European Wars of the French Revolution, 1792

The 1789 overthrow of the French monarchy and the arrest of the King and his family sent ripples of apprehension throughout the monarchs of Europe. The assumed divinity and immunity of royalty that had served as the basis of social and political organization for millennium had been overturned. European monarchs observed the events of the revolution with caution, unsure whether they should take advantage of the instability in France, work to restore the French monarchy, or simply try to prevent revolutionary ideas from spreading to their own countries. Family ties complicated matters; Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II was the brother of French queen Marie Antoinette. Leopold allied with his mother’s former enemy in the War of Austrian Succession, Frederick II, to issue the Declaration of Pillnitz in August of 1791, offering vague warnings to the French revolutionaries to safeguard the royal family and declaring the safety of the French royal family to be in the interest of all European monarchs. The French responded with a declaration of war against Leopold and Austria, and the executions of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in 1792. Over the next ten years, various coalitions and alliances among the British, German, Austrian, Spanish, and many other princes from across Europe fought to limit the spread and influence of the French revolutionaries. Despite the combined power of the European princes, it was the power of French nationalism, mass conscription, and the charismatic leadership of Napoleon that ultimately won out. By 1804, the French revolutionary government had succeeded in firmly establishing the staying power of the Republic, with some territorial gains in Europe. However, the need to concentrate their forces on the European mainland and the power of the ideological shift towards “liberty, equality, and fraternity” led to the loss of France’s wealthiest colony in the Haitian Revolution.

“Promis’d Horrors of the French Invasion” (1796): A British illustration of the feared chaos and social disruption that would be the inevitable fallout from the French Revolution

The Declaration of Pillnitz, 27 August 1791 Top

Source: Leonard W. Cowie, ed. 1967. Documents and Descriptions in European History 1714-1815. London: Oxford University Press.

His Majesty the Emperor and his Majesty the king of Prussia, having given attention to the wishes and represen­tations of Monsieur [the brother of the king of France], and of Monsieur le Comte d’Artois, jointly declare that they regard the present situation of his Majesty the king of France as a matter of common interest to all the sovereigns of Europe. They trust that this interest will not fail to be recognized by the powers, whose aid is solicited; and that in consequence they will not refuse to employ, in conjunc­tion with their said majesties, the most efficient means, in proportion to their resources, to place the king of France in a position to establish, with the most absolute freedom, the foundations of a monarchical form of government, which shall at once be in harmony with the rights of sovereigns and promote the welfare of the French nation. In that case [Namely, in case the other powers agreed to join them in checking the Revolution. The signers of the declaration well knew that England would not associate itself with them for such a purpose and that conse­quently their threat would not be executed.] their said majesties the emperor and the king of Prussia are resolved to act promptly and in common accord with the forces necessary to obtain the desired common end.

In the meantime they will give such orders to their troops as are necessary in order that these may be ready to be called into active service.



PILLNITZ, August 27, 1791

French Declaration of War on Austria, 20 April 1792 Top


The National Assembly, deliberating upon the formal proposition of the king, in view of the fact that the court of Vienna, in contempt of treaties, has not ceased to extend open protection to French rebels;

That it has instigated and formed a concert with several of the powers of Europe directed against the independence and safety of the French nation;

That Francis I, king of Hungary and Bohemia, has, by his diplomatic notes of the 18th of March and the 7th of April last, refused to renounce this concert;

That, in spite of the proposition made to him by the note of March 1st, 1792, to reduce to a peace basis the troops upon the frontiers, he has continued, and hastened, hostile preparations;

That he has formally attacked the sovereignty of the French nation by declaring his intention of maintaining the claims of the German princes who hold territory in France, whom the French nation has repeatedly offered to indemnify;

That he has endeavored to divide the citizens of France and arm them against one another by holding out to the malcontents the hope of assistance from a concert of the powers;

And that, finally, by his refusal to reply to the last dis­patches of the king of France, he leaves no hope of obtain­ing, by way of friendly negotiation, the redress of these several grievances, – which is equivalent to a declaration of war;-the Assembly decrees that immediate action is urgent.

The National Assembly proclaims that the French nation, faithful to the principles consecrated by its constitution, “not to undertake any war with a view to conquest nor ever to employ its forces against the liberty of any people,” only takes up arms for the maintenance of its liberty and independence;

That the war which it is forced to prosecute is not a war of nation against nation, but the just defense of a free people against the unjust aggression of a king;

That the French nation never confuses its brethren with its real enemies;

That it will neglect nothing which may reduce the curse of war, spare and preserve property, and cause all the un­happiness inseparable from war to fall alone upon those who have conspired against its liberty;

That it adopts in advance all foreigners who, abjuring the cause of its enemies, shall range themselves under its banners and consecrate their efforts to the defense of liberty; and that it will promote by all means in its power their settling in France.

Deliberating upon the formal proposition of the king and after having decreed the matter one of urgent importance, the Assembly decrees war against the king of Hungary and of Bohemia.

Brussel’s response to the French Declaration of War on Austria, April 1792 Top

Source: Unknown Author. 1817. A Sketch of the History of France during the Revolution and the reign of Napoleon. London: W. Simpkin and R. Marshall.

