The Last Days of Absolute Monarchy - The French Revolution

At midnight on the 10th of August, a fearful mob proceeded to the Hotel de Ville, for the purpose of establishing a new democratic municipality, and then marched to the royal palace, which was defended by 900 Swiss, and the Parisian National Guard under the command of Mandat. The honest Mandat was resolved to check the advancing masses, which were ever assuming a more menacing aspect, by force; his destruction was consequently resolved upon by the democrats. He was commanded to appear at the Hotel de Ville, and assassinated on his way thither; upon which the National Guard, uncertain what to do, and disgusted by the presence of a number of nobles in the palace, for the most part dispersed. The mob constantly assumed a more threatening aspect; cannon were turned upon the palace, the pikemen pressed forwards upon every entrance, the people loudly demanded the deposition of the king. At this crisis, Louis suffered himself to be persuaded to seek for protection with his family in the hall of the National Assembly, where they passed sixteen hours in a narrow closet. The king had scarcely left the palace, before the tumultuous multitude pressed forward more violently; the Swiss guard maintained a gallant resistance, and defended the entrance. When the report of musketry was heard in the adjoining Assembly, the indignant representatives of the people compelled the intimidated king to give his guard orders to cease firing. By this order, the faithful defenders of monarchy were doomed to destruction. Scarcely had the furious mob observed that the enemy's fire had ceased, before they stormed the palace, slaughtered those they found in it, and destroyed the furniture. Nearly 5,000 men, and among them, 700 Swiss, fell in the struggle, or died afterwards, the victims of the popular fury. In the mean time, the National Assembly, upon the proposal of Vergniaud, embraced the resolution " to suspend the royal authority, to place the king and his family under control, to give the prince a tutor, and to assemble a National Convention." The Temple, a strong fortress erected by the Knights Templars, soon enclosed the imprisoned royal family.

After the suspension of the king, a new ministry was formed by the National Assembly, in which, by the side of the Girondist, Roland, and others, the terrible Danton held office as minister of justice. This ministry, and the new Common Council of Paris which had appointed itself, and. which, after the 10th of August, had strengthened itself by members who might be depended upon as hesitating at no wickedness, now possessed the whole power. The Municipal Council ordered the police of the capital to be conducted by pikemen, and the prisons were quickly filled with the 'suspected' and 'aristocrats.' It was now that the frightful resolution was matured of getting rid of the opponents of the new order of things by a bloody tribunal, and of suppressing all resistance by terror. After the recusant priests had been slaughtered by hundreds in the monasteries and prisons, the dreadful days of September were commenced. From the 2d to the 7th of September, bands of hired murderers and villains were collected round the prisons. Twelve of them acted as jurymen and judge, the others as executioners. The imprisoned, with the exception of a few whose names were marked upon a list, were put to death by this inhuman crew under a semblance of judicial proceedings. Nearly 3,000 human beings were either put to death singly, or slaughtered in masses, by these wretches, who received a daily stipend from the Common Council for their ' labors.' Among the murdered was the princess Lamballe, the friend of the queen; a troop of pikemen carried her head upon a pole to the Temple, and held it before Marie Antoinette's window. The example of the capital was imitated in many of the departments. The barbarous destruction of all statues, coats of arms, incriptions, and other memorials of a former period, formed the conclusion of the August and September days, which were the transition period between the French monarchy and republic. The autumnal equinox was distinguished as the commencement of the reign of liberty and equality under the republican National Convention.

Lafayette, who was serving with the northern army, and who, after the days of June, had returned to Paris on his own responsibility, for the purpose, if possible, of saving the king, was now summoned before the National Assembly to answer for his conduct. Convinced that the Jacobins were seeking for his death, he fled, with some friends who shared his sentiments, to Holland, that he might escape to America; but he fell into the hands of enemies, who treated him like a prisoner of war, and allowed him to live for five years in the dungeons of Olmutz and Magdeburg. Talleyrand repaired to England, and thence to America, where he awaited better times.

The new Assembly, which, under the influence of the Jacobins, had been elected by universal suffrage, was composed almost exclusively of republicans, but of different dispositions and opinions.