October 15, 1789: Mirabeau, a Secret Memoir

  • Paul H. Beik
Part of the The Documentary History of Western Civilization book series (DHWC)


Following the “October [5–6] days” in 1789, which took the king and eventually the Assembly to Paris, the Anglophile leaders, Mounier and his friends, were discredited, and the leadership of the revolutionaries had clearly fallen to Lafayette, Mirabeau, and the “triumvirate” of Barnave, Duport, and Alexandre de Lameth, whose brother Charles was also associated with this group. Mirabeau’s behavior during the October days had appeared to fluctuate between support of the insurrection and support of the crown; he was widely suspected of having plotted with the Duke of Orléans for the overthrow of Louis XVI, and he took pains to scoff at such rumors. It may have been under prodding from his friend La Marck, who was a great aristocrat closely associated with the Austrian and French courts, that Mirabeau tried to make his loyalty to Louis XVI clear in the secret memoir of October 15, 1789, a document which La Marck gave to the king’s brother, Provence, the future Louis XVIII, who read it and apparently approved of most of it but refused to pass it on to Louis XVI, on the grounds that the King was incapable of the resolution necessary to carry out Mirabeau’s plan. Mirabeau himself may not have been as serious as he appears to be in this memoir; he was undoubtedly making a tactical move to strengthen his position with the court; nevertheless the memoir is a remarkable document in view of his undoubted wish to mediate between the monarchy and the revolution and his later efforts first to maintain leadership in the Assembly and become a minister, and later to guide the royal family’s counterrevolutionary efforts in a series of secret memorandums. The source is Correspondance entre le Comte de Mirabeau et le Comte de la Marck pendant les années 1789, 1790 et 1791. Recueillie, mise en ordre et publiée par M. Ad. de Bacourt. Vol. I (Paris, 1851), pp. 364–382. The last two pages, a concluding recommendation that the project be undertaken at once and in secrecy, have been omitted.


Jewish Community Great Revolution Executive Power Legislative Body Remarkable Document 
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© Paul H. Beik 1970

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  • Paul H. Beik

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