Henri Grégoire on the flight to Varennes (1791)


Henri Grégoire was a republican clergyman who became a constitutional bishop and radical Jacobin. In June 1791 he addressed the National Constituent Assembly after the king’s flight to Varennes:

“Whatever my opinion may be, I will speak according to my conscience…

The premier public servant abandons his post. He arms himself with a false passport. After having said, while writing to the foreign powers, that his most dangerous enemies are those who spread alleged doubts about the monarch’s intentions, he breaks his word. He leaves the French a declaration which, if not criminal, is at the least contrary to the principles of our liberty. He could not be unaware that his flight exposed the nation to the dangers of civil war.

And finally, in the hypothesis that he wished only to go to Montmedy, I say this: if he wanted to content himself with making peaceful observations to the National Assembly about its decrees, in that case it was useless to flee. If he wanted to support his claims with arms, in that case it was a conspiracy against liberty…

But if the committee’s statement were adopted by the Assembly, if it was decided that [royal] inviolability is total, that the king can never be called into question, then to be consistent you must judge the National Guard of Varennes, and those who worked for the king’s arrest, as though they were guilty of a serious crime.”