Thomas Jefferson reports on Bastille Day

Jefferson 1791
The website of the National Archives posts this letter sent on July 19, 1789 by Thomas Jefferson, then Ambassador of the young United States to France, to John Jay, Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

Jefferson, though not an eyewitness to the storming of the Bastille, reports on the event five days later. He wonders why the 5,000 Swiss troops encamped “within 400 yards” from the Invalides “never stirred” to prevent the crowd from taking the weapons from the depot, and how the mighty fortress fell “almost in an instant” after the garrison shot at the attackers.

As Jefferson himself writes, “nothing can be believed but what one sees, or has from an eye witness.”

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