A faction, by which the kingdom of France has for four years has been torn usunder, has just prevailed on his most Christian majesty to sanction a declaration of war against his apostolic majesty, our most honoured lord and nephew. The first acts of hostility seem to be directed against these provinces; and the enemies of all order and power, who are mediating an aggression so unjust, found their hopes of success on the spirit of party which was unfortunately disseminated during the late troubles. – We will carefully attend to the defence of those provinces with the government of which we are intrusted, relying with confidence on the protection of the Lords of Hosts, who is pleased to manifest the effects of his omnipotence in favour of those who are inspired with a sacred respect for the laws, and for all powers by him ordained on the earth for the government of human societies.We flatter ourselves that every class of citizens will be animated with one spirit, and that they will vigilantly attend to the maintenance of internal tranquillity, and the preservation of property, while we order to the frontiers part of his majesty’s troops, full of glory, and crowned by victory under the two last reigns, until the league, formed between several great powers, shall oppose a mound to the torrent of sinister projects which menace the overthrow of Europe. –We owe it to the faithful subjects of his majesty, to inform them of the measures which we have adopted, during a whole year, in hopes of remaining at peace with France; and to warn them of the innumerable calamities which our enemies are eager to spread and perpetuate, under the specious veil of a chimerical liberty, offered to a credulous multitude by an impious sect of innovators, soi disant philosophers, as the infallible result of their mad projects. Theirs is not to war with the princes of the earth, but against the religion of our ancestors, against social order, against prosperity, and against all the comforts which naturally flow from it. They have already, by the adoption of their absurd systems, plunged their country into all the horrors of anarchy. Jealous of the prosperity of those nations who still enjoy the fruits of social order, they have formed, for their own protection, the barbarous project of inspiring them with a similar delirium of propagating their errors, and with them all the calamities with which the kingdom of France is at this time afflicted.They have been, during a whole year, mediating and inventing pretexts for the aggression on which they had resolved. Having driven away from the bosom of France, by dint of persecutions, all those citizens who were attached to the established religion, and to the prerogative, hitherto held sacred by the fundamental laws of the kingdom, they have attempted to prevent them from enjoying, in any part of the world, the sweets of hospitality which men reciprocally owe to each other. We have been extremely careful not to afford the slightest grounds of complaint, resolved not to meddle, in the least degree, with the political government of any neighbouring states. We have taken care to prevent that any thing should be attempted, or even written, in those provinces against the constitution just established in France; and, as a reward for our strict attention to the laws of good neighbourhood, a horde of factious vagabonds has been assembled on our frontiers, resolved on the execution of the most infernal plots. The most infamous writings against religion, and against the constitutional authority of the sovereign, have been dispersed in these provinces. These writings were substantially the same as the speeches delivered in the midst of authorized societies, in which the most atrocious crimes have been recommended as virtues, with a view to flatter the criminal propensities of a set of men, in hopes of reconciling them to a system which in history will be the disgrace of the present generation.

All our remonstrances on this subject have been made in vain; and, whilst we paid the greatest attention to complaints relative to armaments which had no existence, and to pretended insults offered to Frenchmen, all kinds of excesses have been multiplied against the subjects of his majesty, and committed on his territories, and we have never obtained, on so many objects of complaint, any thing more than promises of satisfaction, which have in no instance been performed; and when we have, on our part, exercised that vigilance which was become necessary on the conduct of emissaries, who it was boasted openly were sent into these provinces on purpose to excite insurrections and to create anarchy, we have been insulted for having taken those precautions which were construed into attempts against the safety and the liberty of the French travellers. On the other hand, we were applauded for having given orders to prevent the assembling of the unfortunate French gentlemen who had emigrated from the kingdom, and to oblige them to conform most strictly to the laws of simple hospitality, order to preclude the possibility of their arming and forming themselves into a military corps. – These measures, which France seems now to have forgotten, were quoted to the princes of the empire as an example proper for them to imitate in their respective states, and with which the despotic agents of the French government would be satisfied.

We shall avoid taking notice of all the calamities with which France is afflicted – we should leave to time the disclosure of the machinations perpetually recommended by a set of insidious writers in their dangerous publications, were it not evident that, at the moment of the intended aggression against these provinces, a resolution is taken to spread the poison of a seductive illusion on the pretended advantages of the French constitution, with a view to make those partakers of it who may be deluded by this means; but it is necessary that the people who are confided to our government be reminded and informed that the kingdom of France groans at this time, in the name of liberty, under the most hateful slavery, every species of vice, of the most unbridled passions, and of a species of anarchy which is without example; that rights and property are abolished; that the holy religion which we profess is there trodden under foot; that altars are profaned and polluted; that their true ministers are deprived of their just rights, ill-treated and, persecuted even in their retreats among foreign nations, and replaced by intruders who have no mission from the hierarchy of the church; that the pastors of the people have been deprived of their distinctive vestments by which they were known to their flocks; that in a monstrous code, rights have been extolled which man cannot enjoy in society, and which he tacitly renounces, by living in civilized associations; that, pursuant to those chimerical rights, attempts have been made to abolish, overturn, and confound those real rights which have been transmitted under the protection of the fundamental laws of the kingdom, from generation to generation, to those venerable classes to which the French nation had, in every respect, the highest obligations; that real property has given way to the name, by seizing the estates of those who had been solemnly invested with them by time, by the laws, and by an uninterrupted possession, a hundred times renewed and confirmed by the true representatives of the nation; and all this under the deceitful colour of an equality of chimerical rights, not existing in fact, and annihilated if it could for a moment exist, by that variety of character, impressed on all mankind at their birth, by which they share, in very unequal proportions, moral faculties, the very disproportion of which has always determined, and will ever determine, the ascendancy of genius, strength, patience, industry, and economy, over the opposite qualities; together with all the advantages which may lawfully arise from them, and which may be transferred like every other species of property.

Finally, it is necessary that the faithful subjects of his majesty be informed that, whilst pains are taken to extol the pretended glory and prosperity of the kingdom of France, lately the most flourishing in Europe, there is now no commerce, no circulation of specie or goods, no public force, no justice, no police; and that the philosophical persecutors of all those who are not of their sect, know no bounds to the excesses which they excite their people to commit, except a satiety of crimes.

