A dry summer had burned the harvest, a whole country was in an incredible political emotion, the high clergy announcing that it would refuse any sacrifice, an empty state treasure which does not pay any more the civil employees; Louis XVI tried to delay the date of meeting of the Estates General - the evasion becomes impossible. At the same time as the bankruptcy, Loménie de Brienne announces in August that they will meet on May 1, 1789 and gives his resignation. The court lost the control of the events.
Louis XVI calls back Necker who makes advances to the Treasury on his personal fortune. He becomes the most popular man in Paris and passions the clubs. France establishes its books of claims. "A revolution prepares", one wrote clearly. These books, so various books and at the same time so homogeneous - admirable collective works - said in formulas often seizing the want of labour and freedom of the French. The books of the middle-class summarized the thought of the century and claimed a Constitution. As for the rural books, they revealed to the middle-class the help that they would find among the rural people, passion in which would succumb the feudal property. The drafting of these books shows how much was illusory the distinction of the three Estates. The priests of the countryside were by no means hostile to the nationalization of the possessions of the clergy, the lords differed in opinion depending on the state of their fortune, the importance of their agricultural incomes or the mediocrity of their heritage and in the third state the abolition of the slavery of the Blacks could ruin some merchant of a port. All these divergences will be at the origin of the innumerable currents which will lead the revolutionary assemblies.
Discussion went on during the whole winter. It was the most rigorous in France since 1709. The Seine river froze from Paris to Le Havre. When the inviting letters for the meeting of the Estates General left in February 1789, the people in the countryside was again victim of prowlers and brigands. In spring, food was rationed in the cities, bread was of extremely bad quality and very expensive. Everywhere people immobilized the grains and, anticipating what they believed being the duty of the Estates General, refused to pay taxes. The elections started in an atmosphere of riot. During the first six months of the year, more than three hundred local riots took place, with the cry of "bread and freedom". The middle-class was determined to begin the revolution: a whole oppressed people would accept any sacrifice for it.
At the moment of the elections, the army isn't sure any more. The Garden of the Palais Royal which has just been opened to the public became an open air club where speakers give their comments in the fever of the events of the day - riots at the Pont-au-Changes, a riot at the Pont-Marie, a very hard strike at Réveillon. Mysterious agents circulate, another person now shares the popularity of Necker. At the first assembly of the Lords, the duke Philippe of Orleans, enemy of Marie-Antoinette, rallied the Estates General. Deputee in the Estates General, Philippe of Orleans joins the third state and one finds his gold in many hands. This prince will vote three years later the death of Louis XVI and calls himself Philippe-Equality. In the following century, his son will succeed where he finally fails - the monarchists have so much contributed to eliminate monarchy.
May 5, 1789 the deputies meet in Versailles after having heard the day before an opening mass. As soon as the validity of the votes was to be checked, the essential question arose: would there be an individual vote or a vote by Estate ? The nobility refused any common deliberation - disdain of class which isolated the Third Estate; after a month of talks the Third Estate constituted on June 17 as the National Constituent Assembly allotting the right to levy taxes. The clergy of the country and the lords who followed the duke of Orleans passed to the Third Estate: the question of the distinct Estates had an answer. When three days later the deputies found closed their meeting-room, they were six hundred to swear at the Tennis court hall that they would not separate without having voted a Constitution.
