Officier des Gardes suisses, lithographie du 18e siècle (Photo credit: Fr Wikipedia)
On 10 August 1792, CountPierre Louis Roederer (15 February 1754 – 17 December 1835) went to the Tuileries Palace to lead the Royal family out of a building that had been both their prison and their refuge, since the Women’s March on Versailles (5-6 October 1789). Louis XVI was expecting Antoine Galiot Mandat de Grancy. Why had monsieur Roederer come to the Tuileries? Roederer replied that monsieurMandat, Lafayette’s replacement, had been killed the night before. Lafayette had left Paris on 30 June 1792, denounced by Robespierre. As a result, the National Guard no longer had a commander and the revolutionaries had inflammed the Paris Commune. The king told Roederer that, alone, his Garde suisse could not protect him.
The Insurrection of 10 August 1792 was organized on 9 August, by revolutionaries led by Georges Danton. They took possession of the Hôtel de Ville and were recognized as the legal government of Paris on 10 August 1792, the next day.
The Bastille housed seven prisoners. Matters differed on 10 August 1792. The king and his family lived in the Tuileries Palace.
Roederer proposed that the King review his National Guard, whom, he believed, were still serving the king, but they were defecting. They were joining 1) the sans-culottes, wearing pants, not knee breeches, and sabots, clogs, as in sabotage, 2) the fédérés who had come to Paris from Marseille and Brittany to celebrate the Fête de la Fédération(= fédéré), the festival commemorating the Storming of the Bastille and 3) the insurrectional Paris commune.
In short, the only protection afforded the King was his Swiss Guard and his only shelter, the National Legislative Assembly, which would be suspended on 10 August 1792, as well as the authority of the King.
Commanding the Swiss Guards, the day of the Insurrection of 10 August 1792, was Karl Josef von Bachmann. He accompanied Pierre-Louis Roederer who was leading the King and his family to the National Assembly. (He is not shown in the video I have inserted, which is otherwise excellent). When Louis heard shots, he sent a note instructing his Garde suisse to run to safety. They didn’t.
As for the King and his family, if the National Assembly was their only refuge, they had no refuge. The king told his son that, from then on, France no longer had a King.
Out of a total of 900 men, 600 Swiss Guards were killed or fatally wounded on 10 August 1792. Karl Josef von Bachmann was tried and guillotined on 3 September 1792. Other Swiss guards were also guillotined.
By 6 September, half the prison population of Paris had been summarily executed: some 1200 to 1400 prisoners. Of these, 233 were nonjuring Catholic priests who refused to submit to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy.
The French Revolution was a turning-point in both the history of France and that of other European countries. In 1806, there would no longer be a Holy Roman Empire.
As noted above, I have inserted a video. It is a French-language video showing Roederer speaking to the king and to Marie-Antoinette. It also shows the king’s failed attempt to review the National Guard, and the Royal family being led to the National Assembly by Pierre Louis Roederer. Roederer was accompanied by Karl Josef von Bachmann, the commander of the king’s Swiss Guard who is not featured in the video I have selected.
NOTRE AMÉ ET FÉAL, nous avons besoin du concours de nos fidèles sujets pour nous aider à surmonter toutes les difficultés où nous nous trouvons, relativement à l’état de nos finances, et pour établir, suivant nos vœux, un ordre constant et invariable dans toutes les parties du gouvernement qui intéressent le bonheur de nos sujets et la prospérité de notre royaume. Ces grands motifs nous ont déterminé à convoquer l’assemblée des Etats de toutes les provinces de notre obéissance, tant pour nous conseiller et nous assister dans toutes les choses qui nous seront mises sous les yeux, que pour faire connaître les souhaits et les doléances de nos peuples : de manière que, par une mutuelle confiance et par un amour réciproque entre le souverain et ses sujets, il soit apporté le plus promptement possible un remède efficace aux maux de l’Etat, et que les abus de tout genre soient réformés et prévenus par de bons et solides moyens qui assurent la félicité publique, et qui nous rendent à nous, particulièrement, le calme et la tranquillité dont nous sommes privés depuis si longtemps.
OUR BELOVED AND LOYAL, we need the participation of our faithful subjects to help us overcome all the difficulties we are facing with respect to the state of our finances and to establish, according to our [everyone] wishes, lasting and steady order in every aspect of government that concern happiness and prosperity in our realm. These important motives have led us to convene a meeting of the Estates of each province under our rule, both to advise and assist us in every area that will be brought before our eyes, as well as to let us know the wishes and grievances of our people, so that, through mutual trust and deep affection [amour] between the king and his subjects, a remedy may be found, as promptly as possible, to the ills of the land and reforms may be effected that will prevent abuses of all kinds using good and solid means that will ensure the satisfaction [félicité] of the public and give us [the king] the calm and tranquillity we have been denied for such a long time.
(24 January 1789)
The above translation is mine. It is not an official translation. Louis XVI wrote his Notice of Meeting on 24 January 1789, which seems a late date. However, Étienne-Charles de Loménie de Brienne, the king’s minister of finance in 1788, had announced this meeting of the Estates-General on 8 August 1788 and set the opening of the Estates-General for 5 May 1789.
In the last quarter of the 18th century, France was on the brink of bankrupty. It had incurred debts that could not be paid unless taxes were levied from the First and Second Estates, the clergy and the nobility. The king appointed various finance ministers, all of whom were serious individuals and some extremely competent. Each came to the conclusion that France had to levy taxes from sources other than the Third Estate.
France may have been an absolute monarchy, but once absolutism reached Louis XVI, it was diluted. The king and his finance ministers could not circumvent the Parlements.
