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Seeing the confusion, I ran to The Invalides, took a mus-
ket and have since been hunting for General Lafayette^
under whom I have served so long. I wait your orders.
For liberty I risked my life in America ; for liberty I will
give my life to France!"

Cheer upon cheer answered these patriotic words.
Four more gunners now stepped to the front. The enthu-
siastic people seized the gun carriages and whirled them
down the street, leaving the committee to deliberate upon
the advisability of dispatching another deputation to
Governor De Launay. Deciding in the affirmative they
hurried to the Bastile, but upon reaching the ground the
smoke and noise prevented their being even recognized.
The time for parleying had passed.

True to his promise De Launay had not fired until
attacked!. It was the people that opened hostilities.
With the muskets they had taken from the Armory in the
morning they began firing at the sentinels pacing the
towers. To this harmless attack there was no reply. But
when an ex-soldier scaled the outer guard-house, and with
a hatchet cut the chain holding up the draw-bridge, which
fell with a loud crash, the f usilade from the fortress began
in earnest. Unheeding this fire the besiegers poured over
the bridge into the outer court where they were received
with terrific vollies of musketry and driven back. One
of the principal leaders in the attacking party, Hnllin by
name, a Geneva watchmaker, seeing the impossibility of
reducing the fortress by any other method than a regular
attack, hastened to the barracks of the French Guards, and
was received with open arms.

*'We are all soldiers of a common country, said a
young sergeant, stepping out of the ranks. Wherever the
people are assailed we are for the people." This young
repul lican, afterwards the celebrated General Hoche, was
joined by another guard, Lefebver. These two, with


Hullin between them, followed by three hundred of the
Guards, and two pieces of artillery, marched to the Bastile,
amid the shouts of the peoj)le lining the streets.

These three men afterward became famous upon the
pages of French history. Hoche died, it is said, of Eng-
lish poison, surrounded by his sorrowing troops, General-
in-Chief of the Army. Lefebver, after twenty victories
in the field, died Marshal of France and Duke of Dan-
zig, v/hile Hullin became a Lieutenant-General. The
great Marceau, also, was one of the adventurous spirits
now attacking the Bastile.

Upon the arrival of these French Guards, all the out-
buildings of the fortress were found to be in flames.
Every assault had been repulsed with shot and canister,
killing and woundiug many and dispersing the rest.

Elie, a fraternizing Sergeant of the army had brought
up fresh reinforcements, and under his direction the can-
non of the people soon responded to the cannon of the
Bastile. Both soldiers and citizens now hurrying to the
roofs of adjacent houses, soon succeeded in driving the
men from the guns on the parapet; the cannons below
were useless, as they could not be sufficiently depressed to
reach the besiegers nearer the walls.

The struggle was an unequal one; but the moral weight
remained with the attacking party. Men who at first had
shrugged their shoulders at the desperate undertaking,
now not only demanded the surrender, but the e"ntire
destruction of the detested prison.

From the very beginning, its defense by the veterans,
who had been in daily intercourse with the people of the
faubourgs, had been carried on half-heartedly. They
were filled with surprise and consternation upon seeing
the French Guards handling the guns of the people, and
at last, without waiting for orders, hoisted the white flag;


but tbe smoke of the burning outbuildings prevented it
from being seen by the besiegers.

Governor De Launay, fully understanding the desperate
situation in which he was placed^ and anticipating the
fate which awaited him, when the dungeons beneath his
feet were inspected, lighted an artillery match, approached
the powder magazine — containing 150 barrels of powder — ■
with the intention of blowing himself, soldiers, prisoners
and the fortress to atoms. A sentinel perceiving his
object, and lowering his bayonet against him, frustrated
the attempt. De Launay then drew a dagger intending
to commit suicide, but the knife was wrenched from his

The commander of the Swiss company called to rein-
force the garrison, now assumed the responsibility of sur-
rendering the prison. Writing his conditions, namely,
" The honors of war!" upon a slip of paper, he passed it
through an embrasure.

^'No; no arms in the hands of officers or men!'' was
the reply.

" That the lives of the garrison be spared!'* was now

This was promised by Hullin and Elie, the two leaders
of the besiegers.