Who, after this, could be so blind or ignorant as to place the least confidence in the promises, and in the insidious assurances made by these tyrants to those nations whom they wish to subdue, that they will respect their property, their religion, their rights, their privileges, and their constitution; tyrants who, since they have usurped the public power and force in France, have trodden under foot, with an effrontery and audacity hitherto unheard of, the most solemn public treaties, all rights, human and divine, and every thing which is held most sacred over all the world; who, the moment they should become masters of one province, would seize, as they have in their own country, the estates of the clergy and the nobility, and the property of the citizens.

Once more, having never had any inclination to meddle with the internal government of any neighbouring state, we should not have entered on these afflicting details, relative to objects which are foreign to the government with which we are intrusted, were it not that French writings and French emissaries, and even the recent acts of the new legislature of France, have a tendency to render universal a system of innovation, whether good or bad for the French nation, certainly and decidedly ruinous to the people under our government; because it is subversive of all that political organization delineated by a constitution which they love, which the sovereign has engaged to maintain, and on which the happiness of Belgium has for ages been founded.

It was our duty to warn the people of the imminent dangers with which they are threatened. We have laid before them truths which all well-meaning persons will acknowledge to be striking; and they will, of course, use their utmost endeavours to maintain peace and public tranquility within these provinces; and we shall consider those as enemies to the state, and treat them as such, who shall attempt to disturb them.

Marie Albert.

Baron de Feliz.

Done at Brussels, April 29, 1792.

The Proclamation of the Duke of Brunswick, July 25, 1792 Top

Source: Leonard W. Cowie, ed. 1967. Documents and Descriptions in European History 1714-1815. London: Oxford University Press.

Their Majesties the emperor and the king of Prussia having intrusted to me the command of the united armies which they have collected on the frontiers of France, I desire to announce to the inhabitants of that kingdom the motives which have determined the policy of the two sovereigns and the purposes which they have in view.

After arbitrarily violating the rights of the German princes in Alsace and Lorraine, disturbing and overthrowing good order and legitimate government in the interior of the realm, committing against the sacred person of the king and his august family outrages and brutalities which continue to be renewed daily, those who have usurped the reins of government have at last completed their work by declaring an unjust war on his Majesty the emperor and attacking his provinces situated in the Low Countries. Some of the territories of the Germanic empire have been affected by this oppression, and others have only escaped the same fate by yielding to the threats of the dominant party and its emissaries.

His Majesty the king of Prussia, united with his Imperial Majesty by the bonds of a strict defensive alliance and himself a preponderant member of the Germanic body, would have felt it inexcusable to refuse to march to the help of his ally and fellow-member of the empire. . . .

To these important interests should be added another aim equally important and very close to the hearts of the two sovereigns, – namely, to put an end to the anarchy in the interior of France, to check the attacks upon the throne and the altar, to reestablish the legal power, to restore to the king the security and the liberty of which he is now deprived and to place him in a position to exercise once more the legitimate authority which belongs to him.

Convinced that the sane portion of the French nation abhors the excesses of the faction which dominates it, and that the majority of the people look forward with impatience to the time when they may declare themselves openly against the odious enterprises of their oppressors, his Majesty the emperor and his Majesty the king of Prussia call upon them and invite them to return without delay to the path of reason, justice, order, and peace. In accordance with these views, I, the undersigned, the commander in chief of the two armies, declare:

1. That, drawn into this war by irresistible circumstances, the two allied courts entertain no other aims than the welfare of France, and have no intention of enriching themselves by conquests.

2. That they do not propose to meddle in the internal government of France, and that they merely wish to deliver the king, the queen, and the royal family from their captivity, and procure for his Most Christian Majesty the necessary security to enable him, without danger or hindrance, to make such engagements as he shall see fit, and to work for the welfare of his subjects, according to his pledges.

3. That the allied armies will protect the towns and villages, and the persons and goods of those who shall submit to the king and who shall cooperate in the immediate reestablishment of order and the police power throughout France.

4. That, on the contrary, the members of the National Guard who shall fight against the troops of the two allied courts, and who shall be taken with arms in their hands, shall be treated as enemies and punished as rebels to their king and as disturbers of the public peace. . . .

7. That the inhabitants of the towns and villages who may dare to defend themselves against the troops of their Imperial and Royal Majesties and fire on them, either in the open country or through windows, doors, and openings in their houses, shall be punished immediately according to the most stringent laws of war, and their houses shall be burned or destroyed. . . .

8. The city of Paris and all its inhabitants without distinction shall be required to submit at once and without delay to the king, to place that prince in full and complete liberty, and to assure to him, as well as to the other royal personages, the inviolability and respect which the law of nature and of nations demands of subjects toward sovereigns. . .Their said Majesties declare, on their word of honor as emperor and king, that if the chateau of the Tuileries is entered by force or attacked, if the least violence be offered to their Majesties the king, queen, and royal family, and if their safety and their liberty be not immediately assured, they will inflict an ever memorable vengeance by delivering over the city of Paris to military execution and complete destruction, and the rebels guilty of the said outrages to the punishment that they merit. . . .

Finally, I pledge myself, in my own name and in my said capacity, to cause the troops intrusted to my command to observe good and strict discipline, promising to treat with kindness and moderation all well-intentioned subjects who show themselves peaceful and submissive, and to use force only against those who shall be guilty of resistance and ill will.

It is for these reasons that I call upon and exhort in the most urgent manner all the inhabitants of the kingdom not to oppose the movements and operations of the troops which I command, but rather, on the contrary, to grant them everywhere a free passage and to assist and aid them with all good will as circumstances shall demand.