The beginning of the proposed radical changes began with the Protests of the Parlement of Paris addressed to Louis XVI in March 1776, in which the Second Estate, the nobility, resisted the beginning of certain reforms that would remove their privileges, notably their exemption from taxes. The objections made to the Parlement of Paris were in reaction to the essay, Réflexions sur la formation et la distribution des richesses(‘Reflections on the Formation and Distribution of Wealth’) by Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot.
Finally, as we have seen, the sale of offices had turned a significant segment of the population of France into a bourgeoisie:petite, moyenne (middle) and haute bourgeoisie. Many bourgeois were rich and some worked at court. I have mentioned that Jean-Baptiste Colbert, a bourgeois, was Louis XIV’s Minister of Finances, from 1661 to 1683. So l’abbé Sieyès’ Third Estate differed from the Third Estate that was convened in the Estates-General of 1614, 175 years before 1789. France had changed.
In short, Louis XVI should not have been compelled to convene the three estates. But he and his ministers of finance were ruled, and overruled, by the Parlement of Paris.
[The] Parlement of Paris, though no more in fact than a small, selfish, proud and venal oligarchy, regarded itself, and was regarded by public opinion, as the guardian of the constitutional liberties of France. [I underlined constitutional.] 
When delegates arrived at Versailles, there was confusion. Would they sit by ordre (estates), or would estates be mixed? Would they vote by ordre (estate), or by head? Delegates got so bogged down in such matters as representation that Louis would no longer hear them. On 20 June 1789, the king had the doors to the rooms where delegates met locked down. The deputies were not focussing on replenishing France’s empty coffers, the matter that so preoccupied Louis XVI.
We are familiar with the rest. Finding that the doors to Versailles had been locked, delegates met in a neighbouring Tennis Court, where 576 out of 577 delegates swore:
“not to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the kingdom is established.”
(See The Tennis Court Oath, wiki2.org.)
By 17 June 1789, delegates had started calling themselves the National Assembly, on a proposal of l’abbé Sieyès. In fact, on 13-14 June, nine priests had joined the Assembly. Therefore, the self-proclaimed National Assembly lasted from 13 June to 9 July 1789, but was replaced by another Assembly. Henceforth, underlying the problematic of the French Revolution was the co-existence of a monarchy and an assembly, which the creation of a Kingdom of France confirms.
As noted above, I suspect that delegate Martin-Dauch voted differently than other delegates because he looked upon the monarchy as the government. The Estates-General had not been convened since 1614, but it existed. So did the Assembly of Notables, who had come to Versailles in 1787. Finally, France had its Parlements. Not only was the assembly self-proclaimed but its relationship with the king was confrontational which may have caused the king to invalidate decisions made by the Assembly that he would recognize a few days later. I have borrowed the words “confrontation” and “recognition” from wiki2’s entry on the National Assembly.
For instance, on 23 June 1789, the king invalidated decisions made by the Assembly, which led the comte de Mirabeau to shout, defiantly:
“A military force surrounds the assembly! Where are the enemies of the nation? Is Catiline at our gates? I demand, investing yourselves with your dignity, with your legislative power, you inclose yourselves within the religion of your oath. It does not permit you to separate till you have formed a constitution.” (See National Assembly, wiki2.org.)
Therefore, on 27 June 1789, “Louis XVI reverses course, instructs the nobility and clergy to meet with the other estates, and recognizes the new Assembly. At the same time, he orders reliable military units, largely composed of Swiss and German mercenaries, to Paris.” (See Timeline of the French Revolution, Wiki2.org.)
In the meantime, on 25 June 1789, 48 nobles had joined the Assembly. The group’s leader was Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, or Philippe Égalité, Louis XVI’s first cousin who would vote in favour of the King’s execution.
However, Republicans, in the unicameral Assembly, demanded the removal of the king. A petition was signed by 6,000 persons and 50 persons were killed when Lafayette quelled the demonstration. This event is remembered as the Champ de Mars Massacre. (See 17 July, Timeline of the French Revolution, wiki2.org.) Moreover, on 16 May 1791, “on a proposal of Robespierre, the Assembly [had voted] to forbid members of the current Assembly to become candidates for the next Assembly,” (See 16 May, Timeline of the French Revolution, wiki2.org.) which suggests that Robespierre opposed supporters of a reformed French Monarchy.
Louis XVI was forced to sign the Constitution of 1791, but for one year the National Legislative Assembly ran concurrently with the Kingdom of France. Louis XVI found fault with the new Constitution. For, instance, it was unicameral (one chamber), rather than bicameral, thus differing from Britain’s Constitutional Monarchy, which had been the model. The king also bemoaned the removal of his right to veto. How would he protect émigrés? Madame Adélaïde and Madame Victoire, the king’s aunts had left for Rome. During the French Revolution, Republicans forever asked that those who had left be forced to return home. Under the Constitution of 1791, all the king could do was choose his ministers, which was viewed as a separation of powers. However, on 13-14 September 1791, the king accepted the new Constitution formerly.
But sovereignty effectively resided in the legislative branch, to consist of a single house, the Legislative Assembly, elected by a system of indirect voting. (‘The people or the nation can have only one voice, that of the national legislature,’ wrote Sieyès. ‘The people can speak and act only through its representatives.’) 
“Dismayed at what he deemed the ill-considered radicalism of such decisions, Jean-Joseph Mounier, a leading patriot deputy in the summer of 1789 and author of the Tennis Court Oath, resigned from the Assembly in October.”
A similar view was expressed in the 20th century by François Furet (27 March 1927 – 12/13 July 1997, go to restructuring France) of the French Academy. (Also see François Furet, wiki2.org.)
They [persons who drafted the new constitution] effectively transferred political power from the monarchy and the privileged estates to the general body of propertied citizens. 
Under this system about two-thirds of adult males had the right to vote for electors and to choose certain local officials directly. Although it favoured wealthier citizens, the system was vastly more democratic than Britain’s. 