The other drawbridge was then lowered and the elated
and victorious throng poured into the fortress. Into every
nook and corner of this relique of royal barbarism they
were soon peering.

Says Dussaloulx, ^^Like hungry vultures they threw
themselves upon their precious trophy. Eagerly they
search its depths and thread its sinuosities. Others feel
their way along the dark staircases; mount the platforms,
where they insult the cannons; break into the chamber
of the council, where the creatures of royal power judged
without law, and ordered executions without remorse.


Ftipers, whose formidable evidences against old and new
despots, were discovered and fortunately saved, as signals
of danger to future despots."

The supposition would be natural, that an outraged
people, who for ten hours had been under the most
intense excitement, exposed to the deadly fire of a sol-
diery, partially composed of foreigners, with a loss of
more than two hundred killed and wounded, would not
have stood long upon ceremony when the interior of the
prison was reached, but rather, would have hastened to
massacre the whole garrison, or at least the Swiss rein-

But not so. With the exception of an old veteran,
killed by mistake, not a soul there was harmed. Their
thoughts were bent upon other things.

On they hurried to the towers in whicn were situated
the dungeons and cells. From every mouth were heard
cries and shouts for the turnkeys to come and unlock the
doors. Where were they? They had mingled with the
besiegers, to escape identity. As a last refuge, axes were
brought, and the heavy, double doors of iron were burst
open. With flambeaus these damp, cold sepulchres, nine-
teen feet below the level of the court-yard, were entered.
Here were found piteous appeals cut in the slimy wall.
Six prisoners of State are embraced and told to walk forth
into God's light. The last door is reached. There is dif-
ficulty in breaking it down. Suddenly cries are heard
from within. The force of the strokes are redoubled, and
finally an opening is made. What is there seen ? A fright-
ened, delirious old man, with haggard face, a long, thin
beard, and hair as white as snow.

When quieted he is questioned. He speaks softly the
names of Louis XV., of Pompadour, the Duke de la
Vrilliere. He is told '''that all these despots are dead!
that the reign of liberty and law has begun in France;


that the Bastile is in the hands of the people." With the
smile of an imbecile the old man listens, but makes no
reply, and soon resumes his seat upon the bed. Thinking
his sudden joy and surprise may have dethroned his reason,
they embrace him and carry him out to be cheered by his
countrymen; but alas, it is soon discovered he is hopelessly

This man, Tavernier, had been a prisoner ten years at
the Marguerite Islands, and thirty years in the Bastile, and
for what? It has never been known. Everything had
been obliterated from his mind but the names of the three
persons ; the King, his mistress, and the Minister of State,
who, undoubtedly, had been his persecutors.

Fourteen prisoners in all were found in the Bastile,
seven of State, and seven supposed to be criminals, though
not one had been tried or convicted by a court of justice,
which raises the suspicion that none were guilty.

A procession was now formed — such a procession as the
world, before nor since, has never seen.

In passing out of the second court a man from the
throng, enraged at the spectacle before him, seized the
queue of De Launay and tore it off.

''All, gentlemen," said he, addressing Hullin and
Cholat, between whom he walked, '^you have promised
not to abandon me. Remain with me until I reach the
Hotel de Ville."

'^ I shall keep my promise,"" replied Hullin. " Do you
not see that we are protecting your life at the risk of our
own ?"

As self-appointed commander, Hullin succeeded in
establishing something like order in this unnatural

At the head marched young Elie, with the printed
rules of the Bastile fluttering from the point of his bayo-
net. Then came De Launay guarded as before descr bid,


followed by his released victims^, the garrison^ the besieg-
ers and citizens. Thus^ advancing slowly, amid the deaf-
ening yells, the parrying of saber strokes, and bayonet
stabs, they near the City Hall. Already three of the
minor officers of the Bastile have fallen victims to the
rage of the populace. The sworn protectors of De Launay,
with the exception of Hullin, have been pushed aside.

To the Place De Greve, he is able to maintain his foot-
ing, though pressed upon from all sides. But in his
anxiety to reach the first step of the City Hall, he stum-
bles and falls to the ground. His trembling prisoner is
snatched from his gras]3, and before Hullin can rise to
his feet, the head of the abhorred Governor adorns a pike
and is borne aloft from the steps of the City Hall.

