Proclamation of the Department of the Seine–et–Oise (9 March 1792)

Despite the radical measures taken by the National Assembly, such as the abolition of nobility and the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, social conflicts continued to manifest themselves after the National Assembly completed its work in 1791. In the document below, we see evidence of continued friction over the circulation of grain and bread. Peasants continued to believe they were not getting all that was due them from urban merchants who bought their grain, while city dwellers continued to attribute the high cost of bread to the hoarding of grain by large landowners in the countryside. The government, seeking always to serve "the people," found itself caught between conflicting constituencies.


Certain enemies of the People, as well as certain laws, have misled some of the inhabitants of our countryside and terrorized others into joining their schemes and their thievery. There is no longer either liberty or security in several of our markets. The People's magistrates are reduced to either authorizing these excesses because they exist, or being massacred when they call for the implementation of the laws. Such attempts should have been, and indeed were, denounced to the King and the National Assembly. Every French heart trembled with horror and indignation at the realistic scene that was described. The call was immediately answered by citizens armed by the law and for the law, as well as voluntary national guardsmen from Paris, ever faithful to the principles [of the Revolution] and to freedom. They marched in order to reestablish the public peace, to maintain respect for property, and to ensure that those who had already been found guilty be punished and not escape the law's vengeance. The national guard of Versailles and the majority of the national guardsmen of the Department, now occupied with maintaining the peace in their homes, if necessary will rush to assist their efforts. . . .

Citizens, the markets should be free under the protection of the laws and the police. Any armed mob, without the authorization of law, is but a rabble of highwaymen, who should be, and will be, punished without fail. Being peaceful men, farmers will always flee at the sight of these mobs, and they will use any means to keep their goods and property out of their hands. The buyer must not have the right to tax the price of the merchandise that he is buying, and if he taxes it, he is nothing but a thief. No one but the owner has the right to propose a price and to bargain freely with the buyer.

If, of their own authority, citizens or communities were going to search the barns and granaries located in their own community, they would be breaking the law and infringing on liberty and property. If they were going to search the barns and granaries located in other communities, and if they claimed they were going to take the grain by force, the communities that harvested that grain would consequently want to keep all that they had harvested from their land for themselves. This is what is now occurring. The communities that don't harvest enough to feed themselves, and the towns that don't harvest anything, will get smaller or die off from famine, or arm themselves to procure the sustenance they lack. From then on, there will be nothing but highwaymen and killers. And the French, who used to be so well known for their calm demeanor and character, would be nothing more than ferocious savages among whom there would be neither commerce nor a society, and who would soon devour and destroy one another. What must citizens do then for their own good and the common good? Respect the law, respect property, and maintain the peace. Then everything would take its natural course: jobs would multiply; the workers would find employment and income; the property owner would improve his possessions; and this culture would spread and increase available sustenance.

Source: J. Mavidal and E. Laurent, eds., Archives parlementaires, 1st ser., 82 vols. (Paris, 1862–96), 39:518. Translated by Exploring the French Revolution project staff from original documents in French found in J.M. Roberts, French Revolution Documents, vol. 1 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1966), 427–28.