Louis XVI convened the Estates-General because he wanted the people of France to allow its government to effect tax reforms so a debt would be eliminated. But the comte de Mirabeau was not part of the people whose help the king needed? He was a self-agrandizing agitator.
Regarding the flight to Varennes, it has been suggested
[t]hat royalists should have seen in this escape the means [of] placing the King in safety, and of crushing the Revolution at the same time, was but natural. 
The Third Estate needed to be something. Privilege, tax exemption particularly, had to be revised. As well, the time had come to declare the rights of citizens. But regicide and the Terreur? Radicals took over.
____________________ Alfred Cobban (1957). A History of France. 1. p. 63. see also Cobban, “The Parlements of France in the eighteenth century.” History (1950) 35#123 pp 64-80. (Quoted under Parlement, wiki2.org.)
Painting of the Battle of Valmy by Horace Vernet from 1826. The white-uniformed infantry to the right are regulars while the blue-coated ranks to the left represent the citizen volunteers of 1791. (Caption and photo credit: Wikipedia)
On 25 July 1792, the Duke of Brunswick threatened to harm the French, should its Royal family be harmed. He attacked France on 20 September 1792, but he was defeated at Battle of Valmy. On 22 September 1792, France was a Republic.
Anonymous caricature depicting the treatment given to the Brunswick Manifesto by the French population (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Napoleon Bonaparte‘s quelling of the Royalist revolt, 13 Vendémiaire (5 October 1795), in front of the Église Saint-Roch, Saint-Honoré Street, Paris. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
The French Revolution includes armed conflicts. The end of the Revolution overlaps the Napoleonic Wars. In fact, the huge levée en masse (Mass conscription) occurred during the Terror. Levées en masse would give Bonaparte his grande armée.
What happened to the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment? The philosophes had envisaged a Constitutional Monarchy, not regicide, nor war, nor a self-proclaimed Emperor. Napoleon wanted to conquer, at any cost. Talleyrandonce took him to a battlefield where thousands were dead or dying, but Napoleon expressed no compassion.
And what happened to the sans-culottes (without knee breeches)? The sans-culottes wore un pantalon or trousers and had supported the goals of the philosophes. They turned into a mob.
In fact, what happened to Robespierre, “l‘Incorruptible” (The Incorruptible)? Could it be that Louis XVI was too weak? L’abbé Sieyès, who championed greater political power for the bourgeoisie, had to flee, or die. He was a priest.
There are times when everything goes wrong. How can one explain that Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency of the United States? As for the French Revolution, we know the causes, but how can we make sense of the Reign of Terror?
Apologies. I pressed on the publish button accidentally and too soon.
Love to everyone♥ ____________________  André Castelot, Talleyrand ou le Cynisme (Paris: Librairie académique Perrin, 1980)
Two lines, written by poet Louis Aragon, keep coming to my mind. They are part of a poem set to music by the legendary Léo Ferré, entitled Est-ce ainsi que les hommes vivent? (Is this how humans live?). But the interpretation I know best is Yves Montand‘s (please click on Yves Montand’s name to hear the song).
C’était un temps déraisonnable It was a time unreasonable On avait mis les morts à table They’d sat the dead at table
During the night of 20–21 June 1791, French King Louis XVI (1754 – 1793), his wife, Marie-Antoinette (1755 – 1793), their children, Louis-Charles (1785 – 1795), the dauphin, or heir apparent, and his sister Marie-Thérèse (1778 – 1851), the king’s sister Élisabeth of France (1764 – 1794) attempted to escape France. The Marquise de Tourzelle, the children’s governess, from 1789 until 1792, accompanied the royal family. As for the king’s brothers, Louis XVIII (17 November 1755 – 16 September 1824) and Charles X, they had fled. Despite their bourgeois clothing, the Royal family was recognized one stop before Varennes and arrested at Varennes. By 25 June 1789, they had returned to Paris. (See Flight to Varennes, Wikipedia.)
We know that Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette would be guillotined during the Reign of Terror, 1793 – 1794), as well as Élisabeth de France, the king’s younger sister. Moreover, Louis-Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans (13 April 1747 – 6 November 1793), of the House of Orleans, a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon, would also be guillotined, on 6 November 1793. Consequently, hindsight invites approval of the Royal family’s attempt to flee what seemed imminent danger.
Hindsight is also forgiving. We can understand why Louis-Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans changed his name to Philippe Égalité. He was afraid. But did he have to vote in favour of his cousin’s execution?
But weighing against Louis XVI – Marie-Antoinette, mainly, was “collusion with the invaders,” a view supported by the flight to Varennes. (See The Trial of Louis XVI, Wikipedia.)
The return of the royal family to Paris on 25 June 1791: colored copperplate after a drawing of Jean-Louis Prieur(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
La Fayette and the National Guard
11 July 1789: Necker dismissed
13 July 1789: a Bourgeois militia is formed
14 July 1789: the Storming of the Bastille
15 July 1789: Lafayette elected commander of the militia (The National Guard)
On 13 July 1789, fearing disorder, the National Assembly created a Bourgeois militia and, on 15 July 1789, Lafayette (6 September 1757 – 20 May 1834) was elected to the post of commander of the Bourgeois militia, which would become the National Guard.
Gendarmes were required. Mobs stormed the Bastille (see The Storming of the Bastille, Wikipedia). Necker was reinstated on 16 July 1789 and would not leave France until 3 September 1790.
The Royal family had been taken to the Tuileries Palace, in Paris, a royal residence. But Louis’ aunts, Madame Adélaïde and Madame Victoire, had fled to Rome, as though Royalists could not protect them and as though the Royals needed protection. On The Day of the Daggers, 28 February 1791, Royalists, carrying concealed daggers, tried to enter the Tuileries to save Louis XVI and his family. Louis himself asked them to leave and those who would not leave were forcibly removed. The Royalists were dismayed.
