The Wars of the French Revolution: 1792-1801 0815386885, 9780815386889

The Wars of the French Revolution, 1792-1801offers a comprehensive and jargon-free coverage of this turbulent period and

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The Wars of the French Revolution: 1792-1801
 0815386885, 9780815386889

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The Wars of the French Revolution

The Wars of the French Revolution, 1792–1801 offers a comprehensive and jargon-free coverage of this turbulent period and unites political, social, military and international history in one volume. Carefully designed for undergraduate students, through twelve chapters this book offers an introduction to the origins and international context of the French Revolution as well as an in-depth examination of the reasons why war began. Aspects unpicked within the book include how France acquired a de facto empire stretching from Holland to Naples; the impact of French conquest on the areas concerned; the spread of French ideas beyond the frontiers of the French imperium; the response of the powers of Europe to the sudden expansion in French military power; the experience of the conflicts unleashed by the French Revolution in such areas as the West Indies, Egypt and India; and the impact of war on the Revolution itself. Offering extensive geographical coverage and challenging many preconceived ideas, The Wars of the French Revolution, 1792–1801 is the perfect resource for students of the French Revolution and international military history more broadly. Charles J. Esdaile has been a member of staff in the Department of History at the University of Liverpool, UK, since 1989. He was awarded a personal chair in 2004. His previous publications include Napoleon, France and Waterloo: The Eagle Rejected (2016); Burgos: Occupation, Siege, Aftermath, 1808–1814 (2014); Women in the Peninsular War (2014); Outpost of Empire: The French Occupation of Andalucía, 1810–1812 (2012); Napoleon’s Wars: An International History of Napoleonic Europe (2007); and The Wars of Napoleon (1995).

The Wars of the French Revolution 1792–1801 Charles J. Esdaile

First published 2019 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business  2019 Charles J. Esdaile The right of Charles J. Esdaile to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Names: Esdaile, Charles J., author. Title: The Wars of the French Revolution, 1792-1801 / Charles J. Esdaile. Description: First edition. | London ; New York, NY : Routledge/ Taylor & Francis Group, 2019. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018009754| ISBN 9780815386872 (hardback : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780815386889 (pbk. : alk. paper) | ISBN 9781351174541 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: France—History—Revolution, 1789–1799. | First Coalition, War of the, 1792-1797. | Second Coalition, War of the, 1798-1801. Classification: LCC DC220 .E84 2018 | DDC 944.04—dc23 LC record available at ISBN: 978-0-8153-8687-2 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-8153-8688-9 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-351-17454-1 (ebk) Typeset in Goudy by Swales & Willis Ltd, Exeter, Devon, UK

Praise for the author’s previous works

The Spanish Army in the Peninsular War ‘An excellent book which unites depth with brevity.’ (Comptes Rendus) ‘A scholarly and frequently illuminating analysis.’ (Times Higher Educational Supplement) The Duke of Wellington and the Command of the Spanish Army, 1812–1814 ‘No student of the Peninsular War can fail to profit from reading Dr Esdaile’s new book, not least for the harsh light it throws upon the insouciance and brutality shown by British soldiers towards their unfortunate allies who, rather than being the butt of endless coarse humour, should now be seen as as much sinned against as sinning.’ (Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research) The Wars of Napoleon ‘The depth of Esdaile’s knowledge is strikingly evident . . . The text provides the student and teacher alike with what is probably the most solid synthesis of the period around. It is bound to become set reading on any course on Napoleon and Europe.’ (European History Quarterly) Spain in the Liberal Age: From Constitution to Civil War, 1808–1939 ‘A masterly work of synthesis, full of judicious assessment, outspoken at times and authoritative in tone . . . Esdaile strikes a fine balance between narrative and thematic analysis, blending the two in a complex logical argument, creating coherence out of apparent confusion.’ (Times Literary Supplement) The French Wars ‘Esdaile’s work is not simply a chronological cataloguing of European conflicts, but a reassessment of popular conceptions of French nationalism and the Napoleonic myth . . . The scope . . . provokes the reader to re-examine his or her own perceptions of the French campaigns and their impact on the transformation of Europe.’ (The French Review) Napoleon’s Wars: An International History, 1803–1815 ‘Esdaile assesses the latest scholarship with expertise and insight while keeping his scholarly apparatus to a commendable fifty pages. The book is written in a lucid and engaging style that keeps the pages turning. Napoleon’s Wars will be a standard text for students and general readers for years to come.’ (Times Higher)

Peninsular Eyewitnesses: The Human Experience of War in Spain and Portugal, 1808–1814 ‘An impressive introduction to the wider reality of the war in the Peninsula, this work weaves together eyewitness accounts from both sides of the conflict . . . It is Esdaile’s use of both the military and civilian sources which makes this book such a thought-provoking read. Highly recommended.’ (The Waterloo Journal) Outpost of Empire ‘Outpost of Empire is a thought-provoking study of French policy in a conquered land and how the Spanish dealt with it on the local level. In many ways it shatters accepted beliefs on French arrogance in their rule and Spanish resistance to it. It a must-read for all interested in the Peninsular War.’ (The Napoleon Series) Women in the Peninsular War ‘This is a fine book, well-informed and thoroughly documented – 80 pages of notes and bibliography testify to substantial archival research as well as a thorough review of the secondary literature. It is also more imaginatively conceived than other works on the subject . . . It should remain the last word . . . for a long time to come.’ (Journal of Military History) Napoleon, France and Waterloo: The Eagle Rejected ‘In the years after Waterloo, France forgot the mess that existed in 1814 and 1815, and embraced the Napoleonic legend. It was a legend which remembered the years 1805 to 1813, with Ligny tacked on the end, and one which was purely nationalist, and military in sentiment. The Eagle Rejected is the most revealing work on the French ‘home front’ in the last years of the Empire and highly recommended.’ (The Napoleon Series)

For Alan Forrest, friend, mentor and inspiration


List of maps x Preface xi   1 The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars


  2 The armies of the ancien régime 35   3 From the Bastille to Valmy


  4 Saving the Revolution


  5 Exporting the Revolution


  6 Sympathy, admiration and collaboration


  7 Resistance and revolt (1): France


  8 Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium


  9 The reaction of the ancien régime 228 10 The wider world


11 The road to 18 Brumaire


12 The end of the French Revolutionary Wars


Bibliographical note 324 Index 327

List of maps

1 Europe in 1789 2 Europe in 1799

xiv xv


It is not going too far to say that the French Revolutionary Wars of 1792–1801 constitute one of the poor relations of history. Despite the fact that they were a titanic struggle that has often been portrayed as the first total war and, if not that, then at least the first ideological war, they have been doubly over shadowed. Thus, on the one hand, political, social and cultural historians have primarily wanted to write about the events of the French Revolution and their echoes in other countries, while, on the other, military ones have tended to be mesmerised by the figure of Napoleon Bonaparte and have in consequence all too often looked only at those battles in which the then General Bonaparte was personally involved. The Wars of the French Revolution, however, will take a very different form in that it will place war at the centre of its coverage while at the same time seeking to ensure that it does not degenerate into mere narrative: the Italian Campaign of 1796–97, the Egyptian campaign of 1798–1801 and the battle of Marengo will all be included, certainly, but so, among other episodes, will the fighting in Belgium in 1793–94, the Russo-Polish War of 1794, the struggle for the ‘sugar islands’ of the Caribbean, the Irish rebellion of 1798, the AngloRussian invasion of Holland in 1799 and, finally, the great Austro-Russian counter-offensive that temporarily drove the French from their conquests in Italy and thereby helped pave the way for the coup of 18 Brumaire. Yet, not least because in Tim Blanning’s excellent The French Revolutionary Wars such a work already exists, The Wars of the French Revolution will not just be a military history: international relations will also necessarily be present, together with extensive discussions of the social and political impact of war and of France’s attempts to make use of new ideologies in pursuit of traditional geo-political aspirations (or, as some would say, share the benefits of the Revolution with the peoples of Europe). In short, what is envisaged is a global history that will cater to a wide range of interests in a way that has never yet been attempted. That said, there are a number of issues that have been omitted from this work. Of these, the first is anything more than the barest details of the French Revolution itself. It is the hope of the author that enough has been said to convey a nodding acquaintance with its chronology and dramatis personae, but to engage with the subject in all its complexity would result in a book perhaps twice the length even of the current rather bulky volume. Nor, meanwhile, would the result be very good: the author is not a French specialist and would not dream of competing with names as revered as those of Richard Cobb, Alan Forrest and William Doyle: if something more is required in this respect, then the reader will find plenty of options available elsewhere. Less understandable, perhaps, is the other obvious gap in its coverage, namely the absence of any significant treatment of women. This is most certainly not because of want of interest in the subject on the part of the author – his Women in the Peninsular War (Norman, Oklahoma, 2014) is surely evidence of