June 23, Louis XVI tried to divide the three Estates. After a speech of impotent autocrat, his master of ceremonies got a shingling response from Mirabeau evoking the will of the people. The king authorized the dissenting deputies to join the National Assembly; at the same time, he ordered foreign regiments to Paris. The Assembly requests the withdrawal of these troops. The king refuses, dismisses Necker. The "Party of the Queen" tries to resist. The court felt that the force of the national Assembly did not come from its mandates but from the support of the people. Doesn't the Assembly hesitate to receive the first popular petition? It is necessary to strike in Paris. Already, by its demonstrations in the streets intervenes this anonymous being of which no one had thought, the Parisian people, which frees at the Abbey some imprisoned soldiers, attacks the dragoons with stones. Louis XVI replaced Necker by Breteuil and concentrates 25.000 soldiers in Versailles. But in Paris a municipal government constitutes which recruits a middle-class militia. The National Assembly is no more master of the events: on July 12, German cavalry is attacked at the Tuileries. The commission of the Town Hall intensifies the armament of its National Guard. Arms manufacturers and bakers are equally plundered. The next day, the alarm bell rings. When will the king give order to his troops to attack Paris? At nine o'clock in the morning on July 14, guns and rifles are taken at the Invalides: the people - middle-class men and workers - march to the Bastille, possible operations base of the troops which would take Paris from behind and would block the people between the Saint-Anthony gate and the Champs-Elysées. The old fortress built by Charles the Wise to control the capital was no more than a royal prison, but also a symbol of the State the people wanted to overthrow. The Bastille is not seriously defended. Hundred unknown deaths among the attackers: who will mention them, who knows their names ? A head at the top of a spade: history recalls the procession which until the night showed in the streets the head of the governor Mr. de Launay.
Three days later, a delegation of the Saint-Anthony Suburb requested help from the national Assembly for the Parisian workers, who had been unemployed during these hours of riot, and declared to them: "Messrs, you are the savers of the fatherland, but you also have savers."
Bailly, elected mayor of Paris, La Fayette elected as commander in chief of the National Guard - the middle-class organizes its power. The Assembly sends a delegation which the king accompanies. He reinstitutes Necker: the absolute monarchy has lost its power. Who has overcome the king? The popular force. Who intends to benefit of this victory? The middle-class. The whole Revolution is there.
On the countryside, the news of the storming of the Bastille sets fire to the castles. In the general tumult, the brigands commit more and more atrocities. The most incredible rumours circulate. This was called the Great Fear. No doubt the peasants lived at the same time hours of enthusiasm and anguish where happiness to own the land was melted with fear to see it again devastated. The upset peasants continue to burn these books where, for two hundred years, the lords used to have recognized their rights. The least resistance unchains a massacre. Then, another fear shows up, that of the former privileged persons. At the end of July, the emigration begins. The lords who saw the peasants speaking to them as equal beings and raising the head cannot support such a spectacle: this horror pushes them to leave the country. In the history of treasons of which leading classes were guilty with regard to the nation, this escape was yet only the least damage they could cause. But soon the aristocracy will not be afraid any more. They will pass on to the enemy.
Under the shades of the Palais Royal, the lists of proscription fill. One finds there the hatred of the small middle-class men against the bureaucracy of the monarchy. New newspapers appear, following the example of Brissot. The bookshops are invaded, a thirst for information devours this society at which speakers repeat everywhere that it is the true sovereign. In Versailles, the National Assembly continues its deliberations slowly. It seems paralysed by the extent of the desires which surround it. In Paris, the Commune gratifies its mayor and his general commander of sumptuous payment and endeavours to eliminate the people from the militia. But soon, the Assembly, which had perhaps dreamt of proclaiming only some abstract principles, receives from the whole country news which show the reality: the peasants refuse the payment of the feudal taxes, make record their refusal solemnly and enforce respect of their decisions with arms. The people of the countryside thus passed to the acts as id that of Paris. Will the Assembly be able to immobilize, after its courageous attitude of June? Perhaps all is lost if the Assembly delayes. The famous enthusiasm of the night of August 4 was simply the verbal dedication of what popular passion had achieved: it was under the direct threat of the people of France that the suppression of the feudal rights, the dîme, the privileges of the corporations and the provinces is voted. A fundamental revolution which the representatives of the Assembly had continued to discuss in all details, if the will of the masses had not been imposed to these men who are beginning to fear the work they are doing. Not as much however as to forget completely their own interests: the great night had removed without repurchase the drudgeries and the personal constraints, but - wise control of the exaltation - it had planned for all the other privileges their refunding. Thus, nobility and clergy believed to have ended the revolution. The order, their order, was to be restored. They neglected only one detail: if really this purchase had to be paid, the whole fortune of the middle-class would not have been sufficient. This, the peasants understood: the obligation of repurchase resulted immediately in new disorders - the revolution was to continue.
