The French Revolution— Volume 1

Author: Hippolyte Adolphe Taine


Public feeling. - Famine

These people, in truth, are hungry, and, since the Revolution, their misery has increased. Around Puy-en-Velay the country is laid waste, and the soil broken up by a terrible tempest, a fierce hailstorm, and a deluge of rain. In the south, the crop proved to be moderate and even insufficient.

"To trace a picture of the condition of Languedoc," writes the intendant,[9] "would be to give an account of calamities of every description. The panic which prevails in all communities, and which is stronger than all laws, stops traffic, and would cause famine even in the midst of plenty. Commodities are enormously expensive, and there is a lack of cash. Communities are ruined by the enormous outlays to which they are exposed: The payment of the deputies to the seneschal’s court, the establishment of the burgess guards, guardhouses for this militia, and the purchase of arms, uniforms, and outlays in forming communes and permanent councils. To this must be add the cost of the printing of all kinds, and the publication of trivial deliberations. Further the loss of time due to disturbances occasioned by these circumstances, and the utter stagnation of manufactures and of trade." All these causes combined "have reduced Languedoc to the last extremity."-

In the Center, and in the North, where the crops are good, provisions are not less scarce, because wheat is not put in circulation, and is kept concealed.

"For five months," writes the municipal assembly of Louviers,[10] "not a farmer has made his appearance in the markets of this town. Such a circumstance was never known before, although, from time to time, high prices have prevailed to a considerable extent. On the contrary, the markets were always well supplied in proportion to the high price of grain."

In vain the municipality orders the surrounding forty-seven parishes to provide them with wheat. They pay no attention to the mandate; each for himself and each for his own house; the intendant is no longer present to compel local interests to give way to public interests.

"In the wheat districts around us," says a letter from one of the Burgundy towns, "we cannot rely on being able to make free purchases. Special regulations, supported by the civic guard, prevent grain from being sent out, and put a stop to its circulation. The adjacent markets are of no use to us. Not a sack of grain has been brought into our market for about eight months."

At Troyes, bread costs four sous per pound, at Bar-sur-Aube, and in the vicinity, four and a half sous per pound. The artisan who is out of work now earns twelve sous a day at the relief works, and, on going into the country, he sees that the grain crop is good. What conclusion can he come to but that the dearth is due to the monopolists, and that, if he should die of hunger, it would be because those scoundrels have starved him? — By virtue of this reasoning whoever has to do with these provisions, whether proprietor, farmer, merchant or administrator, all are considered traitors. It is plain that there is a plot against the people: the government, the Queen, the clergy, the nobles are all parties to it; and likewise the magistrates and the wealthy amongst the bourgeoisie and the rich. A rumor is current in the Ile-de-France that sacks of flour are thrown into the Seine, and that the cavalry horses are purposely made to eat unripe wheat in stalk. In Brittany, it is maintained that grain is exported and stored up abroad. In Touraine, it is certain that this or that wholesale dealer allows it to sprout in his granaries rather than sell it. At Troyes, a story prevails that another has poisoned his flour with alum and arsenic, commissioned to do so by the bakers. — Conceive the effect of suspicions like these upon a suffering multitude! A wave of hatred ascends from the empty stomach to the morbid brain. The people are everywhere in quest of their imaginary enemies, plunging forward with closed eyes no matter on whom or on what, not merely with all the weight of their mass, but with all the energy of their fury.


Related Resources

French Revolution

Download Options

Title: The French Revolution— Volume 1

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: The French Revolution— Volume 1

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Hippolyte Adolphe Taine, "III.," The French Revolution— Volume 1, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Ingram, J. H. (James Henry) in The French Revolution—Volume 1 (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed July 17, 2024,

MLA: Taine, Hippolyte Adolphe. "III." The French Revolution— Volume 1, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Ingram, J. H. (James Henry), in The French Revolution—Volume 1, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 17 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Taine, HA, 'III.' in The French Revolution— Volume 1, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, The French Revolution—Volume 1, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 17 July 2024, from