The constitution was now to be put into force. France was to make the experiment of a constitutional monarchy in place of the old absolute monarchy, gone forever. In accordance with the provisions of the document a legislature was now chosen. Its first session was held October i, 1791. Elected for a two-year term, it served for less than a single year. Expected to inaugurate an era of prosperity and happiness by applying the new principles of government in a time of peace, to consolidate the monarchy on its new basis, it was destined to a stormy life and to witness the fall of the monarchy in irreparable ruin. A few days before it met Paris, adept, as always, in the art of observing fittingly great national occasions, had celebrated “the end of the Revolution.” The old regime was buried. The new one was now to be installed.
But the Revolution had not ended. Instead, it shortly entered upon a far more critical stage. The reasons for this unhappy turn were grave and numerous. They were inherent in the situation, both in France and in Europe. Would the King frankly accept his new position, with no mental reservations, with no secret determinations, honestly, entirely? If so, and if he would by his conduct convince his people of his loyalty to his word, of his intention to rule as a constitutional monarch, to abide by the reforms thus far accomplished, with no thought of upsetting the new system, then there was an excellent chance that the future would be one of peaceful development, for France was thoroughly monarchical in tradition, in feeling, and in conviction. The Legislative Assembly was as monarchical in its sentiments as the Constituent had been. But if the King’s conduct should arouse the suspicion that he was intriguing to restore the Old Regime, that his oaths were insincere, then the people would turn against him and the experiment of a constitutional monarchy would be hazarded. France had no desire to be a republic, but it had also a fixed and resolute aversion to the Old Regime.
Inevitably, since the flight to Varennes, suspicion of Louis XVI was widespread. The suspicion was not dissipated by wise conduct on his part, but was increased in the following months to such a pitch that the revolutionary fever had no chance to subside but necessarily mounted steadily. The King’s views were inevitably colored by his hereditary pretensions. Moreover, as we have seen, the religious question had been injected into the Revolution in so acute a form that his conscience as a Catholic was outraged. It was this that strained to the breaking point the relations of the Legislative Assembly and Louis XVI. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy gave rise to a bitter and distressing civil war. In the great province of Vendee several thousand peasants, led by the refractory or non-juring priests, rose against the elected, constitutional priests and drove them out of the pulpits and churches. When national guards were sent among them to enforce the law they flew to arms against them and civil war began.
The Assembly forthwith passed a decree against the refractory priests, which only made a bad matter worse. They were required to take the oath to the Civil Constitution within a week. If they refused they would be considered “ suspicious “ characters, their pensions would be suppressed, and they would be subject to the watchful and hostile surveillance of the government. Louis XVI vetoed this decree, legitimately using the power given him by the constitution. This veto, accompanied by others, offended public opinion, and weakened the King’s hold upon France. It would have been better for Louis had he never been given the veto power, since every exercise of it placed him in opposition to the Assembly and inflamed party passions.
The other decrees which he vetoed concerned the royal princes and the nobles who had emigrated from France, either because they no longer felt safe there, or because they thought that by going to foreign countries they might induce their rulers to intervene in French affairs and re- store the Old Regime. This was wanton playing with fire. For the effect on France might be the very opposite of that intended. It might so heighten and exasperate popular feeling that the monarchy would be in greater danger than if left alone. This emigration, mostly of the privileged classes, had begun on the morrow of the storming of the Bastille. The Count d’Artois, younger brother of Louis XVI, had left France on July 15, 1789. The emigration became important in 1790, after the decree abolishing all titles of nobility, a decree that deeply wounded the pride of the nobles, and it was accelerated in 1791, after the flight to Varennes and the suspension of the King. It was later augmented by great numbers of non-juring priests and of bourgeois, who put their fidelity to the Catholic Church above their patriotism.