The Champ de Mars Massacre
17 June 1791: the Champ de Mars Massacre
20 June 1791: the Flight to Varennes
15 July 1791: the King declared inviolable
On 17 June 1791, a crowd of 50,000 gathered at the Champ de Mars to sign a petition asking for the king’s removal. The National Guard under Lafayette, opened fire. The crowd returned later in the day, led by Danton and Camille Desmoulins. The National Guard fired again, killing as many as 15.
On 20 June 1791, the Royal family attempted to flee France, but were arrested at Varennes and taken back to the Tuileries Palace. However, on 15 July 1791, the National Assembly or Legislative Assembly declared the King inviolable until the ratification of a new Constitution.
The Assembly of Notables, revisited
A Constitutional Monarchy might have saved the French monarchy, but Louis did not know what a Constitutional Monarchy was. The delegates to the Assembly of Notables would not accept a land-value tax, but they were prepared to institute changes. If accurate, I believe it is, the following quotation is very revealing:
Yet what was truly astonishing about the debates of the Assembly is that they were marked by a conspicuous acceptance of principles like fiscal equality that even a few years before would have been unthinkable….Where disagreement occurred, it was not because Calonne had shocked the Notables with his announcement of a new fiscal and political world; it was either because he had not gone far enough or because they disliked the operational methods built into the program.
The Notables knew that France was nearly bankrupt and that insolvency would bring not only the downfall of France, but also their own downfall. It was to their advantage to pay taxes. Louis XVI was not as fortunate as Louis XIV. Louis XIV’s Conseil d’en haut, the King’s Council, was very small, but it consisted of bourgeois. Moreover, they met en haut, i.e. upstairs, next to the King’s chamber, at Versailles. The King did not fear them. Louis XIV feared no one except the princes du sang, the Princes of the Blood.
The Storming of the Tuileries
10 August 1792: the storming of the Tuileries
10 August 1792: the National Guard turns against the Royalty
As I wrote above, weighing against Louis XVI, or Marie-Antoinette, was “collusion with the invaders.” (See The Trial of Louis XVI, Wikipedia.) Louis XVI was executed on the grounds that he was a traitor. The King had tried to flee France, but could he tell that leaving France could be construed as treason, the worst of crimes. Revolutionaries did fear intervention from Royal families outside France and the flight to Varennes led to the Brunswick Manifesto (25 July 1792) and the Declaration of Pillnitz (27 August 1791). Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor (5 May 1747 – 1 March 1792), the Declaration’s main author, was Marie-Antoinette’s brother. Leopold may have wished to rescue his sister. She had attempted to leave France. Leopold II died on 1st March 1792.
The flight to Varennes sealed the Royal family’s fate. King Louis XVI had attempted to flee France, which the King of France could not do. One can understand King Louis XVI’s fears and Marie-Antoinette was adamant. But can one understand the Reign of Terror?
Love to everyone ♥
The Temple, a view of the Grosse Tour-circa 1795, École Française 18th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
L’abbé Sieyès presented a portrait of the Third Estate that described its ampleur or magnitude, especially the bourgeoisie’s. L’abbé Sieyès’ pamphlet was not a call to arms, but it stated that the Third Estate, 98% of the population, should be “something.” It was “everything,” but it had been “nothing” “in the political order.”
What is the Third Estate? Everything.
What has it been until now in the political order? Nothing.
What does it want to be? Something.
By becoming a priest, l’abbé Sieyès had elevated himself to the noblesse de robe, nobles of the robe. It comprised persons “whose rank came from holding certain judicial or administrative posts.” (See Nobles of the robe.) As members of the clergy, priests could sit among delegates of the First Estate, the clergy. However, l’abbé (abbott) Sieyès was not an aristocrat who had chosen the priesthood, but a bourgeois who had become a priest. He knew, in other words, that the old aristocracy resented the new aristocracy. (See the History of Nobility, acquired nobility.)
L’ancienne noblesse ne peut pas souffrir les nouveaux nobles; elle ne leur permet de siéger avec elle que lorsqu’ils peuvent prouver, comme l’on dit, quatre générations et cent ans. Ainsi, elle les repousse dans l’ordre du Tiers état, auquel évidemment ils n’appartiennent plus. (p. 10)
The old aristocracy detests new nobles; it allows nobles to sit as such only when they can prove, as the phrase goes, “four generations and a hundred years.” Thus it relegates the other nobles to the order of the Third Estate to which, obviously, they no longer belong. (p. 3)
Born a bourgeois, l’abbé Sieyès chose to represent the Tiers-État, the Third Estate. It was everything. And it was growing. The sale of offices could lead the buyer, a peasant, to the bourgeoisie, which had ranks: petite, moyenne [middle] et grande). Blaise Pascal‘s (19 June 1623 – 19 August 1662) father was supervisor of taxes in Rouen, an office one could buy and transformed its owner into a bourgeois. Molière‘s father, Jean Poquelin, had purchased his post, “valet de chambre ordinaire et tapissier du Roi” (“valet of the King’s chamber and keeper of carpets and upholstery”), under Louis XIII.
Some bourgeois were very rich and very powerful. Jean-Baptiste Colbert (29 August 1619 – 6 September 1683), served as minister of finance to Louis XIV, from 1665 until 1683. Finally, Louis XIV could not trust aristocrats. He remembered La Fronde (1648-1652), when aristocrats opposed absolutism. They had lost their role. Louis XIV’s advisors were bourgeois who constituted the Conseil du Roi, called the Conseil d’en haut, because they met “en haut,” upstairs. Peasants had not escaped feudalism altogether, but feudalism was waning.
“Consequently, the Third Estate represented the great majority of the people, and its deputies’ transformation of themselves into a National Assembly in June 1789 marked the beginning of the French Revolution.”
