputies, beware of their seductions … Do not leave the helm of public authority placed in your hands until the National Convention has freed us of the despot and his unworthy breed.’

On 11 August, the king and his family were brought to the Luxembourg, but the Commune had them removed from this royal residence to the Temple, where Louis was now no more than a prisoner. In parallel with this, the Assembly decided that all its decrees that had been vetoed would immediately come into force, in particular that on the deportation of refractory priests. A decree signed on 26 August gave them two weeks to leave France; once this deadline had passed, they would be deported to Guyana.

The king in the Temple

Even if the fédérés from the south played a major role in it, the journée of 10 August took place in Paris. It was urgent for the country as a whole, still attached to the monarchical Constitution, to understand and accept what had happened. It was also necessary to prevent the army being misled by the words of its factious generals.

On 12 August, the Commune had the authors and printers of ‘anti-civic’, royalist and Feuillant newspapers arrested.40 Heading a deputation from the Commune, Léonard Bourdon, the president of the Gravilliers section, came to the Assembly to say: ‘The incendiary papers are no longer polluting either the capital or the departments. Their presses and their stocks of type will now be used to serve the Revolution.’41

The Assembly, for its part, published papers that had been found in the home of Laporte, in charge of the civil list, which revealed the king’s treasonable collusion with foreign powers. These were widely distributed and dealt a severe blow to monarchist sentiment.42

Since the Tuileries had been taken, however, petitions were pouring in to the Assembly from peasants complaining of lawsuits against them and difficulties in redeeming seigniorial rights. The Assembly decided to suspend all prosecutions based on former feudal rights. On 16 August, following a petition from a citizen in Laon, it decreed on Chabot’s proposal ‘that all feudal and seigniorial rights of all kinds are suppressed without indemnity, unless they were the price of the original granting of the tenement’.43 At the time that this great decree was promulgated, citizens began to gather for the coming formation of primary assemblies. ‘There were thus echo chambers on all sides that irresistibly propagated the laws of emancipation.’44

Meanwhile Lafayette, the other great loser of 10 August, called on his army to march on Paris to restore the Constitution and put the king back on his throne. At one point he managed to win over the municipality of Sedan and the department of Ardennes, and jailed the commissioners sent by the Assembly, but the volunteers very soon refused to obey him and he was forced to flee to the enemy along with his general staff. The Assembly only voted the indictment against him at the moment when he crossed the frontier. Dumouriez was appointed to the army of the East, and Kellermann replaced Luckner in the North.

The people demand revenge for the ‘ambush’ of 10 August

What most excited the people after 10 August was the question of how those responsible for the Tuileries massacre, which everyone saw as a deliberate ambush, would be punished. The popular voice called for vengeance against the Swiss Guards and the general staffs of the gendarmerie and National Guard.45

The Commune issued an appeal for calm (‘Sovereign people, suspend your vengeance. A justice that had gone to sleep is today resuming all its rights. All those guilty will perish on the scaffold’),46 but the same evening the administrators of police at the Hôtel de Ville handed a note to Santerre: ‘We have learned of intentions to enter the prisons of Paris in order to abduct all the prisoners and render summary justice. We request you to promptly extend your surveillance over the prisons of the Châtelet, the Conciergerie and the Force.’47

Thus the disaster that would unfold in September was already foreshadowed. Clear measures would have been needed to avoid it, but the Assembly, worried about legality and unwilling to give in to the Commune, hesitated and dithered. On 14 August it referred the investigation and judgement of the crimes of 10 August to the regular courts. The next day, the Commune sent a delegation to the Assembly. Robespierre spoke in its name:

Since the 10th, the just vengeance of the people has remained unsatisfied. I do not know what invincible obstacles seem to stand in the way … The people are resting but not asleep. They want the punishment of the guilty, and rightly so. We pray you to rid us of the established authorities, in whom we have no confidence at all; we wish the culprits to be judged by commissioners taken from each section, in sovereign fashion and as a last resort.48

In the end the Assembly gave in. On 17 August it decided to establish an extraordinary tribunal composed of juries and judges elected by the sections. Robespierre, appointed president by virtue of being top of the list, refused the post: ‘I could not be the judge of those whose adversary I have been, forced to remember that besides being enemies of the patrie, they were also my own.’49

These debates exacerbated the conflict between the Commune and the Assembly, which moved onto the offensive on 30 August. Roland declared that he could not answer for the provisioning of Paris, as the Commune had disrupted the existing system by abolishing the committee on subsistence goods. Attacks multiplied against ‘these men who, without a legal mission, have placed themselves at the head of the Commune of Paris and illegitimately exercise there, in the name of the people, functions that the people have not delegated to them’.50 Finally a decree was passed ordering the immediate replacement of the entire Commune. Robespierre, legalistic as he often was, asked the Commune to demand a new investiture from the people, but for once he was not supported.

