The Life and Death of Louis XVI

By Saul K. Padover | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII
"We are ready to purge the earth"

WOULD the throne, already deeply shaken by the revolution, be able to withstand the shock of a foreign war, especially an unsuccessful one? It did not seem likely. Louis and Marie Antoinette staked their future on a desperate gamble.

Both misread the national psychology and underestimated public opinion. Already the shortage of food and the high prices stirred latent antiroyalist animosities in the excitable populace. Early in the winter of 1792 Louis' popularity was steadily sinking. People began to call him Monsieur Veto on the streets, and journalists dubbed him Louis Capet in their publications. In the Legislative Assembly, Manuel, a vocal Jacobin, said bluntly, "I don't like kings," and around the Tuileries grim-faced, long-haired pikemen kept sullen watch. The hostile faces lurking everywhere near the palace frightened the king so that he sent for Pétion, and that queer man, who was then mayor of Paris, said ironically that the people were guarding His Majesty against abductors. And from the workers' Faubourg St. Antoine came a delegation of tough-fisted men to the Assembly and shouted, "We're ready to purge the earth of the king's friends and to stop him from deceiving us."

The clamor for war became deafening. From all over France came petitions for war against Emperor Leopold and

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