Category Archives: French Revolution

Item of the Day: Journal During a Residence in France (1794)

Full Title: A Journal During a Residence in France, from the Beginning of August, to the Middle of December, 1792. To which is added, An Account of the Most Remarkable Events that Happened at Paris from that Time to the Death of the Late King of France. By John Moore, M.D. A New Edition Corrected. Vol. I. London: Printed for G. G. and J. Robinson, Paternoster-Row, 1794.


August 8

A debate of geat expectation took place this day in the National Assembly —A committee of twelve members were some time since apointed to deliberate on the conduct of M. de la Fayette. —Jean de Brie made the report, in which he greatly blamed the conduct of the General, in having calumniated and menaced the National Assembly; in having had the design to march his army against Paris; and in having assumed unconstitutional power: and the reported concluded by proposing a decree of accusation.

The discourse of Jean de Brie was greatly applauded by the audience in the tribunes. M. Baublanc made an able and eloquent defence of the General’s conduct; but when he proposed the previous question on Jean de Brie’s motion, the people in the galleries raised the most vilent exclamations and murmurs, which were, however, balanced by the applause of the majority of the Assembly.

Brissot spoke next, and added new force to the reasoning of Jean de Brie. When the decree of accusation was put to the vote, it was rejected by a majority of near 200.

This occasioned fresh murmurs in the galleries, and violent agitation in the Assembly.

As this was considered as a trial of strenght between the parties, it is to be presumed that the majority of the Assembly is with the Court; and that in future debates it will rather augment than dimish, as is usually the case in the British Houses of Parliament after a very great majority in favour of either party. The minority, however, seem to have the people with them. I am told indeed that those noisy people in the galleries are hired; but this does not account to me for the cry being all on one side. The partisons of the Court, one would imagine, might hire applauders as well as the other. . . .



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Filed under 1790's, France, French Revolution, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: The New Book of Chronicles [1789]

Full Title: The New Book of Chronicles; Delineating in Eccentrical Sketches of the Times a Variety of Modern Characters of the Great and Small Vulgar. London: Printed for T. Massey, Snow-Hill, and sold by all the booksellers of Great Britain, [1789].




In those days the fire burned in Gallia, as the multitude mused on their mighty Monarch.

2.  Behold, the fury of the flame spread far and wide even until it reached the region of captivity,

3.  Called in the Hebrew tongue the Tophet of Tyranny but by the Gauls the Bastile.

4.  Lo, in that horrible pit were found the Records of Royal Rebellion, written with the blood of the brave asserters of Liberty.

5.  On that day the Grand Monarch much marveled, and humbled himself before the Lord, and all the people of the Provinces.

6.  Then fled the Queen and hid herself in a solitary Sanctuary,

7.  Which proved not an asylym, for the assembly of the nation for her head offered three hundred thousand livres.

8.  In the mean time the enraged multitude seized the Governour of the Bastile, and put him to Death, who dealt with him as he deserved.

9.  The Commandant also was pushed by the people within the reach of the tyrant, whose slave he had been.

10. And behold, when the frightful king had done to these twain even as they had done to the prisoners of the dungeon, they descended to the shades of Erebus,

11. Not meeting in all the way the place which the priests of Rome call Purgatory, even the place of fools.

12. Now it came to pass, as these slaves of authority arrived at the gate of Pandoemonium,

13. That behold Brownrig the wife of Lucifer looked out at a window over the portal of the unhallowed hall.

14. And she cried with a loud voice, saying, behold, my brethren of the Bastile knock at the door, open it unto them.

15. As the high harlot of hell spake, lo the gates opened wide to the harsh sound of ten thousand hogs making melody in the Museum of Mawby.

16. And when forty and five infernals had whipped the slaves into the hall of justice, they stood before Eacus, Minos, and Rhadamanthus.

17. Howbeit, Belial blushed, Moloch grew mad, Satan saddened his countenance, and all the peers proclaimed a fast, when they were told that their kingdom was falling.