M. Robespierre, in an eloquent speech in which he exposed all the treacherous manoeuvres that have been used to lower the general council in the public esteem, ended by requesting the council to hand back to the people the powers it had received from them. The Commune procureur [Manuel], while applauding the principles of the previous speaker, reminded the council of the oath it had taken to remain at its post to the death, and to only abandon this when the patrie was no longer in danger. He concluded that the council should continue to fulfil its functions. Resolved.51

The capture of Longwy, the threat to Verdun; Danton launches the levée en masse

Meanwhile, the war in Lorraine was turning into a catastrophe. On 15 August it was learned that Thionville was under siege, and on the 20th it was the turn of Longwy, which surrendered on the 23rd. This news reached Paris on the 25th. At the time of the attack the local commander, Lavergne, was nowhere to be found; his cowardice, if not treason, was flagrant. The Assembly decreed the death penalty for any citizen who spoke of surrender anywhere that was under siege. On 1 September, news arrived that Verdun, the last fortified point between the enemy and Paris, was besieged by the duke of Brunswick. The garrison commander, lieutenant-colonel Beaurepaire, sent a letter to the Assembly vowing to die rather than surrender, which was noble of him but scarcely reassuring.52

Almost at the same time, it was learned that the royalists in the Vendée had risen up against recruitment. Setting out from Châtillon-sur-Sèvre, they had seized Bressuire, a republican town in the midst of the royalist bocage. The patriots had a very hard job repelling them, and the battle left more than 200 dead.

After the fall of Longwy, the ministers met to listen to Kersaint, one of the deputies dispatched to see the armies, who predicted that Brunswick would be in Paris within two weeks. The Girondin ministers panicked. Roland declared that the government should leave for Tours or Blois, taking the treasury and the king with it. Clavière and Servan supported him, but Danton stood firm: ‘I have brought my seventy-year-old mother to Paris. I have brought my two children, who arrived yesterday. Before the Prussians enter Paris I would wish my family to perish with me, and that 20,000 torches should turn Paris into a heap of cinders in an instant. Roland, be careful in talking of flight, be afraid, lest the people are listening!’53

During these days when alarming news was coming thick and fast, it was Danton who found the words and took the measures that were needed. On 28 August he spoke before the Assembly:

The anxieties that are being spread with regard to our situation are much exaggerated, for we still have armies ready to pursue the enemy and fall on him if he advances inward … It was only through a great upheaval that we destroyed despotism in the capital; it is only through a national upheaval that we shall be able to repel the despots … Up to now you have seen only the simulated war of Lafayette; today we must wage a far more frightful war, the war of the Nation against the despots. It is time to tell the people that the people en masse must hurl themselves against their foes.54

In the same speech, he proposed that the Assembly should authorize house searches ‘to distribute to the defenders of the patrie the weapons that indolent or ill-disposed citizens may be hiding’, and appoint commissioners ‘from its ranks, to go along with those of the executive power to encourage the citizens, in the name of the patrie, to march to its defence’.

These raids began on 30 August and went on for two days: all the houses in Paris were searched, and some 3,000 suspects led off to prison.

On 2 September, Danton launched the first levée en masse:

Everywhere there is stirring and commotion, a burning wish to fight, an uprising in France from one end of the realm to the other. One part of the people will head for the frontiers; another will dig trenches; and a third will defend our town centres with pikes … We demand that within forty leagues of the point where battle is waged, those citizens who have weapons shall march against the enemy; those who remain are to arm themselves with pikes. We demand that anyone who refuses to serve in person or to hand over his weapons shall be punished with death … We demand that couriers be sent to all departments to advise them of the decrees that you have issued. The ringing of tocsins will resound throughout France. This is not a signal of alarm, but a signal to charge against the enemies of the patrie. In order to conquer, gentlemen, we need boldness, more boldness, and boldness again, and France will be saved.55

A very famous speech, and a just foundation for Danton’s historic glory, whatever he might be criticized for later on.

