Fête de la Fédération

The Fête de la Fédération (Festival of the Federation) was a massive holiday festival held throughout France in honour of the French Revolution. It is the precursor of the 14 juillet French National Day which is celebrated every year in France on July 14. Celebrating the Revolution itself, as well as National Unity.

First celebrated in 1790, it commemorated the revolution and events of 1789 which had culminated in a new form of national government, a constitutional monarchy led by a representative Assembly.

The inaugural fête of 1790 was set for July 14th, so it would also coincide with the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille although that is not what was itself celebrated. At this relatively calm stage of the Revolution, many people considered the country's period of political struggle to be over. This thinking was encouraged by counter-revolutionary monarchiens, and the first fête was designed with a role for King Louis XVI that would respect and maintain his royal status. The occasion passed peacefully and provided a powerful, but illusory, image of celebrating national unity after the divisive events of 1789–1790.

The Fête de la Fédération as seen from behind the King's tent


After the initial revolutionary events of 1789, France's ancien régime had shifted into a new paradigm of constitutional monarchy. By the end of that year, towns and villages throughout the country had begun to join together as fédérations, fraternal associations which commemorated and promoted the new political structure.[1] A common theme among them was a wish for a nationwide expression of unity, a fête to honour the Revolution. Plans were set for simultaneous celebrations in July 1790 all over the nation, but the fête in Paris would be the most prominent by far. It would feature the King, the royal family, and all the deputies of the National Constituent Assembly, with thousands of other citizens predicted to arrive from all corners of France.


Fete federation hubert robert
The triumphal arch of the Fête de la Fédération, by Hubert Robert.

The event took place on the Champ de Mars, which was at the time far outside Paris. The vast stadium had been financed by the National Assembly, and completed in time only with the help of thousands of volunteer laborers from the Paris region. During these "Wheelbarrow Days"(journée des brouettes), the festival workers popularised a new song that would become an enduring anthem of France, Ah! ça ira.[2]

Enormous earthen stands for spectators were built on each side of the field, with a seating capacity estimated at 100,000.[3] The Seine was crossed by a bridge of boats leading to an altar where oaths were to be sworn. The new military school was used to harbour members of the National Assembly and their families. At one end of the field, a huge tent was the king's step, and at the other end, a triumphal arch was built. At the centre of the field was an altar for the mass.

Official celebration

The feast began as early as four in the morning, under a strong rain which would last the whole day (the Journal de Paris had predicted "frequent downpours").

Fourteen thousand fédérés came from the province, every single National Guard unit having sent two men out of every hundred. They were ranged under eighty-three banners, according to their département. They were brought to the place where the Bastille once stood, and went through Saint-Antoine, Saint-Denis and Saint-Honoré streets before crossing the temporary bridge and arriving at the Champ de Mars.

Le serment de La Fayette a la fete de la Federation 14 July 1790 French School 18th century
Lafayette leading the oath (18th c. oil painting, Musée Carnavalet)

A mass was celebrated by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, bishop of Autun under the ancien régime. At this time, the first French Constitution was not yet completed, and it would not be officially ratified until September 1791. But the gist of it was understood by everyone, and no one was willing to wait. Lafayette led the President of the National Assembly and all the deputies in a solemn oath to the coming Constitution:

We swear to be forever faithful to the Nation, to the Law and to the King, to uphold with all our might the Constitution as decided by the National Assembly and accepted by the King, and to remain united with all French people by the indissoluble bonds of brotherhood.[4]

Afterwards, Louis XVI took a similar vow: "I, King of the French, swear to use the power given to me by the constitutional act of the State, to maintain the Constitution as decreed by the National Assembly and accepted by myself."[5] The title "King of the French", used here for the first time instead of "King of France (and Navarre)", was an innovation intended to inaugurate a popular monarchy which linked the monarch's title to the people rather than the territory of France.a The Queen Marie Antoinette then rose and showed the Dauphin, future Louis XVII, saying: "This is my son, who, like me, joins in the same sentiments."[6]

The festival organisers welcomed delegations from countries around the world, including the recently established United States. John Paul Jones, Thomas Paine and other Americans unfurled their Stars and Stripes at the Champ de Mars, the first instance ever of the flag being flown outside of the United States.[7]

Popular feast

After the end of the official celebration, the day ended in a huge popular feast. It was also a symbol of the reunification of the Three Estates, after the heated Estates-General of 1789, with the Bishop (First Estate) and the King (Second Estate) blessing the people (Third Estate). In the gardens of the Château de La Muette, a meal was offered to more than 20,000 participants, followed by much singing, dancing, and drinking. The feast ended on the 18 July.