18. On that day the King caused all the regions of his dominions to be hung with sable, and commanded also the court to appear in the hue of hell, saying:

19. Peradventure the mercers and drapers of London may open a trade hither, through the medium of the taylors.

20. And when he had caused his servants to set before the keepers of the Bastile the bread which Belial had baken and the beer of his brewing,

21. At the motion of his sceptre seven of the infernal phalanx thrust them into the fiery furnace;

22. And it came to pass, when the door was shut that the whole herd of hardned fiends fell into a fit of festivity, rejoicing to hear the roar of the _____s.


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Filed under 1780's, Foreign Relations, France, French Revolution, Great Britain, Political Commentary, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Rights of Man (1791)

Full Title: Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke’s Attack on the French Revolution.  Second Edition.  By Thomas Paine, Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Congress in the American War, and Author of the Work Intitled “Common Sense.”  London: Printed for J. S. Jordan, No. 166.  Fleet-Street.  MDCCXCI.

Preface to the English Edition.

From the part Mr. Burke took in the American Revolution, it was natural that I should consider him a friend to mankind; and as our acquaintance commenced on that ground, it would have been more agreeable to me to have had cause to continue in that opinion, than to change it.

At that time Mr. Burke made his violent speech last winter in the English Parliament against the French Revolution and the National Assembly, I was in Paris, and had written him, but a short time before, to inform him how prosperously matters were going on.  Soon after this, I saw his advertisement of the Pamphlet he intended to publish: As the attack was to be made in a language he little studied, and less understood, in France, and as every thing suffers by translation, I promised some of the friends of the Revolution in that country, that whenever Mr. Burke’s Pamphlet came forth, I would answer it.  This appeared to m the more necessary to be done, when I saw the flagrant misrepresentations which Mr. Burke’s Pamphlet contains; and that while it is an outrageous abuse on the French Revolution, and the principles of Liberty, it is an imposition on the rest of the world.

I am the more astonished and disappointed at this conduct of Mr. Burke, as (from the circumstance I am going to mention), I had formed other expectations.

I had seen enough of the miseries of war, to wish it might never more have existence in the world, and that some other mode might be found out to settle the differences that should occasionally arise in the neighborhood of nations.  This certainly might be done if Courts were disposed to set honestly about it, or if countries were enlightened enough to not be made the dupes of Courts.  The people of America had been bred up in the same prejudices against France, which at that time characterized the people of England; but experience and an acquaintance with the French Nation have most effectually shown to the Americans the falsehood of those prejudices; and I do not believe that a more cordial and confidential intercourse exists between any two countries than between America and France. 

When I came to France in the Spring of 1787, the Archbishop of Thoulouse was then Minister, and at that time highly esteemed.  I became much acquainted with the private Secretary of that Minister, a man of an enlarged and benevolent heart; and found, that his sentiments and my own perfectly agreed with respect to the madness of war, and the wretched impolicy of two nations, like England and France, continually worrying each other, to no other end than that of a mutual increase of burdens and taxes.  That I might be assured I had not misunderstood him, nor he me, I put the substance of our opinions into writing, and sent it to him; subjoining a request, that if I should see among the people of England, any disposition to cultivate a better understanding between the two nations than had hitherto prevailed, how far I might be authorized to say that the same disposition prevailed on the part of France?  He answered me by letter in the most unreserved manner, and that not for himself only, but for the Minister, with whose knowledge the letter was declared to be written.

I put this letter into the hands of Mr. Burke almost three years ago, and left it with him, where it still remains; hoping, and at the same time naturally expecting, from the opinion I had conceived of him, that he would find some opportunity of making good use of it, for the purpose of removing those errors and prejudices, which two neighboring nations, from the want of knowing each other, had entertained, to the injury of both.

When the French Revolution broke out, it certainly afforded to Mr. Burke an opportunity of doing some good, had he been disposed to it; instead of which, no sooner did he see the old prejudices wearing away, than he immediately began sowing the seeds of a new inveteracy, as if he were afraid that England and France would cease to be enemies.  That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrel of Nations, is as shocking as it is true; but when those who are concerned in the government of a country, make it their study to sow discord, and cultivate prejudices between Nations, it becomes more unpardonable.

