Storming of the Bastille

Storming of the Bastille

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The characteristics of a group are determined by its elements. The mob that stormed the Bastille on July 14th, 1789 was a group of citizens that were fierce, enraged, and blood-thirsty. To the people of Paris, the Bastille was a symbol of brutality and totalitarian power. It was hated because of the many stories that had emerged from its walls of horrible torture and brutality. To the people of Paris who stormed the Bastille, the prison which was the symbol of the absolute monarchy which France had been suffering under for so long. They were tired of being treated unfairly and not having a voice in most of the political affairs during the time period. They wanted "life, liberty, fraternity" and were determined to fulfill their wishes of a fair ruling system by means of force or agreement. Unfortunately, citizens had to resort to the use of force to gain what the felt lacked.
     Later on that day, a delegation was invited into the prison by the Governor of the Bastille, Bernard de Launay. DeLaunay then invited the delegation to lunch with him. When they did not return the mob became angry, fearing that they had been detained. A second delegation was sent forth. These soon came out again with the message that the Governor had adamantly refused to surrender. The delegates also had the information that the cannon were unloaded. This piece of news was all that the mob needed to urge them on. "...But the fury of the crowd continued to increase and their blind wrath did not spare de Launay's escort...Exhausted by his efforts to defend his prisoner...he had to seperate from M. de Launay...Hardly had he sat down when, looking after the procession, he saw the head of M. de Launay stuck on the point of a pike...The people, fearing that their victim might be snatched away from them, hastened to cut his throat on the steps of the Hotel de Ville..."
     The mob rushed into the prison’s courtyard. Some individuals were not as ruthless as others. "...Those who came in first treated the conquered enemy humanely and embraced the staff officers to show there was no ill-feeling..." However, several of the protestors were hurt as they attacked soldiers from the army. "....The people, transformed with rage, threw themselves on the sodiers..." Fierce fighting followed and carried on into the evening. Finally the mob got their hands on some cannons.

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They dragged them into position to blow down the gates of the prison. The soldiers guarding the prison now urged their Governor to surrender. Instead deLaunay threatened to blow up the whole prison. Finally, pressure put on him by his defenders changed his mind. Before the cannon could be fired, Governor de Launay surrendered. This did not, however, spare his life. Before long his severed head was paraded by the mob.
     Two days after the storming of the Bastille, the National Assembly ordered that this symbol of despotic power be burned to the ground. The crowds cheered as the prison walls crumbled and finally grass grew where the Bastille once stood.
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