Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jefferson recalls liberation of Bastille prisoners

Today France celebrates the 220th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, perhaps the only national holiday I'm aware of in any country celebrating a prison break. (Really, the mob was after gunpowder stored in the garrison and releasing the prisoners was an afterthought, but that's the popular portrayal.) As Thomas Jefferson described the spectacle in a letter to John Jay:
The mob, now openly joined by the French guards, force the prisons of St. Larare, release all the prisoners, and take a great store of corn, which they carry to the corn market. Here they get some arms, & the French guards begin to to form & train them. ...

“[At the Bastille] They took all the arms, discharged the prisoners & such of the garrison as were not killed in the first moment of fury, carried the Governor & Lieutenant governor to the Greve (the place of public execution) cut off their heads, & sent them through the city in triumph to the Palais royal.”
As Jefferson himself wrote after recounting the episode, Vive la revolucion! For more background see novelist Catherine Delors' blog post from last year's Bastille Day titled, "The 14th of July 1789: What really happened on Bastille Day?"

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Vive la revolucion! Indeed! I've wondered what has set us apart from so many other countries during that time.

I'm not pretending that I know, but what I do know is that in Joseph Ellis' words - “No event in history which was so improbable at the time has seemed so inevitable in retrospect as the American Revolution…If hindsight enhances our appreciation for the solidity and stability of the republic legacy, it also blinds us to the truly stunning improbability of the achievement itself."

While TJ was busying himself in France, those other figures of history were hashing out the Constitution and GW was setting the framework for the office of the presidency.

For all the bastardizing of it that I see, and I do see it, I am still in amazement of the one thing that sets us apart, the US Constitution.

Meanwhile, France got Napoleon.

Charles said...

Without the assistance of France, the American Revolution could not have succeeded. Ironically, French royalty, eager to deal a blow to the British, dealt themselves a fatal blow as their aid to the Americans helped fuel the French revolution.

Anonymous said...

Well one thing about the French, atleast they don't treat their EX-prisoners as poorly as we do... hmmm, maybe we accepted the wrong friends after the war of independence...

Anonymous said...

The enemy of my enemy is my friend - but not for life:)

marco island said...

Love your friend but but trust your enemy when the criticize you!