Press Reports of the King’s Flight: Révolutions de Paris (25 June 1791) and Père Duchesne (1791)

The news of the King’s flight and subsequent arrest provoked strong responses in the press, most of which attacked Louis as a traitor and questioned the National Assembly’s acceptance of his excuse that he had been "kidnapped." The Revolutions of Paris, previously somewhat supportive of the King, aggressively attacked him as a "traitor," "criminal," and "cannibal." Even more striking was the response of Jacques–René Hébert in his popular newspaper, Père Duchesne. Also a supporter of the King, Hébert declares that Louis is "no longer king" and not even a citizen." He suggests that the King and Queen should be imprisoned in the asylum of Charenton.


Les Révolutions de Paris

The most honorable man in his kingdom! (You cowardly writers, incompetent or hired hacks, this is how you refer to Louis XVI?) The most honorable man in his kingdom, the father of the French, like the hero of two worlds, also deserted his post, and escaped in the hope of sending us, in exchange for his royal person, several years of foreign and domestic war. This conspiracy, worthy of the united houses of Bourbon and Austria, this cowardly, treacherous conspiracy, hatched for the last eighteen months, has at last been carried out.

Citizens! We warned you! Remember that we didn't wait until the dénouement of 21 June to tell you what kings are capable of. He left, this vile king, but he is no doubt the last to fool you. Let him go, never to return. To have kept him any longer at our head would have been far too much of an encumbrance.

But citizens, look at how all the circumstances which have preceded, accompanied, and followed this flight are criminal. Has the enforcer of righteousness, with his lethal weapons ever struck more accomplished villains than those who have just fled the Tuileries Palace by night? Julius Caesar, stabbed to death by the Romans, Charles I, decapitated by the English, were innocent compared to Louis XVI.

Our former King (for Louis XVI is no longer King and can no longer be King) first greedily demands 25 million from the Civil List and numerous estates. He wants his debts and those of his brothers paid off. He even sends his wet-nurse before the nation to be paid for the milk that she lavished on the royal wolf-cub. He orders the felling of his woods. He no longer has to pay his ministers and his armed guard is no longer maintained at his expense. Yet already he finds himself in debt. He needs advances. The royal cannibal devours all the cash and when he has converted the people's bread into gold, he is still ravenous for whatever money we have left.

Le Père Duchêsne

You my King. You are no longer my King, no longer my King! You are nothing but a cowardly deserter; a king should be the father of the people, not its executioner. Now that the nation has resumed its rights it will not be so bloody stupid as to take back a coward like you. You, King? You are not even a citizen. You will be lucky to avoid leaving your head on a scaffold for having sought the slaughter of so many men. Ah, I don't doubt that once again you are going to pretend to be honest and that, supported by those scoundrels on the constitutional committee, you are going to promise miracles. They still want to stick the crown on the head of a stag; but no, damn it, that will not happen! From one end of France to the other, there is only an outcry against you, your debauched Messalina, and your whole bastard race.

No more Capet, this is what every citizen is shouting, and, besides, even if it were possible that they might want to pardon you all your crimes, what trust could now be placed in your remains? You vile perjurer, a man who has broken his oath again and again. We will stuff you into Charenton and your whore into the Hospital. When you are finally walled up, both of you, and above all when you no longer have a Civil List, I'll be stuffed with an ax if you get away.

Source: Les Révolutions de Paris, no. 102 (18–25 June 1791), 525–26; and Le Père Duchêsne, no. 61 (June 1791), 1–8.