Given at the headquarters at Coblenz, July 25, 1792.


Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg.

Manifesto issued by their Majesties the Emperor of Germany and the King of Prussia, against the French Revolution, 4 August 1792 Top

Source: Unknown Author. 1817. A Sketch of the History of France during the Revolution and the reign of Napoleon. London: W. Simpkin and R. Marshall.

Their majesties the emperor and king of Prussia, in commencing a war occasioned by the most unjust and most imperious circumstances, have successively and separately published the particular motives of their conduct. Animated, however, by a regard for the sacred interests of humanity, their imperial and royal majesties, thinking it not sufficient to have communicated to the different courts of Europe the circumstances which oblige them to have recourse to arms, consider it as of importance to their glory and the happiness of their faithful subjects, to enlighten all nations respecting the causes and effects of the late deplorable revolution in France; and, in a manifesto, to lay open to the present generation, as well as to posterity, their motives, their intentions, and the disinterestedness of their personal views.

Taking up arms for the purpose of preserving social and political order among all polished nations, and to secure to each state its religion, happiness, independence, territories, and real constitution, it is to be presumed the use which their imperial and royal majesties are about to make for the general safety of the forces committed by Providence to their disposal, will console mankind, if possible, for the evils to which war has already exposed them, and for that blood which the disturbers of public tranquility may yet cause to be shed. In this hope their majesties have not hesitated to give to all nations, and to all individuals, the great example of forgetting, on the appearance of common danger, their ancient divisions and their private concerns, that they may attend only to the public good, in a crisis so important, of which no instance is to be found in history. They think, and with justice, that fail to unite their efforts, in order to rescue a numerous nation from its own fury; to preserve Europe from the return of barbarism, and the universe from that subversion and anarchy with which it is threatened.

However celebrated the French revolution may unhappily have been, a manifesto against it ought to exhibit a true picture of it; and it is by facts alone that the public can be enabled to judge of this grand cause of all nations against faction and rebellion.

For four years past, Europe has viewed with attention, and beheld with increasing indignation, the revolution which has oppressed France, and which detains in captivity an august monarch, worthy of the love of his subjects, and entitled to the esteem, friendship, and support of all sovereigns.

Since his accession to the throne, it is well known that his most Christian majesty has testified, in every possible manner, his affection for his subjects, his love of justice, his constant and sincere desire to establish order and economy in the administration of his finances, and his honesty towards the creditors of the nation. To make personal sacrifices was his highest enjoyment, and a desire of complying with public opinion has always determined him in the choice of his measures. Continually employed in devising means for relieving his people, and for knowing and gratifying the public wishes, he has erred with them and for them; obeyed the dictates of humanity rather than those of justice; and overlooked their faults, in hope that they would repair them without rendering it necessary for him to have recourse to punishment. Calumny itself has, however, always respected his intentions; and the most criminal and audacious factions, while attacking his sovereign authority and insulting his sacred person, struck by his private virtues, have neither been able, nor dared to deny them.

After trying in vain every method that occurred to him of promoting the welfare of his subjects, of discharging the public debt of the nation – unfortunate in the choice of his measures, deceived in his hopes, and disappointed by various events – yet, still firm in his benevolent intentions, and encouraged, though there was no occasion for his being so, by the queen and all the royal family, to incessantly pursue the object of his wishes, the darling passion of his heart, the happiness of his people, Louis XVI., not finding the succour which he sought in the assembly of the notables, convened the states-general of the kingdom. He was desirous of collecting around him, in the three orders of the monarchy, all his subjects, and to ask themselves by what means he could at length render them happy. Scrupulous even in the form, and fearing to take any thing upon himself, he endeavoured to learn, in every manner possible, the public opinion respecting the calling together of the states-general; he found himself compelled, by circumstances which his goodness and magnanimous loyalty could not avoid, to change, in this convocations, the ancient form followed by his predecessors; he signed, without distrust, orders, insidiously and artfully drawn up, which endangered his sovereign authority, tended to excite discord, and insinuated disobedience to his commands. Under these fatal auspices, the states general met; and one of the best kings that France can boast of, addressed this august, but soon after criminal assembly, these valuable words, which sovereigns, who might have found them in their own sentiments, still take a pleasure in repeating:

“Everything that can be expected from the tenderest interest in the happiness of the public, every thing that can be required of a sovereign, the best friend of his people, you may and ought to hope for from my sentiments.”

These memorable expressions, which might have recovered the most estranged hearts and the most alienated minds, and which ought, in a peculiar manner, to have inspired with the most lively gratitude a people loaded with kindness by their king, were scarcely pronounced, when the signal of revolt was given on all sides. One of the three orders, converting a momentary concession into right, and abusing a double representation, the object of which, on the part of the monarch, was to increase his information without increasing his preponderance, wished, by taking the lead, to swallow up the other two, and to bear them down by its weight. In vain did the laws of the monarchy, the authority of precedent, the nature of things, and the sacred and imprescriptible rights of each order oppose this ambitious, unjust, and illegal confusion. The resistance of the two first orders was soon overcome, by turning against them their love for the king; opposing the danger of the monarch to that of the monarchy, and exciting a revolt, which threatened in an imminent degree the life of his most Christian majesty. On the report of a danger, which the resistance of the two first orders might doubtless have despised, had it threatened only them, consternation put an end to reasoning – there was no longer room for deliberation – it was necessary to act. The nobility and clergy rushed into the assembly, with the third estate, to save France from the most horrid of crimes; and from that moment the states general, in ceasing to be free, ceased to exist.

