Hermann Lieb.

The foes of the French revolution online

. (page 1 of 25)
Online LibraryHermann LiebThe foes of the French revolution → online text (page 1 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

•• » M All/,



Slielf....LL!lJ ^


i\l/ ^j





French Revolution

* - ^


Hermann Lieb

Author of " History of the German People/
" The Protective Tariff," Etc.

V n

AUG 83 1889 '



or COMOftBflt I








My motives in writing this volume were threefold:
First, this being the centennial year of the French Revolu-
tion, a short review of its causes, its course, audits results,
appear to me to be desired by a class of readers who have
neither the time nor the opportunity to make an extended
study of this event.

Second, in this age of research, the most valuable
concern of history is not so much'the facts and dates as
the motives which impelled its principal actors.

Such being the case, I have not presumed to write a
history of the French Eevolution, but have endeavored
to show its legitimacy and point out some of the causes of
its partial miscarriage.

My third and principal motive, however, was a sincere
desire to strengthen, by way of comparison, the faith of
the American yonth in the system of free and independent
States, as the only system capable of resisting all attacks
against the integrity of a republic from without and

During the last hundred years, France has experienced
many violent changes; but one only has risen to the magni-
tude of a revolution, if by this term a complete political,
social, and economic transformation is meant — snch was the
tremendous upheaval of 1789.

In the extent of its influence upon the destinies of
France and upon the advancement of Continental Europe,
the French Revolution forms the second grand epoch in
the history of human progress, and its effect upon the
material well-being of mankind was as beueficial a.? was
the Reformation upon their moral and intellectual condi-


tion; to freedom of thought the Revolution added freedom
of action.

Few writers of prominence, other than French, have
treated this great event with absolute candor and impar-
tiality, and it has required almost a century even to par-
tially obliterate the impression made upon the English-
speaking public by the passionate tirades of the able but
prejudiced Edmund Burke.

Some writers, with the evident purpose of warping
public sentiment, have sought to convey the idea that the
''Reign of Terror,'' 1793-1794, was the logical and
necessary consequence of the popular movement of 1789;
others, influenced by predilections for a given form of gov-
ernment, have ignored causes and exaggerated facts;
others, again, assert, and their theory has been accepted
by many as conclusive, that the philosophers of the 18th
century were the principal cause; others still, have fixed
certain periods when the revolutionary movement began,
and others have even ventured to state when the Revolu-
tion was born.

French writers, those generally with the prefix De, as
De Maister and De Saint Martin, contend that the Reign
of Terror was an expiation for the execution of the king.
On the other hand revolutionary fanaticism manifestsitself
in socialistic writings such as Louis Blanc's, who would
raise a Pantheon to the memory of Jacobinism, which,
as he expresses it, " alone represents the Revolution in its
purity, its truth and its ideal." And last, but not least,
we have our ecclesiastical historians who picture events in
the light of religious dogmatism. These claim that irre-
ligion transplanted from England to the soil of faithful
France, brought about the Revolution.

Such conflicting opinions regarding the causes of the
catastrophe necessarily obscure individual judgment.
Every candid observer, however, must come to the conclu-


sion that the French Kevolution was not brought about by
irreligion, nor mainly by the philosophers, or in fact by
any other external agency; that the exact time or even the
period of its beginning can not be conjectured; but that it
was the slow, almost imperceptible but steady, process of
the inexorable law of evolution, which impels humanity
with unfailing precision toward a better condition, and
that the crash which came was but a manifestation of this

The French people are often charged with frivolity
and fickleness of character, and that, consequently, there
might not have been sufficient cause to justify the overturn.
A search for the causes in the economic rather than in
the political conditions of a people must govern the seeker
for truth. The most essential thing in society to know,
are the small details of a man's social life; the every-day
well-being, the hardships and vicissitudes of the laboring
poor. The stomach of the man and of his family — their
daily wants and surroundings — are of more importance to
them than abstract principles or political theories. The
application of this rule to the case of France previous to
] 789 will readily convince the most conservative that .her
people had abundant reasons for revolting.

