14 Julliet 1789


compiled by Tseguereda Mogues -- en français
Aucun commentaire n'est nécessaire -- see also
-- Le 1er mai c’est la fête de Travail.
La Pomme de Terre, un légume révolutionnaire

May we also propose: http://www.franceonyourown.com

This page and its French counterpoint now belong to this URL; the old one at HightowerTrail.com no longer works. This page at the old URL was receiving over 100,000 visits a year; but, alas, when we changed websites (URLs) we lost all that patronage and this page now seldom gets a "look see." Now you visited us, and for that we thank you. For you, may we also suggest our very short French Revolution writeup -- HERE -- Pictures of Paris HERE (more elsewhere) -- bonne chance mes amis !!!

Placez-vous sur les chemins, regardez, Et demandez quels sont les anciens sentiers, Quelle est la bonne voie; marchez-y, Et vous trouverez le repos de vos âmes !

REMAINS OF THE FOUNDATIONS -- OF THE BASTILLE -- THE LIBERTY TOWER -- DISCOVERED IN 1899 -- AND TRANSPORTED TO THIS LOCATION -- http://www.atkielski.com/inlink.php?/PhotoGallery/Paris/General/BastilleRemainsSmall.html

Placez-vous sur les chemins, regardez, Et demandez quels sont les anciens sentiers, Quelle est la bonne voie; marchez-y, Et vous trouverez le repos de vos âmes !

Bastille Day

Bastille Day, on the Fourteenth of July, is the French day symbolic of the end of the Monarchy -- the beginning of the First Republic. On this national holiday all citizens can feel themselves to be members of a republican nation, because the celebration is rooted in the history of the birth of that Republic. On May 5, 1789, the King had convened the Estates General to hear complaints: but, the assembly of the Third Estate, representing the citizens of the town, soon broke away and formed the Constituent National Assembly. On June 20, 1789, the deputies of the Third Estate took the oath of the Jeu de Paume "to not separate until the Constitution had been established." The Deputies opposition was echoed by public opinion. The people of Paris rose up and decided to march on the Bastille, a state prison that stood for the absolute despotism of the Ancient Regime.

14 Juli 1789On July 14, 1789, the storming of the Bastille immediately took on a great historical dimension; it was proof that power no longer resided in the King as God's representative, but in the people, in accordance with the theories developed by their philosophers of the eighteenth century. Within two days the Revolution could not be reversed. For all citizens of France, the taking of the Bastille came to symbolize liberty, democracy in the struggle against oppression. The tallest structure in the illustration (to the right below) is the bastille fortress with its rounded tour-like walls. This fort, originally sat on the eastern outskirts of Paris. Interestingly, only 7 prisoners were in the structure at the time of the siege. Bernard LaRoche was one of them. No stone will be left upon another.

France asserted its identity as a nation with the Revolution of 1789. On July 14, 1790, a year after the fall of the Bastille, delegates from all parts of the country flocked to Paris to celebrate the Fête de la Fédération and proclaim their allegiance to one national community. This was the first example of a people in a European country expressing their right (in modern times) to self-determination apart from an hereditary ruler, a right the French claimed for themselves and then offered as a model to all the nations of Europe and the world. This display of national unity was deliberately organized on the first anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, the first revolutionary act by the people against the arbitrary power of the royalty, an act that would stamp France as one of the cradles of liberty.

Another outgrowth of this concept of a nation open to all who define themselves as free men was the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (August 26, 1789), which claimed to be universal in application. Let us look at each player in the context of the statement, in the light of contemporary events. The draft Lafayette document - 11 July 1789: The Marquis de Lafayette filed a motion for a bill of rights. This motion is recorded at the National Library under the title of a Motion of M. Lafayette on human rights, and the man living in society, 1789. Nature has made men free and equal, the necessary distinctions of social order are based on the overall utility. Please see: http://www.journalechange.com/nav/lafayette.html

15 July 1789: Voters in the town hall (Paris Commune), welcome Messers. Lafayette and Bailly, heads of the delegation of the National Assembly, with the shouts of Long live the nation and its deputies. M. LaFayette became the general commander of the militia, called the bourgeois NATIONAL GUARD. Bailly was named provost for all the merchants. On the night of August 4, 1789: The privileges of birth and rank enthusiastically were abolished. The former (undemocratic) regime is no more. All the special rights of the Ancient Regime now spent, there will be nothing the next morning. This night would become a new advent of the principle of equality between all the Frenchmen.

