The Great French Revolution, 1789-1793

By Peter Kropotkin (1909)

Entry 207


From: holdoffhunger [id: 1]


Untitled Anarchism The Great French Revolution, 1789-1793

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(1842 - 1921)

Russian Father of Anarcho-Communism

: As anarchism's most important philosophers he was in great demand as a writer and contributed to the journals edited by Benjamin Tucker (Liberty), Albert Parsons (Alarm) and Johann Most (Freiheit). Tucker praised Kropotkin's publication as "the most scholarly anarchist journal in existence." (From: Spartacus Educational Bio.)
• "...all that is necessary for production-- the land, the mines, the highways, machinery, food, shelter, education, knowledge--all have been seized by the few in the course of that long story of robbery, enforced migration and wars, of ignorance and oppression..." (From: "The Conquest of Bread," by Peter Kropotkin, 1906.)
• "To recognize all men as equal and to renounce government of man by man is another increase of individual liberty in a degree which no other form of association has ever admitted even as a dream." (From: "Communism and Anarchy," by Peter Kropotkin, 1901.)
• "...outside of anarchism there is no such thing as revolution." (From: "Revolutionary Government," by Peter Kropotkin, 18....)


70 Chapters | 201,813 Words | 1,257,437 Characters

The more one studies the French Revolution the clearer it is how incomplete is the history of that great epoch, how many gaps in it remain to be filled, how many points demand elucidation. How could it be otherwise? The Great Revolution, that set all Europe astir, that overthrew everything, and began the task of universal reconstruction in the course of a few years, was the working of cosmic forces dissolving and re-creating a world. And if in the writings of the historians who deal with that period and especially of Michelet, we admire the immense work they have accomplished in disentangling and coordinating the innumerable facts of the various parallel movements that made up the Revolution, we realize at the same time the vastness of the ... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Main causes of Great Revolution -- Previous risings -- Union of middle classes and people necessary -- Importance of part played by people Two great currents prepared and made the Great French Revolution. One of them, the current of ideas, concerning the political reorganization of States, came from the middle classes; the other, the current of action, came from the people, both peasants. and workers in towns, who wanted to obtain immediate and definite improvements in their economic condition. And when these two currents met and joined in the endeavor to realize an aim. wllich for some time was common to both, when they had helped each other for a certain time, the result was the Revolution. The eighteenth-century ... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Modern States -- Influence of English and American Revolutions on French Revolution -- Condition and aims of middle classes -- Centralization of authority -- Attitude towards peasants -- Influence of eighteenth-century philosophy To understand fully the idea which inspired the middle classes in 1789 we must consider it in the light of its results--the modern States. The structure of the law-and-order States which we see in Europe at present was only outlined at the end of the eighteenth century. The system of centralized authority, now in full working order, had not then attained either the perfection or uniformity it possesses to-day. That formidable mechanism, by which an order sent from a certain capital puts in moti... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
The people -- Revolution and Socialism Equal rights of all to land "Communism" -- Situation not clearly understood by people -- Hatred of poor towards aristocracy and clergy -- Hatred of feudalism -- People's readiness to take up arms But what of the people? What was their idea? The people, too, had felt to a certain extent the influence of the current philosophy. By a thousand indirect channels the great principles of liberty and enfranchisement had filtered down to the villages and the suburbs of the large towns. Respect for royalty and aristocracy was passing away. Ideas of equality were penetrating to the very lowest ranks. Gleams of revolt flashed through many minds. The hope of an approaching change throbbed in the he... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Condition of people previous to 1789 -- Wanton luxury of aristocrats -- Poverty of majority of peasants -- Rise and importance of well-to-do peasant class It would be waste of time to describe here at any length the condition of the peasants in the country and of the poorer classes in the towns on the eve of 1789. All the historians who have written about the great French Revolution have devoted eloquent pages to this subject. The people groaned under the burden of taxes levied by the State, rents and contributions paid to the lord, tithes collected by the clergy, as well as under the forced labor exacted by all three. Entire populations were reduced to beggary and wandered on the roads to the number of five, ten or twenty thousand me... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Reforms at beginning of reign of Louis XVI -- Turgot -- Question of National Representation -- Character of Louis XVI -- Revolution in America Riots on accession of Louis -- Their consequences -- Large towns revolt in turn -- "Parliaments" and "Plenary Courts" -- Paris parliament refuses to grant money to Court -- Action of King -- Insurrections in Brittany -- Grenoble -- Queen's letter to Count de Mercy -- Gradual awakening of revolutionary spirit -- Louis compelled to convoke Assembly of Notables and States-General As is usual in every new reign, that of Louis XVI began with some reforms. Two months after his accession Louis XVI summoned Turgot to the ministry, and a month later he appointed him Controller-General of Finance. He eve... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Irresponsibility of old régime -- Miserable condition of peasants -- Discontent of middle classes -- They encourage riots among the people -- Change in political system of France -- Necker -- Financial crisis -- Assembly of Notables convoked -- Louis convokes States General -- Increased representation granted to Third Estate To any one who knew the condition of France it was clear that the irresponsible régime of the Court could not last. The misery in the country districts went on increasing year by year, and it became more and more difficult to levy the taxes and at the same time compel the peasants to pay rent to the landlords and perform the innumerable statute labors exacted by the provincial government. The taxe... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Heroism of middle classes at beginning of Revolution over rated -- Abolition of serfdom -- Statute labor and other impositions upon peasants -- Failure of crops in 1778 -- Riots follow -- Nature of riots -- "Vive la Liberté!" -- Riots at Agde -- Concessions granted to people -- Effect of riots on elections -- Agitation in rural districts -- Importance of peasant insurrection Nothing could be more erroneous than to imagine or describe France as a nation of heroes on the eve of 1789, and Quinet was perfectly right in destroying this legend, which some historians had tried to propagate. It is evident that if we were to collect into a few pages the occasional instances, very rare after all, of open resistance to the old ré... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Activity in Paris -- "Réveillon Affair" -- First conflict between people of Paris and rich -- "English gold"-Paris becomes center of Revolution Under such conditions it is easy to imagine that Paris could not remain quiet. Famine had set its grip upon the rural districts in the neighborhood of the great city, as elsewhere. Provisions were as scarce in Paris as in the other large towns, and those who came in search of work could do nothing more than simply increase the multitude of the poor, especially in prospect of the great events which every one felt were on the way. Towards the end of winter--in March and April--some hunger-riots and pillagings of corn are mentioned in the reports of the Governors of the provinces at Or... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Opening of States General -- King's distrust -- People not represented -- "Third Estate" -- Establishment of National Assembly -- Oath in Tennis Court -- King annuls resolutions of Assembly -- Speech of Mirabeau -- People threaten force On May 4, 1789, the twelve hundred deputies of the States-General assembled at Versailles, repaired to the church of Saint Louis to hear Mass in connection with the opening ceremony, and the next day the King opened the session in the presence of a crowd of spectators. And already from this opening meeting the tragic inevitability of the Revolution began to unfold itself. The King felt nothing but distrust towards the representatives of the nation whom he had convoked. He had at last resigned himse... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
The 14th of July -- Middle classes distrust people Royalists prepare coup d'état -- Middle classes urge people to arm- People seize Bastille -- Middle classes restore order-King and feudal rights -- Effect of Royal Session-Atmosphere of conspiracy at Court -- Foundation of Breton Club -- Mirabeau and people -- Necker tries to avert famine -- Incompetence of National Assembly -- Royalist plotting continues -- Petition of Assembly The accepted account of July 14 runs as follows: The National Assembly was sitting. At the end of June, after two months of parleying and hesitations, the Three Orders were at last united. The power was slipping from the grasp of the Court, which began, therefore, to prepare a coup d'état. Troop... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Revolution centered in Paris, not in Assembly -- Paris ready to rise -- Districts organize people -- Arrest of soldiers of Gardes françaises -- Scarcity of bread -- Fury of people increases -- Dismissal of Necker -- Camille Desmoulins appeals to arms -- Struggle begins -- Tocsin rung -- People procure food and arms -- Permanent Committee instituted -- Formation of National Guard-Middle classes try to disarm people The attention of the historians is generally absorbed by the National Assembly. The representatives of the people assembled at Versailles seem to personify the Revolution, and their last words or acts are chronicled with pious devotion. Nevertheless, it was not there that the passionate heart of the Revolution was th... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
"A Ia Bastilie!" -- Importance of Bastille -- Popular hatred of prison -- Guns taken from Hôtel des Invalides-Deputations sent to do Launey -- Attack on Bastille begins -- Defenders fire on people -- Another deputation sent -- Firing continues -- Cannon arrives for people -- Garrison capitulates -- Deaths of de Launey and Flesselles-First victory of people From the dawn of July 14, the attention of the Paris insurrection was directed upon the Bastille, that gloomy fortress with its solid towers of formidable height which reared itself among the houses of a populous quarter at the entrance of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Historians are still inquiring how the thoughts of the people came to be turned in this direction, and some of ... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
fête at Versaille -- State of Court -- Conduct of people -- Middle classes -- King visits Paris-His plans of armed resistance come to nothing -- Insurrection in Paris spread-Emigration of nobles -- Founlon and others put to death When a revolution has once begun, each event in it not merely sums up the events hitherto accomplished; it also contains the chief elements of what is to come; so that the contemporaries of the French Revolution, if they could only have freed themselves from the momentary impressions, and separated the essential from the accidental, might have been able, on the morrow of July 14, to foresee whither events as a whole were thenceforth trending. But even on the evening of the 13th, the Court attached no im... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Necessity of popular risings outside Paris -- Effect of taking of Bastille over-estimated -- Difference between French and English Peasant risings -- Importance of peasant insurrection Paris, by frustrating the plans of the Court had struck a mortal blow at royal authority. Besides this, the appearance in the streets of people in rags, as an active force in the Revolution, was giving a new character, a new tendency of equality to the whole movement. The rich and powerful understood perfectly the meaning of what had been going on in Paris during those days, and the emigration, first of the princes, then of the favorites and the monopolists, accentuated the victory. The Court was already seeking the aid of the foreigner against revolutio... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Condition of municipal institutions -- Feudal rights still exist -- Need of municipal reform -- Townspeople revolt -- New municipality voted -- Importance of communalist movement -- Paris Commune -- Other cities follow -- Troubles at Strasbourg -- New corporation constituted -- Middle classes freed from feudalism -- Riots in Troyes, Amiens and other cities -- Significance of popular action during Revolution In the eighteenth century the municipal institutions had fallen to utter decay, owing to the numerous measures taken by royal authority against them for two hundred years. Since the abolition of the plenary assembly of the townspeople, which formerly had the control of urban justice and administration, the affairs of the large citi... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Peasants begin to rise -- Causes of risings -- Châteaux destroyed -- Rising in Alsace -- Franche -- Comté -- Castres -- Auvergne Characteristics of rising -- Middle classes and their fears Picardy revolts -- Terror throughout France -- National Assembly meets Ever since the winter of 1788, and especially since March 1789, the people, as we have said, no longer paid rent to the lords. That in this they were encouraged by the revolutionaries of the middle classes is undoubtedly true; there were many persons among the middle classes of 1789 who understood that without a popular rising they would never have the upper hand over the absolute power of the King. It is clear, also, that the discussions in the Assembly of the Notabl... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Night of August 4 -- Aristocracy pretends to relinquish feudal rights -- Assembly begs King to take action -- D'Aiguillon and de Noailles take up cause of peasants -- Their great speeches -- Le Guen de Kérangall-Scene in Assembly -- Extent of actual concessions -- Effect of news in provinces -- Middle classes take up arms against peasants The night of August 4 is one of the great dates of the Revolution. Like July 14 and October 15, 1789, June 21, 1791, August 10, 1792, and May 31, 1793, it marked one of the great stages in the revolutionary movement, and it determined the character of the period which follows it. The historic legend is lovingly used to embellish this night, and the majority of historians, copying the story as ... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Assembly and feudal privileges -- Survivals of Serfdom -- Obligations to feudal lord -- Lords try to backout of their promises -- Church tithes abolished in theory but not in practice -- Disappointment of peasants -- Game laws -- Feudal rights -- Personal servitude alone abolished -- Other dues remain -- Redemption of land rendered impossible -- Effect of vagueness of Assembly -- Article of August 4, 1789, not to be taken literally -- Peasants refuse to pay -- King the rallying-point of feudalism -- Tactics of Assembly -- Its resolutions finally published by the King. When the Assembly met again on August 5 to draw up, under the form of resolutions, the list of renunciations which had en made during the historic night of the 4th, one c... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Meaning and significance of Declaration -- Modeled on Declaration of Independence -- Its defects -- Its influence -- "Preamble to the Constitution" -- Defiance of feudalism A few days after the taking of the Bastille the Constitution Committee of the National Assembly met to discuss the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen." The idea of issuing such a declaration, suggested by the famous Declaration of Independence of the United States, was perfectly right. Since a revolution was in course of accomplishment, a complete change in the relations between the various ranks of society would result from it, it was well to state its general principles before this change was expressed in the form of a Constitution. By this means... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
King refuses to sanction Declaration -- Middle classes and people in opposition to royalty -- Influence of people on upper classes -- Power of King's veto during Revolution -- Assembly refuse King the veto, but grant him the suspensive veto -- Weakness of Assembly -- Scarcity of food in Paris -- Accusations against royal family and people at Court -- Danger of national bankruptcy -- Plans for King's escape -- Influence of history of Charles I. on Louis XVI -- His terror of Revolution -- Plotting continues -- Preparations for march on Versailles -- Precautions of King -- Outbreak of insurrection -- March on Versailles -- Queen chief object of people's animosity -- Entry of women into Versailles -- King sanctions Declaration of Rights of Man ... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Unexpected reaction sets in -- Exultation of revolutionists -- Their misconception of the situation -- Reaction versus Revolution -- Aims of middle classes -- Assembly, afraid of people, strengthens its position -- Council of Three Hundred establishes its authority -- Importance of Bailly and Lafayette -- Martial law voted -- Marat, Robespierre and Buzot alone protest -- Intrigues of Duke of Orléans and Count de Provence -- Mirabeau -- Aims of educated middle class -- Duport, Charles de Lameth and Barnavo -- Bailly and Lafayette -- Alarm of middle classes at insurrection -- Proposal of Sieyès accepted -- Ancient feudal divisions abolished -- France divided into departments -- Electoral Assemblies -- Difference between passive ... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Necessity of avoiding bankruptcy -- Assembly determine to seize Church property -- Value of Church revenue -- Its unequal distribution -- Proposals of Bishop of Autun -- Alarm of wealthy clergy -- Delight of middle classes -- Expropriation voted -- Suppression of monastic orders -- Paper currency -- Administration of Church property transferred to municipalities -- Clergy henceforward deadly enemies of Revolution -- Organization of French Church -- Effects of new organization -- Constituent Assembly works essentially for middle class -- Need of "wind from the street" The greatest difficulty for the Revolution was that it had to make its way in the midst of frightful economic circumstances. State bankruptcy was still hanging threateni... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
End of the first period of Revolution -- Duel between King and Assembly -- King bribes Mirabeau -- He finds tools among middle class -- Enemies of Revolution among all classes -- Period of plots and counter-plots -- The Fête of the Federation -- Meaning of the fête -- Joy of the people With the removal of the King and the Assembly from Versailles to Paris the first period--the heroic period, so to speak, of the Great Revolution--ended. The meeting of the States-General, the Royal Session of June 23, the Oath of the Tennis Court, the taking of the Bastille, the revolt of the cities and villages in July and August, the night of August 4, and finally the march of the women on Versailles and their triumphal return with the King... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Creation of Communes -- Their power -- Village Communes -- Municipal Communes -- Commune of Paris -- Soul of Revolution -- Erroneous conception of Communes -- Electoral divisions of Paris -- Districts useful for organization of Revolution -- Varied constitution of districts -- Germ of Commune-Lacroix on districts -- Independence of districts -- Link between Paris and provincial towns -- Sections become instruments of federation We have seen how the Revolution began with popular risings ever since the first months of 1789. To make a revolution it is not, however, enough that there should be such risings--more or less successful. It is necessary that after the risings there should be left something new in the institutions, which would pe... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Commune of Paris-Permanence of sectional assemblies -- Distrust of executive power -- Local power necessary to carry out Revolution -- National Assembly tries to lessen power of districts -- Municipal law of May -- June 1790 -- Impotence of attacks of Assembly -- Municipal law ignored -- Sections the center of revolutionary initiative -- Civic committees -- Increasing power of sections -- Charity-bureaux and charity workshops administered by sections -- Cultivation of waste land Our contemporaries have allowed themselves to be so won over to ideas of subjection to the centralized State that the very idea of communal independence-to call it "autonomy" would not be enough-which was current in 1789, seems arrange nowadays. M. L. Foubert,1... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
