Address of the Commune of Marseilles (27 June 1792)

In late spring 1792, a group of militant journalists and section leaders began planning an uprising that they hoped would lead to the summoning of a new assembly for the specific purpose of rewriting the constitution to create a genuine republic—thereby eliminating the King altogether. They hoped to enlist activists from the Parisian sections and armed volunteer units from the provinces who would be coming to the capital for another Festival of 14 July. Particularly noted for their revolutionary ardor were the units from Marseilles, who arrived in Paris in late June with a new battle hymn later named "the Marseillaise" and with an address to the Legislative Assembly from the municipal government.


Legislators, the nation entrusts you with the maintenance and defense of its liberty, its independence, and the sovereignty of its rights. The law establishing the monarchy, which your predecessors set up without any regard for the claims and grievances of the nation, is contrary to the rights of man. It is time that this tyrannical law at last be abolished, that the nation make use of all its rights, and that it govern itself.

"Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions can only be based on the usefulness to the community." Legislators, these are the principles of the constitution of every free nation. We are entitled to them because your predecessors decreed them and because Frenchmen have adopted them and have sworn to defend them.

The goal of every political association is the preservation of man's natural and inalienable right to liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

All citizens are equal before the law. All are equally worthy of human dignity and equally eligible to all public offices, positions, and employments, based on their abilities, and without other distinction than that of virtues and talents.

Legislators, such are the eternal basis of all political principles. Whatever is contrary to such principles must be excluded from a free constitution. How, then, could our constituents, your predecessors, establish upon these bases the monstrous pretension of one particular family that the crown be delegated hereditarily, by order of primogeniture? What can become of that reigning family at a time when everything must be regenerated? What has that reigning family done to be preferred to every other? Should there be a law that makes one person inviolate? Does that inviolability guarantee him against the assassin's blade? Does this privilege not subvert every principle? Who would recognize therein the principles of that sovereign reason which consecrated the inalienable rights of man by decreeing that there no longer was any hereditary distinction? Is that supreme distinction founded upon usefulness to the community? What constituent is wise enough to be able to ensure and guarantee that the son of the greatest and most just of kings will be like his father, not a traitor or a scoundrel? According to this pernicious law, would it not follow that the son could be wicked, and with impunity bring misery upon men that the same law would subject to the fury of his crimes? No, legislators, it is only the hired fomenters of tyranny who have been capable of abandoning themselves to such delirium! And it is in the sanctuary destined for the triumph of liberty, reason, and justice that this undeserved claim has obtained the force of law! What infamy! The nation cannot subscribe to it. Empty claims have been made in the past that are supposed to be in effect today. Because there is one sole sovereign, he has the incontestable right to approve or reject the laws that its representatives impose on him.

What, then, has this ruling family done to be elevated to this position? What has given rise to this homage? Could it be the ruin of our finances? Could it be the iron scepter that is used to smite us stealing our gold and exhausting our subsistence? Or could it be the descendants of that family, rife with emigrant rebels and criminals burdened with debt and accusations that our constituents have forced us to recognize as masters? Do not be offended by that word, Legislators. It signifies nothing to us. But such is the pretension of kings, such is the intention of cowards and slaves. . . .

Does not the gold required by the enormous civil list, which cannot be reduced until a change of reign, perpetuate the means of corruption? And might not those means ruin the nation before it had the right to abolish them? And as for the independent guard which our constituents granted their King, which the nation pays for by maintaining the civil list, can a private force exist in accordance with the terms of the Rights of Man? And if it is a public force, must it serve only the King? And is not that law that allows the King alone to chose and dismiss the ministers, despite his alleged sense of responsibility, an inexhaustible source of abuse, crime, and disorder, as well as an eternal wellspring of division and contradiction? And, finally, does not that suspensive veto, which allows a single person to oppose our best laws despite the general will, completely destroy our Constitution? Can the legislative power survive in the presence of that destructive law? And can the judicial power, created and sustained by the legislature, be effective if the executive power paralyzes our laws?

Legislators, admit that our constituents have created nothing; and if you wish to be something useful to the nation, repeal one law which nullifies the national will.

We all know the history of our misfortunes so it would be useless to review it. The indignation which it provokes has reached its height. Let us hasten to destroy the cause of it and reestablish our rights. Let the executive power be appointed and reelected by the people, just as, with some slight differences, the other two branches of government are. That accomplished, all will soon be made right.

Done at Marseilles, in the Town Hall, 27 June, Year IV of liberty. [1792]

Signed: The General Council of the Commune of Marseilles

Source: John Hall Stewart, A Documentary Survey of the French Revolution (New York: Macmillan, 1951), 302–4. (Slightly retranslated)