Parisians mobilise against the Girondins (1793)


This report from the radical newspaper Les Révolutions de Paris describes the mobilisation of Parisians on May 31st 1793, prior to the expulsion of Girdonins from the National Convention:


“For two or three weeks now, in working-class gatherings, in the sections, in the Commune, even at the Convention, there has been talk about firing a warning shot, of raising the alarm. Every citizen was asked to rise up because the need to add another round to that of August 10th had been felt most strongly. The meeting, which has been proposed several times by the two parties that are tearing the Convention in half, was rejected as unworkable, useless, even deadly. As Billaud-Varennes said to the Jacobins, “It is not possible for virtue to ally itself with crime,” and we totally agree with him. As gold must be extracted from its alloy, it was the natural result, and it seems as if that was where the petition that was proposed against the 22 [Girondin deputies] was heading…

Because of its people and its wisdom, Paris is still, and always will be, the most worthy city in the entire empire for defending the national legislature and bringing it respect. All of these vows, and many others more secret, necessarily resulted in an explosion, or at least in the development of that public spirit that continues to enliven Paris… or another June 20th…. And this was the true conspiracy, the “despicable conspiracy,” that the deputies of the Right dreaded so much.

The day before, Paris seemed to be totally calm. But that evening the sections, which were more heated than they had been in the preceding two or three months, were getting ready for the next day’s grand spectacle. The Convention broke up at four o’clock in the afternoon, but forewarned by one party about what was supposed to happen, the deputies reconvened at eight o’clock in the evening. Finally, all the revolutionary instruments were ready. At three o’clock on Friday morning, May 31st, the alarm sounded in several parts of the city and quickly spread to all the others. Upon this signal the recall, and even the general alarm, were sounded.

If the mood wasn’t uniform, the concert of wills proved to be perfect. Everyone ran to their post, meaning to their sections. But in several streets, the means that we have already mentioned were being used. The citizens stood guard in front of their doors. At eight o’clock there were more than 100,000 men under arms, united, brothers, all determined to perish before letting the national legislature be threatened. Not that the public hadn’t clearly expressed its opinion about certain members of the Convention, but as a body, Parisians will defend the legislature to the death…

Towards seven o’clock the commissioners from most of the sections of Paris appeared before the assembled general council. After the verification of their authority, they adjourned the old city council and the next minute reinstated it under the title of the Revolutionary and Provisional Commune. Then they devoted themselves to the important happenings of the day. Various decrees befitting the occasion were passed, and one proposal, among others, was to tear down the aristocratic posters that could be found on the walls of the world’s first free city. However, out of respect for the vague freedom of the press, this proposition was not adopted…

Close to 300,000 citizens were under arms because all the urban areas in the department, and even beyond (5,000 men rushed over from Versailles), hurried to add their numbers to this peaceful insurrection. Let us say that there were 300,000 citizens assembled at the first sound of the alarm, anxious to demonstrate under the gaze of the entire Republic their devotedness to the homeland and their respect for the law! What a lesson for 700 still-divided lawmakers, that harmony and fraternity reigned amongst 300,000 citizens!

And an entire day was spent like this, exceedingly proud, but also calm and quiet. A federation was requested. Is there any revolutionary day more perfect, which was not premeditated or begged for? … Oh! What a shame that the departments were not witness to the solemnity of the 31st of May, since it was a sort of national holiday. If only they could see the people of Paris en masse, they would know that the people are sensitive to insults, they are great, they are generous, and they sacrifice their feelings for their rights and for the salvation of the fatherland…

It is said that May 31st had been prepared with another aim entirely. Anarchists are mentioned, as are seditionists. But this day shall prove to them that their moment has passed. Today, the citizens of Paris are too enlightened to be in a mood to cut each other’s throats, to please this or that faction. As each day passes, a civil war becomes more and more impracticable.”