CHAPTER I. FROM THE 5TH OF MAY, 1789, TO THE NIGHT OF THE 4TH OF AUGUST
While these plots were hatching, the deputies of the nation began their legislative labours, and prepared the anxiously expected constitution, which they considered they ought no longer to delay. Addresses poured in from Paris and the principal towns of the kingdom, congratulating them on their wisdom, and encouraging them to continue their task of regenerating France. The troops, meantime, arrived in great numbers; Versailles assumed the aspect of a camp; the Salle des Etats was surrounded by guards, and the citizens refused admission. Paris was also encompassed by various bodies of the army, ready to besiege or blockade it, as the occasion might require. These vast military preparations, trains of artillery arriving from the frontiers, and the presence of foreign regiments, whose obedience was unlimited, announced sinister projects. The populace were restless and agitated; and the assembly desired to enlighten the throne with respect to its projects, and solicit the removal of the troops. At Mirabeau's suggestion, it presented on the 9th of July a firm but respectful address to the king, which proved useless. Louis XVI. declared that he alone had to judge the necessity of assembling or dismissing troops, and assured them, that those assembled formed only a precautionary army to prevent disturbances and protect the assembly. He moreover offered the assembly to remove it to Noyon or Soissons, that is to say, to place it between two armies and deprive it of the support of the people.
Paris was in the greatest excitement; this vast city was unanimous in its devotion to the assembly. The perils that threatened the representatives of the nation, and itself, and the scarcity of food disposed it to insurrection. Capitalists, from interest and the fear of bankruptcy; men of enlightenment and all the middle classes, from patriotism; the people, impelled by want, ascribing their sufferings to the privileged classes and the court, desirous of agitation and change, all had warmly espoused the cause of the revolution. It is difficult to conceive the movement which disturbed the capital of France. It was arising from the repose and silence of servitude; it was, as it were, astonished at the novelty of its situation, and intoxicated with liberty and enthusiasm. The press excited the public mind, the newspapers published the debates of the assembly, and enabled the public to be present, as it were, at its deliberations, and the questions mooted in its bosom were discussed in the open air, in the public squares. It was at the Palais Royal, more especially, that the assembly of the capital was held. The garden was always filled by a crowd that seemed permanent, though continually renewed. A table answered the purpose of the tribune, the first citizen at hand became the orator; there men expatiated on the dangers that threatened the country, and excited each other to resistance. Already, on a motion made at the Palais Royal, the prisons of the Abbaye had been broken open, and some grenadiers of the French guards, who had been imprisoned for refusing to fire on the people, released in triumph. This outbreak was attended by no consequences; a deputation had already solicited, in behalf of the delivered prisoners, the interest of the assembly, who had recommended them to the clemency of the king. They had returned to prison, and had received pardon. But this regiment, one of the most complete and bravest, had become favourable to the popular cause.
Such was the disposition of Paris when the court, having established troops at Versailles, Sevres, the Champ de Mars, and Saint Denis, thought itself able to execute its project. It commenced, on the 11th of July, by the banishment of Necker, and the complete reconstruction of the ministry. The marshal de Broglie, la Galissonniere, the duke de la Vauguyon, the Baron de Breteuil, and the intendant Foulon, were appointed to replace Puysegur, Montmorin, La Luzerne, Saint Priest, and Necker. The latter received, while at dinner on the 11th of July, a note from the king enjoining him to leave the country immediately. He finished dining very calmly, without communicating the purport of the order he had received, and then got into his carriage with Madame Necker, as if intending to drive to Saint Omer, and took the road to Brussels.
On the following day, Sunday, the 12th of July, about four in the afternoon, Necker's disgrace and departure became known at Paris. This measure was regarded as the execution of the plot, the preparations for which had so long been observed. In a short time the city was in the greatest confusion; crowds gathered together on every side; more than ten thousand persons flocked to the Palais Royal all affected by this news, ready for anything, but not knowing what measure to adopt. Camille Desmoulins, a young man, more daring than the rest, one of the usual orators of the crowd, mounted on a table, pistol in hand, exclaiming: "Citizens, there is no time to lose; the dismissal of Necker is the knell of a Saint Bartholomew for patriots! This very night all the Swiss and German battalions will leave the Champ de Mars to massacre us all; one resource is left; to take arms!" These words were received with violent acclamations. He proposed that cockades should be worn for mutual recognition and protection. "Shall they be green," he cried, "the colour of hope; or red, the colour of the free order of Cincinnatus?" "Green! green!" shouted the multitude. The speaker descended from the table, and fastened the sprig of a tree in his hat. Every one imitated him. The chestnut-trees of the palace were almost stripped of their leaves, and the crowd went in tumult to the house of the sculptor Curtius.