Therefore, it was in Sieyès and the Third Estate’s best interest to ask that “votes be taken by heads and not by orders.” An “ordre” was an Estate.
L’ abbé Sieyès stated that the people wanted genuine representatives in the Estates-General, equal representation to the other two orders taken together, and votes taken by heads and not by orders. These ideas came to have an immense influence on the course of the French Revolution.
Among the many causes of the French Revolution, the editors of the Encyclopædia Britannica write that “the bourgeoisie resented its exclusion from political power and positions of honour,” which would be the first cause of the French Revolution and which encapsulates Sieyès’ What is the Third Estate. The Third Estate was “everything,” yet “nothing.” I believe many scholars would also consider the bourgeoisie’s “exclusion from political power” a cause of the French Revolution.
In a letter dated November 26th, 1831, he [Tocqueville] criticizes France’s dealings with its North American colony during the 18th century, referring to the ‘abandonment’ of loyal subjects of the French Empire. Then he adds that it was ‘one of the greatest ignominies of Louis XV’s shameful reign.’
A 13th-century French representation of the tripartite social order of the middle ages– Oratores: “those who pray”, Bellatores: “those who fight”, and Laboratores: “those who work”. (Caption and photo credit: Wikipedia)
This lovely historiated initial, shows France’s three classes. Not only did the third estate, le Tiers État, work, but it also paid the taxes that supported the clergy, the first estate, and the nobility, the second estate. During the last quarter of the 18th-century, France was near bankrupcy, mostly because of its recent financial contribution to North-American colonists seeking independence from Britain.
France could have helped the North-American colonists, but absolutism and Louis XV’s profligacy had strained and humiliated France. In 1763, it lost New France.
I just republished a post written in March 2014. It is far too long, but under Monarchy, it includes France’s return to a Monarchy. Moreover, it spans the entire 19th century in France and could be useful to students of all ages. It expresses France’s tentativeness after the abolition of the Monarchy. Louis XVI was guillotined on 21 January 1793. The Reign of Terror had begun and it went too far.
My health is deteriorating, but I love my WordPress community. Leaving you would hurt me. The solution is writing shorter posts.
You will find a new page at the top of my posts: the French Revolution and Napoleon. It is incomplete, but I will look for related posts.
Stone sign affixed on the rue Jacob building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In this building, formerly the York Hotel [Paris], on 3 September 1783, David Hartley, in the name of the king of England, and Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and John Adams, in the name of the United States of America, signed the definitive peace treaty recognizing the independence of the United States.
Five years after Louis XVI hesitatingly signed the Treaty of Alliance (1778), which ensured the future independence of a country to be named the United States of America, the Treaty of Versailles (sometimes called the Treaty of Paris) was signed at the Hôtel d’York in Paris, a hotel that no longer exists, the above stone sign commemorates the victory of the young Republic. The Treaty of Versailles proclaimed the independence of the United States.
It could be said that all parties gained from the Treaty of Versailles/Paris. The United States was an independent nation and Benjamin Franklin had made sure both France and England would be its trading partners. As for France, it had regained the prestige it lost when it ceded Canada to Britain under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1673, but Canada remained a British colony. However, in 1783, Benjamin Franklin did glance northwards. The mostly French-language British Province of Quebec shrank significantly. Please see the maps.[i]
The United States would expand, but it would be to the west rather than the north. In 1803, under the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, the United States would purchase Louisiana from France. Again, ironically, the groundwork for the Louisiana Purchase, was one of Thomas Jefferson’s contributions to the United States as Minister to France. Jefferson had kept alive an alliance with France. The French did not look upon the sale of Louisiana as a severe loss. Louisiana had been disputed territory between France and Spain and the United States needed a port to the south. In short, France would have lost Louisiana. It may therefore have been in its best interest to sell it. Am I writing this?
In May 1785, Thomas Jefferson (13 April 1743 – 4 July 1826), the 3rd President of the United States and a good friend of the Marquis de La Fayette, was installed as the United States Minister, or United States ‘Ambassador’ to France. Like his predecessor, Benjamin Franklin, Jefferson was a polymath who had read abundantly, played the violin, spoke several languages, but suffered violent attacks of migraine. He was a man of the Enlightenment and truly impressed the French, but not in the same manner as his predecessor, Benjamin Franklin, who was milling financial and military support for the American Revolutionary War, and did so as a “regular” in various French Salons and the Café Procope, major institutions in France, and importing racoon hats, “du nouveau,” something new, for the ladies of the French court and Salons. These ladies only wore the “trendy” and would not be caught otherwise. The French did however name Benjamin Franklin to the French Academy as an honorary member. As for Jefferson, his legacy would be one of the mind, to the French and to the world. I will not speak of his dependence on slaves.
Thomas Jefferson arrived in Paris in 1785 and left on 26 September 1789 in order to serve as the United States’ first Secretary of State, under George Washington (22 February 1732 – 14 December 1799). In other words, Jefferson left France a mere two weeks before Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Prince de Talleyrand suggested, on 10 October 1789, that France resolve its financial crisis by confiscating the wealth of Church, which it did on 2 November 1789. During his stay in Paris, Jefferson was a witness to vain attempts on the part of Louis XVI to pay the huge debt accrued mainly because of wars it had fought, one of which was the American Revolutionary War. The American Revolutionary War was indeed a catalyst in the apocalyptic French Revolution. France had supported the future United States’ effort to break its ties with Britain. But who could have predicted a catastrophe that would ignore the liberalism of the Age of Enlightenment to persecute the clergy and the nobility, by killing thousands of its innocent citizens?
