[The following passage comes from the author's Life of Maximilien Robespierre (1849) in the Hathi Digital Library Trust web edition. — George P. Landow]

Decorative Initial In the Faubourg St. Antoine, thousands of starving men demanded some occasion on which to employ their energy. "If we must die," said they, "we would rather die from a cannon-ball than from want." The distress was terrible. Subscription-lists were opened. Beaumarchais gave 12,000 francs; the Archbishop of Paris, 20,000 francs. But individual efforts were powerless to assuage the general hunger. Bread was dear. The Assembly had fixed it at a lower price; but even at that lower price, the poor had no money to buy it. Still worse, there was little corn to make bread.

To those real evils were added imaginary evils. Reports of plots to poison the French Guards circulated everywhere. The people became exasperated. A convoy of grain coming from Passy, on the 16th, was seized by the multitude, and with it Sauvage, a farmer, accused of being a monopoliser. Quickly the drum went through the town with this announcement: "Citizens! by order of the King and the Third Estate, Notice is hereby given, that Sauvage will be hanged at three o'clock." At three o'clock he was hanged. His head was then cut off, fixed on the top of a pike, and paraded through the streets, preceded by a butcher, who, having cut off an arm, brandished his bloody knife, while he occasionally opened the lips, to make them receive the stream of blood which flowed down the ghastly cheeks.

Old Foulon, too, of whom it was said, truly or falsely, that he had declared the people might eat grass, was clutched by the enraged multitude and slung up. Twice the cord broke, and twice the poor old man fell to the ground, amidst peals of laughter and shouts of joy. He was despatched at last. Berthier, his son-in-law, soon after met with the same fate. Their heads were paraded on the ends of pikes. The heart and pieces of the body of Berthier were thrust into a goblet of wine, in which they were boiled; and, standing round the caldron, the savages drank the fuming liquor, their naked arms uplifting the glasses while they shouted a song, the burden of which was " Death to those who opposed the will of the people." The fearful days of the Revolution were commencing. [101-02]

A real baker on the 21st fell a victim. Francois was just commencing his seventh batch on that day, when a woman, who had been unable to procure bread at nine in the morning, and who was told to wait until the seventh batch was completed, entered his house to assure herself that all the bread had really been sold. She found three stale loaves, which had been reserved for the men. She rushed into the street, holding one in her hand, loudly accusing the baker of only distributing a part of his stock. Riot began: he was accused of wishing to keep bread from the people. They burst into his shop, seized the unhappy man, and, disregarding his cries, hanged him. Mr. Alison declares that the mob, enraged at finding the return of the King had not immediately lowered the prices of provisions, murdered this baker in revenge. The murder was quite shocking enough, without attributing to it any such motive. They paraded his head on a pike, through the streets, compelling every baker they met to kiss the remains. The unhappy wife of Francois, far advanced in pregnancy, running about in a state of distraction, met the crowd. At the sight of the bloody head she fainted. The mob had the barbarity to lower it into her arms, and press the lifeless lips against her face. Surely such scenes require no aggravation from prejudice. Even Toryism, one would think, could find no satisfaction in making them worse. The people were mad—starving. Reports that the aristocrats bribed the bakers not to furnish food were rife. Such had been the accusation against Francois. It was enough to condemn him. [121]

Paris had now not only to contend against Europe and against faction, it had also to contend against the terrible pressure of famine. A maximum had been decreed, an arbitrary price, below which no bread, meat, fish, wine, coals, &c, could be sold. There was likewise fixed a maximum of weights. The effect of this was only to cramp commerce and increase the famine. Crowds of workmen, of beggars, and of women collected round the Hotel de Ville shrieking for bread. Hebert and Chaumette encouraged these assemblies. [305]


Lewes, George Henry. The Life of Maximilien Robespierre; with extracts from his unpublished correspondence. London, Chapman and Hall, 1849. Hathi Digital Library Trust online version of a copy in the Harvard University Library. Web. 25 April 2017.

Last modified 28 April 2017