The France Revolution 2

The France Revolution Part II


After nine months, through a long and complicated system but in the most authentic freedom, the elections ended, and on May 5, 1789 the inaugural session of the States General was held in Versailles: everything was discussed except the question of the modality of the vote, without which the assembly could not have worked. The third state decided to invite the other two orders to meet with it for the verification of the powers of all the deputies and meanwhile to consider itself a simple private assembly. After more than a month of futile negotiations with the other two orders, the third estate had already started by itself the verification of the powers of the deputies on June 12, when in the following days the lower clergy broke the union of the privileged classes and came to join it, and then the third state proclaimed itself a National Assembly (June 17). Faced with this act, the king, pushed by the nobles, decided to impose on the assembly with a lit de justice the vote by order, and in the meantime he could not do anything but close the room where the deputies of the third estate met, who naturally did nothing but change the room, and on June 20 they swore not to separate before giving a constitution to France, preventing, following the example of the parliaments, the arbitrary act of the king with an act of resistance and legal rebellion. The lit de justice was held on 23 June: the king imposed the vote by order and invited the deputies to dissolve to meet in the following days in separate chambers. Nobility and clergy obeyed, but the third estate obeyed the injunctions of the court master of ceremonies De Brézé opposed the majesty of the assembly and that same evening proclaimed the inviolability of the deputies, all by Mirabeau, the best endowed with political sense of the assembly. The king did not have the heart to be obeyed. It was the decisive day of the revolution: sovereignty passed with its attributes from the monarchy to the people. On June 24 the clergy joined the third estate, on the 25th, 47 nobles imitated him, on the 27th the king invited all the other nobles to follow them.

According to franciscogardening, the National Assembly triumphed, but the king contemplated his revenge; he dismissed the Necker on 11 July, called the Baron de Breteuil to the ministry, and began to concentrate troops around Paris. Before the reactionary intentions took shape, with a quick political intuition, the revolutionary forces nipped them in the bud. The famine due to the bad harvest, the high price of bread and basic necessities, the unemployment following the industrial crisis produced by the invasions of English goods after the trade treaty of 1786, produced in the masses a continuous state of malaise and of nervousness. The third state was able to take advantage of this natural and elementary revolutionary ferment, for its own purposes and to intimidate the monarchy. On July 12, the Parisian people, excited by Desmoulins, by the agents of the assembly and by those of the Duke of Orleans he began to get agitated. The French guards fraternized with the people. General Bezenval, commander of the troops massed at the Field of Mars, without court orders, cleared Paris. A standing committee, a real insurrection committee, was installed at the Hôtel de Ville. The crowd, armed to the Invalids, stormed the Bastille on July 14, razed it to the ground and killed its commander De Launay. The head of the ancient municipality, the provost of the merchants, De Flexelles, having opposed the motion, was slain. A new municipality, at the head of which was placed the Bailly as maire, replaced the old one and had at its disposal an armed force, which later called itself the national guard, under the command of La Fayette. The king, terrified by this news, dismissed Breteuil, recalled Necker and went to Paris, where he had to recognize the new revolutionary flag, the tricolor. The Count d’Artois and his followers left France and the noble emigration began.

The Parisian revolt had not only an immense moral repercussion abroad, where the storming of the Bastille became a symbol, but also an immediate repercussion in the country, and produced two revolutions, partly competing, partly diverging. The first, a communal revolution, displaced the old medieval municipal forms in all cities and placed permanent committees and national guards in their place. The powers of the intendants fell: France from a tendentially centralizing state was suddenly transformed into a federation of municipalities. The second agrarian revolution was preceded by a phenomenon of collective panic (la grande peur): in the countryside the rumor spread that flocks of brigands were running around; the peasants took up arms, but not seeing brigands coming, they turned against the feudal castles, sacking them, beating or killing their noble owners, and effectively abolishing feudalism, although the bourgeoisie of the cities, owners of land or usufructuary of feudal income, sent guards nationals to put the order.

The France Revolution 2