The monarchy was overturned by a mad and tumultuous assembly; rebellious subjects, deputed towards the sovereign to learn his decisions, and to receive his laws, dared to dictate to him others, which in every respect were intolerable, and violently pulled down that throne which they were called to support. They commenced their sacrilegious usurpation by violating the oath they took when they received their powers. They had the audacity to style themselves the national constituent assembly, as if they had possessed a right to constitute themselves what they were not established, and when they were only the deputies of the assemblies of the bailiwicks, the real representatives of the nation. Perjured in respect to the oath of fidelity which they swore to the king, as well as in respect to that which they swore to their constituents; and substituting the individual will of their criminal majority to the imperative letter of their instructions, the national will, expressed in all the bailiwicks, they rendered all their subsequent operations absolutely null, by making themselves superior to their powers, by rendering themselves independent of them, and by assuming authorities to which they had no title; they treated France as a country not subject to a monarchical form of government, without monarch, without laws, and leagued together to plunge it into all the errors of nations almost yet savage, and to form a government after the rude sketches of infant states making their first advances towards civilization, and which at present would mark the last stage of their decline. Like all usurpers, they flattered the people, in order that they might subject them to obedience, assigned to them a sovereignty, with a view of converting it to their own purposes; spoke to them of the rights of man, while they were silent respecting their duty, and employing, according to the dictates of their turbulent and destructive ambition, the poniards of assassins, and the flames of revolt; and taking advantage of the prejudices and passions of the multitude, they successively called to their assistance famine and abundance to incense the populace, that they might afterwards seduce and govern them; and, to add to the horror of their proceedings, they caused the virtuous monarch, who had convoked them, to be accused of those very crimes which they themselves had committed.

Alarmed at the dangers which surrounded him, and foreseeing the afflicting evils which were preparing for his people, his most Christian majesty in vain endeavoured to avert them. – Concessions, rendered prudent by necessity, and the urgency of circumstances, which were fully approved by the instructions of all the bailiwicks, and consequently by all Frenchmen, increased that thirst for reigning with which the usurping assembly was inflamed….

Such then is the French revolution, unjust and illegal in its principle, horrid in the means by which it was effected, and disastrous in its consequences.

“Their imperial and royal majesties, who can no longer delay to fulfill their mutual engagements to deliver mankind from so many excesses, have considered this revolution under the following points of view:

1. As it personally regards his most Christian majesty.

2. As it respects the French nation.

3. As it respects the princes of Germany who have possessions in France.

4. As it respects the tranquility of Europe, and the happiness of all nations.

I. On the revolution, as it personally regards his most Christian majesty.

The whole world knows that it was essential to the French monarchy, and the unanimous wish expressed in the instructions of the bailiwicks, that the king of France should be legislator; that he should have the full and entire disposal of the army; that he should cause justice to be administered to his subjects; that he should have the right of making peace and war; and, in a word, that plenitude of power which belongs to sovereignty. But it is also known, that an usurping assembly, leaving him the title of king, which they considered as a gratification, deprived him absolutely of royal authority; that, reduced to be the executor of their will, their servile and passive organ, he had not even the right of proposing the most necessary laws; that he had no longer any authority over the sea and land forces; that the right of making peace and war was taken from him; that he was deprived of the power of electing magistrates; and that, not enjoying even the power of going wherever he pleased, which the constitution secures to all citizens, his most Christian majesty was forced to reside near the pretended legislative body, and that the chain which detained him could not be extended farther than the distance of twenty miles.

The supreme authority in France being never-ceasing and indivisible, the king could neither be deprived, nor voluntarily divest himself of, any of the prerogatives of royalty, because he is obliged to transmit them entire with his own crown to his successors.

He could be dethroned only by abdication; but the acts which he committed cannot even be considered as a partial abdication, because he could not divest himself of the crown but to invest the presumptive heir, and because the essential condition of the validity of such an act would be a full and entire liberty which did not exist; and this is perfectly notorious that his most Christian majesty never enjoyed. It is well known that the violence, outrages, and dangers with which his people were threatened, and on account of which he was continually harassed, never suffered him to be in freedom a moment. How then could the sovereigns of Europe acknowledge a revolution which, to the scandal of the whole world, dethrones a puissant and just monarch, continually destroys his liberty, endangers his life as well as the lives of the queen and royal family; and which, by an universal system of anarchy, would force all sovereigns, though the honour of their diadems did not render it a duty, to consider as personal outrages to each of them individually, all those insults which have been, or may hereafter be, offered to their most Christian majesties? Warned by the examples of the past; by the days, above all, of July 13th, 14th, and 17th; by those of October 5th and 6th, 1789, strangely rewarded by the community of Paris; by the oath of liberty taken by a captive monarch on the 5th of February, 1790; by the scandalous atrocities committed even in the apartment of the king, February 28th, 1791, on his most faithful servants; by the ferocious insults of a hired mob and licentious soldiery, offered for three hours successively on his most Christian majesty and family, in his palace, on the 18th of April, 1791; by the unpardonable detention of Mesdames, the king’s aunts, in the town of Arnay-le-Duc, though they had condescended to provide themselves with passports, which the new laws did not even then require from private individuals; by the disastrous events of the month of June, 1791; by the suspension of the royal guard, and the attempts of the 20th of June, 1792; by the odious decree of accusation against the king’s brothers, the forced sanctioning of which, was an equal outrage to nature, justice, and supreme authority: – warned, in short, by the impunity of so many crimes, their imperial and royal majesties have already protested, and now protest against all acts, declarations, and letters, which his most Christian majesty may suffer to be surprised or extorted from him, until he shall be placed in full liberty with his whole family, under a guard of their imperial and royal majesties’ troops, in such a frontier of his kingdom as he shall think proper to choose, and be enabled in safety to make known his supreme and definitive intentions, and to realize the vows which he has always expressed for their happiness, liberty, and prosperity.