xii Preface at the very least his good intentions in this respect – but of the simple fact that the French Revolutionary Wars affected the general position of women in European society very little and were in turn participated in by them in a very traditional fashion. Such a comment will doubtless not be popular in certain quarters, and therefore requires elaboration. In the first place, there is the issue of political participation. In the Europe of 1789, if one discounts such figures as Maria Theresa of Austria and Catherine the Great of Russia, women were just beginning to take their first steps in the world of political debate while there was also a growing tradition of female authorship, and all the more so given that the institution of the salon provided a forum in which they could learn to express ideas and immerse themselves in the discussions of the day. Yet such opportunities were almost entirely restricted to the élite while the number of women who actually secured a voice was tinier still. In the France of the Revolution, things were a little better, perhaps, but even then, for every Olympe de Gouges and Madame Roland, there were a hundred or more such women whose role remained wholly private. A few more names can be found being drawn to political action by circumstance or conviction – one thinks here of Madame de la Rochejacquelin, Charlotte Corday or Marie-Anne Paulze, the wife of the chemist, Lavoisier – but in the end the list is very small, while elsewhere it is all but non-existent, being constituted by little more than Elizabeth Wollstonecroft and Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel. At a lower level, things were slightly different. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which because the authorities were generally inclined to take a more lenient line in dealing with female malefactors than they were with male ones, women had always taken a leading role in such events as bread riots. It is therefore no surprise to find women playing a prominent role in those disturbances that regularly rocked France in the Revolutionary epoch nor, still less, that a tiny handful, of whom the most important were Pauline Léon, Claire Lacombe and Théroigne de Méricourt, emerged from obscurity to become, if not major figures in the milieu of Parisian radicalism, then at least recognisable political personalities and, what is more, early champions of the cause of feminism, something in which they were joined by Olympe de Gouges. Women, then, were certainly active participants in the French Revolution, but that does not mean that they secured acceptance in its ranks. On the contrary, once the Montagnards had come to power, Charlotte’s assassination of Marat was used as a pretext to move against them: thus, Olympe de Gouges was guillotined, Léon, Lacombe and Méricourt thrown into prison and such all-female political clubs as had emerged in the course of the Revolution swept away. As for the legal gains made by women since 1789, these were lost in the wake of 18 Brumaire, the later Civil Code putting them back in their traditional place with a vengeance. What, though, of the war effort? In so far as this was concerned, Olympe de Gouges and others certainly floated the idea of forming women’s battalions, but no such units ever appeared, and, apart from a number, almost certainly very small indeed, of women who hid their identity and became ‘cross-dressers’ – whether on the side of the French or their opponents – the only way in which women marched to war in the campaigns of 1792–1802 was as camp-followers. As in Spain and Portugal in the years after 1808 – a subject to which the current author has given much attention – the universal presence of the camp-follower very probably created opportunities of which individual women were able to make use as a means of effecting a change in their personal circumstances. But this remains a hidden history as, for that matter, does the experience of women who never moved beyond their home environments: we meet them as victims and, very occasionally, spies, but otherwise we can

Preface  xiii do little more than guess. Yet of one thing we can be certain and that is that the French Revolutionary Wars neither attracted wholesale female participation of a non-traditional kind nor created a new world for the women of Europe, and in a book of this nature it is therefore difficult to justify more than the most minimal treatment of the subject. To write thus is to denigrate neither women nor the cause of women’s history: indeed, it is rather the author’s most earnest hope that his words will serve as an encouragement to others to pick up the torch, even if they are inspired to do so by nothing more than anger. Meanwhile, it is not just in this area that more work is needed. Even now, there are many parts of Europe whose experience of the French Revolutionary Wars has not yet been explored or, at least, not in the English language. Above all, what is needed here is a study of the Habsburg monarchy in the Revolutionary and, indeed, Napoleonic epoch. In the whole range of the historiography, there is no greater want than this, and, until such a work is written, historians like the current author whose languages come to a grinding halt at the Rhine will never be able to do more than scrape the surface of a part of Europe which experienced the French Revolutionary Wars at a level of intensity second only to that of Britain and, of course, France herself. With other areas clearly in need of attention in the Englishlanguage historiography, including Belgium, Switzerland and Poland, there is clearly plenty of scope for young scholars who can raise their sights beyond the French Revolution per se and at the same time ignore the siren voice of ‘memory’, a genre of historiography for whose absence from these pages no apology is made whatsoever. At length, then, I come to the words that really are the most important in any book. In this respect, the people I need to mention are numerous: first of all, Laura Pilsworth, for believing in this project when few other people appeared to do so; second, the staff at all the libraries whose doors I have so repeatedly darkened, including, most especially, Marc Brans at the Royal Army Museum in Brussels and Catherine McManamon of the Sydney Jones Library at the University of Liverpool; third, Rory Muir, Zack White, Mark Lawrence, Rick Schneid, Rafe Blaufarb, Alan Forrest and Philip Dwyer, friends and colleagues who have advised, encouraged and, in the nicest possible way, criticised; fourth, my family, especially my poor and most long-suffering Alison; and, fifth, last but by no means least, my wonderful students – should anyone who took ‘War, Nationalism and Society in Europe, 1792–1801’ chance to pick up this work, know that you are each and every one of you remembered with gratitude and affection. Charles Esdaile, 18 January 2018

400 miles


Map 1  Europe in 1789









Prussian territory

Hapsburg Dominions

Boundary of the Holy Roman Empire
























St. Petersburg































Batavian Republic Belgium Left bank of the Rhine Savoy Helvetic Republic Nice Piedmont Cisalpine Republic Ligurian Republic Parma Modena Lucca Tuscany Roman Republic Parthenopean Republic Piombino Montenegro Ionian Islands (to France) Ragusa Trentino

Map 2  Europe in 1799

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.






K 6

M A R 3



5 8
























Frontier of Holy Roman Empire


French occupation/ administration Second Coalition

French satellites/allies

France (annexations 1792–99)

France (frontiers of 1792)

1 The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars

Let us begin by making one thing very clear. The French Revolutionary Wars were not a struggle between liberty on the one hand and tyranny on the other. They were not, indeed, wholly about the French Revolution at all: with considerable justice, indeed, Tim Blanning has gone so far as to argue that they did not break out in 1792, but rather two years before the fall of the Bastille, the cause being the great crisis that erupted in 1787 in eastern Europe. According to this scenario, war preceded the revolution and not the other way about (indeed, one could almost even go so far as to argue – though the current author would not do so – that the most important event in the international history of Europe in the last fifteen years of the eighteenth century was not the French Revolution of 1789, but rather the Polish Revolution of 1791). This, of, course, does not mean that ideology played no role in the spread of conflict: on various occasions, in fact, it intensified tension. But the chief cause of trouble it was not, whilst the diplomatic history of the 1790s (and, indeed, the 1800s) suggests that few of the great powers of Europe had any problems with the concept of peace with France, nor even an alliance with her. Nor did the 1790s bring any real change in the aims of the great powers, who in each case pursued goals that would have comprehensible to rulers of fifty or even one hundred years before. This should not be taken to mean that these goals were fixed. Every state at one time or another had choices to make in terms of their priorities and partners, or felt that it had no option but to sacrifice one goal in favour of another. Much the same was true of the structures within which they operated: the dynamic of international relations in Europe altered very considerably over the course of the eighteenth century and continued to change after 1789. But until 1800, at least, and possibly even a decade later, the general range of those choices remained substantially the same, the implication being, of course, that the French Revolution did not suddenly engage the exclusive attention of every ancien-régime chancellory and ministry of war. To quote George Rudé, then, the struggle of 1792–1801 ‘was not, and . . . never became, a straightforward crusade of the crowned heads of Europe against Revolutionary France’.1 One might with some justice go well beyond this. Not, in fact, till 1814 did the powers finally set aside their differences and concentrate all their forces and energies in a fight to the finish with Napoleon.2 But to discuss this issue would clearly be to go far beyond the remit of the current volume. For the time being, our priority must rather be to examine the eighteenth-century context. In brief, this was very much that of an age of conflict. For over a hundred years before 1789, indeed, there had hardly been a year when the whole of Europe had been at peace. Why this was so is again a question that need not detain us here for too long. However, in brief, for all the monarchies of Europe, the battlefield was at one and the same time a gauge of their power and a theatre for their glorification, and, by extension, an important means of legitimising their power at home, where they were frequently