From the 20th to 26th of August 1789 - Adoption by the National Assembly: The principle authors are of particular social caste(Ancient Regime), such as Mirabeau, Lafayette, Siéyès. Other personal influences are varied First is religion, but that had little bearing (it is an aspect of human dignity, autonomy). Then there are philosophies of the social contract. Rousseau was the inspiration for the law and reflects the general (democratic) will. Finally, there are the Anglo-Saxon philosophies represented by Voltaire's views about the safety and freedom of opinion. Montesquieu influenced the separation of powers concepts and Siéyès contributed ideas of the National souverainneté. Please see http://playmendroit.free.fr/libertes_fondamentales/affirmation_libertes_publiques_individuelles.htm

Founding Ideas and Values of the 1789 Revolution:

Once freedom from the monarchy was won, the new rule had to be codified. Jurists, inspired both by the philosophy of the Enlightenment and by a long-standing French legalist tradition, dominated the Estates-General. This body, which became the National Constituent Assembly after the Tennis Court Oath of June 20, 1789, gave France its first constitution in 1791. Fifteen other constitutions were to follow, leading to the 1958 Constitution that governs today.
Beneath this apparent constitutional instability may lie a genuine concern for the "state" and for the ideal of "public service," defended by an administrators recruited on an egalitarian basis (of merit). From the start the French constitutions were founded on a principle new to most nations, the that of national sovereignty as opposed to royal pleasure.
The King's vacillation, his flight to Varennes and the appeal to foreign forces to intervene eventually led to the downfall of the constitutional monarchy. After the attack on the Tuileries Palace on August 10, 1792, the Republic was proclaimed on 22 September 1792. However, even upon Louis XVI's execution on January 21, 1793, France did not break completely with its monarchic heritage. It rejected the idea of federalism and never applied the egalitarian principles of the 1793 Constitution. Instead, in keeping with the Jacobin spirit, a highly centralized and dictatorial policy was enforced during the Reign of Terror under the authority of the Committee of Public Safety, dominated by Robespierre. Supporters claimed the policy was justified by the aggression of the coalition of European monarchies outside France's borders and by the uprisings within. The coup d'état of 18 Brumaire VIII (November 9, 1799) put an end to the period of instability after Robespierre's assassination.
Bonaparte, one of the Republic's most brilliant generals, became First Consul, then Consul for Life before finally, in 1804, being crowned Napoleon I, "Emperor of the French." The Consulate retained a Republican model of government, but the First Empire restored such monarchical forms as authority vested in the person of the ruler, and it set up a new nobility. Still, the most important part of Napoleon's legacy was inspired by the heritage of the Revolution, which Napoleon consolidated in many areas, for example by promulgating the Civil Code in 1804, and by setting up the prefectural system, the Council of State, the Bank of France, the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole Normale Supérieure - all institutions that survive today.
After Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo in 1815 France once again became a monarchy when Louis XVIII was called to the throne; he was succeeded by Charles X and then, after the Revolution of July 1830, Louis-Philippe. The Restoration was followed by the Second Republic (1848-1851) and the Second Empire (1852-1870). In 1875 a republic was proclaimed for the third time; France has been a republic ever since. The Third Republic enshrined in French political tradition the seven-year presidential term, still the rule today.

The French Revolution of 1789 -- Its Legacy:

At the end of the 19th century the French considered the enduring gains of the Revolution to be the idea of the nation, one and indivisible, based on a voluntary union and incorporating the principles of human rights and national sovereignty, the rule of law and a republican form of government. As they are associated with France, these concepts are symbolized by the "Marseillaise," the anthem to national unity composed in 1792 by Rouget de Lisle. Except for the period between 1815 and 1830, the tricolour flag has represented France since the Revolution; it marries blue and red, the colours of the city of Paris, with the royal colour of white. Bastille Day, 14 July, was officially proclaimed the national holiday in 1880 and the motto "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" was restored in 1848.
The French Declaration of 1789 is not simply a copy of the American Declaration of Independence, it takes as a starting point the the reflexions of the philosophy of the Enlightenment and in particular of authors like Locke, Voltaire, Montesquieu and Rousseau. Admittedly, the US document had a great influence on the French. But the originality of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was conceived to recognize eternal and universal values. It thus had, after its publication, a great repercussion on the Western thought.
Moreover, the powerful aspiration to equality, inherited from the Enlightenment philosophy of Rousseau, stands out as the most resonant principle of the Declaration and following revolutionary movements. Unfortunately, because of the troubles during the Reformation and its repression supported by the Catholic powers, the "enlightened ones" had in France an anti-religious fervor. Never-the-less "equality" is the most enduring, original characteristic of the French Revolution, within the great sweep of political change which first radiated from the shores of the United States.