The other officers of the Bastile being in immediate
danger of being torn to pieces by the excited citizens, Hullin
and Elie harrangue them from the steps, urging them
to not disgrace the day by cowardly murdering unarmed
men. Accordingly, with the exception of De Launay's
death, two veterans and one officer, whose blackened
faces showed recent service at the guns of the Bastile,
no excesses were committed before the City Hall.

The Swiss soldiers and veterans, after taking the oath
of fealty to the Nation, were taken to the quarters of the
French Guards, and provided with lodgment and rations.
In the meantime a deputation from the improvised tri-
bunal in session at the Palais Eoyal had been sent to cite
Provost Flesselles before it; he was requested to follow
them without delay; he did so hesitatingly, but had
hardly walked a square when he was shot dead by a young
man in the crowd. This was the last victim of the day.

" The dense multitude crowding the City Hall did not
wish for bloodshed," says Michelet. "According to an
eye-witness, they were stupified on beholding it. They
stared, gaping, at that very strange, prodigious, grotesque









and maddening spectacle, Arms of the middle ages and
of every age, were mingled together — centuries had come
back again. Elie, standing upon a table, with a helmet
on his brow, and a sword, hacked in three places, in his
hand, seemed a Eoman warrior.

What was most admirable was the magnanimous con-
duct of the widows of those of the people who were slain
at the Bastile. Though needy and burdened with chil-
dren, they were unwilling to receive alone the small sum
allotted to them — they shared it with the widow of the
poor invalid who had prevented the Bastile from being
blown up by De Launay, and was killed by mistake. The
wife of the besieged Avas adopted, as it were, by those of
the besiegers. Thus closed that glorious 14th of July,



While these momentous events were transpiring in
Paris, the National Assembly, sitting permanently at
Versailles, "vvere fully aware of the revolutionary state of
feeling which prevailed there among the lower classes.
These were not effectively armed, and could make little
resistance to the adva.noe of the royal army into Paris.
All tliey had dared and gained, was now in danger of being

The day of the storming of the Bastile had been a day
of anxious suspense and secret forebodings.

Late in the afternoon news of the surrender of the
fortress and the assassination of De Launay was received.
The scene changed as if by enchantment. The Assembly
being justly enraged at the ministers, Mirabeau boldly
demanded the head of the Duke de Brogiie.

The King had gone to sleep. Being awakened by the
Duke of Liancourt and informed of the capture of the
prison, he exclaimed !

" Why, this is revolt."

" Sire," replied Liancourt, " this is revolution ! "

Three deputies from the Assembly waited upon the
King, but not until the following day did His Majesty
consent to appear in the Assembly, when he informed the
members that orders for the return of the army to
Versailles had been issued, and defended himself against
the suspicion of seeking to overawe the Assembly.

His assurances were applauded, and while being con-
ducted back to the chateau, he was generously cheered



by the people. He did not tell them, however, that royal
troops had been intercepting conveyances for the provis-
ioning of Paris, both at Severs and St. Denis. The people
of Paris were already clamoring for bread, and it was
believed this was one of the details of the plan to bring
the city to submission.

But, hungry as they were, they were fully determined
that nevermore should king or queen, minister or prince
be able to thrust into the foul dungeons of the Bastile,
any citizen who had incurred their displeasure, or whom
it was necessary the world should "'forget."

With spikes and bars in the hands of a regenerated
people, the work of casting stone after stone of the ancient
pile to the ground beneath was begun on the 16th. With
earnest hearts and dextrous hands its demolition was
finally accomplished. (These same dumb blocks of granite
were afterwards used in the construction of a bridge across
the Seine.)

The destruction of the Bastile had for the time being
put an end to all royal conspiracies. The King, surren-
dering at discretion, had even gone so far as to ask the
Assembly to become the intermedium between himself and
Ms people at Paris.

