Item of the Day: Trial of Louis XVI (1793)

Full Title:  Proceedings of the French National Convention on the Trial of Louis XVI. Late King of France and Navarre; To Which Are Added, Several Interesting Occurrences and Particulars Attending the Treatment, Sentence, and Execution of the Ill-Fated Monarch; The Whole Carefully collected from Authentic Documents, and Republished with Additions, from the Paper of The World by Joseph Trapp, A.M.   London: Printed for the Author; Sold by Messrs. Murray, Kearsley, and Wenman and co. Fleet-street; Ridgeway, York-street, St. James’s; Deighton, Holborn; Downes, and McQueen, Strand; and at the World Office, 1793.

 From pp. 53 – 58

I  shall now state the proceedings of the Convention before the King was permitted to be at the bar.  Barrere was the member who occupied the chair as President.

In the beginning of this sitting, which will ever be memorable in the annals of history, Barbaroux presented the declaratory act of the crimes of Louis XVI. — On the motion of several members, various additions were made to the black catalogue of accusation, which, with the act, was passed a decree.  The members and tribunes were ordered to keep profound silence, and to express their sentiments neither by murmurs nor applause.  It was next decreed, that Louis XVI. should be immediately summoned to the Convention, and to wait for orders to be put to the bar.  It was next decreed that the series of questions to be asked of Louis, and which were presented by Valaze, in the name of the United Committees, should be suppressed, and that the whole act of accusation should be read to Louis XVI. article by article:  and that at the end of each charge, he should be asked — What have you to answer?  It was likewise decreed, on the motion of Fremont, that a chair should be put within the bar, and Louis permitted to sit down.  The convention were about entering on some other discussions, when Barrere, the President, rose and addressed the Convention.

President. — I inform the Assembly, that Louis is at the gate of the Feuillans.


“You are on the point of exercising the right of national justice; you made yourselves answerable to all the citizens, for the wise and firm conduct which you are to pursue on this momentous occasion.

“Europe observes you; history records your thoughts and actions; incorruptible posterity will judge you with inflexible severity.  Let your attitudes correspond with the new functions you are about to perform; impassibility and silence become judges; the dignity of your sitting ought to be responsible to the majesty of the French Nation; she is ready by your organ to give a great lesson to Kings, and to set an useful example for the emancipation of nations.

Citizens in the Tribunes.

You are associated with the glory and freedom of the nation you make a part of.  You know that justice presides only in quiet deliberations.  the National Convention reposes entirely in your devotion to your country, and in your respect towards the representations of the people.  The citizens of Paris will not forego this fresh opportunity of evincing the patriotism and the public spirit with which they are animated.  Let them only remember the awful silence which followed Louis, when he was brought back from Varennes — a precursory silence of the judgment of Kings by nations.

Half past Two o’clock.

General Santerre Commander in Chief of the Parisian Forces. — “I have the honour to inform you that I have put your decree in execution. — Louis Capet waits your orders.”

(Louis entered the bar, dressed in a yellow great coat, with firm countenance, attended by the Mayor, two Municipal Officers, and Generals Santerre and Witenkof.  The guards remained without the hall, and the most awful silence reigned throughout the Convention.)

President.– Louis, the French Nation accuses you.  The National Convention have decreed, on the 3d of December, that you should be judged by them; they have decreed on the 6th of December, that you shall be arraigned at their bar.  We are ready to read to you the declaratory act, of the crimes laid to your charge. — You may sit down.  (Louis sat down!)

[Here Mailhe, the Secretary, read the whole act; at every distinct charge, the president summoned Louis XVI. to answer each separate article.]

President. — “Louis, the French Nation accuses you of having committed a multitude of crimes to establish your tyranny, in destroying her freedom.  You have, on the 20th of June, 1789, attempted the sovereignty of the people, by suspending the assemblies of their representatives, and driving them with violence from the places of their sittings.  This is proved  in the Proces Veral set up at the Tennis-Court of Versailles by the members of the Constituent Assembly.  On the 23d of June you wanted to dictate laws to the nation — you surrounded their representatives with troops — you presented to them two royal declarations, subversive of all liberty, and ordered them to separate.  Your own declarations, and the minutes of the Assembly prove these attempts — What have you to answer?”

Louis. — “No laws were then existing to prevent me from it.”

