I hope you had a Frenchy Bastille Day. If you saw yesterday’s newspaper cartoon, you might guess French history interests me, as does much history, but I ran across an article from the BBC yesterday that was news to me. We all know—or think we know—that Bastille Day is the French “Independence Day,” commemorating the capture of a near-defunct old prison by an angry Parisian mob fed up with pretty much everything. Events of July 14, 1789, did spark what was ultimately the French Revolution, but for a hundred years after that kings and emperors came and went in France. It wasn’t until the 1870s that a lasting republic was created. At that time, it was felt a “national day” would be a good thing. What we would call liberals wanted it on July 14 because of the Bastille. What we would call conservatives didn’t like the idea of celebrating all that mob messiness. However! One year after the fall of the Bastille, on July 14, 1790, Paris had thrown a huge party called the Fete de la Federation. (Stay with me, now.) One year after the prison-storming, things were going pretty good. The royal family still was alive and well and participating in reforming French society. Hence, the big party. Everybody came. The king, the bakers, the candlestick makers. It was such a huge success that the French never really forgot it. So, almost a hundred years later, when “Bastille Day” made the official national day, the liberals told themselves it was because of that prison thing in 1789, and the conservatives told themselves it was to honor the optimistic spirit of the Big Party a year later, in 1790. Apparently, both sides agreed to be vague on what actually was being remembered. If you’re still reading, you might be interested in the original article.