Cordelier Club petition for the abolition of the monarchy (1791)


In July 1791 the Cordelier Club drafted the following petition to the National Assembly, calling for the abolition of the monarchy:


“We were slaves in 1789, we believed ourselves free in 1790, we are free at the end of June 1791.

Legislators! You had allocated the powers of the nation you represent. You had invested Louis XVI with excessive authority. You had consecrated tyranny in establishing him as an irremovable, inviolable and hereditary king. You had sanctioned the enslavement of the French in declaring that France was a monarchy.

Good citizens lamented and opinions clashed vehemently. But the law existed and we obeyed it, waiting for the progress of enlightenment and philosophy to bring us our salvation.

It seemed that this so-called contract between a nation that gives everything, and an individual who gives nothing, had to maintained. Until that time when Louis XVI had become an ungrateful traitor, we believed that we had only ourselves to blame for our ruined work.

But times have changed. This so-called convention between a people and its king no longer exists. Louis has abdicated the throne. From now on Louis is nothing to us, unless he become our enemy…

The Society of Friends of the Rights of Man considers that a nation must do everything, either by itself or through removable officers chosen by it. It [the Society] considers that no single individual in the state should reasonably possess enough wealth and prerogatives to be able to corrupt the agents of the political administration. It believes that there should be no employment in the state that is not accessible to all the members of that state. And finally, it believes that the more important a job is, the shorter and more transitory its duration should be.

Convinced of this truth and of the greatness of these principles, it can no longer close its eyes to the fact that monarchy, above all hereditary monarchy, is incompatible with liberty. Such is its opinion, for which it stands accountable to all Frenchmen.

It anticipates that such a proposition shall give rise to a host of opponents. But did not the Declaration of Rights itself encounter opposition? Nevertheless, this question is important to deserve serious debate by the legislators. They have already botched the revolution once because of lingering deference for the phantom of monarchy… let us therefore act without fear and without terror, and try not to bring it back to life…

Legislators, you have a great lesson before your eyes. Consider well that, after what has happened, it is impossible for you to inspire in the people any degree of confidence in an official called “king.” We therefore call upon you, in the name of the fatherland, to declare immediately that France is no longer a monarchy, but rather that it is a republic. Or at a minimum, wait until all the departments and all of the primary assemblies have expressed their opinion on this important question before you consider casting the fairest empire in the world into the chains and shackles of monarchism for a second time.

The society has decided that the present petition shall be printed, posted, and then sent to all the departments and patriotic societies of the French empire.”