Street Demonstrations of Support for Necker (12 July 1789)

Gouverneur Morris, an American in Paris, wrote about the street protests that followed the King’s dismissal of the royal minister of finance, the popular Jacques Necker. Many Parisians considered Necker the man most able to enact reforms that might solve France’s fiscal and economic problems. His dismissal left many skeptical about the King’s interest in substantive reforms.


MORRIS:

JULY 12TH:

Dine with the Maréchal de Castries who enquires very kindly the State of my Business. As I am going away he takes me aside and informs me that M. Necker is no longer in Place. He is much affected at this Intelligence, and indeed so am I. Urge him to go immediately to Versailles. He says he will not; that they have undoubtedly taken all their Meassures before this Movement and therefore he must be too late. I tell him that it is not too late to warn the King of his Danger which is infinitely greater than he imagines. That his Army will not fight against the Nation, and that if he listens to violent Counsels the Nation will undoubtedly be against him. That the Sword has fallen imperceptibly from his Hand, and that the Sovereignty of this Nation is the National Assembly. He makes no precise Answer to this but is very deeply affected . . . all agreeably to my Promise on Mme de Flahaut. Learn that the whole Administration is routed and M. Necker banished. Much Alarm here. Paris begins to be in Commotion, and from the Invalid Guard of the Louvre a few of the Nobility take a Drum and beat to Arms. Monsr de Narbonne, the friend of Mme de Stahl (Necker's daughter), considers a civil War as inevitable and is about to join his Regiment, being as he says in a Conflict between the Dictates of his Duty and of his Conscience. I tell him that I know of no Duty but that which the Conscience dictates. I presume that his Conscience will dictate to join the strongest Side. The little hunchbacked Abbé Bertrand, after sallying out in a Fiacre, returns frightened because of a large Mob in the Rue St. Honoré, and presently comes in another Abbé who is of the Parliament and who, rejoicing inwardly at the Change, is confoundedly frightened at the Commotions. I calm the Fears of Madame, whose Husband is mad and in a printed List, it seems, of fiery Aristocrats. Offer to conduct the Abbés safely Home, which Offer Bertrand accepts of. His Terror as we go along is truly diverting. As we approach the Rue St. Honoré his Imagination magnifies the ordinary Passengers into a vast Mob, and I can scarcely perswade him to trust his Eyes instead of his Fears, Having set him down, I depart for Mr. Jefferson's (the American Ambassador); in riding along the Boulevards, all at once the Carriages, Horses, and Foot Passengers turn about and pass rapidly. Presently after we meet a Body of Cavalry with their Sabres drawn, and coming Half Speed. After they have passed us a little Way they stop. When we come to the Place Louis Quinze observe the People, to the Number of perhaps an hundred, picking up Stones, and on looking back find that the Cavalry are returning. Stop at the Angle to see the Fray, if any. The People take Post among the Stone which lies scattered about the whole Place, being hewn for a Bridge now building. The Officer at the Head of this Party is saluted by a Stone and immediately turns his Horse in a menacing Manner towards the Assailant. But these Adversaries are posted in Ground where the Cavalry cannot act. He pursues his Route therefore and the Pace is soon encreased to a Gallop amid a Shower of Stones.

Source: Georges Pernoud and Sabine Flaissier, The French Revolution, translated by Richard Graves (New York: Capricorn Books, 1970), 24–5.