The Revolutionary Spirit Preceding the French Revolution

By Félix Rocquain; J. D. Hunting | Go to book overview

the desires of his people, the Monarch hesitated. That hesitation greatly impaired his popularity.

The public was already oscillating between the conditions of indecision and defiance, when, on the Fête-day of St. Louis, August 25th, it was informed of the banishment of Maupeou and the disgrace of Terray. In a single moment, the King regained his popularity, and there was an outburst of universal joy. Paris was illuminated, and transparencies with the words: "Long live the King! Long live the Queen! Long live the ancient Parliament!" were lighted up. To these testimonies of delight were joined other demonstrations. On the Place Dauphine, the mob burned Chancellor Maupeou in effigy, and on the hill of St. Geneviève a figure, representing the Abbé Terray in full ecclesiastical costume, was affixed to a gallows. The Government took alarm at these manifestations. Hearing that the people intended to burn in front of the statue of Henri IV. the figure of the Chancellor, clothed in all the insignia of his dignity, the horse- patrol was sent to disperse the crowd. Some difficulty was experienced in carrying out this design. With cries of "Long live the King! Long live the ancient Parliament!" packets of inflammable fusees were thrown at the horses' heads, and the multitudes had to be charged with drawn swords, whilst a detachment of French and Swiss guards made a pretence of loading their guns. As for the members of the Maupeou Parliament, they could only reach the Palais in disguise, and had to be protected, during their sittings, by soldiers. Similar demonstrations took place in the provinces. It was thus, in the first months of the reign of Louis XVI., that the people of France anticipated the tragic scenes of the Revolution.

The recall of the old Parliament followed hard upon the dismissal of the ministers. The anti-parlimentaires moved Heaven and earth to prevent this recall, and the clergy, especially, "gnashed their teeth" in their rage. Voltaire and the greater number of the Philosophers were astounded that the King "wished to sacrifice the new Parliament, which had always known "how to obey, to the old one, which had done nothing but defy."

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