The other charge, repeatedly made against the French
people, that they were incapable of self-government,
is disproved by the fact that centuries before the
Eevolution they satisfactoi'ily managed their own local
affairs, and it has been my endeavor to show, that the
partial failure of their efforts was due to the persistent
refusal of a few self -constituted managers to intrust them
with all the duties and responsibilities pertaining to the
sovereignty of a people, rather than to their individual or
collective deficiencies.

Hermakk Lieb.

Chicago, July 14th, 1880.


The Ancient Regime, 9

Louis XIV. and His Economic Policy, . . . . 14

Loiris XV. AND THE PHILOSOPHIC Age, .... 23

Reign op Louis XVI. to the Beginning op the Revo-
lution, . " . . 37

The Irkepressible Conflict, 35

The National Assembly, 46

The Bastile, 57

Assault on the Bastile, . 66

Immediate Consequences op the Fall op the Bastile, . 78

Abolition op the Feudal System — Lapayette's Bill op

Rights, 86

Counter-Revolutionary Conspiracy — Women op Paris

March to Versailles, 95

Confiscation op Church Property — Farra'b Conspiracy

— Mirabeau on Franklin, 110

The Festival op Confederation, 120

Counter Revolutionary Conspiracies, .... 129

Marat, 136


Death op Mirabeau — The King's Flight, . , . 142

The Massacre of the Champ De Mars, .... 151

The Pilnitz Manifesto, ...... 160

The Legislative Assembly, 164


The Girondist Ministry — Madame Roland, . . 177

Description op the Girondist Ministry — The Country

IN Danger, 189

The Duke of Brunswick's Manifesto, .... 198

Anarchism Rampant — The Massacres of September, . 207

The Battle of Valmy, 217

The National Convention, 283

The Girondist Supremacy, 230

Trial and Execution of Lours XVI., .... 243

French "Unity," 261


Overthrow of the Girondists, , . . . . . 268

Decree of Accusation of the Girondists, . . . 287


Trial and Execution op the Girondists — Death op

Marat, 295

Execution of Bailly, Madame Roland and Danton —

Destruction op Hebertists, 309

Regulating Religion — Robespierre Executed — Reign
OF Terror Ended, 332


THE BASXIIvE;— Frontispiece.

Page of Illus-

subjkct tration

Matiek. Page.

Louis XVI., . 27 11^

Saluting the American Flag, .... 29 17^

Lafayette, 34 23'

Desmoulins in the Garden op the Palace Royal, 56 29

Storming of the Bastile, 72 35

Bailly, 81 41

MiRABEAU, 91 47 '

Banquet of the Royal Guards at Versailles, 98 53
The Women op Paris on their Way to Ver-
sailles TO Bring Back the King, . . . 102 59

TlIEORIGNE, . 105 65^

Lafayette Kissing the Hand of the Queen on
THE Balcony of the Chateau at Versail-
les, 108 71

Meeting Place of the Jacobin Club, . . Ill 77'
Confederation Festival at the Champ de Mars,

July 14, 1790, 124 83

Drouet, ......... 147 89-

Barnave, 149 93-

Lafayette Firing Upon the Petition - Signers

at the Champ de Mars, 157 99

Gensonnb, o . 175 105'

Mme. Roland, 179 111''

Brissot, 183 117

Page or Illus-

Subject tration

Matter. Page.

Vergniaud, 193 123''