2  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars challenged by feudal aristocracies and powerful religious hierarchies. Meanwhile, war bred more war. To some extent, the ever-greater demands which it imposed – for the eighteenth century was an age when armies and navies grew steadily bigger and more demanding in terms of their equipment – could be financed by internal reform. Hence the ‘enlightened absolutism’ which was so characteristic of the period from 1750 to 1789 and beyond, not to mention the efforts of both Britain and Spain to exploit their American colonies more effectively. But a variety of problems, including not least the resistance of traditional élites – a factor that could in itself generate armed conflict – meant that there were only limited advantages to be derived from such solutions, and thus it was that most rulers looked at one time or another to territorial gains on their frontiers or the acquisition of fresh colonies. This, of course, implied war in Europe (which given its cost in turn implied territorial gain or at the very least financial compensation). No major state would ever have agreed to relinquish even the smallest province voluntarily, and, whilst the weaker ones could sometimes be overawed into doing so, a unilateral gain for one monarch was not acceptable to any of the others: for, say, Sweden to have been allowed to take over Norway, Russia would have expected to take over a slice of Poland or the Ottoman Empire. Nor was this an end to the problem. To go to war successfully, it was necessary to possess allies, and allies in turn expected to be paid for their services, either in money or in land. As this, of course, set off a fresh chain of demands for compensation, so the problem could rarely be confined to one part of Europe or another, many of the conflicts of the eighteenth century turning into truly continental affairs that drew in states from Portugal to Russia and from Sweden to Sicily. Nor, by the same token, could any peace settlement ever be definitive. Thus, no war was ever fought with the aim of obtaining total victory: aside from the question of cost, no dynastic monarch would ever have sought to beggar another altogether, if only because the ruler concerned might prove a useful ally in the next crisis. Yet this in turn meant that the loser of any conflict was almost always in a position to seek to overturn the result of one war by seeking victory in another, and thus a game that was essentially pointless continued to fascinate and mesmerise.3 Many factors, then, conspired to make war endemic in eighteenth-century Europe. However, still worse was the fact that the pressures that led to conflict were increasing. Not the least of these was a change that was beginning to take place in the structure of international relations. Thus, very, very gradually, foreign policy was moving from being an affair of dynasties to being an affair of nations. This development must not be exaggerated: indeed, it affected only a few states and made limited progress even in them. Yet, for all that, it cannot be completely ignored. In a very vague and general sense it was everywhere understood that there ought to be a connection between foreign policy and the well-being of the subject, but in most cases little more than lip-service was paid to the idea, whilst there was no sense that the populace had a right either to be consulted on the issue of war or peace or to expect concrete benefits in the event of victory. In short, the peoples of Europe were mere pawns who were to be mobilised or called to endure suffering exactly as their rulers thought fit. Starting in England in the seventeenth century, however, a new pattern started to emerge in that we see the first stirrings of political awakening, if not emancipation: as early as the 1620s, for example, Charles I caused outrage amongst his subjects by failing to intervene effectively in favour of the Protestant cause in the Thirty Years War. This process having everywhere come on by leaps and bounds by 1789, as Black says, ‘In all states public opinion had to be taken into account by government and political figures.’4 However, whilst by no means unimportant, these issues were outweighed by other more pressing matters. Particularly for the eastern powers, there was the rising cost of their

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  3 military establishments. As the eighteenth century advanced, so their armies increased in size: Russia and Prussia both more than doubled the size of their armies between 1700 and 1789, whilst Austria was not far behind. Whereas what had mattered in the early part of the century had been dynastic prestige and, in particular, the question of which of the reigning families should rule the many states that were bedevilled by succession crises, beginning with Frederick II of Prussia’s invasion of Silesia in 1740, what mattered now was rather territory. Conquest, indeed, was essential, and because this was the case all considerations of legality and morality began to go by the board, all that mattered being increasingly raison d’état. But so long as all the major states in Europe were playing the same game, it was held (at least by many of their rulers and statesmen) that universal conquest brought with it universal good. The weaker states of the Continent would suffer, certainly, but as none of the great powers would lose out in relation to one another, the net result would be a balance of power that made for general security. To put it another way, conquest was a moral duty from which all would benefit, and war, by extension, an act of benevolence. Meanwhile, it was also less threatening than before. In 1789 the standing armies of Europe may have been much bigger than they had been in 1700, but new crops, better transport, improved bureaucracies, more productive fiscal systems, harsher discipline and tighter procedures in the field all ensured that the horrors of the Thirty Years War, in which masses of unpaid men had simply surged from one side of Germany to the other, living off the country and denying the authority of political masters that had lost all ability to pay and supply them, would not be repeated. At the same time, it would also be less costly in another sense. Thanks to developments in the art of generalship, it was assumed that battle would be less frequent. Enemy armies would be manoeuvred out of their positions, and, their commanders, as products of an age of reason, would tamely accept the logic of their position and march away, leaving their opponents to march in unopposed. If battles could largely be avoided, sieges, too, would become less of an endurance test, for it was widely accepted that once a fortress had had its walls breached, its governor would capitulate without further resistance so as to save the lives of both the townsfolk and his men.5 Or so it seemed. In reality, much of this, of course, was so much nonsense. Given that every possible territorial solution that could be worked out for the continent of Europe was bound to upset one or other of the great powers, continual conquest would lead not to perpetual peace but rather perpetual war and therefore produce not security but insecurity. As the Seven Years War had shown, as the stakes grew ever higher, so rulers with their backs against the wall would habitually resort to battle rather than simply accepting the logic of superior numbers or generalship, just as they would be inclined to put fortress governors under great pressure to resist the enemy to the utmost: it was, after all, this very conflict that gave rise to the phrase pour encourager les autres. As the War of the Bavarian Succession of 1778–9 had shown, late eighteenth-century regular armies were much less likely than those, say, of the War of the Spanish Succession to be able to pull off the sort of feats of manoeuvre that would have been required to decide the issue of wars without a battle. And there was certainly no diminution in the sufferings which war meant for the civilian population nor in the damage which an army’s passage could inflict on a district. On the wilder fringes of warfare – the Balkans, the frontiers of the American colonies – torture and massacre were very much the order of the day, whilst large parts of Germany had been devastated by the Seven Years War. The overall picture, indeed, is a grim one: war may not have been the monster of the seventeenth century, but it was still a savage beast.6 Of this many rulers and statesmen were well aware, and a few even tried to back away from the traditional power game.