The same day, the delegates of the Commune came to the Assembly to read a proclamation: ‘Citizens, march out forthwith under your flags; let us gather on the Champ-de-Mars; let an army of 60,000 men be formed this instant. Let us expire under the blows of the enemy, or exterminate him under our own.’56

The September massacres

Inside the tense city, however, different rumblings were being heard: how could citizens depart for the frontier while Paris was teeming with traitors, while suspects were plotting in the prisons, preparing to escape with help from abroad and to massacre patriots … Since the justice of the 17 August tribunal was so slow and tentative, it was up to the people to render justice themselves. Such were the explosive fears that spread on the news that Verdun was under siege. The Quinze-Vingt section demanded the imprisonment of the wives and children of émigrés and the punishment of conspirators, before any citizens left for the army. Faubourg-Poissonière called for all priests and imprisoned suspects to be put to death before the volunteers departed. Its decree was approved by the sections of Luxembourg, Louvre, and Fontaine-Montmorency.57

On the morning of 2 September, the Commune decreed that ‘the alarm gun will be fired immediately, the tocsin and the call to arms sounded’. This tocsin – and we can barely imagine the collective fear unleashed by this sinister tolling from every bell tower in Paris – marked the start of the September massacres.58

These began in the afternoon of the 2nd, when refractory priests being taken to the Abbaye prison were massacred en route by their guards, fédérés from Marseille and Brittany. Next came the turn of refractory priests held in the Carmelite convent, and later on, at nightfall, of the prisoners in the Abbaye, where priests were held together with Swiss and royal guards. That night the killers repaired to the Conciergerie, the Châtelet and the prison of La Force on the rue Pavée. In the morning of the 3rd they continued their deadly work at the seminary of Saint-Firmin, near Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet, and, not far from there, at the Bernardins, where condemned prisoners waited to be sent to the galleys. In the afternoon it was the turn of the Bicêtre prison, and finally on the 4th, that of the Salpêtrière.

The killing happened differently in different places. In the Abbaye an improvised tribunal was set up, under Stanislas Maillard.59 With the prison register before him, he questioned the prisoners and delivered the verdicts together with his assessors. At the Force, Pétion relates that on the morning of the 3rd, ‘the men who judged and those who executed behaved as confidently as if the law had summoned them to fulfil these functions’. There was nothing of this kind, however, in the prisons affected by massacres over the following days – the Conciergerie, the Châtelet, Bicêtre and the Salpêtrière. Here the slaughter was carried out by smallish squads working with pikes, sabres and cudgels – in silence, according to Pétion’s testimony.60

How many died in these massacres? Caron establishes that, in the last days of August, the Paris prisons contained 2,600 individuals – which puts paid to the eight or ten thousand dead cited by such classic historians as Thiers or Mignet. Of this number, rather less than half were killed: between 1,090 and 1,395.61 What is most striking is that almost all of the victims – in every prison save for the Abbaye and the Carmes – were ‘non-political’; they had nothing to do with the events of 10 August, yet bore the brunt in far greater numbers (between 737 and 1,003 according to Caron). It has often been claimed that these were ‘common law’ prisoners, but can the thirty or so minors killed in a Bicêtre reformatory – a bad lot, no doubt, aged between twelve and seventeen – or the thirty-five young and not so young women, perhaps of ‘ill repute’, massacred in the Salpêtrière, be classified in this way?

Who were the killers? We get an idea of this from the minutes of the trial of the septembriseurs held in year IV, at the peak of the Thermidor reaction. The majority were artisans, small businessmen and shopkeepers, along with a few fédérés, soldiers and gendarmes. However, Caron emphasizes, these were actually ‘the social categories that public opinion in year IV considered to have supplied the killers’.62 What is certain is that they were not ‘the dregs of the people’, as was often heard at the time, particularly from the Girondin side.

The established authorities reacted feebly to news of the first massacres. Santerre held (not without reason, to be sure) that the obedience of the National Guard could not be relied on. The Assembly, on Basire’s proposal, sent commissioners to the Abbaye. One of these, Dusaulx, reported on his return: ‘The deputies whom you sent to calm the people arrived with much difficulty at the gates of the Abbaye. There we tried to make ourselves heard. One of us stood on a chair, but scarcely had he spoken a few words than his voice was drowned by tumultuous cries.’63

Danton, the minister of justice, seems to have been unmoved by the prisoners’ fate. There remained the Commune and its supervisory committee. On the morning of the 3rd, it appointed commissioners ‘to proceed to the Palais-Bourbon, protect the Swiss Guards who are held there and defend their lives by every possible means’.64 The same evening, ‘the general council, greatly alarmed and distraught by the harshness employed against the prisoners, appointed commissioners to calm the excitement and bring back to due principles those who may have strayed from these.’ Tallien reported: ‘The council of the Commune sent a deputy [to the Abbaye] to stop the disaster. The Commune procureur was the first to arrive, and used every means that his zeal and his humanity suggested to him. He was unable to prevail and saw several victims fall at his feet. He found himself in danger and had to be escorted out.’65 And on the 4th: ‘The council, deeply afflicted by the news still coming in from the Abbaye, is sending two commissioners there to restore order.’66 These commissioners were no more heeded than the others. ‘The failure was fatal,’ writes Caron, but the intention was clear.