II. Of the revolution as it respects the French nation.

The revolution considered as it respects the French nation, instead of being its work, is evidently its scourge, the object of its grief and regret, the source of all its evils, and would be eternally its shame and disgrace, were it not proved, in a thousand different manners, that this illustrious nation itself abhors the factions by which it is torn; that it loves its king; that it wishes to preserve its religion by favour and toleration; that it sighs after the moment when it shall be delivered from the vilifying yoke under which it groans; and that if foreign powers did not come to its assistance, abandoned to its fatal destiny, its consequence would vanish, its commerce would be annihilated, its arts forgotten, its industry rendered useless, its credit subverted, and that its whole surface would become a prey to more atrocities, more ravages, and more destruction than its superb and unfortunate colonies, than its unfortunate cities of Nismes, Montpelier, Arles, Avignon, and others. It is far then from the thoughts of their imperial and royal majesties to be at war with the French nation, and to separate it from its king, with which it ought to make only one; the intention of their imperial and royal majesties is evidently, on the contrary, to come to its assistance, and to combat in the middle of those unnatural children who tear its bosom, who outrage its king, and persecute its religion. The positive right of all countries entitles them to disarm all those madmen who attempt to destroy their own lives: the rights of nature enjoin all men to give each other mutual assistance. The rights of nations require, in a much stronger manner among all civilized people, that neighbouring states should unite to rescue a great nation from its own fury, from the fatal and disastrous consequences of that political phrensy which undermines, dissolves, and destroys it.

However little the events and catastrophes which have desolated France may have been observed; however little their causes and effects may have been reflected on or regarded, the emigration of French property, of which no age affords an equal example, followed by the firm and courageous resistance of the faithful and enlightened minority of the states-general, it is necessary to convince all that a small number of villains have excited these troubles, and that by the assistance of obscure individuals, of people banished from all countries, of criminals escaped from prison or punishment, and of errors into which weak and enthusiastic minds have been hurried, – they have brought about that fatal revolution, which is equally an attack upon the nation, as well as his royal majesty.

Has not the rebellious majority of the deputies to the states-general, declared themselves to be superior to its power? Have they not usurped rights, by substituting for the national will their own passions, and for the paternal government of a wise monarch, their own tyranny?

With regard to their instructions, when all the bailiwicks unanimously requested the same thing, had this criminal majority the right to determine another? and once freed by itself form observance of its oath, who could check the course of its abuses, and moderate the arbitrary despotism of its power?

To mislead the people, and fascinate their eyes by false illusions, this assembly speaks of equality, when the make all France tremble: they speak of justice, and they have not yet punished a single crime, nor a single atrocity: on the contrary, they applauded the most detestable crimes, and admitted into their bosom criminals abhorred by all nations! They speak of public safety, yet the asylum of the king is daily violated by committees of research, which desolate France; assassinations are everywhere committed, and the magistrates of the pople ar themselves massacred with impunity; they speak of toleration, yet all the temples of the established religion are shut; all its ministers, immured in prisons throughout whole provinces, are condemned by the assembly to be entirely banished from the kingdom; the Roman Catholics cannot profess their religion but at the risque of their lives; and wretches have been excited to persecute and punish their worship, even in nunneries, consecrated by religion itself to the use of the poor; they speak of liberty, yet the king is not free; every avenue from the kingdom is shut; more than 50,000 municipalities or administrative bodies have a right to arrest and actually cause to be arrested , in an arbitrary manner, peaceful and innocent citizens. There is not a member of the usurping assembly who cannot by an order from his hand, by a mere word, cause to be put in irons, as was the case at Besor, and other parts of France, strangers flying from the melancholy spectacle of a people in a state of anarchy; and the assembly itself accuser, witness, party, judge, and executioner, crowds daily into prison, as its caprice directs, every person who displeases or opposes it.

No – the French nation is not stained with the crimes of which it is itself the victim. it knows that unbridled liberty is a general evil, and that liberty without happiness is a benefit to no one. It was always free; it is worthy of being and still will be free; but it will always be subject to the empire of laws which promoted its happiness and glory for so many ages; and by restoring its lawful sovereign, a sovereign worthy of its love and confidence, their imperial and royal majesities will do an equal service to the sovereign and to his subjects. As this is the sole object of their wishes, the only motive which has induced them to take up arms, they will cause their armies to protect all the faithful subjects of his most Christian majesty, who shall give an example of obedience; and all good Frenchmen, who, in the departments, districts, and municipalities, shall concur immediately in re-establishing the authority of the king, as well as public order, shall know no other enemies than the enemies of their king and country and those factious men who, with arms in their hands, wish still to support the cause of revolt.

God forbid that their imperial and royal majesties should have any intention of employing their forces to introduce despotism into France, to serve the cause of private hatred or vengeance, which the honour of Frenchmen ought to sacrifice to the public good, or to facilitate an odious bankruptcy to the prejudice of the lawful creditors of the state. There is no reason for apprehending any evils of that nature – the candour and probity of this most Christian majesty will secure his subjects; but they have not a moment to lose in choosing between popular tyranny, and laws which will gratify the general wishes; between obedience and revolt; between the forgetfulness of errors, and the punishment of unpardonable resistance. They have it in their own power to regulate their destiny – the destiny of France is in their hands – they alone can decide whether it shall be still a flourishing monarchy, or an immense desert.

