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10th of August (French Revolution)
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10th of August (French Revolution)

On August 10, 1792, during the French Revolution, a mob -- with the backing of a new municipal government of Paris that came to be known as the "insurrectionary" Paris Commune -- beseiged the Tuileries palace. King Louis XVI and the royal family took shelter with the Legislative Assembly. This proved to be the effective end of the French Monarchy (until it was restored in 1814). The formal end of the monarchy occurred six weeks later, as one of the first acts of business of the new Convention.

This insurrection and its outcome are most commonly referred to by historians of the Revolution simply as "the 10th of August"; other common designations include "the journée of the 10th of August" (French: journée du 10 août), "the insurrection of the 10th of August," or even "the revolution of the 10th of August."

Table of contents
1 The context
2 La Patrie en danger
3 Insurrectionism
4 The insurrection
5 The aftermath
6 See also
7 References
8 External link

The context

Through the first part of 1792, France had been moving slowly toward the first of the French Revolutionary Wars. In April, the king had taken the unprecedented step of forming a cabinet of revolutionary Girondins. On April 20, war was declared against Austria.

The initial battles were a disaster for the French, and Prussia joined Austria in active alliance against France (see First Coalition). However, a delay in their preparations gave France an opportunity to improve its army.

The Revolution at this time was moving into a more radical phase. The Legislative Assembly passed several decrees, notably one against non-juring priests, which the king refused to sign. This led in early June to a break between the king and his Girondist ministers. When the king formed a new cabinet mostly of constitutional monarchist Feuillants, this widened the breach between the king on the one hand and the the leaders of the Assembly and the majority of the common people of Paris on the other.

On June 20, the armed populace invaded the hall of the Assembly and the royal apartments in the Tuileries, but were repelled. The failure of the insurrection encouraged a movement in favour of the king. Lafayette attempted to use this opportunity to heal the breach, but was suspected by people, legislature, and court alike of mere personal ambition.

A last Girondist advance to Louis was rebuffed, and the Feuillants were in collapse. The Girondins now made a turn to the left and joined those ready to use force to overthrow the monarchy. Pierre Victurnien Vergniaud, in a speech to the Assembly directed toward the king the following rhetorical questions: "Did the constitution leave you the choice of ministers for our happiness or our ruin? Did it place you at the head of our army for our glory or our shame? Did it give you the right of sanction, a civil list and so many prerogatives, constitutionally to lose the empire and the constitution?" Brissot was event more direct: "I tell you to strike at the Tuileries... you are told to prosecute all factious and intriguing conspirators; they will all disappear if you once knock loud enough at the door of the cabinet of the Tuileries, for that cabinet is the point to which all these threads tend, where every scheme is plotted, and whence every impulse proceeds. The nation is the plaything of this cabinet. This is the secret of our position, this is the source of the evil, and here the remedy must be applied." [1]

La Patrie en danger

On July 5 the Assembly declared that the country was "in danger." All citizens able to bear arms, and having already served in the National Guard, were placed in active service; pikes were given to those who were unable to procure guns. Banners were placed in the public squares, bearing the words, "Citizens, the country is in danger!" On July 14 -- the third anniversary of the storming of the Bastille -- there were massive patriotic festivities. Pétion, dismissed as mayor of Paris for his conduct during the events of June 20 was restored to office. The constitutional monarchist grenadiers of the Filles-Saint-Thomas scuffled with the federates of Marseilles, but it was the last stand of the constitutional monarchist faction: the club of the Feuillants was closed; the grenadier and chasseur companies of the National Guard which formed the force of the bourgeoisie were disbanded.

Meanwhile, the allied Austrian and Prussian army was at length mustering on the frontier. The generally "constitutionalist" (monarchist) soldiers of the line, and a portion of the Swiss, were sent away from Paris. At the same time the National Guard -- up to now middle-class in character -- was opened to those from the lower classes. The Prussian Duke of Brunswick's famous declaration of July 25, 1792 -- announcing that the allies would enter France to restore the royal authority and would visit the Assembly and the city of Paris with military execution if any further outrage were offered to the king -- became known in Paris on August 1 and heated the republican spirit to revolutionary fury.


The ruling spirit of this new revolution was Danton, a barrister only thirty-two years old, who had not sat in either Assembly, although he had been the leader of the Cordeliers, an advanced republican club, and had a strong hold on the common people of Paris. Danton and his friends and allies -- Robespierre, Camille Desmoulins, Fabre d'Églantine, Marat, etc. -- were assisted in their work by the fear of invasion.

Volunteers and fédérés\ were constantly arriving in Paris, and, although most went on to join the army, the Jacobins enlisted those who were suitable for their purpose, especially some 500 whom Barbaroux, a Girondin, had summoned from Marseilles. François Mignet writes, "Their enterprise had been projected and suspended several times. On the 26th of July, an insurrection was to break out; but it was badly contrived, and Pétion prevented it. When the federates from Marseilles arrived, on their way to the camp at Soissons, the faubourgs were to meet them, and then repair, unexpectedly, to the château. This insurrection also failed." [1] It was resolved to strike the decisive blow on August 10.

