Louis Apologizes (27 June 1791)

Louis’s unsuccessful flight polarized opinion on the powers the King should have under the new constitution. For the first time, some deputies seriously proposed doing away with the monarchy altogether and declaring a republic. Those hoping to salvage the King’s credibility created a story whereby the King had not fled but had been abducted. To this end, the King appeared before the National Assembly and apologized, indicating that he had never intended to flee the kingdom or to oppose the constitution and that he had voluntarily returned to Paris upon learning of the public outcry over his departure.


The outrages committed upon and the threats made against my family and myself on 18 April were the reasons for my departure. Since that time several writings have sought to provoke violence against myself and my family, and thus far these insults have gone unpunished. Thenceforth I felt that I lacked security and even decency so long as I remained in Paris. . . .

One of my principal motives for leaving Paris was to vitiate the argument concerning my lack of liberty, which might furnish occasion for disturbances. . . .

I have never made any protest other than in the memoir which I left of my departure.

Even that protest, as the contents of the memoir attest, has no bearing on the fundamental principles of the Constitution, but only on the form of sanctions, that is to say, on the scant liberty which I seemed to enjoy, and on the fact that, since the decrees had not been presented together, I could not judge the Constitution as a whole. The principal objection contained in that memoir relates to difficulties in the methods of administration and execution.

During my journey I became aware that public opinion favored the Constitution. I had not believed that I could fully recognize such a public opinion in Paris; but, from the impressions which I personally acquired on the way, I was convinced of the necessity, even for the maintenance of the Constitution, of providing the established powers with authority in order that they might maintain public order.

As soon as I became cognizant of the general will, I did not hesitate in the least, as I have never hesitated, to make personal sacrifice for the happiness of the people, whose welfare I have always had at heart.

In order to assure the peace and felicity of the nation, I shall willingly forget all the unpleasantness which I may have suffered.

Source: John Hall Stewart, A Documentary Survey of the French Revolution (New York: Macmillan, 1951), 212–14.