The Assembly Complains to the King about the Émigrés

Having received news of the alliance of Prussia and Austria with émigré French nobles against the Revolution, the Legislative Assembly considered itself threatened by invasion. Fearing that the King, despite his public acceptance of the constitution, had allied himself with this coalition, the assembly addressed Louis XVI and asked him to declare his opposition to the émigrés and if necessary to lead French forces against the Prussians and Austrians to preserve not only the constitution but the more traditional concern of kings: his country’s "glory.".


The National Assembly's Address to the King, 29 November 1791

Sire,

The National Assembly had no sooner turned its gaze toward the state of the kingdom, than it noticed that the continuing troubles have their source in the criminal preparations of French émigrés.

Their audacity is supported by the German princes who flout the treaties signed between themselves and France. They pretend to forget that they owe their Empire to the Treaty of Westphalia that guarantees their rights and security.

These preparations for hostilities and these threats of invasion require weapons that absorb immense sums that the nation would have gladly used to pay back its creditors.

Sire, it is your role to make them stop. It is your role to address these foreign powers with a language worthy of the King of the French People. Tell them that wherever people allow preparations to be made against France, France shall view them as nothing less than enemies. Tell them that we shall religiously abide by our oath to forswear all conquests, that we propose being good neighbors and offer them the inviolable friendship of a free and strong people. Tell them that we shall respect their laws and customs. Tell them that we shall respect their Constitutions, as long as they respect ours. Finally, tell them that if the princes of Germany continue to encourage preparations aimed against the French, that the French shall carry to them, not the sword and the torch, but liberty. It is up to them to foresee what can occur when nations are awoken.

For the last two years, as French patriots have been persecuted near the borders while the rebels there have found help, what Ambassador has spoken, as he should have, in your name? . . . None.

We ask you Sire: If the French, chased from their homeland by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, were massed under arms at the frontier, if they were protected by the princes of Germany, what actions would Louis XIV have taken? Would he have put up with these gatherings? Would he have put up with the help being given by the princes who, in the name of allies, act as enemies? What he would have done for his authority, let your Majesty do for the salvation of the Empire and the safeguarding of our Constitution.

Sire everything, your interest, your dignity, the glory of the outraged nation, calls for some other language than that of diplomacy. The nation awaits from you energetic declarations aimed toward the ring of the Upper and Lower Rhine, the Princes of Trier, Mainz and other German princes.

Such as they are, let the hordes of émigrés be dissipated this instant. Stipulate a date in the near future beyond which no response, trying merely to gain time, shall be accepted. Let your declaration be underscored by the movement of the forces that have been entrusted to you, so that the nation is aware of who are enemies and who are friends. With these bold steps, we shall recognize the defender of the Constitution.

Thus you shall assure the serenity of the Empire, inseparable from you own. You shall also hasten the return of national prosperity, where peace shall bring back the order and reign of law, and where your happiness shall be mixed with that of all Frenchmen.

Source: M. J. Mavidal and M. E. Laurent, eds., Archives parlementaires de 1787 à 1860, première série (1787 à 1799), 2d ed., 82 vols. (Paris: Dupont, 1879–1913), 35:443. 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), 446–47.