President. — “You ordered an army to march against the citizens of Paris.  Your satellites have spilt the blood of several of them, and you would not remove this army til the taking of the Bastille, and a general insurrection announced to you that the people were victorious.  The speeches you made on the 9th, 12th, and 14th of July, to the divers deputations of the constituent Assembly, shew what were your intentions; and the massacres of the Thuilleries rise in evidence against you. — What have you to answer?”

Louis. — “I was master at that time to order the troops to march; but I never had an intention of spilling blood.”

President. — “After these events, and in spite of the promises which you made on the 15th, in the Constituent Assembly, and on the 17th in the Townhouse of Paris, you have persisted in your projects against national liberty; you have long eluded the execution of the decree of the 11th of August, respecting the abolition of personal servitude, the feudal government and tithes.  You have long refused acknowledging the rights of man; you have doubled the number of the life-guards, and called the regiment of Flanders to Versailles:  You have permitted, in orgies held before your eyes, the national cockade to be trampled under foot, the white cockade to be hoisted, and the nation to be blasphemed.  At last, you have rendered necessary a fresh insurrection; occasioned the death of several citizens, and not changed your language till after your guards had been defeated, when you renewed your perfidious promises.  The proofs of these facts are in your observations of the 18th of September, in the decrees of the 11th of August, in the minutes of the Constituent Assembly, the the events of Versailles, of the 5th and 6th of October, and in the conversation you had on the same day, with a deputation of the Constituent Assembly, when you told them, You would enlighten yourself with their councils, and never recede from them. — What have you to answer?

Louis. — “I have made the observations which I thought just on the two first heads.  As to the cockade, it is false:  it did not happen before me.”

President — “You have taken an oath, at the Federation of the 14th of July, which you did not keep.  You soon tried to corrupt the public opinion, with the assistance of Talon, who acted in Paris, and Mirabeau, who was to have excited counter-revolutionary movements in the provinces. — What have you to answer?”

Louis — “I do not recollect what happened at that time, but the whole is anterior to my acceptance of the Constitution.”

President — “You have lavished millions of money to effect this corruption, and you would even use popularity as a means of enslaving the people.  These facts are the result of a memorial of Talon, which you have made your marginal comments on in your own hand writing, and of a letter which Laporte wrote to you on the 19th of April, in which recapitulating a conversation he had with Rivarol, he told you, that the millions which you had been prevailed upon to throw away, had been productive of nothing.  For a long time you had meditated on a plan of escape.  A memorial was delivered to you on the 18th of February, which pointed out the means for you to effect it; you approve of it by marginal notes. — What have you to answer?”

Louis. — “I felt no greater pleasure, than that of relieving the needy — This proves no design.”

President. — On the 18th a great number of the nobles and military came into your apartments in the castle of the Thuilleries, to favour that escape; you wanted to quit Paris on the 10th of April to go to St. Cloud. — what have you to answer?

Louis. –“The accusation is absurd.”

President. — But the resistance of the citizens made you sensible that distrust was great; you endeavoured to discard it by communicating to the Constituent Assembly a letter which you addressed to the agents of the nation near foreign powers, to announce to them, that you had freely accepted the Constitutional Articles, which had been presented to you; and notwithstanding on the 21st you took flight with a false passport; you left behind a protest against these self-same Constitutional Articles.  You ordered the ministers to sign none of the acts issued by the National Assembly; and you forbid the minister of justice to deliver up the seals of states.  The public money was lavished to insure the success of this treachery, and the public force was to protect it, under the orders of Bouille, who shortly before had been charged with the massacre of Nancy, and to whom you wrote on this head, To take care of his popularity, because it would be of service to you.  These facts are proved by the memorial of the 23d of February, wth marginal comments in your own hand-writing:  by your declaration of the 20th of June, wholly in your own hand-writing: by your letter of the 4th of September, 1790, to Bouille; and by a note of the latter, in which he gives you an account of the use he made of 993,000 livres, given by you, and employed partly in the trepanning of the troops who were to escort you.  — What have you to answer?

Louis. — “I have no knowledge whatever of the memorial of the 23d of February.  As to what related to my journey to Varennes, I appeal to what I said to the Commissaries of the Constituent Assembly, at that period.”


1 Comment

Filed under 1790's, France, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Trials

One response to “Item of the Day: Trial of Louis XVI (1793)

  1. Excellent. Thanks for posting this.

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