Marat recalls his eagerness to protect ‘the innocent’ from harm:

I happened to be at the surveillance committee when it was announced that the people had seized from the hands of the guards and put to death several refractory priests being sent to the Force [Marat’s mistake, it was the Abbaye] by the committee, and that the people were threatening to proceed to the prisons. On this news, Panis and I cried out, as if by common inspiration: ‘Save the poor debtors, those imprisoned for brawling, and the petty criminals’,67

which implies that the others might as well be massacred, nothing much could be done about it.68

This terrible episode has given rise to reams of commentary, from September 1792 through to today, identifying it as the start of the fatal ‘slippage’ of the Revolution into bloodthirstiness. Taking an altogether different line, Timothy Tackett has made a study of the rumours circulating in Paris at that time, basing himself above all on correspondence exchanged between the revolutionaries at the precise time of the massacres.69 His first conclusion is that the great majority of them accepted and even applauded the actions. For example, the Montagnard deputy Dubreuil-Chambardel: ‘This whole scoundrel race of non-jurors is getting what it deserves for all its misdeeds. We have reason to think that the realm will soon be purged of all such monsters.’

As for the rumours, widespread in the ‘upper’ strata of society as well as among the people, Tackett distinguishes two kinds. The first sprang from fear of the prisons and their inmates. The prisons, located inside the city, were not yet the bunkers they would become. The fear of counter-revolutionary prisoners swarming out to take revenge on the patriots was compounded by the word that they had managed to get hold of weapons. It was also said that the prisons were full of ‘brigands’ who would back up the aristocrats: ‘We fear’ – wrote a bourgeois by the name of Guittard – ‘that brigands will set fire to Paris.’

The other family of rumours was fuelled by the fear of a conspiracy mounted by the aristocrats. As old as the Revolution itself, this grew under the Legislative Assembly, spread by Brissot and his friends, reaching a peak with the first military defeats. Lafayette’s defection to the enemy could only pour oil on the fire:

Stories spread rapidly that 400 nobles, escaped from the Tuileries on August 10, were now hiding out underground and waiting to strike; that the seminarians of Saint-Sulpice were secretly manufacturing daggers and paying the surviving Swiss Guards to use them; that huge caches of weapons were concealed beneath the Pantheon and under the Palais-Royal in preparation for a counter-revolutionary coup; that armed men were threatening to attack the Jacobins; that evildoers had placed pieces of glass in the city’s flour supply.70

The anxiety and uncertainty, Tackett concludes, were so strong and so pervasive throughout society, that a consensus could come about on these rumours, and ‘a large body of Parisians sympathized with the idea that “one must kill the devil before he kills us”.’71


1Michelet, Histoire de la Révolution française, vol. 1, p. 693. On the fêting of the Swiss Guards, see Wahnich, La Longue Patience du peuple, pp. 223–6.

2A. P., vol. 45, p. 397. Under the Legislative Assembly, Joseph Cambon evolved from Brissotist positions towards the Montagne. He became a specialist in financial questions, later under the Convention becoming a quasi-minister in this field, with a position of exceptional independence.

3On the session of 20 June, see A. P., vol. 45, pp. 413–20.

4Le Moniteur, vol. 12, p. 718.

5Address from the citizens of Le Havre, A. P., vol. 45, p. 644.

6A. P., vol. 45, p. 533.

7A. P., vol. 46, pp. 78–83.

8Ibid., pp. 261–73.

9Robespierre, Œuvres complètes, vol. 8, p. 391.

10Ibid., p. 413.

11Ibid., p. 415.

12Albert Mathiez, Le 10 août [1931], republished Paris: Les Éditions de la Passion, 1989, p. 49.

13[The song that became the French national anthem was actually composed in Strasbourg by Rouget de Lisle, at the commission of the city’s mayor, and originally entitled ‘Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin’. But as the people of Paris learned it from the Marseille fédérés it became universally known as the ‘La Marseillaise’. – Translator]

14The name of this section, centred on what is now the Odéon intersection, came from the fact that the Comédie-Française had long had its theatre on the rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain (now rue de l’Ancienne Comédie).