It has been estimated that during the Revolution a hundred and fifty thousand people left France in this way. Many of them went to the little German states on the eastern frontier. There they formed an army of perhaps 20,000 men. The Count of Provence, elder brother of Louis XVI, was the titular leader and claimed that he was the regent of France on the ground that Louis XVI was virtually a prisoner. The emigres ceaselessly intrigued in the German and European courts, trying to instigate their rulers to invade France, particularly the rulers of Austria and Prussia, important military states, urging that the fate of one monarch was a matter that concerned all monarchs, for sentimental reasons and for practical, since, if the impious revolution triumphed in France, there would come the turn of the other kings for similar treatment at the hands of rebellious subjects. In 1 791 the emigres succeeded in inducing the rulers of Austria and Prussia to issue the Declaration of Pillnitz announcing that the cause of Louis XVI was the cause of all the monarchs of Europe. This declaration was made conditional upon the cooperation of all the countries and, therefore, it was largely bluster and had no direct importance. It was not sufficient to bring on war. But it angered France and increased suspicion of the King. The Legislative Assembly passed two decrees, one declaring that the Count of Provence would be deprived of his eventual rights to the throne if he did not return to France within two months, the other declaring that the property of the emigres would be confiscated and that they themselves would be treated as enemies, as guilty of treasonable conspiracy, if their armaments were not dispersed by January 1, 1792; also stating that the French princes and public officials who had emigrated should be likewise regarded as conspiring against the state and would be exposed to the penalty of death, if they did not return by the same date. Louis XVI vetoed these decrees. He did, however, order his two brothers to return to France. They refused to obey out of “ tenderness “ for the King. The Count of Provence, who had a gift for misplaced irony and impertinence, saw fit to exercise it in his reply to the Assembly’s summons. If this was not precisely pouring oil upon troubled waters, it was precisely adding fuel to a mounting conflagration, perhaps a natural mode of action for those who are dancing on vol- canoes. Prudent people prefer to do their dancing elsewhere.
More serious were the war clouds that were rapidly gathering. At the beginning of the Revolution nothing seemed less likely than a conflict between France and Europe. France was pacifically inclined, and there were no outstanding subjects of dispute. Moreover the rulers of the other countries were not at all anxious to intervene. They were quite willing to have France occupied exclusively with domestic problems, as thus the field would be left open for their intrigues. They were meditating the final partition of Poland and wished to be left alone while they committed that crowning iniquity. But gradually they came to see the menace to themselves in the new principles proclaimed by the French, principles of the sovereignty of the people and of the equality of all citizens. Their own subjects, particularly the peasants and the middle classes, were alarmingly enthusiastic over the achievements of the French. If such principles should inspire the same deeds as in France, the absolute monarchy of Louis XVI would not be the only one to suffer a shock.
Just as the sovereigns were being somewhat aroused from this complacent indifference in regard to their neighbor’s principles, a change was going on in France itself, where certain parties were beginning to proclaim their duty to share their happiness with other peoples, in other words, to conduct a propaganda for their ideas outside of France. They were talking of the necessity of warring against tyrants, and of liberating peoples still enslaved.
Thus on both sides the temper was becoming warlike. When such a mood prevails it is never difficult for willing minds to find sufficient pre- texts for an appeal to arms. Moreover each side had a definite and positive grievance. France, as we have seen, viewed with displeasure and concern the formation of the royalist armies on her eastern borders, with the connivance, or at least the consent, of the German princes. On the other hand, the German Empire had a direct grievance against France. When Alsace became French in the seventeenth century, a number of German princes possessed lands there and were, in fact, feudal lords. They still remained princes of the German Empire and their territorial rights were guaranteed by the treaties. Only they were at the same time vassals of the King of France,doing homage to him and collecting feudal dues, as previously. When the French abolished feudal dues, as we have seen, August 4, 1789, they insisted that these decrees applied to Alsace as well as to the rest of France. The German princes protested and asserted that the decrees were in violation of the treaties of Westphalia. The German Diet espoused their cause. The Constituent Assembly insisted upon maintaining its laws, in large measure, but offered to modify them. The Diet refused, demanding the revocation of the obnoxious laws and the restoration of the feudal dues in Alsace. The controversy was full of danger for the reason that there were many people, both in France and in the other countries, who were anxious for war and who would use any means they could to bring it about. The gale was gathering that was to sweep over Europe in memorable devastation for nearly a quarter of a century.
The Legislative Assembly was composed of inexperienced men, because of the self-denying ordinance passed in the closing hours of the Constituent Assembly. Yet this Assembly was vested by the new constitution with powers vastly over-shadowing those left with the King. Yet it was suspicious of the latter, as it had no control over the ministry and as it was the executive that directed the relations with foreign countries.
There were, moreover, certain new forces in domestic politics of which the world was to hear much in the coming months. Certain political clubs began to loom up threateningly as possible rivals even of the Assembly. The two most conspicuous were the Jacobin and the Cordelier clubs. These had originated at the very beginning of the Revolution, but it was under the Legislative Assembly and its successor that they showed their power.