Accordingly, eighty-eight of its members were dele-
gated to proceed to the capital at once. Lafayette, Bailly,
Sieyes, and the Archbishop of Paris led the deputa-
tion. They were received at the barriere (city gate) by
an immense concourse of people, and conducted to the
City Hall. After many speeches and bursts of deafening
applause on witnessing the congratulations between the
heroes of the Bastile and those of the Tennis Court, Bailly
was proclaimed Mayor of Paris and Lafayette commandant
of the National Guards.

During the night, between the 16th and 17th of July,
Count D'Artois, brother of the King, the Polignacs,


the Broglies, the Foulons, and some of the princes of
the blood, took to their heels, under strong escort, and
all, the Foulons excepted, succeeded in reaching the fron-
tier. This was the signal for a general exodus of the Hue
blood of France. The flight was as timely as it was sud-
den. The anti-revolutionary conspiracy was now known
to some members of the Assembly. M. de BreteuiFs ulti-
matum — to destroy Paris and decimate the inhabitants if
necessary to re-establish the old order of things — had been
divulged; so, also, the plan of execution, namely, to attack
the city on the night of the 14th, at seven different points,
for which the regiments and batteries had been designated
and the commanders subsequently appointed; to dis-
perse the JSTational Assembly and arrest the leaders
of the Third Estate; to call the Parliament of Paris to
register a royal decree for the suspension of payments
and the creation of a new paper currency.

The retreat of Besenval with his army, on the night of
the 14th, had frustrated the conspiracy, and hence the
abandonment of the field and flight of the conspirators.

Before departing, however, and in order to escape the
suspicion tbat the King had been cognizant of their treason,
it was agreed that he should visit Paris, and throw himself
upon the loyalty of his people, as he had done before with
the Assembly. In pursuance of this plan, at nine o'clock
on the morning of the 18th, His Majesty, accompanied by
several hundred Deputies, set out for his Capital. He
was met by Mayor Bailly, and slowly through the
immense throng the cortage took its way to the City Hall.
It was Paris in arms, either with muskets, pikes or swords
that he saw. This strange reception of a loyal people
seemed to completely overcome the King. Nevertheless
they appeared pleased to see him. These good people still
loved their King ; no cheers, however, except "Vive la
Nation ! " greeted his ears.


At the City Hall, he was presented, by M. Bailly,
with the three- colored cockade, which he was asked to
accept as the distinctive badge of a Frenchman. He
attached it to his hat and was loudly cheered. To the
address of welcome, expressing unfeigned attachment to
his person, he had no word of reply ; but when taken to
the balcony, where he stood for fifteen minutes, gazing at
the multitude, the meaningless remark, "You can always
rely upon my love, '^ escaped his lips, for which he received
the usual " Vive le Eoi !''

Entering his carriage he returned as mute as he had
come. Upon arriving at Versailles he was received by the
Queen with unfeigned demonstrations of joy. Both had
been favorably disappointed. The journey, undertaken with
many misgivings, and as a desperate but unavoidable step,
had not ended in harm to the head of the government.
They were both thankful. The King had even been
received kindly ; the citizens had cheered him ; he had
returned to his family safely. **La Canaille fut ap-
paise ! "

A Communal Council of sixty members was now elected;
thirty members composed the Executive Board. This
board, with Bailly as mayor and Lafayette as comman-
der of the militia, constituted the new Municipal Govern-
ment of Paris.

About a week after the razing of the Bastile, and
when the excitement was still at its height, a most unfor-
tunate circumstance occurred.

M. Foulon, a man of seventy-two years of age, was,
perhaps, the most despised man in France. He had
become immensely wealthy on contracts, as intendant of
the army, usury, and in grain and other speculations. He
was a favorite at court, as all wealthy men at that time
were. Foulon had expected to be called to th"e ministry
at the time Necker was dismissed.


It was reported of liim that, when told the people
were hungry, he had exclaimed :

"Let them eat grass; if I were minister, I would
make them eat hay."

He lived in a magnificent palace, and insolently
laughed at the suffering he had helped to create. His
son-in-law, M. Berthier, had been the king's tax-gatherer
in Paris. At the fall of the Bastile, these two men, with
guilty consciences, had fled, but, being discovered, were
arrested and brought back, Foulon with a bundle of hay
tied to his neck.