4  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars But in the end, they were helpless, for the only weapons they could fall back on were the same mixture of alliance and armed force that had caused the problem in the first place.7 Indeed, the situation was even worse than this suggested. By the mid-1780s, a major conflagration was in the making. As Jeremy Black has written, ‘In the 1780s, Europe’s rulers were not planning for the French Revolutionary War, but they were preparing for major conflicts, such as that which nearly broke out in 1790–91 between the Prussian alliance system and Austria and Russia’.8 Let us begin by considering France. Thus, once mighty, since 1763 she had suffered a series of major catastrophes and humiliations. In the east, the first partition of Poland of 1772 gravely weakened an old friend without providing any compensation in the form of the boost that was thereby given to Austria. Stripped of her enormous American territories in the Seven Years War, she had gained a certain degree of revenge by assisting the nascent United States of America in the American War of Independence, only to find that this action had shattered her financial position beyond repair and brought her little or nothing in the way of material gain: Tobago, Saint Pierre and Miquelon and a few forts on the coast of what is today Senegal were hardly an impressive haul in this respect.9 In this position she was repeatedly humbled, being forced both to accept a profoundly unfavourable commercial treaty by the British and to stand by helplessly whilst Prussian forces crushed the pro-French régime established by the Dutch revolution of 1785–7. Still worse, perhaps (in going to war with Britain, the French foreign minister, Vergennes, had hoped that humbling Britain on the global stage would force the latter to secure her place in Europe by forging an alliance with France), the damage inflicted on Britain turned out to be minimal in economic terms as well as military ones, for the American colonies – a region of the world that was diverse, populous and affluent enough to constitute a more valuable market for the Old World than any number of sugar islands – were led by factors of cost, sentiment and long-standing business and family links to go on buying British.10 To say that on the eve of the Revolution France was bent on a war that could reverse these disasters would be a wild overstatement – her statesmen were actually pursuing a variety of courses, some of them quite contradictory; Vergennes himself remained a friend of peace right up until his death in 1787; and the financial position was so desperate that 1788 saw the military budget reach an all-time low – but nevertheless this was certainly an option that was being kept open and prepared for: whilst a massive programme of military reform transformed the army and prepared it for offensive operations, French diplomats sought to bolster the position of Austria – France’s chief ally – by seeking an alliance with Persia that might make Russia think twice about going on the offensive in the west (that said, desperate to avoid conflict, Vergennes had refused to back Joseph II of Austria’s schemes for a deal that would see Bavaria added to Austria and the ruling Wittelsbach family given the Austrian Netherlands in exchange). At the same time, efforts were made both to dissuade Vienna from embarking on military adventures in the Balkans and to build up the Turks against Russia whilst also securing a trade agreement with the latter. As for Britain, she, too, was threatened by continued naval construction, alliances with the rulers of Egypt – in theory, a province of the Ottoman Empire but, in practice, a quasi-independent dominion – the dispatch of naval expeditions to India and Cochin China, and the construction from 1783 onwards of a massive naval base at Cherbourg.11 It was not just France that, if only implicitly, was threatening to overthrow the status quo, however. In the eastern powers, too, there were factors making for war. In Austria, for example, Joseph II had been engaged on an aggressive attempt to build a powerful, centralised state, but he had run into increasing opposition and was inclined to seek redress not only in plans that would have involved swapping the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria but also in

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  5 launching an attack on the Ottoman Empire in company with Russia. Also contemplated, meanwhile, was a renewed war with Prussia, the death of Frederick II in 1786 suggesting that she would now be a much easier target. All the more was this the case, meanwhile, as Prussia had in recent years frustrated a series of Austrian attempts to reinforce its position in the Holy Roman Empire.12 What, meanwhile, about Prussia? For Frederick William II, too, aggression was essential. Thus, the gains made in the first partition of Poland had been much smaller than those obtained by either Russia or Austria, whilst Russia had gone on to make further gains in the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–74. Still worse, some of the territories left to Poland were particularly sensitive in so far as Prussia was concerned, the failure to obtain them having left the Prussian army with some difficult strategic problems. Nor had any significant compensation been obtained in the War of the Bavarian Succession of 1778: although Frederick II had frustrated a major improvement in Austria’s position in Germany, he had turned down the opportunity for territorial gains. For his successor, then, more land was essential. In the first place, the means used were to be peaceful ones – like Vienna, Potsdam was quite capable of working out fanciful plans for territorial exchanges, whilst Frederick William II was no warlord – but it is clear that there was to be no drawing back.13 In Sweden there was a situation parallel to that of Austria in that a reformist monarch – in this case Gustavus III – had run into serious opposition at home and wished to reinforce the power of the throne by a flight to the front vis à vis Russia.14 And, last but not least, there was the Russia of Catherine the Great, which, thanks in part to the influence of the empress’ lover, Grigory Potemkin, a hero of the struggle of 1768–74 who was bent on driving the Turks from Europe, liberating Constantinople and, at the very least, setting up a Greek satellite state if not restoring the Byzantine empire, was proving so aggressive in its attitude with respect to its interpretation of the treaty of 1774 that the Sultan’s government was being pushed ever closer towards a counter-stroke.15 This is not the place to retail the long and complicated story of the events that followed. In brief, the inevitable crisis exploded in August 1787 when Turkey attacked Russia in an attempt to claw back the serious losses she had suffered in the war she had waged with Russia in the period 1768–74 (the result had been the treaty of Kutchuk Kainarjae, by which Constantinople had to surrender its overlordship of the Khanate of the Crimea, pay Russia substantial reparation and cede Bukovina to Austria, as well as granting Saint Petersburg the right to protect the substantial Christian populations contained within the Ottomans’ domains). This conflict in turn provoked a general war in eastern Europe in that, bound by the terms of the treaty of alliance she had negotiated with Russia in 1781, Austria was forced to enter the war against Turkey, whereupon Sweden declared war against Russia and Denmark declared war against Sweden.16 Meanwhile, in 1789 large parts of the Habsburg Empire were gripped by a great wave of protest at the centralising policies of Joseph II, the disturbances in the Austrian Netherlands – i.e. the western half of present-day Belgium – eventually culminating, as we shall see, in an armed revolt that drove out the Austrians altogether. By 1790, except in the Balkans, the fighting had died down, not least because, in a clear instance of the growing importance of public opinion, Gustavus III had been forced by growing internal opposition to make peace with Russia, but, in the midst of the general confusion, revolution had broken out in Poland where a reformist faction amongst the nobility was anxious to restore her fortunes and build a modern state: in the middle of the eighteenth century Poland had been the largest state in Europe next to Russia and Austria, but a series of complicated events in the first half of the century had reduced her to the status of a Russian protectorate, while the deeply entrenched rights of the nobility – the most notorious was the so-called liberum veto, a provision that meant that it took the

6  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars vote of just one deputy for new laws to be thrown out by the diet – had had the result of hamstringing the state in military terms and leaving her wide open to a partition that saw Austria, Russia and Prussia seize substantial border territories from her in 1772.17 Until now, events in France had for the most part been ignored, but in the course of 1791 she too was dragged into the crisis on account of Leopold II of Austria’s desperate attempts to stave off a further round of hostilities and, in particular, a further partition of Poland (see below). For the self-same reason, it is now time for us to turn to those events. What happened in France in 1789 and the years the followed has, of course, been subjected to endless debate, and it is not the intention of the author to recapitulate the full canon of that debate in the current work. In essence, however, the story begins with the bankruptcy – financial, certainly, but also personal, political, diplomatic and military – of the French monarchy. To begin with the figure of Louis XVI is, perhaps, to risk accusations of somehow imagining that if only France had been ruled by a Louis XIV the French Revolution would never have happened, but it is not necessary to take this line to accept that Louis XVI was scarcely either a dynamic or a reassuring figure: whilst he may have allowed himself to be painted wearing a suit of seventeenth-century style armour in the same style as that affected by so many of his contemporaries, such dreams as he entertained of foreign-policy success revolved around the exercise of what today would be called soft power. Thus, if France would reign supreme, it would be on account of her cultural supremacy and the reputation of her monarch for wisdom and beneficence. To quote William Doyle, indeed, ‘All Louis XVI had was good intentions.’18 Having inherited the throne at the age of just twenty, following the sudden death of Louis XV, a monarch who had done little or nothing to prepare him for his future role, he was conscientious, hard-working and by no means unintelligent, but, with all, he was shy, awkward and uncommunicative; very much inclined to take refuge behind a mask of hauteur; obstinate to a fault; and determined to defend his every prerogative. As if all this was not enough, meanwhile, he was also extremely obese, and this added still further to the general air of lackadaisicalness, an air that was contributed to by the fact that, desperate to show that he was no tyrant, he had rescinded the reforms imposed on the regional councils of administration and justice known as the parlements by his predecessor’s chief minister, Maupeou, virtually as soon as he had come to the throne and ever afterwards fought shy of repeating the experiment: when a new Comptroller-General of Finance, Anne-Robert Turgot, attempted a further bout of reform from 1774 onwards, he was very quickly dismissed.19 And, if obesity was one chink in the king’s armour, his queen, Marie-Antoinette, was another. Much demonised both before and after 1789 on account of a wide range of wholly invented social and sexual misdeeds, the sometime Maria Antonia of Austria did not deserve much of the calumny that was heaped upon her, but she cannot be defended from charges of ignorance, frivolity, extravagance, indifference to the plight of the poor and meddling in court politics, whilst the fact that she was Austrian was little short of disastrous (as we shall see, the alliance with Austria of which she was the personification offered France very little, whilst at the same time risking dragging her into conflicts in eastern Europe in which she had little interest, the result being that the queen was perceived as nothing short of a de facto enemy agent, and not so much l’autrichienne – the Austrian woman – as la chienne autriche – the Austrian bitch).20 Had the circumstances been different, it is possible that the king and queen’s personal failings would not have mattered. However, the circumstances were not different. On the contrary, as detailed above, in the wake of American Revolution, France found she had gained little benefit from Britain’s humiliation. Thus, her diplomatic situation seemed as weak as ever, while the Austrians repeatedly failed to give her the support she needed.

