The National Guard was established in 1789 with Lafayette appointed as its first, founding Commander. It was an inherently bourgeois institution with only those from educated, wealthier backgrounds permitted to join – that is, active citizens. The National Guard was there to exist as an official armed force protecting the interests of the Revolution and revolutionary ideals.
However, on 30 July 1792, the National Guard was opened to allow the enlistment of individuals from lower class backgrounds as well – the passive citizens. This was largely done due to the declaration of ‘la patrie en danger’ and the pressing foreign military threat. The National Guard was used as a force to manage civil unrest and counter-revolutionary activity, both in Paris and the regions.
During the Thermidorean Reaction, the National Guard was once again closed off and remade into a bourgeois institution, to prevent any radical behaviour from those of lower social classes in the Guard. It subsequently had minimal influence in France during this reactionary period.
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