In short, their imperial and royal majesties cannot better recall the French to their duty, to the laws of humanity, and to those of honour, which were formerly so dear to them, and to their ancient love for their king, than by bringing to their remembrance the last words of the protestation of his most Christian majesty, made on the 20th of June, 1791 –

“Frenchmen! and you Parisians, above all, beware of giving credit to the suggestions and calumnies of your false friends; return to your king; he will always be your father, your best friend. What pleasure it will give him to forget all the personal injuries he has suffered, and to see himself in the midst of you – when religion shall be respected, and government established on a stable basis; – when the property and persons of individuals shall no longer be molested; – when the laws shall not be infringed with impunity; – and, in short, when liberty shall be placed on a solid and lasting foundation!”

III. Of the revolution as it respects foreign princes who have possessions in France.

Considered under the third point of view, the French revolution, so fatal to France, becomes still more so by the violence and intolerable injustice offered to foreign princes who have possessions within the territories of the kingdom, and by the rigorous means which must necessarily be employed to do them justice.

The Comtat of Avignon belonged to the holy see. The sovereignty of the pope over this domain was founded on an incontrovertible title of acquisition, on possession, which among all nations is equal to a title. The usurping assembly united it to their territories by the sanguinary right of utility and necessity; and compounding afterwards with themselves, and with justice, they offered an indemnity to the holy see. But if the sovereignty of the pope was legal, they had no right to deprive him of it; and if they had a right to deprive him of it, why did they offer him an indemnification?

The prince bishoprick of Basle, a state of the empire, possesses in its sovereignty defiles which tempted the ambitions of the national assembly. It caused them to be forcibly seized, and removed a detachment of troops which the emperor had sent thither, on the requisition of the French bishop, for the safety of the country, agreeably to the Germanic constitution. The treaties of Westphalia, the Pyrenees, Bred, Aix-la-Chapelle, Nimeguen, Ryswick, Utrecht, Baden, and Vienna, gave to France the provinces of the three bishoprics, and of Alsace and France Comte’, by expressly reversing the rights of the property of the princes and states of the empire in these provinces, and by stipulating that no innovation could be made in them, either with regard to ecclesiastical or political matters. – It is evident that these treaties cannot be infringed at the will of the usurping assembly; and that by calling for the execution of those clauses which serve their views, they have no right to reject those which displease them. It is perfectly clear that they ought to renounce provinces which have been ceded to the crown of France, or punctually execute the condition of the cessions made to it.

But their decrees respecting the dismemberment of dioceses, and of the right of metropolitans; the abolition of feudality, the suppression of several privileges, or the annihilation of territorial jurisdiction, without indemnification, and the sale of the possessions of the clergy, are a direct infringement on the treaty of Westphalia, as well as of subsequent treaties. These decrees have violated political and ecclesiastical rights secured in perpetuity by the treaties of cession. These cessions consequently, which are synallagmatic acts, which must be executed in all their parts, or rejected in toto, being infringed by the usurping assembly, would be at present annulled, were not the proceedings of the assembly radically null themselves, and if it were not necessary that their decrees should disappear, before the grand interest which France has in being just, in not violating the sacred rights of the empire, and in not wounding the dignity of any of its members.

But their imperial and royal majesties are fully persuaded, that the first use which his most Christian majesty will make of his authority when he has recovered it, will be to restore to the injured princes all their rights and privileges, to indemnify them for what they may have suffered in respect to degradation, or being deprived of their privileges; and to cement more and more by this act of justice, the harmony which has for a long time subsisted between the Germanic body and his most Christian majesty. The injury offered to the German princes who have possessions in France, is not considered as a reason for making war on his most Christian majesty, but for placing him upon the throne, in order to obtain justice.

IV. On the revolution as it concerns all nations.

But the most general point of view, under which their imperial and royal majesties ought to consider the French revolution is, as it respects the interest of all nations, and the tranquility of Europe.

In vain would the assembly, which usurps the name of the French nation, have renounced conquest, if it wished to subject to its pretended liberty the states of their neighbours. Of all the methods of making war on peaceful, virtuous, and fortunate people, the most fatal, doubtless, would be to preach up rebellion, to mislead their minds, to corrupt their morals, to form them to crimes by example and seduction, and to draw down upon them the wrath of Heaven, and punishment from their sovereigns, under the pretence of rendering them happy.

The ambition of a conqueror has its bounds; and his views, when known, cease to be dangerous; but a planned system of anarchy, which tends to dissolve all political society abounds with inexpressible danger; and all sovereigns, for the interest of their subjects, cannot use too much expedition to check its progress, and to stifle the evil in its birth. People would pay too dearly for the fatal error of believing that their interests can be separated from those of their sovereigns. It is therefore necessary to destroy this error as soon as possible, and to chastise, as soon as they appear, those factious men who conspire against the happiness of all countries. Had any doubts existed in this respect, they would have been already removed by the attack and invasion of the Pays Bas; by the plan of the usurping assembly, divulged by the popular minister, of spreading every where the flames of revolt; a barbarous maxim, which attests views of cowardly ambition, and which is an insult to all nations, and a signal of alarm against all kings. Besides, a numerous and powerful nation cannot disappear from the political hemisphere of Europe without the greatest inconvenience. The balance of power among sovereigns, the work of their wisdom, purchased by their treasures, and the blood of their subjects, which regulates the ambition of one by their treasures, and the blood of their subjects, which regulates the ambition of one by the interest of all; which maintains harmony amidst contending passions and jarring interests; and which almost always terminates by well-conducted negotiation, such disputes as may be exacted by bloody wars, requires for the general interest of Europe, that so considerable a state as France should not be dissolved or withdrawn from its political engagements; and yet this would be the case, should the present revolution be established. The decrees which have deprived the king of the right of making peace and war, have at once dissolved all those treaties which connected his most Christian majesty with all the neighbouring princes. The revolution gives to the usurping assembly the right of renouncing such treaties as are contrary to its views, while it takes from his majesty the means of supporting those which might be beneficial to him. According to these principles, it has no more political ties than those which it chooses to approve, and it is consequently not bound to any of its allies, though as all are obliged to be faithful to it. Thus the king without power, and the nation without an army, or what amounts to the same thing, having no army properly disciplined and subject to authority, exhibit to their neighbours, and, above all, to their allies, nothing but the shadow of power. The tranquility of Europe, however, depends absolutely on the execution of the treaties now subsisting between the different sovereigns; and those treaties themselves depend on the stability of the constitution of those states which contracted them. The displacing, and muc more the annihilation of the counterpoise of the political balance, would tend then to disturb the peace of Europe, and to revive ancient disputes and pretensions, now settled, the discussion of which, again renewed, would occasion the loss of much blood, and excite the tears and regrets of humanity. It belongs to the wisdom of sovereigns to avert such dreadful misfortunes; and it is with this view that their imperial and royal majesties think themselves obliged, for the general tranquility and safety, and for the individual happiness of their respective subjects, as much as for the real interest of France itself, to have recourse to arms, in order to prevent the annihilation of the French monarchy, and to destroy there every spark of insurrection, which might continually threaten and endanger the welfare of all sovereigns, and of all nations.