  • The Chant du 14 juillet, written by Marie-Joseph Chénier and François Gossec, was sung in the Écoles Normales until the Second World War
  • Jean Claude Jacob, a serf from the Jura Mountains, supposedly 120 years old, was brought from his native place to figure as "Dean of the Human Race."


  • ^ a: Indicative of a constitutional monarchy rather than an absolute one, the style "King of the French" was in effect 1791–1792 and was revived after the July Revolution in 1830.


  1. ^ Hibbert, p. 112.
  2. ^ Hanson, p. 53.
  3. ^ "La fête nationale du 14 juillet". Elysee.fr (in French). Office of the President of the French Republic. 2015. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  4. ^ Mignet, p. 158: "Nous jurons d'être à jamais fidèles à la nation, à la loi et au roi, de maintenir de tout notre pouvoir la Constitution décrétée par l'Assemblée nationale et acceptée par le roi et de demeurer unis à tous les Français par les liens indissolubles de la fraternité."
  5. ^ Mignet, p. 158: "Moi, roi des Français, je jure d'employer tout le pouvoir qui m'est délégué par l'acte constitutionnel de l'état, à maintenir la constitution décrétée par l'Assemblée nationale et acceptée par moi."
  6. ^ Bonifacio and Maréchal, p. 96: "Voilà mon fils, il s'unit, ainsi que moi, aux mêmes sentiments."
  7. ^ Unger, p. 266.


External links


1790 (MDCCXC)

was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar, the 1790th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 790th year of the 2nd millennium, the 90th year of the 18th century, and the 1st year of the 1790s decade. As of the start of 1790, the Gregorian calendar was

11 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.

1790 in France

Events from the year 1790 in France.

Bastille Day

Bastille Day is the common name given in English-speaking countries to the national day of France, which is celebrated on 14 July each year. In French, it is formally called la Fête nationale (French pronunciation: ​[la fɛt nasjɔnal]; "The National Celebration") and commonly and legally le 14 juillet (French pronunciation: ​[lə katɔʁz(ə) ʒɥijɛ]; "the 14th of July").The French National Day is the anniversary of Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, a turning point of the French Revolution, as well as the Fête de la Fédération which celebrated the unity of the French people on 14 July 1790. Celebrations are held throughout France. The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, along with other French officials and foreign guests.

Benjamin Raspail

Benjamin Raspail (16 August 1823 in Paris – 24 September 1899 in Cachan, Seine, now Val-de-Marne), was a painter-engraver and politician of the French Third Republic. He was the son of François-Vincent Raspail. Like his father, he was classed extreme-left and was also exiled to Belgium.

In 1874, following the death of Eugène Lavenant, Raspail took over as Mayor of Arcueil as "premier conseiller inscrit au tableau". He was also a member of the conseil général for Seine.

As member of the council for Seine for the Republican left, Raspail proposed the law, on 21 May 1880, which made 14 July a national holiday in commemoration of the storming of the Bastille and the Fête de la Fédération. The bill was signed by 64 members, and was adopted by the Assemblée Nationale on 8 June and by the Sénat on 29 June. The bill was promulgated on 6 July 1880. He also proposed the law to seize the crown jewels from the monarchy, which was passed on 11 January 1887.

He lost a leg, which had to be amputated, following a chase in Épinay by a stone-throwing mob.

Upon his death, Raspail bequeathed his estate in Cachan to become a retirement home for people with work-related disabilities, and also a museum which would house his father's political documents and painting collection, as well as his own painting collection.

Champ de Mars

The Champ de Mars (French pronunciation: ​[ʃɑ̃ də maʁs] ; English: Field of Mars) is a large public greenspace in Paris, France, located in the seventh arrondissement, between the Eiffel Tower to the northwest and the École Militaire to the southeast. The park is named after the Campus Martius ("Mars Field") in Rome, a tribute to the Latin name of the Roman God of war. The name also alludes to the fact that the lawns here were formerly used as drilling and marching grounds by the French military.

The nearest Métro stations are La Motte-Picquet–Grenelle, École Militaire, and Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel, an RER suburban-commuter-railway station. A disused station, Champ de Mars is also nearby.

Champ de Mars Massacre

The Champ de Mars Massacre took place on 17 July 1791 in Paris against a crowd of republican protesters in the midst of the French Revolution. The event is named after the site of the massacre, the Champ de Mars. Two days before, the National Constituent Assembly issued a decree that the king, Louis XVI, would retain his throne under a constitutional monarchy. This decision came after Louis and his family had unsuccessfully tried to flee France in the Flight to Varennes the month before. Later that day, leaders of the republicans in France rallied against this decision, eventually leading royalist Lafayette to order the massacre.Jacques Pierre Brissot, editor and main writer of Le Patriote français and president of the Comité des Recherches of Paris, drew up a petition demanding the removal of the king. A crowd of 50,000 people gathered at the Champ de Mars on July 17 to sign the petition, with about 6,000 having signed the petition. However, earlier that day two suspicious people had been found hiding at the Champ de Mars, "possibly with the intention of getting a better view of the ladies' ankles", and were hanged by those who found them. Jean Sylvain Bailly, the mayor of Paris, used this incident to declare martial law. The Marquis de Lafayette and the National Guard, which was under his command, were able to disperse the crowd.