The people desire to abolish feudal system -- Aims of middle classes -- Gradual estrangement of middle classes and people -- "Anarchists" -- "Girondins" -- Importance of feudal question in Revolution -- August 4, 1789 -- Reactionary party gains ground -- Honorary rights and profitable rights -- Decrees of February 27, 1790 -- Feudalism still oppresses peasants -- Difficulties of peasants According as the Revolution progressed, the two currents of which we have spoken in the beginning of this book, the popular current and the middle-class current, became more clearly defined-especially in economic affairs. The people strove to put an end to the feudal system, and they ardently desired equality as well as liberty. Seeing delays, therefo... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
New laws support feudal system -- Sagnac's opinion of them -- Attempts to collect feudal dues resisted-Insurrection spreads -- Spurious decrees excite further risings -- Peasants demand "Maximum" and restoration of communal lands -- Revolution fixes price of bread -- Middle-class suppressions -- Draconian laws against peasants (June 1790) -- Tithes to be paid one year longer -- Summary of laws to protect property -- Articles of peasants' demands Thus it was that the National Assembly, profiting by the temporary lull in the peasant insurrections during the winter, passed in 1790, laws which in reality gave a new legal basis to the feudal system. Lest it should be believed that this is our own interpretation of the legislation of the A... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Insurrections necessary -- Extent of reaction -- Work of Constituent and Legislative Assemblies -- New Constitution-Local government opposed to centralization-Difficulties in applying new laws -- Directoires on side of reaction -- "Disorder wanted" -- Active and passive citizens -- The gains of insurrection -- Equality and agrarian law -- Disappearance of manorial courts-Workers' demands answered by bullets -- Middle classes' love of order and prosperity -- "Intellectuals" turn against people -- Success of counter-revolution -- Plutocracy -- Opposition to republican form of government -- Danton and Marat persecuted and exiled -- Discontent and dishonesty in army -- Massacres at Nancy -- Bouillé's "splendid behavior" We have seen... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
June 21, 1791 -- Royalist plot -- Flight to Varennes -- Drouet pursues King -- Decision of people -- Effect of this decision-France without a King -- Middle classes recant -- Causes of their reaction -- King declared reestablished -- Massacre of republicans -- Danton escapes to England -- Robert, Marat and Féron go into hiding -- Electoral rights of people further restricted -- King takes oath to Constitution -- Constituent Assembly dissolved -- Legislative Assembly obtains power -- Views of Marat and Desmoulins -- Reaction continues -- Treason in the air The Great Revolution is full of events, tragic in the highest degree. The taking of the Bastille, the march of the women on Versailles, the attack on the Tuileries, the execut... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
King and Assembly -- Fear of foreign invasion -- Feuillants and Girondins -- Count d'Artois and Count de Provence -- Emigration of nobles -- Assembly summon Count de Provence and émirgrés to return -- Declaration of war against Austria -- Fall of royalist Ministry -- Girondins in power -- Was war necessary? -- Equalization of wealth -- Socialistic ideas of people -- Mayor of Etampes killed by peasants -- Robespierre and agrarian law -- Middle classes rally round royalty -- Royalist coup d'etat imminent -- Lafayette's letter to Assembly The new National Assembly, elected by active citizens only, which took the name of National Legislative Assembly, met October 1, 1791, and from the first moment, the King, encouraged by th... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Condition of provinces -- Coblentz center of royalist plots -- Counter-revolutionary federation -- Loyalist activity -- Royalists receive money from Pitt, and help from other Powers -- Risings and counter-risings in provinces When studying the Great Revolution, one is so much attracted the magnitude of the struggles which unfolded themselves in Paris, that one is tempted to neglect the condition of the provinces, and to overlook the power which the counter-revolution possessed there all the time. This power, however, was enormous. The counter-revolution had for it the support of the past centuries, and the interests of the present; and it is necessary to study it in order to understand how small is the power of ... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
State of Revolution at beginning of 1792 -- Constitution lacks power -- Legislative Assembly -- Preparations of counter-revolutionists -- People recognize dangers of Revolution -- Jacobin fears -- Great republican demonstration -- Effect of demonstration--Republican leaders imprisoned -- Assembly and Revolution -- "The Lamourette kiss" -- People decide to do away with royalty -- Critical point of Revolution -- Girondins warn King -- Their fears of popular revolution -- Despair of Marat and patriots -- Royalist hopes -- Petty disputes of revolutionists We see, by what has just been said, in what a deplorable condition the Revolution was in the early months of 1792. If the middle-class revolutionists could feel ... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Peasants ignore feudal system -- Change in state of France -- Royalist plans -- Administration -- Army -- Lafayette -- Feudal laws -- King and Germans -- Revolutionists fear popular risings -- Robespierre -- Revolutionary leaders at length join hands -- People prepare to strike -- New '"commune" springs up -- August 10 -- Royalists anticipate victory -- Indecision of Assemble -- Abolition of royalty -- Triumph of popular revolution -- Decrees passed under compulsion by Assembly -- Feudal laws -- Lands of emigres -- Proposal of Maihe-Legislative Assembly dissolves -- Commune of Paris We have seen what was the condition of France during the summer of 1792. For three years the country had been in open revolution and a return to the old... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
