Bread & Guns the Motivation for Storming Bastille With AM-France-Bicentennial, Bjt
PARIS (AP) _ The revolutionaries who stormed the hated Bastille prison on July 14, 1789, found only seven inmates to free, locked up not for their politics but for fraud, incest and lunacy.
The structure, built in the 14th century to defend Paris against English attackers, had earlier held such famous prisoners as Nicolas Fouquet - believed to be ″The Man in the Iron Mask,″ - the poet Voltaire and the Marquis de Sade.
By 1784, the Bastille was due to be demolished, but five years later it was still being used as a prison and as a rest home for 82 retired soldiers.
On the fateful day of July 14, bread in the bakers’ shops of Paris reached its highest price in a year, and the old fortress became the target of hungry workers from the adjacent Faubourg St. Antoine district.
Some accounts suggest the crowd feared they would be caught between the heavy naval guns mounted in the Bastille’s 75-foot towers and regiments of the king’s cavalry.
Leaders of the 3,000-strong gathering asked the garrison for gunpowder and arms. When they were refused, the crowd, reinforced by the unemployed from Montmartre and with army deserters, attacked, crying ″The Bastille for us 3/8 Troops out 3/8″
The cannon in the towers had alarmed the attackers, but there were no cannonballs or shot. The garrison of 32 Swiss Guards had only an assortment of light rifles. Still, about 170 people were killed in the action, and 115 wounded on both sides.
The marquis Bernard de Launey, governor of the Bastille, was taken away and murdered on the way to City Hall.
The attackers opened the dungeons to find seven prisoners: Jean Bechade, Bernard Larouche, Jean La Courrege, and Jean-Antoine Piyarde, imprisoned for fraud; a Monsieur Tavernier and the Comte de Whyte de Malleville, both mentally deranged; and the Comtes de Solages, imprisoned for incest.
The edifice was then set afire, and the traces of the blaze are still visible, burned into the walls of a canal that runs through the fortress’ foundations.
Soon afterward, the Bastille was demolished. Some stones were sold as souvenirs and others were used in the construction of the Concorde bridge over the Seine in 1790.
July 14 was declared France’s National Day in 1880, 91 years after the prison fell.