Populace Awake


Populace Awake


In the view of the most radical commentators, such as those writing for the newspaper Révolutions de Paris, the Revolution had to be the work of more than just the deputies of the National Assembly; it had to be an effort of the common people. To encourage that effort, the newspaper here calls upon all good patriots to form groups in their towns and villages whose purpose will be to debate the major issues of the day, form opinions on them, and, most important, hold demonstratations so as to make certain that the National Assembly will hear of the input of the "good people" of France and not merely that of the "aristocrats."


Révolutions de Paris, no. 68 (23 October 1790), 116.


October 23, 1790






The "real" National Assembly does not always hold its sessions on the merry-go-round. Divided into more or less numerous groups, they often sit along the Feuillants terrace [the former convent of the Cistercian order, located near the Tuileries], and along the flower beds adjacent to the Tuileries gardens. They also often deliberate around the pond at the Palais Royale. It is in these roving clubs that the pure flame of patriotism burns the brightest. It is there that the public conscience and the majority opinion are elaborated. It is there that the fruit of these ongoing lectures is harvested. It is there that one has to go for the clear thoughts of the People, this People outrageously slandered by those who had always held them at the greatest possible distance.

For the philosopher who has not given up on the long-debased human race, Paris offers the most satisfying view of man's emulation. Almost all of the National Assembly's decrees that have a large element of common sense are basically those that echoed motions from the people. On the other hand, the constitutional decisions, or the other decisions that left something to be desired, were precisely those that were farthest from what the people, in their wisdom, had decided. The decree on the silver coin, that on the law of war and peace, that on the royal veto, that on the Nancy scandal which was badly presented, the firing of the ministers which was not deliberated, etc., etc.: all these denials given to public opinion were disowned in advance by the People passing motions in the street.

The three great days of our Revolution bore witness to more than the three preceding centuries had ever seen. That sudden insurrection of Sunday, July 12th, continued over to Monday, was then taken to its apex on the 14th. . . . [F]or which causes is France indebted to this salutary effort? For the motions of the Palais Royale that had taken place for a month between the bayonets; for the stunning satisfaction that the people of Paris went to demand from the chateau of Versailles; for the sacrilegious scandal brought down upon the national sovereignty; and for that memorable night of 5–6 October, which was the night of the final judgment for a number of people who had raised themselves above the law and based their small strange pleasures on general disaster? This generous movement, that etched terror into the souls of the cowards at court who were considering a civil war is due to the People's sense of righteousness.

Good people of France! You can become the premier country in the world. You have started the most beautiful revolution in the history of mankind, and it is up to you to take it to its end. Continue to go to public places, assemble often, unburden yourselves of your boring and monotonous drudgery, and consecrate your leisure time and your days of rest to the discussion of the nation's interests and the examination of your leaders' conduct. Let none of the political currents that take place around you go unnoticed. Be strangers to nothing. Let your dignity enfold you, know the extent of your power, and multiply the light of your wisdom by stringing together the sparks of genius of each and every individual that makes up your imposing mass. Of all your weapons, there is not one with a caliber equal to that of education. Education is the refuge of your independence.

Good people of France! Cultivate your own reasoning. Set up patriotic lectures at the heart of every town and in the countryside. If the local priest refuses to turn over the pulpit, or if he mixes the wheat and the chaff, let the most able father assemble his children and his neighbors under the church porch or on the threshold of his cottage and read the decrees from the National Assembly so that they may be discussed by those present. Let each person improvise in his own way, without any other aim but that of the public good. And soon the simplest of men, guided by that moral instinct with which nature has blessed all thinking beings, will be in a position to appreciate things and people for their true worth.

Over time, these small committees will become a type of country court where you can summon your leaders to appear to face natural reason. Then it will not be so easy to be fooled by the questionable character of the many ambitious but clever people, nor to be dragged into situations that are against your most vital interests. Then you will be truly worthy of this national sovereignty that a handful of ministerial brigands has shamelessly taken from you. Then, you will renounce the worship of cult figures.

Good People, it is only then that it will be superfluous to tell you what now requires a little repeating.


“Populace Awake,” LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY: EXPLORING THE FRENCH REVOUTION, accessed July 20, 2024, https://revolution.chnm.org/d/372.