Desmoulins on the events of July 1789


On July 15th the radical journalist Camille Desmoulins wrote to his father about the revolution unfolding in Paris:

“Dearest father,

I can now write to you. How things have changed over the last three days! Sunday last, Paris was aghast at the dismissal of Necker; [yet] no one would take up arms in spite of my efforts to galvanise people into action.

About three o’clock I went to the Palais-Royal. I was deploring our lack of courage to a group of people when three young men came by, holding hands and shouting ‘Aux armes!’ [To arms!]. I joined them, my enthusiasm quite obvious; I was surrounded and pressed to climb up on a table: there were immediately six thousand people around me.

I was bursting with hundreds of ideas, and spoke without thought: ‘Aux armes!’ I cried, ‘Let us all wear cockades.’ I grabbed a ribbon and pinned it to my hat.

My action spread like wildfire! Sound of the tumult reached the camp; the Cravates, the Swiss, the Dragoons, the Royal-Allemand all arrived. The prince Lambesc, heading the latter, entered the Tuileries on horseback. He personally cut down an unarmed Garde Francais with his sword, and knocked over women and children. The crowd became wild with anger. And then there was but a single cry across Paris: ‘Aux armes!'”