Quotations – the events of 1789


This selection of French Revolution quotations contains remarks about the events of 1789, from significant leaders, political figures, philosophes and observers. It has been selected and compiled by Alpha History authors. New quotations are regularly added. If you would like to submit a relevant and interesting quotation, please contact Alpha History.

“This year has begun hopefully for right thinkers. After all these centuries of feudal barbarism and political slavery, it is surprising to see how the word of ‘liberty’ sets minds on fire.”
Napoleon Bonaparte in 1789

“In two minutes the work of centuries was overturned. Palaces and houses destroyed, churches overturned, their vaults torn asunder.”
Louis-Sebastian Mercer, French writer, 1789


“Public discussion no longer troubles itself with the king, with despotism or with the constitution. It has become a war between the Third Estate and the other two classes.”
Mallet du Pan, French journalist, January 1789

“The King did not summon the Estates because he needed them, but out of his own pleasure.”
Jacques Necker

“If you have been instructed to make us leave this place, you should seek permission to use force, for only the power of bayonets will dislodge us”.
Honore Mirabeau, June 1789

“Ah f–k it, let them stay.”
Louis XVI on the Third Estate’s refusal to disband, June 1789

“The little city of Paris is in as fine a tumult as anyone could wish. They [the people] are getting arms wherever they can find any.”
Gouverneur Morris, US politician, July 1789

“Fifteen to sixteen hundred wretches, the excrement of the nation, degraded by shameful vices, covered with rags and gorged with brandy, presented the most disgusting and revolting spectacle.”
Count Dampmartin on the Parisian rioters in 1789

“Picture to yourself a king, whose name only yesterday the whole capital and nation held in awe, passing among representatives of the people… His ears were struck for the first time with a unified shout of ‘Vive la nation! Vive la liberte!'”
Maximilien Robespierre on the king’s visit to Paris, July 1789


“When Henry IV came to Paris he came as a king who had conquered the people. Now we are a people who have conquered the king.”
A Paris newspaper, July 1789

“Gracious God, what a people! Have we gone backward centuries to pagan atrocities? And you talk of making this people the supreme authority in France? Your party is mad!”
Gouverneur Morris, US politician visiting Paris, July 1789

“Great and memorable night, we wept and hugged one another. What a nation! What glory! What an honour to be French!”
Ernest-Francois Duquesnoy on August 4th 1789

“When I saw my brothers crying with hunger on October 5th, I could no longer hold in my feelings. The detestable aristocratic and royalist horde had plotted to submit the nation to slavery by starvation. Someone called out “To Versailles, Fournier, lead us!” I sounded the call to arms and everyone willingly rallied.”
Fournier L’Americain on October Days, 1789

“I told [a group of Parisian women at Versailles]: ‘Damn my ass, you bitches. Don’t you see that Lafayette and the king are fucking with you, when they tell you they are going to meet in private to get bread for you? Don’t you see that it’s a ruse to put you off, to give you your chains back, to give you famine? The whole damn lot should be taken away to Paris’.”
Fournier L’Americain, October 1789

“I have come to die at the feet of Your Majesty.”
Lafayette to the king during the October Days, 1789

“It is a source of great rejoicing for the good people of Paris to have their king amongst them once again. His presence will soon do much to change the outward appearance of things, and the poor will no longer die of starvation. But this happiness would vanish like a dream if the presence of the royal family does not last until the new constitution is ratified in every aspect.”
Jean-Paul Marat in L’Ami du Peuple, October 1789


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