Champs de Mars Massacre

In the aftermath of the Flight to Varennes, there was widespread popular discontent with the monarchy fuelled also by the indecision of the King in signing the 1791 Constitution, especially in Paris.

This sentiment was stoked by the Cordeliers who, from 15-17 July 1791, encouraged the people to sign a petition calling for the abdication of the King and for the King to be placed on trial for the crime of abandoning his position.

On 17 July 1791, a large crowd of approximately 50,000 had gathered on the Champs de Mars to sign this petition. With such a huge number of people, safety and security concerns arose such that the Mayor of Paris, Bailly, declared martial law, calling in the National Guard led by Lafayette to disperse the crowd. However, such a situation very quickly got out of hand and resulted in 50 Parisian demonstrators to be killed when the National Guard opened fire to tame the crowd. This was the first instance of intra-revolutionary fighting. It also subsequently ruined the reputation and political careers of Bailly and Lafayette, and others such as Danton, Robespierre and Marat were forced to go into hiding after being accused of agitating this violence.


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