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The debate on the trial and the condemnation of Louis XVI during the 18th century and their consequences

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  1. Introduction
  2. The debate on the trial and the condemnation of Louis XVI during the 18th Century and their consequences
    1. Anger towards the King
    2. Xenophobia's role
    3. The storming of the royal palace of the Tuileries
    4. The important disagreements
    5. The constitution of 1791
    6. The Girondins
    7. The Vendeans and Chouans
    8. The army of Dumouriez at Neerwinden and their loss to the Austrians
  3. Conclusion
  4. References

At first the king seemed inclined to work with the revolution and to try to solve the problems. But the influence of the queen and of the courtiers were too strong. He was encouraged by them to disregard all promises he had made and sought to flee from France in order to obtain aid against the revolution from Austria.
It led to the storming of the royal palace of the Tuileries on Aug. 10, 1792. The king and his family escaped before the mob arrived and took refuge in the hall of the Legislative Assembly. The Assembly declared that the king was suspended from office and ordered that he and his family should be imprisoned. They then called a new assembly, the Convention, to decide whether France should continue to be a monarchy.
On 20-21 September, on Abbé Grégoire's motion, the Conventionnels steeled themselves to abolish the monarchy and establish a republic. By December, even advocating the restoration of the monarchy was punishable by death. Then one of the Assembly's most pressing task was to decide what to do with the person of the ex-ruler, Louis ?Capet?.
So a debate started in the Convention, opposing the Jacobins and the Girondins, about whether yes or not the king would be judged.
Firstly, it was not easy to clothe the revolt of the country against the king in the forms of law, for the country as a body had no legal standing under the old regime. There were no conventionally specifiable legal rules or moral principles by which a king could be judged, and there was no one who could judge him, that's to say exercise authority over him . Moreover, it was a legal maxim in both England and France that the king could not do wrong. This principle the revolutionaries were committed to deny, and their denial was a large part of the revolution they made.

[...] So the revolutionary rhetoric portrayed Louis XVI virtually in pagan terms, as a magical being whose death was necessary for the health of the polity and moral regeneration[14]. As a matter of fact, the king is the body politics (the state is represented by the king's person), and his private life becomes synonymous with the public life of the kingdom[15]. Even if according to Clifford Geertz the principle of kingly authority destroyed long before the pointing rightly to the long process of erosion, that process was far from complete in 1792. [...]


[...] But some people blamed the Assembly for the condemnation of the king, and they were right to be afraid of Louis XVI death. First, Joseph de Maistre, in his ?considerations on France? (1753?1821) wrote that of the greatest possible crimes is undoubtedly an attack upon sovereignty, no other having such terrible consequences. ( ) If this sovereign has not deserved his fate through any fault of his own, if his very virtues have strengthened the guilty against him, the crime is beyond description. [...]


[...] Secondly, although Louis was for the Jacobins a symbolic personage, they also portrayed him as a very real but inhuman creature who existed outside of the polity and therefore outside the law. As a matter of fact, to them, the king had violated the natural order (the sovereignty of the people), and for that reason too was a monster. Conor Cruse O'Brien pointed out that the indictment of the king was essentially for crimes against la nation, and given the Rousseau-inspired juxtaposition between and the status of being against the nation signified being against and outside of nature[4]. [...]

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