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BOOK III: The Application of the Constitution - Hippolyte Taine, The French Revolution, vol. 1 
The French Revolution, 3 vols., trans. John Durand, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002). Vol. 1.
Part of: The French Revolution, 3 vols.
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The Application of the Constitution
I.The Federations—Popular application of philosophic theory—Idyllic celebration of the Contrat-Social—Two phases of human volition—Permanent disorder—II.Independence of the municipalities—The causes of their initiative—Sentiment of danger—Issy-l’Evêque in 1789—Exalted pride—Brittany in 1790—Usurpations of the municipalities—Capture of the citadels—Violence increased against their commanders—Stoppage of convoys—Powerlessness of the Directories and of the ministers—Marseilles in 1790—III.Independent Assemblies—Why they took the initiative—The people in council—Powerlessness of the municipalities—The violence to which they are subject—Aix in 1790—Government disobeyed and perverted everywhere.
If there ever was an Utopia which seemed capable of realisation, or, what is still more to the purpose, was really applied, converted into a fact, fully established, it is that of Rousseau, in 1789 and during the three following years. For, not only are his principles embodied in the laws, and the Constitution throughout animated with his spirit, but it seems as if the nation looked upon his ideological gambols, his abstract fiction, as serious. This fiction it carried out in every particular. A social contract, at once spontaneous and practical, an immense gathering of men associating together freely for the first time for the recognition of their respective rights, forming a specific compact, and binding themselves by a solemn oath: such is the social recipe prescribed by the philosophers, and which is carried out to the letter. Moreover, as this recipe is esteemed infallible, the imagination is worked upon and the sensibilities of the day are brought into play. It is admitted that men, on again becoming equals, have again become brothers.1 The sudden and surprising concord of all volitions and all intelligences is to revive the golden age on earth. It is proper, accordingly, to regard the social contract as a festival, an affecting, sublime idyl, in which, from one end of France to the other, all, hand in hand, should assemble and swear to the new compact, with song, with dance, with tears of joy, with shouts of gladness, the worthy beginning of public felicity. With unanimous assent, indeed, the idyl is performed as if according to a written programme.
On the 29th of November, 1789, at Etoile, near Valence, the federations began.2 Twelve thousand National Guards, from the two banks of the Rhône, promise “to remain for ever united, to ensure the circulation of grain, and to maintain the laws passed by the National Assembly.” On the 13th of December, at Montélimart, six thousand men, the representatives of twenty-seven thousand other men, take a similar oath and confederate themselves with the foregoing.—Upon this the excitement spreads from month to month and from province to province. Fourteen towns of the bailiwicks of Franche-Comté form a patriotic league. At Pontivy, Brittany enters into federal relations with Anjou. One thousand National Guards of Vivarais and Languedoc send their delegates to Voute. Forty-eight thousand in the Vosges send their deputies to Epinal. During February, March, April, and May, 1790, in Alsace, Champagne, Dauphiny, Orléanais, Touraine, Lyonnais, and Provence, there is the same spectacle. At Draguignan eight thousand National Guards take the oath in the presence of twenty thousand spectators. At Lyons fifty thousand men, delegates of more than five hundred thousand others, take the civic oath.—But local unions are not sufficient to complete the organization of France; a general union of all Frenchmen must take place. Many of the various National Guards have already written to Paris for the purpose of affiliating themselves with the National Guard there; and, on the 5th of June, the Parisian municipal body having proposed it, the Assembly decrees the universal federation. It is to take place on the 14th of July, everywhere on the same day, both at the centre and at the extremities of the kingdom. There is to be one in the principal town of each district and of each department, and one at the capital. To the latter, each body of National Guards is to send deputies in the proportion of one man to every two hundred; and each regiment one officer, one noncommissioned officer, and four privates. Fourteen thousand representatives of the National Guard of the provinces appear on the Champ de Mars, the theatre of the festival; also eleven to twelve thousand representatives of the land and marine forces, besides the National Guard of Paris, and sixty thousand spectators on the surrounding slopes, with a still greater crowd on the heights of Chaillot and of Passy. All rise to their feet and swear fidelity to the nation, to the law, to the King, and to the new Constitution. When the report of the cannon is heard which announces the taking of the oath, those of the Parisians who have remained at home, men, women, and children, raise their hands in the direction of the Champ de Mars and likewise make their affirmation. In every principal town of every district, department, and commune in France there is the same oath on the same day. Never was there a more perfect social compact heard of. Here, for the first time in the world, everybody beholds a veritable legitimate society, for it is founded on free pledges, on solemn stipulations, and on actual consent. They possess the authentic act and the dated official report of it.
There is still something more—the time and the occasion betoken a union of all hearts. The barriers which have hitherto separated men from each other are all removed and without effort. Provincial antagonisms are now to cease: the confederates of Brittany and Anjou write that they no longer desire to be Angevins and Bretons, but simply Frenchmen. All religious discords are to come to an end: at Saint-Jean-du-Gard, near Alais, the Catholic curé and the Protestant pastor embrace each other at the altar; the pastor occupies the best seat in the church, and at the Protestant meeting-house the curé has the place of honour, and listens to the sermon of the pastor.3 Distinctions of rank and condition will no longer exist; at Saint-Andéol “the honour of taking the oath in the name of the people is conferred on two old men, one ninety-three and the other ninety-four years of age, one a noble and a colonel of the National Guard, and the other a simple peasant.” At Paris, two hundred thousand persons of all conditions, ages, and sexes, officers and soldiers, monks and actors, school-boys and masters, dandies and ragamuffins, elegant ladies and fishwomen, workmen of every class, and the peasants from the vicinity, all flocked to the Champ de Mars to dig the earth which was not ready, and in a week, trundling wheel-barrows and handling the pick-axe as equals and comrades, all voluntarily yoked in the same service, converted a flat surface into a valley between two hills.—At Strasbourg, General Luckner, commander-in-chief, worked a whole afternoon in his shirt-sleeves just like the commonest labourer. The confederates are fed, housed, and have their expenses paid everywhere on all the roads. At Paris the publicans and keepers of furnished houses lower their prices of their own accord, and do not think of robbing their new guests. “The districts,” moreover, “feast the provincials to their heart’s content.4 There are meals every day for from twelve to fifteen hundred people.” Provincials and Parisians, soldiers and bourgeois, seated and mingled together, drink each other’s health and embrace. The soldiers, especially, and the inferior officers are surrounded, welcomed, and regaled to such an extent that they lose their heads, their health, and more besides. One “old trooper, who had been over fifty years in the service, died on the way home, used up with cordials and excess of pleasure.” In short, the joy is excessive, as it should be on the great day when the wish of an entire century is accomplished.—Behold ideal felicity, as displayed in the books and illustrations of the time! The natural man buried underneath an artificial civilisation is disinterred, and again appears as in early days, as in Otaheite, as in philosophic and literary pastorals, as in bucolic and mythological operas, confiding, affectionate, and happy. “The sight of all these beings again restored to the sweet sentiments of primitive brotherhood is an exquisite delight almost too great for the soul to support,” and the Frenchman, more light-hearted and far more childlike than he is today, gives himself up unrestrainedly to his social, sympathetic, and generous instincts.
Whatever the imagination of the day offers him to increase his emotion, all the classical, rhetorical, and dramatic material at his command, are employed for the embellishment of his festival. Already wildly enthusiastic, he is anxious to increase his enthusiasm.—At Lyons, the fifty thousand confederates from the south range themselves in line of battle around an artificial rock, fifty feet high, covered with shrubs, and surmounted by a Temple of Concord in which stands a huge statue of Liberty; the steps of the rock are decked with flags, and a solemn mass precedes the administration of the oath.—At Paris, an altar dedicated to the country is erected in the middle of the Champ de Mars, which is transformed into a colossal circus. The regular troops and the federations of the departments stand in position around it, the King being in front with the Queen and the dauphin, while near them are the princes and princesses in a gallery, and the members of the National Assembly in an amphitheatre; two hundred priests, draped in their albs and with tricoloured belts, officiate around the Bishop of Autun; three hundred drums and twelve hundred musicians all play at once; forty pieces of cannon are discharged at one volley, and four hundred thousand cheers go up as if from one throat. Never was such an effort made to intoxicate the senses and strain the nerves beyond their powers of endurance!—The moral machine is made to vibrate to the same and even to a greater extent. For more than a year past, harangues, proclamations, addresses, newspapers, and events have daily added one degree more to the pressure. On this occasion, thousands of speeches, multiplied by myriads of newspapers, carry the enthusiasm to the highest pitch. Declamation foams and rolls along in a steady stream of rhetoric everywhere throughout France. In this state of excitement the difference between magniloquence and sincerity, between the false and the true, between show and substance, is no longer distinguishable. The Federation becomes an opera which is seriously played in the open street—children have parts assigned them in it; it occurs to no one that they are puppets, and that the words taken for an expression of the heart are simply memoriter speeches that have been put into their mouths. At Besançon, on the return of the confederates, hundreds of “youthful citizens” from twelve to fourteen years of age,5 in the national uniform, “with sword in hand,” march up to the standard of Liberty. Three little girls from eleven to thirteen years old and two little boys of nine years each pronounce “a discourse full of fire and breathing nothing but patriotism”; after which, a young lady of fourteen, raising her voice and pointing to the flag, harangues in turn the crowd, the deputies, the National Guard, the mayor, and the commander of the troops, the scene ending with a ball. This is the universal finale—men and women, children and adults, common people and men of the world, chiefs and subordinates, all, everywhere, frisk about as in the last act of a pastoral drama. At Paris, writes an eye-witness, “I saw chevaliers of Saint-Louis and chaplains dancing in the street with people belonging to their department.”6 At the Champ de Mars, on the day of the Federation, notwithstanding that rain was falling in torrents, “the first arrivals began to dance, and those who came after them, joining in, formed a circle which soon spread over a portion of the Champ de Mars. . . . Three hundred thousand spectators kept time with their hands.” On the following days dancing is kept up on the Champ de Mars and in the streets, and there is drinking and carousing; “there was a ball with refreshments at the Corn-Exchange, and on the site of the Bastille.”—At Tours, where fifty-two detachments from the neighbouring provinces are collected, about four o’clock in the afternoon,7 through an irresistible outburst of insane gaiety, “the officers, inferior officers, and soldiers, pell-mell, race through the streets, some with sabre in hand and others dancing and shouting ‘Vive le Roi!’ ‘Vive la Nation!’ flinging up their hats and compelling every one they met to join in the dance. One of the canons of the cathedral, who happens to be passing quietly along, has a grenadier’s cap put on his head,” and is dragged into the circle, and after him two monks; “they are often embraced,” and then allowed to depart. The carriages of the mayor and the Marquise de Montausier arrive; people mount up behind, get inside, and seat themselves in front, as many as can find room, and force the coachmen to parade through the principal streets in this fashion. There is no malice in it, nothing but sport and the overflow of spirits. “Nobody was maltreated or insulted, although almost every one was drunk.”—Nevertheless, there is one bad symptom: the soldiers of the Anjou regiment leave their barracks the following day and “pass the whole night abroad, no one being able to hinder them.” And there is another of still graver aspect; at Orleans, after the companies of the National Militia had danced on the square in the evening, “a large number of volunteers marched in procession through the town with drums, shouting out with all their might that the aristocracy must be destroyed, and that priests and aristocrats should be strung up to the lantern.” They enter a suspected coffee-house, drive out the inmates with insults, lay hands on a gentleman who is supposed not to have cried out as correctly and as lustily as themselves, and come near hanging him.8 —Such is the fruit of the susceptibility and philosophy of the eighteenth century. Men believed that, for the organization of a perfect society and the permanent establishment of freedom, justice, and happiness on earth, an inspiration of sentiment and an act of the will would suffice. The inspiration has come and the act is fulfilled; the transports and the ravishment have been experienced, and minds have been wrought up to the highest pitch of excitement. Now comes the reaction, when they have to fall back upon themselves. The effort has succeeded in accomplishing all that it could accomplish, namely, a deluge of effusions and phrases, a verbal and not a real contract, ostentatious fraternity skin-deep, a well-meaning masquerade, an ebullition of feeling evaporating through its own pageantry—in short, an agreeable carnival of a day’s duration.
The reason is that in the human will there are two strata, one superficial, of which men are conscious, the other deep down, of which they are unconscious; the former unstable and vacillating like shifting sand, the latter stable and fixed like a solid rock, to which their caprices and agitations never descend. The latter alone determines the general inclination of the soil, the main current of human activity necessarily following the bent thus prepared for it.—Certainly embraces have been interchanged and oaths have been taken; but after, as before the ceremony, men are just what many centuries of administrative thraldom and one century of political literature have made them. Their ignorance and presumption, their prejudices, hatreds, and distrusts, their inveterate intellectual and emotional habits are still preserved. They are human, and their stomachs need to be filled daily. They have imagination, and, if bread be scarce, they fear that they may not get enough of it. They prefer to keep their money rather than to give it away. For this reason they spurn the claims which the State and individuals have upon them as much as possible. They avoid paying their debts. They willingly lay their hands on public property which is badly protected; finally, they are disposed to regard gendarmes and proprietors as baneful, and all the more so because this has been repeated to them over and over again, day after day, for a whole year.—On the other hand there is no change in the situation of things. They are ever living in a disorganized community, under an impracticable constitution, the passions which sap public order being only the more stimulated by the semblance of fraternity under which they seemed to be allayed. Men cannot be persuaded with impunity that the millennium has come, for they will want to enjoy it immediately, and will tolerate no deception practised on their expectations. In this violent state, due to unbounded hopes, every prompting of their will seems legitimate, and all opinions are stamped with certainty. They are no longer capable of self-distrust and self-restraint. In their brain, overflowing with emotions and enthusiasm, there is no room but for one intense, absorbing, fixed idea. Each is confident and overconfident in his own opinion; all become impassioned, imperious, and intractable. Having assumed that all obstacles are taken out of the way, they grow indignant at each obstacle they actually encounter. Whatever it may be, they shatter it on the instant, and their overexcited imagination clothes with the fine name of patriotism their natural appetite for despotism and usurpation.
France, accordingly, in the three years which follow the taking of the Bastille, presents a strange spectacle. Everywhere there is philanthropy in words and symmetry in the laws; everywhere there is violence in acts and disorder in all things. Afar, is the reign of philosophy; at hand is the chaos of the Carlovingian era. “Foreigners,” remarks an observer,9 “are not aware that, with a great extension of political rights, the liberty of the individual is in law reduced to nothing, while in practice it is subject to the caprice of sixty thousand constitutional assemblies; that no citizen enjoys any protection against the annoyances of these popular assemblies; that, according to the opinions which they entertain of persons and things, they act in one place in one way and in another place in another way. Here, a department, acting for itself and without referring elsewhere, puts an embargo on vessels, while there another orders the expulsion of a military detachment essential for the security of places devastated by ruffians; and the minister, who responds to the demands of those interested, replies: ‘Such are the orders of the department.’ Elsewhere are administrative bodies which, the moment the Assembly decrees relief of consciences and the freedom of nonjuring priests, order the latter out of their homes within twenty-four hours. Always in advance of or lagging behind the laws; alternately bold and pusillanimous; daring all things when seconded by public license, and daring nothing to repress it; eager to abuse their momentary authority against the weak in order to acquire titles to popularity in the future; incapable of maintaining order except at the expense of public safety and tranquillity; entangled in the reins of their new and complex administration, adding the fury of passion to incapacity and inexperience—such are, for the most part, the men sprung from nothing, void of ideas and drunk with pretension, on whom now rests responsibility for public powers and resources, the interest of security, and the foundations of the might of government. In all sections of the empire, in every branch of the administration, in every report, we detect the confusion of authorities, the uncertainty of obedience, the dissolution of all restraints, the absence of all resources, the deplorable complication of enervated springs, without one of the means of real power, and, for their sole support, laws which, in supposing France to be peopled with men without vices or passions, abandon humanity to its primitive state of independence.” A few months after this, in the beginning of 1792, Malouet sums up all in one phrase: “It is the Government of Algiers without the Dey.”
Things could not work otherwise. For, before the 6th of October, and the King’s captivity in Paris, the Government had already been destroyed. Now, through the successive decrees of the Assembly, it is legally done away with, and each local group is left to itself.—The intendants have fled, military commanders are not obeyed, the bailiwicks dare hold no courts, the parliaments are suspended, and seven months elapse before the district and department administrations are elected, a year before the new judgeships are instituted, while afterwards, as well as before, the real power is in the hands of the commune.—The commune must arm itself, appoint its own chiefs, provide its own supplies, protect itself against brigands, and feed its own poor. It has to sell its national property, install the constitutional curé, and accomplish the transformation by which an old society takes the place of a new society, amidst so many eager passions and so many injured interests. It alone has to ward off the perpetual or constantly reviving dangers which assail it or which it imagines. These are great, and it exaggerates them. It is inexperienced and alarmed. It is not surprising that, in the exercise of its extemporised power, it should pass beyond its natural or legal limit, and without being aware of it, overstep the metaphysical line which the Constitution defines between its rights and the rights of the State. Neither hunger, fear, rage, nor any of the popular passions can wait; there is no time to refer to Paris. Action is necessary, immediate action, and, with the means at hand, they must save themselves as well as they can. This or that mayor of a village is soon to find himself a general and a legislator. This or that petty town is to give itself a charter like Laon or Vezelay in the twelfth century. “On the 6th of October, 1789,10 near Autun, the market-town of Issy-l’Evêque declares itself an independent State. The parish assembly is convoked by the curé, M. Carion, who is appointed member of the administrative committee and of the new military staff. In full session he secures the adoption of a complete code, political, judiciary, penal, and military, consisting of sixty articles. Nothing is overlooked; we find ordinances concerning “the town police, the laying out of streets and public squares, the repair of prisons, the road taxes and price of grain, the administration of justice, fines, confiscations, and the diet of the National Guards.” He is a provincial Solon, zealous for the public weal, and a man of executive power. He expounds his ordinances from the pulpit, and threatens the refractory. He passes decrees and renders judgments in the town-hall: outside the town limits, at the head of the National Guard, sabre in hand, he will enforce his own decisions. He causes it to be decided that, on the written order of the committee, every citizen may be imprisoned. He imposes and collects octrois; he has boundary walls thrown down; he goes in person to the houses of cultivators and makes requisitions for grain; he seizes the convoys which have not deposited their quota in his own richly stored granaries. One day, preceded by a drummer, he marches outside the walls, makes proclamation of “his agrarian laws,” and proceeds at once to the partition of the territory, and, by virtue of the ancient communal or curial right, to assign to himself a portion of it. All this is done in public and conscientiously, the notary and the scrivener being called in to draw up the official record of his acts; he is satisfied that human society has come to an end, and that each local group has the right to begin over again and apply in its own way the Constitution which it has accorded to itself without reference to anybody else.—This man, undoubtedly, talks too loudly, and proceeds too quickly; and first the bailiwick, next the Châtelet, and afterwards the National Assembly temporarily put a stop to his proceedings; but his principle is a popular one, and the forty thousand communes of France are about to act like so many distinct republics, under the sentimental and constantly more powerless reprimands of the central authority.
Excited and invigorated by a new sentiment, men now abandon themselves to the proud consciousness of their own power and independence. Nowhere is greater satisfaction found than among the new local chiefs, the municipal officers and commanders of the National Guard, for never before has such supreme authority and such great dignity fallen upon men previously so submissive and so insignificant. Formerly the subordinates of an intendant or subdelegate, appointed, maintained, and ill used by him, kept aloof from transactions of any importance, unable to defend themselves except by humble protestations against the aggravations of taxation, concerned with precedences and the conflicts of etiquette,11 plain townspeople or peasants who never dreamt of interfering in military matters, henceforth become sovereigns in all military and civil affairs. This or that mayor or syndic of a little town or parish, a petty bourgeois or villager in a blouse, whom the intendant or military commander could imprison at will, now orders a gentleman, a captain of dragoons, to march or stand still, and the captain stands still or marches at his command. On this same bourgeois or villager depends the safety of the neighbouring chateau, of the large landowner and his family, of the prelate, and of all the prominent personages of the district. In order that they may be out of harm’s way he must protect them; they will be pillaged if, in case of insurrection, he does not send troops and the National Guard to their assistance. It is he who, with his communal council, fixes their rate of taxation as he pleases. It is he who, granting or refusing a passport, obliges them to stay at home or allows them to depart. It is he who, lending or refusing public force to the collection of their rents, gives them or deprives them of the means of living. He accordingly rules, and on the sole condition of ruling according to the wishes of his equals, the vociferous multitude, the restless, dominant mob which has elected him.—In the towns, especially, and notably in the large towns, the contrast between what he was and what he is is immense, since to the plenitude of his power is added the extent of his jurisdiction. Judge of the effect on his brain in cities like those of Marseilles, Bordeaux, Nantes, Rouen, and Lyons, where he holds in his hand the lives and property of eighty or a hundred thousand men. And the more as, amid the municipal officers of the towns, three-quarters of them, procureurs or advocates, are imbued with the new dogmas, and are persuaded that in themselves alone, the directly elected of the people, is vested all legitimate authority. Bewildered by their recent elevation, distrustful as parvenus, in revolt against all ancient or rival powers, they are additionally alarmed by their imagination and ignorance, their minds being vaguely disturbed by the contrast between their rôle in the past and their present rôle: anxious on account of the State, anxious on their own account, they find no security but in usurpations. The municipalities, on the strength of the reports which emanate from the coffee-houses, decide that the ministry are traitors. With an obstinacy of conviction and a boldness of presumption alike extraordinary, they believe that they have the right to act without and against their orders, and against the orders of the National Assembly itself, as if, in the now disintegrated France, each municipality constituted the nation.
Thus, if the armed force of the country is now obedient to anybody, it is to them and to them alone, and not only the National Guard, but also the regular troops which, placed under the orders of municipalities by a decree of the National Assembly,12 will comply with no other. Military commanders in the provinces, after September, 1787, declare themselves powerless; when they and the municipality give orders, it is only those of the municipality which the troops recognise. “However pressing may be the necessity for moving the troops where their presence is required, they are stopped by the resistance of the village committee.”13 “Without any reasonable motive,” writes the commander of the forces in Brittany, “Vannes and Auray made opposition to the detachment which I thought it prudent to send to Belle-Ile, to replace another one. . . . The Government cannot move without encountering obstacles. . . . The Minister of War no longer has the direction of the army. . . . No orders are executed. . . . Every one wants to command, and no one to obey. . . . How could the King, the Government, or the Minister of War send troops where they are wanted if the towns believe that they have the right to countermand the orders given to the regiments and change their destination?”—And it is still worse, for, “on the false supposition of brigands and conspiracies which do not exist,14 the towns and villages make demands on me for arms and even cannon. . . . The whole of Brittany will soon be in a frightful belligerent state on this account, for, having no real enemies, they will turn their arms against each other.”—This is of no consequence. The panic is an “epidemic.” People are determined to believe in “brigands and enemies.” At Nantes, the assertion is constantly repeated that the Spaniards are going to land, that the French regiments are going to make an attack, that an army of brigands is approaching, that the castle is threatened, that it is threatening, and that it contains too many engines of war. The commandant of the province writes in vain to the mayor to reassure him, and to explain to him that “the municipality, being master of the chateau, is likewise master of its magazine. Why then should it entertain fear about that which is in its own possession? Why should any surprise be manifested at an arsenal containing arms and gunpowder?”—Nothing is of any effect. The chateau is invaded; two hundred workmen set to work to demolish the fortifications; they listen only to their fears, and cannot exercise too great precaution. However inoffensive the citadels may be, they are held to be dangerous; however accommodating the commanders may be, they are regarded with suspicion. The people chafe against the bridle, relaxed and slack as it is: it is broken and cast aside, that it may not be used again when occasion requires. Each municipal body, each company of the National Guard, wants to reign on its own plot of ground out of the way of any foreign control; and this is what is called liberty. Its adversary, therefore, is the central power; this must be disarmed for fear that it may interpose, and, on all sides, with a sure and persistent instinct, through the capture of fortresses, the pillage of arsenals, the seduction of the soldiery, and the expulsion of generals, the municipality ensures its omnipotence by guaranteeing itself beforehand against all repression.
At Brest the municipal authorities insist that a naval officer shall be surrendered to the people, and on the refusal of the King’s lieutenant to give him up, the permanent committee orders the National Guard to load its guns.15 At Nantes the municipal body refuses to recognise M. d’Hervilly, sent to take command of a camp, and the towns of the province write to declare that they will suffer no other than the federated troops on their territory. At Lille the permanent committee insists that the military authorities shall place the keys of the town in its keeping every evening, and, a few months after this, the National Guard, joined by mutinous soldiers, seize the citadel and the person of Livarot, its commander. At Toulon the commander of the arsenal, M. de Rioms, and several naval officers, are put in the dungeon. At Montpellier the citadel is surprised, and the club writes to the National Assembly to demand its demolition. At Valence, the commandant, M. de Voisin, on taking measures of defence, is massacred, and henceforth the municipality issues all orders to the garrison. At Bastia, Colonel de Rully falls under a shower of bullets, and the National Guard takes possession of the citadel and the powder magazine. These are not passing outbursts: at the end of two years the same insubordinate spirit is apparent everywhere.16 In vain do the commissioners of the National Assembly seek to transfer the Nassau regiment from Metz. Sedan refuses to receive it; while Thionville declares that, if it comes, she will blow up the bridges, and Sarrelouis threatens, if it approaches, that it will open fire on it. At Caen neither the municipality nor the directory dares enforce the law which assigns the castle to the troops of the line; the National Guard refuses to leave it, and forbids the director of the artillery to inspect the munitions.—In this state of things a Government subsists in name but not in fact, for it no longer possesses the means of enforcing obedience. Each commune arrogates to itself the right of suspending or preventing the execution of the simplest and most urgent orders. Arnay-le-Duc, in spite of passports and legal injunctions, persists in retaining Mesdames; Arcis-sur-Aube retains Necker, and Montigny is about to retain M. Caillard, Ambassador of France.17 —In the month of June, 1791, a convoy of eighty thousand crowns of six livres sets out from Paris for Switzerland; this is a repayment by the French Government to that of Soleure; the date of payment is fixed, the itinerary marked out; all the necessary documents are provided; it is important that it should arrive on the day when the bill falls due. But they have counted without the municipalities and the National Guards. Arrested at Bar-sur-Aube, it is only at the end of a month, and on a decree of the National Assembly, that the convoy can resume its march. At Belfort it is seized again, and it still remains there in the month of November. In vain has the directory of the Bas-Rhin ordered its release; the Belfort municipality paid no attention to the order. In vain the same directory dispatches a commissioner, who is near being cut to pieces. The personal interference of General Luckner, with the strong arm, is necessary, before the convoy can pass the frontier, after five months of delay.18 In the month of July, 1791, a French vessel on the way from Rouen to Caudebec, said to be loaded with kegs of gold and silver, is stopped. On the examination being made, it has a right to leave; its papers are all correct, and the department enjoins the district to respect the law. The district, however, replies that it is impossible, for “all the municipalities on the banks of the Seine have armed and are awaiting the passing of the vessel,” and the National Assembly itself is obliged to pass a decree that the vessel shall be discharged.
If the rebellion of the small communes is of this stamp, what must be that of the larger ones?19 The departments and districts summon the municipality in vain; it disobeys or pays no attention to the summons. “Since the session began,” writes the directory of Saône-et-Loire, “the municipality of Maçon has taken no step in relation to us which has not been an encroachment; it has not uttered a word which has not been an insult; it has not entered upon a deliberation which has not been an outrage.” “If the regiment of Aunis is not ordered here immediately,” writes the directory of Calvados, “if prompt and efficient measures are not taken to provide us with an armed force, we shall abandon a post which we are prevented from holding amidst insubordination, license, contempt for all the authorities, and, consequently, the absolute impossibility of performing the duties which were imposed upon us.” The directory of the Bouches-du-Rhône, on being attacked, flies before the bayonets of Marseilles. The members of the directory of Gers, in conflict with the municipality of Auch, are almost beaten to death. As to the ministers, who are distrusted by virtue of their office, they are still less respected than the directories; they are constantly denounced to the Assembly, while the municipalities send back their dispatches without deigning to open them,20 and, towards the end of 1791, their increasing powerlessness ends in complete annihilation. We can judge of this by one example. In the month of December, 1791, Limoges is not allowed to carry away the grain which it had just purchased in Indre, a force of sixty horsemen being necessary to protect its transportation; the directory of Indre at once calls upon the ministers to furnish them with this small troop.21 After trying for three weeks, the minister replies that it is out of his power; he has knocked at all doors in vain. “I have pointed out one way,” he says, “to the deputies of your department in the National Assembly, namely, to withdraw the 20th regiment of cavalry from Orleans, and I have recommended them to broach the matter to the deputies of Loiret.” The answer is still delayed: the deputies of the two departments have to come to an agreement, for, otherwise, the minister dares not displace sixty men to protect a convoy of grain. It is plain enough that there is no longer any executive power, that there is no longer a central authority, that there is no longer a France, but merely so many disintegrated and independent communes, like Orleans and Limoges, which, through their representatives, carry on negotiations with each other, one to secure itself from a deficiency of troops, and the other to secure itself from a want of bread.
Let us consider this general dissolution on the spot, and take up a case in detail. On the 18th of January, 1790, the new municipal authorities of Marseilles enter upon their duties. As is generally the case, the majority of the electors have had nothing to do with the balloting, the mayor, Martin, having been elected by only an eighth of the active citizens.22 If, however, the dominant minority is a small one, it is resolute and not inclined to stop at trifles. “Scarcely is it organized,”23 when it sends deputies to the King to have him withdraw his troops from Marseilles. The King, always weak and accommodating, finally consents; and, the orders to march being prepared, the municipality is duly advised of them. But the municipality will tolerate no delay, and immediately “draws up, prints, and issues a denunciation to the National Assembly” against the commandant and the two ministers who, according to it, are guilty of having forged or suppressed the King’s orders. In the meantime it equips and fortifies itself as for a combat. At its first establishment the municipality broke up the bourgeois guard, which was too great a lover of order, and organized a National Guard, in which those who have no property are soon to be admitted. “Daily additions are made to its military apparatus;24 entrenchments and barricades, at the Hôtel-de-Ville, are increasing, also the artillery; the town is filled with the excitement of a military camp in the immediate presence of an enemy.”—Thus, in possession of force, it makes use of it, and in the first place against justice.
A popular insurrection had been suppressed in the month of August, 1789, and the three principal leaders, Rebecqui, Pascal, and Granet, had been imprisoned in the Chateau d’If. They are the friends of the municipal authorities, and they must be set free. At the demand of this body the affair is taken out of the hands of the grand-prévôt, and put into those of the sénéchaussée, the former, meanwhile, together with his councillors, undergoing punishment for having performed their duty: the municipality, on its own authority, interdicts them from further exercise of their functions. They are publicly denounced, “threatened with poniards, the scaffold, and every species of assassination.”25 No printer dares publish their defence, for fear of “municipal annoyances.” It is not long before the royal procureur and a councillor are reduced to seeking refuge in Fort Saint-Jean, while the grand-prévôt, after having resisted a little longer, leaves Marseilles in order to save his life. As to the three imprisoned men, the municipal authorities visit them in a body and demand their provisional release; one of them having made his escape, they refuse to give the commandant the order for his rearrest, while the other two triumphantly leave the chateau on the 11th of April, escorted by eight hundred National Guards. They go, for form’s sake, to the prisons of the sénéchaussée, but the next day are set at liberty, and further prosecution ceases. As an offset to this, M. d’Ambert, colonel in the Royal Marine, guilty of expressing himself too warmly against the National Guard, although acquitted by the tribunal before which he was brought, can be set at liberty only in secret and under the protection of two thousand soldiers: the populace want to burn the house of the criminal lieutenant that dared absolve him; the magistrate himself is in danger, and is forced to take refuge in the house of the military commander.26 Meanwhile, printed and written papers, insulting libels by the municipal body and the club, the seditious or violent discussions of the district assemblies, and a lot of pamphlets, are freely distributed among the people and the soldiers: the latter are purposely stirred up in advance against their chiefs.—In vain are the officers mild, conciliatory, and cautious. In vain does the commander-in-chief depart with a portion of the troops. The object now is to dislodge the regiment occupying the three forts. The club sets the ball in motion, and, forcibly or otherwise, the will of the people must be carried out. On the 29th of April, two actors, supported by fifty volunteers, surprise a sentinel and get possession of Notre-Dame de la Garde. On the same day, six thousand National Guards invest the forts of Saint-Jean and Saint-Nicolas. The municipal authorities, summoned to respect the fortresses, reply by demanding the opening of the gates to the National Guard, that it may do duty jointly with the soldiers. The commandants hesitate, refer to the law, and demand time to consult their superiors. A second requisition, more urgent, is made; the commandants are held responsible for the disturbances which they provoke by their refusal, and if they resist they are declared promoters of civil war.27 They accordingly yield and sign a capitulation. One among them, the Chevalier de Beausset, major in Fort Saint-Jean, is opposed to this, and refuses his signature. On the following day he is seized as he is about to enter the Hôtel-de-Ville, and massacred, his head being borne about on the end of a pike, while the band of assassins, the soldiers, and the rabble dance about and shout over his remains.—“It is a sad accident,” writes the municipality.28 How does it happen that, “after having thus far merited and obtained all praise, a Beausset, whom we were unable to protect against the decrees of Providence, should sully our laurels? Having had nothing to do with this tragic affair, it is not for us to prosecute the authors of it.” Moreover, he was “culpable . . . rebellious, condemned by public opinion, and Providence itself seems to have abandoned him to the irrevocable decrees of its vengeance.”—As to the taking of the forts, nothing is more legitimate. “These places were in the hands of the enemies of the State, while now they are in the hands of the defenders of the Constitution of the empire. Woe to whoever would take them from us again, to convert them into a focus of counterrevolution!”—M. de Miran, commandant of the province, has, it is true, made a demand for them. But, “is it not somewhat pitiable to see the requisition of a Sieur de Miran, made in the name of the King he betrays, to surrender to his Majesty’s troops places which, henceforth in our hands, guarantee public security to the nation, to the law, and to the King?” In vain does the King, at the request of the National Assembly,29 order the municipality to restore the forts to the commandants, and to make the National Guards leave them. The municipal authorities become indignant, and resist. According to them the wrong is all on the side of the commandant and the ministers. It is the commandants who, “with the threatening equipment of their citadels, their stores of provisions and of artillery, are disturbers of the public peace. What does the minister mean by driving the national troops out of the forts, in order to entrust their guardianship to foreign troops? His object is apparent in this plan . . . he wants to kindle civil war.”—“All the misfortunes of Marseilles originate in the secret understanding existing between the ministers and the enemies of the State.” The municipal corps is at last obliged to evacuate the forts, but it is determined not to give them up; and, the day following that on which it receives the decree of the National Assembly, it conceives the design of demolishing them. On the 17th of May, two hundred labourers, paid in advance, begin the work of destruction. To save appearances the municipal body betakes itself at eleven o’clock in the morning to the different localities, and orders them to stop. But, on its departure, the labourers keep on; and, at six o’clock in the evening, a resolution is passed that, “to prevent the entire demolition of the citadel, it is deemed advisable to authorise only that of the part overlooking the town.” On the 18th of May the Jacobin club, at once agent, accomplice, and councillor of the municipal body, compels private individuals to contribute something towards defraying the expenses of the demolition, and “sends round to every house, and to the syndics of all corporations, exacting their quotas, and making all citizens subscribe a document by which they appear to sanction the action of the municipal body, and to express their thanks to it. People had to sign it, pay, and keep silent. Woe to any one that refused!” On the 20th of May the municipal body presumes to write to the Assembly, that “this threatening citadel, this odious monument of a stupendous despotism, is about to disappear”; and, to justify its disobedience, it takes occasion to remark, “that the love of country is the most powerful and most enduring of an empire’s ramparts.” On the 28th of May it secures the performance in two theatres of a piece representing the capture of the forts of Marseilles, for the benefit of the men engaged in their demolition. Meanwhile, it has summoned the Paris Jacobins to its support; it has proposed to invite the Lyons federation and all the municipalities of the kingdom to denounce the minister; it has forced M. de Miran, threatened with death and watched by a party in ambush on the road, to quit Aix, and then demands his recall,30 and only on the 6th of June does it decide, at the express command of the National Assembly, to suspend the almost completed demolition.—Authorities to which obedience is due could not be treated more insolently. The end, however, is attained; there is no longer a citadel, and the troops have departed; the regiment commanded by Ernest alone remains, to be tampered with, insulted, and then sent off. It is ordered to Aix, and the National Guard of Marseilles will go there to disarm and disband it. Henceforth the municipal body has full sway, “observes only those laws which suit it, makes others to its own liking, and, in short, governs in the most despotic and arbitrary manner,”31 not only at Marseilles, but throughout the department where, under no authority but its own, it undertakes armed expeditions and makes raids and sudden attacks.
