Federation Day, July 14, 1790

Federation Day, July 14, 1790

To close

Title: The Federation made on July 14, 1790,… Almanac for 1791.

Creation date : 1790

Date shown: July 14, 1790

Dimensions: Height 73 - Width 52

Technique and other indications: AE / II / 3699 Color etching

Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Picture reference: AE / II / 3699

The Federation made on July 14, 1790,… Almanac for 1791.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Publication date: July 2014


Federation Day, July 14, 1790


Historical context

A military celebration for the whole nation

In 1790, the Constituent Assembly decided to organize a large "Federation of Line Troops and National Guards" on the model of the federations that have spread in the provinces since the previous year.

The central actor of this holiday is the National Guard. To control the armed elements likely to trigger riots, in Paris as well as in the provinces, it was decided to unite in a common oath the National Guards, appointed after a two-tier election, and the line troops, represented by the oldest soldiers.

The party is set on the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, and carefully organized to avoid any overflow. Louis XVI, reluctant to the evolutions in progress, did not take advantage of this unique event, leaving all the triumph to La Fayette.

Image Analysis

Wall calendar for 1791

A rare preserved example of a wall almanac, this "Almanac engraved for 1791" (70x50 cm) is part of a tradition dating back two centuries: the distribution of large engravings reproducing an important event and accompanied, in the lower part, by a calendar. The publisher, Paul-André Basset, who belongs to a family of print and wallpaper dealers based in Paris, rue Saint-Jacques, here adapts a form of royal power propaganda to the spirit of 1790.

The grandiose staging and the course of the feast of the Federation are evoked with precision. The immense tiered enclosure erected at the Champ-de-Mars closes in the foreground (on the Seine side) on a gigantic triumphal arch. In the center stands the circular altar framed by antique torches and surrounded by the flags of the sixty battalions of the Paris National Guard. Under the covered platform backing onto the Military Academy, the king is surrounded by the royal family, the municipality and ambassadors. Under the triumphal arch pass in the center the deputies of the National Assembly, framed by detachments of troops. Nothing is missing, not even the umbrellas that shelter the deputies and the audience from the flood!

At the top of the image symbolically appears the Phrygian cap resting on the point of the monarchical sword accompanying the new motto: "the Nation, the Law and the King". The deputies inset: La Fayette, Commander-General of the National Guard, Bailly, Mayor of Paris, Alexandre de Lameth, supporter of the abolition of privileges and parliaments, Sieyès, theoretician of the ideas of the third estate, Thouret, rapporteur for the draft creation of departments, and Camus, who watches over the archives of the Assembly, are known to be moderate notables, those who sparked this national gathering.

Under the image, on either side of the monarchical emblem of the fleur-de-lis on the field of azure, surmounted by the crown, two flags display the three colors in their original arrangement, which was horizontal. The decoration of anchors, tridents and bundles of goods symbolizes great trade, a sign of prosperity and fertility, like the horns of plenty where oak twigs take root, signs of lasting strength.


A moment of national union and the birth certificate of French patriotism

Through its naïve decorum, this popular print emphasizes the spectacular nature of the party and the unanimity of the participants. Contemporaries saw it as a major and extraordinary event. Of course, this day only brings together active citizens who pay tax, but the patriotism and the feeling of forming the nation together are particularly noticeable.

The presence of the “Nation” alongside the “Law” and the “King” ensures consensus, far from any revolutionary aspect that could be linked to federations or to the storming of the Bastille. In July 1790, on the contrary, a real fervor for new ideas coexisted with attachment to the royal person. For the first time, the march of the provinces towards Paris illustrates both national unity, convergence towards the center of the country and the renunciation of particularisms.

But this apparent consensus conceals a lot of ambiguities and will remain as a short and precarious parenthesis in the history of the period; soon the federates will push for a radicalization of the Revolution.

  • July 14th
  • Constituent Assembly
  • Champ-de-Mars
  • federated
  • Federation Party
  • National Guard
  • nation
  • Paris
  • capture of the Bastille
  • Talleyrand-Périgord (Charles-Maurice de)
  • Abbot Sieyès
  • Bastille
  • French Revolution


F. FURET, M.OZOUF Critical dictionary of the French Revolution. Article Fédération.Paris, 1988.Archives de France The French Revolution through the archives. From the Estates General to 18 Brumaire , ... Document 31Paris, 1988.M.PREAUD The effects of the sun, almanacs from the reign of Louis XIV.Paris, RMN, 1995.

To cite this article

Luce-Marie ALBIGÈS, “Fête de la Fédération, July 14, 1790”

Video: What Is The History Of Bastille Day?