Taxes and loans do not return any more, the financial drama accelerates. The national Assembly becomes again obstinate and gives to the country a feeling of inaction. Inaction or treason, one comments in the Palais Royal. Treason! shouts the "Friend of the People", the newspaper of Jean Paul Marat which has just appeared. He was from the very start elected as member of the commité de surveillance of his district. He sees in September the conflict which will give its rhythm to the revolution and he appeals to the people: "will you always be the victim of your blindness?" Bread is rare. Isn't the little which one obtains poisoned? Agents of England and the duke of Orleans disturb the atmosphere even more. The king did not ratify the decisions of August 4. New regiments arrive at Versailles, the supply of Paris will cease. "There is bread at the neighbour's, but it's not for us", goes a children's dance which was painful. One fights at the entrance of bakeries when spreads the news of a banquet offered in Versailles by the guards of the king to the troops which have just arrived. In the morning of October 5, a procession of 8.000 women, trailing guns, rifles, spades, sabres and axes and behind them a whole crowd, marches to Versailles to get bread. The following day, Louis XVI and the national Assembly settle in Paris, Tuileries and the Manège. The royal family is again in Paris; the deputies will deliberate under the eyes of the public on the platforms where each day the public will speak in the debates by its applause or its shouts, following the example of Marat on October 12 at a meeting of the Assembly. As a result, the course of the deliberations becomes clear. All the reforms which for one century have been considered and discussed will find their achievement. In turn, new social fractions will get satisfaction; each one of them will believe successively to be able to stop the revolution as soon as it has got satisfaction of its claims. Month by month, the laws will change the society, while the unity of of the various elements of the movement disaggregates progressively with the number of their conquests. Immense social flow, with innumerable waves. The revolutionists of the night of August 4 will become counter-revolutionaries in the opinion of others, trying to fix the movement which had led them to this revolution. And the Tennis Court Hall Oath threatening the king as the guard of the past, will be successively betrayed by men to whom victory did not guarantee of the dangers of the future.
The new laws work for man; but this man is only citizen if he is owner: the reforming laws will thus stop just before the poor, before those who don't have anything. But the revolution did not make choice those who have fought, and at the Bastille the majority of the deaths were so miserable that their names are unknown. Danger. The middle classes needed the poor people during the violent acts of the revolution but did not intend to let them take any advantage. So the middle classes were likely to lose their victory and the leadership of the popular masses. Though there is no doubt on the loyalty of Danton, Barnave, Mirabeau, can they be sure of those who will emerge from the people or of those who by their knowledge of the social situation took the side of misery, such as Marat? It is in the name of the poor that he speaks. The middle-classes never intended to go so far. The perspectives which foresees the "Friend of the People" would even place a risk on the result of centuries of efforts. It was not necessary that, while making the revolution, the people opens the eyes, judges and condemns them. Obviously, the worker is only capable of complaining about his wages and the length of the working day, but action is a terrible teacher. Soon there could be a conflict on two sides. That's the conclusion of the city council of Paris which, when denounced by Marat, begins persecuting him. He hides, his newspaper is silenced, reappeares, stops. From now, the revolutionary middle-class will not cease persecuting him. However, business continues, normal life begins again and those which the nation a few months ago took for its liberators are now implicated in the most doubtful operations: Necker speculates in corns, La Fayette intrigues at the court, the luxury of the new masters makes scandal, the rich middle-class men take over the fortunes of the emigrants. The emigration increases and will be soon numerous enough to plan an attack of France, thus exposing Louis XVI to the hatred of the people. For the moment, the middle-class does not wish the fall of the king. It repeats its marks of confidence to him and the most powerful orators of the revolution are proud of their relations with the court. They are more interested in the business of the national goods: the goods of the emigrants will guarantee the assignats, advances on the product of their sale. This emission eases the economic life. In April 1793, the Assembly increases its first emission of assignats. Then large areas are divided into smaller parcels. The rich peasants can become purchasers - an ancestral hope becomes reality: the middle-class revolution has, in the country, a base of mass which will save it - these peasants will not let touch their conquests anymore.