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  7 As the 1780s rolled on, meanwhile, so the diplomatic eclipse seemed to darken by the year. Establishing a friendly government in Amsterdam would have been a triumph in the constant struggle with Britain – setting aside the valuable strategic situation occupied by the United Provinces themselves, the Dutch held footholds in the wider world that would be of obvious value in the form of the Cape of Good Hope and Ceylon – and yet the opportunity had been lost, matters being rendered still worse by the fact that the chief result of the crisis had been the emergence of an alliance between Britain, Holland and Prussia that effectively blocked all hope of serious advances in the Low Countries. As for efforts to mediate a peace in the Balkans that would have allowed the Turks – a traditional ally of France – to emerge from the war with Austria and Russia – a war in which Austria’s involvement was one more sign of the contempt in which Vienna seemed to hold French interests – with minimal losses, these were rebuffed. Nor was it just such matters of detail, important as these were. Even more frightening were the structural changes that had taken place in European geopolitics. Thus, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, Louis XIV had in part been able to dominate Europe because the support of Spain in the west, and Sweden, Poland and the Ottoman Empire in the east, sufficed to balance the British and Austrians. However, the situation had now changed in that the British were far more powerful than they had been a century earlier, while the rise of Prussia and Russia – powers that had been negligible in 1700 – ensured that France’s eastern allies were now far less effective. As Stone has said, ‘The entire strategic calculus of Versailles . . . was rendered obsolete by developments at Saint Petersburg and Berlin.’21 Clearly, then, if France was to defend her interests in the cut-throat world of international relations, she would, needs must, have to depend on her own resources, but these, it was clear, were simply not fit for purpose. The navy, certainly, was both large and of considerable quality, but the very special circumstances of 1781 – a moment that saw France, Holland and Spain united in alliance against Britain – were unlikely to be repeated: able to build ships at a far greater rate than the French, by 1789 the British had an advantage of well over two to one in terms of ships of the line.22 Even fighting in such a context, meanwhile, the Bourbon fleet was far from invincible in tactical terms – the very squadron that had triumphed at Chesapeake Bay had, after all, shortly afterwards suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of the Saints, a fact that was doubly worrying given the fact that the same West-Indian waters contained the vital colonies of Saint Domingue and Guadeloupe – while it was not ships that were going to make a difference in facing up to opponents such as Prussia or, for that matter, convincing Austria to take more notice of France’s interests. Yet the French army looked even less fit for purpose than the navy. Populous though France was, her army was comparatively small, while the earnest attempts that had been made to improve its performance since the disastrous defeats of the Seven Years War – the most important are the formation of specialist light-infantry battalions, the introduction of the superlative Gribeauval artillery system and the opening of a network of military academies – had yet to be tested in combat and, in some instances – above all, the tactics that the infantry should employ on the battlefield – were still the subject of intense debate. But even had the army been stronger, there was simply not the money to allow France to go to war: indeed, such a course of action was explicitly rejected by the current Minister of Finance, Loménie de Brienne, on the grounds of cost. To quote Jeremy Black, then, ‘In foreign-policy terms, 1787 marked the beginning of the Revolution.’23 To make this point more explicitly, it is necessary to examine the gulf that had opened between France’s governance and the requirements of her prosperity and, to the extent that one can speak about such a thing, national interest. Thus, over the past fifty years or

8  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars more, the wealth of France’s West-Indian colonies had come to form the bedrock of her wealth. Whilst French merchants and financiers made fortunes from the slave trade, other merchants, not to mention the planters of Saint Domingue and the other French colonies, made equal fortunes from the consignments of sugar, coffee, indigo and other products that they sent back to France both for domestic consumption and re-export. Finally, in the hinterlands of Atlantic ports such as Bordeaux, La Rochelle and Nantes, cultivation of the commercial crops necessitated by maritime expansion was booming, just as in their shipyards a host of craftsmen were labouring to construct the new vessels that were just as essential.24 Members of the nobility and the bourgeoisie alike thrived off the immense profits which all this economic activity generated, and the latter group in particular were able to use their growing wealth to buy their way into the ancien régime, whether by acquiring land or patents of nobility.25 With France clearly a nullity in international relations, the question could not but arise as to how the substantial economic interests that had thus been generated could be defended against British predation. Seemingly there was no money with which to lend muscle to French foreign policy, and yet the fabulous ostentation of Versailles – a spectacle to which even those who were no more than moderately prosperous could gain access and which was therefore in effect on show for all to see – suggested that money existed in plenty, the problem being rather that the monarchy could not be trusted to spend it on the men and ships that were so obviously required: it was after all only in 1768 that a new royal palace – the so-called Petit Trianon – had been erected at Versailles, whilst in 1783 this had been followed by the Hameau de la Reine, on the surface a fantastical rural idyll constructed for no better reason than to allow Marie-Antoinette to play at being a shepherdess.26 And, if the Hameau de la Reine was completed, the naval base at Cherbourg was not.27 Dissatisfaction with the régime’s conduct of foreign policy, then, was rife, but this was but the beginning.28 For the French élites, the 1780s was an extremely frightening period. At the heart of this was a combination of economic instability, agrarian and industrial backwardness and population growth. To begin with economic instability, with France an overwhelmingly rural country, the harvest was everything, and that meant in turn that the whole country was at the mercy of the weather. Should the latter ruin the harvest, then the amount of grain available for release to the urban market would fall by a disproportionate amount. And this in turn would force up the price of the bread that was the staple of the artisans and the labouring poor, thereby undermining the market for such mundane items as stools, benches, cups, plates and cutlery, not to mention the second-hand clothes that were a prominent feature of every street market, the result being that the income of the humble was also hit very badly. With the peasantry’s always limited disposable income also being sent into sharp decline, the resultant crisis would spread ever more widely until its tentacles had enfolded even the humblest pedlar. To break out of this situation, of course, what was needed was industrialisation, but this last was in the aggregate limited in the extreme, not least because France’s colonies were not extensive enough to generate the sort of demand for cotton products and other goods emanating from Britain’s much more impressive collection of overseas territories and continued control of the vital American market (also important here was, first, an overwhelming tendency for surplus capital to be invested in land and status rather than industry, and, second, the backwardness and low productivity of much of French agriculture).29 And, finally, due to a variety of factors, including the disappearance of the plague and, particularly in the middle years of the century, an unwonted number of good harvests, the population had been increasing ever more sharply: in 1789 there were perhaps 7,000,000 more Frenchmen than there had been in 1700, at least half of whom had been born in the years since 1750.

