The "Second Revolution" of 10 August 1792
The popular demonstration of 10 August 1792, occurred because the Legislative Assembly could not decide what to do about the King, the constitution, the ongoing war, and above all the political uprisings in Paris. On 4 August, the most radical Parisian section, "the Section of the 300s," issued an "ultimatum" to the Legislative Assembly, threatening an uprising if no action was taken by midnight August 9th. On the appointed evening, the tocsin (alarm) sounded from the bell tower, and a crowd gathered before the City Hall and headed toward the Tuileries Palace. The crowd overran the Swiss Guards defending the Tuileries Palace, from which the royal family fled. Here a member of the Paris municipality, Pierre–Louis Roederer, describes the scene. In Roederer’s account, it is the mob’s action rather than the vote of the assembly that deposes the King.
At half-past two (in the morning) I received the somewhat reassuring news that it had been difficult to get the crowds to assemble, that the citizens of the faubourgs were growing tired, and that it looked as if they would not march.
Soon afterwards (between three and four) it was reported to the ministers that Monsieur Manuel, the public prosecutor of the Commune had just given orders to withdraw the guns on the Pont-Neuf placed there by the Commandant-General in order to prevent the Faubourg Saint-Antoine from linking up with the Faubourg Saint-Marceau. The report added that Manuel had said to the Commune, "These cannon interfere with communications between the citizens of the two faubourgs. Together, they have to finish an important task today." The ministers discussed whether to replace the guns on the bridge despite Manuel's orders.
At about four o'clock, I was summoned, I do not know by whom or how, to a room where the Queen was seated near the fireplace with her back to the window. I believe the room was that of Thierry, the King's valet. The King was not there. As far as I can remember, I went in by the door of the small room where the ministers, the commissioners of the department, and I had held our meeting. I assume she sent for me after one of the ministers had communicated the results of our conference. . . . She asked me what should be done in the present circumstances. I replied that in my opinion, it was necessary for the King and the Royal Family to go to the National [Legislative] Assembly. Monsieur Dobouchage (a minister) said, "What, you propose to deliver the King to his enemies?" "Not so much his enemies," I said. "You forget that they voted 400 to 200 in favor of Monsieur de La Fayette. In any case I propose this action as being the least dangerous." Then, in a very positive tone, the Queen said, "Monsieur, there are forces at work here, and it is finally time to know who shall prevail—the King and the constitution, or the rebels." "In that case, Madame, let us see what measures have been taken for the defense."
Considering the circumstances, the Queen's remarks made me think that there was within the Palace a strong determination to fight and a faction that had promised the Queen a victory. I suspected that such a victory was needed to impress the National [Legislative] Assembly. All this filled me with confused fears of a resistance that would be both bloody and futile, and of a venture against the legislative body after the troops had withdrawn or been defeated. These anticipations added an unbearable burden to my responsibility. I insisted that the King should at least write to the National [Legislative] Assembly and ask for help.
In these circumstances, seeing that the group seemed resolved to wait out events in the Palace itself, I proposed to the departmental council that we should go to the Assembly, communicate the most recent reports, and entrust the decision to their wisdom. This proposal met with their liking and we started to walk to the Assembly. When we had come to a point opposite the café on the terrace of the Feuillants, we met the two ministers coming back. "Where are you going, gentlemen?" they said. "To the Assembly." "To do what?" "Ask for help, beg them to send a deputation or to summon the King and his family to the Chamber." "That is just what we have been doing—quite unsuccessfully. The Assembly scarcely listened to us. They are not in sufficient numbers to issue a decree: there are only sixty or eighty members present." These considerations caused us to stop. Moreover, we saw a crowd of unarmed people running along the terrace who would reach the Gate of the Feuillants at the same time as us, and several members feared that we should be cut off. So we turned about and walked back to the Tuileries.
The ministers went back up to the apartments. In the entrance my colleagues and I were stopped by some gunners who were posted with their cannons at the gate opening on the garden from the entrance-hall. In distressed tones a gunner said to us, "Gentlemen, will we have to fire on our brothers?" I replied, "You are here to guard this gate and prevent anyone from coming in. You will not have to fire at them unless they fire at you. And if they fire on you, they are not your brothers." Then my colleagues said to me, "You ought to go into the courtyard and tell that to the National Guards who are there. They all think they are going to be forced to attack and are tormented by the idea." Since I was tormented by the same thought after all that I had seen, I was very glad to do what they proposed. We walked through the hall and out into the courtyard. There were four or five pieces of artillery right in front of the Palace gate, as well as on the garden side. On the right there was a battalion of National Guards, grenadiers I believe, whose positions stretched from the Palace to the wall that closed the courtyard near the Carrousel. Parallel to them on the left was a battalion of Swiss Guards, and in the middle, at an equal distance from the Palace and the Royal Gate, were five or six artillery pieces facing the Carrousel.
. . . "We must hesitate no longer," I said to my colleagues. . . . "If you agree, I shall go up now and explain to the King the necessity for him and the Royal Family to go and submit themselves to the Legislative Assembly." They said, "Let us all go." I ran to the palace followed by the others. . . . Sire," I said, "the department wishes to speak with your Majesty without any witnesses other than your family." The King gave a sign for people to leave, which they did. Monsieur de Joly said, "The King's ministers should remain at His Majesty's side." "If the King so wishes, I see no objection, Sire," I continued in an urgent tone. "Your Majesty has not five minutes to lose. There is no safety for you except in the National [Legislative] Assembly. The opinion of the department is that you should proceed there without delay. You do not have enough men in the courtyards of the palace to defend the building and their will [to fight] is in question. As soon as they were told to remain on the defensive, they unloaded their cannons." "But," said the King, "I did not see many people at the Carrousel." "Sire, there are twelve cannons, and a huge crowd is streaming in from the faubourgs."
When we were under the trees opposite the café located on the terrace of the Feuillants, we walked through the leaves which had fallen during the night and which the gardeners had piled up in heaps. As they were in the King's path, we sank in them up to our knees. "What a lot of leaves!" said the King. "They have begun to fall very early this year." Several days before Manuel had written in a newspaper that the King would not last beyond the fall of the leaves. One of my colleagues told me that the Dauphin amused himself here by kicking the leaves into the legs of the persons walking in front of him.
Since we progressed very slowly, a deputation from the Legislative Assembly met us in the garden, some twenty-five paces from the terrace. As far as I can remember, the President said, "The Assembly is anxious to contribute to your safety and offers to you and your family refuge within." At that point I stopped walking in front of the King.
The King and his family reached the Assembly without hindrance. When they arrived at the gate of the passage leading into the building, there were several guards standing there and among them a National Guardsman from Provence, who placed himself on the King's left and said to him in his native accent: "Sire, don't be afraid. We are decent people, but we don't want to be betrayed any longer. Be a good citizen, Sire, and don't forget to sack those holy rollers out of the Palace. Don't forget. It's high time to do it." The King's reply was not lighthearted. He was the first to enter the Assembly. I followed him. There was a backup in the hallway which prevented the Queen and her son, whom she would not leave, from moving forward and following the King. I asked the Assembly if the National Guards who were obstructing the entrance, but could not go backwards because of the crowd behind them, could come into the chamber for a moment. Almost all of them were part of the Assembly's Guard. This caused a sharp hostile reaction in that part of the chamber called "the Mountain."
Pierre-Louis Roederer, Chronique de 50 jours, du 20 juin au 10 août 1792 (Paris, 1832), 352–79.