15‘The [active] citizens who up till now exclusively composed the section of Théâtre-Français, declaring loud and clear their repugnance towards their former privilege, call to their side all who have a domicile of any kind in this section, promising to share with them the exercise of the portion of sovereignty that belongs to the section and to regard them as brothers. Signed: Danton, president, Chaumette, vice-president, Momoro, secretary’ (Mémoires de Chaumette sur la Révolution du 10 août 1792. Introduction and notes by F. A. Aulard, Paris: Société d’histoire de la Révolution française, 1893, p. 42).

16See Ernest Mellié, Les Sections de Paris pendant la Révolution française, Paris: Société d’histoire de la Révolution française, 1898.

17Mémoires de Chaumette, p. 47.

18Mellié, Les Sections de Paris, p. 117.

19Ibid., p. 118.

20Mathiez, Le 10 août, pp. 89, 96. Regarding the controversial role of Danton in the run-up to the insurrection, we have a first-hand document: ‘Danton came to bed, he did not seem in any hurry. Midnight approached. People came several times to fetch him. Finally, he left for the Commune. The tocsin of the Cordeliers rang out, it rang for a long time! Alone, bathed in tears, on my knees in front of the window, hidden in my handkerchief, I listened to the sound of that fatal bell.’ And further on, in the words of Mme Robert (Louise de Kéralio): ‘But that Danton, the supposed rallying point, who stayed in his bed, if my husband dies I shall be the woman who stabs him!’ (Lucile Desmoulins,Journal, text established and presented by Philippe Lejeune, Paris: Éditions des Cendres, 1995, pp. 154–5).

21In those days the Carrousel was not the dusty steppe it has since become, but a whole popular quarter wedged between the Louvre and the Tuileries (see Eric Hazan, The Invention of Paris, London: Verso, 2010, p. 26ff).

22He was sent by what remained of the legal Commune, but did not return. Accused by the section commissioners of having given a written order to fire on the people ‘from the flank and behind’ if the Tuileries were attacked, he was killed on the steps of the Hôtel deVille.

23Mathiez, Le 10 août, pp. 117–8.

24Archives nationales, F7 4775 (48), Vingternier file, 23 April 1793. Quoted in Haim Burstin, L’Invention du sans-culotte, Paris: Odile Jacob, 2005, p. 57. The ‘men of condition’, often denounced by Marat, were an object of popular execration.

25This point is stressed by those historians who see the sans-culottes as a kind of pre-proletariat. See for example Daniel Guérin, La lutte de classes sous la Première République, Paris: Gallimard, 1946.

26Albert Soboul, The Parisian Sans-Culottes and the French Revolution, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964, p. 22. We have not yet reached year II, and Soboul’s greatwork Les Sans-culottes parisiens en l’an II will be drawn on below.

27Ibid., p. 57.

28Ibid., p. 113.

29The electors: once again, those who had been elected by the primary assemblies, and would go on to choose the deputies.

30Soboul, The Parisian Sans-Culottes, p. 153.

31Burstin, L’Invention du sans-culotte, p. 76.

32A. P., vol. 47, pp. 634–92.

33Ibid., p. 641.

34[This was the dauphin Louis-Charles, seven years old at this time. – Translator]

35We should remember that, on the night of 9–10 August, only twenty-eight sections had sent a commissioner to the Hôtel de Ville. So there had to be elections in the twenty remaining sections to complete the insurrectional Commune. Place Vendôme was then the heart of a popular quarter, and the section subsequently renamed itself the Piques (Pikes) section.

36Aulard, La Société des Jacobins, vol. 4, p. 197.

37Le Défenseur de la Constitution, no. 12 [and last: Robespierre subsequently changed the title of his paper to Lettres à mes commettants], Œuvres complètes, vol. 4, p. 358.

38L’Ami du peuple, 15 September 1792. By this date, Marat had been elected to the Convention as a deputy for Paris.

39The text presented by the Commune was drafted by Robespierre, Œuvres complètes, vol. 8, p. 440. There would indeed be a new departmental administration, but its role was reduced to that of a ‘commission of contributions’.

40The chief of these were L’Ami du Roi, La Gazette universelle, L’Indicateur, Le Mercure de France, Le Journal de la cour et de la ville and La Feuille du jour.

41A. P., vol. 48, p. 69.

