The Life and Death of Louis XVI

By Saul K. Padover | Go to book overview

APPENDIX II
Pamphlets and Public Opinion
THE FRENCH being an articulate people, they fought their great Revolution also with the sharp pen. From 1787 on, the country was flooded with pamphlets on every problem that confronted the nation. Although poorly printed and crudely stated, these brochures had the force and passion of a powerful cause. They varied in size from four pages to forty and in method from persuasion to frenzy. As a barometer of public opinion the pamphlets, taken in the large, are uncannily reliable: they enable one to measure the crest and the trough of popular feeling. For example, when Louis XVI was put on trial there promply appeared about ninety pamphlets (at least the Bibilothèque Nationale, LB 39f, lists that number only), most of them favoring execution. An analysis of four hundred and fifteen pamphlets that appeared between 1787 and 1793 gives some interesting results: Until 1790 the pamphlets are almost all favorable to Louis XVI; in 1790 opinion was beginning to shift against the king; in the latter part of 1791, after Varennes, the pamphlets voice loud distrust; in 1792 the volume of criticism swells, until early in 1793 there is an almost universal clamor for death of the "tyrant."Below are listed some of the pamphlets, together with an occasional quotation to illustrate the savor and the mood.
1789
"Un petit mot à Louis XVI sur les crimes de ses vertus" (30 pp.). by the counter-revolutionary journalist F. L. Suleau.
"Louis XVI le bienfaisant" (20 pp.).
"Générosité du Roi envers les citoyens" (7 pp.).
"L'aventure extraordinaire, arrivée à notre bon Roi Louis XVL"

-343-

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