Were it but possible for the dissolution to stop here! But each commune is far from being a tranquil little state under the rule of a body of respected magistrates. The same causes which render municipalities rebellious against the central authority render individuals rebellious against local authority. They also feel that they are in danger and want to provide for their own safety. They also, in virtue of the Constitution and of circumstances, believe themselves appointed to save the country. They also consider themselves qualified to judge for themselves on all points and entitled to carry out their judgments with their own hands. The shopkeeper, workman, or peasant, at once elector and National Guard, furnished with his vote and a musket, suddenly becomes the equal and master of his superiors; instead of obeying, he commands, while all who see him again after some years’ absence, find that “in his demeanour and manner all is changed.” “There was great agitation everywhere,”32 says M. de Ségur; “I noticed groups of men talking earnestly in the streets and on the squares. The sound of the drum struck my ear in the villages, while I was astonished at the great number of armed men I encountered in the little towns. On interrogating various persons among the lower classes they would reply with a proud look and in a bold and confident tone. I observed everywhere the effect of those sentiments of equality and liberty which had then become such violent passions.”—Thus exalted in their own eyes they believed themselves qualified to take the lead in everything, not only in local affairs, but also in general matters. France is to be governed by them; by virtue of the Constitution they arrogate to themselves the right, and, by dint of ignorance, attribute to themselves the capacity, to govern it. A torrent of new, shapeless, and disproportionate ideas have taken possession of their brains in the space of a few months. Vast interests about which they have never thought, have to be considered—government, royalty, the church, creeds, foreign powers, internal and external dangers, what is occurring at Paris and at Coblentz, the insurrection in the Low Countries, the acts of the cabinets of London, Vienna, Madrid, Berlin; and, of all this, they inform themselves as they best can. An officer,33 who traverses France at this time, narrates that at the post-stations they made him wait for horses until he had “given them details. The peasants stopped my carriage in the middle of the road and overwhelmed me with questions. At Autun, I was obliged, in spite of the cold, to talk out of a window opening upon the square and tell what I knew about the Assembly.”—These on-dits are all changed and amplified in passing from mouth to mouth. They finally become circumstantial stories adapted to the calibre of the minds they pass into and to the dominant passion that propagates them. Trace the effect of these fables in the house of a peasant or fishwoman in an outlying village or a populous suburb, on imbruted or almost brutal minds, especially when they are lively, heated, and overexcited—the effect is tremendous. For, in minds of this stamp, belief is at once converted into action, and into rude and destructive action. It is an acquired self-control, reflection, and culture which interposes between belief and action the solicitude for social interests, the observance of forms and respect for the law. These restraints are all wanting in the new sovereign. He does not know how to stop and will not suffer himself to be stopped. Why so many delays when the peril is urgent? What is the use of observing formalities when the safety of the people is at stake? What is there sacred in the law when it protects public enemies? What is more pernicious than passive deference and patient waiting under timid or blind magistrates? What can be more just than to do one’s self justice at once and on the spot?—Precipitation and passion, in their eyes, are both duties and merits. One day “the militia of Lorient decide upon marching to Versailles and to Paris without considering how they are to get over the ground or what they will do on their arrival.”34 Were the central government within reach they would lay their hands on it. In default of this they substitute themselves for it on their own territory, and exercise its functions with a full conviction of right, principally those of gendarme, judge, and executioner.
During the month of October, 1789, at Paris, after the assassination of the baker François, the leading murderer, who is a porter at the grain depôt, declares “that he wanted to avenge the nation.” It is quite probable that this declaration is sincere. In his mind, assassination is one of the forms of patriotism, and it does not take long for his way of thinking to become prevalent. In ordinary times, social and political ideas slumber in uncultured minds in the shape of vague antipathies, restrained aspirations, and fleeting desires. Behold them aroused—energetic, imperious, stubborn, and unbridled. Objection or opposition is not to be tolerated; dissent, with them, is a sure sign of treachery.—Apropos of the nonjuring priests,35 five hundred and twenty-seven of the National Guards of Arras write, “that no one could doubt their iniquity without being suspected of being their accomplices. . . . Should the whole town combine and express a contrary opinion, it would simply show that it is filled with enemies of the Constitution”; and forthwith, in spite of the law and the remonstrances of the authorities, they insist on the closing of the churches. At Boulogne-sur-Mer, an English vessel having shipped a quantity of poultry, game, and eggs, “the National Guards, of their own authority,” go on board and remove the cargo. On the strength of this, the accommodating municipal body approves of the act, declares the cargo confiscated, orders it to be sold, and awards one-half of the proceeds to the National Guards and the other half to charitable purposes. The concession is a vain one, for the National Guards consider that one-half is too little, “insult and threaten the municipal officers,” and immediately proceed to divide the booty in kind, each one going home with a share of stolen hams and chickens.36 The magistrates must necessarily keep quiet with the guns of those they govern pointed at them.—Sometimes, and it is generally the case, they are timid, and do not try to resist. At Douai,37 the municipal officers, on being summoned three times to proclaim martial law, refuse, and end by avowing that they dare not unfold the red flag: “Were we to take this course we should all be sacrificed on the spot.” Neither the troops nor the National Guards, in fact, are to be relied on. In this universal state of apathy the field is open to savages, and a dealer in wheat is hung.—Sometimes the administrative corps tries to resist, but in the end it has to succumb to violence. “For more than six hours,” writes one of the members of the district of Étampes,38 “we were closed in by bayonets levelled at us and with pistols at our breasts”; and they were obliged to sign a dismissal of the troops which had arrived to protect the market. At present “we are all away from Étampes; there is no longer a district or a municipality”; almost all have handed in their resignations, or are to return for that purpose.—Sometimes, and this is the rarest case,39 the magistrates do their duty to the end, and perish. In this same town, six months later, Simoneau, the mayor, having refused to cut down the price of wheat, is beaten with iron-pointed sticks, and his corpse is riddled with balls by the murderers.—Municipal bodies must take heed how they undertake to stem the torrent; the slightest opposition will soon be at the expense of their lives. In Touraine,40 “as the publication of the tax-rolls takes place, riots break out against the municipal authorities; they are forced to surrender the rolls they have drawn up, and their papers are torn up.” And still more, “they kill, they assassinate the municipal authorities.” In that large commune men and women “beat and kick them with their fists and sabots. . . . The mayor is laid up after it, and the procureur of the commune died between nine and ten o’clock in the morning. Véteau, a municipal officer, received the last sacrament this morning”; the rest have fled, being constantly threatened with death and incendiarism. They do not, consequently, return, and “no one now will take the office of either mayor or administrator.”—The outrages which the municipalities thus commit against their superiors are committed against themselves, the National Guards, the mob, the controlling faction, arrogating to themselves in the commune the same violent sovereignty which the commune pretends to exercise against the State.
I should never finish if I undertook to enumerate the outbreaks in which the magistrates are constrained to tolerate or to sanction popular usurpations, to shut up churches, to drive off or imprison priests, to suppress octrois, tax grain, and allow clerks, bakers, corn-dealers, ecclesiastics, nobles, and officers to be hung, beaten to death, or to have their throats cut. Ninety-four thick files of records in the national archives are filled with these acts of violence, and do not contain two-thirds of them. It is worth while to take in detail one case more, a special one, and one that is authentic, which serves as a specimen, and which presents a foreshortened image of France during one tranquil year. At Aix, in the month of December, 1790,41 in opposition to the two Jacobin clubs, a club had been organized, had complied with all the formalities, and, like the “Club des Monarchiens” at Paris, claimed the same right of meeting as the others. But here, as at Paris, the Jacobins recognise no rights but for themselves alone, and refuse to admit their adversaries to the privileges of the law. Moreover, alarming rumours are circulated. A person who has arrived from Nice states that he had “heard that there were twenty thousand men between Turin and Nice, under the pay of the emigrants, and that at Nice a neuvaine42 was held in Saint-François-de-Paule to pray God to enlighten the French.” A counterrevolution is certainly under way. Some of the aristocrats have stated “with an air of triumph, that the National Guard and municipalities are a mere toy, and that this sort of thing will not last long.” One of the leading members of the new club, M. de Guiramand, an old officer of seventy-eight years, makes speeches in public against the National Assembly, tries to enlist artisans in his party, “affects to wear a white button on his hat fastened by pins with their points jutting out,” and, as it is stated, he has given to several mercers a large order for white cockades. In reality, on examination, not one is found in any shop, and all the dealers in ribbons, on being interrogated, reply that they know of no transaction of that description. But this simply proves that the culprit is a clever dissimulator, and the more dangerous because he is eager to save the country.—On the 12th of December, at four o’clock in the afternoon, the two Jacobin clubs fraternise, and pass in long procession before the place of meeting, “where some of the members, a few officers of the Lyons regiment and other individuals, are quietly engaged at play or seeing others play.” The crowd hoot, but they remain quiet. The procession passes by again, and they hoot and shout, “Down with the aristocrats! To the lantern with them!” Two or three of the officers standing on the threshold of the door become irritated, and one of them, drawing his sword, threatens to strike a young man if he keeps on. Upon this the crowd cries out, “Guard! help! an assassin!” and rushes at the officer, who withdraws into the house, exclaiming, “To arms!” His comrades, sword in hand, descend in order to defend the door; M. de Guiramand fires two pistol shots and receives a stab in the thigh. A shower of stones smashes in the windows, and the door is on the point of being burst open when several of the members of the club save themselves by taking to the roof. About a dozen others, most of them officers, form in line, penetrate the crowd with uplifted swords, strike and get struck, and escape, five of them being wounded. The municipality orders the doors and windows of the club-house to be walled up, sends the Lyons regiment away, decrees the arrest of seven officers and of M. de Guiramand, and all this in a few hours, with no other testimony than that of the conquerors.
But these prompt, vigorous, and partial measures are not sufficient for the club; other conspirators must be seized, and it is the club which designates them and goes to take them.—Three months before this, M. Pascalis, an advocate, on addressing along with some of his professional brethren the parliament which had been dissolved, deplored the blindness of the people, “exalted by prerogatives of which they knew not the danger.” A man who dared talk in this way is evidently a traitor.—There is another, M. Morellet de la Roquette, who refused to join the proscribed club. His former vassals, however, had been obliged to bring an action against him to make him accept the redemption of his feudal dues; also, six years before this, his carriage, passing along the public promenade, had run over a child; he likewise is an enemy of the people. While the municipal officers are deliberating, “a few members of the club” get together and decide that M. Pascalis and M. de la Roquette must be arrested. At eleven o’clock at night eighty trustworthy National Guards, led by the president of the club, travel a league off to seize them in their beds and lodge them in the town prison.—Zeal of this kind excites some uneasiness, and if the municipality tolerates the arrests, it is because it is desirous of preventing murder. Consequently, on the following day, December 13th, it sends to Marseilles for four hundred men of the Swiss Guard commanded by Ernest, and four hundred National Guards, adding to these the National Guard of Aix, and orders this company to protect the prison against any violence. But, along with the Marseilles National Guards, there came a lot of armed people who are volunteers of disorder. On the afternoon of the 13th, the first mob strives to force the prison, and the next day, fresh squads congregate around it demanding the head of M. Pascalis. The members of the club head the riot with “a crowd of unknown men from outside the town, who give orders and carry them out.” During the night the populace of Aix are tampered with, and the dykes all give way at the same moment. At the first clamours the National Guard on duty on the public promenade disband and disperse, while, as there is no signal for the assemblage of the others, notwithstanding the regulations, the general alarm is not sounded. “The largest portion of the National Guard draws off so as not to appear to authorise by its presence outrages which it has not been ordered to prevent. Peaceable citizens are in great consternation”; each one takes to flight or shuts himself up in his house, the streets being deserted and silent. Meanwhile the prison gates are shattered with axes. The procureur-syndic of the department, who requests the commandant of the Swiss regiment to protect the prisoners, is seized, borne off, and runs the risk of losing his life. Three municipal officers in their scarfs, who arrive on the ground, dare not give the order which the commandant requires, plainly showing that at this decisive moment, when it is necessary to shed blood and kill a number of men, they fear to take the responsibility; their reply is, “We have no orders to give.”—An extraordinary spectacle now presents itself in this barrack courtyard surrounding the prison. On the side of the law stand eight hundred armed men, four hundred of the “Swiss” and four hundred of the National Guard of Marseilles, drawn up in battle array, with guns to their shoulders, with special orders repeated the evening before at three different times by the municipal district and departmental authorities, possessing the sympathies of all honest people and of most of the National Guard. But the legal indispensable phrase does not pass the lips of those who by virtue of the Constitution should utter it, and a small group of convicts are found to be sovereign.—The three municipal officers are seized in their turn under the eyes of their own soldiers who remain motionless, and “with bayonets at their breasts they sign, under constraint, the order to give up M. Pascalis to the people.” M. de la Roquette is likewise surrendered. “The only portion of the National Guard of Aix which was visible,” that is to say, the Jacobin minority, form a circle around the gate of the prison and organize themselves into a council of war. And there they stand, at once “accusers, witnesses, judges, and executioners.” A captain conducts the two victims to the public promenade where they are hung. Very soon after this old M. de Guiramand, whom the National Guard of his village have brought a prisoner to Aix, is hung in the same manner.
There is no prosecution of the assassins. The new tribunal, frightened or forestalled, has for some time back ranged itself on the popular side; its writs, consequently, are served on the oppressed, against the members of the assaulted club. Writs of arrest, summonses to attend court, searches, seizures of correspondence, and other proceedings, rain down upon them. Three hundred witnesses are examined. Some of the arrested officers are “loaded with chains and thrust into dungeons.” Henceforth the club rules, and “makes everybody tremble.”43 “From the 23rd to the 27th of December, more than ten thousand passports are delivered at Aix.” “If the emigrations continue,” write the commissioners, “there will be no one left at Aix but workmen without work and with no resources. Whole streets are uninhabited. . . . As long as such crimes can be permitted with impunity fear will drive out of this town every one who has the means of living elsewhere.”—Many come back after the arrival of the commissioners, hoping to obtain justice and security through them. But, “if a prosecution is not ordered, we shall scarcely have left Aix when three or four hundred families will abandon it. . . . And what man in his senses would dare guarantee that each village will not soon have some one hung in it? . . . Country valets arrest their masters. . . . The hope of doing evil deeds with impunity leads the inhabitants of villages to commit all sorts of depredations in the forests, which is exceedingly dangerous in a region where woods are very scarce. They set up the most absurd and most unjust pretensions against rich proprietors, and the fatal rope is ever the interpreter and the signal of their will.” There is no refuge against these outrages. “The department, the districts, the municipalities, administer only in conformity with the multiplied petitions of the club.” In the sight of all, and on one solemn day, a crushing defeat has demonstrated the weakness of the magistrates; and, bowed beneath the yoke of their new masters, they preserve their legal authority only on the condition that it remains at the service of the victorious party.
The sovereignty of unrestrained passions—I.Old religious rancours—Montauban and Nismes in 1790—II.Passion supreme—Dread of hunger its acutest form—The noncirculation of grain—Intervention and usurpations of the electoral assemblies—The rural code in Nivernais—The four central provinces in 1790—Why high prices are kept up—Anxiety and insecurity—Stagnation of the grain market—The departments near Paris in 1791—The supply and price of grain regulated by force—The mobs in 1792—Village armies of Eure and of the lower Seine and of Aisne—Aggravation of the disorder after August 10th—The dictation of unbridled instinct—Its practical and political expedients—III.Egotism of the tax-payer—Issoudun in 1790—Rebellion against taxation—Indirect taxes in 1789 and 1790—Abolition of the salt-tax, excise, and octrois—Direct taxation in 1789 and 1790—Delay and insufficiency of the returns—New levies in 1791 and 1792—Delays, partiality, and concealment in preparing the rolls—Insufficiency of, and the delay in, the returns—Payment in assignats—The tax-payer relieves himself of one-half—Devastation of the forests—Division of the communal property—IV.Cupidity of tenants—The third and fourth jacquerie—Brittany and other provinces in 1790 and 1791—The burning of chateaux—Title-deeds destroyed.—Refusal of claims—Destruction of reservoirs—Principal characteristics, prime motive, and ruling passion of the Revolution.
In this state of things the passions have full sway. Any one of them that is powerful enough to group together a few hundred men suffices for the formation of a faction or band, which dashes through the relaxed or feeble meshes of a government that is passive or disregarded. An experiment on a grand scale is about to be made on human society; owing to the slackening of the regular restraints which have maintained it, it is possible to measure the force of the permanent instincts which attack it. They are always there even in ordinary times; we do not notice them because they are kept in check; but they are not the less energetic and effective, and, moreover, indestructible. The moment their repression ceases, their power of mischief is shown; just as that of the water which floats a ship, but which at the first leak enters into it and sinks it.
Religious passions, to begin with, are not to be kept down by federations, embraces, and effusions of fraternity. In the south, where the Protestants have been persecuted for more than a century, hatreds exist more than a century old.1 —In vain have the odious edicts which oppressed them fallen into desuetude for the past twenty years; in vain have civil rights been restored to them since 1787: the past still lives in transmitted recollections; and two groups are confronting each other, one Protestant and the other Catholic, each defiant, hostile, ready to act on the defensive, and interpreting the preparations of its adversary as a plan of attack. Under such circumstances the guns go off of their own accord.—On a sudden alarm at Uzès2 the Catholics, two thousand in number, take possession of the bishop’s palace and the Hôtel-de-Ville; while the Protestants, numbering four hundred, assemble outside the walls on the esplanade, and pass the night under arms, each troop persuaded that the other is going to massacre it, one party summoning the Catholics of Jalès to its aid, and the other the Protestants of Gardonnenque.—There is but one way of avoiding civil war between parties in such an attitude, and that is the ascendancy of an energetic third party, impartial and on the spot. A plan to this effect, which promises well, is proposed by the military commandant of Languedoc.3 According to him the two firebrands are, on the one hand, the bishops of Lower Languedoc, and on the other, MM. Rabaut-Saint-Etienne, father and two sons, all three being pastors. Let them be responsible “with their heads” for any mob, insurrection, or attempt to debauch the army; let a tribunal of twelve judges be selected from the municipal bodies of twelve towns, and all delinquents be brought before it; let this be the court of final appeal, and its sentence immediately executed. The system in vogue, however, is just the reverse. Both parties being organized into a body of militia, each takes care of itself, and is sure to fire on the other; and the more readily, inasmuch as the new ecclesiastical regulations, which are issued from month to month, strike like so many hammers on Catholic sensibility, and scatter showers of sparks on the primings of the already loaded guns.
At Montauban, on the 10th of May, 1790, the day of the inventory and expropriation of the religious communities,4 the commissioners are not allowed to enter. Women in a state of frenzy lie across the thresholds of the doors, and it would be necessary to pass over their bodies; a large mob gathers around the “Cordeliers,” and a petition is signed to have the convents maintained.—The Protestants who witness this commotion become alarmed, and eighty of their National Guards march to the Hôtel-de-Ville, and take forcible possession of the guard-house which protects it. The municipal authorities order them to withdraw, which they refuse to do. Thereupon the Catholics assembled at the “Cordeliers” begin a riot, throw stones, and drive in the doors with pieces of timber, while a cry is heard that the Protestants, who have taken refuge in the guard-house, are firing from the windows. The enraged multitude immediately invade the arsenal, seize all the guns they can lay their hands on, and fire volleys on the guard-house, the effect of which is to kill five of the Protestants and wound twenty-four others. The rest are saved by a municipal officer and the police; but they are obliged to appear, two and two, before the cathedral in their shirts, and do public penance, after which they are put in prison. During the tumult political shouts have been heard: “Hurrah for the nobles! Hurrah for the aristocracy! Down with the nation! Down with the tricolour flag!” Bordeaux, regarding Montauban as in rebellion against France, dispatches fifteen hundred of its National Guard to set the prisoners free. Toulouse gives its aid to Bordeaux. The fermentation is frightful. Four thousand of the Protestants of Montauban take flight; armed cities are about to contend with each other, as formerly in Italy. It is necessary that a commissioner of the National Assembly and of the King, Mathieu Dumas, should be dispatched to harangue the people of Montauban, obtain the release of the prisoners, and reestablish order.
One month after this a more bloody affray takes place at Nismes5 against the Catholics. The Protestants, in fact, are but twelve thousand out of fifty-four thousand inhabitants, but the principal trade of the place is in their hands; they hold the manufactories and support thirty thousand workmen; in the elections of 1789 they furnished five out of the eight deputies. The sympathies of that time were in their favour; nobody then imagined that the dominant Church was exposed to any risk. It is to be attacked in its turn, and the two parties are seen confronting each other.—The Catholics sign a petition,6 hunt up recruits among the market-gardeners of the suburbs, retain the white cockade, and, when this is prohibited, replace it with a red rosette, another sign of recognition. At their head is an energetic man named Froment, who has vast projects in view; but as the soil on which he treads is undermined, he cannot prevent the explosion. It takes place naturally, by chance, through the simple collision of two equally distrustful bodies; and before the final day it has commenced and recommenced twenty times, through mutual provocations and denunciations, through insults, libels, scuffles, stone-throwing, and gun-shots.—On the 13th of June, 1790, the question is which party shall furnish administrators for the district and department, and the conflict begins in relation to the elections. The Electoral Assembly is held at the guard-house of the bishop’s palace, where the Protestant and patriotic dragoons arrive “three times as many as usual, with loaded muskets and pistols, and with full cartridge-boxes,” and they patrol the surrounding neighbourhood. The red rosettes, on their side, royalists and Catholics, complain of being threatened and “treated contemptuously” (nargués). They give notice to the gate-keeper “not to let any dragoon enter the town either on foot or mounted, at the peril of his life,” and declare that “the bishop’s quarters were not made for a guard-house.”—A mob forms, and shouting takes place under the windows; stones are thrown; the bugle of a dragoon, who sounds the roll-call, is broken and two shots are fired.7 The dragoons immediately fire a volley, which wounds a good many people and kills seven. From this moment, firing goes on during the evening and all night, in every quarter of the town, each party believing that the other wants to exterminate it, the Protestants satisfied that it is another St. Bartholomew, and the Catholics that it is “a Michelade.”8 There is no one to act between them. The municipality authorities, far from issuing orders, receive them: they are roughly handled, hustled and jostled about, and made to march about like servants. The patriots seize the Abbé de Belmont, a municipal officer, at the Hôtel-de-Ville, order him, on pain of death, to proclaim martial law, and place the red flag in his hand. “March, rascal, you ——! Hold up your flag—higher up still—you are big enough to do that!” Blows follow with the but-ends of their muskets. The poor man spits blood, but this is of no consequence; he must be in full sight at the head of the crowd, like a target, whilst his conductors prudently remain behind. Thus does he advance, exposed to bullets, holding the flag, and finally becomes the prisoner of the red rosettes, who release him, but keep his flag. There is a second march with a red flag held by a town valet, and fresh gunshots; the red rosettes capture this flag also, as well as another municipal officer. The rest of the municipal body, with a royal commissioner, take refuge in the barracks and order out the troops. Meanwhile Froment, with his three companies, posted in their towers and in the houses on the ramparts, resist to the last extremity. Daylight comes, the tocsin is sounded, the drums beat to arms, and the patriot militia of the neighbourhood, the Protestants from the mountains, the rude Cévenols, arrive in crowds. The red rosettes are besieged; a Capuchin convent, from which it is pretended that they have fired, is sacked, and five of the monks are killed. Froment’s tower is demolished with cannon and taken by assault. His brother is massacred and thrown from the walls, while a Jacobin convent next to the ramparts is sacked. Towards night, all the red rosettes who have fought are slain or have fled, and there is no longer any resistance.—But the fury still lasts; the fifteen thousand rustics who have flooded the town think that they have not yet done enough. In vain are they told that the other fifteen companies of red rosettes have not moved; that the pretended aggressors “did not even put themselves in a state of defence”; that during the battle they remained at home, and that afterwards, through extra precaution, the municipal authorities had made them give up their arms. In vain does the Electoral Assembly, preceded by a white flag, march to the public square and exhort the people to keep the peace. “Under the pretext of searching suspicious houses, they pillage or destroy, and whatever cannot be carried away is broken.” One hundred and twenty houses are sacked in Nismes alone, while the same ravages are committed in the environs, the damage, at the end of three days, amounting to seven or eight hundred thousand livres. A number of poor creatures, workmen, merchants, old and infirm men, are massacred in their houses; some, “who have been bed-ridden for many years, are dragged to the sills of their doors to be shot.” Others are hung on the esplanade and at the Cours Neuf, while others have their noses, ears, feet, and hands cut off, and are hacked to pieces with sabres and scythes. Horrible stories, as is commonly the case, provoke the most atrocious acts. A publican, who refuses to distribute anti-Catholic lists, is supposed to have a mine in his cellar filled with kegs of gunpowder and with sulphur matches all ready; he is hacked to pieces with a sabre, and twenty guns are discharged into his corpse: they expose the body before his house with a long loaf of bread on his breast, and they again stab him with bayonets, saying to him, “Eat, you ——, eat!” More than five hundred Catholics were assassinated, and many others, covered with blood, “are crowded together in the prisons, while the search for the proscribed is continued; whenever they are seen, they are fired upon like so many wolves.” Thousands of the inhabitants, accordingly, demand their passports and leave the town. The rural Catholics, meanwhile, on their side, massacre six Protestants in the environs—an old man of eighty-two years, a youth of fifteen, and a husband and his wife in their farmhouse. In order to put a stop to the murderous acts, the National Guard of Montpellier have to be summoned. But the restoration of order is for the benefit of the victorious party. Three-fifths of the electors have fled; one-third of the district and departmental administrators have been appointed in their absence, and the majority of the new directories is taken from the club of patriots. It is for this reason that those who are held in durance are prejudged as guilty. “No officer of the court dare give them the benefit of his services; they are not allowed to bring forward justificatory facts in evidence, while everybody knows that the judges are not free.”9
Thus do the violent measures of political and religious discord come to an end. The victor stops the mouth of the law when it is about to speak in his adversary’s behalf; and, under the legal iniquity of an administration which he has himself established, he crushes those whom the illegal force of his own strong hand has stricken down.
Passions of this stamp are the product of human cultivation, and break loose only within narrow bounds. Another passion exists which is neither historic nor local, but natural and universal, the most indomitable, most imperious, and most formidable of all, namely, the fear of hunger. There is no such thing with this passion as delay, or reflection, or looking beyond itself. Each commune or canton wants its bread, and a sure and unlimited supply of it. Our neighbour may provide for himself as best he can, but let us look out for ourselves first and then for other people. Each group of people, accordingly, through its own decrees, or by main force, keeps for itself whatever subsistences it possesses, or takes from others the subsistences which it does not possess.
At the end of 1789,10 “Roussillon refuses aid to Languedoc; Upper Languedoc to the rest of the province, and Burgundy to Lyonnais; Dauphiny shuts herself up, and Normandy retains the wheat purchased for the relief of Paris.” At Paris, sentinels are posted at the doors of all the bakers; on the 21st of October one of the latter is lanterned, and his head is borne about on a pike. On the 27th of October, at Vernon, a corn-merchant named Planter, who the preceding winter had supported the poor for six leagues around, has to take his turn. At the present moment the people do not forgive him for having sent flour to Paris, and he is hung twice, but is saved through the breaking of the rope each time.—It is only by force and under an escort that it is possible to ensure the arrival of grain in a town; the excited people or the National Guards constantly seize it on its passage. In Normandy the militia of Caen stops wheat on the highways which is destined for Harcourt and elsewhere.11 In Brittany, Auray and Vannes retain the convoys for Nantes, and Lannion those for Brest. Brest having attempted to negotiate, its commissioners are seized, and, with knives at their throats, are forced to sign a renunciation, pure and simple, of the grain which they have paid for, and they are led out of Lannion and stoned on the way. Eighteen hundred men, consequently, leave Brest with four cannon, and go to recover their property with their guns loaded. These are the customs prevalent during the great famines of feudal times; and, from one end of France to the other, to say nothing of the outbreaks of the famished in the large towns, similar outrages or attempts at recovery are constantly occurring.—“The armed population of Nantua, Saint-Claude, and Septmoncel,” says a dispatch,12 “have again cut off provisions from the Gex region; there is no wheat coming there from any direction, all the roads being guarded. Without the aid of the government of Geneva, which is willing to lend to this region eight hundred cuttings of wheat, we should either die of starvation or be compelled to take grain by force from the municipalities which keep it to themselves.” “Narbonne starves Toulon; the navigation of the Languedoc canal is intercepted; the people on its banks repulse two companies of soldiers, burn a large building, and want to destroy the canal itself.” Boats are stopped, waggons are pillaged, bread is forcibly lowered in price, stones are thrown and guns discharged; the populace contend with the National Guard, peasants with townsmen, purchasers with dealers, artisans and labourers with farmers and landowners, at Castelnaudary, Niort, Saint-Etienne, in Aisne, in Pas-de-Calais, and especially along the line stretching from Montbrison to Angers—that is to say, for almost the whole of the extent of the vast basin of the Loire—such is the spectacle presented by the year 1790.—And yet the crop has not been a bad one. But there is no circulation of grain. Each petty centre has formed a league for the monopoly of food; and hence the fasting of others and the convulsions of the entire body are the first effects of the unbridled freedom which the Constitution and circumstances have conferred on each local group.
“We are told to assemble, vote, and elect men that will attend to our business; let us attend to it ourselves. We have had enough of talk and hypocrisy. Bread at two sous, and let us go after wheat where it can be found!” Such is the reasoning of the peasantry, and, in Nivernais, Bourbonnais, Berri, and Touraine, electoral gatherings are the firebrands of the insurrections.13 At Saint-Sauge, “the first work of the primary meeting is to oblige the municipal officers to fix the price of wheat under the penalty of being decapitated.” At Saint-Géran the same course is taken with regard to bread, wheat, and meat; at Châtillon-en-Bayait it is done with all supplies, and always a third or a half under the market price, without mentioning other exactions.—They come by degrees to the drafting of a tariff for all the valuables they know, proclaiming the maximum price which an article may reach, and so establishing a complete code of rural and social economy. We see in the turbulent and spasmodic wording of this instrument their dispositions and sentiments, as in a mirror.14 It is the programme of villagers. Its diverse articles, save local variations, must be executed, now one and now the other, according to the occasion, the need, and the time, and, above all, whatever concerns provisions. The wish, as usual, is the father of the thought; the peasantry thinks that it is acting by authority: here, through a decree of the King and the National Assembly, there, by a commission directly entrusted to the Comte d’Estrées. Even before this, in the market-place of Saint-Amand, “a man jumped on a heap of wheat and cried out, ‘In the name of the King and the nation, wheat at one-half the market-price!’ ” An old officer of the Royal Grenadiers, a chevalier of the order of Saint-Louis, is reported to be marching at the head of several parishes, and promulgating ordinances in his own name and that of the King, imposing a fine of eight livres on whoever may refuse to join him.—On all sides there is a swarm of blouses, and resistance is fruitless. There are too many of them, the constabulary being drowned in the flood. For, these rustic legislators are the National Guard itself, and when they vote reductions upon, or requisitions for, subsistences, they enforce their demands with their guns.
The municipal officials, willingly or unwillingly, must needs serve the insurgents. At Donjon the Electoral Assembly has seized the mayor of the place and threatened to kill him, or to burn his house, if he did not put the cutting of wheat at forty sous; whereupon he signs, and all the mayors with him, “under the penalty of death.” As soon as this is done the peasants, “to the sound of fifes and drums,” spread through the neighbouring parishes and force the delivery of wheat at forty sous, and show such a determined spirit that the four brigades of gendarmes sent out against them think it best to retire.—Not content with taking what they want, they provide for reserve supplies; wheat is a prisoner. In Nivernais and Bourbonnais, the peasants trace a boundary line over which no sack of grain of that region must pass; in case of any infraction of this law the rope and the torch are close at hand for the delinquent.—It remains to see that this rule is enforced. In Berri bands of peasants visit the markets to see that their tariff is everywhere maintained. In vain are they told that they are emptying the markets; “they reply that they know how to make grain come, that they will take it from private hands, and money besides, if necessary.” In fact, the granaries and cellars belonging to a large number of persons are pillaged. Farmers are constrained to put their crops into a common granary, and the rich are put to ransom; “the nobles are compelled to contribute, and obliged to give entire domains as donations; cattle are carried off, and they want to take the lives of the proprietors,” while the towns, which defend their storehouses and markets, are openly attacked.15 Bourbon-Lancy, Bourbon-l’Archambault, Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier, Montluçon, Saint-Amand, Chateau-Gontier, Decises, each petty community is an islet assailed by the mounting tide of rustic insurrection. The militia pass the night under arms; detachments of the National Guards of the large towns with regular troops come and garrison them. The red flag is continuously raised for eight days at Bourbon-Lancy, and cannon stand loaded and pointed in the public square. On the 24th of May an attack is made on Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier, and fusillades take place all night on both sides. On the 2nd of June, Saint-Amand, menaced by twenty-seven parishes, is saved only by the preparations it makes and by the garrison. About the same time Bourbon-Lancy is attacked by twelve parishes combined, and Chateau-Gontier by the sabotiers of the forests in the vicinity. A band of from four to five hundred villagers arrests the convoys of Saint-Amand, and forces their escorts to capitulate; another band intrenches itself in the Chateau de la Fin, and fires throughout the day on the regulars and the National Guard.—The large towns themselves are not safe. Three or four hundred rustics, led by their municipal officers, forcibly enter Tours, to compel the municipality to lower the price of corn and diminish the rate of leases. Two thousand slate-quarry-men, armed with guns, spits, and forks, force their way into Angers to obtain a reduction on bread, fire upon the guard, and are charged by the troops and the National Guard; a number remain dead in the streets, two are hung that very evening, and the red flag is displayed for eight days. “The town,” say the dispatches, “would have been pillaged and burnt had it not been for the Picardy regiment.” Fortunately, as the crop promises to be a good one, prices fall. As the Electoral Assemblies are closed, the fermentation subsides; and towards the end of the year, like a clear spell in a steady storm, the gleam of a truce appears in the civil war excited by hunger.