42These were not yet the contents of the ‘iron cabinet’, but the documents seized were highly compromising: among other things, orders from the king to pay the stipends of his bodyguards who had gone over to Coblenz, and letters from émigrés full of joy at the French defeats.

43A. P., vol. 48, p. 291. The conditions of the proof (of concession) were to be sent to the committee on feudalism.

44Jaurès, Histoire socialiste, vol. 2, p. 644. At the end of this volume, Jaurès has some remarkable pages on the suppression of seigniorial rights in August 1792.

45Danton had great difficulty on 11 August in getting the Swiss Guards who had taken refuge on the premises of the Assembly to leave, finally conducting them in person to the Abbaye.

46Procès-verbaux de la Commune de Paris (10 août 1792–1er juin 1793) [extracts taken from a manuscript in the Archives Nationales by Maurice Tourneux], Paris: Société d’histoire de la Révolution française, 1894, p. 10.

47Cited by Mathiez, La Révolution française, vol. 2, p. 10. My emphasis.

48Robespierre, Œuvres complètes, vol. 8, pp. 436–7.

49A reason that seems perfectly respectable, though hatred of Robespierre is so strong that many historians (even Jaurès) have seen this as a Machiavellian manoeuvre.

50Henry-Larivière, in the Assembly (A. P., vol. 49, p. 142).

51Procès-verbaux de la Commune, p. 76. The Assembly finally backed down, deciding that instead of two commissioners each section could appoint six to the general council, but that the commissioners acting since 10 August would remain council members. ‘The revolutionary Commune was, as it were, enveloped in a broader legal Commune’ (Jaurès).

52A. P., vol. 49, p. 192. Beaurepaire was as good as his word. When the municipal council called on him to capitulate, he shot himself in the head during their session. Some believed he had been assassinated, to facilitate surrender.

53Mathiez, La Révolution française, vol. 2, pp. 16–17.

54André Fribourg (ed.), Discours de Danton, Paris: Hachette, 1910, pp. 48–9.

55Ibid., pp. 52–4.

56Procès-verbaux de la Commune, pp. 77–8.

57Ibid., p. 83, and Mathiez, La Révolution française, vol. 2, p. 25.

58Happily (for us), there is an exemplary book on this subject, whose critique of the sources, meticulous research and absence of any moral consideration have greatly clarified it: Pierre Caron, Les Massacres de septembre, Paris: Maison du livre français, 1935. In his introduction, Caron explains that almost all the documents on the massacres (the prison records in particular) were burned in the Hôtel de Ville fire of 1871. His study is based on historical work dating from before the fire, and on what remains of contemporary documents. All these sources are evaluated with exceptional care and discernment.

59We have twice already come across this strange bailiff’s clerk, always dressed in black: at the taking of the Bastille, when he was one of the heroes, and during the journées of October 1789, when he was the guide and spokesman of the women at Versailles.

60According to Caron, the drunken clamour, the evisceration of the princesse de Lamballe, and the glass of blood drunk by Mlle de Sombreuil to save her father are among the myths put about by the Girondins. The princesse de Lamballe was beheaded and her head paraded on a pike, which is quite enough.

61Caron, Les Massacres de septembre, p. 101.

62Ibid., p. 109. Besides, the majority of defendants in these trials were acquitted.

63A. P., vol. 49, p. 219.

64Procès-verbaux de la Commune, p. 83.

65Le Moniteur, vol. 13, p. 603.

66Procès-verbaux de la Commune, p 88.

67Journal de la République française, no. 12 (6 October 1792). This was the new title of Marat’s paper after his election to the Convention.

68Marat and the surveillance committee have been much criticized for the circular sent on 3 September to the provinces (and countersigned by Danton): ‘The Commune of Paris hastens to inform its brothers in the departments that some of the ferocious conspirators held in its prisons have been put to death by the people’, going on to hope that ‘the whole nation … will shortly adopt this necessary measure of public safety’. For Mathiez, it was ‘a superfluous circular. Those in the provinces had no need for Paris to offer them an example. In some cases they had preceded it’ (La Révolution française, vol. 2, p. 30).

69Timothy Tackett, ‘Rumor and Revolution: The Case of the September Massacres’, in French History and Civilization, vol. 4, January 2011, pp. 53–64, The following quotations are taken from this remarkable work.

70Tackett, ‘Rumor and revolution’, p. 63.

71Journal de Nicolas-Célestin Guittard de Floriban, bourgeois de Paris sous la Révolution, 1791–1796, cited by Tackett, ‘Rumor and Revolution’, p. 64.

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