The Jacobin Club was destined to the greater notoriety. It was composed of members of the Assembly and of outsiders, citizens of Paris. As a political club the members held constant sessions and debated with great zeal and freedom the questions that were before the Assembly. Its most influential leader at this time was Robespierre, a radical democrat but at the same time a convinced monarchist, a vigorous opponent of the small republican party which had appeared mo- mentarily at the time of the epoch-making flight to Varennes. The Jacobin Club grew steadily more radical as the Revolution progressed and as its more conservative members dropped out or were eliminated. It also rapidly extended its influence over all France. Jacobin clubs were founded in over 2,000 cities and villages. Affiliated with the mother club in Paris, they formed a vast network, virtually receiving orders from Paris, developing great talent for concerted action. The discipline that held this voluntary organization together was remarkable and rendered it capable of great and decisive action.
It became a sort of state within the state, and moreover, within a state which was as decentralized and ineffective as it was itself highly centralized and rapid and thorough in its action. The Jacobin Club gradually became a rival of the Assembly itself and at times exerted a preponderant influence upon it, yet the Assembly was the legally constituted government of all France.
The Cordelier Club was still more radical. Its membership was derived from a lower social scale. It was more democratic. Moreover, since the flight to Varennes it was the hotbed of republicanism. Its chief influence was with the working classes of Paris, men who were enthusiastic supporters of the Revolution, anxious to have it carried further, easily inflamed against any one who was accused as an enemy, open or secret, of the Revolution. These men were crude and rude but tremendously energetic. They were the stuff of which mobs could be made, and they had in Danton, a lawyer, with a power of downright and epigrammatic speech, an able, astute, and ruthless leader. The Cordelier Club, unlike the Jaco-bin, was limited to Paris; it had no branches throughout the departments. Like the Jacobins the Cordeliers contracted the habit of bringing physical pressure to bear upon the government, of seeking to impose their will upon that of the representatives of the nation, the King and the Assembly.
Here, then, were redoubtable machines for in- fluencing the public. They would support the Assembly as long as its conduct met their wishes, but they were self-confident and self-willed enough to oppose it and to try to dominate it on occasion. Both were enthusiastic believers in the Revolution; both were lynx-eyed and keen-scented for any hostility to the Revolution, willing to go to any lengths to uncover and to crush those who should try to undo the reforms thus far accomplished. Both were suspicious of the King.
They had inflammable material enough to work upon in the masses of the great capital of France. And these masses were, as the months went by, becoming steadily more excitable and exalted in temper. They worshiped liberty frantically and they expressed their worship in picturesque and sinister ways. They considered themselves, called themselves the true “patriots,” and, like all fanatics, they were highly jealous and suspicious of their more moderate fellow-citizens. The new wine, which was decidedly heady, was fermenting dangerously in their brains. They displayed the revolutionary colors, the tricolor cockade, everywhere and on all occasions. They adopted and wore the bonnet rouge or red cap, which resembled the Phrygian cap of antiquity, the cap worn by the slaves after their emancipation. This was now, as it had been then, the symbol of liberty.
This is the period, too, when we hear of the planting of liberty poles or trees everywhere amid popular acclamation and with festivities calculated to intensify the new-born democratic devotion. Even in dress the new era had its radical innovations and symbolism. The sans-culottes now set the style. They were the men who abandoned the old-style short breeches, the culottes, and adopted the long trousers hitherto worn only by workingmen and therefore a badge of social inferiority.
Such, then, was the new quality in the atmosphere, such were the new players who were grouped around the margins of the scene. Their influence was felt all through its year of fevered history by the Legislative Assembly, the lawful government of France. These men were all aglow with the great news announced in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, that the people are sovereign here below and that no divinity doth hedge about a King — that was sheer clap-trap which had imposed on mankind quite long enough. Now that France was delivered from this sorry hallucination, now that the darkness was dispelled, let the new principles be fearlessly applied!
The reaction of all this upon the Legislative Assembly was pronounced. One of the first actions of that Assembly was to abolish the terms, “Sire” and “Your Majesty,” used in addressing the King. Another evidence that the new doctrine of the sovereignty of the people was not merely a rosy, yet unsubstantial, figment of the imagination, but was a definite principle intended to be applied to daily politics, was the fact that when dissatisfied with the Assembly, the people crowded into its hall more frequently, expressing their disapproval, voicing in unambiguous manner their desires, and the Assembly, which believed in the doctrine too, did not dare resent its application, did not dare assert its inviolability, as the representative of France, of law and order.