Caveat Emptor:

One risks a serious error in judgment to take an isolated event out of context. Relying on only one Web source (such as this) to explain an event only heightens that risk. The storming of the Bastille evokes man's pride of self-accomplishment: the throwing-off of the yoke of tyranny. Indeed the event still is glorified today; but, it has another side.

Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé (bis)
Entendez vous dans les campagnes mugir ces féroces soldats
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras, égorger vos fils, vos compagnes
Aux armes citoyens ! Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons, marchons, qu'un sang impur abreuve nos sillons

We speak much about tyranny in today's World: the "Tyranny of the Clock", the "Tyranny of Materiality", the "Tyranny of the Taliban". Even the the "Tyranny of Presentation Software" warrants some consideration by the "serious" media. Yet, tyranny is not just about cruelty or oppression. It is the rule by persons who lack legitimacy, even if initially benevolent (and most writers of history would argue that the benevolent become malevolent in order to maintain power).

Tous les gouvernements ont tendance à abuser des principes sur lesquels ils reposent.
La monarchie, gouvernement d’un seul a tendance à dégénérer en tyrannie.
L’aristocratie, gouvernement des meilleurs, a tendance à devenir oligarchie, gouvernement de quelques-uns uns.
La démocratie, gouvernement du peuple, a tendance à devenir démagogie.


One can argue from the "classical" sources, however, that tyranacide is only used as a last resort, and only when the likelihood of success is very high, and only if the government that replaces the tyrant is assured to be better. This is because there is value to public order, even under a tyranny. Revolution tends toward chaos and anarchy, unless human nature is soon held in check by the new regime.
The leaders of the French Revolution threw off a long-established institution, a partnership of state and church, which they thought had no continuing claim to be legitimate. They replaced it with a secular experimental model that became (eventually) far worse. Why did this occur? Perhaps, the "First Republic" had insufficient checks and balances. Perhaps, the founding principles (the Declaration of the Rights of Man) were faulty, based on incorrect assumptions, lacking a firm foundation.
In contrast the United States government remains today, even though it may at times seem frail. The US Declaration of Independence says much about the original causes of separation from the British monarch, Parliament and the establishment of a more legitimate representative government. American (Federal) leadership, since 1789, has always had an unbroken record of accountability, through the framework of a written, observed Constitution. It, of course, calls for the regular election of key officials, who represent the people. More important is the division of powers among branches and persons. The Constitution avoids a concentration of powers in the hands of a few persons who could, over time, abuse those powers.
The storming of the Bastille set off a chain of events. It deserves celebration in remembrance of all that occurred. It is not just a symbol of freedom, but a warning about the dangers of revolution. Do you disagree? Des suggestions d'amélioration sont bienvenues.

Placez-vous sur les chemins, regardez, Et demandez quels sont les anciens sentiers, Quelle est la bonne voie; marchez-y, Et vous trouverez le repos de vos âmes !
Other resources: La Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen
Declaration of Rights 1688

History pages and links related to the 400th Celebration of the Édit de Nantes (1598), the first act of Religous Freedom in France -- une Foi, un loi, un roi

Patriotic Source -- link returned -- go here, here or here, too.

Des suggestions d'amélioration sont bienvenues
Saints' Days -- Liturgical Year -- Other Holidays

Carcassonne, Languedoc-Roussillon celebrates Bastil Day

More History of France

Armed Forces Day
Memorial Day -- USA

e-mail the editor

Flag Day -- USA
Independence Day -- USA

Substantially updated March 01, 2006 -- we are sorry if some of the old links may still be bad.

Moved to this new URL the week of January 6th 2008: Don't forget to visit our current Newsletter © 2008-14 LaRocheUSA.org & 2006, 07 and many years before at HightowerTrail.com and another website, All rights reserved