But the truce does not last long, as it is broken in twenty places by isolated explosions; and towards the month of July, 1791, the disturbances arising from the uncertainty of subsistences begin again, to cease no more. We will consider but one group in this universal state of disorder—that of the eight or ten departments which surround Paris and furnish it with supplies. These districts, Brie and Beause, are rich wheat regions, and not only was the crop of 1790 good, but that of 1791 is ample. Information is sent to the minister from Laon16 that, in the department of Aisne, “there is a supply of wheat for two years . . . that the barns, generally empty by the month of April, will not be so this season before July,” and, consequently, “subsistences are assured.” But this does not suffice, for the source of the evil is not in a scarcity of wheat. In order that everybody, in a vast and populous country, where the soil, cultivation, and occupations differ, may eat, it is essential that food should be attainable by the nonproducers; and for it to reach them freely, without delay, solely by the natural operation of supply and demand, it is essential that there should be a police able to protect property, transactions, and transport. Just in proportion as the authority of a State becomes weakened, and in proportion as security diminishes, the distribution of subsistences becomes more and more difficult: a gendarmerie, therefore, is an indispensable wheel in the machine by which we are able to secure our daily bread. Hence it is that, in 1791, daily bread is wanting to a large number of men. Simply through the working of the Constitution, all restraints, already slackened both at the extremities and at the centre, are becoming looser and more loose each day. The municipalities, which are really sovereign, repress the people more feebly, some because the latter are the bolder and themselves more timid, and others because they are more radical and always consider them in the right. The National Guard is wearied, never comes forward, or refuses to use its arms. The active citizens are disgusted, and remain at home. At Étampes,17 where they are convoked by the commissioners of the department to take steps to reestablish some kind of order, only twenty assemble; the others excuse themselves by saying that, if the populace knew that they opposed its will, “their houses would be burnt,” and they accordingly stay away. “Thus,” write the commissioners, “the common-weal is given up to artisans and labourers whose views are limited to their own existence.”—It is, accordingly, the lower class which rules, and the information upon which it bases its decrees consists of rumours which it accepts or manufactures, to hide by an appearance of right the outrages which are due to its cupidity or to the brutalities of its hunger. At Étampes, “they have been made to believe that the grain which had been sold for supplying the departments below the Loire, is shipped at Paimboeuf and taken out of the kingdom from there to be sold abroad.” In the suburbs of Rouen they imagine that grain is purposely “ingulfed in the swamps, ponds, and clay-pits.” At Laon, imbecile and Jacobin committees attribute the dearness of provisions to the avidity of the rich and the malevolence of the aristocrats: according to them, “jealous millionaires grow rich at the expense of the people. They know the popular strength,” and, not daring to measure their forces with it, “in an honourable fight,” have recourse “to treachery.” To conquer the people easily they have determined to reduce them in advance by extreme suffering and by the length of their fast, and hence they monopolize “wheat, rye, and meal, soap, sugar, and brandy.”18 —Similar reports suffice to excite a suffering crowd to acts of violence, and it must inevitably accept for its leaders and advisers those who urge it forward on the side to which it is inclined. The people always require leaders, and they are chosen wherever they can be found, at one time amongst the élite, and at another amongst the dregs. Now that the nobles are driven out, the bourgeoisie in retirement, the large cultivators under suspicion, while animal necessities exercise their blind and intermittent despotism, the appropriate popular ministers consist of adventurers and of bandits. They need not be very numerous, for in a place full of combustible matter a few firebrands suffice to start the conflagration. “About twenty, at most, can be counted in the towns of Étampes and Dourdan, men with nothing to lose and everything to gain by disturbances; they are those who always produce excitement and disorder, while other citizens afford them the means through their indifference.” Those whose names are known among the new guides of the crowd are almost all escaped convicts whose previous habits have accustomed them to blows, violence, frequently to murder, and always to contempt for the law. At Brunoy,19 the leaders of the outbreak are “two deserters of the 18th regiment, sentenced and unpunished, who, in company with the vilest and most desperate of the parish, always go about armed and threatening.” At Étampes, “the two principal assassins of the mayor are a poacher repeatedly condemned for poaching, and an old carbineer dismissed from his regiment with a bad record against him.”20 Around these are artisans “without a known residence,” wandering workmen, journeymen and apprentices, vagrants and highway rovers, who flock into the towns on market-days and are always ready for mischief when an opportunity occurs. Vagabonds, indeed, now roam about the country everywhere, all restrictions against them having ceased.
“For a year past,” write several parishes in the neighbourhood of Versailles, “we have seen no gendarmes except those who come with decrees,” and hence the multiplication of “murders and brigandage” between Étampes and Versailles, on the highways and in the country. Bands of thirteen, fifteen, twenty, and twenty-two beggars rob the vineyards, enter farmhouses at night, and compel their inmates to lodge and feed them, returning in the same way every fortnight, all farms or isolated dwellings being their prey. An ecclesiastic is killed in his own house in the suburbs of Versailles, on the 26th of September, 1791, and, on the same day, a bourgeois and his wife are garotted and robbed. On the 22nd of September, near Saint-Rémi-Honoré, eight bandits ransack the dwelling of a farmer. On the 25th of September, at Villérs-le-Sec, thirteen others strip another farmer, and then add with much politeness, “It is lucky for your masters that they are not here, for we would have roasted them at yonder fire.” Six similar outrages are committed by armed ruffians in dwelling-places, within a radius of from three to four leagues, accompanied with the threats of the chauffeurs.21 “After enterprises of such force and boldness,” write the people of this region, “there is not a well-to-do man in the country who can rely upon an hour’s security in his house. Already many of our best cultivators are giving up their business, while others threaten to do the same in case these disorders continue.”—What is worse still is the fact that in these outrages most of the bandits were “in the national uniform.” The most ignorant, the poorest, and most fanatical of the National Guard thus enlist for the sake of plunder. It is so natural for men to believe in their right to that of which they feel the need, that the possessors of wheat thus become its monopolizers, and the superfluity of the rich the property of the poor! This is what the peasants say who devastate the forest of Bruyères-le-Chatel: “We have neither wood, bread, nor work—necessity knows no law.”
The necessaries of life are not to be had cheap under such a system. There is too much anxiety, and property is too precarious; there are too many obstacles to commerce; purchases, sales, shipments, arrivals, and payments are too uncertain. How are goods to be stored and transported in a country where neither the central government, the local authorities, the National Guard, nor the regular troops perform their duties, and where every transaction in produce, even the most legal and the most serviceable, is subject to the caprice of a dozen villains whom the populace obey? Wheat remains in the barn, or is secreted, or is kept waiting, and only reaches by stealth the hands of those who are rich enough to pay, not only its price, but the extra cost of the risk. Thus forced into a narrow channel, it rises to a rate which the depreciation of the assignats augments, its dearness being not only maintained, but ever on the increase.—Thereupon popular instinct invents for the cure of the evil a remedy which serves to aggravate it: henceforth, wheat must not travel; it is impounded in the canton in which it is gathered. At Laon, “the people have sworn to die rather than let their food be carried off.” At Étampes, to which the municipality of Angers dispatches an administrator of its hospital to buy two hundred and fifty sacks of flour, the commission cannot be executed, the delegate not even daring to avow for several days the object of his coming; all he can do is “to visit incognito, and at night, the different flour-dealers in the valley, who would offer to furnish the supply, but fear for their lives and dare not even leave their houses.”—The same violence is shown in the more distant circle of departments which surround the first circle. At Aubigny, in Cher,22 grain-waggons are stopped, the district administrators are menaced; two have a price set on their heads; a portion of the National Guard sides with the mutineers. At Chaumont, in Haute-Marne, the whole of the National Guard is in a state of mutiny; a convoy of over three hundred sacks is stopped, the Hôtel-de-Ville forced, and the insurrection lasts four days; the directory of the department takes flight; and the people seize on the powder and cannons. At Douai, in the Nord, to save a grain-dealer, he is put in prison; the mob forces the gates, the soldiers refuse to fire, and the man is hung, while the directory of the department takes refuge in Lille. At Montreuil-sur-Mer, in Pas-de-Calais, the two leaders of the insurrection, a brazier and a horse-shoer, “Bèquelin, called Petit-Gueux,” the latter with his sabre in hand, reply to the summons of the municipal authorities, that “not a grain shall go now that they are masters,” and that if they dare to make such proclamations “they will cut off their heads.” There are no means of resistance. The National Guard, when it is convoked, does not respond; the volunteers when called upon turn their muskets down, and the crowd, assembled beneath the windows, shouts out its huzzahs. So much the worse for the law when it opposes popular passion: “We will not obey it,” they say; “people make laws to please themselves.”—By way of practical illustration, at Tortes, in Seine-Inférieure, six thousand armed men belonging to the surrounding parishes form a deliberative armed body; the better to establish their rights, they bring two cannon with them fastened by ropes on a couple of carts; twenty-two companies of the National Guard, each under its own banner, march beside them, while all peaceable inhabitants are compelled to fall in “under penalty of death,” the municipal officers being at their head. This improvised parliament promulgates a complete law in relation to grain, which, as a matter of form, is sent for acceptance to the department, and to the National Assembly; and one of its articles declares that all husbandmen shall be forbidden “to sell their wheat elsewhere than on the market-places.” With no other outlet for it, wheat must be brought to the corn-markets (halles), and when these are full the price must necessarily fall.
What a profound deception! Even in the granary of France wheat remains dear, and costs about one-third more than would be necessary to secure the sale of bread at two sous the pound, in conformity with the will of the people. For instance,23 at Gonesse, Dourdan, Corbeil, Mennecy, Brunoy, Limours, Brie-Comte-Robert, and especially at Étampes and Montlhéry, the holders of grain are compelled almost weekly, through the clamours and violence of the people, to reduce prices one-third and more. It is impossible for the authorities to maintain, on their corn-exchange, the freedom of buying and selling. The regular troops have been sent off by the people beforehand. Whatever the tolerance or connivance of the soldiers may be, the people have a vague sentiment that they are not there to permit the ripping open of sacks of flour, or the seizing of farmers by the throat. To get rid of all obstacles and of being watched, they make use of the municipality itself, and force it to effect its own disarmament. The municipal officers, besieged in the town-hall, at times threatened with pistols and bayonets,24 dispatch to the detachments they are expecting an order to turn back, and entreat the Directory not to send any more troops, for, if any come, they have been told that “they will be sorry for it.” Nowhere are there regular troops. At Étampes, the people repeat that “they are sent for and paid by the flour-dealers”; at Montlhéry, that “they merely serve to arm citizens against each other”; at Limours, that “they make grain dearer.” All pretexts seem good in this direction; the popular will is absolute, and the authorities complacently meet its decrees half-way. At Montlhéry, the municipal body orders the gendarmerie to remain at the gates of the town, which gives full play to the insurrection.—The administrators, however, are not relieved by leaving the people free to act; they are obliged to sanction their exactions by ordinances. They are taken out of the Hôtel-de-Ville, led to the market-place, and there forthwith, under the dictation of the uproar which establishes prices, they, like simple clerks, proclaim the reduction. When, moreover, the armed rabble of a village marches forth to tyrannize over a neighbouring market, it carries its mayor along with it in spite of himself, as an official instrument which belongs to it.25 “There is no resistance against force,” writes the mayor of Vert-le-Petit; “we had to set forth immediately.”—“They assured me,” says the mayor of Fontenay, “that, if I did not obey them, they would hang me.”—On any municipal officer hazarding a remonstrance, they tell him that “he is getting to be an aristocrat.” “Aristocrat” and “the gallows” argument is irresistible, and all the more so because it is practically applied. At Corbeil, the procureur-syndic who tries to enforce the law is almost beaten to death, and three houses in which they try to find him are demolished. At Montlhéry, a seedsman, accused of mixing the flour of beans (twice as dear) with wheaten flour, is massacred in his own house. At Étampes, the mayor who promulgates the law is cudgelled to death. Mobs talk of nothing but “burning and destroying,” while the farmers, abused, hooted at, forced to sell, threatened with death, and robbed, run away, declaring they will never return to the market again.
Such is the first effect of popular dictatorship. Like all unintelligent forces, it operates in a direction the reverse of its intention: to dearness it adds dearth, and empties, instead of replenishing, the markets. That of Étampes often contained fifteen or sixteen hundred sacks of flour; the week following this insurrection there were, at most, sixty brought to it. At Montlhéry, where six thousand men had collected together, each one obtains for his share only a small measure, while the bakers of the town have none at all. This being the case, the enraged National Guards tell the farmers that they are coming to see them on their farms. And they really go.26 Drums roll constantly on the roads around Montlhéry, Limours, and other large market-towns. Columns of two, three, and four hundred men are seen passing under the lead of their commandant and of the mayor whom they take along with them. They enter each farm, mount into the granaries, estimate the quantity of grain thrashed out, and force the proprietor to sign an agreement to bring it to market the following week. Sometimes, as they are hungry, they compel people to give them something to eat and drink on the spot, and it will not do to enrage them—a farmer and his wife come near being hung in their own barn.
Useless pains. Wheat is impounded and hunted up in vain; it takes to the earth or slips off like a frightened animal. In vain do insurrections continue. In vain do armed mobs, in all the market-towns of the department,27 subject grain to a forced reduction of price. Wheat becomes scarcer and dearer from month to month, rising in price from twenty-six francs to thirty-three. And because the outraged farmer “brings now a very little,” just “what is necessary to sacrifice in order to avoid threats, he sells at home, or in the inns, to the flour-dealers from Paris.”—The people, in running after abundance, have thus fallen deeper down into want: their brutality has aggravated their misery, and it is to themselves that their starvation is owing. But they are far from attributing all this to their own insubordination; the magistrates are accused; these, in the eyes of the populace, are “in league with the monopolizers.” On this incline no stoppage is possible. Distress increases rage, and rage increases distress; and on this fatal declivity men are precipitated from one outrage to another.
After the month of February, 1792, such outrages are innumerable; the mobs which go in quest of grain or which cut down its price consist of armies. One of six thousand men comes to control the market of Montlhéry.28 There are seven to eight thousand men who invade the market-place of Verneuil, and there is an army of ten and another of twenty-five thousand men, who remain organized for ten days near Laon. One hundred and fifty parishes have sounded the tocsin, and the insurrection spreads for ten leagues around. Five boats loaded with grain are stopped, and, in spite of the orders of district, department, minister, King, and National Assembly, they refuse to surrender them. Their contents, in the meantime, are made the most of. “The municipal officers of the different parishes, assembled together, pay themselves their fees, to wit: one hundred sous per diem for the mayor, three livres for the municipal officers, two livres ten sous for the guards, two livres for the porters. They have ordered that these sums should be paid in grain, and they reduce grain, it is said, fifteen livres the sack. It is certain that they have divided it amongst themselves, and that fourteen hundred sacks have been distributed.” In vain do the commissioners of the National Assembly make speeches to them three hours in length. The discourse being finished, they deliberate, in presence of the commissioners, whether the latter shall be hung, drowned, or cut up, and their heads put on the five points of the middle of the abbey railing. On being threatened with military force, they make their dispositions accordingly. Nine hundred men who relieve each other watch day and night on the ground, in a well-chosen and permanent encampment, while signalmen stationed in the belfries of the surrounding villages have only to sound the alarm to bring together twenty-five thousand men in a few hours.—So long as the Government remains on its feet it carries on the combat as well as it can; but it grows weaker from month to month, and, after the 10th of August, when it lies on the ground, the mob takes its place and becomes the universal sovereign. From this time forth not only is the law which protects subsistences powerless against the disturbers of sale and circulation, but the Assembly actually sanctions their acts, since it decrees29 the stoppage of all proceedings commenced against them, remits sentences already passed, and sets free all who are imprisoned or in irons. Behold every administration, with merchants, proprietors, and farmers abandoned to the famished, the furious, and to robbers; henceforth subsistences are for those who are disposed and able to take them. “You will be told,” says a petition,30 “that we violate the law. We reply to these perfidious insinuations that the salvation of the people is the supreme law. We come in order to keep the markets supplied, and to ensure an uniform price for wheat throughout the Republic. For, there is no doubt about it, the purest patriotism dies out (sic) when there is no bread to be had. . . . Resistance to oppression—yes, resistance to oppression is the most sacred of duties; is there any oppression more terrible than that of wanting bread? Undoubtedly, no. . . . Join us and ‘Ça ira, ça ira!’ We cannot end our petition better than with this patriotic air.” This supplication was written on a drum, amidst a circle of firearms; and with such accompaniments it is equivalent to a command.—They are well aware of it, and of their own authority they often confer upon themselves not only the right but also the title. In Loire-et-Cher,31 a band of from four to five thousand men assume the name of “Sovereign Power.” They go from one market-town to another, to Saint-Calais, Montdoubleau, Blois, Vendôme, reducing the cost of provisions, their troop rolling up like a snowball—for they threaten “to burn the effects and set fire to the houses of all who are not as courageous as themselves.”
In this state of social disintegration, insurrection is a gangrene in which the healthy are infected by the morbid parts. Mobs are everywhere produced and reproduced, incessantly, large and small, like abscesses which break out side by side, and painfully irritate each other and finally combine. There are the towns against the rural districts and rural districts against the towns. On the one hand “every farmer who contributes anything to the market passes (at home) for an aristocrat,32 and becomes the horror of his fellow-citizens in the village.” On the other hand the National Guards of the towns spread themselves through the rural districts and make raids to save themselves from death by hunger.33 It is admitted in the rural districts that each municipality has the right to isolate itself from the rest. It is admitted in the towns that each town has the right to derive its provisions from the country. It is admitted by the indigent of each commune that the commune must provide bread gratis or at a cheap rate. On the strength of this there is a shower of stones and a fusillade; department against department, district against district, canton against canton, all fight for food, and the strongest get it and keep it for themselves.—I have simply described the north, where, for the past three years, the crops are good. I have omitted the south, where trade is interrupted on the canal of the Deux Mers, where the procureur-syndic of Aude has lately been massacred for trying to secure the passage of a convoy; where the harvest has been poor; where, in many places, bread costs eight sous the pound; where, in almost every department, a bushel of wheat is sold twice as dear as in the north!
Strange phenomenon! and the most instructive of all, for in it we see down into the depths of humanity; for, as on a raft of shipwrecked beings without food, there is a reversion to a state of nature. The light tissue of habit and of rational ideas in which civilisation has enveloped man, is torn asunder and is floating in rags around him; the bare arms of the savage show themselves, and they are striking out. The only guide he has for his conduct is that of primitive days, the startled instinct of a craving stomach. Henceforth that which rules in him and through him is animal necessity with its train of violent and narrow suggestions, sometimes sanguinary and sometimes grotesque. Incompetent or savage, in all respects like a negro monarch, his sole political expedients are either the methods of a slaughter-house or the dreams of a carnival. Two commissioners whom Roland, Minister of the Interior, sends to Lyons, are able to see within a few days the carnival and the slaughter-house.34 —On the one hand the peasants, all along the road, arrest everybody; the people regard every traveller as an aristocrat who is running away—which is so much the worse for those who fall into their hands. Near Autun, four priests who, to obey the law, are betaking themselves to the frontier, are put in prison “for their own protection”; they are taken out a quarter of an hour later, and, in spite of thirty-two of the mounted police, are massacred. “Their carriage was still burning as I passed, and the corpses were stretched out not far off. Their driver was still in durance, and it was in vain that I solicited his release.”—On the other hand, at Lyons, the power has fallen into the hands of the degraded women of the streets. “They seized the central club, constituted themselves commissaries of police, signed notices as such, and paid visits of inspection to store-houses”; they drew up a tariff of provisions, “from bread and meat up to common peaches, and peaches of fine quality.” They announced that “whoever dared to dispute it would be considered a traitor to the country, an adherent of the civil list, and prosecuted as such.” All this is published, proclaimed, and applied by “female commissaries of police,” themselves the dregs of the lowest sinks of corruption. Respectable housewives and workwomen had nothing to do with it, nor “working-people of any class.” The sole actors of this administrative parody are “scamps, a few bullies of houses of ill-fame, and a portion of the dregs of the female sex.”—To this end comes the dictatorship of instinct, yonder let loose on the highway in a massacre of priests, and here, in the second city of France, in the government of strumpets.
The fear of starvation is only the sharper form of a more general passion, which is the desire of possession, and the determination not to give up the possessions attained. No popular instinct had been longer, more rudely, more universally tried under the ancient régime; and there is none which gushes out more readily under constraint, none which requires a higher or broader public barrier, or one more entirely constructed of solid blocks, to keep it in check. Hence it is that this passion from the commencement breaks down or engulfs the slight and low boundaries, the tottering embankments of crumbling earth between which the Constitution pretends to confine it.—The first flood sweeps away the pecuniary claims of the State, of the clergy, and of the noblesse. The people regard them as abolished, or, at least, they consider their debts discharged. Their idea, in relation to this, is formed and fixed; for them it is that which constitutes the Revolution. The people have no longer a creditor; they are determined to have none, they will pay nobody, and first of all, they will make no further payment to the State.
On the 14th of July, 1790, the day of the Federation, the population of Issoudun, in Touraine, solemnly convoked for the purpose, had just taken the solemn oath which was to ensure public peace, social harmony, and respect for the law for evermore.35 Here, probably, as elsewhere, arrangements had been made for an affecting ceremonial; there were young girls dressed in white, and learned and impressionable magistrates were to pronounce philosophical harangues. All at once they discover that the people gathered on the public square are provided with clubs, scythes, and axes, and that the National Guard will not prevent their use; on the contrary, the Guard itself is composed almost wholly of vine-dressers and others interested in the suppression of the duties on wine, of coopers, innkeepers, workmen, carters of casks, and others of the same stamp, all rough fellows who have their own way of interpreting the Social Contract. The whole mass of decrees, acts, and rhetorical flourishes which are dispatched to them from Paris, or which emanate from the new authorities, are not worth a halfpenny tax maintained on each bottle of wine. There are to be no more excise duties; they will only take the civic oath on this express condition, and that very evening they hang, in effigy, their two deputies, who “had not supported their interests” in the National Assembly. A few months later, of all the National Guard called upon to protect the clerks, only the commandant and two officers respond to the summons. If a docile tax-payer happens to be found, he is not allowed to pay the dues; this seems a defection and almost treachery. An entry of three puncheons of wine having been made, they are stove in with stones, a portion is drunk, and the rest taken to the barracks to debauch the soldiers; M. de Sauzay, commandant of the “Royal Roussillon,” who was bold enough to save the clerks, is menaced, and for this misdeed he barely escapes being hung himself. When the municipal body is called upon to interpose and employ force, it replies that “for so small a matter, it is not worth while to compromise the lives of the citizens,” and the regular troops sent to the Hôtel-de-Ville are ordered by the people not to go except with the but-ends of their muskets in the air. Five days after this the windows of the excise office are smashed, and the public notices are torn down; the fermentation does not subside, and M. de Sauzay writes that a regiment would be necessary to restrain the town. At Saint-Amand the insurrection breaks out violently, and is only put down by violence. At Saint-Etienne-en-Forez, Berthéas, a clerk in the excise office, falsely accused of monopolizing grain,36 is fruitlessly defended by the National Guard; he is put in prison, according to the usual custom, to save his life, and, for greater security, the crowd insist on his being fastened by an iron collar. But, suddenly changing its mind, it breaks upon the door and drags him to death. Stretched on the ground, his head still moves and he raises his hand to it, when a woman, picking up a large stone, smashes his skull.—These are not isolated occurrences. During the months of July and August, 1789, the tax offices are burnt in almost every town in the kingdom. In vain does the National Assembly order their reconstruction, insist on the maintenance of duties and octrois, and explain to the people the public needs, pathetically reminding them, moreover, that the Assembly has already given them relief—the people prefer to relieve themselves instantly and entirely. Whatever is consumed must no longer be taxed, either for the benefit of the State or for that of the towns. “Entrance dues on wine and cattle,” writes the municipality of Saint-Etienne, “scarcely amount to anything, and our powers are inadequate for their enforcement.” At Cambrai, two successive outbreaks compel the excise office and the magistracy of the town37 to reduce the duties on beer one-half. But “the evil, at first confined to one corner of the province, soon spreads”; the grands baillis of Lille, Douai, and Orchies write that “we have hardly a bureau which has not been molested, and in which the taxes are not wholly subject to popular discretion.” Those only pay who are disposed to do so, and, consequently, “greater fraud could not exist.” The tax-payers, indeed, cunningly defend themselves, and find plenty of arguments or quibbles to avoid paying their dues. At Cambrai they allege that, as the privileged now pay as well as the rest, the Treasury must be rich enough.38 At Noyon, Ham, and Chauny, and in the surrounding parishes, the butchers, innkeepers, and publicans combined, who have refused to pay excise duties, pick flaws in the special decree by which the Assembly subjects them to the law, and a second special decree is necessary to circumvent these new legists. The process at Lyons is simpler. Here the thirty-two sections appoint commissioners; these decide against the octroi, and request the municipal authorities to abolish it. They must necessarily comply, for the people are at hand and are furious. Without waiting, however, for any legal measures, they take the authority on themselves, rush to the toll-houses, and drive out the clerks, while large quantities of provisions, which “through a singular predestination” were waiting at the gates, come in free of duty.
The Treasury defends itself as it best can against this universally bad disposition of the tax-payer, against these irruptions and infiltrations of fraud; it repairs the dyke where it has been carried away, stops up the fissures, and again resumes collections. But how can these be regular and complete in a State where the courts dare not condemn delinquents, where public force dares not support the courts,39 where popular favour protects the most notorious bandits and the worst vagabonds against the tribunals and against the public powers? At Paris, where, after eight months of impunity, proceedings are begun against the pillagers who on the 13th of August, 1789, set fire to the tax-offices, the officers of the election, “considering that their audiences have become too tumultuous, that the thronging of the people excites uneasiness, that threats have been uttered of a kind calculated to create reasonable alarm,” are constrained to suspend their sittings and refer matters to the National Assembly, while the latter, considering that “if prosecutions are authorised in Paris it will be necessary to authorise them throughout the kingdom,” decides that it is best “to veil the statue of the Law.”40 Not only does the Assembly veil the statue of the Law, but it takes to pieces, remakes, and mutilates it, according to the requirements of the popular will; and, in the matter of indirect imposts, all its decrees are forced upon it. The outbreak against the salt impost was terrible from the beginning; sixty thousand men in Anjou alone combined to destroy it, and the price of salt had to be reduced from sixteen to six sous.41 The people, however, are not satisfied with this. This monopoly has been the cause of so much suffering that they are not disposed to put up with any remains of it, and are always on the side of the smugglers against the excise officers. In the month of January, 1790, at Béziers, thirty-two employés, who had seized a quantity of contraband salt on the persons of armed smugglers,42 are pursued by the crowd to the Hôtel-de-Ville; the consuls decline to defend them and run away; the troops defend them, but in vain. Five are tortured, horribly mutilated, and then hung. In the month of March, 1790, Necker states that, according to the returns of the past three months, the deficit in the salt-tax amounts to more than four millions a month, which is four-fifths of the ordinary revenue, while the tobacco monopoly is no more respected than that of salt. At Tours,43 the bourgeois militia refuse to give assistance to the employés, and “openly protect smuggling,” “and contraband tobacco is publicly sold at the fair, under the eyes of the municipal authorities, who dare make no opposition to it.” All receipts, consequently, diminish at the same time.44 From the 1st of May, 1789, to the 1st of May, 1790, the general collections amount to one hundred and twenty-seven millions instead of one hundred and fifty millions; the dues and excise combined return only thirty-one, instead of fifty millions. The streams which filled the public exchequer are more and more obstructed by popular resistance, and under the popular pressure, the Assembly ends by closing them entirely. In the month of March, 1790,45 it abolishes salt duties, internal customs-duties, taxes on leather, on oil, on starch, and the stamp of iron. In February and March, 1791, it abolishes octrois and entrance-dues in all the cities and boroughs of the kingdom, all the excise duties and those connected with the excise, especially all taxes which affect the manufacture, sale, or circulation of beverages. The people have at last carried everything, and on the 1st of May, 1791, the day of the application of the decree, the National Guard of Paris parades around the walls playing patriotic airs. The cannon of the Invalides and those on the Pont-Neuf thunder out as if for an important victory. There is an illumination in the evening, there is drinking all night, a universal revel. Beer, indeed, is to be had at three sous the pot, and wine at six sous a pint, which is a reduction of one-half; no conquest could be more popular, since it brings intoxication within easy reach of all topers.46
The object, now, is to provide for the expenses which have been defrayed by the suppressed octrois. In 1790, the octroi of Paris had produced 35,910,859 francs, of which 25,059,446 went to the State, and 10,851,413 went to the city. How is the city going to pay for its watch, the lighting and cleaning of its streets, and the support of its hospitals? What are the twelve hundred other cities and boroughs going to do which are brought by the same stroke to the same situation? What will the State do, which, in abolishing the general revenue from all entrance-dues and excise, is suddenly deprived of two-fifths of its revenue?—In the month of March, 1790, when the Assembly suppressed the salt and other duties, it established in the place of these a tax of fifty millions, to be divided between the direct imposts and dues on entrance to the towns. Now, consequently, that the entrance-dues are abolished, the new charge falls entirely upon the direct imposts. Do returns come in, and will they come in?—In the face of so many outbreaks, any indirect taxation is, certainly, difficult to collect. Nevertheless it is not so repulsive as the other because the levies of the State disappear in the price of the article, the hand of the Exchequer being hidden by the hand of the dealer. The Government clerk formerly presented himself with his stamped paper and the seller handed him the money without much grumbling, knowing that he would soon be more than reimbursed by his customer: the indirect tax is thus collected. Should any difficulty arise, it is between the dealer and the tax-payer who comes to his shop to lay in his little store; the latter grumbles, but it is at the high price which he feels, and possibly at the seller who pockets his silver; he does not find fault with the clerk of the Exchequer, whom he does not see and who is not then present. In the collection of the direct tax, on the contrary, it is the clerk himself whom he sees before him, who abstracts the precious piece of silver. This authorised robber, moreover, gives him nothing in exchange; it is an entire loss. On leaving the dealer’s shop he goes away with a jug of wine, a pot of salt, or similar commodities; on leaving the tax-office he has nothing in hand but an acquittance, a miserable bit of scribbled paper.—But now he is master in his own commune, an elector, a National Guard, mayor, the sole authority in the use of armed force, and charged with his own taxation. Come and ask him to unearth the buried mite on which he has set all his heart and all his soul, the earthen pot wherein he has deposited his cherished pieces of silver one by one, and which he has laid by for so many years at the cost of so much misery and fasting, in the very face of the bailiff, in spite of the prosecutions of the subdelegate, commissioner, collector, and clerk!
From the 1st of May, 1789, to the 1st of May, 1790,47 the general returns, the taille and its accessories, the poll-tax, and “twentieths,” instead of yielding 161,000,000 francs, yield but 28,000,000 francs in the provinces which impose their own taxes (pays d’États); instead of 28,000,000 francs, the Treasury obtains but 6,000,000. On the patriotic contribution which was to deduct one-quarter of all incomes over four hundred livres, and to levy two and a half per cent. on plate, jewels, and whatever gold and silver each person has in reserve, the State received 9,700,000 francs. As to patriotic gifts, their total, comprising the silver buckles of the deputies, reaches only 361,587 francs; and the closer our examination into the particulars of these figures, the more do we see the contributions of the villager, artisan, and former subjects of the taille diminish.—Since the month of October, 1789, the privileged classes, in fact, appear in the tax-rolls, and they certainly form the class which is best off, the most alive to general ideas and the most truly patriotic. It is therefore probable that, of the forty-three millions of returns from the direct imposts and from the patriotic contribution, they have furnished the larger portion, perhaps two-thirds of it, or even three-quarters. If this be the case, the peasant, the former tax-payer, gave nothing or almost nothing from his pocket during the first year of the Revolution. For instance, in regard to the patriotic contribution, the Assembly left it to the conscience of each person to fix his own quota; at the end of six months, consciences are found too elastic, and the Assembly is obliged to confer this right on the municipalities. The result is48 that this or that individual who taxed himself at forty-eight livres, is taxed at a hundred and fifty; another, a cultivator, who had offered six livres, is judged to be able to pay over one hundred. Every regiment contains a small number of select brave men, and it is always these who are ready to advance under fire. Every State contains a select few of honest men who advance to meet the tax-collector. Some effective constraint is essential in the regiment to supply those with courage who have but little, and in the State to supply those with probity who do not possess it. Hence, during the eight months which follow, from May 1st, 1790, to January 1st, 1791, the patriotic contribution furnishes but 11,000,000 livres. Two years later, on the 1st of February, 1793, out of the forty thousand communal tax-rolls which should provide for it, there are seven thousand which are not yet drawn up; out of 180,000,000 livres which it ought to produce, there are 70,000,000 livres which are still due.—The resistance of the tax-payer produces a similar deficit, and similar delays in all branches of the national income.49 In the month of June, 1790, a deputy declares in the tribune that “out of thirty-six millions of imposts which ought to be returned each month only nine have been received.”50 In the month of November, 1791, a reporter on the budget states that the receipts, which should amount to forty or forty-eight millions a month, do not reach eleven millions and a half. On February 1, 1793, there remains still due on the direct taxes of 1789 and 1790 one hundred and seventy-six millions.—It is evident that the people struggle with all their might against the old taxes, even authorised and prolonged by the Constituent Assembly, and all that is obtained from them is wrested from them.
Will the people be more docile under the new taxation? The Assembly exhorts them to be so and shows them how, with the relief they have gained and with the patriotism they ought to possess, they can and should discharge their dues. The people are able to do it because, having got rid of tithes, feudal dues, the salt-tax, octrois, and excise duties, they are in a comfortable position. They should do so, because the taxation adopted is indispensable to the State, equitable, assessed on all in proportion to their fortune, collected and expended under rigid scrutiny, without perversion or waste, according to precise, clear, periodical, and audited accounts. No doubt exists that, after the 1st of January, 1791, the date when the new financial scheme comes into operation, each tax-payer will gladly pay as a good citizen, and the two hundred and forty millions of the new tax on real property, and the sixty millions of that on personal property, leaving out the rest—registries, license, and customs duties—will flow in regularly and easily of their own accord.
Unfortunately, before the tax-gatherer can collect the first two levies these have to be assessed, and as there are complicated writings and formalities, claims to settle amidst great resistance and local ignorance, the operation is indefinitely prolonged. The personal and land-tax schedule of 1791 is not transmitted to the departments by the Assembly until June, 1791. The departments do not distribute it among the districts until the months of July, August, and September, 1791. It is not distributed by the districts among the communes before October, November, and December, 1791. Thus in the last month of 1791 it is not yet distributed to the tax-payers by the communes; from which it follows that on the budget of 1791 and throughout that year, the tax-payer has paid nothing.—At last, in 1792, everybody begins to receive this assessment. It would require a volume to set forth the partiality and dissimulation of these assessments. In the first place the office of assessor is one of danger; the municipal authorities, whose duty it is to assign the quotas, are not comfortable in their town quarters. Already, in 1790,51 the municipal officers of Monbazon have been threatened with death if they dared to tax industrial pursuits on the tax-roll, and they escaped to Tours in the middle of the night. Even at Tours, three or four hundred insurgents of the vicinity, dragging along with them the municipal officers of three market-towns, come and declare to the town authorities “that for all taxes they will not pay more than fortyfive sous per household.” I have already narrated how, in 1792, in the same department, “they kill, they assassinate the municipal officers” who presume to publish the tax-rolls of personal property. In Creuse, at Clugnac, the moment the clerk begins to read the document, the women spring upon him, seize the tax-roll, and “tear it up with countless imprecations”; the municipal council is assailed, and two hundred persons stone its members, one of whom is thrown down, has his head shaved, and is promenaded through the village in derision.—When the small tax-payer defends himself in this manner, it is a warning that he must be humoured. The assessment, accordingly, in the village councils is made amongst a knot of cronies. Each relieves himself of the burden by shoving it off on somebody else. “They tax the large proprietors, whom they want to make pay the whole tax.” The noble, the old seigneur, is the most taxed, and to such an extent that in many places his income does not suffice to pay his quota.—In the next place they make themselves out poor, and falsify or elude the prescriptions of the law. “In most of the municipalities, houses, tenements, and factories52 are estimated according to the value of the area they cover, and considered as land of the first class, which reduces the quota to almost nothing.” And this fraud is not practised in the villages alone. “Communes of eight or ten thousand souls might be cited which have arranged matters so well amongst themselves in this respect that not a house is to be found worth more than fifty sous.”—Last expedient of all, the commune defers as long as it can the preparation of its tax-rolls. On the 30th of January, 1792, out of 40,211, there are only 2,560 which are complete; on the 5th of October, 1792, the schedules are not made out in 4,800 municipalities, and it must be noted that all this relates to a term of administration which has been finished for more than nine months. At the same date, there are more than six thousand communes which have not yet begun to collect the land-tax of 1791, and more than fifteen thousand communes which have not yet begun to collect the personal tax; the Treasury and the departments have not yet received 152,000,000 francs, there being still 222,000,000 to collect. On the 1st February, 1793, there still remains due on the same period 161,000,000 francs, while of the 50,000,000 assessed in 1790, to replace the salt-tax and other suppressed duties, only 2,000,000 have been collected. Finally, at the same date, out of the two direct taxes of 1792, which should produce 300,000,000, less than 4,000,000 have been received.—It is a maxim of the debtor that he must put off payment as long as possible. Whoever the creditor may be, the State or a private individual, a leg or a wing may be saved by dint of procrastination. The maxim is true, and, on this occasion, success once more demonstrates its soundness. During the year 1792, the peasant begins to discharge a portion of his arrears, but it is with assignats. In January, February, and March, 1792, the assignats diminish thirty-four, forty-four, and forty-five per cent. in value; in January, February, and March, 1793, forty-seven and fifty per cent.; in May, June, and July, 1793, fifty-four, sixty, and sixty-seven per cent. Thus has the old credit of the State melted away in its hands; those who have held on to their crowns gain fifty per cent. and more. Again, the greater their delay the more their debts diminish, and already, on the strength of this, the way to release themselves at half-price is found.