The signs of the times, then, were certainly not propitious for those who would undo the work of the Revolution, who would restore the King and the nobles to the position they had once occupied and had now lost. The pack would be upon them if they tried. The struggle would be with a rude and vigorous democracy in which reverence for the old had died, which was reckless of traditions, and was ready to suffer, and more ready to inflict suffering, if attempts were made to thwart it. Anything that looked like treachery would mean a popular explosion. Yet this moment, so inopportune, was being used by the King and Queen in secret but suspected machinations with foreign rulers, with a view to securing their aid in the attempt to recover the ground lost by the monarchy; was being used by the emigrant nobles in Coblenz and Worms for counter-revolutionary intrigues and for war-like preparations. Their only safe policy was a candid and unmistakable recognition of the new regime, but this was precisely what they were intellectually and temperamentally incapable of appreciating. They were playing with fire. This was all the more risky as many of their enemies were equally willing to play with the same dangerous element.
There was in the Legislative Assembly a group of men called the Girondists, because many of their leaders, Vergniaud, Isnard, Buzot and others, came from that section of France known as Gironde, in the region of Bordeaux. The Girondists have enjoyed a poetic immortality ever since imaginative histories of the Revolution issued from the pensive pen of the poet La- martine, who portrayed them as pure and high-minded patriots caught in the swirl of a wicked world. The description was inaccurate. They were not disinterested martyrs in the cause of good government. They were a group of politicians whose discretion was not as conspicuous as their ambition. They paid for that vaulting emotion the price which it frequently exacts. They knew how to make their tragic exit from life bravely and heroically. They did not know, what is more difficult, how to make their lives wise and profitable to the world. They were a group of eloquent young men, led by a romantic young woman. For the real head of this group that had its hour upon the stage and then was heard no more in the deafening clamor of the later Revolution, was Madame Roland, their bright particular star. Theirs was a bookish outlook upon the world. They fed upon Plutarch, and boundless was their admiration for the ancient Greeks and Romans. They were republicans be- cause those glorious figures of the earlier time had been republicans; also because they imagined that, in a republic, they would themselves find a better chance to shine and to irradiate the world. Dazzled by these prototypes, they burned with the spirit of emulation. The reader must keep steadily in mind that the Girondists and the Jacobins were entirely distinct groups. They were, indeed, destined later to be deadly rivals and enemies.
Such were the personages who played their dissimilar parts in the hot drama of the times. The stage was set. The background was the whole fabric of the European state system, now shaking unawares. The action began with the declaration of war by France against Francis II, ruler of Austria, and nephew of Marie Antoinette, a declaration which opened a war which was to be European and worldwide, which was to last twenty-three long years, was to deform and twist the Revolution out of all resemblance to its early promise, was, as by-products, to give France a republic, a Reign of Terror, a Napoleonic epic, a Bourbon overthrow and restoration, and was to end only with the catastrophic incident of Waterloo.
That war was precipitated by the French, who sent an ultimatum to the Emperor concerning the emigres. Francis replied by demanding the restoration to the German princes in Alsace of their feudal rights and, in addition, the repression in France “of anything that might alarm other states.” War was declared on April 20, 1792. It was desired by all the parties of the Legislative Assembly. Only seven members voted against it. The supporters of the King wanted it, believing that it would enable him to recover power once more by rendering him popular as the leader in a victorious campaign and by putting at his disposal a strong military force. Girondists and Jacobins wanted it for precisely the opposite reason, as likely to prove that Louis was secretly a traitor, in intimate relations with the enemies of France. This once established, the monarchy could be swept aside and a republic installed. Only Robespierre and a few others opposed it on the ground that war always plays into the hands of the rich and powerful, that the people, on the other hand, the poor, always pay for it and lose rather than gain, that war is never in the interest of a democracy. They were, however, voices crying in the wilderness. There was a widespread feeling that the war was an inevitable clash between democracy, represented by France under the new dispensation, and autocracy, represented by the House of Hapsburg, a conflict of two eras, the past and the future. The national exaltation was such that the people welcomed the opportunity to spread abroad, beyond the borders of France, the revolutionary ideas of liberty and equality which they had so recently acquired and which they so highly prized. The war had some of the characteristics of a religious war, the same mental exaltation, the same dogmatic belief in the universal applicability of its doctrines, the same sense of duty to preach them everywhere; by force, if necessary.
This war was a startling and momentous turning-point in the history of the Revolution. It had consequences, some of which were foreseen, most of which were not. It reacted profoundly upon the French and before it was over it compromised their own domestic liberty and generated a military despotism of greater efficiency than could be matched in the century-old history of the House of Bourbon.