Barbaroux, , 203 129-

Petion, . ,208 185/

Le Due De Chartres, Louis Philippe, . . 221 141

Roi^AND, 232 147

Marat, 238 153

The Temple, Louis XVI. Prison, . . . 243 157

Santerrb, 252 163

Louis XVL Taking Leave op His Family the

Day Before Execution, 257 169

Execution of Louis XVL, ..... 260 175

Danton, 274 183

Barrere, 287 189

Assassination op Marat, 302 195

Charlotte Corday, 303 205

Marie Antoinette, 303 213

FouQUiER Tinvillb, 305 223

CoLLOT D'Herbois, 311 233

Le Due D'Orleans, 312 243

Paper Money of the Republic, .... 316 253

Paper Money of the Republic, . . . 316 263

Camille Desmoulins, 319 273

Barras, 323 283

Robespierre, 325 293

Billaud-Varennes, 327 303

Tallien, 328 313

CouTHON, 329 319

Saint Just, 330 323

Carnot. . 331 329




" I look back for a moment/' says De Tocqueville, " on
the situation of France seven hundred years ago, wlien
the territory was divided amongst a small number of fami-
lies who were the owners of the soil and the rulers of the
inhabitants. The right of governing descended with the
family inheritance from generation to generation. Force
was the only means by which man could act on man, and
landed property was- the sole source of power. Soon,
however, the political power of the clergy was formed
and began to increase. The clergy opened their ranks to
all classes, to the poor and the rich, the vassal and the
lord. Through the church equality penetrated into the
Government, and he who, as a serf, must have vegetated
in perpetual bondage, took his place as a priest in the
midst of nobles, and not infrequently above the heads of

The different relations of men with each other became
more complicated and numerous as society became more
stable and civilized, hence the want of civil law was felt,
and the ministers of the law soon rose from the obscurity
of the tribunals to appear at the court of their monarch
by the side of the feudal barons.

While the kings were ruining themselves by their


great enterprises^ and thenobles exhausting their resources
by private wars^ the lower orders were enriching them-
selves by commerce. The influence of money began to be
perceptible in State affairs. The transaction of business
opened a new road to power, and the financier rose to a
station of political influence in which he was at once
flattered and despised.

Gradually the diffusion of intelligence and the increas-
ing taste for literature and art caused learning and talent
to become a means of government; mental ability led to
social power, and the man of letters took part in the
affairs of State.

The value attached to high birth declined just as fast
as new avenues to power were discovered. In the eleventh
century nobility was beyond all price; in the thirteenth
it could be purchased. Nobility was first, conferred by
gift in 1270, and equality was thus introduced into the
Government by the aristocracy itself.

In the course of these seven hundred years it some-
times happened that the nobles, in order to resist the
authority of the Crown, or to diminish the power of their
rivals, granted some political influence to the common peo-
ple. Or, more frequently, the King permitted the lower
orders to have a share in the Government with the inten-
tion of depressing the aristocracy."

Of these lower orders, however, consisting on the one
hand of the merchants and professional men of cities and
towns, and on the other of the peasants, the former were
almost the exclusive beneficiaries of such royal or seign-
orial concessions; so that as far as the numerous class
of agriculturists were concerned, their condition as late as
the eighteenth century was not materially improved. It
may then be said that just previous to the Eevolution,
France presented the picture of a State, which, apparently
had adopted some of the progressive forms of the more



enlightened countries and slightly modified tlie ancient
regime, yet, contained all the repulsive features of feu-
dality. Her state recognized, in fact, only three political
factors — the king, the nobility and the higher clergy.
With the exception of a comparatively small number of
burghers, whose wealth, superior intelligence and lit-
erary attainments compelled respectful recognition, and
who, under the designation of '^ Third Estate,^' as early
as 1314, acquired a small share of political influence in the
State, the great mass of her people had no voice in the
administration of public affairs. In the absence of legal or
traditional restrictions, however, little impediment met the
upward tendency of the common people; consequently, the
equalizing process between them and the bourgeois class
was in constant operation, and as in the quarrels of cities
and towns against the encroachments of the nobility, the
peasant generally sided with the burghers, this equalizing
process was accelerated by a mutuality of interests. The
early history of France is almosi; a constant struggle
between the landed aristocracy and the burghers of cities,
and of revolts of the former against royal authority.
Under the system of seignorial independence, the French
monarchy was a mere shadow; to gain substance it had to
consolidate the parts. It was centralization or death.