When the goods of the clergy had been nationalized, the number of sales was multiplied. The French took possession of their ground. In July, the Assembly votes the civil Constitution of the clergy as a logical consequence of the confiscation of its goods, Constitution which tended to free the French Church of the power of Rome. On July 14, 1790 200.000 persons from all over France, from the most remote provinces, came together to celebrate the Federation day to repeat the oath which pronounces La Fayette. To affirm the national indivisibility - a time of joy where it seemed that France was going to be happy forever. The people believed in the solution of the social problem because they had not seen it.
The number of laws is growing; Mirabeau negotiates with the queen. The thought of Marat progressively dominates the opinion of Paris. One frames everywhere the Declaration of Human Rights, written by La Fayette, Talleyrand, Sieyès and Mounier. The Assembly voted the abolition of the corporations, but these texts are not intended to the people and Marat denounces them in May 1791: "Plead the cause of these workers who form the healthiest, the most useful portion of the people and without whom the society could not exist only one day." This is also the opinion of the shopkeepers, provided that property is respected, is declared inviolable and holy - the middle-class property of course, not the one which was just abolished and which deprived the clergy of four billion Francs. However, the disorders still continue. Frightend of the high cost of living and the modicity of their wages, workers of Saint-Etienne and Parisian suburbs began disorders which are likely to compromise the benefit of this middle-class property - article XVII of the Declaration. The sixteen preceding articles well instituted freedom; in the middle-class thought, freedom is not absolutely necessary for the new form of property, liberated indeed from all the feudal obstacles. To remove any doubt and to put an end to the claims that the Parisian workers renewed now in the name of human freedom, a deputy filed in a law where the problem was mentioned as a whole: the first sixteen articles of the Declaration of the rights had been written only as a comment for the last. Le Chapelier, a lawyer of Rennes, contributed to the drafting of many legal texts of the revolution. He owes his celebrity to this law of which Marat uncovered the true character. In the "Friend of the People" of June 12, he published a letter where workers were frightened by its consequences: "not content to have piled up enormous fortunes at the expense of the poor workers, these avid oppressors pushed inhumanity until requesting the legislator to obtain against us a barbarian decree which condemns us to perish of hunger". Two days later, the Assembly discussed the project Le Chapelier who intended "to prevent the coalitions that would form the workers to make increase the price of the working day" - and that, in the name even of the Declaration of Rights, the workers action being likely to threaten the middle-class interests. A deputy having referred to the freedom of the employers, it was specified that this law would not limit the freedom of the Chamber of Commerce. The law was voted unanimously. The revolution, accomplished thanks to the courage of the workers, refused them the right to strike and the right of coalition, as did before the old royal edict of Villers-Cotterets. A young lawyer, who attends the sessions of the Assembly as a deputy since six months and who already dominates the heated discussions of the Jacobines Club, doesn't say one word at the vote of this antipopular law: Robespierre. And he keeps his silence also when two days later the Assembly decides to close the national workshops. 20.000 workers loose their job and labour becomes cheap.
The law Le Chapelier will be among the most durable of the revolution since it will resist nearly one century. Marat was the only one to understand its origin and significance. He knows of the terror which the middle-class feels of any workers concentration. Prevent everything which could establish their union, only but also the all-powerful weapon of the people. On June 18, Marat has written against the vote of the Assembly: "to prevent the many meetings of the people which they fear so extremely, they denied to the innumerable class of the workers the right to be assembled... They wanted to isolate the citizens and to prevent them from taking care jointly of the public affairs." The law Le Chapelier is the essential document of the revolutionary intentions of the middle-class, it is the touchstone of its decisions; it assigns the limits and the contents to the new freedom; it is the act of reserving all political power to one class only, even though it had gotten it with the help of hte people.