With respect to a paragraph in this Work alluding to Mr. Burke’s having a pension, the report has been some time in circulation, at least two months; and as a person is often the last to hear what concerns him the most to know, I have mentioned it, that Mr. Burke may have an opportunity of contradicting the rumour, if he thinks proper.


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Filed under 1790's, Common sense, Eighteenth century, Europe, Foreign Relations, French Revolution, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Matthew Williams, Revolution

Item of the Day: Wollstonecraft on the French Revolution (1795)

Full Title: An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution; and the Effect it Has Produced in Europe. By Mary Wollstonecraft. Volume the First. The Second Edition. London: Printed from J. Johnson, in St. Paul’s Church-Yard. 1795.


The revolution in France exhibits a scene in the political world, not less novel and interesting than the contrast is striking between the narrow opinions of superstition, and the enlightened sentiments of masculine and improved philosophy.

To mark the prominent features of this revolution, requires a mind, not only unsophisticated by old prejudices, and the inveterate habits of degeneracy; but an amelioration of temper, produced by the exercise of the most enlarged principles of humanity.

The rapid changes, the violent, the base, and nefarious assassinations, which have clouded the vivid prospect that began to spread a ray of joy and gladness over the gloomy horizon of oppression, cannot fail to chill the sympathizing bosom, and palsy intellectual viogour. To sketch these vicissitudes is a talk so arduous and melancholy, that, with a heart trembling to the touches of nature, it becomes necessary to guard against the erroneous inferences of sensibility; and reason beaming on the grand theatre of political changes, can prove the only sure guide to direct us to a favourable or just conclusion.

This important conclusion, involving the happiness and exaltation of the human character, demands serious and mature consideration; as it must ultimately sink the dignity of society into contempt, and its members into greater wretchedness; or elevate it to a degree of grandeur not hitherto anticipated, but by the most enlightened statesmen and philosophers.

Contemplating then these stupendous events with the cool eye of observation, the judgement, difficult to be preserved unwarped under the pressure of the calamitous horrours produced by the desparate and engaged factions, will continually perceive that it is the uncontaminated mass of the french nation, whose minds begin to grasp the sentiments of freedom, that has secured the equilibrium of the state; often tottering on the brink of annihiliation; in spite of the folly, selfishness, madness, treachery, and more fatal mock patriotism, the common result of depraved manners, the concomitant of that servility and voluptuousness which ofr so long a space of time has imbruted the higher orders of this celebrated nation.

By thus attending to circumstances, we shall be able to discern clearly that the revolution was neither produced by the abilities or intrigues of a few individuals; nor was the effect of sudden and short-lived enthusiasm; but the natural consequence of intellectual improvement, gradually proceeding to perfection in the advancement of communities, from a state of barbarism to that of polished society, till not arrived at the point when sincerity of principles seems to be hastening the overthrow of the tremendous empire of superstition and hypocrisy, erected upon the ruins of gothic brutality and ignorance.

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Filed under 1790's, French Revolution, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: The History of Jacobinism (1798)

Full Title: The History of Jacobinism, Its Crimes, Cruelties and Perfidies, from the Commencement of the French Revolution, to the Death of Robespierre: Comprising An Inquiry into the Manner of Disseminating, under the Appearance of Philosophy and Virtue, Principles which are equally subversive of Order, Virtue, Religion, Liberty and Happiness. Vol. II. By William Playfair. London: Printed for J. Wright, 1798.


This second period of the French revolution which now begun, shews in all its extent the misfortunes and crimes that result from encouraging men to rebel against legitimate authority. The reign of the people was now fairly established, and the first operation was to massacre all the Swiss guards who fell into their hands. Numbers were murdered and mutilated in detail, but the large column which had been taken was conducted to the Hotel de Ville, and, according to the custom (begun with Bertier and Foulon two years ago), they were all massacred at the foot of the stairs, and in presence of the self-created, usurping magistrates. These murders were all approved of and protected upon the great scale, but the assembly pretended to preach respect to persons and property, when any particular occasion occured that might shew something like regard to justice without deranging the main plan of exterminating its enemies. As cruelty and humanity are incompatible with each other, and cannot lodge in the same breast, the assembly, the leaders of the revolt, and those who conducted it, must drop all claim to one or other of these qualities, and certainly it is not to that of cruelty; we are, therefore, justified in considering the cases in which they deviated from their general line of conduct, as unwilling sacrifices made to the shrine of justice and humanity, in order to blind the spectators with respect to the extent of their atrocities.

