The Abolition of Feudalism: Peasants, Lords, and Legislators in the French Revolution

By John Markoff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
8

REVOLUTIONARY PEASANTS AND REVOLUTIONARY LEGISLATORS

The "Eternally Celebrated" Night of August 4

Close to two in the morning of August 5, 1789, the National Assembly's cheers for "Louis XVI, restorer of French liberty" were cut off by the session's presiding officer in order to enact a formal decree that briefly summarized the many proposals that had emerged during the long hours of discussion. An exchange of congratulations among legislators and onlookers brought the session to a close. Following some further debate over the next several days, the Assembly adopted on August 11 a more elaborate statement that began with the dramatic words: "The National Assembly destroys the feudal regime in its entirety" ( AP 8:350, 397-98).

The National Assembly had just been the scene of a sequence of events as unexpected, dramatic, and mysterious as the Great Fear in the countryside. The agenda for early August had called for progress on a Declaration

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