World History 1789 Part 2

About the history of the world in 1789, trouble in France, bread riots break out, Guillotin designs his machine, origins of right and left political terms.



July 14 A Paris mob of 20,000--angry and fearful at the king's calling in 17 regiments, mostly mercenaries, to keep law and order and intimidate the Assembly--stormed the detested fortress of the Bastille, seeking arms. After freeing seven prisoners (two madmen, four convicted forgers, and an aristocrat jailed for debauchery at his father's request), the rampaging crowd butchered three Bastille officers, strung up three of the garrison on lampposts, and stuck the Bastille governor's head on a pitchfork. The mob also murdered the mayor of Paris and set up a new municipal government, the Commune. Bastille Day, today celebrated by the French as the birth of freedom, demonstrated the will of the people to have a popular assembly. For this day the king entered one word in his diary: Rien ("nothing"), which meant that he had not gone hunting and killed a stag; that nothing was worth noting.

Aug. 27 The French National Assembly, influenced by Thomas Jefferson and Jean Jacques Rousseau, issued the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, which asserted the equality of all before the law; the rights of freedom of speech, press, assembly, and religion; and the obligation of all to pay taxes proportional to their means.

Oct. 5-6 As bread riots broke out in Paris, a mob marched on Versailles, threatening the king and queen. The king was forced to sign the Rights of Man, and the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution, now head of the French National Guard, arrested the royal family and took them to Paris.

Oct. 10 The Assembly applauded a suggestion made to it by Dr. Joseph Guillotin, adopted the next year, that decapitation with an "infallible" machine (which he described) should be the sole form of capital punishment. A humanitarian. Dr. Guillotin objected to rack, wheel, pincers, and beheading by axe or sword (too frequently bungled). Dr. Antoine Louis, secretary of the French Surgical Academy, designed the first guillotine, and Tobias Schmidt, a German piano maker, built it. (Similar instruments for beheading were used in medieval Ireland.).

Oct. 21 When the Assembly, having followed the king to Paris, took up quarters in the royal riding school near the Tuileries, the political terms "right" and "left" were born, conservatives sitting to the right and radicals to the left of the president.

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