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  9 With the economy (and, yet again, the colonies: in this respect the loss of Canada in the Seven Years War was crucial) unable to sustain such increases, the result was grim indeed. As McPhee writes: Twenty-two of the years between 1765 and 1789 were marked by food riots, either in popular urban neighbourhoods where women in particular sought . . . to hold prices at customary levels, or in rural areas where peasants banded together to prevent scarce supplies from being sent away to market.30 Nor was it just that disturbances were frequent: on the contrary, from the 1760s onwards, the number of such events rose steadily until the events of the great subsistence crisis of 1775 – an event that produced a popular response so dramatic that it became known as the ‘Flour War’ – fell back for a few years under the influence of a series of good harvests and then shot ever upwards until they blended with the disturbances that formed the backdrop to 1789.31 Finally, also all too observable were brigandage and vagrancy: from the 1760s onwards, the plains of La Beauce – an area that was by no means the most propitious in France as a theatre of operations for bandit chieftains – were for many years terrorised by a series of gangs known as the chauffeurs d’Orgères, while the roads of many parts of France were constantly thronged by aimless groups of wandering poor who, even if their prime objective was to find work, food and shelter, were nonetheless regarded as a serious social menace.32 Against this internal threat, the régime could offer little protection – though surprisingly well organised, not to mention the best force of its kind in the whole of Europe, the semi-military constabulary known as the maréchaussée numbered under 4,000 men and, like the army and the navy, was simply not strong enough to do its job, whilst the beginnings of a national system of poor relief that were laid down in the form of the workhouses set up in most main towns from the 1760s onwards were but gestures given the swarms of beggars and prostitutes who thronged the streets33 – and thus it was that failure on the home front joined failure abroad as a source of complaint amongst the propertied classes.34 However, these same propertied classes were a force that was far better educated and politically aware than had ever been the case in the past. With the coming of the so-called polite society and, more specifically, the salon, it became de rigueur for anyone desirous of being regarded as a person of culture to have at least a nodding acquaintance with the literature of the day, included in which was not just a growing range of novels – themselves by no means necessarily calculated to uphold the moral norms of the ancien régime35 – but also the extraordinary outpouring of social, political, economic and scientific thought that we collectively refer to as the Enlightenment. That this was anything but a coherent doctrine, let alone a blueprint for revolution, goes without saying. However, nor was it a blueprint for stasis. Driven, above all, by the concept of reason, the philosophes – such figures as Montesquieu, Voltaire, D’Holbach, D’Alembert and Diderot – directly or indirectly subjected almost every aspect of the ancien régime to a biting critique that was reinforced by the writings of the many other scholars and men of letters scattered across Europe, such as David Gibbon, David Hume, Adam Smith, Cesare Beccaria and Immanuel Kant. As for their collective message, it could not be mistaken: through the application of human reason and intellect and the pursuit of knowledge, society could be remodelled, reconstructed, even remade altogether. And, if that was so, it followed that even France’s problems could be resolved: she could alike be better governed, more efficient, more educated, more secure, more successful, more prosperous and more respected. Already under attack for its ownership of so much of the land and opposition to progress, the Church – itself by no means a monolithic block, but rather an

10  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars institution deeply divided between died-in-the-wool defenders of the supremacy of Rome and reformers known as Jansenists who wanted much greater power for the bishops, an end to the religious orders and much greater support of the parish clergy – was also being undermined by the great strides that were being made in the understanding of the natural world, great strides in which Frenchmen – most notably, the chemist, Lavoisier – were once again playing an important part. To quote William Doyle, then, ‘The Enlightenment was a critical movement, and its advocates spent much of their time pouring scorn on pillars of the established order of things such as the Church and the legal system.’36 ‘Critical’, however, is not a word that should be taken too far. In the words of Norman Hampson, ‘The Enlightenment . . . was not primarily a political movement except in the sense that anti-clericalism was a political programme of a kind.’37 And, if it was not political, still less was it democratic. With a few notable exceptions, the men who ‘made’ the Enlightenment in France were anything but enemies of the ancien régime: if anything, indeed, they were enemies of the people, a group who in their eyes were devoid of reason and sensibility, not to mention irredeemably violent and brutish.38 Yet almost every word that the philosophes wrote in one way or another undermined Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, just as hapless servants of the monarchy such as Turgot and Necker inadvertently highlighted the failings of the Bourbon state through their desperate efforts to restore its fortunes. That these failings were enormous, meanwhile, was all too clear. It was not just that the court was wildly extravagant. Wherever the sharp-eyed observer looked, there was chaos. To do justice to this subject in so short a compass is near impossible, but there were nine major factors that held back the French state from realising its not inconsiderable potential. In no particular order, these were as follows: first, the survival of the thirteen parlements, these being regional high courts of appeal staffed by a corps of judges entirely independent of the monarchy on account of the fact that they had either bought or inherited their seats that effectively had a right of veto over all royal legislation; second, the fact that, like the judges of the parlements, the vast majority of officials held their posts either because they themselves had bought them or because this had been done by earlier generations; third, the fact that the collection of most sources of revenue was in the hands of tax farmers who paid over comparatively little of their income to the royal treasury; fourth, the inadequacy of a tax system that touched the resources of the propertied classes (whether noble or bourgeois) hardly at all and exempted the Church altogether; fifth, a legal system that inflicted on France a multiplicity of local courts and legal codes; sixth, web upon web of internal customs duties that at one and the same time acted as a break on industry, undermined the domestic market and rendered it very difficult to transfer grain and other food stuffs from one part of the country to another in times of dearth; seventh, the survival in many parts of France of mediaeval estates that were jealous in their defence of provincial privilege; eighth, a widespread degree of municipal self-government that more than anything else served to defend such privileges as freedom from taxation; and ninth the failure to provide the intendants (hand-picked royal officials with the unenviable task of enforcing the will of the throne and in general heading the administration in their areas) with adequate support in terms of men and authority alike.39 All this, of course, served to give the writings of the philosophes an impact of a sort that the latter had never intended. Meanwhile, for every D’Alembert or Diderot, there were ten, twenty, thirty or more writers of a very different genre whose work had an effect that was still more corrosive. As yet, France was anything but a literate society en tout, but she was nonetheless a society in which reading was becoming ever more common, and one which was therefore beginning to generate an ever-greater demand for reading matter.

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  11 Meanwhile, as education increased (as indeed it did), so there began to appear figures who could find no niche in the structures of power and authority and therefore came to hate it for the manner in which it excluded them from power. Thus was born the figure of the pamphleteer, the man who made his living by hanging on the fringes of educated society and not just reflecting its concerns but popularising them and at the same time increasing the number of his own readers. As witness both the catalogues of illicit booksellers and the consignments of illicit works periodically seized by the authorities, what this boiled down to was a move in the direction of sensationalism and not just that but pornography. The court, then, was not only extravagant but corrupt, a place where masked balls were covers for orgies in which everybody from the queen down engaged in bouts of multiple coupling with numerous partners, including on occasion members of the same sex (everybody, that is, bar the unfortunate Louis XVI whose unfortunate deficiencies in the bedchamber were notorious and who therefore became an even greater subject of derision, particularly when compared with the notoriously uxorious Louis XIV and Louis XV). And, if this was what went on at Versailles, so it went on in many other areas of First and Second Estate society: a particular target here was the Church, and thus it was, for example, that pornographic prints circulated, showing such scenes as voluptuous nuns languidly choosing between rival ecclesiastical erections.40 Developments on the home front therefore combined with developments abroad to bring the question of reform ever closer to the fore. In the end, however, it was the régime that precipitated the crisis. In the wake of the American War of Independence, Louis XVI acquired a new Minister of Finance in the person of Charles de Calonne. An erstwhile intendant, Calonne was all too aware of the monarchy’s many difficulties and he immediately threw himself into a last-ditch effort to produce a plan of reform that would somehow bring in the money that was required to render France a credible great power once again. The chief result of his work was a series of proposals in many respects harking back to the work of Turgot that would have ended the fiscal immunity of the propertied classes, cut government expenditure, rendered the collection of the taxes on salt and tobacco much more equitable, introduced moves towards free trade and, perhaps most importantly, opened the way for the expropriation and sale of the lands of the Church. As both Calonne and the king were well aware, however, simply to announce these measures by decree would have been to incur the wrath of the parlements and see them at the very least gravely delayed, if not blocked altogether. To get round this situation, an appeal to some higher authority was required, and thus it was that he summoned an ‘assembly of notables’ consisting of 144 senior officials, churchmen and aristocrats whose task it was to ratify the reform programme on behalf of the whole nation.41 In itself, the convocation of an assembly of notables was not revolutionary: on the contrary, similar bodies had appeared on three earlier occasions in French history. That, however, was by the by: the net result was to precipitate revolution. For reasons that are not entirely clear – the traditional explanation is that the delegates to the assembly had too strong a vested financial interest in the existing system to tolerate reform, but later historians have in some instances claimed rather that the problem was above all one of detail and even that there was some feeling that Calonne should have gone further – Calonne’s ideas were thrown out and their author dismissed and sent into internal exile. With Calonne gone, the position of Minister of Finance passed to the Archbishop of Toulouse and erstwhile president of the assembly, Etienne Loménnie de Brienne. A much less abrasive figure than Calonne, the new minister succeeded in getting some of the less radical parts of his predecessor’s plan accepted by the parlements, but their opposition to such matters as a new

