“The ‘Journée du Dix Août’ as Witnessed by a Yankee Merchant,” by Prof Dr William L. Chew III

Prof Dr William L. Chew III has just published “The ‘Journée du Dix Août’ as Witnessed by a Yankee Merchant,” Journal of American Studies 46 (2012) 1: 89-101 (Cambridge University Press)


James Price, Massachusetts Yankee and successful Boston merchant, visited Paris in August 1792, just when the French Revolution was entering into a new and ominous phase. On a trip designed to combine business with pleasure, he ended up witnessing the famous Journée du Dix Août (Tenth of August) – dubbed the ‘‘Second French Revolution’’ by contemporaries – when provincial militia and national guards assaulted the Tuileries palace, massacred the king’s Swiss Guards, and toppled the Bourbon monarchy from its centuries-old throne. As a fairly unbiased and certainly perspicacious observer – though with moderate revolutionary sympathies – Price must be included in the list of more famous, and more highly partisan, American witnesses of revolution, notably Thomas Jefferson, John Trumbull, and Gouverneur Morris. Specific topics addressed by Price include women during the Revolution, the dynamic between crowd action and attempts of municipal authorities at control, and the development of a Revolutionary fashion. Price’s fascinating diary is not only a running account of events surrounding the fateful Tenth, but also an evaluation and commentary of an outsider, combined with a lively eyewitness description of the Revolutionary street scene. Not included in Marcel Reinhard’s standard study on the Journée du Dix, Price’s hour-by-hour chronology provides a valuable corroboration of and supplement to Reinhard. His account notes also provide insight into the eighteenth-century Continental travel habits of Americans on the ‘‘Grand Tour’’ and on business.