The new common council of Paris was now become the executive power, with Petion at its head and the rabble at its command; the assembly having consented to act the part of a passive instrument, and to decree whatever the populace, set on by the municipality, demanded, all power might be said to be lodged in the mayor and his consorts, who were the leaders of the Jacobin and Cordelier clubs.

The municipal officers were formidable from their violence of disposition, as well as from their great number; selected from the different quarters of Paris, they had spies, connections, and enemies in every part of that large and populous city. A part of this number remained at the Hotel de Ville to deliberate and send off orders, and the remainder were dispatched to see them executed. The barriers had all been shut at an early hour in the morning to prevent their victims from escaping, as well as to prevent the departments of the kingdom from hearing the history of what was going on till all should be finished. In this they imitated the first leaders of the insurrection, who did precisley the same things on the fourteenth of July; but as the democrats of the present day, they were pursued with unrelenting vengeance, for they had been popular once, and might be formidable now. . . .


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Filed under 1790's, France, French Revolution, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Revolution

Item of the Day: Williams’ Tour in Switzerland (1798)

Full Title: A Tour in Switzerland; or A View of the Present State of the Governments and Manners of those Cantons: With Comparative Sketches of the Present State of Paris. By Helen Maria Williams. Vol. I. London: Printed For G. G. and J. Robinson, Paternoster-Row. MDCCXCVIII.


In presenting to the Public a View of Switzerland, a country of which so much has been already written, it may perhaps become me to clear myself of the charge of presumption. The descriptive parts of this journal were rapidly traced with the ardor of a fond imagination, eager to seize the vivid colouring of the moment ere it fled, and give permanence to the emotions of admiration, while the solemn enthusiasm beat high in my bosom; but when the sensations excited by those views of majestic grandeur had subsided, I recollected, with regret, that the paths which I had delighted to tread had been trodden before; and that the objects on which I had gazed with astonishment had been already described. It is true, that the sketch I have penciled of that sublime scenery, however rude, will be found to be an original drawing, copied from nature, and not from books; yet I should scarcely have presumed to obtrude that unfinished outline on the public eye, if the other parts of my journal offered nothing new to its observation. It is the present moral situation of Switzerland that justifies the appearance of these volumes, in which an attempt is made to trace the important effects which the French Revolution has produced in that country, and which are about to unfold a new aera in its history. The governmetns of Switzerland, placed within reach of the electrical fire of that Revolution, flashing around all their borders, behold the subtle spark, which finds a conductor in the human heart, escaping beyond its prescribed limits, and feel its strong concussion in every agitated nerve.

I have endeavoured to give an additional interest to my journal, by connecting the view of the manners and customs of the Swiss towns, with a comparative picture of the present state of Paris; and I offer this Work to the Public with far less hope from the experience of its past indulgence, than solicitude to obtain its future favor […]


During the period of that new species of tyranny which assumed the name of revolutionary government, I was not merely involved in the common danger which threatened every individual in France, but had claims to particular proscription. It was not only remembered by many of the satellites of Robespierre, that I had been a friend of the Gironde, of Madame Roland, matyred names which it was death to pronounce, but that I had written a work, published in England, in which I had traced, without reserve, the characters of our oppressors; whose ferocious purposes I had often heard developed with the glowing eloquence of Vergniaud, and the indignant energy of La Source. No danger could be more imminent than that of living under the very tyranny which I had the perilous honour of having been one of the first to deprecate, and to proclaim.

