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The Flight to Varennes, June 20, 1791

varennes.jpg (13824 bytes)The Flight to Varennes served as a major journee because it showed the National Assembly as well as the French people, that Louis XVI could no longer be trusted. While the Assembly had every intention of creating a limited or constitutional monarchy, after June 1791, such an idea became increasingly suspect. What follows here is an extract from Louis' "Declaration of the King Addressed to All the French About His Flight from Paris," (June 21, 1791).

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To the French People
As long as the king could hope to see the kingdom's order and happiness restored by the means employed by the National Assembly and by his residence next to this Assembly in the capital city, no personal sacrifice mattered to him. If this hope had been fulfilled, he would not even have contested the deprivation of his liberty occasioned by the denial of an absolute veto without which all of his efforts since October 1789 have been null and void. But today, when the sole recompense of so many sacrifices is to see the kingdom destroyed, all powers disregarded, all property violated, personal safety endangered everywhere, crimes unpunished, and complete anarchy establishing itself above the law, and when the semblance of authority given him by the new Constitution is insufficient to repair a single one of the evils afflicting the realm: the king, after having solemnly protested all the acts emanating from him during his captivity, believes it his duty to place before the eyes of the French and of all the universe the picture of his conduct, and that of the government which has been established in the kingdom. . . .

The king does not think it is possible to govern a kingdom of such great extent and importance as France by the mean established by the National Assembly, as they currently exist. By according to all decrees, without distinction, a sanction that he well know could not be refused, his majesty was thus motivated by the desire to avoid all discussion, which experience had taught him to be useless at best; what is more, he feared that it would only be thought that he wanted to retard or undermine the National Assembly's work, in whose success the Nation took so great an interest. He put his confidence in the wise men of the Assembly who recognized that it is easier to destroy a government than to reconstruct one on totally different bases. Several times when they announced the revisions of decrees, they believed it necessary to marshal armed forces, essential to any government; they also recognized the utility of inspiring [confidence] in this government and it laws, which must assure the property and status of everyone, a confidence which would bring back into the kingdom all those citizens forced to expatriate due to discontent in some, or fear for heir lives an property in the majority.

But the more one sees the Assembly approaching the end of its work, the more one sees the wise men discredited, the more dispositions increase daily which could render the conduct of government difficult if not impossible, and inspire mistrust and disfavor. Other regulations have only augmented disquiet and embittered discontent instead of applying healing balm to the wounds that still bleed in several provinces. . . .

Frenchmen, is it for this that you sent your representatives to the National Assembly? Do you desire that the anarchy and despotism of the clubs replace the monarchical government under which the nation has prospered for fourteen hundred years? Do you desire to see your king overwhelmed with insults and deprived of his liberty when his only occupation is to establish yours?

. . . Frenchmen, and above all Parisians, you inhabitants of a city which his majesty's ancestors were pleased to call the good city of Paris, disabuse yourselves of the suggestions and lies of your false friends; return to your king; he will always be your father, your best friend. What pleasure will he not have in forgetting all his personal injuries, and in being returned among you, while the Constitution, which he will have accepted freely, will cause our holy religion to be respected, the government to be established on a firm foundation and useful in its actions, the property and the status of each one no longer to be troubled, the laws no longer to be disobeyed with impunity, and finally liberty to be established on firm an immovable foundations.

[Source: Archives parlementaires, vol. 27 (Paris, 1887), pp. 378-383, trans. Tracey Rizzo, in Laura Mason and Tracey Rizzo, eds., The French Revolution: A Document Collection (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999), pp. 152-155.]

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