It was only by slow degrees, however, that royalty
finally succeeded in emancipating itself from its quasi-
dependency upon the landed aristocracy, and the almost
sovereign knighthood of the middle ages. This was
accomplished by an alliance with the Catholic hierarchy
and the burghers of cities. By this means the Crown
gradually succeeded in neutralizing the power of the great
vassals, and in drawing them to its support. The burgh-
ers, however, were excluded from the new partnership.
The abuses of feudality which oppressed the rural popula-
tion survived the political destruction of the system.


From the 13th to the 18th century the process of political
centralization continued. The wars with England, and
the unsettled state of the country presented to Charles
the VII. — between 1439 and 1445 — the opportunity of
obtaining from his parliaments the sanction for the first
standing army in Europe, and, at the same time, the per-
mission to raise a tax for its support, this tax to be col-
lected by officers of the crown. The establishment of a
fiscal machinery covering the whole country enabled the
King to drive the first wedge into the old system.

To fully appreciate the far-reaching influence of this
immense machinery of the central administration, it is
only necessary, in imagination, to transplant the extensive
and all-powerful revenue machinery of the United States,
with its collectors, its courts, and its unnumbered mar-
shals to inf orce its decree, upon the soil of the quasi-political
independent seignories or provinces of ancient France. The
Crown was thus possessed of a well organized body of
agents, distributed in all parts of the kingdom, absolutely
independent of the landed aristocracy, and subject only to
the orders of the central power. Louis XI., son andsucces-
sor of Charles VII., used these new prerogatives with
crushing effect, bringing the recalcitrant feudal aristocracy
under control by causing a number of them to pass under
the ax of the executioner.

These innovations and centralizing methods were
received by the burghers of cities and the peasants in the
light of divine interposition. They believed themselves
relieved from an unbearable system of spoliation, and, at
the same time, felt assured that a consolidated power would
be able to resist any further encroachment of their heredi-
tary English foe upon French territory.

From this period the monarchy of France was able to
stand upon its own feet ; but being uncontrolled it soon
passed into a state of absolutism. The Crown had given


security to the towns and cities, but had taken away their
communal independence; the peasantry had exchanged
two masters for three.

Francis I., having obtained from the Pope the privi-
lege of participating in the appointment of the Eoman
Catholic Clergy in his realm, this influential body became
subservient to his wishes. He surrounded his throne with
the influences of Italian culture, and all the allurements
of modern court etiquette. Still, he never lost sight of the
warlike state of Europe, and exerted every effort in his
power to incite the pride, patriotism and love of glory of
his subjects, that they might be prepared for the impend-
ing struggle between himself and Emperor Charles V.
of Germany.

With this object in view, he gradually drew the
nobility from the seclusion of their castles into the circle
of his brilliant court. Under his reign and his success-
ors, the revenues were increased and the army brought to
a high state of efficiency; so that when the religious wars
were over there was no power in France able to cope
with the royal authority.

Sometimes a schism occurred, ^tis true, between the
members of the reigning family, which opportunity was
seized by the nobility to repossess themselves of their
former state of independence; but the energetic manner
with which Eichelieu and Mazarin crushed the last efforts
of the Fronde, forever extinguished seigniorial independ-
ence in France.



This King not only destroyed the last vestige of aristo-
cratic power, he annihilated the last vestige of commer-
cial liberty, the prerogatives of Provincial Parliaments
and of the States General; all was obliterated in the inter-
est of the Crown. He considered himself the source of
all power and all right in the State. Having read in the
Old Testament what was said of the Omnipotence and the
heavenly origin of Monarchy, he was convinced that God,
who had placed kings over mankind, had also vouchsafed
to them unquestionable control over their subjects. He
promulgated laws, raised revenues, and changed their
charters at pleasure. His ministers were mere clerks,
whose only duty it was to work out the details of his
policy and formulate his decrees. M. Colbert, an able
man, who for nearly a quarter of a century had been his
prime minister, may be said to have organized and
regenerated the civil administration of his kingdom.
Unfortunately for the country as well as for the king,
whose paternalistic propensities were thus sustained,
Colbert was an adherent of that mistaken governmental
theory, " that the prosperity and progress of a people can
best be promoted by a system of commercial isolation and

The magnificence of Louis XIV. 's court gratified
the pride of the French, while the many brilliant
victories of Turenne, Luxembourg and others gratified
their love of glory; that despot, to this day, is proudly
referred to by his countrymen, as " Ludovico Magna!"