12  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars land tax was unyielding and, after a prolonged battle with the powerful Parlement de Paris in particular, in August 1788 Loménnie resigned when it became clear that, while the parlements could be silenced (albeit to the accompaniment of enormous public agitation, they were in fact all shut down by decree in May of the same year), France was now quite literally bankrupt: whereas Calonne and his predecessors had hitherto kept the ship of state afloat by borrowing vast sums of money at even vaster rates of interest, the financiers on which they had relied would no longer listen to their demands, still more damage to the royal cause being done when an assembly of the clergy that had been summoned to vote through the Church’s regular financial don to the state limited this to less than one-quarter of the considerable sum that had been asked for and, still worse, decreed that even the miserly amount concerned should be spread over two years; hence the decision to summon the mediaeval parliament, known as the Estates General, recognised though it was that this body had the right to demand the redress of grievances prior to granting fresh taxes.42 The decision to convoke the Estates General had implications that were beyond massive. Literally overnight, France was plunged into a new world. In the first place, there was the question of the conditions under which the new assembly should meet and, in the second, the only slightly less pressing question of the issues which it should debate, this being an explosive mixture. Given that the régime addressed the second issue by issuing an appeal for the elaboration of cahiers des doléances (literally, ‘notebooks of grievances’), the upshot could not but be a vigorous period of debate, but fuel was added to the flames by an announcement that, as had been the case when it last met in 1614, the new body would meet by estates (i.e. by its separate houses, each of which were 300 strong), thereby ensuring that the clergy and the nobility would always outvote the Third Estate – the representatives, at least in theory, of the people – despite the fact that the strength of this last’s contingent was increased from 300 to 600. Over the past few years, debate on the future of France had already been vociferous, but now the release by Loménnie de Brienne’s successor, Necker, of many journalists and pamphleteers who had been imprisoned for engaging in criticism of the régime, the suspension of censorship – a logical consequence of the convocation of the Estates General – and the relaxation of rules banning seditious assemblies meant that the floodgates were well and truly open. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the enormous number of pamphlets that now saw the light of day, some 4,158 being published in the year preceding the opening of the Estates General; much the same was true of newspapers, in respect of which the four titles in publication at the beginning of 1788 had risen to 184 by the end of 1789. And with the pamphlets came political clubs and societies that in many instances were merely extensions of pre-existing salons but, unlike such earlier gatherings, ranged themselves behind particular issues or points of view. In the pithy words of François Furet, then, ‘The monarchy . . . by renouncing its nature, was making way for society.’43 The cahiers des doléances, therefore, emerged on the crest of a wave of public debate that was completely unprecedented and drew its impetus from a much wider segment of French society than just the salons. As for the demands that they made of Louis XVI and his ministers, these were many, varied and occasionally contradictory, including, as they did, regular meetings of the Estates General; the gallicanisation of the Church; the abolition of the tithe and the religious orders; the strengthening of the system of provincial estates; the end of noble and ecclesiastical privilege; the institution of both cheaper systems of justice and more uniform codes of justice; the reduction of public expenditure; the regulation of every profession from prostitution to surgery; the reform of every form of taxation; the closure of theatres and gaming houses; the moral regeneration of society; the abolition of slavery in France’s colonies; the provision of better public services in such areas as highways, street

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  13 lighting, sanitation and access to medical care; and the establishment of basic freedoms of property, occupation and the individual. Not all the demands had equal support behind them, and not all the cahiers voiced the same list of demands or interpreted similar demands in the same way, but the general inference was clear: at every level of society, there was a clear recognition that the ancien régime was no longer fit for purpose.44 Thus far, whilst not ignoring the question of popular involvement and interest in the march of events, we have discussed the Revolution very much as a political phenomenon, as, indeed, a movement that above all reflected the interests of the élites. From the start, however, it was clear that it was much more than just this, that France, in fact, was in the grip of a movement that was at least as much social as it was political. Mention has already been made of the problem of poverty, but it has up until now only been discussed in terms of the extent to which it impinged upon the concerns of the propertied classes. What we need to do now is to consider the problem as it was experienced by the less favoured members of society. That the concerns of these groups were very different from those of the élites is suggested very clearly by close analysis of such views as they were able to inject into the political process. Nowhere is this clearer than in the many thousands of cahiers des doléances that were elaborated by humble parish assemblies in rural areas. Thus, whilst assemblies representing the various élites placed most emphasis on demands calculated to satisfy political agenda – in the case of the nobility, the restriction of royal power and, in that of the more prosperous elements of the Third Estate, the abolition of noble privilege and the setting aside of hindrances to economic development – those that echoed the concerns of the peasantry were rather filled with demands for a fairer system of taxation, the abolition of conscription to the militia and a massive assault on the perquisites of feudalism.45 We come here to a very different revolution. In so far as the propertied élites were concerned, what was required was essentially a series of political reforms that would ultimately bring greater prosperity and with it a reform of the social problem. However, beyond the charmed circle of polite society was a world whose priorities were very different. We speak here, of course, of the rural populace, this being composed of an admixture of peasants – small tenant farmers and owner occupiers who farmed no more land than they could manage by themselves or with the aid of their immediate families and, in a minority of wealthier instances, a few hired hands brought in for the harvest or the spring sowing – and the mass of landless labourers and men who owned or rented a little land but had to supplement their income by hiring out their labour to their richer neighbours or joining the hordes of migrant workers who tramped the country in search of work on the harvest every summer. For these groups, as has already been suggested, life was very hard in that they were inherently vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather and also under the cosh of a combination of steady population growth (amongst other things, this had the effect of, first, driving up rents by as much as 50 per cent and, second, progressively subdividing peasant holdings to such an extent that in the end very few families were left with enough land to live on), mid-century agrarian reforms aimed at enclosing the commons implemented under the influence of the group known as the Physiocrats, and systems of crop rotation that kept as much as half the arable land out of production at any given moment, but many features of the ancien régime conspired to make life even more difficult for them. First and foremost there were the twin pressures exercised by the feudal system and the state (a third element here could conceivably be the Church, but it is generally agreed that, whilst all those who owned or rented land had to pay the tithe, the amount that this represented – usually much less than a tenth, when, that is, it was paid at all, was fairly inconsequential).46 Taking feudalism, first of all, vileins were not tied to the land, did not have to perform forced labour on their seigneurs’

14  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars estates and, money permitting, could even own or rent plots of their own: what survived, then, was a wide range of financial payments (the seigneurs, for example, monopolised such facilities as ovens, windmills and olive presses and charged more or less heavy fees for their use), restrictive game laws which prohibited poaching even in times of the utmost dearth and prevented villagers from dealing with such pests as rabbits and pigeons, the subjection of the populace to the manorial courts and certain restrictions on property rights (in brief, smallholdings whose owner died without a direct heir reverted to the ownership of the appropriate seigneur).47 Meanwhile, although conditions varied from place to place – in parts of Brittany, for example, feudal dues had not been revised for 150 years48 – on the whole the rule of the seigneurs was becoming ever more oppressive as arriviste members of the bourgeoisie sought to do all they could to maximise their investments and needy nobles struggled to keep up appearances in the face of a tide of social change.49 Yet it was not just feudalism. Also to be considered were the demands of the state. To the latter went the land tax and the poll tax, both of them discriminatory levies that fell almost entirely on the rural populace, as well as a variety of levies on basic commodities such as salt, all of which gave rise to much bitterness, not least because the inhabitants of one province very often found themselves paying much higher rates than neighbours living just across the border in another. ‘The indirect taxes are detestable’, railed one cahier des doléances. ‘The exciseman has no respect for the privacy of our homes; he comes poking and prying, laying his hands on everything, and nothing is sacred in his eyes . . . The collector of the taille is a rapacious harpy whose one idea is to squeeze the poor in every way he can. The villagers charged with the collection of the taxes are compelled to ruin their neighbours so as not to be victimised themselves by the exorbitant demands of these petty tyrants.’50 Still worse, the situation was getting worse almost by the year. To quote Georges Lefebvre, ‘The royal demands had steadily risen during the eighteenth century . . . In Walloon Flanders . . . the increase in direct taxes in the reign of Louis XVI alone has been estimated at twenty-eight per cent.’51 If things were bad in the countryside, they were no better in the towns. As the population had risen in the course of the eighteenth century, so it had increasingly outstripped the capacity of the countryside to sustain it, and thus it was that large numbers of destitute villagers and their families began to migrate to the towns and cities in search of work. Unfortunately, however, the latter were no more able to sustain them than their places of origin. Indeed, in urban environments they may even have been worse off, for they had access to neither the kitchen gardens usual in even the most impoverished villages nor the chestnuts, mushrooms and wild berries of the commons, and instead found themselves exposed to a situation in which the price of food they now had no option but to purchase was rising far more quickly than any wages they might hope to earn. Paris, Rouen, Lyon and most other large towns were therefore crammed with thousands of families living on the edge of destitution with little in the way of skills that they could offer. When times were not too hard, some of the men might find work as porters or labourers and some of the women in sweat shops, while there were also generally at least some opportunities in domestic service, but the existence of these classes was, at best, a precarious one, and their physical conditions never other than dreadful. Little better off, meanwhile, were the majority of artisans: not only, albeit indirectly so, were they as much at the mercy of the weather as any peasant or landless labourer, but they were no more immune than the very poor to the ravages of the diseases that stalked town and countryside alike and could in a matter of hours deprive a family of its main breadwinner. As noted before, then, begging, petty crime and prostitution were rife, while the very high incidence of, if not infanticide, then, condemnation to the