People demand justice -- Suspension of King -- Danger of German invasion -- Heroism of people -- Royalists and Germans -- Despair of people -- Popularity of Lafayette -- Position of middle-class landowners -- Royalist plots for King's escape -- Activity of Commune -- Revolutionary army organized -- Character of Revolution changes -- Struggle between Assembly and Commune -- Surrender of Longwy -- Exultation of Royalists -- Royalist conspirators acquitted -- Royalist houses searched -- Nearly two thousand arrests -- Assembly orders Great Council of Commune to dissolve -- Commune refuses to obey -- Royalist plan disclosed -- Siege of Verdun -- Indiguation of revolutionists The people of Paris wept for their dead; and loudly demanded just... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
People roused to fury -- Massacres at Abbaye prison -- Commune tries to put an end to massacres -- Massacres continue -- Attitude of Girondins -- Explanation of massacres -- Address of Assembly to people -- End of massacres The tocsin sounding all over Paris, the drums beating in the streets, the alarum‑gun, the reports of which rang out every quarter of an hour, the songs of the volunteers setting out for the frontier, all contributed that Sunday, September 2, to rouse the anger of the people to fury. Soon after midday, crowds began to gather around the prisons. Some priests who were being transferred from the Town Hall to the Abbaye prison, to the number of twenty-five,[1] in closed carriages, were assailed in the streets by t... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Convention formed -- Its composition -- Girondins -- Mountain -- Plain or Marsh -- Activity of sections since their formation -- Revolutionary Commune -- Jacobin Club and -- Mountain -- Jacobins support "Mountain," but oppose Girondins On September 21, 1792, the Convention, that Assembly which has been so often represented as the true type, the ideal of a revolutionary Assembly, was at last opened. The elections had been made by all the citizens, both active and passive, but still in two degrees, which means that all the citizens had first elected the electoral assemblies, and these had nominated the deputies to the Convention. Such a mode of election was clearly in favor of the wealthy; but as the elections took place in September, in... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
New Ministerial Council -- Danton, at first its leader, later forced to resign -- Roland succeeds him -- Council inactive -- Real power in hands of Danton Commune, Sections and Jacobins -- Council attacks Danton, Marat, and Robespierre -- Conflict between convention and Commune -- Provinces become hostile to Commune and people of Paris -- Girondins attack Paris sections -- Revolution and war -- Girondins desire war Peasants of frontier enthusiastic -- Western France not eager -- Country unprepared -- Plan of Dumouriez and Lafayette -- Germans advance -- Battle of Valmy -- Danton negotiates with Duke Of Brunswick -- Further republican successes -- Battle of Jemmapes -- England -- Consequences of war -- The Vendée The first care o... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Fate of King undecided -- Reason of delay -- Trial determined on -- Gamain betrays the King -- Obstacles in way of trial -- Justification of trial -- Marie-Antoinette and Fersen -- Girondins try to prevent trial by attacking "Mountain" -- King appears before Convention -- Death sentence pronounced -- Execution of King The two months which elapsed between the opening of the Convention and the trial of the King remain up till now an enigma for history. The first question which confronted the Convention after it had met was naturally that of deciding what was to be done with the King and his family, imprisoned in the Temple. To keep them there for an indefinite time, until the invasion should be repelled and a republican constitution vot... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Policy of "Mountain" -- Royalist tendencies of Girondins -- They reject agrarian law, and swear to respect property Continuous conflict between Gironde and "Mountain" -- Socialistic aims of Montagnards -- Brissot and Robespierre -- Order versus Revolution Since August 10 the Commune of Paris had dated its documents from "the Fourth Year of Liberty and the First of Equality." The Convention dated its acts from "the Fourth Year of Liberty and the First Year of the French Republic." And in this little detail already appeared two ideas confronting one another. Was there to be a new revolution grafted upon the preceding one? Or would France confine herself to establising and legalizing the political liberties won since 1789? Would she be c... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Girondins represent middle classes -- They support Liberty, but oppose Equality -- Views of Brissotch -- Girondins and anarchists So long as it was a question of overthrowing the old régime of absolute monarchy, the Girondins were in the front rank. High-spirited, fearless poets imbued with admiration for the republics of antiquity, and desirous of power at the same time -- how could they adapt themselves to the old régime? Therefore, while the peasants were burning the châteaux of the landlords and their tax-registers, while the people were demolishing the relics of feudal servitude, the Girondins were busy chiefly with establishing the new political forms of government. They saw themselves already in power, maste... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Anarchists not a party -- Their aims and policy -- Brissot quoted -- He attacks anarchists -- Gironde and anarchists -- Girondist program But who were those anarchists of whom Brissot spoke so much, and whose extermination he demanded with so much rancor? First of all, the anarchists did not form a party. In the Convention there were the parties of the "Mountain," the Gironde, the "Plain," or rather the "Marsh" (sometimes called le Venter), but there were no "anarchists." Danton, Marat, and even Robespierre, or some other Jacobin of the same stamp, could work at times with the anarchists; but they always remained outside the Convention. They were, one might almost say, above it: they dominated it. The "anarchists" were the revolution... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Struggle between "Mountain" and "Gironde" -- Momentous questions -- Inactivity of Convention -- Montagnards -- Robespierre -- Counter-revolution gains ground -- Directories of departments and districts -- New Commune -- Growth of Popular Societies, Fraternal Societies and Revolutionary Committees -- Federalism -- Centralization -- Gironde and "Mountain" During the early part of 1793, the struggle between the "Mountain " and the " Gironde " grew daily more envenomed according as these three great questions presented themselves to France. First: Were all the feudal dues to be abolished without redemption, or were these survivals of feudalism to continue to starve the farmer and paralyze agriculture? This was the burning question which m... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Effect of execution of King -- Changed aspect of Revolution -- Rise of counter-revolution -- Paris Commune tries to keep down price of bread -- Varlet -- Jacques Roux -- Movement against owners of large fortunes -- Petition to Convention -- Marat tries to stop agitation -- Effect of riot -- Necessity of crushing "Gironde" becomes evident Notwithstanding the violence that the Parliamentary struggle between the "Mountain" and the "Gironde" displayed at times, it would have dragged on had it been strictly confined to the Convention. But since the execution of Louis XVI events were moving faster, and the gulf between the revolutionists and the counter-revolutionists was becoming so wide that there was no longer any possibility of a vague, ... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Need of volunteers -- Forces ordered -- Money required--Lack of trustworthy generals -- Dumouriez -- His connection with Girondins and Montagnards -- France and England -- War declared -- Treachery of Dumouriez -- Counter-rcvolutionary movement in Brittany -- Rising in La Vendée -- Danton recalled from Belgium -- Volunteers enlist -- Terrible situation -- "Mountain" tries to allay panic -- Revolutionary tribune -- Peasants urge clergy to rise -- Savage hunt for republicans -- Dumouriez in Belgium -- Danton tries to check Dumouriez -- Dumouriez outlawed -- Committee of Public Welfare created -- Danton becomes leading spirit -- Fall of Girondnis inevitable In the early part of 1793, the war began under very unfavorable circumstanc... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Rising of May 31 -- Significance of rising -- Summary of situation -- Convention and Dumouriez -- Girondins vote arrest of Marat -- People take his part -- Character of Marat -- He is acquitted -- Famine in large towns -- Extraordinary tax levied -- Indignationof Girondins -- Commission of Twelve appointed -- Hébert and Varlet arrested -- Isnard's threat -- Sections demand expulsion of Girondins from Convention May 31 is one of the great dates of the Revolution, and quite as full of significance as July 14 and October 5, 1789, June 21, 1791, and August 10, 1792--but, perhaps, the most tragic of them all. On this day the people of Paris rose for the third time, making its last effort to impress upon the Revolution a really popula... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Preparations for rising -- Activity of sections -- Commission of Twelve -- Want of union among revolutionists -- Les Enragés -- New class of middle-class property-owners -- May 31 -- Failure of insurrection -- Preparations for fresh revolt -- June 2 -- News of rising at Lyons -- Fury against Gironde -- Letter to Convention -- Speech of Marat to Jacobin Club -- Girondins join counter-revolutionists -- Convention outlaws Girondins Once more the people, in their sections, got ready for insurrection as on August 10. Danton, Robespierre and Marat held frequent consultations with each other during those days; but still they hesitated, and again action came from the "unknown ones," who constituted an insurrectionary club at the Bishop'... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Immediate result of expulsion of Girondins -- Importance of period, May 1793 to July 1794-Famine continues -- War against coalition-Difficulties of sans-culottes -- Forced loan necessary -- Superfluous and necessary incomes -- Impossibility of levying loan If anyone doubts the necessity under which the Revolution lay, of expelling the chief men of the "Gironde " from the Convention, he should cast a glance at the legislative work which the Convention set itself to accomplish, as soon as the opposition of the Right was broken. The taxation of the rich to help towards the enormous expenses of the war; the establishment of a maximum price for all commodities; the restoration to the communes of the lands which the nobility had taken from ... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
History of communal lands -- Rise of middle-class peasants -- Opposition to poorer peasants -- Active and passive citizens -- Appropriation of communal land by well-to-do peasants -- Inaction of Assembly -- Proposal of Mailhe rejected -- Decree of Assembly -- Indignation produced by decree -- Difficulty of carrying decree into effect -- Assembly frames new law to advantage of "grabbers" The restoration of the communal lands to the village communes and the definite abolition of the feudal laws were, as we have seen, the questions that dominated all others in rural France; questions of immense importance in which two-thirds of France was intensely interested, and yet so long as the Girondins, the "defenders of property " ruled the Conven... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Law of June 11, 1793 -- Lands to be restored -- Difficulty of partition -- Details of decree -- Diverse opinions of peasants -- Majority of communes quickly take possession of lands -- Subsequent history of communal lands So long as the Girondins were the masters, the question of the communal lands remained as it was. The Convention did nothing to minimize the harmful effects of the decrees of August 1792, still less did it accept Mailhe's proposal concerning the lands of which the communes had been robbed. But immediately after June 2, the Convention took up the question again, and on June 11, 1793, it passed a law which has marked an epoch in the village life of France, and has been full of consequences-more, perhaps, than any other... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Girondins oppose abolition of feudal rights -- Decree of July 17 -- Feudal laws abolished en masse -- Reaction unable to prevent effect of decree -- Triumph of Revolution As soon as royalty was abolished, the Convention had to discuss in its first sittings the question of the feudal rights. However, as the Girondins were opposed to the abolition of these rights without indemnity, and yet proposed no scheme of redemption which would be binding on the lords, the whole matter remained in suspense. But this was the main, the all-absorbing question for much more than one-half of the population of France, who asked themselves with anxiety: " Is it possible that the peasant shall have to set his neck again under the feudal yoke, and again end... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
