Bailly recalls the mobilisation of troops (1789)


Writing in his memoirs, Jean Sylvain Bailly, the first president of the National Assembly, recalls the king’s mobilisation of troops in June-July 1789:


“The [royal] court soon regretted having so easily agreed to the merger of the three estates into the National Assembly. The aims of the assembly were known. What they had done indicated what they intended to do: a new constitution, the object of unanimous approval backed up by total commitment, would provide the means to remedy all abuses.

The court was aware that the nobility and the upper clergy would snatch at any chance to disband an assembly which was planning their downfall; but they needed forces capable of holding Paris in check, of breaking up the assembly, and forcing acceptance of the declaration of June 22nd.

Soon, however, thirty regiments were marching on Paris. The pretext was the maintenance of public order: the true purpose was the dissolution of the assembly. Necker was too involved in the continuance of the assembly to be sympathetic to the court’s attitude; he was unpopular with the king and hated by the queen, the princes and the powerful Polignac faction… only the people and the assembly were on his side.

Continuous problems delayed the troops’ arrival in Paris: no supplies were forthcoming; money could only be obtained with the greatest difficulty. The duc de Broglie, in command of the… province, set up his headquarters in the palace of Versailles with a brilliant staff. No commander had ever enjoyed such wide powers; everything was put under his command, even the royal bodyguards; and with the common interest in mind, all concern for corporate or individual interest vanished.”