Meanwhile, hands are laid on the badly defended landed property of this feeble creditor.—It is always difficult for rude brains to form any conception of the vague, invisible, abstract entity called the State, to regard it as a veritable personage and a legitimate proprietor, especially when they are persistently told that the State is everybody. The property of all is the property of each, and as the forests belong to the public, the first-comer has a right to profit by them. In the month of December, 1789,53 bands of sixty men or more chop down the trees in the Bois de Boulogne and at Vincennes. In April, 1790, in the forest of Saint-Germain, “the patrols arrest all kinds of delinquents day and night”: handed over to the National Guards and municipalities in the vicinity, these are “almost immediately released, even with the wood which they have cut down against the law.” There is no means of repressing “the reiterated threats and insults of the low class of people.” A mob of women, urged on by an old French guardsman, come and pillage under the nose of the escort a load of faggots confiscated for the benefit of a hospital; and, in the forest itself, bands of marauders fire upon the patrols.—At Chantilly, three game-keepers are mortally wounded;54 both parks are devastated for eighteen consecutive days; the game is all killed, transported to Paris, and sold.—At Chambord the lieutenant of the constabulary writes to announce his powerlessness; the woods are ravaged and even burnt; the poachers are now masters of the situation; breaches in the wall are made by them, and the water from the pond is drawn off to enable them to catch the fish.—At Claix, in Dauphiny, an officer of the jurisdiction of woods and forests, who has secured an injunction against the inhabitants for cutting down trees on leased ground, is seized, tortured during five hours, and then stoned to death.—In vain does the National Assembly issue three decrees and regulations, placing the forests under the supervision and protection of administrative bodies—the latter are too much afraid of their charge. Between the central power, which is weak and remote, and the people, present and strong, they always decide in favour of the latter. Not one of the five municipalities surrounding Chantilly is disposed to assist in the execution of the laws, while the directories of the district and department respectively, sanction their inertia. Similarly, near Toulouse,55 where the magnificent forest of Larramet is devastated in open day and by an armed force, where the wanton destruction by the populace leaves nothing of the underwood and shrubbery but “a few scattered trees and the remains of trunks cut at different heights,” the municipalities of Toulouse and of Tournefeuille refuse all aid. And worse still, in other provinces, as for instance in Alsace, “whole municipalities, with their mayors at the head, cut down woods which are confided to them, and carry them off.”56 If some tribunal is disposed to enforce the law, it is to no purpose; it takes the risk, either of not being allowed to give judgment, or of being constrained to reverse its decision. At Paris the judgment prepared against the incendiaries of the tax-offices could not be given. At Montargis, the sentence pronounced against the marauders who had stolen cartloads of wood in the national forests had to be revised, and by the judges themselves. The moment the tribunal announced the confiscation of the carts and horses which had been seized, there arose a furious outcry against it; the court was insulted by those present; the condemned parties openly declared that they would have their carts and horses back by force. Upon this “the judges withdrew into the council-chamber, and when soon after they resumed their seats, that part of their decision which related to the confiscation was cancelled.”
And yet this administration of justice, ludicrous and flouted as it may be, is still a sort of barrier. When it falls, along with the Government, everything is exposed to plunder, and there is no such thing as public property.—After August 10, 1792, each commune or individual appropriates whatever comes in its way, either products or the soil itself. Some of the depredators go so far as to say that, since the Government no longer represses them, they act under its authority.57 “They have destroyed even the recent plantation of young trees.” “One of the villages near Fontainebleau cleared off and divided an entire grove. At Rambouillet, from August 10th to the end of October,” the loss is more than 100,000 crowns; the rural agitators demand with threats the partition of the forest among the inhabitants. “The destruction is enormous” everywhere, prolonged for entire months, and of such a kind, says the minister, as to dry up this source of public revenue for a long time to come.—Communal property is no more respected than national property. In each commune, these bold and needy folk, the rural populace, are privileged to enjoy and make the most of it. Not content with enjoying it, they desire to acquire ownership of it, and, for days after the King’s fall, the Legislative Assembly, losing its footing in the universal breaking up, empowers the indigent to put in force the agrarian law. Henceforth it suffices in any commune for one-third of its inhabitants of both sexes, servants, common labourers, shepherds, farm-hands, or cowherds, and even paupers, to demand a partition of the communal possessions. All that the commune owns, save public edifices and woods, is to be cut up into as many equal lots as there are heads, the lots to be drawn for, and each individual to take possession of his or her portion.58 The operation is carried out, for “those who are least well off are infinitely flattered by it.” In the district of Arcis-sur-Aube, there are not a dozen communes out of ninety in which more than two-thirds of the voters had the good sense to pronounce against it. From this time forth the commune ceases to be an independent proprietor; it has nothing to fall back upon. In case of distress it is obliged to lay on extra taxes and obtain, if it can, a few additional sous. Its future revenue is at present in the tightly buttoned pockets of the new proprietors.—The prevalence of short-sighted views is once more due to the covetousness of individuals. Whether national or communal, it is always public interest which succumbs, and it succumbs always under the usurpations of indigent minorities, at one time through the feebleness of public authority, which dares not oppose their violence, and at another through the complicity of public authority, which has conferred upon them the rights of the majority.
When there is a lack of public force for the protection of public property, there is also a lack of it for the protection of private property, for the same greed and the same needs attack both. Let a man owe anything either to the State or to an individual, and the temptation not to pay is equally the same. In both cases it suffices to find a pretext for denying the debt; in finding this pretext the cupidity of the tenant is as good as the selfishness of the tax-payer. Now that the feudal system is abolished let nothing remain of it: let there be no more seignorial claims. “If the Assembly has maintained some of them, yonder in Paris, it did so inadvertently or through corruption: we shall soon hear of all being suppressed. In the meantime we will relieve ourselves, and burn the agreements in the places where they are kept.”
Such being the argument, the jacquerie breaks out afresh: in truth, it is permanent and universal. Just as in a body in which some of the elements of its vital substance are affected by an organic disease, the evil is apparent in the parts which seem to be sound: even where as yet no outbreak has occurred, one is imminent; constant anxiety, a profound restlessness, a low fever, denote its presence. Here, the debtor does not pay, and the creditor is afraid to prosecute him. In other places isolated eruptions occur. At Auxon,59 on an estate spared by the great jacquerie of July, 1789, the woods are ravaged, and the peasants, enraged at being denounced by the keepers, march to the chateau, which is occupied by an old man and a child; everybody belonging to the village is there, men and women; they hew down the barricaded door with their axes, and fire on the neighbours who come to the assistance of its inmates.—In other places, in the districts of Saint-Etienne and Montbrison, “the trees belonging to the proprietors are carried away with impunity, and the walls of their grounds and terraces are demolished, the complainants being threatened with death or with the sight of the destruction of their dwellings.” Near Paris, around Montargis, Nemours, and Fontainebleau, a number of parishes refuse to pay the tithes and ground-rent (champart) which the Assembly has a second time sanctioned; gibbets are erected and the collectors are threatened with hanging, while, in the neighbourhood of Tonnerre, a mob of debtors fire upon the body of police which comes to enforce the claims.—Near Amiens, the Comtesse de la Mire,60 on her estate of Davencourt, is visited by the municipal authorities of the village, who request her to renounce her right to ground-rent (champart) and thirds (tiers). She refuses and they insist, and she refuses again, when they inform her that “some misfortune will happen to her.” In effect, two of the municipal officers cause the tocsin to be rung, and the whole village rushes to arms. One of the domestics has an arm broken by a ball, and for three hours the countess and her two children are subject to the grossest insults and to blows: she is forced to sign a paper which she is not allowed to read, and, in warding off the stroke of a sabre, her arm is cleft from the elbow to the wrist; the chateau is pillaged, and she owes her escape to the zeal of some of her servants.—Large eruptions take place at the same time over entire provinces; one succeeds the other almost without interruption, the fever encroaching on parts which were supposed to be cured, and to such an extent that the virulent ulcers finally combine and form one over the whole surface of the social body.
By the end of December, 1789, the chronic fermentation comes to a head in Brittany. Imagination, as usual, has forged a plot, and, as the people say, if they make an attack it is in their own defence.—A report spreads61 that M. de Goyon, near Lamballe, has assembled in his chateau a number of gentlemen and six hundred soldiers. The mayor and National Guard of Lamballe immediately depart in force; they find everything tranquil there, and no company but two or three friends, and no other arms than a few fowling-pieces.—The impulse, however, is given, and, on the 15th of January, the great federation of Pontivy has excited the wildest enthusiasm. The people drink, sing, and shout in honour of the new decrees before armed peasants who do not comprehend the French tongue, still less legal terms, and who, on their return home, arguing with each other in bas-breton, interpret the law in a peculiar way. “A decree of the Assembly, in their eyes, is a decree of arrest,” and as the principal decrees of the Assembly are issued against the nobles, they are so many decrees of arrest against them.—Some days after this, about the end of January, during the whole of February, and down to the month of April, the execution of this theory is tumultuously carried out by mobs of villagers and vagabonds around Nantes, Auray, Redon, Dinan, Ploërmel, Rennes, Guingamp, and other villages. Everywhere, writes the Mayor of Nantes,62 “the country-people believe that in burning deeds and contracts they get rid of their debts; the very best of them concur in this belief,” or let things take their course; the excesses are enormous, because many gratify “special animosities, and all are heated with wine.”—At Beuvres, “the peasants and vassals of the manor, after burning title-deeds, establish themselves in the chateau, and threaten to fire it if other papers, which they allege are concealed there, are not surrendered.” Near Redon the Abbey of Saint-Sauveur is reduced to ashes. Redon is menaced, and Ploërmel almost besieged. At the end of a month thirty-seven chateaux are enumerated as attacked: twenty-five in which the title-deeds are burnt, and twelve in which the proprietors are obliged to sign an abandonment of their rights. Two chateaux which began to burn are saved by the National Guard. That of Bois-au-Voyer is entirely consumed, and several have been sacked. By way of addition, “more than fifteen procureurs-fiscaux, clerks, notaries, and officers of seignorial courts have been plundered or burnt,” while proprietors take refuge in the towns because the country is now uninhabitable for them.
A second tumour makes its appearance at the same time at another point.63 It showed itself in Lower Limousin in the beginning of January. From thence the purulent inflammation spreads to Quercy, Upper Languedoc, Perigord, and Rouergue, and in February from Tulle to Montauban, and from Agen to Périgueux and Cahors, extending over three departments.—Then, also, expectancy is the creator, according to rule, of its own object. By dint of longing for a law for the suppression of all claims, it is imagined that it is passed, and the statement is current that “the King and the National Assembly have ordered deputations to set up the maypole64 and to ‘light up’ the chateaux.”—Farther, and quite according to custom, bandits, people without occupation, take the lead of the furious crowd and manage things their own way. As soon as a band is formed it arrests all the peaceable people it can find on the roads, in the fields, and in isolated farmhouses, and takes good care to put them in front in case of blows.—These miscreants add terror to compulsion. They erect gibbets for any one that pays casual duties or annual dues, while the parishes of Quercy threaten their neighbours of Perigord with fire and sword in a week’s time if they do not do in Perigord as they have done in Quercy.—The tocsin rings, the drums beat, and “the ceremony” is performed from commune to commune. The keys of the church are forcibly taken from the curé, the seats are burned, and, frequently, the woodwork marked with the seigneur’s arms. They march to the seigneur’s mansion, tear down his weathercocks, and compel him to furnish his finest tree, together with feathers and ribbons with which to deck it, without omitting the three measures which he uses in the collection of his dues in grain or flour. The maypole is planted in the village square, and the weathercocks, ribbons, and feathers are attached to its top, together with the three measures and this inscription, “By order of the King and National Assembly, the final quittance for all rentals.” When this is done it is evident that the seigneur, who no longer possesses weathercocks, or a seat in the church, or measures to rate his dues by, is no longer a seigneur, and can no longer put forth claims of any kind. Huzzahs and acclamations accordingly burst forth, and there is a revel and an orgy on the public square. All who can pay—the seigneur, the curé, and the rich—are put under contribution for the festival, while the people eat and drink “without any interval of sobriety.”—In this condition, being armed, they strike, and when resistance is offered they burn. In Agénois: a chateau belonging to M. de Lameth, and another of M. d’Aiguillon; in Upper Languedoc, that of M. de Bournazel, and in Perigord that of M. de Bar, are burnt down: M. de Bar is almost beaten to death, while six others are killed in Quercy. A number of chateaux in the environs of Montauban and in Limousin are assaulted with firearms, and several are pillaged.—Bands of twelve hundred men swarm the country; “they have a spite against every estate”; they redress wrongs; “they try over again cases disposed of thirty years ago, and give judgments which they put into execution.”—If anybody fails to conform to the new code he is punished, and to the advantage of the new sovereigns. In Agénois, a gentleman having paid the rent which was associated with his fief, the people take his receipt from him, mulct him in a sum equal to that which he paid, and come under his windows to spend the money on good cheer, in triumph and with derision.
Many of the National Guards who still possess some degree of energy, several of the municipalities which still preserve some love of order, and a number of the resident gentry, employ their arms against these excited swarms of brutal usurpers. Some of the ruffians, taken in the act, are judged somewhat after the fashion of a drum-head court-martial, and immediately executed as examples. Everybody in the country sees that the peril to society is great and urgent, and that if such acts go unpunished, there will be no such thing as law and property in France. The Bordeaux parliament, moreover, insists upon prosecutions. Eighty-three boroughs and cities sign addresses, and send a special deputation to the National Assembly to urge on prosecutions already commenced, the punishment of criminals under arrest, and, above all, the maintenance of the prévôtés.65 In reply to this, the Assembly inflicts upon the parliament of Bordeaux its disapprobation in the rudest manner, and enters upon the demolition of every judicial corporation.66 After this, the execution of all prévotal decisions is adjourned. A few months later the Assembly will oblige the King to declare that the proceedings begun against the jacquerie of Brittany shall be regarded as null and void, and that the arrested insurgents shall be set free. For repressive purposes, it dispatches a sentimental exhortation to the French people, consisting of twelve pages of literary insipidity, which Florian might have composed for his Estilles and his Nemorins.67 —New conflagrations, as an inevitable consequence, kindle around live coals which have been imperfectly extinguished. In the district of Saintes,68 M. Dupaty, counsellor of the parliament of Bordeaux, after having exhausted mild resources, and having concluded by issuing writs against those of his tenantry who would not pay their rents, the parish of Saint-Thomas de Cosnac, combined with five or six others, puts itself in motion and assails his two chateaux of Bois-Roche and Saint-George-des-Agouts; these are plundered and then set on fire, his son escaping through a volley of musket-balls. They visit Martin, the notary and steward, in the same fashion; his furniture is pillaged and his money is taken, and “his daughter undergoes the most frightful outrages.” Another detachment pushes on to the house of the Marquis de Cumont, and forces him, under the penalty of having his house burnt down, to give a discharge for all the claims he has upon them. At the head of these incendiaries are the municipal officers of Saint-Thomas, except the mayor, who has taken to flight.
The electoral system organized by the Constituent Assembly is beginning to take effect. “Almost everywhere,” writes the royal commissioner, “the large proprietors have been eliminated, and the offices have been filled by men who strictly fulfil the conditions of eligibility. The result is a sort of rage of the petty rich to annoy those who enjoy large heritages.”—Six months later, the National Guards and village authorities in this same department at Aujean, Migron, and Varaise, decide that no more tithes, agriers, or champarts, nor any of the dues which are retained, shall be paid. In vain does the department annul the decision, and send its commissioners, gendarmes, and law-officers. The commissioners are driven away, and the officers and gendarmes are fired upon; the vice-president of the district, who was on his way to make his report to the department, is seized on the road and forced to give in his resignation. Seven parishes have coalesced with Aujean and ten with Migron; Varaise has sounded the tocsin, and the villages for four leagues round have risen; fifteen hundred men, armed with guns, scythes, hatchets, and pitchforks, lend their aid. The object is to set free the principal leader at Varaise, one Planche, who was arrested, and to punish the mayor of Varaise, Latierce, who is suspected of having denounced Planche. Latierce is unmercifully beaten, and “forced to undergo a thousand torments during thirty hours”; then they set out with him to Saint-Jean-d’Angely, and demand the release of Planche. The municipality at first refuses, but finally consents on the condition that Latierce be given up in exchange for him. Planche, consequently, is set at liberty and welcomed with shouts of triumph. Latierce, however, is not given up; on the contrary, he is tormented for an hour and then massacred, while the directory of the district, which is less submissive than the municipal body, is forced to fly.—Symptoms of this kind are not to be mistaken, and similar ones exist in Brittany. It is evident that the minds of the people are permanently in revolt. Instead of the social abscess being relieved by the discharge, it is always filling up and getting more inflamed. It will burst a second time in the same places; in 1791 as in 1790, the jacquerie overspreads Brittany as it has spread over Limousin.
This is owing to the will of the peasant being of another nature than our will, possessing a great deal more fixity and tenacity. When an idea obtains a hold on him it takes root in an obscure and profound conviction upon which neither discussion nor argument have any effect; once planted, it vegetates according to his notions, not according to ours, and no legislative text, no judicial verdict, no administrative remonstrance can change in any respect the fruit it produces. This fruit, developed during centuries, is the feeling of an excessive spoliation, and, consequently, the need of an absolute release. Too much having been paid to everybody, the peasant now is not disposed to pay anything to anybody, and this idea, vainly repressed, always rises up in the manner of an instinct.—In the month of January, 1791,69 bands again form in Brittany, owing to the proprietors of the ancient fiefs having insisted on the payment of their rents. At first the coalesced parishes refuse to pay the stewards, and after this the rustic National Guards enter the chateaux to constrain the proprietors. Generally, it is the commander of the National Guard, and sometimes the communal attorney, who dictates to the lord of the manor the renunciation of his claims; they oblige him, moreover, to sign notes for the benefit of the parish, or for that of various private individuals. This is considered by them to be compensation for damages; all feudal dues being abolished, he must return what he received from them during the past year, and as they have been put to inconvenience he must indemnify them by “paying them for their time and journey.” Such are the operations of two of the principal bands, one of them numbering fifteen hundred men, around Dinan and St. Malo; for greater security they burn title-deeds in the chateaux of Saint-Tual, Besso, Beaumanoir, La Rivière, La Bellière, Chateauneuf, Chenay, Chausavoir, Tourdelon, and Chalonge; and as a climax they set fire to Chateauneuf, just before the arrival of the regular troops.—In the beginning, a dim conception of legal and social order seems to be floating in their brains; at Saint-Tual, before taking 2,000 livres from the steward, they oblige the mayor to give them his consent in writing; at Yvignac, their chief, called upon to show the authority under which he acted, declares that “he is authorised by the general will of the populace of the nation.”70 —But when, at the end of a month, they are beaten by the regular troops, made furious by the blows given and taken, and excited by the weakness of the municipal authorities who release their prisoners, they then become bandits of the worst species. During the night of the 22nd of February, the chateau of Villefranche, three leagues from Malestroit, is attacked. Thirty-two rascals with their faces masked, and led by a chief in the national uniform, break open the door. The domestics are garrotted. The proprietor, M. de la Bourdonnaie, an old man, with his wife aged sixty, are half killed by blows and tied fast to their bed, and after this a fire is applied to their feet and they are warmed (chauffé). In the meantime the plate, linen, stuffs, jewellery, two thousand francs in silver, and even watches, buckles, and rings—everything is pillaged, piled on the backs of the eleven horses in the stables, and carried off.—When property is concerned, one sort of outrage provokes another, the narrow cupidity of the lease-holder being completed by the unlimited rapacity of the brigand.
Meanwhile, in the south-western provinces, the same causes have produced the same results; and towards the end of autumn, when the crops are gathered in and the proprietors demand their dues in money or in produce, the peasant, immovably fixed in his idea, again refuses.71 In his eyes, any law that may be against him is not that of the National Assembly, but of the so-called seigneurs, who have extorted or manufactured it; and therefore it is null. The department and district administrators may promulgate it as much as they please: it does not concern him, and if the opportunity occurs, he knows how to make them smart for it. The village National Guards, who are lease-holders like himself, side with him, and instead of repressing him give him their support. As a commencement, he replants the maypoles, as a sign of emancipation, and erects the gibbet by way of a threat.—In the district of Gourdon, the regulars and the police having been sent to put them down, the tocsin is at once sounded: a crowd of peasants, amounting to four or five thousand, arrives from every surrounding parish, armed with scythes and guns; the soldiers, forming a body of one hundred, retire into a church, where they capitulate after a siege of twenty-four hours, being obliged to give the names of the proprietors who demanded their intervention of the district, and who are Messrs. Hébray, de Fontange, and many others. All their houses are destroyed from top to bottom, and they effect their escape in order not to be hung. The chateaux of Repaire and Salviat are burned. At the expiration of eight days Quercy is in flames and thirty chateaux are destroyed.—The leader of a band of rustic National Guards, Joseph Linard, at the head of a village army, penetrates into Gourdon, instals himself in the Hôtel-de-Ville, declares himself the people’s protector against the directory of the district, writes to the department in the name of his “companions in arms,” and vaunts his patriotism. Meanwhile he commands as a conqueror, throws open the prisons, and promises that, if the regular troops and police be sent off, he and his companions will withdraw in good order.—This species of tumultuary authority, however, instituted by acclamation for attack, is powerless for resistance. Scarcely has Linard retired when savagery is let loose. “A price is set upon the heads of the administrators; their houses are the first devastated; all the houses of wealthy citizens are pillaged; and the same is the case with all chateaux and country habitations which display any signs of luxury.”—Fifteen gentlemen, assembled together at the house of M. d’Escayrac, in Castel, appeal to all good citizens to march to the assistance of the proprietors who may be attacked in this jacquerie, which is spreading everywhere;72 but there are too few proprietors in the country, and none of the towns have too many of them for their own protection. M. d’Escayrac, after a few skirmishes, abandoned by the municipal officers of his village, and wounded, withdraws to the house of the Comte de Clarac, a major-general, in Languedoc. Here, too, the chateau is surrounded,73 blockaded, and besieged by the local National Guard. M. de Clarac descends and tries to hold a parley with the attacking party, and is fired upon. He goes back inside and throws money out of the window; the money is gathered up, and he is again fired upon. The chateau is set on fire, and M. d’Escayrac receives five shots, and is killed. M. de Clarac, with another person, having taken refuge in a subterranean vault, are taken out almost stifled the next morning but one by the National Guard of the vicinity, who conduct them to Toulouse, where they are kept in prison and where the public prosecutor takes proceedings against them. The chateau of Bagat, near Montcuq, is demolished at the same time. The abbey of Espagnac, near Figeac, is assaulted with fire-arms; the abbess is forced to refund all rents she has collected, and to restore four thousand livres for the expenses of a trial which the convent had gained twenty years before.
After such successes, the extension of the revolt is inevitable; and at the end of some weeks and months it becomes permanent in the three neighbouring departments.—In Creuse,74 the judges are threatened with death if they order the payment of seignorial dues, and the same fate awaits all proprietors who claim their rents. In many places, and especially in the mountains, the peasants, “considering that they form the nation, and that clerical possessions are national,” want to have these divided amongst themselves, instead of their being sold. Fifty parishes around La Souterraine receive incendiary letters inviting them to come in arms to the town, in order to secure by force, and by staking their lives, the production of all titles to rentals. The peasants, in a circle of eight leagues, are all stirred up by the sound of the tocsin, and preceded by the municipal officers in their scarves; there are four thousand of them, and they drag with them a waggon full of arms: this is for the revision and reconstitution of the ownership of the soil.—In Dordogne, self-appointed arbitrators interpose imperiously between the proprietor and the small farmer, at the time of harvest, to prevent the proprietor from claiming, and the farmer from paying, the tithes or the rève;75 any agreement to this end is forbidden; whoever shall transgress the new order of things, proprietor or farmer, shall be hung. Accordingly, the rural militia in the districts of Bergerac, Excideuil, Ribérac, Mucidan, Montignac, and Perigueux, led by the municipal officers, go from commune to commune in order to force the proprietors to sign an act of desistance; and these visits “are always accompanied with robberies, outrages, and ill-treatment from which there is no escape but in absolute submission.” Moreover, “they demand the abolition of every species of tax and the partition of the soil.”—It is impossible for “proprietors moderately rich” to remain in the country; on all sides they take refuge in Perigueux, and there, organizing in companies, along with the gendarmerie and the National Guard of the town, overrun the cantons to restore order. But there is no way of persuading the peasantry that it is order which they wish to restore. With that stubbornness of the imagination which no obstacle arrests, and which, like a vigorous spring, always finds some outlet, the people declare that “the gendarmes and National Guard” who come to restrain them “are priests and gentlemen in disguise.”—The new theories, moreover, have struck down to the lowest depths; and nothing is easier than to draw from them the abolition of debts, and even the agrarian law. At Ribérac, which is invaded by the people of the neighbouring parishes, a village tailor, taking the catechism of the Constitution from his pocket, argues with the procureur-syndic, and proves to him that the insurgents are only exercising the rights of man. The book states, in the first place, “that Frenchmen are equals and brethren, and that they should give each other aid”; and that “the masters should share with their fellows, especially this year, which is one of scarcity.” In the next place, it is written that “all property belongs to the nation,” and that is the reason why “it has taken the possessions of the Church.” Now, the nation is composed of all Frenchmen, and the conclusion is clearly apparent. Since, in the eyes of the tailor, the property of individual Frenchmen belongs to all the French, he, the tailor, has a right to at least the quota which belongs to him.—One travels fast and far on this road, for every mob considers that this means immediate enjoyment, and enjoyment according to its own ideas. There is no care for neighbours or for consequences, even when imminent and physical, and in twenty places the property which is usurped perishes in the hands of the usurpers.
This voluntary destruction of property can be best observed in the third department, that of Corrèze.76 Not only have the peasants here refused to pay rents from the beginning of the Revolution; not only have they “planted maypoles, supplied with iron hooks, to hang” the first one that dared to claim or to pay them; not only are violent acts of every description committed “by entire communes,” “the National Guards of the small communes participating in them”; not only do the culprits, whose arrest is ordered, remain at liberty, while “nothing is spoken of but the hanging of the constables who serve writs,” but farther, together with the ownership of the water-sources, the power of collecting, directing, and distributing the water is overthrown, and, in a country of steep declivities, the consequences of such an operation may be imagined. Three leagues from Tulle, in a valley forming a semicircle, a pond twenty feet in depth, and covering an area of three hundred acres, was enclosed by a broad embankment on the side of a very deep gorge, which was completely covered with houses, mills, and cultivation. On the 17th of April, 1791, a troop of five hundred armed men assembled by the beat of a drum, and collected from three villages in the vicinity, set themselves to demolish the dyke. The proprietor, M. de Sedières, a substitute-deputy in the National Assembly, is not advised of it until eleven o’clock in the evening. Mounting his horse, along with his guests and domestics, he makes a charge on the insane wretches, and, with the aid of pistol and gun-shots, disperses them. It was time, for the trench they had dug was already eight feet deep, and the water was nearly on a level with it: a half-hour later and the terrible rolling mass of waters would have poured out on the inhabitants of the gorge.—But such vigorous strokes, which are rare and hardly ever successful, are no defence against universal and continuous attacks. The regular troops and the gendarmerie, both of which are in the way of reorganization or of dissolution, are not trustworthy, or are too weak. There are no more than thirty of the cavalry in Creuse, and as many in Corrèze. The National Guards of the towns are knocked up by expeditions into the country, and there is no money with which to provide for their change of quarters. And finally, as the elections are in the hands of the people, this brings into power men disposed to tolerate popular excesses. At Tulle, the electors of the second class, almost all chosen from among the cultivators, and, moreover, catechized by the club, nominate for deputies and public prosecutor only the candidates who are pledged against rentals and against water privileges.—Accordingly, the general demolition of the dykes begins as the month of May approaches. This operation continues unopposed on a vast pond, a league and a half from the town, and lasts for a whole week; elsewhere, on the arrival of the guards or of the gendarmerie, they are fired upon. Towards the end of September, all the embankments in the department are broken down: nothing is left in the place of the ponds but fetid marshes; the mill-wheels no longer turn, and the fields are no longer watered. But those who demolish them carry away baskets full of fish, and the soil of the ponds again becomes communal.—Hatred is not the motive which impels them, but the instinct of acquisition: all these violent outstretched hands, which rigidly resist the law, are directed against property, but not against the proprietor; they are more greedy than hostile. One of the noblemen of Corrèze,77 M. de Saint-Victour, has been absent for five years. From the beginning of the Revolution, although his feudal dues constitute one-half of the income of his estate, he has given orders that no rigorous measures shall be employed in their collection, and the result is that, since 1789, none of them were collected. Moreover, having a reserve stock of wheat on hand, he lent grain, to the amount of four thousand francs, to those of his tenants who had none. In short, he is liberal, and, in the neighbouring town, at Ussel, he even passes for a Jacobin. In spite of all this, he is treated just like the rest. It is because the parishes in his domain are “clubbist,” governed by associations of moral and practical levellers; in one of them “the brigands have organized themselves into a municipal body,” and have chosen their leader as procureur-syndic. Consequently, on the 22nd of August, eighty armed peasants opened the dam of his large pond, at the risk of submerging a village in the neighbourhood, the inhabitants of which came and closed it up. Five other ponds belonging to him are demolished in the course of the two following weeks; fish to the value of from four to five thousand francs are stolen, and the rest perish in the weeds. In order to make this expropriation sure, an effort is made to burn his title-deeds; his chateau, twice attacked in the night, is saved only by the National Guard of Ussel. His farmers and domestics hesitate, for the time being, whether or not to cultivate the ground, and come and ask the steward if they could sow the seeds. There is no recourse to the proper authorities: the administrators and judges, even when their own property is concerned, “dare not openly show themselves,” because “they do not find themselves protected by the buckler of the law.”—Popular will, traversing both the old and the new law, obstinately persists in its work, and forcibly attains its ends.
Thus, whatever the grand terms of liberty, equality, and fraternity may be, with which the Revolution graces itself, it is, in its essence, a transfer of property; in this alone consists its chief support, its enduring energy, its primary impulse, and its historical significance.—Formerly, in antiquity, similar movements were accomplished, debts were abolished or lessened, the possessions of the rich were confiscated, and the public lands were divided; but this operation was confined to a city and limited to a small territory. For the first time it takes place on a large scale and in a modern State.—Thus far, in these vast States, when the deeper foundations have been disturbed, it has ever been on account of foreign domination or on account of an oppression of conscience. In France in the fifteenth century, in Holland in the sixteenth, and in England in the seventeenth century, the peasant, the mechanic, and the labourer had taken up arms against an enemy or in behalf of their faith. On religious or patriotic zeal has followed the craving for prosperity and comfort, and the new motive is as powerful as the others; for in our industrial, democratic, and utilitarian societies it is this which governs almost all lives, and excites almost all efforts. Kept down for centuries, the passion recovers itself by throwing off government and privilege, the two great weights which have borne it down. At the present time this passion launches itself impetuously with its whole force, with brutal insensibility, athwart every kind of proprietorship that is legal and legitimate, whether it be public or private. The obstacles it encounters only render it the more destructive; beyond property it attacks proprietors, and completes spoliation with proscriptions.
Development of the ruling passion—I.Attitude of the nobles—Their moderate resistance—II.Workings of the popular imagination with respect to them—The monomania of suspicion—The nobles distrusted and treated as enemies—Situation of a gentleman on his domain—M. de Bussy—III.Domiciliary visits—The fifth jacquerie—Burgundy and Lyonnais in 1791—M. de Chaponay and M. Guillin-Dumoutet—IV.The nobles obliged to leave the rural districts—They take refuge in the towns—The dangers they incur—The eighty-two gentlemen of Caen—V.Persecutions in private life—VI.Conduct of officers—Their self-sacrifice—Disposition of the soldiery—Military outbreaks—Spread and increase of insubordination—Resignation of the officers—VII.Emigration and its causes—The first laws against the emigrants—VIII.Attitude of the nonjuring priests—How they become distrusted—Illegal arrests by local administrations—Violence or complicity of the National Guards—Outrages by the populace—Executive power in the south—The sixth jacquerie—Its two causes—Isolated outbreaks in the north, east, and west—General eruption in the south and in the centre—IX.General state of opinion—The three convoys of nonjuring priests on the Seine—Psychological aspect of the Revolution.
If popular passion ended in murder it was not because resistance was great or violent. On the contrary, never did an aristocracy undergo dispossession with so much patience, or employ less force in the defence of its prerogatives, or even of its property. To speak with exactness, the class in question receives blows without returning them, and when it does take up arms, it is always with the bourgeois and the National Guard, at the request of the magistrates, in conformity with the law, and for the protection of persons and property. The nobles try to avoid being either killed or robbed, nothing more: for nearly three years they raise no political banner. In the towns where they exert the most influence and which are denounced as rebellious, for example in Mende and Arles, their opposition is limited to the suppression of riots, the restraining of the common people, and ensuring respect for the law. It is not the new order of things against which they conspire, but against brutal disorder.—“At Mende,” says the municipal body,1 “we had the honour of being the first to furnish the contributions of 1790. We supplied the place of our bishop and installed his successor without disturbance, and without the assistance of any foreign force. . . . We dispersed the members of a cathedral body to which we were attached by the ties of blood and friendship; we dismissed all, from the bishop down to the children of the choir. We had but three communities of mendicant monks, and all three have been suppressed. We have sold all national possessions without exception.”—The commander of their gendarmerie is, in fact, an old member of the body-guard, while the superior officers of the National Guard are gentlemen, or belong to the order of Saint-Louis. It is very evident that, if they defend themselves against Jacobins, they are not insurgent against the National Assembly.—In Arles,2 which has put down its populace, which has armed itself, which has shut its gates, and which passes for a focus of royalist conspiracy, the commissioners sent by the King and by the National Assembly, men of discretion and of consideration, find nothing, after a month’s investigation, but submission to the decrees and zeal for the public welfare. “Such,” they say, “are the men who have been calumniated because, cherishing the Constitution, they hold fanaticism, demagogues, and anarchy, in horror. If the citizens had not roused themselves when the moment of danger arrived, they would have been slaughtered like their neighbours (of Avignon). It is this insurrection against crime which the brigands have slandered.” If their gates were shut it was because “the National Guard of Marseilles, the same which behaved so badly in the Comtat, flocked there under the pretext of maintaining liberty and of forestalling the counterrevolution, but, in reality, to pillage the town.” Vive la Nation! Vive la Loi! Vive le Roi! were the only cries heard at the very quiet and orderly elections that had just taken place. “The attachment of the citizens to the Constitution has been spoken of. . . . Obedience to the laws, the readiest disposition to discharge public contributions, were remarked by us among these pretended counterrevolutionists. Those who are subject to the license-tax came in crowds to the Hôtel-de-Ville.” Scarcely “was the bureau of receipts opened when it was filled with respectable people; those on the contrary who style themselves good patriots, republicans or anarchists, were not conspicuous on this occasion; but a very small number among them have made their submission. The rest are surprised at being called upon for money; they had been flattered by such different hopes.”
In short, during more than thirty months, and under a steady fire of threats, outrages, and spoliations, the nobles who remain in France neither commit nor undertake any hostile act against the Government that persecutes them. None of them, not even M. de Bouillé, attempts to carry out any real plan of civil war; I find but one resolute man in their ranks at this date, ready for action, and who labours to form one militant party against another militant party: he is really a politician and conspirator; he has an understanding with the Comte d’Artois; he gets petitions signed for the freedom of the King and of the Church; he organizes armed companies; he recruits the peasants; he prepares a Vendée for Languedoc and Provence; and this person is a bourgeois, Froment of Nismes.3 But, at the moment of action, he finds only three out of eighteen companies, supposed by him to be enlisted in his cause, that are willing to march with him. Others remain in their quarters until, Froment being overcome, they are found there and slaughtered; the survivors, who escape to Jalès, find, not a stronghold, but a temporary asylum, where they never succeed in transforming their inclinations into determinations.4 —The nobles too, like other Frenchmen, have been subject to the lasting pressure of monarchical centralization. They no longer form one body; they have lost the instinct of association. They no longer know how to act for themselves; they are the puppets of administration awaiting an impulse from the centre, while at the centre the King, their hereditary general, a captive in the hands of the people, commands them to be resigned and to do nothing. Moreover, like other Frenchmen, they have been brought up in the philosophy of the eighteenth century. “Liberty is so precious,” wrote the Duc de Brissac,5 “that it may well be purchased with some suffering; a destroyed feudalism will not prevent the good and the true from being respected and loved.”—They persist in this illusion for a long time and remain optimists. As they feel kindly towards the people, they cannot comprehend that the people should entertain other sentiments toward them; they firmly believe that the troubles are transient. Immediately on the proclamation of the Constitution they return in crowds from Spain, Belgium, and Germany; at Troyes there are not enough post-horses for many days to supply the emigrants who are coming back.6 Thus they accept not only the abolition of feudalism with civil equality, but also political equality and numerical sovereignty.
