Parisian Petitions to Dethrone the King (3 August 1792)

Just after the Festival of 14 July, leaders of some of the more radical Parisian sections drafted, on behalf of the French nation, a petition calling on the Legislative Assembly to take emergency measures to ensure "the salvation of the people" by dethroning the King. This petition was presented to the assembly on 3 December by the mayor of Paris, Jérôme Pétion, and then printed as a pamphlet.


Legislators, when our country is in danger, all her children should hurry to her defense. Never has so great a peril threatened our country. We have been sent to this sanctuary of law by the commune of Paris to present the wishes of an immense nation. Imbued with respect for the nation's representatives and fully confident in their courageous patriotism, Paris has not despaired of the salvation of the people, but believes that for France's ills to be healed, they must be attacked at the source without waiting another minute. It is with sadness that Paris must hereby denounce the chief of the executive power. . . .

We shall not retrace all of Louis XVI's misdeeds since the first days of the revolution: his bloody policies against the city of Paris, his predilection for nobles and priests, his aversion for the National Constituent Assembly, that body of the people has been outraged by court valets and besieged by armed men, as they wandered in the middle of a royal city, and found asylum only in a tennis court. We shall not retrace the oaths that have been broken so many times, protests ceaselessly renewed and ceaselessly belied by actions, until the moment when a perfidious flight opened the eyes of even those citizens who had been most blinded by the fanaticism of slavery. We shall put aside all that which is covered by the people's pardon, but to pardon is not to forget. Besides, it would be in vain to try to forget all these misdeeds. They will soil the pages of history, and will be remembered by posterity.

Royal inviolability and perpetual changes in the ministry allowed the agents of the executive power to elude their responsibilities. A conspiratorial guard appears to have been dissolved, but it still exists; it is still funded by Louis XVI and sows the seeds of trouble which will yield a harvest of civil war. Priests, as agitators, abusing their power over timid consciences, turn sons against fathers and, from the sacred land of liberty, send new soldiers to march under the banners of servitude. These enemies of the people are protected by the appeal to the people, and Louis XVI upholds their right to conspire. . . .

From without, enemy armies threaten our territory. A manifesto against the French nation, as insolent as it is absurd has been published by two despots. Treasonous Frenchmen, led by the King's brothers, relatives, and allies, are preparing to strike at the heart of the country. Already the enemy, at our frontiers is sending butchers against our warriors. . . .

The chief of the executive power is the key link in the counterrevolutionary chain. He seems to participate in the plots of Pillnitz, which he has so tardily made known. Every day his name is in conflict with that of the nation, and has become a signal for discord between the people and its magistrates, between the soldiers and their generals. He has separated his interests from those of the nation. We, too, separate them. Far from having opposed the enemies without and within by any formal act, his conduct is a perpetual and formal act of disobedience to the constitution. As long as we have such a king, freedom cannot grow strong and we want to remain free. Out of the remnant of indulgence, we would have wanted to be able to ask you to suspend Louis XVI for as long as the danger to our country exists, but that would be unconstitutional. Louis XVI ceaselessly invokes the constitution; we invoke it in turn, and ask that he be deposed.

As it is very doubtful that the nation can have confidence in the present dynasty, once this great motion is carried, we ask that the ministers named by the National Assembly from those outside its membership wield collective responsibility. They, in accordance with constitutional law and named by free men in voice vote, will wield executive power provisionally while waiting for the will of the people, our sovereign and yours, to be legally pronounced in a national convention as soon as the security of the State permits. Meanwhile, let all our enemies, whoever they may be, form ranks beyond our frontiers. Let the cowards and the perjurers abandon freedom's soil. Let three-hundred thousand slaves come forward for they will find before them ten million free men, as ready for death as for victory, fighting for equality, for their homes, their wives, their children, and their parents. Let each of us be a soldier in turn and if we are to have the honor of dying for our country, let each of us, before breathing his last, make his memory illustrious for the death of a tyrant or a slave.

Source: Le Moniteur, no. 218 (5 August 1792), 916–17.