Storming of the Bastille: Demolishing the Monarchy

Table of Contents

The Storming of the Bastille

Storming of the Bastille (1789) By Jean-Pierre Houël

What was the Storming of the Bastille?

The Storming of the Bastille, the flashpoint of the French Revolution, occurred in Paris on July 14, 1789. A medieval armory, fortress, and political prison, the Bastille stood as a symbol of the monarchy placed at the heart of the city. 

The Zero Theft Movement is working to eliminate the rigged parts of the economy so ethical businesses and American citizens can thrive. In this article, we will explore the Storming of the Bastille and see how it relates to the modern day U.S.

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Background of the Storming of the Bastille

Socioeconomic Turmoil

Leading up to the Storming of the Bastille, economic and social problems had been piling up. A hard winter in 1788 and an increased population had resulted in a nationwide famine. Moreover, France had accrued significant debt due to its participation in the Seven Years War (1756-1763) and the American Revolution (1775-1783). France was in a state of economic crisis. 

These issues simply exacerbated the long-standing systemic inequities of the Ancien Régime, or Old Regime. French society was divided into three ‘Estates’: the First Estate of the Upper Clergy (~1% of the population), the Second Estate of the Nobility (~1%), and the Third Estate of the rest (~98%). Yes, just about anyone who did not come from a noble family comprised the Third Estate. The Third Estate had to pay the most taxes without any special social privileges. The King, as well as the First and Second Estates, lived lives of excess with those exploitative taxes.

Members of the First and Second Estates Hold Down the Third Estate with the Rock of Taxes

Members of the First and Second Estates Hold Down the Third Estate with the Rock of Taxes


Growing Defiance 

King Louis XVI announced a meeting with the Estates-General at Versailles, a first since 1614. Representatives of each Estate gathered and debated how France could claw itself out of its deep economic pit. 

Finding the proceedings unfair, delegates from all three Estates branched off to form the National Assembly on 17 June, 1789. The contingent championed a representative government, a reformed tax system, an improved legal system, and the abolishment of the lettres de cachet (orders directly from the King that no one could appeal). They would take the Tennis Court Oath three days later, vowing to stick together until a Constitution was established. 

Louis XVI opposed the development, but members of the First and Second Estates were joining the assembly. His hand forced, he ostensibly recognized the assembly. Nevertheless, he had designs to reclaim power, designs that would ironically end his reign. 

Royal Regrets

The king made two grave errors that triggered the Storming of the Bastille:

  • He ordered the royal troops to gather at Versailles, Sèvres, the Champ de Mars in south-west Paris, and Saint-Denis in the city’s north. The public interpreted this decision as a bid to impose martial law and retake control of the nation.
  • He dismissed Jacques Necker, his popular finance minister, on July 11th. Many viewed him as a major proponent of reform. Several days of revolt ensued before revolutionaries decided to attack the Bastille, a prison for the upper class. 

The Zero Theft Movement is a crowdfunded effort to fight against the rigged economy and crony capitalism with hard proof gathered through citizen-led investigation. As a distributed organization, we firmly adhere to our policy of one-citizen-one vote. Regardless of who you are, how much you donate, or what company you work for or represent, you get one vote per investigation. 

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The Zero Theft Movement does not have any interest in partisan politics/competition or attacking/defending one side. We seek to eradicate theft from the U.S economy. In other words, how the wealthy and powerful rig the system to steal money from us, the everyday citizen. We need to collectively fight against crony capitalism in order for us to all profit from an ethical economy.   

Terms like ‘steal,’ ‘theft,’ and ‘crime’ will frequently appear throughout the article. Zero Theft will NOT adhere strictly to the legal definitions of these terms (since congress sells out). We have broadly and openly defined terms like ‘steal’ and ‘theft’ to refer to the rigged economy and other debated unethical acts that can cause citizens to lose out on money they deserve to keep.  

Attacking the Bastille (July 7, 1789)

Print of the Bastille

On July 14, 1789, the revolt turned into a revolution. A Paris mob stormed the Bastille, believing arms and ammunition had been stored in the fortress. They also hoped to free any political prisoners.

82 Invalides (soldiers sidelined due to injury) and 32 Grenadiers guarded the Bastille. Around 1,000 Parisians formed a mob at the gates, demanding the soldiers surrender all arms and ammunition stored within the fortress. Marquis De Launary, the governor in charge, decided to withdraw the Bastille’s 18 cannons but would not give up the weaponry. He had received official orders to hold the Bastille at all costs. 

A small group found its way into the Bastille courtyard through a half-raised drawbridge. De Launary, fearful of the whole mob flooding the fortress, commanded his soldiers to fire on the invaders. News of the shooting spread quickly. The crowd continued to grow. For three hours, the Bastille came under siege.

Commemoration of the Storming of the Bastille

The Fall of the Bastille

But the tides shifted as members of the French Guard started defecting. With their training, they could utilize the artillery to fire at the drawbridge. De Launay, perhaps acknowledging that resistance was futile, offered a deal: if he and his troops could leave unharmed, they would surrender the Bastille. 

According to historical records, the crowd rejected the deal outright, shouting “No surrender! Lower the bridge!” Outnumbered and injured, the guards lowered the drawbridge. 954 vainqueurs (‘conquerors’), wielding axes, flooded the Bastille. A total of seven prisoners were freed, but more importantly, the proverbial floodgates had burst open. 

Two days after the Storming of the Bastille, John Frederick Sackville, a British ambassador to France, reported: “Thus, my Lord, the greatest revolution that we know anything of has been effected with, comparatively speaking—if the magnitude of the event is considered—the loss of very few lives. From this moment we may consider France as a free country, the King a very limited monarch, and the nobility as reduced to a level with the rest of the nation.”

The storming of the Bastille served more of a symbolic purpose than anything else. That the monarchy and the Old Regime would soon collapse at the hands of the people. And out of the rubble budded French democracy and its motto of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” (liberty, equality, and fraternity). 

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The Relevance of the Storming of the Bastille

We can take many lessons from the Storming of the Bastille and the French Revolution to this day. A failing system built nearly solely on the backs of the public could last only so long. The famine, the economic crisis, the people had to act.  

throughout history, greed has led to the oppression and exploitation of communities and countries all over the globe. To narrow the focus to the U.S., you can look to slavery, the abuses against the working class that led to the labor movement, the disenfranchisement of women. While the specifics likely differ now, corporations and plutocrats might still be ripping off American citizens today. Through unfair taxation between individuals and corporations, hyperinflated prices for goods and services, wasteful government spending, manipulation of markets, damages from financial crises, and many more. 

We need to start a revolution. But our weapons aren’t axes, they’re facts and evidence. 

The Zero Theft Movement provides an independent and secure voting platform that enables citizens to investigate potential problem areas and author theft proposals. Everyone votes on whether (1) theft is or isn’t occurring in a specific area of the economy, and (2) how much is being stolen or possibly saved. Through direct democracy, we can collectively decide where the problem areas are and start working on addressing them systematically. 

Only through hard evidence can we prove where the rigged parts of the economy exist and force Congress to hold all the bad actors accountable. By eliminating crony capitalism, all the ethical corporations (big, medium, and small) and individuals (wealthy or otherwise) can thrive in a system founded on economic justice.

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Beyond the Tennis Court Oath…

An educated public is an empowered public. 

We regularly publish educational articles on, just like this one on the Tennis Court Oath. They teach you all about the rigged layer of the economy in short, digestible pieces.