Some consideration for them, some outward signs of respect, a few bows, would, in all probability, have rallied them sincerely to democratic institutions. They would soon consent to be confounded with the crowd, to submit to the common level, and to live as private individuals. Had they been treated like the bourgeois or the peasant, their neighbours, had their property and persons been respected, they might have accepted the new régime without any bitterness of feeling. That the leading emigrant nobles and those forming a part of the old court carry on intrigues at Coblentz or at Turin is natural, since they have lost everything: authority, places, pensions, sinecures, pleasures, and the rest. But, to the gentry and inferior nobles of the provinces, chevaliers of Saint-Louis, subaltern officers, and resident proprietors, the loss is insignificant. The law has suppressed one-half of their seignorial dues; but by virtue of the same law their lands are no longer burdened with tithes. Popular elections will not provide them with places, but they did not enjoy them under ministerial favour. Little does it matter to them that power, whether ministerial or popular, has changed hands: they are not accustomed to its favours, and will pursue their ordinary avocations—the chase, promenading, reading, visiting, and conversing—provided they, like the first-comer, the grocer at the corner, or their farm-servant, find protection, safety, and security on the public road and in their dwellings.7
Popular passion, unfortunately, is a blind power, and, for lack of enlightenment, suffers itself to be guided by spectral illusions. Imaginary conceptions work, and work in conformity with the structure of the excited brain which has given birth to them. What if the ancient régime should return! What if we were obliged to restore the property of the clergy! What if we should be again forced to pay the salt-tax, the excise, the taille, and other dues which, thanks to the law, we no longer pay, besides other taxes and dues that we do not pay in spite of the law! What if all the nobles whose chateaux are burnt, and who have given rent acquittances at the point of the sword, should find some way to avenge themselves and recover their former privileges! Undoubtedly they brood over these things, make agreements amongst each other, and plot with the foreigners; at the first opportunity they will fall upon us: we must watch them, repress them, and, if needs be, destroy them.—This instinctive process of reasoning prevailed from the outset, and, in proportion as excesses increase, prevails to a much greater extent. The noble is ever the past, present, and future creditor, or, at the very least, a possible one, which means that he is the worst and most odious of enemies. All his ways are suspicious, even when he is doing nothing; whatever he may do it is with a view of arming himself.—M. de Gilliers, who lives with his wife and sister one league out of Romans in Dauphiny,8 amuses himself by planting trees and flowers; a few steps from his house, on another domain, M. de Montchorel, an old soldier, and M. Osmond, an old lawyer from Paris, with their wives and children, occupy their leisure hours in somewhat the same manner. M. de Gilliers having ordered and received wooden water-pipes, the report spreads that they are cannon. His guest, M. Servan, receives an English travelling-trunk, which is said to be full of pistols. When M. Osmond and M. Servan stroll about the country with pencils and drawing-paper, it is averred that they are preparing topographical plans for the Spaniards and Savoyards. The four carriages belonging to the two families go to Romans to fetch some guests: instead of four there are nineteen, and they are sent for aristocrats who are coming to hide away in underground passages. M. de Senneville, decorated with a cordon rouge (red ribbon), pays a visit on his return from Algiers: the decoration becomes a blue one, and the wearer is the Comte d’Artois in person. There is certainly a plot brewing, and at five o’clock in the morning eighteen communes (two thousand armed men) arrive before the doors of the two houses; shouts and threats of death last for eight hours; a gun fired a few paces off at the inmates happens to flash in the pan; a peasant who is aiming at them says to his neighbour, “Give me a twenty-four-sous piece, and I will plant both my balls in their bodies!” Finally, M. de Gilliers, who was absent, attending a baptism, returns with the Royal Chasseurs of Dauphiny and the National Guard of Romans, and with their assistance delivers his family.—It is only in the towns, that is, in a few towns, and for a very short time, that an inoffensive noble who is attacked obtains any aid; the phantoms which people create for themselves there are less gross; a certain degree of enlightenment, and a remnant of common sense, prevent the hatching of too absurd stories.—But in the dark recesses of rustic brains nothing can arrest the monomania of suspicion. Fancies multiply there like weeds in a dark hole: they take root and vegetate until they become belief, conviction, and certainty; they produce the fruit of hostility and hatred, homicidal and incendiary ideas. With eyes constantly fixed on the chateau, the village regards it as a Bastille which must be captured, and, instead of saluting the lord of the manor, it thinks only of firing at him.
Let us take up one of these local histories in detail.9 In the month of July, 1789, during the jacquerie in Mâconnais, the parish of Villiers appealed for assistance to its lord, M. de Bussy, a former colonel of dragoons. He had returned home, treated the people of his village to a dinner, and attempted to form them into a body of guards to protect themselves against incendiaries and brigands; along with the well-disposed men of the place “he patrolled every evening to restore tranquillity to the parish.” On a rumour spreading that “the wells were poisoned,” he placed sentinels alongside of all the wells except his own, “to prove that he was acting for the parish and not for himself.” In short, he did all he could to conciliate the villagers, and to interest them in the common safety.—But, by virtue of being a noble and an officer he is distrusted, and it is Perron, the syndic of the commune, to whom the commune now listens. Perron announces that the King “having abjured his sworn word,” no more confidence is to be placed in him, and, consequently, neither in his officers nor in the gentry. On M. de Bussy proposing to the National Guards that they should go to the assistance of the chateau of Thil, which is in flames, Perron prevents them, declaring that “these fires are kindled by the nobles and the clergy.” M. de Bussy insists, and entreats them to go, offering to abandon “his terrier,” that is to say all his seignorial dues, if they will only accompany him and arrest this destruction. They refuse to do so. He perseveres, and, on being informed that the chateau of Juillenas is in peril, he collects, after great efforts, a body of one hundred and fifty men of his parish, and, marching with them, arrives in time to save the chateau, which a mob was about to set on fire. But the popular excitement, which he had just succeeded in calming at Juillenas, has gained the upper hand amongst his own troop: the brigands have seduced his men, “which obliges him to lead them back, while, along the road, they seem inclined to fire at him.”—Having returned, he is followed with threats even to his own house: a band comes to attack his chateau; finding it on the defensive, they insist on being led to that of Courcelles.—In the midst of all this violence M. de Bussy, with about fifteen friends and tenants, succeeds in protecting himself, and, by dint of patience, energy, and cool blood, without killing or wounding a single man, ends in bringing back security throughout the whole canton. The jacquerie subsides, and it seems as if the newly restored order would be maintained. He sends for Madame de Bussy to return, and some months pass away.—The popular imagination, however, is poisoned, and whatever a gentleman may do, he is no longer tolerated on his estate. A few leagues from there, on April 29, 1790, M. de Bois-d’Aisy, deputy to the National Assembly, had returned to his parish to vote at the new elections.10 “Scarcely has he arrived,” when the commune of Bois-d’Aisy gives him notice through its mayor “that it will not regard him as eligible.” He attends the electoral meeting which is held in the church: there, a municipal officer in the pulpit inveighs against nobles and priests, and declares that they must not take part in the elections. All eyes turn upon M. de Bois-d’Aisy, who is the only noble present. Nevertheless, he takes the civic oath, which nearly costs him dear, for murmurs arise around him, and the peasants say that he ought to have been hanged like the lord of Sainte-Colombe, to prevent his taking the oath. In fact, the evening before, the latter, M. de Vitteaux, an old man of seventy-four years of age, was expelled from the primary assembly, then torn out of the house in which he had sought refuge, half killed with blows, and dragged through the streets to the open square; his mouth was stuffed with manure, a stick was thrust into his ears, and “he expired after a martyrdom of three hours.” The same day, in the church of the Capuchins, at Sémur, the rural parishes which met together excluded their priests and gentry in the same fashion. M. de Damas and M. de Sainte-Maure were beaten with clubs and stones; the curé of Massigny died after six stabs with a knife, and M. de Virieu saved himself as he best could.—With such examples before them it is probable that many of the nobles will no longer exercise their right of suffrage. M. de Bussy does not pretend to do it. He merely tries to prove that he is loyal to the nation, and that he meditates no wrong to the National Guard or to the people. He proposed, at the outset, to the volunteers of Mâcon to join them, along with his little troop; they refused to have him and thus the fault is not on his side. On the 14th of July, 1790, the day of the Federation on his domain, he sends all his people off to Villiers, furnished with the tricolour cockade. He himself, with three of his friends, attends the ceremony to take the oath, all four in uniform, with the cockade on their hats, without any weapons but their swords and a light cane in their hands. They salute the assembled National Guards of the three neighbouring parishes, and keep outside the enclosure so as not to give offence. But they have not taken into account the prejudices and animosities of the new municipal bodies. Perron, the former syndic, is now mayor. A man named Bailly, who is the village shoemaker, is another of the municipal officers; their councillor is an old dragoon, one of those soldiers probably who have deserted or been discharged, and who are the firebrands of almost every riot that takes place. A squad of a dozen or fifteen men leave the ranks and march up to the four gentlemen, who advance, hat in hand, to meet them. Suddenly the men aim at them, and Bailly, with a furious air, demands: “What the devil do you come here for?” M. de Bussy replies that, having been informed of the Federation, he had come to take the oath like the rest of the people. Bailly asks why he had come armed. M. de Bussy remarks that “having been in the service, the sword was inseparable from the uniform,” and had they come there without that badge they would have been at fault; besides, they must have observed that they had no other arms. Bailly, still in a rage, and, moreover, exasperated by such good reasons, turns round with his gun in his hand towards the leader of the squad and asks him three times in succession, “Commander, must I fire?” The commander not daring to take the responsibility of so gratuitous a murder, remains silent, and finally orders M. de Bussy to “clear out”; “which I did,” says M. de Bussy.—Nevertheless, on reaching home, he writes to the municipal authorities clearly setting forth the motive of his coming, and demands an explanation of the treatment he had received. Mayor Perron throws aside his letter without reading it, and, on the following day, on leaving the mass, the National Guards come, by way of menace, to load their guns in sight of M. de Bussy, round his garden.—A few days after this, at the instigation of Bailly, two other proprietors in the neighbourhood are assassinated in their houses. Finally, on a journey to Lyons, M. de Bussy learns “that the chateaux in Poitou are again in flames, and that the work is to begin again everywhere.”—Alarmed at all these indications, “he resolves to form a company of volunteers, which, taking up their quarters in his chateau, can serve the whole canton on a legal requisition.” He thinks that about fifteen brave men will be sufficient. He has already six men with him in the month of October, 1790; green coats are ordered for them, and buttons are bought for the uniform. Seven or eight domestics may be added to the number. In the way of arms and munitions the chateau contains two kegs of gunpowder which were on hand before 1789, seven blunderbusses, and five cavalry sabres, left there in passing by M. de Bussy’s old dragoons: to these must be added two double-barrelled fowling-pieces, three soldiers’ muskets, five brace of pistols, two poor common guns, two old swords, and a hunting-knife. Such is the garrison, such the arsenal, and these are the preparations, so well justified and so slight, which prejudice conjointly with gossip is about to transform into a great conspiracy.
The chateau, in effect, was an object of suspicion in the village from the very first day. All its visitors, whenever they went out or came in, with all the details of their actions, were watched, denounced, exaggerated, and misinterpreted. If, through the awkwardness or carelessness of so many inexperienced National Guards, a stray ball reaches a farmhouse one day in broad daylight, it comes from the chateau; it is the aristocrats who have fired upon the peasants.—There is the same state of suspicion in the neighbouring towns. The municipal body of Valence, hearing that two youths had ordered coats made “of a colour which seemed suspicious,” send for the tailor; he confesses the fact, and adds that “they intended to put the buttons on themselves.” Such a detail is alarming. An inquiry is set on foot and the alarm increases; people in a strange uniform have been seen passing on their way to the chateau of Villiers; from thence, on reaching the number of two hundred, they will go and join the garrison of Besançon; they will travel four at a time in order to avoid detection. At Besançon they are to meet a corps of forty thousand men, commanded by M. Autichamp, which corps is to march on to Paris to carry off the King, and break up the National Assembly. The National Guards along the whole route are to be forced into the lines. At a certain distance each man is to receive 1,200 francs, and, at the end of the expedition, is to be enrolled in the Artois Guard, or sent home with a recompense of 12,000 francs.—Meanwhile, the Prince de Condé, with forty thousand men, will come by the way of Pont Saint-Esprit in Languedoc, rally the disaffected of Carpentras and of the Jalès camp to his standard, and occupy Cette and the other seaports; and finally, the Comte d’Artois, on his side, will enter by Pont-Beauvoisin with thirty thousand men.—A horrible discovery! The municipal authorities of Valence immediately inform those of Lyons, Besançon, Chalons, Mâcon, and others beside. On the strength of this the municipal body of Mâcon, “considering that the enemies of the Revolution are ever making the most strenuous efforts to annihilate the Constitution which secures the happiness of this empire,” and “that it is highly important to frustrate their designs,” sends two hundred men of its National Guard to the chateau of Villiers, “empowered to employ armed force in case of resistance.” For greater security, this troop is joined by the National Guards of the three neighbouring parishes. M. de Bussy, on being told that they were springing over into his garden, seizes a gun and takes aim, but does not fire, and then, the requisition being legal, throws all open to them. There are found in the house six green coats, seven dozens of large buttons, and fifteen dozens of small ones. The proof is manifest. He explains what his project was and states his motive—it is a mere pretext. He makes a sign, as an order, to his valet—there is a positive complicity. M. de Bussy, his six guests, and the valet, are arrested and transported to Mâcon. A trial takes place, with depositions and interrogatories, in which the truth is elicited in spite of the most adverse testimony; it is clear that M. de Bussy never intended to do more than defend himself.—But prejudice is a blinder to hostile eyes. It cannot be admitted that, under a constitution which is perfect, an innocent man could incur danger; the objection is made to him that “it is not natural for an armed company to be formed to resist a massacre by which it is not menaced”; they are convinced beforehand that he is guilty. On a decree of the National Assembly the minister had ordered all accused persons to be brought to Paris by the constabulary and hussars; the National Guard of Mâcon, “in the greatest state of agitation,” declares that, “as it had arrested M. de Bussy, it would not consent to his transport by any other body. . . . Undoubtedly, the object is to allow him to escape on the way,” but it will know how to keep its captive secure. The guard, in fine, of its own authority, escorts M. de Bussy to Paris, into the Abbaye prison, where he is kept confined for several months—so long, indeed, that, after a new trial and investigation, the absurdity of the accusation being too palpable, they are obliged to set him at liberty.—Such is the situation of most of the gentry on their own estates, and M. de Bussy, even acquitted and vindicated, will act wisely in not returning home.
He would be nothing but a hostage there. Alone against thousands, sole survivor and representative of an abolished régime which all detest, it is the noble against whom everybody turns whenever a political shock seems to shake the new régime. He is at least disarmed, as he might be dangerous, and, in these popular executions, brutal instincts and appetites break loose like a bull that dashes through a door and rages through a dwelling-house. In the same department, some months later, on the news arriving of the arrest of the King at Varennes, “all nonjuring11 priests and ci-devant nobles are exposed to the horrors of persecution.” Bands forcibly enter houses to seize arms: Commarin, Grosbois, Montculot, Chaudenay, Créancé, Toisy, Chatellenot, and other houses are thus visited, and several are sacked. During the night of June 26–27, 1791, at the chateau of Créancé, “there is pillaging throughout; the mirrors are broken, the pictures are torn up, and the doors are broken down.” The master of the house, “M. de Comeau-Créancé, Knight of St. Louis, horribly maltreated, is dragged to the foot of the stairs, where he lies as if dead”: previous to this, “he was forced to give a considerable contribution, and to refund all penalties collected by him before the Revolution as the local lord of the manor.”—Two other proprietors in the neighbourhood, Knights of St. Louis, are treated in the same way. “That is the way in which three old and brave soldiers are rewarded for their services!” A fourth, a peaceable man, escapes beforehand, leaving his keys in the locks and his gardener in the house. Notwithstanding this, the doors and the clothes-presses were broken open, the pillaging lasting five hours and a half, with threats of setting the house on fire if the seigneur did not make his appearance. Questions were asked “as to whether he attended the mass of the new curé, whether he had formerly exacted fines, and finally, whether any of the inhabitants had any complaint to make against him.” No complaint is made; on the contrary, he is rather beloved.—But, in tumults of this sort, a hundred madmen and fifty rogues prescribe the law to the timid and the indifferent. These outlaws declared that “they were acting under orders; they compelled the mayor and prosecuting attorney to take part in their robberies; they likewise took the precaution to force a few honest citizens, by using the severest threats, to march along with them.” These people come the next day to apologize to the pillaged proprietor, while the municipal officers draw up a statement of the violence practised against them. The violence, nevertheless, is accomplished, and, as it will go unpunished, it is soon to be repeated.
A beginning and an end are already made in the two neighbouring departments. There, especially in the south, nothing is more instructive than to see how an outbreak stimulated by enthusiasm for the public good immediately degenerates under the impulse of private interest, and ends in crime.—Around Lyons,12 under the same pretext and at the same date, similar mobs perform similar visitations, and, on all these occasions, “the rent-rolls are burnt, and houses are pillaged and set on fire. Municipal authority, organized for the security of property, is in many hands but one facility more for its violation. The National Guard seems to be armed merely for the protection of robbery and disorder.”—For more than thirty years, M. de Chaponay, the father of six children of whom three are in the service, expended his vast income on his estate of Beaulieu, giving occupation to a number of persons, men, women, and children. After the hailstorm of 1761, which nearly destroyed the village of Moranée, he rebuilt thirty-three houses, furnished others with timber for the framework, supplied the commune with wheat, and, for several years, obtained for the inhabitants a diminution of their taxation. In 1790, he celebrated the Federation Festival on a magnificent scale, giving two banquets, one of a hundred and thirty seats, for the municipal bodies and officers of the National Guards in the vicinity, and the other of a thousand seats for the privates. If any of the gentry had reason to believe himself popular and safe it was certainly this man.—On the 24th of June, 1791, the municipal authorities of Moranée, Lucenay, and Chazelai, with their mayors and National Guards, in all nearly two thousand men, arrive at the chateau with drums beating and flags flying. M. de Chaponay goes out to meet them, and begs to know to what he owes “the pleasure” of their visit. They reply that they do not come to offend him, but to carry out the orders of the district, which oblige them to take possession of the chateau and to place in it a guard of sixty men: on the following day the “district” and the National Guard of Villefranche are to come and inspect it.—Be it noted that these orders are imaginary, for M. de Chaponay asks in vain to see them; they cannot be produced. The cause of their setting out, probably, is the false rumour that the National Guard of Villefranche is coming to deprive them of a booty on which they had calculated.—Nevertheless M. de Chaponay submits; he merely requests the municipal officers to make the search themselves and in an orderly manner. Upon this the commandant of the National Guard of Lucenay exclaims, with some irritation, that “all are equal and all must go in,” and at the same moment all rush forward. “M. de Chaponay orders the apartments to be opened; they immediately shut them up, purposely to let the sappers break through the doors with their axes.”—Everything is pillaged, “plate, assignats, stocks of linen, laces, and other articles; the trees of the avenues are hacked and mutilated; the cellars are emptied, the casks are rolled out on the terrace, the wine is suffered to run out, and the chateau keep is demolished. . . . The officers urge on those that are laggard.” Towards nine o’clock in the evening M. de Chaponay is informed by his servants that the municipal authorities have determined upon forcing him to sign an abandonment of his feudal dues and afterwards beheading him. He escapes with his wife through the only door which is left unguarded, wanders about all night, exposed to the gun-shots of the squads which are on his track, and reaches Lyons only on the following day.—Mean while the pillagers send him notice that if he does not abandon his rentals, they will cut down his forests and burn up everything on his estate. The chateau, indeed, is fired three distinct times, while, in the interval, the band sack another chateau at Bayère, and, on again passing by that of M. de Chaponay, demolish a dam which had cost 10,000 livres.—The public prosecutor, for his part, remains quiet, notwithstanding the appeals to him: he doubtless says to himself that a gentleman whose house has been searched is lucky to have saved his life, and that others, like M. Guillin-Dumoutet, for example, have not been as fortunate.
The latter gentleman, formerly captain of a vessel belonging to the India Company, afterwards Commandant at Senegal, now retired from active life, occupied his chateau of Poleymieux with his young wife and two infant children, his sisters, nieces, and sister-in-law—in all, ten women belonging to his family and domestic service—one negro servant, and himself, an old man of sixty years of age; here is a haunt of militant conspirators which must be disarmed as soon as possible.13 Unfortunately, a brother of M. Guillin, accused of treason to the nation, had been arrested ten months previously, which was quite sufficient for the clubs in the neighbourhood. In the month of December, 1790, the chateau had already been ransacked by the people of the parishes in the vicinity: nothing was found, and the Department first censured and afterwards interdicted these arbitrary searches. On this occasion they will manage things better.—On the 26th of June, 1791, at ten o’clock in the morning, the municipal body of Poleymieux, along with two other bodies in their scarfs, and three hundred National Guards, are seen approaching, under the usual pretext of searching for arms. Madame Guillin presents herself, reminds them of the interdict of the Department, and demands the legal order under which they act. They refuse to give it. M. Guillin descends in his turn and offers to open his doors to them if they will produce the order. They have no order to show him. During the colloquy a certain man named Rosier, a former soldier who had deserted twice, and who is now in command of the National Guard, seizes M. Guillin by the throat; the old captain defends himself, presents a pistol at the man, which misses fire, and then, throwing the fellow off, withdraws into the house, closing the door behind him.—Soon after this, the tocsin sounds in the neighbourhood, thirty parishes start up, and two thousand men arrive. Madame Guillin, by entreaties, succeeds in having delegates appointed, chosen by the crowd, to inspect the chateau. These delegates examine the apartments, and declare that they can find nothing but the arms ordinarily kept on hand. This declaration is of no effect: the multitude, whose excitement is increased by waiting, feel their strength, and have no idea of returning empty-handed. A volley is fired, and the chateau windows are riddled with balls. As a last effort Madame Guillin, with her two children in her arms, comes out, and going to the municipal officers, calls upon them to do their duty. Far from doing this they retain her as a hostage, and place her in such a position that, if there is firing from the chateau, she may receive the bullets. Meanwhile, the doors are forced, the house is pillaged from top to bottom, and then set on fire; M. Guillin, who seeks refuge in the keep, is almost reached by the flames. At this moment, some of the assailants, less ferocious than the rest, prevail upon him to descend, and they answer for his life. Scarcely has he shown himself when others fall on him; they cry that he must be killed, that he has a life-rent of 36,000 francs from the State, and “this will be so much saved for the nation.” “He is hacked to pieces alive”; his head is cut off and borne upon a pike; his body is cut up, and sent piece by piece to each parish; several wash their hands in his blood, and besmear their faces with it. It seems as if tumult, clamour, incendiarism, robbery, and murder had aroused in them not only the cruel instincts of the savage, but the carnivorous appetites of the brute; some of them, seized by the gendarmerie at Chasselay, had roasted the dead man’s arm and dined upon it.14 —Madame Guillin, who is saved through the compassion of two of the inhabitants of the place, succeeds, after encountering many dangers, in reaching Lyons; she and her children lost everything, “the chateau, its dependencies, the crop of the preceding year, wine, grain, furniture, plate, ready money, assignats, notes, and contracts.” Ten days later, the department gives notice to the National Assembly that “similar projects are still being plotted and arranged, and that there are (always) threats of burning chateaux and rent-rolls”; that no doubt of this can possibly exist: “the inhabitants of the country only await the opportunity, to renew these scenes of horror.”15
Amidst these multiplied and reviving jacqueries there is nothing left but flight, and the nobles, driven out of the rural districts, seek refuge in the towns. But here also a jacquerie awaits them.—As the effects of the Constitution are developed, successive administrations become feebler and more partial; the unbridled populace has become more excitable and more violent; the enthroned club has become more suspicious and more despotic. Henceforth the club, through or in opposition to the administrative bodies, leads the populace, and the nobles will find it as hostile as the peasants. All their reunions, even when liberal, are closed like that in Paris, through the illegal interference of mobs, or through the iniquitous action of the popular magistrates. All their associations, even when legal and salutary, are broken up by brute force or by municipal intolerance. They are punished for having thought of defending themselves, and slaughtered because they try to avoid assassination.—Three or four hundred gentlemen, who were threatened on their estates, sought refuge with their families in Caen;16 and they trusted to find one there, for, by three different resolutions, the municipal body promised them aid and protection. Unfortunately, the club thinks otherwise, and, on August 23, 1791, prints and posts up a list of their names and residences, declaring that since “their suspected opinions have compelled them to abandon the rural districts,” they are emigrants in the interior; from which it follows that “their conduct must be scrupulously watched,” because “it may be the effect of some dangerous plot against the country.” Fifteen are especially designated; among others “the former curé of Saint-Loup, the great bloodhound of the aristocrats, and all of them very suspicious persons, harbouring the worst intentions.”—Thus denounced and singled out, it is evident that they can no longer sleep tranquilly: moreover, now that their addresses are published, they are openly threatened with domiciliary visits and violence. As to the administrative authorities, their interference cannot be depended on; the department itself gives notice to the minister that, as the law stands, it cannot put the chateau in the hands of the regulars,17 as this would, it is said, excite the National Guard. “Besides, how without an army is this post to be wrested from the hands which hold it? It is impossible with only the resources which the Constitution affords us.” Thus, in the defence of the oppressed, the Constitution is a dead letter.—Hence it is that the refugees, finding protection only in themselves, undertake to help each other. No association can be more justifiable, more pacific, more innocent. Its object is “to demand the execution of the laws constantly violated, and to protect persons and property.” In each quarter they will try to bring together “all good citizens”; they will form a committee of eight members, and, in each committee, there will always be “an officer of justice or a member of the administrative body with an officer or subaltern of the National Guard.” Should any citizen be attacked in person or property the association will draw up a petition in his favour. Should any particular act of violence require the employment of public force, the members of the district will assemble under the orders of the officer of justice and of the National Guard to enforce obedience. “In all possible cases” they “will avoid with the greatest care any insult of individuals; they will consider that the object of the meeting is solely to ensure public peace, and that protection from the law to which every citizen is entitled.”—In short, they are volunteer constables. Turn the inquiry which way they will, a hostile municipality and a prejudiced tribunal can put no other construction upon it; they find nothing else. The only evidence against one of the leaders is a letter in which he tries to prevent a gentleman from going to Coblentz, striving to prove to him that he will be more useful at Caen. The principal evidence against the association is that of a townsman whom they wished to enrol, and of whom they demanded his opinions. He had stated that he was in favour of the execution of the laws; upon which they told him: “In this case you belong to us, and are more of an aristocrat than you think you are.” Their aristocracy, in effect, consists wholly in the suppression of brigandage. No claim is more unpalatable, because it interposes an obstacle to the arbitrary acts of a party which thinks it has a right to do as it pleases.—On the 4th of October the regiment of Aunis left the town, and all good citizens were handed over to the militia, “in uniform or not,” they alone being armed. That day, for the first time in a long period, M. Bunel, the former curé of Saint-Jean, with the consent and assistance of his sworn successor, officiates at the mass. There is a large gathering of the orthodox, which causes uneasiness among the patriots. The following day M. Bunel is to say mass again; whereupon, through the municipal authorities, the patriots forbid him to officiate, to which he submits. Nevertheless, for lack of due notice, a crowd of the faithful have arrived and the church is filled. A dangerous mob! The patriots and National Guards arrive “to preserve order,” which has not been disturbed, and which they alone disturb. Threatening words are exchanged between the servants of the nobles and the National Guard. The latter draw their swords, and a young man is hewn down and trampled on; M. de Saffrey, who comes to his assistance unarmed, is himself cut down and pierced with bayonets, and two others are wounded.—Meanwhile, in a neighbouring street, M. Achard de Vagogne, seeing a man maltreated by armed men, approaches, in order to make peace. The man is shot down and M. Achard is covered with sabre and bayonet gashes: “there is not a thread on him which is not dyed with the blood that ran down even into his shoes.” In this condition he is led to the chateau along with M. de Saffrey. Others break down the door of the house of M. du Rosel, an old officer of seventy-five years, of which fifty-nine have been passed in the service, and pursue him even over the wall of his garden. A fourth squad seizes M. d’Héricy, another venerable officer, who, like M. du Rosel, was ignorant of all that was going on, and was quietly leaving for his country seat.—The town is full of tumult, and, through the orders of the municipal authorities, the general alarm is sounded.
The time for the special constables to act has come; about sixty gentlemen, with a number of merchants and artisans, set out. According to the rules of their association, and with significant scruple, they beg an officer of the National Guard, who happens to be passing, to put himself at their head; they reach the Place Saint-Sauveur, encounter the superior officer sent after them by the municipal authorities, and, at his first command, follow him to the Hôtel-de-Ville. On reaching this, without any resistance on their part, they are arrested, disarmed, and searched. The rules and regulations of their league are found on their persons; they are evidently hatching a counterrevolution. The uproar against them is terrible. “To keep them safe,” they are conducted to the chateau, while many of them are cruelly treated on the way by the crowd. Others, seized in their houses—M. Levaillant and a servant of M. d’Héricy—are carried off bleeding and pierced with bayonets. Eighty-two prisoners are thus collected, while fears are constantly entertained that they may escape. “Their bread and meat are cut up into little pieces, to see that nothing is concealed therein; the surgeons, who are likewise treated as aristocrats, are denied access to them.” Nocturnal visits are, at the same time, paid to their houses; every stranger is ordered to present himself at the Hôtel-de-Ville, to state why he comes to the town to reside, and to give up his arms; every nonjuring priest is forbidden to say mass. The Department, which is disposed to resist, has its hands tied and confesses its powerlessness. “The people,” it writes, “know their strength: they know that we have no power; excited by disreputable citizens, they permit whatever serves their passions or their interests; they influence our deliberations, and force us to those which, under other circumstances, we should carefully avoid.”—Three days after this the victors celebrate their triumph “with drums, music, and lighted torches; the people are using hammers to destroy on the mansions the coats-of-arms which had previously been covered over with plaster”; the defeat of the aristocrats is accomplished.—And yet their innocence is so clearly manifest that the Legislative Assembly itself cannot help recognising it. After eleven weeks of durance the order is given to set them free, with the exception of two, a youth of less than eighteen years and an old man, almost an octogenarian, on whom two letters, misunderstood, still leave a shadow of suspicion.—But it is not certain that the people are disposed to give them up. The National Guard refuses to discharge them in open daylight and serve as their escort. Even the evening before “numerous groups of women, a few men mingled with them, talk of murdering all those fellows the moment they set foot outside the chateau.” They have to be let out at two o’clock in the morning, secretly, under a strong guard, and to leave the town at once as six months before they left the rural districts.—Neither in the country nor in the town18 are they under the protection of civil or religious law; a gentleman, who is not compromised in the affair, remarks that their situation is worse than that of Protestants and vagabonds during the worst years of the ancient régime. “Does not the law allow (nonjuring) priests the liberty of saying mass? Why then can we not listen to their mass except at the risk of our lives? Does not the law command all citizens to preserve the public peace? Why then are those whom the cry to arms has summoned forth to maintain public order, assailed as aristocrats? Why is the refuge of citizens which the laws have declared sacred, violated without orders, without accusation, without any appearance of wrong-doing? Why are all prominent citizens and those who are well off disarmed in preference to others? Are weapons exclusively made for those but lately deprived of them and who abuse the use of them? Why should one be on an equality for purposes of payment, and distinguished only for purposes of annoyance and insult?”—He has spoken right, and that which rules henceforth is an aristocracy in an inverse sense, contrary to the law, and yet more contrary to nature. For, by a violent inversion, the lower grades in the graduated scale of civilisation and culture now are found uppermost, while the superior grades are found undermost. The Constitution having suppressed inequality, this has again arisen in an inverse sense. The populace, both of town and country, taxes, imprisons, pillages, and slays more arbitrarily, more brutally, more unjustly than feudal barons, and for its serfs or villains it has its ancient chieftains.
Let us suppose that, in order not to excite suspicion, they are content to be without arms, to form no more associations, not to attend elections, to shut themselves up at home, to strictly confine themselves within the harmless precincts of domestic life. The same distrust, the same animosity, still pursues them there.—At Cahors,19 where the municipal authorities, in spite of the law, had just expelled the Carthusians who, under legal sanction, chose to remain and live in common, two of the monks, before their departure, give to M. de Beaumont, their friend and neighbour, four dwarf pear-trees and some onions in blossom in their garden. On the strength of this, the municipal body decree that “the sieur Louis de Beaumont, formerly count, is guilty of having audaciously and maliciously damaged national property,” condemns him to pay a fine of three hundred livres, and orders “that the four pear-trees, pulled up in the so-called Carthusian garden, be brought on the following day, Wednesday, to the door of the said sieur de Beaumont, and there remain for four consecutive days, guarded, day and night, by two fusiliers, at the expense of the said sieur de Beaumont; and upon the said trees shall be placed the following inscription, to wit: Louis de Beaumont, destroyer of the national property. And the judgment herewith rendered shall be printed to the number of one thousand copies, read, published, and posted at the expense of the said sieur de Beaumont, and duly addressed throughout the department of Lot to the districts and municipalities thereof, as well as to all societies of the Friends of the Constitution and of Liberty.” Every line of this legal invective discloses the malignant envy of the local recorder, who revenges himself for having formerly bowed too low.—The following year, M. de Beaumont, having formally bought in, under notarial sanction, a church which was sold by the district, along with the ornaments and objects of worship it contained, the mayor and municipal officers, followed by a lot of workmen, come and carry away and destroy everything—confessionals, altars, and even the saint’s canonised body, which had been interred for one hundred and fifty years: so that, after their departure, “the edifice resembled a vast barn filled with ruins and rubbish.”20 It must be noted that, at this very time, M. de Beaumont is military commandant at Perigord. The treatment he undergoes shows what is in reserve for ordinary nobles. I do not recommend them to attend official sales of property.21 —Will they even be free in their domestic enjoyments, and on entering a drawing-room are they sure of quietly passing an evening there?—At Paris, even, a number of persons of rank, among them the ambassadors of Denmark and Venice, are listening to a concert in a mansion in the Faubourg Saint-Honoré, given by a foreign virtuoso, when a cart enters the court loaded with fifty bundles of hay, the monthly supply for the horses. A patriot, who sees the cart driven in, imagines that the King is concealed underneath the hay, and that he has come there for the purpose of plotting with the aristocrats about his flight. A mob gathers, and the National Guard arrives, along with a commissioner, while four grenadiers stand guard around the cart. The commissioner, in the meantime, inspects the hotel; he sees music-stands, and the arrangements for a supper; comes back, has the cart unloaded, and states to the people that he has found nothing suspicious. The people do not believe him, and demand a second inspection. This is made by twenty-four delegates; the bundles of hay, moreover, are counted, and several of them are unbound, but all in vain. Disappointed and irritated, having anticipated a spectacle, the crowd insists that all the invited guests, men and women, should leave the house on foot, and only get into their carriages at the end of the street. “First comes a file of empty carriages”; next, “all the guests in their evening attire, and the ladies in full dress, trembling with fear, with downcast eyes, between two rows of men, women, and children, who stare them in the face, and overwhelm them with insults.”22
Suspected of holding secret meetings, and called to account in his own house, has the noble at least the right to frequent a public saloon, to eat in a restaurant, and to take the fresh air in a balcony?—The Vicomte de Mirabeau, who has just dined in the Palais-Royal, stands at the window to take the air, and is recognised; there is a gathering, and the cry is soon heard, “Down with Mirabeau-Tonneau (barrel-Mirabeau)!”23 “Gravel is flung at him from all sides, and occasionally stones. One of the window-panes is broken by a stone. Immediately picking up the stone, he shows it to the crowd, and, at the same time, quietly places it on the sill of the window, in token of moderation.” There is a loud outcry; his friends force him to withdraw inside, and Bailly, the mayor, comes in person to quiet the aggressors. In this case there are good reasons for their hatred. The gentleman whom they stone is a bon-vivant, large and fat, fond of rich epicurean suppers; and on this account the populace imagine him to be a monster, and even worse, an ogre. With regard to these nobles, whose greatest misfortune is to be overpolished and too worldly, the overexcited imagination revives its old nursery tales.—M. de Montlosier, living in the Rue Richelieu, finds that he is watched on his way to the National Assembly. One woman especially, from thirty to thirty-two years of age, who sold meat at a stall in the Passage Saint-Guillaume, “regarded him with special attention. As soon as she saw him coming she took up a long, broad knife which she sharpened before him, casting furious looks at him.” He asks his housekeeper what this means. Two children of that quarter have disappeared, carried off by gipsies, and the report is current that M. de Montlosier, the Marquis de Mirabeau, and other deputies of the “right,” meet together “to hold orgies in which they eat little children.”