By yielding to what the honour of all crowns and the real interest of all people require, their majesties declare to Europe, that, in the just war which they have undertaken, they entertain no views of personal aggrandizement, which they expressly renounce; and to France, that they mean not to interfere with its internal administration, but that they are firmly and fully resolved,

To re establish in it order and public security:

To cause the persons and property of all those who shall submit to the king, their lawful sovereign, to be protected:

To punish, in a striking manner, all resistance to their arms:

To give up the city of Paris to the most dreadful and terrible justice, from which nothing can save it, as well as all the other cities which may render themselves its accomplices, if the least insult, or the least outrage is offered to the king, the queen, or the royal family; and if that city does not endeavour to expiate its errors, and to merit the interposition and good offices of their imperial and royal majesties, to obtain pardon, by immediately restoring liberty, and paying every due honour and respect to their most Christian majesties:

In short, to procure to the king perfect security in some frontier town of his kingdom, and the means of collecting there his family, and the princes his brothers, until his most Christian majesty can enter his capital with honour, and enjoy there the satisfaction of seeing his subjects repent; of conferring new favours upon them; of granting them real liberty, and consequently of finding them submissive to his supreme authority.

National Convention Address to the Nation on the occasion of the anniversary of the overthrow of royalty, 10 August 1792 Top

Source: Unknown Author. 1817. A Sketch of the History of France during the Revolution and the reign of Napoleon. London: W. Simpkin and R. Marshall.

The cries of joy which the acceptance of the constitution has excited in the presence of your representatives, resound, without doubt, through the whole extent of the republic.

Never since men and empires existed, has so great a social act been accomplished in so august and grand a feast. Let your envoys sent to Paris, do justice to this celebrated city, which has been the object of every calumny, only because she has brought about all our revolutions. Let them say, whether they have not found in every citizen an execrable enemy of tyrants and of anarchy, in every man a friend, in every repast a fraternal feast.

O spectacle, the most magnificent and affecting that the earth has ever displayed to the review of the Eternal! – To arms, Frenchmen! – At the instant when the people, friends, and brothers, embrace each other, the despots of Europe violate your property, and lay waste your frontiers. To arms! rise to a man! Liberty calls for the arms of all those of whom she has received the oaths. This is the second time that tyrants and conspires slaves soil with their feet the territory of a sovereign people. The one half of their sacrilegious army found in it the first time their graves; may they all now perish, and may their bones, whitened in our fields, rise in heaps, as trophies, in the midst of our land, which their blood shall have rendered the more fertile. To arms, Frenchmen! cover yourselves with the highest glory in defending your adored liberty, of which the first tranquil days will shed upon you, and upon generations of your descendants, all kinds of happiness and prosperity.

Danton’s Speech, 2 September 1792 Top

Source: Leonard W. Cowie, ed. 1967. Documents and Descriptions in European History 1714-1815. London: Oxford University Press.

It is satisfying for the minsters of a free people to have announced to them that the fatherland will be saved. Everyone is stirred, everyone is roused, everyone longs for the fight. You know that Verdun is not yet in the power of our enemies. You know that the garrison has promised to put to death the first man who wishes to surrender. A part of the people will go to the frontiers, another will dig trenches, and a third, armed with pikes, will defend the centres of our towns. Paris will support these great efforts. The commissioners of the Commune will proclaim, in a solemn manner, the invitation to the citizens to arm themselves and march for the defence of the fatherland. It is at this moment, gentlemen, that you can declare that the capital has deserved well of the whole of France. It is at this moment that the National Assembly will demand a true committee of war. We demand that you co-operate with us in guiding the highest efforts of the people, by naming the commissioners who will assist in these great undertakings. We demand that anyone who refuses to serve in person, or to offer his arms, should be punished by death.

We demand that this should be made an instruction to the citizens to guide their efforts. We demand that it should be sent by messengers in all the departments to inform them of the decrees which you will issue.

The alarm which will be sounded is not a signal of fear; it is the attack on the enemies of the fatherland. To defeat them we must have audacity, more audacity, always audacity, and France is saved.

The Edict of Fraternity, 19 November 1792 Top

Source: Leonard W. Cowie, ed. 1967. Documents and Descriptions in European History 1714-1815. London: Oxford University Press.

The National Convention declares in the name of the French nation that it will accord fraternity and assistance to all peoples who wish to recover their liberty. It charges the executive power to give the generals the necessary orders for bearing help to these peoples and defending citizens who are vexed for the cause of liberty. The present decree shall be translated and printed in all languages.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s