While the Assembly lays out ist legislative armament, the negotiations with the court succeed. The emigration tries to remove the king who flees from Paris on June 20 to join the army of the marquis de Bouillé. Recognized in Varennes, Louis XVI was brought back to Paris and remained prisoner at the Tuileries until the completion of the Constitution. This escape, official consent of the negociations with the court of Vienna, did not discourage the monarchist members of the Assembly. At the Club of the Jacobins the emotion was most energetic; the moderated elements disappeared from it one by one and the noise ran that Robespierre would become a dictator. Marat claimed the forfeiture of the king. The Club of Cordeliers deposed at the Field-of-March a petition, requiring the judgement of Louis XVI. Thousands signed the petition on July 17. This very evening, Bailly and La Fayette decided to disperse the crowd and gave order to shoot at the petitioners - 400 were dead or wounded. The Republic was outlined in the blood of the popular victims. But the national Assembly had justifiably described itself as Constituent. Louis XVI accepted the Constitution solemnly on September 14; and he swears the oath. He had no hope any more, except foreign intervention.
The Constitution of 1791 served as model for all other of the middle-class state. It was the Constitution of fortune. There are two kinds of citizens, active and passive. The active citizens are those who pay a tax equal to three working days. Camille Desmoulins exclaimed: "You made of Jesus a passive citizen. In your Constitution he would be neither voter nor active citizen." The active citizens designate the voters who pay a tax equal to two hundred working days. The State of 1791 was governed by 42.980 voting citizens - all the French fortune of the time. With the frontispice of the Constitution the count de Montmorency and the count de Castellane proposed to reproduce the Declaration of the rights of man. The Parisians had taken the Bastille and the peasants had burned the chartriers to save a revolution of the rich. And protective customs taxes completed this work. How many traffickers in the ports, traders in the cities, owners or industrials would have been happy if things remained as they were now! Why was it necessary that the idea of freedom had such a dynamism as to unceasingly attack the legislator? Its work achieved, that it thought to be final, the Constituent Assembly separated on September 30.
The Assembly which succeeded, elected according to the Constitution of 1791, was the legislative Assembly, representing the whole french middle-class. The deputies of the Gironde tried to calm the popular emotion without modifying any of the fundamental laws of the new order. Meanwhile, in the west of France, the peasants let were involved in a war organized and led by the aristocrats and the priests which revealed to the Parisian people by how many dangers it was threatened. The emperor and the king of Prussia had just published the declaration of Pilnitz and the emigrants, who had organized in Trier an army under the commands of the prince de Condé, announced their intention to restore Louis XVI in his prerogatives with the support of the european monarchs. They were wrong. The kings of Europe were very little concerned with Louis XVI and the weakness of France could only delight them. But for the Girondists, the essential task was to maintain the people under control of the middle-classes, to make it believe there were common interests. To divert its anger of an economic situation which remained miserable by drawing it up against the king and the foreign countries. Thus the war had a lot of advantages where the Girondists hoped to consolidate the laws which the middle-class revolution had voted during the last two years. Which war? Continuing its errors and obstinate in its awkwardnesses, the middle-class made again those same errors which it made formerly by acclaiming the defeat of Rosbach and by glorifiant Frederic II. Their enemy could be only Austria: wasn't Marie-Antoinette Austrian?
The war was declared on April 10, 1792. The army was missing of all and the defeat appeared certain to the king who obstinates. Now he has the courage to resist to the legislative Assembly, and opposes his veto to some decrees. Will the war liberate the court or save the middle-class? All depends on the people and the share that it will take. The obstination of Louis XVI revives the public emotion. There are not only the clubs in Paris to be its echo. The leaders of the political parties meet in disaffected religious buildings, in each district functions an inspection committee and from the Assembly to the club, the political thought will find its way to the common people, in these inspection committees, the force which it seemed to have lost since 89. One spoke so much about the leaders of the revolution that one could neglect the great social fact of the year 92, the permanence of the political life - formerly a painful shock, during all this time inactive - now, as a result of the social discussion, broad contest of the men entering more and more the debate. As for the Commune of Paris, its revolutionary potential seems to be renewed. The Constitution of 91 provided that the general consultings of the communes will be elected directly by the active citizens and not by their delegates, i.e. at the first degree. Whipped by the action of the committees and the clubs, the Commune of Paris becomes increasingly popular.
The English Revolution