First and foremost among the effects of the war was this : it swept the illustrious French monarchy clean away and put the monarchs to death. The war began disastrously. Instead of easily conquering Belgium, which belonged to Francis II, as they had confidently expected to, the French suffered severe reverses. One reason was that their army had been badly disorganized by the wholesale resignation or emigration of its officers, all noblemen. Another was the highly treasonable act of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who informed the Austrians of the French plan of campaign. This treason of their sovereigns was not known to the French, but it was suspected, and it was none the less efficacious. At the same time that French armies were being driven back, civil war, growing out of the religious dissensions, was threatening in France. The Assembly, facing these troubles, indignantly passed two decrees, one ordering the deportation to penal colonies of all refractory or non-juring priests, the other providing for an army of 20,000 men for the protection of Paris.
Louis XVI vetoed both measures. Then the storm broke. The Jacobins inspired and organized a great popular demonstration against the King, the object being to force him to sign the decrees. Out from the crowded workingmen’s quarters emerged, on June 20, 1792, several thousand men, wearing the bonnet rouge, armed with pikes, and carrying standards with the Rights of Man printed on them. They went to the hall of the Assembly and were permitted to march through it, submitting a petition in which the pointed statement was made that the will of 25,000,000 people could not be balked by the will of one man. After leaving the hall the crowd went to the Tuileries, forced open the gates, and penetrated to the King’s own apartments. The King for three hours stood before them, in the recess of a window, protected by some of the deputies. The crowd shouted, “Sign the decrees!” “Down with the priests!” One of the ringleaders of the demonstration, a butcher called Legendre, gained a notoriety that has sufficed to preserve his name from oblivion to this day, by shouting at the King, “Sir, you are a traitor, you have always deceived us, you are deceiving us still. Beware, the cup is full.” Louis XVI refused to make any promises. His will, for once, did not waver. But he received a bonnet rouge and donned it and drank a glass of wine presented him by one of the crowd. The crowd finally withdrew, having committed no violence, but having subjected the King of France to bitter humiliation.
Immediately a wave of indignation at this affront and scandal swept over France and it seemed likely that, after all, it might redound to the advantage of Louis, increasing his popularity by the sympathy it evoked. But shortly other events supervened and his position became more precarious than ever. Prussia joined Austria in the war and the Duke of Brunswick, commander of the coalition armies, as he crossed the frontiers of France, issued a manifesto which aroused the people to a fever pitch of wrath. This manifesto had really been written by an emigre and it was redolent of the concentrated rancor of his class. The manifesto ordered the French to restore Louis XVI to complete liberty of action. It went further and virtually commanded them to obey the orders of the monarchs of Austria and Prussia. It announced that any national guards who should resist the advance of the allies would be punished as rebels and it wound up with the terrific threat that if the least violence or outrage should be offered to their Majesties, the King, the Queen, and the royal family, if their preservation and their liberty should not be immediately provided for, they, the allied monarchs, would “ exact an exemplary and ever-memorable vengeance,” namely, the complete destruction of the city of Paris.
Such a threat could have but one reply from a self-respecting people. It nerved them to incredible exertions to resent and repay the insult. Patriotic anger swept everything before it.
The first to suffer was the person whom the manifesto had singled out for special care, Louis XVI, now suspected more than ever of being the accomplice of these invaders who were breathing fire and destruction upon the French for the insolence of managing their own affairs as they saw fit. On August 10, 1792, another, and this time more formidable, insurrection occurred in Paris. At nine in the morning the crowd attacked the Tuileries. At ten the King and the royal family left the palace and sought safety in the Assembly. There they were kept in a little room, just behind the president’s chair and there they remained for more than thirty hours. While the Assembly was debating, a furious combat was raging between the troops stationed to guard the Tuileries and the mob. Louis XVI, hearing the first shots, sent word to the guards to cease fire, but the officer who carried the command did not deliver it as long as he thought there was a chance of victory. The Swiss Guards were the heroes and the victims of that dreadful day. They defended the palace until their ammunition gave out and then, receiving the order to retire, they fell back slowly, but were soon overwhelmed by their assailants and 800 of them were shot down. The vengeance of the mob was frenzied. They themselves had lost hundreds of men. No quarter was given. More than 5,000 people were killed that day. The Tuileries was sacked and gutted. A sallow-complexioned young artillery officer, out of service, named Napoleon Bonaparte, was a spectator of this scene, from which he learned a few lessons which were later of value to him.