In this state of public opinion there is no crime which is not imputed to them, no insult which is not freely bestowed on them. “Traitors, tyrants, conspirators, assassins,” such is the current vocabulary of the clubs and newspapers in relation to them. “Aristocrat” signifies all this, and whoever dares to refute the calumny is himself an aristocrat.—At the Palais-Royal, it is constantly repeated that M. de Castries, in his last duel, made use of a poisoned sword, and an officer of the navy who protests against this false report is himself accused, tried on the spot, and condemned “to be shut up in the guard-house or thrown into the fountain.”24 —The nobles must beware of defending their honour in the usual way and of meeting an insult with a challenge! At Castelnau, near Cahors,25 one of those who, the preceding year, marched against the incendiaries, M. de Bellud, Knight of Saint-Louis, on coming down the public square with his brother, a guardsman, is greeted with cries of “The aristocrat! to the lantern!” His brother is in a morning coat and slippers, and not wishing to get into trouble they do not reply. A squad of the National Guard, passing by, repeats the cry, but they still remain silent. The shout continues, and M. de Bellud, after some time has elapsed, begs the captain to order his men to be quiet. He refuses, and M. de Bellud demands satisfaction outside the town. At these words the National Guards rush at M. de Bellud with fixed bayonets. His brother receives a sabre-cut on the neck, while he, defending himself with his sword, slightly wounds the captain and one of the men. The two brothers, alone against the whole body, fight on, retreating to their house, in which they are blockaded. Towards seven o’clock in the evening, two or three hundred National Guards from Cahors arrive to reinforce the besiegers. The house is taken, and the guardsman, escaping across the fields, sprains his ancle and is captured. M. de Bellud, who has found his way into another house, continues to defend himself there: the house is set on fire and burnt, together with two others alongside of it. Taking refuge in a cellar he still keeps on firing. Bundles of lighted straw are thrown in at the air-holes. Almost suffocated, he springs out, kills his first assailant with a shot from one pistol, and himself with another. His head is cut off with that of his servant. The guardsman is made to kiss the two heads, and, on his demanding a glass of water, they fill his mouth with the blood which drops from the severed head of his brother. The victorious gang then set out for Cahors, with the two heads stuck on bayonets, and the guardsman in a cart. It comes to a halt before a house in which a literary circle meets, suspected by the Jacobin club. The wounded man is made to descend from the cart and is hung: his body is riddled with balls, and everything the house contains is broken up, “the furniture is thrown out of the windows, and the house pulled down.”—Every popular execution is of this character, at once prompt and complete, similar to those of an Oriental monarch who, on the instant, without inquiry or trial, avenges his offended majesty, and, for every offence, knows no other punishment than death. At Tulle, M. de Massy,26 lieutenant of the “Royal Navarre,” having struck a man that insulted him, is seized in the house in which he took refuge, and, in spite of the three administrative bodies, is at once massacred.—At Brest, two antirevolutionary caricatures having been drawn with charcoal on the walls of the military coffee-house, the excited crowd lay the blame of it on the officers; one of these, M. Patry, takes it upon himself, and, on the point of being torn to pieces, attempts to kill himself. He is disarmed, but, when the municipal authorities come to his assistance, they find him “already dead through an infinite number of wounds,” and his head is borne about on the end of a pike.27
Much better would it be to live under an Eastern king, for he is not found everywhere, nor always furious and mad, like the populace. Nowhere are the nobles safe, neither in public nor in private life, neither in the country nor in the towns, neither associated together nor separate. Popular hostility hangs over them like a dark and threatening cloud from one end of the territory to the other, and the tempest bursts upon them in a continuous storm of vexations, outrages, calumnies, robberies, and acts of violence; here, there, and almost daily, bloody thunderbolts fall haphazard on the most inoffensive heads, on an old man asleep, on a Knight of Saint-Louis taking a walk, on a family at prayers in a church. But, in this aristocracy, crushed down in some places and attacked everywhere, the thunderbolt finds one predestined group which attracts it and on which it constantly falls, and that is the corps of officers.
With the exception of a few fops, frequenters of drawing-rooms, and the court favourites who have reached a high rank through the intrigues of the antechamber, it was in this group, especially in the medium ranks, that true moral nobility was then found. Nowhere in France was there so much tried, substantial merit. A man of genius, who associated with them in his youth, rendered them this homage: many among them are men possessing “the most amiable characters and minds of the highest order.”28 Indeed, for most of them, military service was not a career of ambition, but an obligation of birth. It was the rule in each noble family for the eldest son to enter the army, and advancement was of but little consequence. He discharged the debt of his rank; this sufficed for him, and, after twenty or thirty years of service, the order of Saint-Louis, and sometimes a meagre pension, were all he had a right to expect. Amongst nine or ten thousand officers, the great majority coming from the lower and poorer class of provincial nobles, body-guards, lieutenants, captains, majors, lieutenant-colonels, and even colonels, have no other pretension. Satisfied with favours29 restricted to their subordinate rank, they leave the highest grades of the service to the heirs of the great families, to the courtiers or to the parvenus at Versailles, and content themselves with remaining the guardians of public order, and the brave defenders of the State. Under this system, when the heart is not depraved it becomes exalted; it is made a point of honour to serve without compensation; there is nothing but the public welfare in view, and all the more because, at this moment, it is the absorbing topic of all minds and of all literature. Nowhere has practical philosophy, that which consists in a spirit of abnegation, more deeply penetrated than among this unrecognised nobility. Under a polished, brilliant, and sometimes frivolous exterior, they have a serious soul; the old sentiment of honour is converted into one of patriotism. Set to execute the laws, with force in hand to maintain peace through fear, they feel the importance of their mission, and, for two years, fulfil its duties with extraordinary moderation, gentleness, and patience, not only at the risk of their lives, but amidst great and multiplied humiliations, through the sacrifice of their authority and self-esteem, through the subjection of their intelligent will to the dictation and incapacity of the masters imposed upon them. For a noble officer to respond to the requisitions of an extemporised bourgeois municipal body,30 to subordinate his competence, courage, and prudence to the blunders and alarms of five or six inexperienced, frightened, and timid attorneys, to place his energy and daring at the service of their presumption, feebleness, and lack of decision, even when their orders or refusal of orders are manifestly absurd or injurious, even when they are opposed to the previous instructions of his general or of his minister, even when they end in the plundering of a market, the burning of a chateau, the assassination of an innocent person, even when they impose upon him the obligation of witnessing crime with his sword sheathed and arms folded31 —this is a hard task. It is hard for the noble officer to see independent, popular, and bourgeois troops organized in the face of his own troops, rivals and even hostile, in any case ten times as numerous and no less exacting than sensitive—hard to be expected to show them deference and extend civilities to them, to surrender to them posts, arsenals, and citadels, to treat their chiefs as equals, however ignorant or unworthy, and whatever they may be—here a lawyer, there a Capuchin, elsewhere a brewer or a shoemaker, most generally some demagogue, and, in many a town or village, some deserter or soldier drummed out of his regiment for bad conduct, perhaps one of the noble’s own men, a scamp whom he has formerly discharged with the yellow cartouch, telling him to go and be hung elsewhere. It is hard for the noble officer to be publicly and daily calumniated on account of his rank and title, to be characterized as a traitor at the club and in the newspapers, to be designated by name as an object of popular suspicion and fury, to be hooted at in the streets and in the theatre, to submit to the disobedience of his men, to be denounced, insulted, arrested, fleeced, hunted down, and slaughtered by them and by the populace, to see before him a cruel, ignoble, and unavenged death—that of M. de Launay, murdered at Paris—that of M. de Belzunce, murdered at Caen—that of M. de Beausset, murdered at Marseilles—that of M. de Voisins, murdered at Valence—that of M. de Rully, murdered at Bastia, or that of M. de Rochetailler, murdered at Port-au-Prince.32 All this is endured by the officers among the nobles. Not one of the municipalities, even Jacobin, can find any pretext which will warrant the charge of disobeying orders. Through tact and deference they avoid all conflict with the National Guards. Never do they give provocation, and, even when insulted, rarely defend themselves. Their gravest faults consist of imprudent conversations, vivacious expressions, and witticisms. Like good watch-dogs amongst a frightened herd which trample them under foot, or pierce them with their horns, they allow themselves to be pierced and trampled on without biting, and would remain at their post to the end were they not driven away from it.
All to no purpose: doubly suspicious as members of a proscribed class, and as heads of the army, it is against them that public distrust excites the most frequent explosions, and so much the more as the instrument they handle is singularly explosive. Recruited by volunteer enlistments “amongst a passionate, turbulent, and somewhat debauched people,” the army is composed of “all that are most fiery, most turbulent, and most debauched in the nation.”33 Add to these the sweepings of the alms-houses, and you find a good many blackguards in uniform! When we consider that the pay is small, the food bad, discipline severe, no promotion, and desertion endemic, we are no longer surprised at the general disorder: license, to such men, is too powerful a temptation. With wine, women, and money they have from the first been made turncoats, and from Paris the contagion has spread to the provinces. In Brittany,34 the grenadiers and chasseurs of Ile-de-France “sell their coats, their guns, and their shoes, exacting advances in order to consume it in the tavern”; fifty-six soldiers of Penthièvre “wanted to murder their officers,” and it is foreseen that, left to themselves, they will soon, for lack of pay, “betake themselves to the highways, to rob and assassinate.” In Eure-et-Loir, the dragoons,35 with sabre and pistols in hand, visit the farmers’ houses and take bread and money, while the foot soldiers of the “Royal-Comtois” and the dragoons of the “Colonel-Général” desert in bands in order to go to Paris, where amusement is to be had. The main thing with them is “to have a jolly time.” In fact, the extensive military insurrections of the earliest date, those of Paris, Versailles, Besançon, and Strasbourg, began or ended with a revel.—Out of these depths of gross desires there has sprung up natural or legitimate ambitions. A number of soldiers, for twenty years past, have learned how to read, and think themselves qualified to be officers. One-quarter of those enlisted, moreover, are young men born in good circumstances, and whom a caprice has thrown into the army. They choke in this narrow, low, dark, confined passage where the privileged by birth close up the issue, and they will march over their chiefs to secure advancement. These are the discontented, the disputants, the orators of the mess-room, and between these barrack politicians and the politicians of the street an alliance is at once formed.—Starting from the same point they march on to the same end, and the imagination which has laboured to blacken the Government in the minds of the people, blackens the officers in the minds of the soldiers.
The Treasury is empty and there are arrears of pay. The towns, burdened with debt, no longer furnish their quotas of supplies; and at Orleans, with the distress of the municipality before them, the Swiss of Chateauvieux were obliged to impose on themselves a stoppage of one sou per day and per man to have wood in winter.36 Grain is scarce, the flour is spoilt, and the army bread, which was bad, has become worse. The administration, worm-eaten by old abuses, is deranged through the new disorder, the soldiers suffering as well through its dissolution as through their extravagance.—They think themselves robbed and they complain, at first with moderation; and justice is done to their well-founded claims. Soon they exact accounts, and these are made out for them. At Strasbourg, on these being verified before Kellermann and a commissioner of the National Assembly, it is proved that they have not been wronged out of a sou; nevertheless a gratification of six francs a head is given to them, and they cry out that they are content and have nothing more to ask for. A few months after this fresh complaints arise, and there is a new verification: an ensign, accused of malversation and whom they wished to hang, is tried in their presence; he is clearly irresponsible; none of them can cite against him a proven charge, and, once more, they remain silent. On other occasions, after hearing the reading of registers for several hours, they yawn, cease to listen, and go outside to get something to drink.—But the figures of their demands, as these have been summed up by their mess-room calculators, remain implanted in their brains; they have taken root there, and are constantly springing up without any account or refutation being able to extirpate them. No more writings nor speeches—what they want is money: 11,000 livres for the Beaune regiment, 39,500 livres for that of Forez, 44,000 livres for that of Salm, 200,000 livres for that of Chateauvieux, and similarly for the rest. So much the worse for the officers if the money-chest does not suffice for them; let them assess each other, or borrow on their note of hand from the municipality, or from the rich men of the town.—For greater security, in divers places, the soldiers take possession of the military chest and mount guard around it: it belongs to them, since they form the regiment, and, in any case, it is better that it should be in their hands than in suspected hands.—Already, on the 4th of June, 1790, the Minister of War announces to the Assembly that “the military body threatens to fall into the completest state of anarchy.” His report shows “the most incredible pretensions put forth in the most plain-spoken way—orders without force, chiefs without authority, the military chest and flags carried away, the orders of the King himself openly defied, the officers condemned, insulted, threatened, driven off, some of them even captive amidst their own troops, leading a precarious life in the midst of mortifications and humiliations, and, as the climax of horror, commanders slaughtered under the eyes and almost in the arms of their own soldiers.”
It is much worse after the July Federation. Regaled, caressed, and indoctrinated at the clubs, their delegates, inferior officers and privates, return to the regiment Jacobins; and henceforth correspond with the Jacobins of Paris, “receiving their instructions and reporting to them.”37 —Three weeks later, the Minister of War gives notice to the National Assembly that there is no limit to the license in the army. “Couriers, the bearers of fresh complaints, are arriving constantly.” In one place “a statement of the fund is demanded, and it is proposed to divide it.” Elsewhere, a garrison, with drums beating, leaves the town, deposes its officers, and comes back sword in hand. Each regiment is governed by a committee of soldiers. “It is in this committee that the detention of the lieutenant-colonel of Poitou has been twice arranged; here it is that ‘Royal-Champagne’ conceived the insurrection” by which it refused to recognise a sublieutenant sent to it. “Every day the minister’s cabinet is filled with soldiers who are deputed to him, and who proudly come and intimate to him the will of their constituents.” Finally, at Strasbourg, seven regiments, each represented by three delegates, formed a military congress. The same month, the terrible insurrection of Nancy breaks out—three regiments in revolt, the populace with them, the arsenal pillaged, three hours of furious fighting in the streets, the insurgents firing from the windows of the houses and from the cellar openings, five hundred dead among the victors, and three thousand among the vanquished.—The following month, and for six weeks,38 there is another insurrection, less bloody, but more extensive, better arranged, and more obstinate, that of the whole squadron at Brest, a mutiny of twenty thousand men, at first against their admiral and their officers, then against the new penal code and against the National Assembly itself. The latter, after remonstrating in vain, is obliged not only not to take rigorous measures, but again to revise its laws.39
From this time forth, I cannot enumerate the constant outbreaks in the fleet and in the army.—Authorised by the minister, the soldier goes to the club, where he is repeatedly told that his officers, being aristocrats, are traitors. At Dunkirk, he is additionally taught how to get rid of them. Clamours, denunciations, insults, musket-shots—these are the natural means, and they are put in practice: but there is another, recently discovered, by which an energetic officer of whom they are afraid may be driven away. Some patriotic bully is found who comes and insults him. If the officer fights and is not killed, the municipal authorities have him arraigned, and his chiefs send him off along with his seconds “in order not to disturb the harmony between the soldier and the citizen.” If he declines the proposed duel, the contempt of his men obliges him to quit the regiment. In either case he is got out of the way.40 —They have no scruples in relation to him. Present or absent, a noble officer must certainly be plotting with his emigrant companions; and on this a story is concocted. Formerly, to prove that sacks of flour were being thrown into the river, the soldiers alleged that these sacks were tied with blue cords (cordons bleus). Now, to confirm the belief that an officer is conspiring with Coblentz, it suffices to state that he rides a white horse; a certain captain, at Strasbourg, barely escapes being cut to pieces for this crime; “the devil could not get it out of their heads that he was acting as a spy, and that the little grey-hound” which accompanies him on his rides “is used to make signals.”—One year after, at the time when the National Assembly completes its work, M. de Lameth, M. Fréteau, and M. Alquier state before it that Luckner, Rochambeau, and the most popular generals, “no longer are responsible for anything.” The Auvergne regiment has driven away its officers and forms a separate society, which obeys no one. The second battalion of Beaune is on the point of setting fire to Arras. It is almost necessary to lay siege to Phalsbourg, whose garrison has mutinied. Here, “disobedience to the general’s orders is formal.” There “are soldiers who have to be urged to stand sentinel; whom they dare not put in confinement for discipline; who threaten to fire on their officers; who stray off the road, pillage everything, and take aim at the corporal who tries to bring them back.” At Blois, a part of the regiment “has just arrived without either clothes or arms, the soldiers having sold all on the road to provide for their debauchery.” One among them, delegated by his companions, proposes to the Jacobins at Paris to “de-aristocratise” the army by cashiering all the nobles. Another declares, with the applause of the club, that “seeing how the palisades of Givet are constructed, he is going to denounce the Minister of War at the tribunal of the sixth arrondissement of Paris.”
It is manifest that, for noble officers, the situation is no longer tenable. After waiting patiently for twenty-three months, many of them left through conscientiousness, when the National Assembly, forcing a third oath upon them, struck out of the formula the name of the King, their born general.41 —Others depart at the end of the Constituent Assembly, “because they are afraid of being hung.” A large number resign at the end of 1791 and during the first months of 1792, in proportion as the new code and the new recruiting system for the army develop their results.42 In fact, on the one hand, through the soldiers and inferior officers having a voice in the election of their chiefs and a seat in the military courts, “there is no longer the shadow of discipline; verdicts are given from pure caprice; the soldier contracts the habit of despising his superiors, of whose punishments he has no fear, and from whom he expects no reward; the officers are paralyzed to such a degree as to become entirely superfluous personages.” On the other hand, the majority of the National Volunteers are composed of “men bought by the communes” and administrative bodies, worthless characters of the street-corners, rustic vagabonds forced to march by lot or bribery,”43 and along with them, enthusiasts and fanatics to such an extent that, from March, 1792, from the spot of their enlistment to the frontier, their track is everywhere marked by pillage, robbery, devastation, and assassinations. Naturally, on the road and at the frontier, they denounce, drive away, imprison, or murder their officers, and especially the nobles.—And yet, in this extremity, numbers of noble officers, especially in the artillery and engineer corps, persist in remaining at their posts, some through liberal ideas, and others out of respect for their instructions; even after the 10th of August, even after the 2nd of September, even after the 21st of January, like their generals Biron, Custine, de Flers, de Broglie, and de Montesquiou, with the constant perspective of the guillotine that awaits them on leaving the battle-field and even in the ministerial offices of Carnot.
It is, accordingly, necessary that the officers and nobles should go away, should go abroad; and not only they, but their families. “Gentlemen who have scarcely six hundred livres income set out on foot,”44 and there is no doubt as to the motive of their departure. “Whoever will impartially consider the sole and veritable causes of the emigration,” says an honest man, “will find them in anarchy. If the liberty of the individual had not been daily threatened, if,” in the civil as in the military order of things, “the senseless dogma, preached by the factions, had not been put in practice, that crimes committed by the mob are the judgments of heaven, France would have preserved three-fourths of her fugitives. Exposed for two years to ignominious dangers, to every species of outrage, to innumerable persecutions, to the steel of the assassin, to the firebrands of incendiaries, to the most infamous informations,” to the denunciations of “their corrupted domestics, to domiciliary visits” prompted by the commonest street rumour, “to arbitrary imprisonments by the Committee of Inquiry,” deprived of their civil rights, driven out of primary meetings, “they are held accountable for their murmurs, and punished for a sensibility which would touch the heart in a suffering criminal.”—“Resistance is nowhere seen; from the prince’s throne to the parsonage of the priest, the tempest has prostrated all malcontents in resignation.” Abandoned “to the restless fury of the clubs, to informers, to intimidated officials, they find executioners on all sides where prudence and the safety of the State have enjoined them not even to see enemies. . . . Whoever has detested the enormities of fanaticism and of public ferocity, whoever has awarded pity to the victims heaped together under the ruins of so many legitimate rights and odious abuses, whoever, finally, has dared to raise a doubt or a complaint, has been proclaimed an enemy of the nation. After this representation of malcontents as so many conspirators, every crime committed against them has been legitimated in public opinion. The public conscience, formed by the factions and by that band of political corsairs who would be the disgrace of a barbarous nation, have considered attacks against property and towns simply as national justice, while, more than once, the news of the murder of an innocent person, or of a sentence which threatened him with death, has been welcomed with shouts of joy. Two systems of natural right, two orders of justice, two standards of morality were accordingly established; by one of these it was allowable to do against one’s fellow-creature, a reputed aristocrat, that which would be criminal if he were a patriot. . . . Was it foreseen that, at the end of two years, France, teeming with laws, with magistrates, with courts, with citizen-guards, bound by solemn oaths in the defence of order and the public safety, would still and continually be an arena in which wild beasts would devour unarmed men?”—With all, even with old men, widows, and children, it is a crime to escape from their clutches. Without distinguishing between those who fly to avoid becoming a prey, and those who arm to attack the frontier, the Constituent and Legislative Assemblies alike condemn all absentees. The Constituent Assembly45 trebled their real and personal taxes, and prescribed that there should be a triple lien on their rents and dues. The Legislative Assembly sequestrates, confiscates, and puts into the market their possessions, real and personal, amounting to nearly fifteen hundred millions of cash value. Let them return and place themselves under the knives of the populace; otherwise they and their posterity shall all be beggars.—At this stroke indignation overflows, and a bourgeois who is liberal and a foreigner, Mallet-Dupan, exclaims,46 “What! twenty thousand families absolutely ignorant of the Coblentz plans and of its assemblies, twenty thousand families dispersed over the soil of Europe by the fury of clubs, by the crimes of brigands, by constant lack of security, by the stupid and cowardly inertia of petrified authorities, by the pillage of estates, by the insolence of a cohort of tyrants without bread or clothes, by assassinations and incendiarism, by the base servility of silent ministers, by the whole series of revolutionary scourges—what! these twenty thousand desolate families, women and old men, must see their inheritances become the prey of national spoliation! What! Madame Guillin, who was obliged to fly with horror from the land where monsters have burnt her dwelling, slaughtered and eaten her husband, and who live with impunity by the side of her home—shall Madame Guillin see her fortune confiscated for the benefit of the communities to which she owes her dreadful misfortunes! Shall M. de Clarac, under penalty of the same punishment, go and restore the ruins of his chateau, where an army of scoundrels failed to smother him!”—So much the worse for them if they dare not come back! They are to undergo civil death, perpetual banishment, and, in case the ban be violated, they will be given up to the guillotine. In the same case with them are others who, with still greater innocence, have left the territory, magistrates, ordinary rich people, burgesses, or peasants, Catholics, and particularly one entire class, the nonjuring clergy, from the cardinal archbishop down to the simple village vicar, all prosecuted, then despoiled, then crushed by the same popular oppression and by the same legislative oppression, each of these two persecutions exciting and aggravating the other to such an extent that, at last, the populace and the law, one the accomplice of the other, no longer leave a roof, nor a piece of bread, nor an hour’s safety to a gentleman or to a priest.
The ruling passion flings itself on all obstacles, even those placed by itself across its own track. Through a vast usurpation the incredulous minority, indifferent or lukewarm, has striven to impose its ecclesiastical forms on the Catholic majority, and the situation thereby created for the Catholic priest is such that unless he becomes schismatic, he cannot fail to appear as an enemy. In vain has he obeyed! He has allowed his property to be taken, he has left his parsonage, he has given the keys of the church to his successor, he has kept aloof, he does not transgress, either by omission or commission, any article of any decree. In vain does he avail himself of his legal right to abstain from taking an oath repugnant to his conscience. This alone makes him appear to refuse the civic oath in which the ecclesiastical oath is included, to reject the constitution which he accepts in full minus a parasite chapter, to conspire against the new social and political order of things which he often approves of, and to which he almost always submits.47 In vain does he confine himself to his special and recognised domain, the spiritual direction of things. Through this alone he resists the new legislators who pretend to furnish a spiritual guidance, for, by virtue of being orthodox, he must believe that the priest whom they elect is excommunicated, that his sacraments are vain; and, in his office as pastor, he must prevent his sheep from going to drink at an impure source. In vain might he preach to them moderation and respect. Through the mere fact that the schism is effected, its consequences unfold themselves, and the peasants will not always remain as patient as their pastor. They have known him for twenty years; he has baptized them and married them; they believe that his is the only true mass; they are not satisfied to be obliged to attend another two or three leagues away, and to leave the church, their church which their ancestors built, and where from father to son they have prayed for centuries, in the hands of a stranger, an intruder and heretic, who officiates before almost empty benches, and whom gendarmes, with guns in their hands, have installed. Assuredly, as he passes through the street, they will look upon him askance: it is not surprising that the women and children soon hoot at him, that stones are thrown at night through his windows, that in the strongly Catholic departments, Upper and Lower Rhine, Doubs and Jura, Lozère, Deux Sêvres and Vendée, Finistère, Morbihan, and Côtes-du-Nord, he is greeted with universal desertion, and then expelled through public ill-will. It is not surprising that his mass is interrupted and that his person is threatened;48 that disaffection, which thus far had only reached the upper class, descends to the popular strata; that, from one end of France to the other, a sullen hostility prevails against the new institutions; for now the political and social constitution is joined to the ecclesiastical constitution like an edifice to its spire, and, through this sharp pinnacle, seeks the storm even within the darkening clouds of heaven. The evil all springs out of this unskilful, gratuitous, compulsory fusion, and, consequently, from those who effected it.
But never will a victorious party admit that it has made a mistake. In its eyes the nonjuring priests are alone culpable; it is irritated against their factious conscience; and, to crush the rebellion even in the inaccessible sanctuary of personal conviction, there is no legal or brutal act of violence which it will not allow itself to commit.
Behold, accordingly, a new sport thrown open; and the game is immensely plentiful. For it comprises not only the black or grey robes, more than forty thousand priests, over thirty thousand nuns, and several thousand monks, but also the orthodox that are anywise fervent, that is to say the women of the low or middle class, and, without counting provincial nobles, a majority of the serious, steady bourgeoisie, a majority of the peasantry—almost the whole population of several provinces, east, west, and in the south. A name is bestowed on them, as lately on the nobles; it is that of fanatic, which is equivalent to aristocrat, for it also designates public enemies likewise placed by it beyond the pale of the law.—Little does it matter whether the law favours them, for it is interpreted against them, arbitrarily construed and openly violated by the partial or intimidated administrative bodies which the Constitution has withdrawn from the control of the central authority and subjected to the authority of popular gatherings. From the first months of 1791, the battue begins; the municipalities, districts, and departments themselves often take the lead in beating up the game. Six months later, the Legislative Assembly, by its decree of November 29,49 sounds the tally-ho, and, in spite of the King’s veto, the hounds on all sides dash forward. During the month of April, 1792, forty-two departments pass against nonjuring priests “acts which are neither prescribed nor authorised by the Constitution,” and, before the end of the Legislative Assembly, forty-three others will have followed in their train.—Through this series of illegal acts, without offence, without trial, nonjurors are everywhere in France expelled from their parishes, relegated to the principal town of the department or district, in some places imprisoned, put on the same footing with the emigrants, and despoiled of their property, real and personal.50 Nothing more is wanting against them but the general decree of deportation which is to come as soon as the Assembly can get rid of the King.
In the meantime, the National Guards, who have extorted the laws, endeavour to aggravate them in their application; and there is nothing strange in their animosity. Commerce is at a stand-still, industry languishes, the artisan and shopkeeper suffer, and, in order to account for the universal discontent, it is attributed to the insubordination of the priest. Were it not for his stubbornness all would go well, since the Constitution is perfect, and he is the only one who does not accept it. But, in not accepting it, he attacks it. He, therefore, is the last obstacle in the way of public happiness; he is the scapegoat, let us drive the obnoxious creature away! And the urban militia, sometimes on its own authority, sometimes instigated by the municipal body its accomplice, is seen disturbing public worship, dispersing congregations, seizing priests by the collar, pushing them by the shoulders out of the town, and threatening them with hanging if they dare to return. At Douay,51 with guns in hand, they force the directory of the department to order the closing of all the oratories and chapels in hospitals and convents. At Caen, with loaded guns and with a cannon, they march forth against the neighbouring parish of Verson, break into houses, gather up fifteen persons suspected of orthodoxy—canons, merchants, artisans, workmen, women, girls, old men, and the infirm—cut off their hair, strike them with the but-ends of their muskets, and lead them back to Caen fastened to the breach of the cannon; and all this because a nonjuring priest still officiated at Verson, and many pious persons from Caen attended his mass: Verson, consequently, is a focal centre of counterrevolutionary gatherings. Moreover, in the houses which were broken into, the furniture was smashed, casks stove in, and the linen, money, and plate stolen, the rabble of Caen having joined the expedition.—Here, and everywhere, there is nothing to do but to let this rabble have its own way; and as it operates against the possessions, the liberty, the life, and the sense of propriety of dangerous persons, the National Militia is careful not to interfere with it. Consequently, the orthodox, both priests and believers, men and women, are now at its mercy, and, thanks to the connivance of the armed force, which refuses to interpose, the rabble satiates on the proscribed class its customary instincts of cruelty, pillage, wantonness, and destructiveness.
Whether public or private, the order of the day is always to hinder worship, while the means employed are worthy of those who carry them out.—Here, a nonjuring priest having had the boldness to minister to a sick person, the house which he has just entered is taken by assault, and the door and windows of a house occupied by another priest are shivered to pieces.52 There, the lodgings of two workmen, who are accused of having had their infants baptized by a refractory priest, are sacked and nearly demolished. Elsewhere, a mob refuses to allow the body of an old curé, who had died without taking the oath, to enter the cemetery. Farther on, a church is assaulted during vespers, and everything is broken to pieces: on the following day it is the turn of a neighbouring church, and, in addition, a convent of Ursuline nuns is devastated.—At Lyons, on Easter-day, 1791, as the people are leaving the six o’clock mass, a troop, armed with whips, falls upon the women.53 Stripped, bruised, prostrated, with their heads in the dirt, they are not left until they are bleeding and half-dead; one young girl is actually at the point of death; and this sort of outrage occurs so frequently that even ladies attending the orthodox mass in Paris dare not go out without sewing up their garments around them in the shape of drawers.—Naturally, to make the most of the prey offered to them, hunting associations are formed. These exist in Montpellier, Arles, Uzès, Alais, Nismes, Carpentras, and in most of the towns or burgs of Gard, Vaucluse, and l’Hérault, in greater or less number according to the population of the city: some counting from ten to twelve, and others from two to three hundred determined men, of every description: among them are found “strike-hards” (tape-dur), former brigands, and escaped convicts with the brand still on their backs. Some of them oblige their members to wear a medal as a visible mark of recognition; all assume the title of executive power, and declare that they act of their own authority, and that it is necessary to “quicken the law.”54 Their pretext is the protection of sworn priests; and for twenty months, beginning with April, 1791, they operate to this effect “with heavy knotted clubs garnished with iron points,” without counting sabres and bayonets. Generally, their expeditions are nocturnal. Suddenly, the houses of “citizens suspected of a want of patriotism,” of nonjuring ecclesiastics, of the monks of the Christian school, are invaded; everything is broken or stolen, and the owner is ordered to leave the place in twenty-four hours: sometimes, doubtless through an excess of precaution, he is beaten to death on the spot. Besides this, the band also works by day in the streets, lashes the women, enters the churches sabre in hand, and drives the nonjuring priest from the altar. All of this is done with the connivance and in the sight of the paralyzed or complaisant authorities, by a sort of occult and complementary government, which not only supplies what is missing in the ecclesiastical law, but also searches the pockets of private individuals.—At Nismes, under the leadership of a patriotic dancing-master, not content with “decreeing proscriptions, killing, scourging, and often murdering,” these new champions of the Gallician Church undertake to reanimate the zeal of those liable to contribution. A subscription having been proposed for the support of the families of the volunteers about to depart, the executive power takes upon itself to revise the list of offerings: it arbitrarily taxes those who have not given, or who, in its opinion, have given too little—some “poor workmen fifty livres, others two hundred, three hundred, nine hundred, and a thousand, under penalty of wrecked houses and severe treatment.” Elsewhere, the volunteers of Baux and other communes near Tarascon help themselves freely, and, “under the pretext that they are to march for the defence of the country, levy enormous contributions on proprietors,” on one four thousand, and on another five thousand livres. In default of payment, they carry away all the grain on one farm, even to the reserve seed, threatening to make havoc with everything, and even to burn, in case of complaint, so that the owners dare not say a word, while the attorney-general of the neighbouring department, afraid on his own account, begs that his denunciation may be kept secret.—From the slums of the towns the jacquerie has spread into the rural districts. This is the sixth and the most extensive seen for three years.55
Two spurs impel the peasant on.—On the one hand he is frightened by the clash of arms, and the repeated announcements of an approaching invasion. The clubs and the newspapers since the declaration of Pilnitz, and the orators in the Legislative Assembly for four months past, have kept him alarmed with their trumpet-blasts, and he urges on his oxen in the furrow with cries of “Woa, Prussia!” to one, and to the other, “Gee up, Austria!” Austria and Prussia, foreign kings and nobles in league with the emigrant nobles, are going to return in force to reestablish the salt-tax, the excise, feudal dues, tithes, and to retake national property already sold and resold, with the aid of the gentry who have not left, or who have returned, and the connivance of nonjuring priests who declare the sale sacrilegious and refuse to absolve the purchasers.—On the other hand, Holy Week is drawing near, and for the past year qualms of conscience have disturbed the purchasers. Up to March 24, 1791, the sales of national property had amounted to only 180 millions; but, the Assembly having prolonged the date of payment and facilitated further sales in detail, the temptation proves too strong for the peasant; stockings and buried pots are all emptied of their savings. In seven months the peasant has bought to the amount of 1,346 millions,56 and finally possesses in full and complete ownership the morsel of land which he has coveted for so many years, and sometimes an unexpected plot, a wood, a mill, or a meadow. At the present time he has to settle accounts with the church, and, if the pecuniary settlement is postponed, the Catholic settlement comes on the appointed day. According to immemorial tradition, he is obliged to take the communion at Easter,57 his wife also, and likewise his mother; and if he, exceptionally, does not think this of consequence, they do. Moreover, he requires the sacraments for his old sick father, his new-born child, and for his other child of an age to be confirmed. Now, communion, baptism, confession, all the sacraments, to be of good quality, must proceed from a safe source, just as is the case with flour and coin; there is only too much counterfeit money now in the world, and the sworn priests are daily losing credit, like the assignats. There is no other course to pursue, consequently, but to resort to the nonjuror, who is the only one able to give valid absolutions. And it so happens that he not only refuses this, but he is said to be inimical to the whole new order of things.—In this dilemma the peasant falls back upon his usual resource, the strength of his arms; he seizes the priest by the throat, as formerly his lord, and extorts an acquittance for his sins as formerly for his feudal dues. At the very least he strives to constrain the nonjurors to swear, to close their separatist churches, and bring the entire canton to the same uniform faith.—Occasionally also he avenges himself against the partisans of the nonjurors, against chateaux and houses of the opulent, against the nobles and the rich, against proprietors of every class. Occasionally, likewise, as, since the amnesty of September, 1791, the prisons have been emptied, as one-half of the courts are not yet installed,58 as there has been no police for thirty months, the common robbers, bandits, and vagrants, who swarm about without repression or surveillance, join the mob and fill their pockets.
