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6 - Before and after Varennes: the rise in popular hostility

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2012

David Andress
Affiliation:
University of Portsmouth
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Summary

Popular disorder and political challenges, May--June 1791

The situation in the capital after Easter was one of constantly aggravating social and political confrontation. Tensions created by the perception of the aristocratic and brigand threat, and exacerbated by the clerical challenge of the spring, now began to impinge, as we have seen, on all aspects of social relations – repression of disorder was swift and violent, and economic grievances provoked bitter rhetoric. A continued undercurrent of confrontation with aristocratie heightened the atmosphere of instability. On 2 May, for example, Clermont-Tonnerre made a speech to the National Assembly in which he condemned the idea of annexing Avignon, and two days later a mob hounded him from outside the Tuileries back to his home, where it lingered abusively all afternoon, not dispersing until Lafayette and Bailly had been called to the scene with reinforcements. The actions of the clergy similarly continued to provoke unrest – we have already noted the alarming events in the Bonne-Nouvelle parish, and the complex response to the Ascension Day service at the Théatins.

Through all this, the police responded according to their predetermined model of the roots of disorder, but their interpretations of events and motivations were constantly threatened by the actions of the people. On 16 May a gauze-maker, ‘for want of work labouring on the demolition of the quai d'Orsay’, was arrested ‘for having for no reason [sans aucun sujet] insulted and mistreated a cleric… whom he had firstly challenged to tell him if he was an aristocrat’.

Type
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Information
Massacre at the Champ de Mars
Popular Dissent and Political Culture in the French Revolution
, pp. 136 - 156
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2000

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