In July 1793, faced with a restive populace angered by continuing shortages of food in Paris, the Convention followed the lead of the sections in blaming the high price of bread on "profiteers" in the countryside, who were taking advantage of their fellow citizens by charging abnormally high prices for grain. This decree, the first of a series of such condemnations by the Convention, responded... Read More »
The abolition of the feudal system, which took place during the famous night session of 4–5 August 1789, was precipitated by the reading of a report on the misery and disturbances in the provinces. The voting was carried in a fervor of enthusiasm and excitement that made some later revision necessary. The decree given here was drawn up during the following days and contains some alterations... Read More »
News traveled slowly from the colonies back to France, and the first word of the emancipations in Saint Domingue aroused suspicion if not outright hostility in the National Convention. Many of the original members of the Society of the Friends of Blacks, such as Lafayette, Brissot, and Condorcet, had either fled the country or gone to their deaths at the guillotine for opposing the faction now... Read More »
After a three–month trial, the magistrates found Damiens guilty of parricide against the person of the King on 26 March 1757. In a final interrogation, Damiens is once again asked about accomplices. He then denies having them.
This watercolor painting illustrates the "demolition" of what the text refers to as the "horrible prison" of the Bastille. As workmen tear down the spires on the roof, ordinary people rip stones off the base. These stones soon became collectors’ items, souvenirs of the people’s role in the outbreak of the Revolution—and symbols of the way in which many more people wanted to commemorate the... Read More »
Once the uprising of May 1795 had been suppressed, the government set up a military tribunal, which gathered denunciations of presumed rioters. This one gives a good sense of the charges made and the kind of language used ("infernal sect of Jacobin terrorists, blood–drinkers, etc.").
Although 14 July 1790 was a high point in the aspiration for unity during the French Revolution, the preparation for the Estates–General set the stage for later problems. In this image, representatives of each of the three orders depart together in a cart for the 1789 meeting of the Estates–General at Versailles, where they will advise the King on behalf of the nation. The social differences... Read More »
The counterrevolution was a very large movement that would over time engulf different parts of France from 1793 into the Napoleonic period. But it was not one thing, for many regions of different ideologies were involved. The most serious was the revolt in the west, including both the Vendée (especially during 1793–94) and the Chouans (strongest in 1795–96). This engraving (and the following... Read More »
A common theme in libels was to compare the royal family to animals. This pamphlet parodies the Queen and her entourage as animals in a zoo, emphasizing how the courtly way of life at Versailles seemed bizarre to the rest of the French people. (The references to "royal veto" refer to the debate that took place over the power that the King should have under the new constitution to veto laws... Read More »
Camille Desmoulins, an aspiring journalist and author of an anti–aristocratic pamphlet, had been closely following political events. Like many observers, he interpreted Necker’s dismissal as evidence that the King would soon use the troops stationed in Paris to dispel the Estates–General and suppress any demonstrations. Upon receiving the news, he headed to the Palais Royal, a gathering place... Read More »