Later in the afternoon, the crowd, led by Danton and Camille Desmoulins, returned in even greater numbers. The larger crowd was also more determined than the first. Lafayette again tried to disperse it. In retaliation, the crowd threw stones at the National Guard. After firing unsuccessful warning shots, the National Guard opened fire directly on the crowd. The exact numbers of dead and wounded are unknown; estimates range from a dozen to fifty dead.

Charles Thévenin

Charles Thévenin (12 July 1764 – 28 February 1838) was a neoclassical French painter, known for heroic scenes from the time of the French Revolution and First French Empire.

Fraternal Society of Patriots of Both Sexes

The Fraternal Society of Patriots of Both Sexes, Defenders of the Constitution (French: La Société Fraternelle des Patriotes de l'un et l'autre sexe, Défenseurs de la Constitution) was a French revolutionary organization notable in the history of feminism as an early example of active participation of women in politics.


The term "fédérés" (sometimes translated to English as "federates") most commonly refers to the troops who volunteered for the French National Guard in the summer of 1792 during the French Revolution. The fédérés of 1792 effected a transformation of the Guard from a constitutional monarchist force into a republican revolutionary force.

"Fédérés" has several other closely related meanings, also discussed in this article.

Georges Washington de La Fayette

Georges Washington Louis Gilbert de La Fayette (1779–1849) was the son of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, the French officer and hero of the American Revolution, and Adrienne de La Fayette.

The elder La Fayette named his son in honor of George Washington, under whom he served in the Revolutionary War.

Guillaume Capelle

Guillaume-Antoine-Benoît, baron Capelle (9 September 1775 – 25 October 1843) was a French administrator and politician.

He served under Napoleon and under the Bourbon Restoration.

In 1830 he was briefly Minister of Public Works on the eve of the July Revolution.

Jacques Cellerier

Jacques Cellerier (1742–1814) was a French architect in the neoclassical style whose buildings can be seen mainly in Paris and Dijon.

Jean-Bertrand Féraud

Jean Bertrand Féraud, (Arreau 4 August 1759 or 1764 - Paris 20 May 1795) was a French politician of the French revolutionary era.

July 14

July 14 is the 195th day of the year (196th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 170 days remaining until the end of the year.

La Révolution Française (rock opera)

La Révolution Française is a French rock opera by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Raymond Jeannot, book by Alain Boublil and Jean-Max Rivière, created in 1973. The show premiered at the Palais des Sports de Paris.

Letters Written in France

Letters Written in France is a series of letters written by English writer Helen Maria Williams, first published in 1790. The considerably longer title under which it was originally published is Letters written in France: in the summer 1790, to a friend in England: containing various anecdotes relative to the French revolution; and memoirs of Mons. and Madame du F---- (Fossé). The twenty-six letters cover Williams' visits to various locations associated with the Revolution, a true history of the du Fossé family and her own personal views alongside sociological observations.

Musée de la Révolution française

The Musée de la Révolution française (Museum of the French Revolution) is a departmental museum in the French town of Vizille, 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south of Grenoble on the Route Napoléon. It is the only museum in the world dedicated to the French Revolution.

Its exhibits include Jean-Baptiste Wicar's The French Republic (the first known representation of the French Republic) and William James Grant's La cocarde (The Cockade), representing Josephine de Beauharnais with her daughter Hortense. The museum was opened on 13 July 1984 (the bicentennial of the Revolution) in the presence of Louis Mermaz, president of the National Assembly of France.It is housed in the Château de Vizille, which has a long history of artistic conservation, and is home to a documentation centre on the French revolutionary period. The museum also organizes international symposiums about the French Revolution.

Politics of Réunion

Réunion, is an overseas département of France.

The island's conventional name is the Department of Réunion, or Réunion. It is also locally referred to as Île de la Réunion. The French flag is used on the island. The island's capital is Saint-Denis, and the island is divided into four arrondissements, 24 communes and 47 cantons.

Réunion is governed by French law, and its constitution is the French constitution of 28 September 1958. Suffrage is granted universally to all those over the age of 18.

The national holiday of the island is 14 July, Bastille Day, commemorating the Fête de la Fédération in 1790. The island's data code is "RE".

Timeline of the French Revolution

The following is a timeline of the French Revolution.

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