The American Declaration of Independence
Franklin was in France to rally the French to the American cause of independence from England. Such would not be Jefferson’s task. Given that he had drafted the American Declaration of Independence, a text reflecting the liberalism of John Locke, Thomas Jefferson’s main contribution to the French Revolution would be the lofty idealism he had contributed to the American Declaration of Independence, which he had drafted almost single-handedly. Jefferson was in a position to play an active role in the actual drafting of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen), a pivotal text in the history of France, written mainly by Jefferson’s friend, La Fayette, with assistance on the part of Thomas Jefferson, and issued on 26 August 1789, a month to the day before Jefferson left France to take up his duties as first American Secretary of State.
Le Pressoir (The Pressurizer) (Photo credit: Google Images)
George Washington: the “Proclamation of Neutrality”
On 22 April 1793, after the execution of king Louis XVI (21 January 1793), George Washington issued a Proclamation of Neutrality. The United States declared it would remain neutral in conflicts between France and Great Britain and in Wars abroad. Americans breaking this rule could be prosecuted. (See Proclamation of Neutrality, Wikipedia.) Yet, the American Revolutionary War or American War of Independence, was a catalyst in the apocalyptic French Revolution. France had been the main financial and military supporter in the Americans’ effort to break their ties with Britain. But, again, who could have imagined a catastrophe that would ignore the liberalism of the Enlightenment and persecute the clergy and the nobility.
Therefore, would that the Parliament of Paris had ratified Charles Alexandre, vicomte de Calonne‘s proposal of imposing taxes across the board. Would, moreover, that the Assembly of Notables, created by Louis XVI, in 1787, had seen fit to implement universal taxation. Levying taxes from the First and Second Estates, the Church of France and its nobility, was the only solution to France’s financial crisis. Its participation in the American War of Independence cost France 1.3 billion livres.
In 1787, the Parliament of Paris refused to register Charles Alexandre, vicomte de Calonne‘s[ii] proposal to tax all three estates, the only way to remedy France’s desperate financial crisis. Louis XVI therefore created an Assembly of Notables, 144 individuals handpicked by him, whose duty it would be to save France from bankruptcy. The Marquis de La Fayette was a member of king Louis XVI’s Notables, but Louis’ élite team also refused across-the-board taxation. It was proposed, instead, that the matter of tax reform be handled by the Estates-General which had not convened since 1614.
“While the an [sic] Assembly of Notables had no legislative power in its own right, Calonne hoped that if the Assembly of Notables could be made to support the proposed reforms then this would apply pressure on parlement to register them. The plan failed, as the 144 Notables who made up the Assembly included Princes of the Blood, archbishops, nobles and other people from privileged positions in society, and they did not wish to bear the burden of increased taxation. The Assembly insisting that the proposed tax reforms had to be presented to a representative body such as an Estates General.” (See Assembly of Notables, in Wikipedia)
To end this post, one could state that “the rest is history.” But it need be retold that, on 10 October 1789, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand (and the Comte de Mirabeau) proposed that France confiscate the wealth of the Church and convert it into assignats: paper money, which was approved by the Assembly on 2 December 1789. Calonne’s proposal that all Estates be taxed turned into greater misery, the confiscation of the property of the Church of France. To harm the Church of France further, Talleyrand, a member of the clergy, l’évêque d’Autun (the bishop of Autun), also proposed the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, a law passed on 12 July 1790. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy did not separate separate Church and State, a separation proposed by the Baron de Montesquieu, among others. Laïcité was part of the programme of the Enlightenment, but the Civil Constitution of the Clergy subjugated the Church of France to the State, which was not laïcité.
By 12 July 1790, Thomas Jefferson was no longer the American Minister to France. His mission terminated on 26 September 1789, as indicated above.
To sum up, I need simply say that Thomas Jefferson was in Paris as he was in the United States: a superior mind. The video is about Thomas Jefferson.[iii]
Preliminary Treaty of Paris(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
As I pointed out in my post dated 2 May 2014, the downfall of the Church of France during the French Revolution did not always stem from evil intentions. I am not about to suggest that Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, (1754–1838)[i], a priest, a bishop—l’Évêque d’Autun—and a delegate of the Church to the Estates-General, acted naively when, on 10 October 1789, he proposed that France confiscate the wealth of its very wealthy Church. France was facing bankruptcy, but that could be avoided by tapping into the vaults of its affluent First Estate: the clergy.
Talleyrand’s suggestion to confiscate the wealth of the Church may have been a stop-gap measure, but it was the “idée lumineuse,” the bright idea, that constitutes the first step in a process that would lead to the dechristianisation of the budding French Republic, founded on 22 September 1792.
But Talleyrand also proposed the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (12 July 1790) empowering the State. It was the instrument used to destroy the Church of France. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy subjugated the Church to the State and is part of the very long debate concerning the respective power of Church and State in the government of a nation. It could be that Talleyrand did not plan the destruction of the Church of France, but he nevertheless set it in motion. He was excommunicated by Pope Pius VI in 1791 and, ten years later, Pope Pius VII, Pius VI’s successor would laicise Talleyrand.
The fact remains, however, that in the early years of the French Revolution, it would have been very difficult to predict that France would execute its king and his wife as well as thousands of its citizens, many of whom were priests and cloistered nuns. I can’t help thinking of Francis Poulenc‘s opera Dialogues des Carmélites (1956), based on a draft by Georges Bernanos. These nuns did not want to abjure their vows and were guillotined. No one could have imagined the Reign of Terror. But we do know that Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Talleyrand, was an opportunist who craved the comforts wealth brought. He was given 5,000 pounds for his involvement in the confiscation of the wealth of the Church.[ii] Talleyrand loved the luxuries money can buy, but he remains otherwise the extremely enigmatic figure, a “Man with Six Heads,” depicted below in a caricature, a coloured etching
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, caricature, “Floating with the Tide” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Popular colored etching, verging on caricature, published by Décrouant, early 19th century: La famille royale et les alliées s’occupant du bonheur de l’Europe (The Royal Family and the Allies concerned with the Happiness of Europe) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We are already familiar with the “programme,” with the possible exception of the final demand: requesting that the Clergy pledge an oath of allegiance to the constitution (no. 5, below).