National estates -- Previously benefited only middle classes -- Discontent among peasants -- Convention orders land to be subdivided -- Decree concerning heirs -- Effect of redistribution of land -- Changed aspect of France The movement of May 31 had the same salutary effect upon the sale of the national estates. Until then these sales had been profitable mainly to the middle classes. Now the Montagnards took measures for rendering the purchase of national estates accessible to the poor who wished to cultivate the land themselves. When the estates of the clergy, and later on those of the émigrés, had been confiscated by the Revolution and put up for sale, a certain part of these estates was divided at the outset into sma... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Difficulty of feeding large towns -- Activity of speculators -- Situation at Lyons -- Demand for maximum -- Convention fixes price of wheat and food-stuffs -- Danger of fixing retail prices -- Maximum abolished by reactionaries -- Fall in value of paper currency -- Bankruptcy threatens State -- Necker tries to raise money -- Manufacture of false assignats One of the great difficulties in every Revolution is the feeding of the large towns. The large towns of modern times are centers of various industries that are developed chiefly for the sake of the rich or for export trade; these two branches fail whenever any crisis occurs, and the question then arises of how these great urban agglomerations are to be fed. France had entered upon th... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Girondins stir up civil war -- Royalist plot discovered -- English prepare insurrection in Normandy and Brittany -- Insurrection falls through -- Weakness of republican forces -- Commissioners of Convention succeed in rousing towns -- Charlotte Corday -- Implication of Girondins in plot -- Assassination of Marat -- Execution of Chalier -- Character and work of Marat Assailed from all sides by the coalition of European monarchies, in the midst of the tremendous work of reconstruction which she had undertaken, France found herself in the throes of a terrible crisis. And it is in studying this crisis in its details, in realizing the sufferings which the people had to endure from day to day, that we realize the enormity of the crime commit... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Royalist conspiracies in South -- Risings against Convention -- Toulon surrenders to English and Spanish fleet -- Causes of rising in La Vendée -- Disaffection of peasants -- Ill-feeling of villages against towns -- Girondins help insurrection -- Plan of Vendeans -- They take Saumur and Angers, but are forced to retire at Nantes -- Vendeans exterminated -- Risings in Provence and at Lyons -- Chalier -- Marseilles and other southern towns join movement -- Royalists defeated -- Siege and capture of Lyons -- Action of republicans in Lyons -- Bordeaux surrenders to Convention If the royalist rising failed in Normandy and Brittany, the rectionaries met with more success in the province of Poitou, in the departments of Deua-Sèv... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Reorganization of republican army -- Horrors of war -- Girondist generals replaced -- The war -- Difficulties of republicans -- Condition of France -- Hopes of allies -- Their successes and delays -- Republicans gain courage -- Victory over Austrians -- Surrender of Lyons -- Toulon recaptured -- Vengeance of republicans After the betrayal of Dumouriez and the arrest of the Girondist leaders, the Republic had to accomplish anew the entire work of reorganizing its army on a democratic basis, and it was necessary to reelect all the superior officers, in order to replace the Girondist and royalist generals by Jacobin republicans. The conditions under which this great change was accomplished, were so hard that only the grim energy of a nat... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Committee formed to frame new Constitution -- Plans of Girondins -- Struggle between Girondins and Montagnards -- Girondins try to strengthen power of Directoires -- Girondist scheme rejected -- Constitution of Montagnards -- It is accepted by Convention -- Dictatorship of Committees of Public Welfare and Public Safety It has been necessary to narrate at some length the counterrevolutionary risings in France and the varied events of the frontier wars before returning to the legislative activity of the Convention and the events which subsequently unfolded themselves in Paris. Without some knowledge of the former, the latter would be incomprehensible. The truth is, the war dominated everything; it was absorbing the best forces of the nat... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Revolutionary leaders afraid to move -- Commune of Paris -- Montagnards -- Inactivity of Convention -- Commissioners of Convention work only to strengthen Montagnard régime The movement of May 31, 1793, had made it possible for the Revolution to complete the work which proved to be its principal achievement: the final abolition, without redemption, of feudal rights, and the abolition of royal despotism. But, this done, the Revolution was coming to a standstill. The mass of the people were willing to go further; but those whom the tide of Revolution had carried to the head of the movement dared not advance. They did not wish the Revolution to lay hands on the wealth of the middle classes, as it had that of the nobility and clergy... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Egalité de fait -- Socialistic problems -- Proposition of Billaud-Varenne--Communalist movement -- Means of subsistence and land question -- Leading apostles of communism -- Jacques Roux -- Leclerc -- Varlet-- Boissel -- Babeuf In the cahiers of 1789, ideas were already to be found which, as Chassin has pointed out, would to-day be classed as socialistic. Rousseau, Helvetius, Mably, Diderot and others had already dealt with the inequalities of fortunes and the accumulation of superfluous wealth in the hands of the few, as the great obstacle to the establishment of democratic liberty. These ideas came once more to the front during the first hours of the Revolution. Turgot, Sieyès and Condorcet asserted that the equality o... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Communist movement and land -- Economic importance of land -- Agrarian proposals -- View of Dolivier -- Industrial demands -- Proposals of L'Ange -- Problem of means of subsistence -- Question of exchange of produce -- Summary of situation -- Evils of repression The dominating idea of the communist movement of 1793 was, that the land should be considered as the common inheritance of the whole nation, that every citizen should have a right to the land, and that the means of existence should be guaranteed to each, so that no one could be forced to sell his or her work under the threat of starvation. "Actual equality" (l'égalité de fait), which had been much spoken of during the eighteenth century, was now interpreted as the... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Montagnards and communists -- Attitude of Hébert -- Of Billaud-Varenne -- Obstacles to communism -- Assemblies and land -- Communal land given to well-to-do peasants -- Jacques Roux and Robespierre -- Roux prosecuted -- Reply to communism of Committee of Public Welfare -- Resolutions passed by communists -- Convention defends middle class and suppresses communism Previous to May 31, when the Montagnards saw the Revolution brought to a standstill by the opposition of the Girondins, they sought the support of the communists, and of the Enragés in general. In those days, Robespierre, in the proposed Declaration of Rights which he read before the Convention on April 21, 1793, expressed himself in favor of a limitation of the ... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Committees of Public Welfare and Public Safety -- Condition of Paris -- Power of old régime -- Middle classes in opposition to Revolution -- Paper-money forbidden by Convention -- Weakening of Commune -- Convention and sections -- "Law of suspects" -- Jacobins obtain power -- Robespierre and expelled Girondins -- Report of Saint-Just -- Central Government established -- Military situation -- Republican reverses -- Massacres of Republicans -- Attempts to rescue Marie-Antoinette -- Her trial ordered, but postponed -- Her execution -- Condemnation of arrested Girondins -- Others follow -- Beginning of Terror Since May 31 and the arrest of the principal Girondin members, the "Mountain" had patiently worked during the summer of 1793 ... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Education -- Three-grade system -- Metric system -- Its importance -- The Republican calendar -- Its connection with Church -- Severe laws against priests -- First attempts at "dechristianization" -- Encouraged by Convention -- Bishop Gobel's renunciation -- Enthusiasm of Assembly -- Movement spreads -- File of Liberty and Reason -- Opposition of Robespierre -- Conduct of Danton -- Robespierre and Danton -- Triumph of Catholicism -- Féte of the Supreme Being -- Prelude to 9th Thermidor Amid all these struggles, the revolutionists did not lose sight of the great question of national education. They tried to lay its foundations on principles of equality. An enormous amount of work was actually done in this direction, as may be see... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Position of sections -- "Popular societies" -- Opposition of Jacobins -- Attitude of Robespierre -- Sections gradually deprived of their powers -- Control of police -- Revolutionary committees subordinated to Committee of Public Safety -- State absorbs sections -- Revolution doomed Towards the end of 1793, two rival powers stood facing one another: the two committees--of Public Welfare and of Public Safety--which governed the Convention, and the Commune of Paris. Yet the real strength of the Commune lay neither in its extremely popular mayor Pache, nor in its equally popular procureur Chaumette, nor yet in his deputy Hébert, nor in its General Council. It was to be found in the sections. And therefore the central government was ... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Robespierre foretells end of Revolution -- Causes of its termination -- Hébert -- Chaumette and Hébertists -- Increased power of Committees of Public Welfare and Public Safety -- The struggle for power -- Robespierre and Danton -- Camille Desmoulins -- Robespierre attacks Cloots -- State of insurrection in Southern France -- Fabre d'Eglantine and Bourdon -- Attempt to rouse Convention against Committee of Public Welfare -- Fabre d'Eglantine demands arrest of three Hébertists -- Cordeliers side with Hébertists -- Toulon recaptured -- Series of republican successes -- Authority of Committee of Public Welfare restored -- Arrest of Fabre d'Eglantine -- False accusations against him -- He is executed -- Struggle betwe... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Struggle between revolutionists and counter-revolutionists continues -- Robespierre and commissioners of Convention -- Triumph of Hébertists -- Great speech of Saint-Just -- He advocates Terrorism -- His attack on Dantonists -- Action of Cordeliers -- Arrest of Hébertist leaders -- Further arrests of Chaumette, Pache, Clootz and Leclerc -- Success of the Government -- Execution of Hébertists and others -- Royalist rejoicing -- End of struggle between committees and Commune -- Committees arrest Danton, Desmoulins, Phélippeaux and Lacroix -- They are executed -- Effect of executions on Paris -- End of Revolution in sight The winter thus passed in veiled struggles between the revolutionists and the counter-re... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Position and influence of Robespierre -- Causes of his power -- His incorruptibility -- His fanaticism -- His accusation against Fabre -- His character and policy Robespierre has been often mentioned as a dictator; his enemies in the Convention called him "the tyrant," and it is true that as the Revolution drew to a close Robespierre acquired so much influence that he came to be regarded both in France and abroad as the most important person in the Republic. It would, however, be incorrect to represent Robespierre as a dictator, though certainly many of his admirers desired a dictatorship for him.1 We know, indeed, that Cambon exercised considerable authority within his special domain, the Committee of Finance, and that Carnot wielded... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Steps taken by committees to increase their power -- War with England--Condition of provinces -- Burning of Bedouin -- Special commission formed to deal with arrested citizens -- Robespierre's law of 22nd Prairial -- Effect of law -- Aim of Robespierre -- Attempts on his life -- Arrests and executions -- Terror -- Hatred of Jacobin government After the downfall of their enemies of the Left and of the Right, the committees continued to concentrate more and more power in their own hands. Up to that time there had been six Government departments, which were indirectly subordinate to the Committee of Public Welfare through the intermediary of the Executive Committee composed of six ministers. On the 12th Germinal (April 1) the State depart... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
Causes of overthrow of Robespierre -- Evils of transfer of land--Republican successes abroad -- Terror continues -- Dantonists, Girondins and "Marsh" unite to overthrow Robespierre -- Unpopularity of Committee of Public Welfare -- Robespierre attacks Barère and Fouché -- His speech in Convention -- Effect of speech -- 9th Thermidor -- Arrest of Robespierre and his associates -- Efforts of Commune -- Capture of Hôtel de Ville -- Execution of Robespierre and Terrorists -- End of Revolution -- Reactionaries continue executions -- Attempted rising of workers -- Execution of last of Montagnards -- Triumph of middle classes -- Royalist manifestations -- Massacres of revolutionists -- Reaction succeeded by Directory -- Final ef... (From: Anarchy Archives.)
When one sees that terrible and powerful Convention wrecking itself in 1794-1795, that proud and strong Republic disappearing, and France, after the demoralizing régime of the Directory, falling under the military yoke of a Bonaparte, one is impelled to ask: "What was the good of the Revolution if the nation had to fall back again under despotism?" In the course of the nineteenth century, this question has been constantly put, and the timid and conservative have worn it threadbare as an argument against revolutions in general. The preceding pages supply the answer. Those who have seen in the Revolution only a change in the Government, those who are ignorant of its economic as well as its educational work, those alone could put such ... (From: Anarchy Archives.)


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