The deeds of August 10 were the work of the Revolutionary Commune of Paris. The former municipal government had been illegally overthrown by the Jacobins, who had then organized a new government which they entirely controlled. The Jacobins, the masters of Paris, had carefully prepared the insurrection of August 10 for the definite purpose of overthrowing Louis XVI. The menaces of the Duke of Brunswick had merely been the pretext. Now began that systematic dominance of Paris in the affairs of France which was to be brief but terrible. At the end of the insurrection the Commune forced the Legislative Assembly to do its wishes. Under this imperious and entirely illegal dictation the Assembly voted that the King should be provisionally suspended. This necessitated the making of a new constitution, as the Constitution of 1791 was monarchical. The present Assembly was a merely legislative body, not competent to alter the fundamental law. Therefore the Legislative Assembly, although its term was only half expired, decided to call a Convention to take up the matter of the constitution. Under orders from the Paris Com- mune it issued a decree to that effect and it made a further important decision. For elections to the Convention it abolished the property suffrage, established by the Constitution of 1791, and proclaimed universal suffrage. France, thus, on August 10, 1792, became a democracy.
The executive of France was thus overthrown. During the interval before the meeting of the Convention a provisional executive council, with Danton at the head, wielded the executive power, influenced by the Commune. The Assembly had merely voted the suspension of Louis XVI. The Commune, in complete disregard of law and in defiance of the Assembly, imprisoned the King and Queen in the Temple, an old fortress in Paris. The Commune also arrested large numbers of suspected persons.
This Revolutionary Commune, or City Council of Paris, was henceforth one of the powerful factors in the government of France. It, and not the Legislative Assembly, was the real ruler of the country between the suspension of the King on August 10 and the meeting of the Convention, September 20. It continued to be a factor, sometimes predominant, even under the Convention. For nearly two years, from August, 1792, until the overthrow of Robespierre on July 27, 1794, the Commune was one of the principal forces in politics. It signalized its advent by suppressing the freedom of the press, one of the precious conquests of the reform movement, by defying the committees of the Assembly when it chose, and by carrying through the infamous September Massacres, which left a monstrous and indelible stain upon the Revolution. The Commune was the representative of the lower classes and of the Jacobins. Its leaders were all extremely radical, and some were desperate characters who would stop at nothing to gain their ends.
The September Massacres grew out of the feeling of panic which seized the population of Paris as it heard of the steady approach of the Prussians and Austrians under the Duke of Brunswick. Hundreds of persons, suspected or charged with being real accomplices of the invaders, were thrown into prison. Finally the news reached Paris that Verdun was besieged, the last fortress on the road to the capital. If that should fall, then the enemy would have but a few days’ march to accomplish and Paris would be theirs. The Commune and the Assembly made heroic exertions to raise and forward troops to the exposed position. The Commune sounded the tocsin or general alarm from the bell towers, and unfurled a gigantic black flag from the City Hall bearing the inscription, “ The Country is in Danger.” The more violent members began to say that before the troops were sent to the front the traitors within the city ought to be put out of the way. “ Shall we go to the front, leaving 3,000 prisoners behind us, who may escape and murder our wives and children? “ they asked. The hideous spokesman and inciter of the foul and cowardly slaughter was Marat, one of the most bloodthirsty characters of the time. The result was that day after day from September 2 to September 6 the cold-blooded murder of non-juring priests, of persons suspected or accused of “ aristocracy,” went on, without trial, the innocent and the guilty, men and women. The butchery was systematically done by men hired and paid by certain members of the Commune. The Legislative Assembly was too terrified itself to attempt to stop the infamous business, nor could it have done so had it tried. Nearly 1,200 persons were thus savagely hacked to pieces by the colossal barbarism of those days.
One consequence of these massacres was to dis- credit the cause of the Revolution. Another was to precipitate a sanguinary struggle between the Girondists, who wished to punish the “ Septembrists “ and particularly their instigator, Marat, and the Jacobins, who either defended them or assumed an attitude of indifference, urging that France had more important work to do than to spend its time trying to avenge men who were after all “ aristocrats.” The struggles between these factions were to fill the early months of the Convention which met on September 20, 1792, the elections having taken place under the gloomy and terrifying impressions produced by the September Massacres. On the same day, September 20, the Prussians were stopped in their onward march at Valmy. They were to get no further. The immediate danger was over. The tension was relieved.