Here, in Pas-de-Calais,59 three hundred villagers, headed by a drummer, burst open the doors of a Carthusian convent, steal everything, eatables, beverages, linen, furniture, and effects, whilst, in the neighbouring parish, another band operates in the same fashion in the houses of the mayor and of the old curé, threatening “to kill and burn all,” and promising to return on the following Sunday.—There, in Bas-Rhin, near Fort Louis, twenty houses of the aristocrats are pillaged.—Elsewhere, in Ile-et-Vilaine, bodies of rural militia, combined, go from parish to parish, and, increasing in consequence of their very violence until they form bands of two thousand men, close churches, drive away nonjuring priests, remove clappers from the bells, eat and drink what they please at the expense of the inhabitants, and often, in the houses of the mayor or tax-registrar, indulge in the pleasure of breaking everything to pieces. Should any public officer remonstrate with them they shout, “At the aristocrat!” One of these unlucky counsellors is struck on the back with the but-end of a musket, and two others have guns aimed at them; the chiefs of the expedition are in no better predicament, and, according to their own admission, if they are at the head of the mob it is that they themselves may not be pillaged or hung. The same spectacle presents itself in Mayenne, in Orne, in Moselle, and in the Landes.60
These, however, are but isolated irruptions, and very mild; in the south and in the centre, the plague is apparent in an immense leprous spot, which extending from Avignon to Perigueux, and from Aurillac to Toulouse, suddenly overspreads, scarcely with any break, ten departments—Vaucluse, Ardèche, Gard, Cantal, Corrèze, Lot, Dordogne, Gers, Haute-Garonne, and Hérault. Vast rural masses are set in motion at the same time, on all sides and owing to the same causes, the approach of war and the coming of Easter.—In Cantal, at the assembly of the canton held at Aurillac for the recruitment of the army,61 the commander of a village National Guard demands vengeance “against those who are not patriots,” and the report is spread that an order has come from Paris to destroy the chateaux. Moreover, the insurgents allege that the priests, through their refusal to take the oath, are bringing the nation into civil war: “we are tired of not having peace on their account; let them become good citizens, so that everybody may go to mass.” On the strength of this, the insurgents enter houses, put the inhabitants to ransom, not only priests and former nobles, “but also those who are suspected of being their partisans, those who do not attend the mass of the constitutional priest,” and even poor people, artisans and tillers of the ground, whom they tax five, ten, twenty, and forty francs, and whose cellars and bread-bins they empty. Eighteen chateaux are pillaged, burnt, or demolished, and among others, those of several gentlemen and ladies who have not left the country. One of these, M. d’Humières, is an old officer of eighty years; Madame de Peyronenc saves her son only by disguising him as a peasant; Madame de Beauclerc, who flies across the mountain, sees her sick child die in her arms. At Aurillac, gibbets are set up before the principal houses; M. de Niossel, a former lieutenant of a criminal court, put in prison for his safety, is dragged out, and his severed head is thrown on a dungheap; M. Collinet, just arrived from Malta, and suspected of being an aristocrat, is ripped open, cut to pieces, and his head is carried about on the end of a pike. Finally, when the municipal officers, judges, and royal commissioner commence proceedings against the assassins, they find themselves in such great danger that they are obliged to resign or to run away. In like manner, in Haute-Garonne,62 it is also “against nonjurors and their followers” that the insurrection has begun. This is promoted by the fact that in various parishes the constitutional curé belongs to the club, and demands the riddance of his adversaries. One of them at Saint-Jean-Lorne, “mounted on a cart, preaches pillage to a mob of eight hundred persons.” Each band, consequently, begins by expelling refractory priests, and by forcing their supporters to attend the mass of the sworn priest.—But such success, wholly abstract and barren, is of little advantage, and peasants in a state of revolt are not satisfied so easily. When parishes march forth by the dozen and devote their day to the service of the public, they must have some compensation in wood, wheat, wine, or money,63 and the expense of the expedition may be defrayed by the aristocrats. Not merely the upholders of nonjurors are aristocrats, as, for example, an old lady here and there, “very fanatical, and who for forty years has devoted all her income to acts of philanthropy,” “but well-to-do persons, peasants or gentlemen”; for, “by keeping their wine and grain unsold in their cellars and barns, and by not undertaking more work than they need, so as to deprive workmen in the country of their means of subsistence,” they design “to starve out” the poor folk. Thus, the greater the pillage, the greater the service to the public. According to the insurgents, it is important “to diminish revenues enjoyed by the enemies of the nation, in order that they may not send their revenues to Coblentz and other places out of the kingdom.” Consequently, bands of six or eight hundred or a thousand men overrun the districts of Toulouse and Castelsarrasin. All proprietors, aristocrats, and patriots are put under contribution. Here, in the house of “the philanthropic but fanatical old maid, they break open everything, destroy the furniture, taking away eighty-two bushels of wheat and sixteen hogsheads of wine.” Elsewhere, at Roqueferrière, feudal title-deeds are burnt, and a chateau is pillaged. Farther on, at Lasserre, thirty thousand francs are exacted and the ready money is all carried off. Almost everywhere the municipal officers, willingly or unwillingly, authorise pillaging. Moreover, “they cut down provisions to a price in assignats very much less than their current rate in silver,” and they double the price of a day’s work. In the meantime, other bands devastate the national forests, and the gendarmes, in order not to be called aristocrats, have no idea but of paying court to the pillagers.
After all this, it is manifest that property no longer exists for anybody except for paupers and robbers.—In effect, in Dordogne,64 “under the pretext of driving away nonjuring priests, frequent mobs pillage and rob whatever comes in their way. . . . All the grain that is found in houses with weathercocks is sequestrated.” Rustics turn the forests to account as communal property, the possessions of the emigrants; and this operation is radical; for example, a band, on finding a new barn of which the materials strike them as good, demolish it so as to share with each other the tiles and timber.—In Corrèze, fifteen thousand armed peasants, who have come to Tulle to disarm and drive off the supporters of the nonjurors, break everything in suspected houses, and a good deal of difficulty is found in sending them off empty-handed. As soon as they get back home, they sack the chateaux of Saint-Gal, Seilhac, Gourdon, Saint-Basile, and La Rochette, besides a number of country-houses, even of absent plebeians. They have found a quarry, and never was the removal of property more complete. They carefully carry off, says an official statement, all that can be carried—furniture, curtains, mirrors, clothes-presses, pictures, wines, provisions, even floors and wainscotings, “down to the smallest fragments of iron and wood-work,” smashing the rest, so that nothing “remains of the house but its four walls, the roof, and the staircase.” In Lot, where for two years the insurrection is permanent, the damage is much greater. During the night between the 30th and 31st of January, “all the best houses in Souillac” are broken open, “sacked and pillaged from top to bottom,”65 their masters being obliged to fly, and so many outbreaks occur in the department, that the directory has no time to render an account of them to the minister. Entire districts are in revolt; as, “in each commune all the inhabitants are accomplices, witnesses cannot be had to support a criminal prosecution, and crime remains unpunished.” In the canton of Cabrerets, the restitution of rents formerly collected is exacted, and the reimbursement of charges paid during twenty years past. The small town of Lauzerte is invaded by surrounding bodies of militia, and its disarmed inhabitants are at the mercy of the Jacobin faubourg. For three months, in the district of Figeac, “all the mansions of former nobles are sacked and burnt”; next the pigeon-cots are attacked, “and all country-houses which have a good appearance.” Barefooted gangs “enter the houses of well-to-do people, physicians, lawyers, merchants, burst open the doors of cellars, drink the wine,” and riot like drunken victors. In several communes these expeditions have become a custom; “a large number of individuals are found in them who live on rapine alone,” and the club sets them the example. For six months, in the principal town, a coterie of the National Guard, called the Black Band, expel all persons who are displeasing to them, “pillaging houses at will, beating to death, wounding or mutilating by sabre-strokes, all who have been proscribed in their assemblies,” without any officer or advocate daring to lodge a complaint. Brigandage, borrowing the mask of patriotism, and patriotism borrowing the methods of brigandage, have combined against property at the same time as against the ancient régime, and, to free themselves from all that inspires them with fear, they seize all which can provide them with booty.
And yet this is merely the outskirts of the storm; the centre is elsewhere, around Nismes, Avignon, Arles, and Marseilles, in a country where, for a long time, the conflict between cities and the conflict between religions have kindled and accumulated malignant passions.66 Looking at the three departments of Gard, Bouches-de-Rhône, and Vaucluse, one would imagine one’s self in the midst of a war with savages. In fact, it is a Jacobin and plebeian invasion, and, consequently, conquest, dispossession, and extermination—in Gard, a swarm of National Guards reproduce the jacquerie: the dregs of the Comtat come to the surface and cover Vaucluse with its scum; an army of six thousand from Marseilles sweeps down on Arles.—In the districts of Nismes, Sommières, Uzès, Alais, Jalais, and Saint-Hippolyte, title-deeds are burnt, proprietors put to ransom, and municipal officers threatened with death if they try to interpose; twenty chateaux and forty country-houses are sacked, burnt, and demolished.—The same month, Arles and Avignon,67 given up to the bands of Marseilles and of the Comtat, see confiscations and massacres approaching.—Around the commandant, who has received the order to evacuate Arles,68 “the inhabitants of all parties” gather as suppliants, “clasping his hands, entreating him with tears in their eyes not to abandon them; women and children cling to his boots,” so that he does not know how to free himself without hurting them; on his departure twelve hundred families emigrate. After the entrance of the Marseilles band we see eighteen hundred electors proscribed, their country-houses on the two banks of the Rhône pillaged, “as in the times of Saracen pirates,” a tax of 1,400,000 livres levied on all people in good circumstances, absent or present, women and girls promenaded about half-naked on donkeys and publicly whipped.” “A sabre committee” disposes of lives, proscribes, and executes: it is the reign of sailors, porters, and the dregs of the populace.—At Avignon,69 it is that of simple brigands, incendiaries, and assassins, who, six months previously, converted the Glacière into a charnel-house. They return in triumph and state that “this time the Glacière will be full.” Five hundred families had already sought asylum in France before the first massacre; now, the entire remainder of the honest bourgeoisie, twelve hundred persons, take to flight, and the terror is so great that the small neighbouring towns dare not entertain emigrants. In fact, from this time forth, both departments throughout Vaucluse and Bouches-de-Rhône are a prey. Bands of two thousand armed men, with women, children, and other volunteer followers, travel from commune to commune to live as they please at the expense of “fanatics”; and well-bred people are not the only ones they despoil. Plain cultivators, taxed at 10,000 livres, have sixty men billeted on them; their cattle are slain and eaten before their eyes, and everything in their houses is broken up; they are driven out of their lodgings and wander as fugitives in the reed-swamps of the Rhône, awaiting a moment of respite to cross the river and take refuge in the neighbouring department.70 Thus, from the spring of 1792, if any citizen is suspected of unfriendliness or even of indifference towards the ruling faction, if, through but one opinion conscientiously held, he risks the vague possibility of mistrust or of suspicion, he undergoes popular hostility, spoliation, exile, and worse besides; no matter how loyal his conduct may be, nor how loyal he may be at heart, no matter that he is disarmed and inoffensive; it is all the same whether it be a noble, bourgeois, peasant, aged priest, or old woman; and this while public peril is yet neither great, present, nor visible, since France is at peace with Europe, and the government still subsists in its entirety.
What will it be, then, now when the peril, already become palpable and serious, is daily increasing, now when war has begun, when Lafayette’s army is falling back in confusion, when the Assembly declares the country in danger, when the King is overthrown, when Lafayette is passing the frontier, when the soil of France is invaded, when the frontier fortresses surrender without resistance, when the Prussians are entering Champagne, when the insurrection in La Vendée adds the lacerations of civil war to the threats of a foreign war, and when the cry of treachery arises on all sides?—Already, on the 14th of May, at Metz,71 M. de Fiquelmont, a former canon, seen chatting with a hussar on the Place Saint-Jacques, was charged with tampering with people on behalf of the princes, carried off in spite of a triple line of guards, and beaten, pierced, and slashed with sticks, bayonets, and sabres, while the mad crowd around the murderers uttered cries of rage: and from month to month, in proportion as popular fears increase, popular imagination becomes more heated and its delirium grows. We can judge of this by one example. On the 31st of August, 1792,72 eight thousand nonjuring priests, driven out of their parishes, are at Rouen, a town less intolerant than the others, and, in conformity with the decree which banishes them, are preparing to leave France. Two vessels have just carried away about a hundred of them; one hundred and twenty others are embarking for Ostend in a larger vessel. They take nothing with them except a little money, some clothes, and one or at most two portions of their breviary, because they intend to return soon. Each has a regular passport, and, just at the moment of leaving, the National Guard have made a thorough inspection so as not to let a suspected person escape. It makes no difference. On reaching Quilleboeuf the first two convoys are stopped. A report has spread, indeed, that the priests are going to join the enemy and enlist, and the people living round about jump into their boats and surround the vessels. The priests are obliged to disembark amidst a tempest of “yells, blasphemies, insults, and abuse”: one of them, a white-headed old man, having fallen into the mud, the cries and shouts redouble; if he is drowned so much the better, there will be one less! On landing all are put in prison, on bare stones, without straw or bread, and word is sent to Paris to know what must be done with so many cassocks. In the meantime the third vessel, short of provisions, has sent two priests to Quilleboeuf and to Pont-Audemer to have twelve hundred pounds of bread baked: pointed out by the village militia, they are chased out like wild beasts, pass the night in a wood, and find their way back with difficulty empty-handed. The vessel itself being signaled, is besieged. “In all the municipalities on the banks of the river drums beat incessantly to warn the population to be on their guard. The appearance of an Algerian or Tripolitan corsair on the shores of the Adriatic would cause less excitement. One of the seamen of the vessel published a statement that the trunks of the priests transported were full of every kind of arms,” and the country people constantly imagine that they are going to fall upon them sword and pistol in hand. For several long days the famished convoy remains moored in the stream, and carefully watched. Boats filled with volunteers and peasants row around it uttering insults and threats: in the neighbouring meadows the National Guards form themselves in line of battle. Finally, a decision is arrived at. The bravest, well armed, get into skiffs, approach the vessel cautiously, choose the most favourable time and spot, rush on board, and take possession; and are perfectly astonished to find neither enemies nor arms.—Nevertheless, the priests are confined on board, and their deputies must make their appearance before the mayor. The latter, a former usher and good Jacobin, being the most frightened, is the most violent. He refuses to visé the passports, and, seeing two priests approach, one provided with a sword-cane and the other with an iron-pointed stick, thinks that there is to be a sudden attack. “Here are two more of them,” he exclaims with terror; “they are all going to land. My friends, the town is in danger!”—On hearing this the crowd becomes alarmed, and threatens the deputies; the cry of “To the lantern!” is heard, and, to save them, National Guards are obliged to conduct them to prison in the centre of a circle of bayonets.—It must be noted that these madmen are “at bottom the kindest people in the world.” After the boarding of the ship, one of the most ferocious, by profession a barber, seeing the long beards of these poor priests, instantly cools down, draws forth his tools, and good-naturedly sets to work, spending several hours in shaving them. In ordinary times ecclesiastics received nothing but salutations; three years previously they were “respected as fathers and guides.” But at the present moment the rustic, the man of the lower class, is out of his bearings. Forcibly and against nature, he has been made a theologian, a politician, a police captain, a local independent sovereign; and in such a position his head is turned. Among these people who seem to have lost their senses, only one, an officer of the National Guard, remains cool; he is, besides, very polite, well-behaved, and an agreeable talker; he comes in the evening to comfort the prisoners and to take tea with them in prison; in fact, he is accustomed to tragedies and, thanks to his profession, his nerves are in repose—this person is the executioner. The others, “whom one would take for tigers,” are bewildered sheep; but they are not the less dangerous; for, carried away by their delirium, they bear down with their mass on whatever gives them umbrage.—On the road from Paris to Lyons73 Roland’s commissioners witness this terrible fright. “The people are constantly asking what our generals and armies are doing; they have vengeful expressions frequently on their lips. Yes, they say, we will set out, but we must (first) purge the interior.”
Something appalling is in preparation. The seventh jacquerie is drawing near, this one universal and final—at first brutal, and then legal and systematic, undertaken and carried out on the strength of abstract principles by leaders worthy of the means they employ. Nothing like it ever occurred in history; for the first time we see brutes gone mad, operating on a grand scale and for a long time, under the leadership of blockheads who have become insane.
There is a certain strange malady commonly encountered in the quarters of the poor. A workman, overtaxed with work, in misery and badly fed, takes to drink; he drinks more and more every day, and liquors of the strongest kind. After a few years his nervous system, already weakened by spare diet, becomes overexcited and out of balance. An hour comes when the brain, under a sudden stroke, ceases to direct the machine; in vain does it command, for it is no longer obeyed; each limb, each joint, each muscle, acting separately and for itself, starts convulsively through discordant impulses. Meanwhile the man is gay; he thinks himself a millionaire, a king, loved and admired by everybody; he is not aware of the mischief he is doing to himself, he does not comprehend the advice given him, he refuses the remedies offered to him, he sings and shouts for entire days, and, above all, drinks more than ever.—At last his face grows dark and his eyes become blood-shot. Radiant visions give way to black and monstrous phantoms; he sees nothing around him but menacing figures, traitors in ambush, ready to fall upon him unawares, murderers with upraised arms ready to cut his throat, executioners preparing torments for him; and he seems to be wading in a pool of blood. Then, he makes a spring, and, in order that he himself may not be killed, he kills. No one is more to be dreaded, for his delirium sustains him; his strength is prodigious, his movements unforeseen, and he endures, without heeding them, suffering and wounds under which a healthy man would succumb.—So France, exhausted by fasting under the monarchy, made drunk by the bad drug of the Social-Contract, and countless other adulterated or fiery beverages, is suddenly struck with paralysis of the brain; at once she is convulsed in every limb through the incoherent play and contradictory twitchings of her discordant organs. At this time she has traversed the period of joyous madness, and is about to enter upon the period of sombre delirium: behold her capable of daring, suffering, and doing all, capable of incredible exploits and abominable barbarities, the moment her guides, as erratic as herself, indicate an enemy or an obstacle to her fury.
[1. ]See the address of the commune of Paris, June 5, 1790. “Let the most touching of all utterances be heard on this day (the anniversary of the taking of the Bastille), Frenchmen, we are brothers! Yes, brothers, freemen and with a country!” Roux et Buchez, vi. 275.
[2. ]Roux and Buchez, iv. 3, 309; v. 123; vi. 274, 399.—Duvergier, Collection of Laws and Decrees. Decree of June 8 and 9, 1790.
[3. ]Michelet, “Histoire de la Révolution Française,” ii. 470, 474.
[4. ]De Ferrières, ii. 91.—Albert Babeau, i. 340. (Letter addressed to the Chevalier de Poterat, July 18, 1790.)—De Dammartin, “Evénements qui se sont passés sous mes yeux,” &c., i. 155.
[5. ]Sauzay, i. 202.
[6. ]Albert Babeau, ibid. i 330.—De Ferrières, ii. 92.
[7. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Correspondence of M. de Bercheney, May 23, 1790.
[8. ]“Archives Nationales,” ibid. May 13, 1790. “M. de la Rifaudière was dragged from his carriage and brought to the guard-house, which was immediately filled with people, shouting, ‘To the lantern, the aristocrat!’—The fact is this: after his having repeatedly shouted Vive le Roi et la Nation! they wanted him to shout Vive la Nation! alone, upon which he gave Vive la Nation tant qu’ell pourra.”—At Blois, on the day of the Federation, a mob promenade the streets with a wooden head covered with a wig, and a placard stating that the aristocrats must be decapitated.
[9. ]Mercure de France, the articles by Mallet-Dupan (June 18th and August 16, 1791; April 14, 1792).
[10. ]Moniteur, iv. 560 (sitting of June 5, 1790), report of M. Freteau. “These facts are attested by fifty witnesses.”—Cf. the number of April 19, 1791.
[11. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. Correspondence of M. de Thiard, military commandant in Brittany (September, 1789). “There are in every petty village three conflicting powers, the présidial, the bourgeois militia, and the permanent committee. Each is anxious to take precedence of the other, and, on this occasion, a scene happened to come under my eyes at Landivisiau which might have had a bloody termination, but which turned out to be simply ridiculous. A lively dispute arose between three haranguers to determine which should make the first address. They appealed to me to decide. Not to offend either of the parties, I decided that all three should speak at the same time; which decision was immediately carried out.”
[12. ]Decree of August 10–14, 1789.
[13. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. Correspondence of M. de Thiard, September 11, 1789. “The troops now obey the municipalities only.” Also July 30th, August 11, 1790.
[14. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. Correspondence of M. de Thiard, September 11 and 25, November 20, December 25 and 30, 1789.
[15. ]Roux and Buchez, v. 304 (April, 1790).—“Archives Nationales.” Papers of the Committee of Investigation, DXXIX. I (note of M. Latour-du-Pin, October 28, 1789).—Roux and Buchez, iv. 3 (December 1, 1789); iv. 390 (February, 1790); vi. 179 (April and May, 1790).
[16. ]Mercure de France, Report of M. Emery, sitting of July 21, 1790, Number for July 31.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,200. Letter of the directory of Calvados, September 26 and October 20, 1791.
[17. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,207. Letter of the minister Dumouriez, June 15, 1792. Report of M. Caillard, May 29, 1792.
[18. ]Mercure de France, No. for July, 1791 (sitting of the 6th); Nos. for November 5 and 26, 1791.
[19. ]Albert Babeau, “Histoire de Troyes,” vol. i passim.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,257. Address of the Directory of Saône-et-Loire to the National Assembly, November 1, 1790.—F7, 3,200. Letter of the Directory of Calvados, November 9, 1791.—F7, 3,105. Procès-verbal of the municipality of Aix, March 1, 1792 (on the events of February 26th); letter of M. Villard, President of the Directory, March 10, 1792.—F7, 3,220. Extracts from the deliberations of the Directory of Gers, and a letter to the King, January 28, 1792. Letter of M. Lafitau, President of the Directory, January 30. (He was dragged along by his hair and obliged to leave the town.)
[20. ]Mercure de France, No. for October 30, 1790.
[21. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3226. Letter of the Directory of Indre to M. Cahier, minister, December 6, 1791.—Letter of M. Delessart, minister, to the Directory of Indre, December 31, 1791.
[22. ]Fabre, “Histoire de Marseille,” ii. 442. Martin had but 3,555 votes, when shortly after the National Guard numbered 24,000 men.
[23. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Letter of the minister, M. de Saint-Priest, to the President of the National Assembly, May 11, 1790.
[24. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Letters of the military commandant, M. de Miran, March 6, 14, 30, 1790.
[25. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Letter of M. de Bournissac, grand-prévôt, March 6, 1790.
[26. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Letters of M. du Miran, April 11th and 16th, and May 1, 1790.
[27. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Procès-verbal of events on the 30th of April.
[28. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Letters of the Municipality of Marseilles to the National Assembly, May 5 and 20, 1790.
[29. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Order of the king, May 10. Letter of M. de Saint-Priest to the National Assembly, May 11. Decree of the National Assembly, May 12. Letter of the Municipality to the King, May 20. Letter of M. de Rubum, May 20. Note sent from Marseilles, May 31. Address of the Municipality to the President of the Friends of the Constitution, at Paris, May 5. In his narration of the taking of the forts we read the following sentence: “We arrived without hindrance in the presence of the commandant, whom we brought to an agreement by means of the influence which force, fear, and reason give to persuasion.”
[30. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Letter of M. de Miran, May 5. The spirit of the ruling party at Marseilles is indicated by several printed documents joined to the dossier, and, among others, by a “Requête à Desmoulins, procureur-général de la Lanterne.” It relates to a “patriotic inkstand,” recently made out of the stones of the demolished citadel, representing a hydra with four heads, symbolizing the nobility, the clergy, the ministry, and the judges. “It is from the four patriotic skulls of the hydra that the ink of proscription will be taken for the enemies of the Constitution. This inkstand, cut out of the first stone that fell in the demolition of Fort Saint-Nicolas, is dedicated to the patriotic Assembly of Marseilles. The magic art of the hero of the liberty of Marseilles, that Renaud who, under the mask of devotion, surprised the watchful sentinel of Notre-Dame de la Garde, and whose manly courage and cunning ensured the conquest of that key of the great focus of counterrevolution, has just given birth to a new trait of genius: a new Deucalion, he personifies this stone which Liberty has flung from the summit of our menacing Bastilles, &c.”
[31. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,198. Letters of the royal commissioners, April 13 and 15, 1791.
[32. ]De Ségur, “Mémoires,” iii. 482 (early in 1790).
[33. ]De Dammartin, i. 184 (January, 1791).
[34. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. Correspondence of M. de Thiard (October 12, 1789).
[35. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,250. Procès-verbal of the directory of the department, March 18, 1792. “As the ferment was at the highest point and fears were entertained that greater evils would follow, M. le Président, with painful emotion declared that he yielded and passed the unconstitutional act.” Reply of the minister, June 23: “If the constituted authorities are thus forced to yield to the arbitrary will of a wild multitude, government no longer exists and we are in the saddest stage of anarchy. If you think it best I will propose to the King to reverse your last decision.”
[36. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,250. Letter of M. Duport, minister of justice, December 24, 1791.
[37. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,248, Procès-verbal of the members of the department, finished March 18, 1791.—Roux and Buchez, ix. 240 (Report of M. Alquier).
[38. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268. Extract from the deliberations of the directory of Seine-et-Oise, with the documents relating to the insurrection at Étampes, September 16, 1791. Letter of M. Venard, administrator of the district, September 20—“I shall not set foot in Étampes until the reestablishment of order and tranquillity, and the first thing I shall do will be to record my resignation in the register. I am tired of making sacrifices for ungrateful wretches.”
[39. ]Moniteur, March 16, 1792. Mortimer-Ternaux, “Histoire de la Terreur” (Proceedings against the assassins of Simoneau), i. 381.
[40. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,226. Letter and memorial of Chenantin, cultivator, November 7, 1792. Extract from the deliberations of the directory of Langeais, November 5, 1792 (sedition at Chapelle-Blanche, near Langeais, October 5, 1792).
[41. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,195. Report of the Commissioners sent by the National Assembly and the King, February 23, 1791. (On the events of December 12 and 14, 1790.)—Mercure de France, February 29, 1791. (Letters from Aix, and notably a letter from seven officers shut up in the prison at Aix, January 30, 1791.) The oldest Jacobin club, formed in February, 1790, was entitled “Club des vrais amis de la Constitution.” The second Jacobin club, formed in October, 1790, was “composed from the beginning of artisans and labourers from the faubourgs and suburbs.” Its title was “Société des frères anti-politiques,” or “frères vrais, justes et utiles à la patrie.” The opposition club, formed in December, 1790, bore the title, according to some, of “Les Amis du Roi, de la paix et de la religion”; according to others, “Les amis de la paix”; and finally, according to another report, “Les Défenseurs de la religion, des personnes et des propriétés.”
[42. ]A special series of religious services.
[43. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,195. Letters of the commissioners, March 20, February 11, May 10, 1791.
[1. ]The expression is that of Jean Bon Saint-André to Mathieu Dumas, sent to reestablish tranquillity in Montauban (1790): “The day of vengeance, which we have been awaiting for a hundred years, has come!”
[2. ]De Dammartin, i. 187 (an eye-witness).
[3. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,223 and 3,216. Letters of M. de Bouzols, major-general, residing at Montpellier, May 21, 25, 28, 1790.
[4. ]Mary Lafon, “Histoire d’une Ville Protestante” (with original documents derived from the archives of Montauban).
[5. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 2,216. Procès-verbal of the Municipality of Nismes and report of the Abbé de Belmont.—Report of the Administrative Commissioners, June 28, 1790.—Petition of the Catholics, April 20.—Letters of the Municipality, the Commissioners, and M. de Nausel, on the events of May 2 and 3.—Letter of M. Rabaut-Saint-Etienne, May 12.—Petition of the widow Gas, July 30.—Report (printed) of M. Alquier, February 19, 1791.—Memoir (printed) of the massacre of the Catholics at Nismes, by Froment (1790).—New address of the Municipality of Nismes, presented by M. de Marguerite, mayor and deputy (1790), printed.—Mercure de France, February 23, 1791.
[6. ]The petition is signed by 3,127 persons, besides 1,560 who put a cross declaring that they could not write. The counterpetition of the club is signed by 162 persons.
[7. ]This last item, stated in M. Alquier’s report, is denied by the municipality. According to it, the red rosettes gathered around the bishop’s quarters had no guns.
[8. ]An insurrection in the sixteenth century, when the Protestants fired on the Catholics on St. Michael’s Day.—[Tr.]
[9. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,216. Letter of M. de Lespin, Major at Nismes, to the Commandant of Provence, M. de Perigord, July 27, 1790: “The plots and conspiracies which were attributed to the vanquished party, and which, it was believed, would be discovered in the depositions of the four hundred men in prison, vanish as the proceedings advance. The veritable culprits are to be found among the informers.”
[10. ]Roux and Buchez, iii. 240 (Memorial of the Ministers, October 28, 1789).—“Archives Nationales,” D. xxix. 3.—Deliberation of the Municipal Council of Vernon (November 4, 1789).
[11. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. Correspondence of M. de Thiard, November 4, 1789.—See similar occurrences, September 4, October 23, November 4 and 19, 1789, January 27 and March 27, 1790.
[12. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,257. Letter from Gex, May 29, 1790.—Roux and Buchez, vii. 198, 369 (September, October, 1790).
[13. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Correspondence of M. de Bercheny, Commandant of the four central provinces. Letters of May 25, June 11, 19, and 27, 1790.—“Archives Nationales,” D. xxix. 4. Deliberations of the district administrators of Bourbon-Lancy, May 26.
[14. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Procès-verbal of a dozen parishes in Nivernais, June 4. “White bread is to be 2 sous, and brown bread 1 sous. Husbandmen are to have 30 sous, reapers 10 sous, wheelwrights 10 sous, bailiffs 6 sous per league. Butter is to be at 8 sous, meat at 5 sous, pork at 8 sous, oil at 8 sous the pint, a square foot of masonry-work 40 sous, a pair of large sabots 3 sous. All rights of pasturage and of forests are to be surrendered. The roads are to be free everywhere, as formerly. All seignorial rents are to be suppressed. Millers are to take only one thirty-second of a bushel. The seignieurs of our department are to give up all servile holidays and ill-acquired property. The curé of Bièze is simply to say mass at nine o’clock in the morning and vespers at two o’clock in the afternoon, in summer and winter; he must marry and bury gratis, it being reserved to us to pay him a salary. He is to be paid 6 sous for masses, and not to leave his cure except to repeat his breviary and make proper calls on the men and women of his parish. Hats must be had from 3 livres to 30 sous. Nails 3 livres the gross. Curés are to have none but circumspect females of fifty for domestics. Curés are not to go to either fairs or markets. All curés are to be on the same footing as the one at Bièze. There must be no more wholesale dealers in wheat. Law officers who make unjust seizures must return the money. Farm leases must expire on St. Martin’s Day. M. le Comte, although not there, M. de Tontenelle, and M. de Commandant must sign this document without difficulty. M. de Mingot is formally to resign his place in writing: he went away with his servant-woman—he even missed his mass on the first Friday of the Fête-Dieu, and it is supposed that he slept in the woods. Joiners’ wages shall be fixed at the same rate as wheelwrights’. Ox-straps are not to cost over 40 sous, yokes 10 sous. Masters must pay one-half of the tailles. Notaries are to take only the half of what they had formerly, as well as comptrollers. The Commune claims the right of protest against whatever it may have forgotten in the present article, in fact or in law.” It is signed by about twenty persons, several of them being mayors and municipal clerks.
[15. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. The same correspondence, May 29, June 11 and 17, September 15, 1790.—Ibid., F7, 3,257. Letter of the municipal authorities of Marsigny, May 3; of the municipal officers of Bourbon-Lancy, June 5. Extract from letters written to M. Amelot, June 1.
[16. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,185, 3,186. Letter of the President of the Tribunal of the district of Laon, February 8, 1792.
[17. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268. Procès-verbal and observations of the two commissioners sent to Étampes, September 22–25, 1791.
[18. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,265. The following document, among many others, shows the expedients and conceptions of the popular imagination. Petition of several inhabitants of the commune of Forges (Seine Inférieure) “to the good and incorruptible Minister of the Interior” (October 16, 1792). “After three good crops in succession, the famine still continues. Under the ancient régime wheat was superabundant; hogs were fed with it, and calves were fattened with bread. It is certain, therefore, that wheat is diverted by monopolizers and the enemies of the new regime. The farms are too large; let them be divided. There is too much pasture-ground: sow it with wheat. Compel each farmer and landowner to give a statement of his crop: let the quantity be published at the church service, and in case of falsehood let the man be put to death or imprisoned, and his grain be confiscated. Oblige all the cultivators of the neighbourhood to sell their wheat at Forges only, &c.”
[19. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268. Report of the commissioners sent by the department, March 11, 1792 (apropos of the insurrection of March 4).—Mortimer-Pernaux, i. 381.
[20. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268. Letters of several mayors, district administrators, cultivators of Velizy, Villadoublay, La Celle-Saint-Cloud, Montigny, &c. November 12, 1791.—Letter of M. de Narbonne, January 13, 1792; of M. Sureau, justice of the peace in the canton of Étampes, September 17, 1791.—Letter of Bruyères-le-Chatel, January 28, 1792.
[21. ]A term applied to brigands at this epoch who demand money and objects of value, and force their delivery by exposing the soles of the feet of their victims to a fire.—[Tr.]
[22. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,203. Letter of the Directory of Cher, August 25, 1791.—F7, 3,240. Letter of the Directory of Haute Marne, November 6, 1791.—F7, 3,248. Procès-verbal of the members of the department of the North, March 18, 1791.—F7, 3,250. Procès-verbal of the municipal officers of Montreuil-sur-Mer, October 16, 1791.—F7, 3,265. Letter of the Directory of Seine Inférieure, July 22, 1791.—D. xxix. 4. Remonstrances of the municipalities assembled at Tortes, July 21, 1791. Petitions of the municipal officers of the districts of Dieppe, Cany, and Caudebec, July 22, 1791.
[23. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268 and 3,269, passim.
[24. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268 and 3,269, passim. Deliberation of the Directory of Seine-et-Oise, September 20, 1791 (apropos of the insurrection, September 16, at Étampes).—Letter of Charpentier, president of the district, September 19.—Report of the Department Commissioners, March 11, 1792 (on the insurrection at Brunoy, March 4).—Report of the Department Commissioners, March 4, 1792 (on the insurrection at Montlhéry, February 13 to 20).—Deliberation of the Directory of Seine-et-Oise, September 16, 1791 (on the insurrection at Corbeil).—Letters of the mayors of Limours, Lonjumeau, &c.
[25. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268 and 3,269, passim.—Procès-verbal of the Municipality of Montlhéry, February 28, 1792: “We cannot enter into fuller details without exposing ourselves to extremities which would be only disastrous to us.”—Letter of the justice of the peace of the canton, February 25: “Public outcry teaches me that if I issue writs of arrest against those who massacred Thibault, the people would rise.”
[26. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268 and 3,269, passim. Reports of the gendarmerie, February 24, 1792, and the following days.—Letter of the Brigadier of Limours, March 2; of the manager of the farm of Plessis-le-Comte, February 23.
[27. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268 and 3,269, passim.—Memorial to the National Assembly by the citizens of Rambouillet, September 17, 1792.
[28. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268 and 3,269, passim. Procès-verbal of the Municipality of Montlhéry, February 27, 1792.—Roux and Buchez, xiii. 421, March, 1792, and xiii. 317.—Mercure de France, February 25, 1792. (Letters of M. Dauchy, President of the Directory of the Department; of M. de Gouy, messenger sent by the minister, &c.)—Moniteur, sitting of February 15, 1792.
[29. ]Decree of September 3, 1792.
[30. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268 and 3,269. Petition of the citizens of Montfort-l’Amaury, Saint-Leger, Gros-Rouvre, Gelin, Laqueue, and Méré, to the citizens of Rambouillet.
[31. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,230. Letter of an administrator of the district of Vendôme, with the deliberation of the commune of Vendôme, November 24, 1792.
[32. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,255. Letter of the Administrators of the Department of Seine-Inférieure, October 23, 1792.—Letters of the Special Committee of Rouen, October 22 and 23, 1792: “The more the zeal and patriotism of the cultivators is stimulated, the more do they seem determined to avoid the market-places, which are always in a state of absolute destitution.”
