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The French Revolution: A Study in Democracy by Nesta Helen Webster

This is a comprehensive text on the events of the French Revolution. Webster relies on contemporary sources, both revolutionary and royalist. As such, this exposes much of the mainstream narrative.

The French Revolution: A Study in Democracy by Nesta Helen Webster
The French Revolution: A Study in Democracy by Nesta Helen Webster (Forgotten Books)

The French population was not necessarily unhappy during those times. King Louis XVI tried to address the real problems which gave the people some hope. Ultimately, every concession made by the king for reform was stalled by the revolutionaries. Tactics such as spreading panic news (convenient exaggerations and slanting), accuse-the-opposition-of-one’s-own-actions, character assassination (including alleged sexual misconduct), actual assassinations, rent-a-mob, false flag marches and violence were the norm—and that was before The Reign of Terror. And all that under the guise of “liberty”, which apparently included the liberty to lop people’s heads off for disagreeing.

One can replace the names and dates with today’s names and dates, and it would read mostly true. Whichever way one looks at it, the results of the French Revolution were many deaths, the dechristianization of the country, the people losing more than they had before, war and decades of turmoil, political and otherwise.

The main text is approximately 500 pages long. The prose is plain but it is a long, dense text. Visually, it may not be an easy read if the book is a reproduction of the original layout from 1919. It lacks a summary timeline which would be helpful. The author sometimes assumes the reader knows the “mainstream” version of the events, and therefore does not always repeat it before explaining other views. The text is organized into the sections listed below:

  • Prologue

  • The Siege of the Bastille

  • The March on Versailles

  • The Invasion of the Tuileries

  • The Siege of the Tuileries

  • The Massacres of September

  • The Reign of Terror

  • Epilogue

Below are merely a few selected points, not intended to be a summary.

  • The famine was exaggerated. The July hailstorm did destroy much crop around Paris but there was plenty remaining to feed the population until the next harvest.

  • The population was angry at the “monopolizers” of the grain. When people captured it, they destroyed it, proving they were not hungry. The price of grain was driven up, paid by the agents of the Duc d’Orléans.

  • The Illuminati was founded by Adam Weishaupt in 1776 with its plans to overthrow existing (monarchial) governments and the Church. Subsequently, freemasonry was active in Germany and France. The Orléanists joined the freemasons and the Duc d’Orléans was elected Grand Master of the Order in France.

  • Prussia, via its ambassador, acted against France in an attempt to break up the Franco-Austrian alliance, which did eventually occur in 1792. Funds supporting the revolution were traced back to Prussia.

  • The Duc d’Orléans had deposited sums in London banks, sums which subsequently funded the revolutionaries.

  • English Jacobins later participated in the revolutions. According to the author, there is no evidence of the English government participating.

  • The revolutionaries hired rioters and forced (by use of threats) some workers to join them. In one instance, after the troops suppressed the rioters, exactly twelve francs were found on many of them.

  • During the first four weeks of the States-General, famine was not even discussed because there wasn’t one. The focus was reform.

  • When the clergy finally suggested discussing the issue of food, the revolutionaries denounced them even though the Church was publicly known to be helping the people in this regard. Also, the revolutionaries accused the aristocrats of cornering the grain without proof, then avoided discussion; that is, “stall and accuse the other side of what you’re guilty of” which in this case was diplomatic sabotage.

  • When the king deployed troops to protect the people against rioters and mobs, he was accused of intending harm despite approving armed citizens to form the milice bourgeoise to support the troops.

  • The so-called Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789 was a false flag event with an estimated mere one thousand people participating. Most simply wanted weapons to protect themselves. The revolutionaries embedded in the crowd used the occasion to stir trouble.

  • The king announced troop withdrawals and there was a brief calm before the rumors started again (e.g. troops not withdrawing or were halting the supplies of flour). The king then visited Paris on July 17, forced to be without his guards, to calm the masses which it did. During that time, a shot was fired at the king and missed. It was clearly the first attempt of the revolutionaries to draw the king out in the open and hope that someone in the crowd would assassinate him.

  • Prostitutes were used to distribute money, food and wine amongst the soldiers, who defected.

  • A famine of sorts was later artificially induced by interrupting distribution and spreading rumors about the flour being bad (and therefore had to be destroyed).

  • Character assassination of Queen Marie Antoinette was the norm, including her wishing all the French to die and that she was somehow responsible for the lack of bread.

  • When the reinforcements for the king’s bodyguards arrived on 23 September 1789, the revolutionaries used women to distribute food, money and wine to entice defection. Days later, the customary banquet was held for the newly arrived troops, when news of the event of being an “orgy” were spread.

  • The so-called Women’s March on 5 October 1789, like all the marches, was not spontaneous. Most of the women were told that an appeal to the king was the only way to alleviate the so-called famine. Some of the women who participated were dolled up and clearly not hungry. Some were men in women’s clothes, including those recognized as Orléanists (Laclos, Chamfort etc) who hired women to participate.

  • When the above failed, the Orléanists continued to circulate calumnies and distributing coins to stir up the mob. When they rushed towards the Queen’s apartments the next morning, they knew exactly where to go as if they knew the way or were led by someone who did. Some of the guards were beheaded. The Royal Family was escorted to Tuileries Palace where they remained for the next few years.

  • Lafayette worked out Duc d’Orléans’s conspiratorial role and apparently threatened him in defense of the king. The latter was sent to England, officially for a mission, but possibly by agreement with the king to open his granaries and release the corn that he had hoarded.

  • Later, magistrates declared that the Duc d’Orléans and Mirabeau were deserving of arrest for their activities but they had too much power to be arrested.

  • The revolutionary activities killed the economy and the average worker suffered more than before.

  • The king accepted the Constitution but news of otherwise was spread. It seemed this was ineffective since he adhered to the Constitution and his popularity was maintained at least in the eyes of some, hence the invasion of the Tuileries on 20 June 1792 but, again, the mob was not provoked to the point of assassinating the monarchs as hoped by the revolutionaries.

  • On 10 August 1792, the Tuileries was invaded again. Five Swiss troops were slaughtered by the revolutionaries before firing started. [Commentators have various opinions as to who fired the first shot.] Also, a few revolutionaries wore Swiss uniforms, snuck into their ranks and fired on the crowd.

  • The September Massacres were preceded by the convenient imprisonment of the wealthy and the religious in order to steal their wealth afterwards. Priests were conveniently killed first.

  • The massacres were justified by the rumor that the prisoners were guilty of “conspiracy”. Somehow, prisoners could conspire despite being locked up. The massacres were blamed on the people when it was carried out by relatively few revolutionaries. The assassins numbered approximately 300.

  • The vote to sentence the king to death without delay was won by possibly one vote according to one account. In any case, the law was conveniently changed just before so that a majority of one would suffice.

  • The Reign of Terror was clearly organized and systematic. Various sources indicate the revolutionary leaders intended larger casualties, including depopulating France by half (even though that was not carried out). The principle was that in order to obtain and maintain control, property redistribution was insufficient—this process would always be required since there will always be an imbalance even after redistribution. All private property had to be stripped away and placed under the government followed by depopulation.

  • Eventually, the factions which carried out the revolution were conveniently executed, like tying up loose ends.

  • Between 1789 and 1918, the population of France increased from 25 million to 40 million. The population of England and Ireland increased from 12 million to 45 million during the same period.


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