At sight of these two men, the hungry people became
furious, and the efforts of Bailly and Lafayette to save
them were without avail. They were slain and their
ghastly heads borne upon pikes through the streets of

The summary and brutal massacre of these men was
to be regretted. "But," asks Michelet of the English
writers, such as Burke, who seized upon this incident to
denounce the Eevolution, "what would you have done —
tell me, you officious advisors, who at your ease are sitting
upon the dead bodies of Ireland, Italy, and Poland?
Have not your revolutions of interest lost more blood than
our revolutions of ideas ? " However, this does not
answer the question. The fall of the Bastile, if it meant
anything, meant the downfall of arbitrary government in
France and the rule of law. Acts of lawlessness, when
committed by the people, were no less reprehensible than
when committed by despotic authority. Under the con-
ditions then prevailing, the escape of the two men from
execution was impossible. The irregularity of the pro-
ceedings and their hasty execution, however, furnished
the enemies of the revolutionary movement with a weapon
to assail the cause. It gave new impetus to the reaction-
ary sentiment, always active among the privileged classes.



and in a measure justified tlie feeling of regret at the
loss of a strong governmentj expressed by the always
timid bourgeois.

Therefore the murder of these two men, however much
deserved, was a mistake; it was more than a mistake; it
was a crime against a holy cause. The real friends of the
peojjle, both at Versailles and Paris, were of this opinion at
the time. Lafayette was one of these ; every means at his
command he had made use of to save them, and in order
to show his disapproval and indignation at such actS; he
sent to Mayor Bailly a letter in which he said: '^ Hav-
ing been put in the command of the militia of the
capital by the confidence of its citizens, now, that their
confidence in my ability to preserve order has been with-
drawn, this being evidenced by the forcible taking of
Foulon and Berthier from my guards and putting them
to death, it becomes my duty to surrender a post in which
to remain I must purchase public favor favor by unjustly
yielding to its wishes."

This action of the popular general created consterna-
tion among the members of the municipality. A com-
mittee was appointed to represent to him the dangerous
situation in which they were placed, the effect upon the
royalists of such a hasty course, and the possibility of
losing all that had been gained. Lafayette listened to
their request, and, being earnestly devoted to the cause of
the people, he was prevailed upon to remain.

The enthusiasm caused by the progress made at Ver-
sailles and the razing of the Bastile, spread like wild fire
throughout France. But while the significance of the
event brought hopes to the hearts of the toiling and
oppressed, it also opened the door to the worst passions of
hate and revenge. Hundreds of castles were burnt, many
of the most obnoxious nobles, intendants of estates, and
tax-gathers, fell victims to the fury of the peasantry.


The situation bears some resemblance to the period in
the late war when Abraham Lincoln issned his emancipa-
tion proclamation, with this difference, however, that the
slaves in France belonged to the Caucasian race; had
enjoyed the freedom of starving, and felt that retribu-
tive justice demanded the swift and condign punishment
of some of their hardest task masters.

These French peasants hastened to the castles for the
purpose of destroying the original charters, those primi-
tive parchment documents, adorned with great seals
and stored away in its turrets. No important feudal
manor existed that had not its tower of archieves. The
peasants went straight ±o the towers. There was their
Bastile ; there were preserved the instruments of tyranny,
greed, and insolence which had blighted their hopes and
made their lives the life of an ox, or a less tractable ani-
mal. These towers, of a barbarous age, had become objects
of intense hatred, and repeated every morning what was
recorded within.

'' Work, work on, oh, sons of serfs; earn for another's
profit, another's ease, another's happiness, until the clod
shall cover us both." The day of reckoning had come at
last. It had been long in coming. Their fathers
and. fathers' fathers had looked for it, dreamed of it, and
now it had come. No more bowing of the knee and swear-
ing to give up soul, body and mind to the grand seignior.
These titles to human bodies must be destroyed. For
weeks, incendiarism, devastation and murder were the
daily events throughout the rural districts. Thousands
of nobles fled to the cities for protection, or left France

''All this pillage and murder, however," says Mich-
elet, ''should not be charged to the peasants. In the
confusion consequent upon loss of employment, the peo-

Online LibraryHermann LiebThe foes of the French revolution → online text (page 6 of 25)