On this day July 11, 1789

Jacques Necker is dismissed as France’s Finance Minister sparking the Storming of the Bastille.

Jacques Necker

Jacques Necker

Louis XVI, acting under the influence of the conservative nobles of his privy council, dismissed and banished his finance minister, Jacques Necker, who had been sympathetic to the Third Estate, and completely reconstructed the ministry.

The marshal Victor-François, duc de Broglie, la Galissonnière, the duc de la Vauguyon, the Baron Louis de Breteuil, and the intendant Foulon, took over the posts of Puységur, Armand Marc, comte de Montmorin, La Luzerne, Saint-Priest, and Necker.

News of Necker’s dismissal reached Paris in the afternoon of Sunday, 12 July. The Parisians generally presumed that the dismissal marked the start of a coup by conservative elements. Liberal Parisians were further enraged by the fear that a concentration of Royal troops brought to Versailles from frontier garrisons would attempt to shut down the National Constituent Assembly, which was meeting in Versailles.

Crowds gathered throughout Paris, including more than ten thousand at the Palais-Royal. Camille Desmoulins, a known freemason from the lodge of the Nine Sisters, according to Mignet, successfully rallied the crowd by “mounting a table, pistol in hand, exclaiming: ‘Citizens, there is no time to lose; the dismissal of Necker is the knell of a Saint Bartholomew for patriots! This very night all the Swiss and German battalions will leave the Champ de Mars to massacre us all; one resource is left; to take arms!'”

The Swiss and German regiments referred to were among the foreign mercenary troops who made up a significant portion of the pre-revolutionary Royal Army, and were seen as being less likely to be sympathetic to the popular cause than ordinary French soldiers. By early July, approximately half of the 25,000 regular troops concentrated around Paris and Versailles were drawn from these foreign regiments.

During the public demonstrations that started on 12 July the multitude displayed busts of Necker and of Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans. The crowd clashed with the Royal German Cavalry Regiment (“Royal-Allemande”) between the Place Vendôme and the Tuileries Palace.

The Royal commander, Baron de Besenval, fearing the results a blood bath amongst the poorly armed crowds or defections amongst his own men, withdrew the cavalry towards Sèvres. Meanwhile, unrest was growing among the people of Paris who due to their hostility against the Fiscal Legislation of State’s Farmers started attacking customs posts blamed for causing increased food and wine prices.

The people of Paris started to plunder any place where food, guns and supplies could be hoarded. The next day, on 13 July, rumours spread that supplies were being hoarded at Saint-Lazare, a huge property of the clergy, which functioned as convent, hospital, school and even as a jail. An angry mob broke in and plundered the propety, seizing 52 wagons of wheat which were taken to the public market. That same day multitudes of people plundered many other places including weapon arsenals. The Royal troops did nothing to stop the spreading of social chaos in Paris during those days.

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