[33. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,265. Letter of David, a cultivator, October 10, 1792.—Letter of the Department Administrators, October 13, 1792, &c.—Letter (printed) of the minister to the Convention, November 4.—Proclamation of the Provisional Executive Council, October 31, 1792. (The setier of grain of two hundred and forty pounds is sold at 60 francs in the south, and at half that sum in the north.)
[34. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,255. Letters of Bonnemant, September 11, 1792; of Laussel, September 22, 1792.
[35. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Correspondence of M. de Bercheny, July 28, October 24 and 26, 1790.—The same disposition lasted. An insurrection occurred in Issoudun after the three days of July, 1830, against the combined imposts. Seven or eight thousand vine-dressers burnt the archives and tax-offices and dragged an employé through the streets, shouting out at each street-lamp, “Let him be hung!” The general sent to repress the outbreak entered the town only through a capitulation; the moment he reached the Hôtel-de-Ville a man of the Faubourg de Rome put his pruning-hook around his neck, exclaiming, “No more clerks where there is nothing to do!”
[36. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,203. Letter of the Directory of Cher, April 9, 1790.—Ibid., F7, 3,255. Letter of August 4, 1790. Verdict of the présidial, November 4, 1790.—Letter of the Municipality of Saint-Etienne, August 5, 1790.
[37. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,248. Letter of M. Sénac de Meilhan, April 10, 1790.—Letter of the grands baillis, June 30, 1790.
[38. ]Roux and Buchez, vi. 403. Report of Chabrond on the insurrection at Lyons, July 9 and 10, 1790.—Duvergier, “Collection des Décrets.”—Decrees of August 4 and 15, 1790.
[39. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,255. Letter of the Minister, July 2, 1790, to the Directory of Rhone-et-Loire. “The King is informed that, throughout your department, and especially in the districts of Saint-Etienne and Montbrison, license is carried to the extreme; that the judges dare not prosecute; that in many places the municipal officers are at the head of the disturbances; and that, in others, the National Guard do not obey requisitions.”—Letter of September 5, 1790. “In the bourg of Thisy, brigands have invaded divers cotton-spinning establishments and partially destroyed them, and, after having plundered them, they have sold the goods by public auction.”
[40. ]Roux and Buchez, vi. 545. Report of M. Muguet, July 1, 1790.
[41. ]Procès-verbaux of the National Assembly. (Sitting of October 24, 1789.)—Decree of September 27, 1789, applicable the 1st of October. There are other modifications applicable on the 1st of January, 1790.
[42. ]Mercure de France, February 27, 1790. (Memorial of the garde des sceaux, January 16.)—Observations of M. Necker on the report made by the Financial Committee, at the sitting of March 12, 1790.
[43. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Correspondence of M. de Bercheny, April 24, May 4 and 6, 1790: “It is much to be feared that the tobacco-tax will share the fate of the salt-tax.”
[44. ]Mercure de France, July 31, 1790 (sitting of July 10). M. Lambert, Comptroller-General of the Finances, informs the Assembly of “the obstacles which continual outbreaks, brigandage, and the maxims of anarchical freedom impose, from one end of France to the other, on the collection of the taxes. On one side, the people are led to believe that, if they stubbornly refuse a tax contrary to their rights, its abolition will be secured. Elsewhere, smuggling is openly carried on by force; the people favour it, while the National Guards refuse to act against the nation. In other places hatred is excited, and divisions between the troops and the overseers at the toll-houses: the latter are massacred, the bureaus are pillaged, and the prisons are forced open.”—Memorial to the National Assembly by M. Necker, July 21, 1790.
[45. ]Decrees of March 21 and 22, 1790, applicable April 21 following.—Decrees of February 19 and March 2, 1791, applicable May 1 following.
[46. ]De Goncourt, “La Société Française pendant la Révolution,” 204.—Maxime du Camp, “Paris, sa Vie et ses Organes,” vi. 11.
[47. ]“Compte des Revenus et Dépenses au 1er Mai, 1789.”—Memorial of M. Necker, July 21, 1790.—Memorials presented by M. de Montesquiou, September 9, 1791.—Comptes-rendus by the minister, Clavières, October 5, 1792, February 1, 1792.—Report of Cambon, February, 1793.
[48. ]Boivin-Champeaux, 231.
[49. ]Mercure de France, May 28, 1791. (Sitting of May 22.) Speech of M. d’Allarde: “Burgundy has paid nothing belonging to 1790.”
[50. ]Moniteur, sitting of June 1, 1790. Speech by M. Freteau.—Mercure de France, November 26, 1791. Report by Lafont-Ladebat.
[51. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Correspondence of M. de Bercheny, June 5, 1790, &c.—F7, 3,226. Letters of Chenantin, cultivator, November 7, 1792, also of the procureur-syndic, November 6.—F7, 3,202. Letter of the Minister of Justice, Duport, January 3, 1792. “The utter absence of public force in the district of Montargis renders every operation of the Government and all execution of the laws impossible. The arrears of taxes to be collected is here very considerable, while all proceedings of constraint are dangerous and impossible to execute, owing to the fears of the bailiffs, who dare not perform their duties, and the violence of the tax-payers, on whom there is no check.”
[52. ]Report of the Committee on Finances, by Ramel, 19th Floréal, year II. (The Constituent Assembly had fixed the real tax of a house at one-sixth of its letting value.)
[53. ]Mercure de France, December 12, 1789.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268. Memorial of the officers in command of the detachment of the Paris National Guard stationed at Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (April, 1790). Certificate of the Municipal Officers of Poissy, March 31.
[54. ]Mercure de France, March 12 and 26, 1791.—“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Letter of the police-lieutenant of Blois, April 22, 1790.—Mercure de France, July 24, 1790. Two of the murderers exclaimed to those who tried to save one of the keepers, “Hanging is well done at Paris! Bah, you are aristocrats! We shall be talked about in the gazettes of Paris.” (Deposition of witnesses.)—Decrees and proclamations regarding the protection of the forests, November 3 and December 11, 1789.—Another in October, 1790.—Another June 20, 1791.
[55. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,219. Letter of the bailli of Virieu, January 26, 1792.
[56. ]Mercure de France, December 3, 1791. (Letter from Sarrelouis, November 15, 1791.)—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,223. Letter of the Municipal Officers of Montargis, January 8, 1792.
[57. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268. Letter of the overseer of the national domains at Rambouillet, October 31, 1792.—Compte-rendu of the minister Clavières, February 1, 1793.
[58. ]Decrees of August 14, 1792, June 10, 1793.—“Archives Nationales,” Missions des Représentants, D. § 7. (Deliberation of the district of Troyes, 2 Ventose, an. III.)—At Thunelières, the drawing took place on the 10th Fructidor, year II., and was done over again in behalf of a servant of Billy, an influential municipal officer who “was the soul of his colleagues.”—Ibid. Abstract of operations in the district of Arcis-sur-Aube, 30 Pluviose, year III. “Two-thirds of the communes hold this kind of property. Most of them have voted on and effected the partition, or are actually engaged on it.”
[59. ]Mercure de France, January 7, 1790. (Chateau of Auxon, in Haute-Saone.)—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,255. (Letter of the minister to the Directory of Rhone-et-Loire, July 2, 1790.)—Mercure de France, July 17, 1790. (Report of M. de Broglie, July 13, and decree of July 13–18.)—“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. (Correspondence of M. de Bercheny, July 21, 1790.)
[60. ]Mercure de France, March 19, 1790. Letter from Amiens, February 28. (Mallet-Dupan publishes in the Mercure only letters which are signed and authentic.)
[61. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. (Correspondence of M. de Thiard; letters of Chevalier de Bévy, December 26, 1789, and others up to April 5, 1790.)—Moniteur, sitting of February 9, 1790.—Mercure de France, February 6 and March 6, 1790 (list of chateaux).
[62. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. (Correspondence of M. de Thiard.) Letters of the Mayor of Nantes, February 16, 1790, of the Municipality of Redon, February 19, &c.
[63. ]Mercure de France, February 6 and 27, 1790. (Speech of M. de Foucault, sittings of February 2 and 6). —Moniteur (same dates). (Report of Grégoire, February 9; speeches by MM. Sallé de Chaux and de Noailles, February 9.)—Memorial of the deputies of the town of Tulle, drawn up by the Abbé Morellet (from the deliberations and addresses of eighty-three boroughs and cities in the province).
[64. ]In allusion to the feudal custom of paying seignorial dues on the first of May around a maypole. See further on.—[Tr.]
[65. ]Criminal courts without appeal.—[Tr.]
[66. ]Moniteur, sitting of March 4, 1790.—Duvergier, decrees of March 6, 1790, and August 6–10, 1790.
[67. ]The address is dated February 11, 1793. This singularly comic document would alone suffice to make the history of the Revolution perfectly comprehensible.
[68. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,203. (Letters of the royal commissioner, April 30 and May 9, 1790.)—Letter of the Duc de Maillé, May 6.—Procès-verbaux of the department of administrators, November 12, 1790.—Moniteur, vi. 515.
[69. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,225. Letter of the Directory from Ile-et-Vilaine, January 30, 1791, and letter from Dinan, January 29.—Mercure de France, April 2 and 16, 1791. Letters from Rennes, March 20th; from Redon, March 12.
[70. ]So expressed in the procès-verbal.
[71. ]Moniteur, sitting of December 15, 1790. (Address of the department of Lot, December 7.)—Sitting of December 20 (Speech by M. de Foucault.)—Mercure de France, December 18, 1790. (Letter from Belves, in Perigord, December 7.)—Ibid., January 22, 29, 1791. (Letter from M. de Clarac, January 18.)
[72. ]December 17, 1790.
[73. ]January 7, 1791.
[74. ]Revolutionary archives of the department of Creuse, by Duval. (Letter of the administrators of the department, March 31, 1791.)—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,200. (Deliberation of the Directory of the Department, May 12, 1791.—Procès-verbal of the municipality of La Souterraine, August 23, 1791.)
[75. ]A sort of export duty.—[Tr.]
[76. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,204.—Letters from the Directory of the Department, June 2, 1791; September 8 and 22.—Letter from the Minister of Justice, May 15, 1791.—Letter from M. de Lentilhac, September 2.—Letter from M. Melon-Padon, Royal Commissioner, September 8.—Mercure de France, May 14, 1791. (Letter of an eye-witness, M. de Loyac, April 25, 1791.)
[77. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,204. Letters from M. de Saint-Victour, September 25, October 2 and 10, 1791.—Letter from the steward of his estate, September 18.
[1. ]Moniteur, xi. 763. (Sitting of March 28, 1792.)—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,235. (Deliberation of the Directory of the Department, November 29, 1791, and January 27, 1792.—Petition of the Municipality of Mende and of forty-three others, November 30, 1791.)
[2. ]“Archives Nationales,” F5, 3,198. Procès-verbal of the municipal officers of Arles, September 2, 1791.—Letters of the Royal Commissioners and of the National Assembly, October 24, November 6, 14, 17, 21, and December 21, 1791.—The commissioners, to be impartial, attend in turn a mass by a nonjuring priest and one by a priest of the opposite side. “The church is full” with the former, and “always empty” with the latter.
[3. ]“Mémoire” of M. Mérilhon, for Froment, passim.—Report of M. Alquier, p. 54.—De Dammartin, i. 208.
[4. ]De Dammartin, i. 208. They would exclaim to the Catholic peasants: “Allons, mes enfans, Vive le Roi!” (shouts of enthusiasm): “those wretches of democrats, let us make an example of them, and restore the sacred rights of the throne and the altar!”—“As you please,” replied the rustics in their patois, “but we must hold fast to the Revolution, for there are some good things about it.”—They remain calm, refuse to march to the assistance of Uzès, and withdraw into their mountains on the first sign of the approach of the National Guard.
[5. ]Dauban, “La Demagogie à Paris,” p. 598: Letter of M. de Brissac, August 25, 1789.
[6. ]Moniteur, x. 339. (Journal de Troyes, and a letter from Perpignan, November, 1791.)
[7. ]Mercure de France, No. for September 3, 1791. “Let Liberty be presented to us, and all France will kneel before her; but noble and proud hearts will eternally resist the oppression which assumes her sacred mask. They will invoke liberty, but liberty without crime, the liberty which is maintained without dungeons, without inquisitors, without incendiaries, without brigands, without forced oaths, without illegal coalitions, without mob outrages; that liberty, finally, which allows no oppressor to go unpunished, and which does not crush peaceable citizens beneath the weight of the chains it has broken.”
[8. ]Rivarol, “Mémoires,” p. 367. (Letter of M. Servan, published in the “Actes des Apôtres.”)
[9. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,257. Official reports, investigations, and correspondence in relation to the affair of M. de Bussy (October, 1790).
[10. ]Mercure de France, May 15, 1790. (Letter of Baron de Bois-d’Aisy, April 29, read in the National Assembly.)—Moniteur, iv. 302. Sitting of May 6. (Official statement of the Justice of the Peace of Vitteaux, April 28.)
[11. ]“Archives Nationales,” DXXIX. 4. Letter of M. Belin-Chatellenot (near Arnay-le-Duc) to the President of the National Assembly, July 1, 1791. “In the realm of liberty we live under the most cruel tyranny, and in a state of the completest anarchy, while the administrative bodies and the police, still in their infancy, seem to act only in fear and trembling. . . . So far, in all crimes, they are more concerned with extenuating the facts than in punishing the offence. The result is that the guilty have had no other restraint on them than a few gentle phrases like this: ‘Dear brothers and friends, you are in the wrong, be careful,’ ” &c.—Ibid., F7, 3,229. Letter of the Directory of the Department of Marne, July 13, 1791. (Searches by the National Guard in chateaux and the disarmament of formerly privileged persons.) “None of our injunctions were obeyed.” For example, there is breakage and violence in the residence of M. Guinaumont at Merry; the gun, shot, and powder of the game-keeper even are carried off. “M. de Guinaumont is without the means of defending himself against a mad dog or any other savage brute that might come into his woods or into his courtyard.” The Mayor of Merry, with the National Guard, under compulsion, tells them in vain that they are breaking the law.—Petition of Madame d’Ambly, wife of the deputy, June 28, 1791. Not having the guns which she had already given up, she is made to pay 150 francs.
[12. ]“Archives Nationales,” DXXIX. 4. Letters of the Administrators of the Department of Rhône-et-Loire, July 6, 1791. (M. Vilet is one of the signers.)—Mercure de France, October 8, 1791.
[13. ]Mercure de France, August 20, 1791, the article by Mallet-Dupan. “The details of the picture I have just sketched were all furnished me by Madame Dumoutet herself.” I am “authorised by her signature to guarantee the accuracy of this narrative.”
[14. ]Mercure de France, August 20, 1791, the article by Mallet-Dupan. “The proceedings instituted at Lyons confirmed this cannibal banquet.”
[15. ]The letter of the Department ends with this either naïve or ironical expression: “You have one triumph to complete, that of the obedience and submission of the people to the law.”
[16. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,200. See documents relating to the affair of November 5, 1791, and the events which preceded it or followed it, and among others “Lettres du Directoire et du Procureur-syndic du Department”; Pétition et Mémoire pour les Déténus”; Lettres d’un Témoin,” M. de Morant.—Moniteur, x. 356. “Procès-verbal de la Municipalité de Caen” and of the “Directoire du Département,” xi. 164, 206. “Rapport de Guadet,” and documents of the trial.—“Archives Nationales,” ibid.—“Lettres de M. Cahier,” Minister of the Interior, January 26, 1792; of M. G—d de Pontécoulant, President of the Department Directory, February 3, 1792.—Proclamation by the Directory.
[17. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,200. Letter of September 26, 1791.—Letter found on one of the arrested gentlemen. “A cowardly bourgeoisie, directors in cellars, a clubbist municipality, waging the most illegal war against us.”
[18. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,200. Letter of the Attorney-General of Bayeux, May 14, 1702, and of the Directory of Bayeux, May 21, 1792.—At Bayeux, likewise, the refugees are denounced and in peril. According to their verified statements they scarcely amounted to one hundred. “Several nonjuring priests, indeed, are found among them; (but) the rest, for the most part, consist of the heads of families who are known to reside habitually in neighbouring districts, and who have been forced to leave their firesides after having been, or fearing to become, victims of religious intolerance or of the threats of factions and of brigands.”
[19. ]Mercure de France, June 4, 1790 (letter from Cahors, May 17, and an Act of the Municipality, May 10, 1790).
[20. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,223. Letter of Comte Louis de Beaumont, November 9, 1791. His letter, in a very moderate tone, thus ends: “You must admit, sir, that it is very disagreeable and even incredible, that the Municipal Officers should be the originators of the disorders which occur in this town.”
[21. ]Mercure de France, January 7, 1702. M. Granchier de Riom petitions the Directory of his Department in relation to the purchase of the cemetery, where his father had been interred four years before; his object is to prevent it from being dug up, which was decreed, and to preserve the family vault. He at the same time wishes to buy the church of Saint-Paul, in order to ensure the continuance of the masses in behalf of his father’s soul. The Directory replies (December 5, 1791): “Considering that the motives which have determined the petitioner in his declaration are a pretence of good feeling under which there is hidden an illusion powerless to pervert a sound mind, the Directory decides that the application of the sieur Granchier cannot be granted.”
[22. ]De Ferrières, ii. 268 (April 19, 1791).
[23. ]De Montlosier, ii. 307, 309, 312.
[24. ]Moniteur, vi. 556. Letter of M. d’Aymar, commodore, November 18, 1790.
[25. ]Mercure de France, May 28, and June 16, 1791 (letters from Cahors and Castelnau, May 18).
[26. ]Mercure de France, Number of May 28, 1791. At the festival of the Federation, M. de Massy would not order his cavalry to put their chapeaux on the points of their swords, which was a difficult manoeuvre. He was accused of treason to the nation on account of this, and obliged to leave Tulle for several months.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,204. Extract from the minutes of the tribunal of Tulle, May 10, 1791.
[27. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,215. “Procès-verbal des Officiers Municipaux de Brest,” June 23, 1791.
[28. ]“Mémoires de Cuvier” (“Eloges Historiques,” by Flourens), i. 177. Cuvier, who was then in Havre (1788), had pursued the higher studies in a German administrative school. “M. de Sarville,” he says, “an officer in the Artois regiment, has one of the most refined minds and most amiable characters I ever encountered. There were a good many of this sort among his comrades, and I am always astonished how such men could vegetate in the obscure ranks of an infantry regiment.”
[29. ]De Dammartin, i. 133. At the beginning of the year 1790, “inferior officers said: ‘We ought to demand something, for we have at least as many grievances as our men.’ ”—M. de la Rochejacquelein, after his great success in La Vendée, said: “I hope that the King, when once he is restored, will give me a regiment.” He aspired to nothing more (“Mémoires de Madame de la Rochejacquelein”).—Cf. “Un Officier royaliste au Service de la République,” by M. de Bezancenet, in the letters and biography of General de Dommartin, killed in the expedition to Egypt.
[30. ]Correspondence of MM. de Thiard, de Caraman, de Miran, de Bercheny, &c., above cited, passim.—Correspondence of M. de Thiard, May 5, 1790: “The town of Vannes has an authoritative style which begins to displease me. It wants the King to furnish drum-sticks. The first log of wood would provide these, with greater ease and promptness.”
[31. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,248, March 16, 1791. At Douai, Nicolon, a grain-dealer, is hung because the municipal authorities did not care to proclaim martial law. The commandant, M. de la Noue, had not the right of ordering his men to move, and the murder took place before his eyes.
[32. ]The last named, especially, died with heroic meekness (Mercure de France, June 18, 1791).—Sitting of June 9, speeches by two officers of the regiment of Port-au-Prince, one of them an eye-witness.
[33. ]“De Dammartin,” ii. 214. Desertion is very great, even in ordinary times, supplying foreign armies with “a fourth of their effective men.” Towards the end of 1789, Dubois de Crancé, an old musketeer and one of the future “mountain,” stated to the National Assembly that the old system of recruiting supplied the army with “men without home or occupation, who often became soldiers to avoid civil penalties” (Moniteur, ii. 376, 381, sitting of December 12, 1789).
[34. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. Correspondence of M. de Thiard, September 4 and 7, 1789, November 20, 1789, April 28, and May 29, 1790. “The spirit of insubordination which begins to show itself in the Bassigny regiment is an epidemic disease which is insensibly spreading among all the troops. . . . The troops are all in a state of gangrene, while all the municipalities oppose the orders they receive concerning the movements of troops.”
[35. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Correspondence of M. de Bercheny, July 12, 1790.
[36. ]“Mémoire justificatif” (by Grégoire), on behalf of two soldiers, Emery and Delisle.—De Bouillé, “Mémoires.”—De Dammartin. i. 128, 144.—“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. Correspondence of M. de Thiard, July 2 and 9, 1790.—Moniteur, sittings of September 3 and June 4, 1790.
[37. ]De Bouillé, p. 127.—Moniteur, sitting of August 6, 1790, and that of May 27, 1790.—Full details in authentic documents of the affair at Nancy, passim.—Report of M. Emmery, August 16, 1790, and other documents in Roux and Buchez, vii. 59–162.—De Bezancenet, p. 35. Letters of M. de Dommartin (Metz, August 4, 1790). “The Federation there passed off quietly, only, a short time after, some soldiers of a regiment took it into their heads to divide the (military) fund, and at once placed sentinels at the door of the officer having charge of the chest, compelling him to open it (désacquer). Another regiment has since put all its officers under arrest. A third has mutinied, and wanted to take all its horses to the market-place and sell them. . . . Everywhere the soldiers are heard to say that if they want money they know where to find it.”
[38. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,215. Letters of the Royal Commissioners, September 27, October 1, 4, 8, 11, 1790. “What means can four commissioners employ to convince 20,000 men, most of whom are seduced by the real enemies of the public welfare? In consequence of the replacing of the men the crews are, for the most part, composed of those who are almost ignorant of the sea, who know nothing of the rules of subordination, and who, at the commencement of the Revolution, had most to do with the insurrections in the interior.”
[39. ]Mercure de France, October 2, 1790. Letter of the Admiral, M. d’Albert de Rioms, September 16. The soldiers of the Majestueux have refused to drill, and the sailors of the Patriote to obey.—“I wished to ascertain beforehand if they had any complaint to make against their captain?—No.—If they complained of myself?—No.—If they had any complaints to make against their officers?—No.—It is the revolt of one class against another class; their sole cry is ‘Vive la Nation et les Aristocrates à la lanterne!’ The mob have set up a gibbet before the house of M. de Marigny, major-general of marines; he has given in his resignation. M. d’Albert tenders his resignation.”—Ibid., June 18, 1791 (letter from Dunkirk, June 3).
[40. ]De Dammartin, i. 222, 219. Mercure de France, September 3, 1791. (Sitting of August 23.)—Cf. Moniteur (same date). “The Ancient Régime,” p. 377.
[41. ]Marshal Marmont, “Mémoires,” i. 24. “The sentiment I entertained for the person of the King is difficult to define. . . . (It was) a sentiment of devotion of an almost religious character, a profound respect as if due to a being of a superior order. At this time the word king possessed a magic power in all pure and upright hearts which nothing had changed. This delicate sentiment . . . still existed in the mass of the nation, especially among the well-born, who, sufficiently remote from power, were rather impressed by its brilliancy than by its imperfections.” De Bezancenet, 27. Letter of M. de Dommartin, August 24, 1790. “We have just renewed our oath. I hardly know what it all means. I, a soldier, know only my King; in reality I obey two masters, who, we are told, will secure my happiness and that of my brethren, if they agree together.”
[42. ]De Dammartin, i. 179. See the details of these resignations (iii. 185) after June 20, 1792. Mercure de France, April 14, 1792. Letter from the officers of the battalion of the Royal Chasseurs of Provence (March 9). They are confined to their barracks by their soldiers, who refuse to obey their orders, and they declare that, on this account, they abandon the service and leave France.
[43. ]Rousset, “Les Volontaires de 1791 à 1794,” p. 106. Letter of M. de Biron to the minister (August, 1792); p. 225, letter of Vezu, commander of the 3rd battalion of Paris, to the army of the north (July 24, 1793). “A Residence in France from 1792 to 1795” (September, 1792. Arras). See notes at the end of vol. ii. for the details of these violent proceedings.
[44. ]Mercure de France, March 5, June 4, September 3, October 22, 1791. (Articles by Mallet-Dupan.)—Ibid., April 14, 1792. More than six hundred naval officers resigned after the mutiny of the squadron at Brest. “Twenty-two grave insurrectionary acts in the ports remained unpunished, and several of them through the decisions of the naval jury.” “There is no instance of any insurrection, in the ports or on shipboard, or any outrage upon a naval officer, having been punished. . . . It is not necessary to seek elsewhere for the causes of the abandonment of the service by naval officers. According to their letters all offer their lives to France, but refuse to command those who will not obey.”
[45. ]Duvergier, “Decrees of August 1–6, 1791; February 9–11, 1792; March 30 and April 8, 1792; July 24–28, 1792; March 28 and April 5, 1793.” Report by Roland, January 6, 1793. He estimates this property at 4,800 millions, of which 1,800 millions must be deducted for the creditors of the emigrants; 3,000 millions remain. Now, at this date, the assignats are at a discount of 55 per cent. from their nominal figure.
[46. ]Mercure de France, February 18, 1792.
[47. ]Cf. on this general attitude of the clergy, Sauzay, v. i. and the whole of v. ii.—Mercure de France, September 10, 1791: “No impartial man will fail to see that, in the midst of this oppression, amidst so many fanatical charges of which the reproach of fanaticism and revolt is the pretext, not one act of resistance has yet been manifest. Informers and municipal bodies, governed by clubs, have caused a large number of nonjurors to be cast into dungeons. All have come out of them, or groan there untried, and no tribunal has found any of them guilty.”—Report of M. Cahier, Minister of the Interior, February 18, 1792. He declares that “he had no knowledge of any priest being convicted by the courts as a disturber of the public peace, although several had been accused.”—Moniteur, May 6, 1792 (Report of Français de Nantes): “Not one has been punished for thirty months.”
[48. ]On these spontaneous brutal acts of the Catholic peasants, cf. “Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,236 (Lozère, July–November, 1791). Deliberation of the district of Florac, July 6, 1791, and the official statement of the commissioner of the department on the disturbances in Espagnac. On the 5th of July, Richard, a constitutional curé, calls upon the municipality to proceed to his installation. “The ceremony could not take place, owing to the hootings of the women and children, and the threats of various persons who exclaimed: ‘Kill him! strangle him! he is a Protestant, is married, and has children’; and owing to the impossibility of entering the church, the doors of which were obstructed by the large number of women standing in front of them.”—On the 6th of July, he is installed, but with difficulty. “Inside the church a crowd of women uttered loud cries and bemoaned the removal of their old curé. On returning, in the streets, a large number of women, unsettled by the sight of the constitutional curé, turned their faces aside . . . and contented themselves with uttering disjointed words . . . without doing anything more than cover their faces with their bonnets, casting themselves on the ground.”—July 15. The clerk will no longer serve at the mass nor ring the bells; the curé, Richard, attempting to ring them himself, the people threaten him with ill-treatment if he runs the risk.—September 8, 1791. Letter from the curé of Fau, district of Saint-Chély. “That night I was on the brink of death through a troop of bandits who took my parsonage away from me, after having broken in the doors and windows.”—December 30, 1791. Another curé who goes to take possession of his parsonage is assailed with stones by sixty women, and thus pursued beyond the limits of the parish.—August 5, 1791. Petition of the constitutional bishop of Mende and his four vicars. “Not a day passes that we are not insulted in the performance of our duties. We cannot take a step without encountering hootings. If we go out we are threatened with cowardly assassination, and with being beaten with clubs.”—F7, 3,235 (Bas-Rhin, letter from the Directory of the Department, April 9, 1792): “Ten out of eleven, at least, of the Catholics refuse to recognise sworn priests.”
[49. ]Duvergier, decrees (not sanctioned) of November 29 and May 27, 1792.—Decree of August 26, 1792, after the fall of the throne.—Moniteur, xii. 200 (sitting of April 23, 1793). Report of the Minister of the Interior.
[50. ]Lallier, “Le District de Machecoul,” p. 261, 263.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,234. Demand of the prosecuting attorney of the commune of Tonneins (December 21, 1791) for the arrest or expulsion of eight priests “at the slightest act of internal or external hostility.”—Ibid., F7, 3,264. Act of the Council-General of Corrèze (July 16, 17, 18, 1792) to place in arrest all nonjuring priests.—Between these two dates, acts of various kinds and of increasing severity are found in nearly all the departments against the nonjurors.
[51. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,250. Official statement by the directory of the department, March 18, 1791, with all the documents in relation thereto.—F7, 3,200. Letter of the Directory of Calvados, June 13, 1792, with the interrogations. The damages are estimated at 15,000 livres.
[52. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,234. An Act of the Directory of Lot, February 24, 1792, on the disturbances at Marmande.—F7, 3,239, official statement of the municipal body of Rheims, November 5, 6, 7, 1791. The two workmen are a harness-maker and a wool-carder. The priest who administered the baptism is put in prison as a disturber of the public peace.—F7, 3,219. Letter of the royal commissioner at the tribunal of Castelsarrasin, March 5, 1792.—F7, 3,203. Letter of the directory of the district of La Rochelle, June 1, 1792. “The armed force, a witness of these crimes and summoned to arrest these persons in the act, refused to obey.”
[53. ]Memorial by Camille Jourdan (Sainte-Beuve, “Causeries du Lundi,” xii. 250). The guard refuses to give any assistance, coming too late and merely “to witness the disorder, never to repress it.”
[54. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,217. Letters of the curé of Uzès, January 29, 1792; of the curé of Alais, April 5, 1792; of the administrators of Gard, July 28, 1792; of the procureur-syndic, M. Griolet, July 2, 1792; of Castanet, former gendarme, August 25, 1792; of M. Griolet, September 28, 1792.—Ibid., F7, 3,223. Petition by MM. Thueri and Devès in the name of the oppressed of Montpellier, November 17, 1791; letter of the same to the minister, October 28, 1791; letter of M. Dupin, procureur-syndic, August 23, 1791; Act of the Department, August 9, 1791; Petition of the inhabitants of Courmonterral, August 25, 1791.
[55. ]Moniteur, xii. 16, sitting of April 1, 1792. Speech by M. Laureau. “Behold the provinces in flames, insurrection in nineteen departments, and revolt everywhere declaring itself. . . . The only liberty is that of brigandage; we have no taxation, no order, no government.” Mercure de France, April 7, 1792. “More than twenty departments are now participating in the horrors of anarchy and in a more or less destructive insurrection.”
[56. ]Moniteur, xii. 30. Speech by M. Caillasson. The total amount of property sold up to November 1, 1791, is 1,526 millions; the remainder for sale amounts to 669 millions.
[57. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,225. Letter of the Directory of Ile-et-Vilaine, March 24, 1792. “The National Guards of the district purposely expel all nonjuring priests, who have not been replaced, under the pretext of the trouble they would not fail to cause at Easter.”
[58. ]Moniteur, xi. 420. (Sitting of February 18, 1792.) Report by M. Cahier, Minister of the Interior.
[59. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,250. Deposition of the municipal officers of Gosnay and Hesdiguel (district of Bethune), May 18, 1792. Six parishes took part in this expedition; the mayor’s wife had a rope around her neck, and came near being hung.—Moniteur, xii. 154, April 15, 1792.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,225. Letter of the Directory of Ile-et-Vilaine, March 24, 1792, and official statement of the commissioners for the district of Vitré; letter of the same directory, April 21, 1792, and report of the commissioners sent to Acigné, April 6.
[60. ]Moniteur, xii. 200. Report of M. Cahier, April 23, 1792. The directories of these four departments refuse to cancel their illegal acts, alleging that “their armed National Guards pursue refractory priests.”
[61. ]Mercure de France, April 7, 1792. Letters written from Aurillac.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,202. Letter of the Directory of the District of Aurillac, March 27, 1792 (with seven official statements); of the Directory of the District of Saint-Flour, March 19 (with the report of its commissioners); of M. Duranthon, minister of justice, April 22; petition of M. Lorus, municipal officer of Aurillac.—Letter of M. Duranthon, June 9, 1792. “I am just informed by the royal commissioner of the district of Saint-Flour that, since the departure of the troops, the magistrates dare no longer exercise their functions in the midst of the brigands who surround them.”
[62. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,219. Letters of M. Niel, administrator of the Department of Haute-Garonne, February 27, 1792; of M. Sainfal, March 4; of the directory of the department, March 1; of the royal commissioner, tribunal of Castelsarrasin, March 13.
[63. ]The following are some examples of this rustic creed:—At Lunel, four thousand peasants and village National Guards strive to enter, to hang the aristocrats; their wives are along with them, leading their donkeys with “baskets which they hope to carry away full.” (“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,223. Letter of the municipal body of Lunel, November 4, 1791.) At Uzès it is with great difficulty that they can rid themselves of the peasants who came in to drive out the Catholic royalists. In vain “were they given plenty to eat and to drink”; they go away “in bad humour, especially the women who led the mules and asses to carry away the booty, and who had not anticipated returning home with empty hands.” (De Dammartin, i. 195.) In relation to the siege of Nantes by the Vendéans: “An old woman said to me, ‘Oh, yes, I was there, at the siege. My sister and myself had brought along our sacks. We were quite sure of their entering at least as far as the Rue de la Casserie’ ” (the street of jewellers’ shops). (Michelet, v. 211.)
[64. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,209. Letters of the royal commissioner at the tribunal of Mucidan, March 7, 1792; of the public prosecutor of the District of Sarlat, January, 1792.—Ibid., F7, 3,204. Letters of the administrators of the District of Tulle, April 15, 1792; of the directory of the department, April 18; petition of Jacques Labruc and his wife, with official statement of the justice of the peace, April 24. “All these acts of violence were committed under the eyes of the municipal authorities. They took no steps to prevent them, although they had notice given them in time.”
[65. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,223. Letters of M. Brisson, commissioner of the naval classes of Souillac, February 2, 1792; of the directory of the department, March 14, 1792.—Petition of the brothers Barrié (with supporting documents), October 11, 1791. Letter of the prosecuting attorney of the department, April 4, 1792. Report of the commissioners sent to the District of Figeac, January 5, 1792. Letter of the administrators of the department, May 27, 1792.
[66. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,217. Official reports of the commissioners of the Department of Gard, April 1, 2, 3, and 6, 1792, and letter of April 6. One landowner is taxed 100,000 francs.—Ibid., F7, 3,223. Letter of M. Dupin, prosecuting attorney of l’Hérault, February 17 and 26, 1792. “At the chateau of Pignan, Madame de Lostanges has not one complete piece of furniture left. The cause of these disturbances is religious passion. Five or six nonjuring priests had retreated to the chateau.”—Moniteur, sitting of April 16, 1792. Letter from the directory of the Department of Gard.—De Dammartin, ii. 85. At Uzès, fifty or sixty men in masks invade the ducal chateau at ten o’clock in the evening, set fire to the archives, and the chateau is burnt.
[67. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Official statements of Augier and Fabre, administrators of the Bouches-du-Rhône, sent to Avignon, May 11, 1792. (The reappearance of Jourdain, Mainvielle, and the assassins of La Glacière took place April 29.).
[68. ]De Dammartin, ii. 63. Portalis, “ll est temps de parler” (pamphlet), passim. “Archives Nationales,” F7, 7,090. Memorial of the commissioners of the municipal administration of Arles, year iv., Nivose 22.
[69. ]Mercure de France, May 19, 1792. (Sitting of May 4.) Petition of forty inhabitants of Avignon at the bar of the Legislative Assembly.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,195. Letter of the royal commissioners at the tribunal of Apt, March 15, 1792; official report of the municipality, March 21; Letters of the Directory of Apt, March 23 and 28, 1792.
[70. ]“Archives Nationales,” ibid. Letter of Amiel, president of the bureau of conciliation at Avignon, October 28, 1792, and other letters to the minister Roland.—F7, 3,217. Letter of the Justice of the Peace at Roque-Maure, October 31, 1792.
[71. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,246. Official report of the municipality of Metz (with supporting documents), May 15, 1792.
[72. ]“Mémoires de l’Abbé Baton,” one of the priests of the third convoy (a bishop appointed from Séez), p. 233.
[73. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,225. Letter of citizen Bonnemant, commissioner to minister Roland, September 11, 1792.