The political clubs openly discussed the dethronement of the king, and on August 3 Pétion spoke to the Assembly, soliciting an end to the monarchy in the name of the commune and of the sections. On August 8, the accusation of Lafayette was discussed; he was acquitted; but (again quoting Mignet), "all who had voted for him were hissed, pursued, and ill treated by the people at the breaking up of the sitting." [1] This harrassment extended to death threats and invasions of their homes. Hector de Joly, the minister of justice wrote to the president of the Assembly, "I have denounced these attacks in the criminal court; but law is powerless; and I am impelled by honour and probity to inform you, that without the promptest assistance of the legislative body, the government can no longer be responsible." [1]

The insurrection

The populace were unwilling to wait on the result of Pétion's attempts to pursue matters through legislative channels. The section of the Quinze-vingts declared on August 8 that, if the dethronement were not pronounced that very day, at midnight they would sound the tocsin and attack the royal residence at the Tuileries. Of the forty-eight sections of Paris, all but one concurred. Pétion informed the Legislative Assembly that the sections had "resumed their sovereignty" and that he had no power over the people other than that of persuasion.

On the night of August 9 a new revolutionary Paris Commune took possession of the Hôtel de Ville (the seat of city government). The plan of the Jacobins of the Assembly, supported by the armed fédérés, was to dissolve the département of Paris, to dismiss Pétion, and to institute an insurrectionary commune (municipal government), then to assault the Tuileries.

At midnight, the tocsin sounded. The insurgents named a provisional council of the commune, which proceeded to the Hôtel de Ville to direct the insurrection. Pétion was at the Tuileries, where he had been summoned by the king, who wished to ascertain from him the state of Paris, and obtain an authorization to repel force by force.

A portion of the Assembly, aroused by the tocsin, had gone into emergency session under the presidentship of Vergniaud. Hearing that Pétion was at the Tuileries, they presumed he was detained there and wanted to be released. They now summoned him, as the king had earlier, to give an account of the state of Paris. He came, as requested. A deputation from the Hôtel de Ville inquired for him at the Assembly, also supposing him to be a prisoner at the Tuileries. He left with them and effectively became a prisoner of the insurrectionist commune, under a guard of three hundred men.

The new commune also summoned the Marquis de Mandat, commander of the National Guard forces guarding the Tuileries. Unaware of the change of regime at the Hôtel de Ville, he obeyed the summons; he was accused of authorizing the troops to fire on the people. He was ordered to the Abbaye, but, in the event, the mob murdered him as he was leaving the Hôtel de Ville. The commune immediately conferred the command of the national guard on Santerre.

Pierre Louis Roederer, the recorder of the Paris départment, passed the night at the Tuileries. As the preparations of the Jacobins had been notorious, some measures of defence had been taken. Roederer's Chronique des Cinquante Jours records that at about four in the morning Queen Marie Antoinette summoned him, and he advised that the king and the royal family should proceed to the Legislative Assembly. "You propose," said Dubouchage, "to take the king to his foes." Roederer pointed out that only two days earlier two thirds of the Assembly had pronounced in favour of Lafayette, and argued that this plan was the least dangerous. The queen, however, opted to resist with force, and Roederer acquiesced.

Laschenaye , commanding the troops in Mandat's absence, said that the National Guard troops were ready on the defensive, but he protested the presence of the aristocratic irregulars. Mandat had earlier vainly urged the queen to dismiss these gentlemen, because their presence discouraged the zeal of the constitutionalists. Like Mandat before him, Laschenayewas rebuked by the queen: "I will answer for those who are here; they will advance first or last, in the ranks, as you please; they are ready for all that is necessary; they are sure men." De Joly and Champion were sent to the Assembly to apprise it of the danger, and to ask for its assistance and for commissioners.

Early on the morning of August 10 the insurgents assailed the Tuileries. Beside a few gentlemen in arms and a number of present and former National Guards (including recently dismissed officers), the palace was garrisoned by the Swiss Guard, about 950 strong. However, Mandat's departure and subsequent death significantly affected the situation. The National Guard would probably (at least according to Mignet) have obeyed orders from Mandat to employ force against the multitude. However, finding themselves side by side with nobles and royalists and lacking their own commander, they now either dispersed or fraternised with the assailants.

Even without the National Guards, the disparity of force was not so great as to make resistance altogether hopeless. But Louis let himself be persuaded into betraying his own cause and retiring with his family under the shelter of the Assembly. The Swiss Guard stood firm, and, possibly by accident, a fusillade began. The enemy were gaining ground when the Swiss received an order from the king to cease firing and withdraw. They were mostly shot down as they were retiring, and of those who surrendered many were murdered in cold blood next day.

The aftermath

The aftermath was to be six weeks of chaos, resulting in the end of the monarchy and the replacement of the Legislative Assembly by the new Convention. During this six weeks, the insurrectionary Paris Commune held more actual power than the Assembly. It demanded and received custody of the royal family, obtained indefinite powers of arrest, and instigated the September Massacres, in which over a 1400 of those arrested were killed in the prisons.

A shrunken remnant of the Legislative Assembly, almost all of them Jacobins, suspended the king from office and called for a convention to give France a new constitution. An ad hoc executive council was established, but it had no root in law and little hold on public opinion. When Lafayette's troops would not follow him to Paris to defend the Constitution of 1791, he chose to surrender himself to the Austrians.

The elections to the Convention were by almost universal suffrage, but indifference or intimidation reduced the voters to a small number. Many who had sat in the National Constituent Assembly and many more who had sat in the Legislative Assembly were returned. The Convention met on September 20 and became the new de facto government of France. One of its first acts was to abolish the monarchy.

See also


External link