Tuesday, January 12, 2010

After all, it's impossible to govern a nation with 246 kinds of cheese....

August 4, 1789 was a very busy day for the National Assembly. After several months of increasingly vitriolic debate, the assembly very abruptly decided well, hell, debate isn't working at all, let's just dismantle the government the way we dismantled the Bastille! (Though, to their credit, they did not dismantle the monarchy because they thought there were gunpowder hidden inside, like some sort of very explosive pinata, the way the Parisian mob stormed the Bastille.) The Assembly went into extraordinary session to formally abolish all remaining traces of feudalism. Deputies "weeping tears of joy" renounced all offending rights and aristocratic or ecclesiastic privilege, from the payment of church tithes, to the difference in levels of taxation that had provoked a good deal of class hatred to the local landlord's right to have his peasants spending their nights in near-by swamps, hitting frogs with sticks so that their lord's slumbers would not be disturbed.

Abbé Sieyès, author of 'What is the Third Estate?' (answer: about to have its representatives take over the government), and the comte de Mirabeau, pretty much the driving force of the early revolutionary movement, were not in tears of joy. In fact, hey took a walk together the next morning, mostly to complain that the Assembly had not followed their advice or obeyed their wishes. Mirabeau complained, "This is just the character of our Frenchmen, they are three months disputing about syllables, and in a single night they overturn the whole venerable edifice of the monarchy."


  1. Great history. I like your relaxed writing style.

    I notice that you are intersted in the 18th and 19th century. Jane Austen is one of my interests. I did an Eng Lit degree, many years ago now and formed a deep interest in her novels.

    I was born in Southampton in the county of Hampshire which of course was Jane's county. I now live in Wimbledon South London.

    Wimbledon and Southampton are both within a short driving and sometimes walking distance of many of the places described in Jane's surviving letters.

    I have posted photographs on my BLOG of many sites that Jane would have known.

    Please feel welcome to visit my BLOG, London Calling. There might be some things of interest to the 18th century officinado.

    All the best,
    Tony Grant

  2. Thanks very much for the link Tony! I shall be sure to check out your blog very soon- it looks very interesting!