October Days: An Alternate View

A Revolutionary activist named Fournier, known as "the American" because he had been born in the French colony of Guadeloupe, here recalls his own role as a National Guardsman in the October Days as being more important than that of the market women.


. . . When I saw my brothers crying with hunger on the fifth of October, I could no longer hold in my feelings. The detestable aristocratic and royalist horde had plotted to submit the nation to slavery by starvation and saw no other way to force this nation to renounce its plans for conquering its liberty. That day, at 7 a.m., I heard cries of general alarm and the tocsin, which was being sounded. I ran to the Hotel-de-Ville. I found the people there, who, when they saw me, cried out: "Fournier, lead us to Versailles, where we want to go and ask for bread." I answered that I would go if I could assemble a sufficient number of armed troops. The battalion of the Vainqueurs de la Bastille was the first to start moving, and having come to an understanding with the women, it went off to Versailles, where, in the middle of the place d'Armes, it seized despotism's bodyguards and troops, who were posted there.

I felt I shouldn't waste a minute. I ran through Paris rallying the greatest number possible of good citizens. . . .

When I returned to the Hotel-de-Ville, I found all the people and the French Guard, who called out to me, "To Versailles, Fournier, lead us!" I sounded the call to arms, and everyone willingly rallied.

Then, d'Ogny came out of the Hotel-de-Ville. "Who gave you the command to sound the call to arms?" he asked the drummers. "I did," I answered, stepping forward. "Who gave you the order to do that?" he retorted. I told him in the strongest tone: "The tocsin and the sovereign people." Then he uttered some threatening remarks against me which I cut off by going after him with my naked sword. He fled into the Hotel-de-Ville. . . .

I addressed five or six of these women who, with the name and outward appearance of poissardes, conceal moral qualities, and above all, judgment, which always makes it possible for them to value sound advice. I stooped to their level of intelligence and borrowed Pere Duchesne's style, and while putting fist to nose, I told them: "Damn my ass, [Sac . . . b . . . esso] don't you see that Lafayette and the king are f— you up [vous c . . .] when they tell you they are going to meet in private to get bread for you? Don't you see that it's a ruse to put you off and to give you your chains back, and famine? The whole damned lot should be taken away to Paris. . . ."

No sooner had I spoken these words and followed them up with the gesture of hanging my hat on the tip of my sword, and crying, "To Paris! To Paris with the king!" than fifty thousand voices repeated this same cry, "To Paris!" And then, we left. . . .

We set off again.

I was delegated to go ahead in order to give the municipality of Paris the news that the master of Versailles was arriving in Paris, and that the people, who wanted it that way, were escorting him back.

Source: From Women in Revolutionary Paris, 1789–1795, edited and translated by Darline Gay Levy, Harriet Branson Applewhite, and Mary Durham Johnson. Copyright 1979 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Used with the permission of the University of Illinois Press.