The programme was as follows:
confiscation of Church lands, which were to be the security for the new Assignat currency
removal of statues, plates and other iconography from places of worship
destruction of crosses, bells and other external signs of worship
the enactment of a law on October 21, 1793 making all nonjuringpriests and all persons who harboured them liable to death on sight.
Once again I am quoting Wikipedia, but we will focus of number 5, the oath of allegiance demanded of the Clergy. The Church of France was divided between jurors and non-jurors, or clergy willing to pledge loyalty to the Constitution and clergy opposing this request. No, it had nothing to do with the separation of State and Church, achieved in 1905. (See Dechristianization of France during the French Revolution, Wikipedia.)
In this caricature, after the decree of 16 February 1790, monks and nuns enjoy their new freedom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Clergy: Jurors and Non-jurors
Schism in the Church of France
Previous vilification of the Church
The thorniest part of the programme was the oath to the Constitution imposed on the clergy. European monarchies were willing to fight the French Revolutionary Army (1792-1802) as the French Revolution was a threat to all monarchies. Consequently, they were acting in their own best interest. As we know, many émigrés, Chateaubriand among them, joined counter-revolutionary forces. However, if monarchies were alarmed, the Church was and was not. In the eyes of Pope Pius VI, accepting that the French swore loyalty to the State was unacceptable. Theoretically, he was right. Swearing allegiance to the State made the Church subservient to the State. Yet, it may have lessened the revolutionaries’ anti-clerical zeal and avoided unnecessary bloodshed. We cannot know.
“Under threat of death, imprisonment, military conscription, and loss of income, about twenty thousand constitutional priests were forced to abdicate and hand over their letters of ordination, and six thousand to nine thousand of them were coerced to marry. Many abandoned their pastoral duties altogether. Nonetheless, some of those who had abdicated continued covertly to minister to the people.” (See Dechristianization of France during the French Revolution, Wikipedia.)
Among prelates in the Church of France, some favoured mental assent, which consists insaying one thing, but thinking another. Mental assent is of course extremely hypocritical, not to say an ignominy, but for a Church facing annihilation, it may have appeared the only salvation. Most French prelates opposed the pledge to the State and paid the price. But would mental assent have saved the Church of France? The very idea created a schism within the Church of France.
At any rate, when Cardinal Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne (9 October 1727 – 16 February 1794)[iii] and Louis XVI himself wrote to Pope Pius VI, asking for guidance and some leeway, Pope Pius VI would not bend, so King Louis XVI, who had waited as long as he could, ended up signing the oath into law. As for Cardinal Loménie de Brienne, he became a “juror.”
“Pope Pius VI (reigned 1775–99) denounced the Civil Constitution in 1791, and Catholic France was divided between adherents of the papal system and proponents of the new order.”[iv]
It is unlikely that Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand knew, or wanted to know, the consequences of his suggestions; he was a survivor and he was making money. Philippe Égalité, on the other hand, Louis XVI’s cousin, but a member of the Jacobin Club and a Grand Master of the Masonic Grand Orient de France from 1771–1793, was guillotined on 6 November 1793. Philippe Égalité never anticipated the Reign of Terror.
At any rate, no one attempted to rescue the Church, with the exception of the Vendéans. In fact, the Church of France had been vilified for hundreds of years. Nivardus of Ghent‘s Ysengrimus(1149), the birthplace of Reinardus, the fox, or Reynard the Fox, long fabliaux that ridicules the clergy as was the case in shorter Frenchfabliaux. There was considerable anti-clericalism in France and this state of affairs worsened during the Enlightenment. In the case of the French Revolution, State crushed Church.
“The Catholic Church may have been the church of the majority of the French people, but its wealth and perceived abuses meant that it did not always have their trust.”[iv]
Thermidor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Dechristianization of the Church of France
The Church was victimized to an extreme degree ranging from several drownings in the Vendée, cruel and deadly detention, forced marriages, death by guillotine, public spankings to humiliate nuns working at l’Hôtel-Dieu de Paris, demeaning caricatures. When their vows were nullified, monks and nuns did not rejoice as is suggested in a caricature displayed above. (See Civil Constitution of the Clergy, Wikipedia)
Why would revolutionaries execute Carmelites (nuns) who had refused to renounce their vows? (See The Martyrs of Compiègne, Wikipedia.) In fact, Wikipedia tells the whole story. The programme of dechristianisation included the deportation and execution of the clergy, priests, monks and nuns being forced to abjure their vows, the closing down of church (désaffectation), the removal of the word “saint” from street names, the War in the Vendée.
“Three Church bishops and two hundred priests were massacred by angry mobs.” (See September Massacres, Wikipedia)
“By the end of the decade, approximately thirty thousand priests had been forced to leave France, and others who did not leave were executed. Most French parishes were left without the services of a priest and deprived of the sacraments. Any non-juring priest faced the guillotine or deportation to French Guiana. By Easter 1794, few of France’s forty thousand churches remained open; many had been closed, sold, destroyed, or converted to other uses.” (See Dechristianization of France during the French Revolution, Wikipedia.)
Napoleon’s victory and the Pope’s Captivity
Ironically, Bonaparte attacked the future Italian lands and defeated the territory he attacked. Consequently Pope Pius VI died in captivity.