In this situation an opportunity presented itself of obtaining a passport for Switzerland–A passport!–they who can judge of all the blessedness that word unfolds, are not those who, at a safe distance from the government of Robespierre, have heard of its terrific influence, but those who were placed within its savage grasp. Alas! at the moment of my escape, how many, immured in the dungeons of the tyrant, vainly wished to purchase, at the price of all they possessed, the privilege of forsaking a country, composed only of executioners and of victims!

The road from Paris to Basil leads for the most part along a level country, which displays a picture of fertility, but few scenes of beauty or grandeur, except a branch of the Vosges, which we traversed near Belfort, and whose swelling mountains, presenting faint traces of those we were going to contemplate, we saw bounding our horizon, and stretching along the plains of Alsace.

I found Basil crouded with strangers of all ranks, and all nations, being, at that period, when general hostility had barred the passes from one country to another, almost the only spot left open for the transactions of commerce, the asylum of the fugitives, and the dawning negociations of peace.

The first view of Switzerland awakened my enthusiasm most powerfully–“At length,” though I, “am I going to contemplate that interesting country, of which I have never heard without emotion!–I am going to gaze upon images of nature; images of which the idea has so often swelled my imagination, but which my eyes have never yet beheld.–I am going to repose my wearied spirit on those sublime objects–to sooth my desponding heart with the hope that the moral disorder I have witnessed shall be rectified, while I gaze on nature in all her admirable perfections; and how delightful a transition shall I find in the picture of social happiness which Switzerland presents! I shall no longer see liberty profaned and violated; here she smiles upon the hills, and decorates the vallies, and finds, in the uncorrupted simplicity of this people, a firmer barrier than in the cragginess of their rocks, or the snows of their Glaciers!”

Such were my meditations when I first set my foot on the soil of Switzerland […]

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Filed under 1790's, Europe, France, French Revolution, Posted by Matthew Williams, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: The Jockey Club (Marie Antoinette), 1792.

Full title:  The Jockey Club, or a Sketch of the Manners of the Age.  Part the Third.  The Tenth Edition.  London: Printed for H. D. Symonds, Pternoster-Row.  1792.

M–IE   A-T-N-TTE, late Q—-N OF THE F—-H

The tears of beauty in affliction plead with eloquent persuasion.  All the exterior graces that can adorn the sex, are united in the person of M–ie A-t-n-tte, but recollection of her vices obliterates all sympathy for her sufferings, and if in the plenitude of Omnipotence, when the treasures of a great empire were poured into her lap, at the mercy of her direction, she never strove to alleviate the intolerable burthens of public calamity, but blindly hurried on in the mad career of unbounded prodigality, and inordinate excess, inattentive to the affecting scene, unmindful of consequences;–if, when in the zenith of her power and her glory, the rays of benevolence never shone upon others.  She can have no reason at this day, to expect compassion for herself. 

The influence which she carried into the councils, and which she never ceased to exercise over the weak mind of her wretched husband, equally unadmonished by experience and misfortune, nor discouraged by the terror of future disasters, threatened the speedy devastation and probable existence of France.  Her antipathy to that nation was hereditary: not all the favor, all the liberality, or affectionate kindness of a people easily moved and most susceptible of similar impressions ever touched her heart, or altered those stubborn sentiments she had conceived against them.  Neither the person or character of Louis XVI. were formed to conciliate any tenderness or respect for himself, or to operate a change in those dispositions, that she brought into his country;–dispositions that have been invariably directed to the accomplishments of its destruction. 

During the old government, till a short time before the revolution, the ministers were always chosen from amongst her own creatures, nor were their places tenable on any other terms, than blind and implicit obedience to her sovereign command.  Since the above period, all the abandoned tribe, with very few exceptions, have left the kingdom, and engaged in rebellion; some as her agents in different foreign courts, to instigate the conspiracy, and foment the jealousy of crowned Brigands. Some have enlisted themsleves in the traitorous armies, and all employed in such pursuits as appear most conducive to the success of their sanguinary, desperate adventure.

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Filed under 1790's, France, French Revolution, Political Commentary, Posted by Matthew Williams, Satire