He was a great king, considered from the stand-point in
which royal greatness was viewed in those days. He was
great vn. persecuting the Huguenots at home, while
encouraging the Protestants in Germany, to further his
ends; he was great in overawing his neighbors, while he
appropriated large portions of their territory; he was
great in the erection of costly and magnificent palaces and
monuments, those at Versailles costings it is estimated,
1200,000,000. And he, unquestionably, surpassed in
greatness all his predecessors in the way in which he
divided his political power with his mistresses.

It is, also, noted as an evidence of his greatness, that
in the midst of the extravagances and festivities of his court,
the excitement of the chase, the pleasures of theaters
and of women, he never lost sight of the great interests of
state, nor neglected to encourage literature, the arts and

When these efforts and their motives, however, are
calmly considered, they are found generally to have been
exerted in the wrong direction, and more with a view to
strengthen his personal sway than to improve the condi-
tion of the people.

He encouraged literature when the authors sang his
praises, but sternly suppressed it when his methods were
adversely criticised. He was the incarnation of the prin-
ciples of state socialism, with his Majesty as the director-
in-chief. He encouraged great industries, but placed the
most important under state control. Such a policy had
the natural effect of discouraging the spirit of private
enterprise in its incipiency, and in neutralizing the
spontaneous energies of the people. The blighting effect
of the principle, "L'Maf c'est moi/' was not only felt in
all the departments of public affairs, but in the business
intercourse of the commercial and industrious classes.
Colbert's efforts were in strict conformity with the patern-


alistic policy of his august Master. Great public works
were unde»takeu. Some canals were dug; some country
roads improved; but, wliile the land tenure, with all
its oppressive features of feudalism remained undis-
turbed, great canals and splendid roads were of little avail
to the mass of the people who suffered for want of bread
and work. Immense private fortunes had been amassed,
as a logical result of protecting the manufacturing few at
the expense of the agricultural many. The effort is the
same, almost invariably the same, whether applied,
in a monarchy or in a republic; in old Europe or young

This immutable truth was recognized a hundred years
ago by the great Adam Smith, when, in speaking of
Minister Colbert and his economic system, he said : " M.
Colbert, the famous minister of Louis XIV., was a man
of probity, of great industry and knowledge of details;
of great experience and acuteness in the examination of
public accounts, and of abilities, in short, every way fitted
for introducing method and good order in the collection
and expenditures of the public revenue. But he had
unfortunately embraced all the prejudices of the mercan-
tile system of protection, in its nature and essence; a
system of restraint and regulation, and such as would
scarcely fail to be agreeable to a laborious and plodding
class man of business, who had been accustomed to regu-
late the different dej)artments of public affairs, and to
establish the necessary checks and controls for confining
each to its proper sphere; The Industry and commerce of
a great country he endeavored to regulate upon the same
model as the departments of a public officer; and instead of
dlloioing every man to j^ursue Ms own interest in his own
way upon the literal flan of equality, liherty and justice,
he bestoiued vpon certain branches of industry extraordi-
nary privileges, while he laid others under as extraordinary



restraints. He was not only disposed, like other Euro-
pean ministers, to encourage more the industries of the
towns than that of the country, but, in order to support
the industry of the towns he was willing even to depress
and Jceep doivn that of the country. In order to render
provisions cheap to the inhabitants of the towns, and,
thereby to encourage manufactures and. foreign com-
merce, he prohibited altogether the exportation of grain,
and thus excluded the inhabitants of the country from
every foreign market, by far, the most important part of
the produce of their industry.

This prohibition, joined to the restraint imposed by
the ancient provincial laws of France, upon the transporta-
tion of grain from one province to another, and to the

Online LibraryHermann LiebThe foes of the French revolution → online text (page 1 of 25)