The Last Days of Absolute Monarchy - The French Revolution

Since the storming of the Bastille, the laws and magistrates had lost their authority in France, and the power lay in the hands of the populace. The country people no longer paid their tithes, taxes, and feudal dues to the clergy and nobles, but took vengeance for the long oppression they had suffered, by destroying the manorial castles. When intelligence of these proceedings spread abroad, it was proposed in the National Assembly, that the upper classes should prove to the people by their actions, that they were willing to lighten their burdens, and that, with this purpose, they should renounce, of their own free will, all the inherited feudal privileges of the middle ages. This proposal excited a storm of enthusiasm and self-renunciation. None would be behind-hand. Estates, towns, provinces, each strove for the honor of making the greatest sacrifices for the common good. This was the celebrated 4th of August, when, in one feverish and excited session, all tithes, labor-dues, manorial rights, corporate bodies, etc., were abolished, the soil was declared free, and the equality of all citizens of the state before the law and in. regard to taxation was decreed. These resolutions, and the necessary laws and arrangements required for their reduction to practice, which were gradually adopted, produced in a short time a complete revolution in all existing conditions. The Church lost her possessions and was subjected to the state; monasteries and religious orders were dissolved, and the clergy paid by the state, the bishoprics newly regulated, and religious freedom established. Priests were required to swear allegiance, like officers of state, to the new constitution; but as the pope forbade it, the greater number refused the oath, which was the occasion of the French clergy being divided into sworn and unsworn priests; the latter lost their offices and were exposed to all kinds of persecutions, but enjoyed the confidence of the faithful among the people. The noble forfeited not only his privileges and the greater part of his income, but he also lost the external distinctions of his rank, by the abolition of all titles, coats of arms, orders, etc. Upon the principle of equality, all Frenchmen were to be addressed as 'citizens.' For the purpose of annihilating every remnant of the ancient system, France received a new geographical division into departments and arrondissements; a new system of judicature with jurymen; equality of weights, measures, and standards; and lastly, a constitutional government, in which the privileges of royalty were limited, and the legislative power committed to a single chamber, with a universal right of suffrage.

On the 5th of October, an immense multitude, chiefly of women, proceeded to Versailles to demand from the king relief from the scarcity of bread, and a return of the court to Paris. The king first attempted to pacify them by a conciliatory answer. But a wing of the palace was stormed during the night, and the guard put to the sword; the arrival of Lafayette, with the National Guard, prevented any further mischief. Upon the following day, the king was obliged to consent to proceed to Paris with his family, under the escort of this frightful crew, and to take up his residence in the Tuileries, which had for many years remained unoccupied. Shortly after, the National Assembly also followed, for whom the ridingschool in the neighborhood of the palace had been prepared. The power now fell more and more into the hands of the lower class, who were kept in perpetual excitement by journalists and popular leaders, and were goaded to hatred against the court and the " aristocrats."