Little Bits of History

July 14

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 14, 2017

1789:  The citizens of France storm the Bastille. King Louis XVI led the county into an economic crisis, in part because France intervened on behalf of the fledgling country, America, in their quest for freedom from the British Empire. This was exacerbated by a regressive system of taxation, a system which imposed a greater burden on the poor who could ill-afford it than on the rich, who had more power in the creating of systems. In May and June, the Estates General met with the three “estates” represented. The First Estate was the clergy, the Second was the nobility, and the Third represented the commoners. The Second Estate invoked protocols which brought the meeting to a standstill and the commoners instead, reformed themselves into the National Assembly, giving themselves the task of creating a constitution.

The King was not amused and at first opposed the efforts. However, the commoners were not to be deterred. They formed a National Guard, sporting the three-colored cocardes of blue, white, and red – a combination of the red and blue of Paris and the white of the king. Paris was close to insurrection and supported the Assembly. Tensions rose during the early days of July and the masses broke into the prisons of the Abbaye and released French guards who had been incarcerated for, as rumor went, not firing on crowds of Parisians. They demanded the King pardon the guards and now the guards themselves were considered by the crown to be unreliable.

On July 11, Jacques Neker, the finance minister sympathetic to the common man, was fired and banished. News leaked the next day, a Sunday, and the people of Paris felt a coup was about to take place and locals feared an amassing of troops at Versailles. Conflicts, both armed and unarmed began on July 12 and continued as misinformation and panic spread through Paris. While the King tried to gain some control, the troops under his command were not entirely trustworthy. The streets of Paris were flooded by angry over-taxed citizens confronting any face of authority. The Bastille, a fortress inside Paris, was used as a prison but by this time, was only holding seven men.

The crowd still thought of the building as a symbol of royal tyranny and the public stormed the fortress after calls for surrender were ignored. The fortress was held by 82 regular troops plus 32 grenadiers who had arrived a week earlier. There were fewer than 1,000 people outside. Around 1.30 PM, the crowds broke in and confusion reigned. Soldiers fired into the mob. By 5.30 they had taken control of the Bastille. Less than 100 died in the actual fighting, 98 attackers and one defender. The King learned of the event the next day and asked if it was a revolt and received the answer, “No sire, it’s not a revolt; it’s a revolution.”

Rien. Nothing. – King Louis XVI’s diary entry for this day

Do with me what you will, it is the last sacrifice. – (At the guillotine)

I die perfectly innocent of all the pretended crimes laid to my charge – I forgive all those who have had any hand in my misfortunes, and I pray that my blood may be of use in restoring happiness to France – And you, unhappy people! – pleading for his life

I die innocent of all the crimes imputed to me. I pardon the authors of my death, and pray God that the blood you are about to shed will never fall upon France. – King Louis XVI’s last words

King’s Treason

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 11, 2014
King Louis XVI of France

King Louis XVI of France

December 11, 1792: King Louis XVI of France is charged with treason. Louis’s father died before King Louis XV left the throne and so the next generation inherited the throne from his grandfather. The younger Louis was only eleven when his father died, leaving him next in succession to the throne which he inherited on May 10, 1774. The first part of Louis XVI’s reign saw attempts to reform France in accordance with Enlightenment philosophy. Serfdom was abolished, the taille (a direct land tax of the French peasantry and non-nobles) was removed, and a more lenient attitude toward non-Catholics was established. The French nobles were not happy with the reforms and interfered with implementation. The debt incurred by the French after they helped the US fight Britain for independence added to the stress in France.

The French Revolution became a struggle between the powerful monarchy and noble classes along with the power of the Church against the power of the people and their right to government of choice. The King was officially arrested on August 13,1792. He was sent to the Temple, a Parisian fortress used as a prison. On September 21, the National Assembly declared France to be a republic and abolished the monarchy. Factions inside the Revolution were in disagreement as to what should become of the King. The Girondins wished to keep him under arrest to use as a bargaining chip while more radical members wanted the king’s immediate execution.

On this day, the charges were brought. Louis XVI heard the 33 charges while seated in the same armchair he had used when he had accepted the Constitution. As each charge was read, Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac questioned the King for response. The King hoped for the best legal minds in the land for his defense team. Gui-Jean-Baptiste Target was his first choice, but the man declined. Raymond Desèze became lead counsel. He had only two weeks to prepare for the trial and on December 26, 1792 he pled the King’s case for three hours hoping to spare the King’s life.

The verdict was a foregone conclusion. A yes vote in favor of guilt was given by 693 deputies while not a single deputy voted no, although 26 did attached some condition to their yes votes. Another 26 deputies were absent and did not vote and 23 abstained because they felt they were not elected to judge. The king’s sentence was death, but the matter of when was not immediately clear. Jean-Baptiste Mailhe hoped for a delay. Paris voted for death with Robespierre voting first. On January 21, 1793, King Louis XVI was beheaded by guillotine after giving a short speech declaring his innocence. He was 38.

Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; – the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine! – Charles Dickens

Little by little, the old world crumbled, and not once did the king imagine that some of the pieces might fall on him. – Jennifer Donnelly

Peoples do not judge in the same way as courts of law; they do not hand down sentences, they throw thunderbolts; they do not condemn kings, they drop them back into the void; and this justice is worth just as much as that of the courts. – Maximilien de Robespierre

Kill the king but spare the man. – Thomas Paine

Also on this day: What Would You Do for Love? – In 1936, King Edward VIII of England abdicates to be free to marry Wallis Simpson.
Rewriting History – In 2006, Holocaust revisionists met in Tehran, Iran.
UNICEF – In 1946, UNICEF was established.
Indiana – In 1816, Indiana was admitted to the Union.