“The ultimate humiliation of the church took place in 1798 when Pius VI was driven out of Rome by French armies; in the following year he was taken captive and dragged back to France, where he died. As papal prestige sank to depths it had not reached since the crises of the 14th century, some critics called for abolishing the office altogether.”[v] (Britannica)
The Thermidorian Reaction (1794): repeal of the Civil Constitution of the Church (1791)
As mentioned in an earlier post, the “Concordat of 1801 was an agreement between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII, Pius VI’s immediate successor, signed on 15 July 1801. It solidified the Roman Catholic Church as the majority church of France and brought back most of its civil status.” Despite widespread anti-clericalism, France had been a Catholic nation. (See Concordat of 1801 [sometimes dated 1802], Wikipedia.) (Britannica)[vi]
The Concordat was also:
A declaration that “Catholicism was the religion of the great majority of the French” but not the official state religion, thus maintaining religious freedom, in particular with respect to Protestants and Jews. However, Metz resisted. Jews were scorned. See The Concordat of 1801, Wikipedia.
Finally, the Concordat stipulated that:
The Papacy had the right to depose bishops, but this made little difference, because the French government still nominated them.
The state would pay clerical salaries and the clergy swore an oath of allegiance to the state.
The Catholic Church gave up all its claims to Church lands that were confiscated after 1790.
The Sabbath was reestablished as a “festival[,]” effective Easter Sunday, 18 April 1802.
The programme of dechristianisation included the deportation and execution of the clergy, priests, monks and nuns being forced to abjure their vows, the closing down of church, the removal of the word “saint” from street names, the War in the Vendée. It was petty. It was cruel. And it made no sense. “The climax was reached with the celebration of the goddess Reason in Notre-Dame Cathedral on 10 November .” Obvious worship was forbidden in the name of laïcité.
Celebrating the goddess Reason was not laïcité; it was public worship of a goddess and, consequently, the opposite of laïcité. Which is where I will close this post.
When Boisguy was 15, he started fighting. At the age of 17, he was aide-de-camp(chief-of-staff) to Charles Armand Tuffin de la Rouërie[i] who played a role in the American Revolutionary War. By the age of 17, Boisguy was in fact a leader of the Chouans in what is now the Fougères commune of Britanny, then called le pays de Fougères (the country of Fougères). By the age of 19, he was a general. Boisguy was fearless, but not reckless. He therefore survived chouannerieuprisings.
The Civil Constitution of the Clergy
The Civil Constitution of the Clergy
The levée en masse
However, this post is not about the chouannerie,[ii]except indirectly. It is about the demise of the Church of France. Chouannerie uprisings were royalists uprisings that lasted beyond 1800 and, as such, they were also Catholic uprisings. Absolutism demanded that France be ruled by one king, that Catholicism be its only Church and French, its only language. There was considerable anti-clericalism in France. It had become widespread during the Enlightenment and the growth of Freemasonry also dictated laïcité in government. Yet, even among Chouans, many opposed the repression of the Church. Moreover, the War in the Vendée(1793-1796), was caused, first, by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (July 1790) and, second, by the levée en masse (23 August 1793) (mass conscription). In fact, as we will see in a later post, it was also caused by the persecution of the clergy. (See War in the Vendée, Wikipedia.)
“The first signs of real discontent appeared with the government’s enactment of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (July 1790) instituting strict controls over the Roman Catholic church.”[iii]
On 2 November 1789, Catholic Church property that was held for purposes of church revenue was nationalized, and was used as the backing for the assignats.
On 13 February 1790 (some sources give the date as 11 February for example), monastic vows were forbidden and all ecclesiastical orders and congregations were dissolved, excepting those devoted to teaching children and nursing the sick.
On 19 April 1790, administration of all remaining church property was transferred to the State.
The assignat was legal tender between 1789 and 1796 and it would appear that bankruptcy, and little else, led to the confiscation of the wealth of the Church (biens de l’Église). The ultimate law, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, was passed on 6 February 1790, but the idea of confiscating the goods of the Church, les biens de l’Église, dated back to 10 October 1789. On that day, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord,[v] or Talleyrand, a priest, a bishop (l’évêque d’Autun) and a representative of the Church during the meeting of the Estates-General of 1789, suggested that the government fill its empty vaults by confiscating the wealth of the Church, which it did on 2 November 1789. The biens de l’Église became biens nationaux (national property) as would, later, the biens des émigrés, the property of émigrés.
Ironically, neither the de-Christianisation of France during the French Revolution nor the downfall of the monarchy had been the objectives of the 577 representatives of the Third Estate who, on 20 June 1789, assembled in an indoors jeu de paume, a tennis court, when they discovered they had been locked out of a meeting of the Estates-General. The 576 signatories of the Tennis Court Oath favoured a constitutional monarchy.
Had the monarchy been a constitutional monarchy, the Third Estate would have played a role in the government of France. In other words, France would have been a democracy, as was England. But the Estates-General had not convened since 1614, which is what representatives of the Third Estate opposed. Moreover, the Church was vulnerable because members of the clergy were exempt of taxation, as were members of the nobility. The Church also collected tithes(la dîme). So, to a certain extent, the very radical French Revolution was a variation on a familiar theme, “no taxation without representation.” (See Civil Constitution of the Clergy, Wikipedia.)
On 20 June 1789, the 577 delegates of the Third Estate, who had taken refuge in a jeu de paume, wanted no more than representation. The 576 signatories of the Tennis Court Oath did not attack the Church, except indirectly. However, the Third Estate supported both the Church, the First Estate, and the nobility, the Second Estate, through burdensome taxes. So both the Church and the nobility were parasites. Nevertheless, it remains unlikely that the signatories of the Tennis Court Oath suspected the destruction of the Church. (See Civil Constitution of the Clergy, Wikipedia). I am inclined to agree with the following statement by Dr Gemma Betros:
“The wholesale destruction of Catholicism had been far from the minds of the nation’s representatives in 1789, but financial concerns, when combined with external and internal threats, eventually made a full-scale attack on the Church and all connected with it a necessity for a Revolution that demanded absolute loyalty.”[vi]