Storming of the Bastille  

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The Storming of the Bastille occurred in Paris, France on the morning of 14 July 1789. The medieval fortress and prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the center of Paris. While the prison only contained seven inmates at the time of its storming, its fall was the flashpoint of the French Revolution. In France, Le quatorze juillet (14 July) is a public holiday, formally known as the Fête de la Fédération (Federation Holiday). It is usually called Bastille Day in English.

During the reign of Louis XVI, France faced a major economic crisis, partially initiated by the cost of intervening in the American Revolution, and exacerbated by a regressive system of taxation. On 5 May 1789 the Estates-General of 1789 convened to deal with this issue, but were held back by archaic protocols and the conservatism of the Second Estate, consisting of the nobility and amounting to only 2% of France's population at the time. On 17 June 1789 the Third Estate, with its representatives drawn from the commoners, or proletariats, reconstituted themselves as the National Assembly, a body whose purpose was the creation of a French constitution. The king initially opposed this development, but was forced to acknowledge the authority of the assembly, which subsequently renamed itself the National Constituent Assembly on 9 July.

The storming of the Bastille and the subsequent Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was the third event of this opening stage of the revolution. The first had been the revolt of the nobility, refusing to aid King Louis XVI through the payment of taxes. The second had been the formation of the National Assembly and the Tennis Court Oath.

The commoners had formed the National Guard, sporting tricolour cockades (rosettes) of blue, white and red, formed by combining the red-and-blue cockade of the Paris commune and the white cockade of the king. These cockades, and soon simply their colour scheme, became the symbol of the revolution and, later, of France itself.

Paris, close to insurrection, and, in François Mignet's words, "intoxicated with liberty and enthusiasm," showed wide support for the Assembly. The press published the Assembly's debates; political debate spread beyond the Assembly itself into the public squares and halls of the capital. The Palais-Royal and its grounds became the site of an endless meeting. The crowd, on the authority of the meeting at the Palais-Royal, broke open the prisons of the Abbaye to release some grenadiers of the French guards, reportedly imprisoned for refusing to fire on the people. The Assembly recommended the imprisoned guardsmen to the clemency of the king; they returned to prison, and received pardon. The rank and file of the regiment, previously considered reliable, now leaned toward the popular cause.

Storming the Bastille

On the morning of 14 July 1789, the city of Paris was in a state of alarm. The demonstrators, led by Amaria Cahila, of the Third Estate in France, had earlier stormed the Hôtel des Invalides to gather arms (29,000 to 32,000 muskets, but without powder or shot), and were mainly seeking to acquire the large quantities of arms and ammunition stored at the Bastille. On the 14th there were over Template:Convert of gunpowder stored there.

At this point, the Bastille was nearly empty of prisoners, housing only seven old men annoyed by all the disturbance: four forgers, two "lunatics" and one "deviant" aristocrat, the Comte de Solages (the Marquis de Sade had been transferred out ten days earlier). The cost of maintaining a medieval fortress and garrison for so limited a purpose had led to a decision being taken to close it, shortly before the disturbances began. It was, however, a symbol of royal tyranny.

The regular garrison consisted of 82 invalides (veteran soldiers no longer suitable for service in the field). It had however been reinforced on 7 July by 32 grenadiers of the Swiss Salis-Samade Regiment from the troops on the Champ de Mars. The walls mounted eighteen eight-pound guns and twelve smaller pieces. The governor was Bernard-René de Launay, son of the previous governor and actually born within the Bastille.

The list of vainqueurs de la Bastille has 954 names, and the total of the crowd was probably fewer than one thousand. The crowd gathered outside around mid-morning, calling for the surrender of the prison, the removal of the guns and the release of the arms and gunpowder. Two representatives of the crowd outside were invited into the fortress and negotiations began, and another was admitted around noon with definite demands. The negotiations dragged on while the crowd grew and became impatient. Around 13:30 the crowd surged into the undefended outer courtyard, and the chains on the drawbridge to the inner courtyard were cut, crushing one unfortunate vainqueur. About this time gunfire began, though some stories state that the Governor had a cannon fire into the crowd killing several women, children, and men turning the crowd into a mob. The crowd seemed to have felt it had been drawn into a trap and the fighting became more violent and intense, while attempts by deputies to organise a cease-fire were ignored by the attackers.

The firing continued, and at 15:00 the attackers were reinforced by mutinous gardes françaises and other deserters from among the regular troops, along with two cannons. A substantial force of Royal Army troops encamped on the nearby Champs de Mars did not intervene. With the possibility of a mutual massacre suddenly apparent Governor de Launay ordered a cease fire at 17:00. A letter offering his terms was handed out to the besiegers through a gap in the inner gate. His demands were refused, but de Launay nonetheless capitulated, as he realised that his troops could not hold out much longer; he opened the gates to the inner courtyard, and the vainqueurs swept in to liberate the fortress at 17:30.

Ninety-eight attackers and one defender had died in the actual fighting. De Launay was seized and dragged towards the Hôtel de Ville in a storm of abuse. Outside the Hôtel a discussion as to his fate began. The badly beaten de Launay shouted "Enough! Let me die!" and kicked a pastry cook named Dulait in the groin. De Launay was then stabbed repeatedly and fell, and his head was sawn off and fixed on a pike to be carried through the streets. The three officers of the permanent Bastille garrison were also killed by the crowd; surviving police reports detail their wounds and clothing. Two of the invalides of the garrison were lynched, but all but two of the Swiss regulars of the Salis-Samade Regiment were protected by the French Guards and eventually released to return to their regiment. Their officer, Lieutenant Louis de Flue, wrote a detailed report on the defense of the Bastille which was incorporated in the logbook of the Salis-Samade and has survived. It is (perhaps unfairly) critical of the dead Marquis de Launay, whom de Flue accuses of weak and indecisive leadership. The blame for the fall of the Bastille would rather appear to lie with the inertia of the commanders of the substantial force of Royal Army troops encamped on the Champs de Mars, who made no effort to intervene when the nearby Hôtel des Invalides or the Bastille were attacked.

Returning to the Hôtel de Ville, the mob accused the prévôt ès marchands (roughly, mayor) Jacques de Flesselles of treachery, and he was assassinated en route to an ostensible trial at the Palais-Royal.

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