All the world knows what followed. The Royalists had been gathering a garrison for the Tuileries ever since Lafayette’s visit, in anticipation of a trial of strength with the Revolutionists. They had brought thither the Swiss guard, fifteen hundred strong; the palace was full of Royalist gentlemen; Mandat, who commanded the National Guard, had been gained over. The approaches were swept by artillery. The court was very confident. On the night of August 9, Mandat was murdered, an insurrectional committee seized the City Hall, and when Louis XVI came forth to review the troops on the morning of the 10th of August, they shouted, “Vive la Nation” and deserted. Then the assault came, the Swiss guard was massacred, the Assembly thrust aside, and the royal family were seized and conveyed to the Temple. There the monarchy ended. Thus far had the irrational opposition of a moribund type thrown into excentricity the social equilibrium of a naturally conservative people. They were destined to drive it still farther.
In this supreme moment, while the Prussians were advancing, France had no stable government and very imperfect means of keeping order. All the fighting men she could muster had marched to the frontier, and, even so, only a demoralized mass of levies, under Dumouriez and Kellermann, lay between the most redoutable regiments of the world and Paris. The emigrants and the Germans thought the invasion but a military promenade. At home treason to the government hardly cared to hide itself. During much of August the streets of Paris swarmed with Royalists who cursed the Revolution, and with priests more bitter than the Royalists. Under the windows of Louis, as he lay in the Temple, there were cries of “Long live the King,” and in the prisons themselves the nobles drank to the allies and corresponded with the Prussians. Finally, Roland, who was minister, so far lost courage that he proposed to withdraw beyond the Loire, but Danton would hear of no retreat. “De l’audace,” he cried, “encore de l’audace, et toujours de l’audace.”
The Assembly had not been responsible for the assault on the Tuileries on August 10, 1792. Filled with conservatives, it lacked the energy. That movement had been the work of a knot of radicals which had its centre in Danton’s Club of the Cordeliers. Under their impulsion the sections of Paris chose commissioners who should take possession of the City Hall and eject the loyalist Council. They did so, and thus Danton became for a season the Minister of Justice and the foremost man in France. Danton was a semi-conservative. His tenure of power was the last possibility of averting the Terror. The Royalists, whom he trusted, themselves betrayed him, and Danton fell, to be succeeded by Robespierre and his political criminal courts. Meanwhile, on September 20, 1792, the Prussian column recoiled before the fire of Kellermann’s mob of “vagabonds, cobblers and tailors,” on the slope of Valmy, and with the victory of Valmy, the great eighteenth-century readjustment of the social equilibrium of Europe passed into its secondary stage.