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  15 near certainty of the death sentence represented by the numerous foundling hospitals stands as a constant reminder of the miseries endured by the lowest echelons of Bourbon society.52 The poor were a constant and ineradicable feature of life in France, but, as 1788 headed towards 1789, there were even more of them than normal. Why this should have been so is not hard to establish. The commercial treaty signed with Britain in 1786 had certainly had some impact on France’s various textile industries, but it would be misleading to place too much weight upon this factor, not least because the treaty had taken so little time to have the dramatic effects which are sometimes alleged: Blanning, for example, speaks of ‘a recession which affected all sectors of the economy except the colonial trade’ from the 1770s onwards, as well as ‘a collapse of wine prices [from 1778] due to over-production and overabundant harvests’.53 Things were already difficult, then, but on 13 July 1788 there came complete disaster in that a freak hailstorm swept across a broad swathe of northern France and devastated a harvest that was already promising to be mediocre thanks to a serious lack of rain earlier in the year. The consequence was all too predictable in that the country was immediately plunged into a subsistence crisis. As usual, the price of bread began to rise ever more steeply, thereby undermining the ability of artisans to sell their products, while the mayhem was increased still further by an exceptionally severe winter which brought trade and industry to a standstill that was all but total. By the beginning of 1789, then, in town and countryside alike, the countryside was in the grip of conditions that almost certainly outstripped anything that had been seen in France for most of the previous century. Not surprisingly, if the situation was dramatic, so was the response. Bread riots broke out on all sides, the countryside began to mobilise against the seigneurs, and, in April, Paris witnessed serious disturbances when the premises of a wealthy manufacturer named Réveillon were ransacked by an angry mob. Thus far, in one sense, thus normal, but the situation in the spring of 1789 was anything but normal: with Versailles so close to Paris, news of events there was readily available, and all the more so, as the number of newspapers was almost literally growing by the day, no fewer than 180 new publications appearing in the course of 1789, publications, moreover, which were by all accounts being read or otherwise accessed by the denizens of not just the salons but the slums.54 The backdrop to the elections that took place from the autumn of 1788 to the spring of 1789 could, therefore, scarcely have been more threatening. Yet this did nothing whatsoever to affect the composition of the Estates General when it finally assembled in Versailles in 1789. The Third Estate were elected on a very wide franchise consisting of every male taxpayer aged twenty-five or above, but, thanks to the system of indirect election that was adopted, not to mention the fact that deputies were unpaid and had to meet all their own costs, this did nothing to produce a body that was in any way representative of its constituents. ‘What is the Third Estate?’, famously demanded the pamphleteer, Emanuel Sièyes. The answer, of course, was everyone who was not either a noble or an ecclesiastic: in other words, roughly 25,000,000 out of a total population of 26,000,000, of whom the vast majority were the peasants. However, this was not reflected by the composition of the men who came to Versailles. Thus, of 610 deputies, some 400 were lawyers or officials, eighty-five financiers, merchants and manufacturers and about fifty ‘men of letters’, each and every one of them men of property. These, then, were the men who, at least initially, ‘made’ the Revolution, and it was largely to the needs and perceptions of the groups that they represented that that it was initially addressed, needs and perceptions, be it said, that did not even begin to address those of the humble peasants and artisans who had suddenly found themselves given a voice. To paraphrase Gwynne Lewis, if the Third Estate on display at Versailles was intellectually radical, it was also socially conservative.55

16  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars Yet the men of Versailles were not alone. Operating alongside them was another group entirely, namely the swarms of radical pamphleteers and radicals who had been unleashed by the collapse of press censorship. Typical of these figures of the so-called ‘Fourth Estate’ were Jacques Brissot, a clerk from Chartres who had twice been imprisoned in the Bastille for writing seditious pamphlets and spent some time in exile in London; Camille Desmoulins, a failed lawyer living in poverty in Paris who had turned to criticising the régime as a way of making his way in the world; Jacques Hébert, a clerk ruined by a law-suit; Jean Marat, a highly successful doctor who had put aside his medical practice in favour of becoming a full-time journalist in 1788; and François Babeuf, a sometime bailiff who had fallen on hard times. No one should doubt the genuine passion and idealism of such men, whilst, as the example of Marat suggests, it is very far from the truth to imagine that they were all penniless drifters who had failed to make their way in French society. That said, for their ideas to be heeded they all needed a radicalisation of the revolution, just as to maintain their influence (and, for the most part, support themselves), they needed readers, and lots of them. Logic, then, dictated an appeal to the streets, and they therefore were inclined increasingly to outbid one another in their rhetoric, to give their newspapers such titles as the Ami du Peuple and the Tribun du Peuple, and in the more extreme cases to make use of a language that was ever more crude and bloodthirsty. As such, meanwhile, they were to play a key part in events, it in large part being through their influence that the Revolution acquired a mass following. In Lewis’ pithy phrase, henceforth ‘the Parisian crowd, les petits . . . were always standing at the elbows of les gros’.56 The events that followed have been retold so many times that it is scarcely necessary to do so again now. As matters currently stood, the three houses – nobility, clergy and commonalty – that made up the Estates General were set to meet and vote separately from one another, and, as everyone was well aware, this meant that there was a very real danger that any proposals emanating from the Third Estate that challenged the established order in too aggressive or fundamental a fashion would be immediately voted down. For this reason, throughout the preceding six months or more, pressure had been growing in the press and the pamphlet literature for a move to joint meetings of the three houses and, with it, voting in common ‘by head’ rather than ‘by order’. Against this demand, now backed by the parlements, whose determination to defend corporate privilege at all costs was thereby starkly revealed (in the conflicts with the throne of the previous year they had consistently argued that they were defending the rights of the nation against tyranny), Louis XVI stood firm, but, hardly had the deputies assembled at Versailles, than his resistance began to crumble. In brief, the logic of the situation was unanswerable, especially as it soon became very clear that many of the deputies even of the First and Second Estates were not in sympathy with the demands of their more hardline fellows (amongst the nobles, there were plenty who regarded root-and-branch reform as being more important than the defence of a system that had long since outlived its usefulness, while the representatives of the Church were dominated by members of the parish clergy, a group whose depressed situation rendered them eager for change).57 When the increasingly angry Third Estate openly challenged the system by declaring itself to be a national assembly and, in the famous ‘Tennis-Court Oath’ of 20 June 1789, swearing that it would remain sitting until France had been given a constitution, the ancien régime collapsed: with more and more of the deputies of the First and Second Estates voting with their feet and voluntarily joining the representatives of the people, at the end of the month Louis gave way and ordered the remaining hold-outs to join their fellows. In the words of Georges Lefebvre, ‘Hence was effected . . . what may be called a juridical revolution, realised without recourse to violence, by methods taken over from the parlements by men trained in the law.’58

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  17 France, then, was now set on a course from which there was no return, but amongst the minority who refused to accept that this was the case was seemingly Louis XVI. Under pressure from his two brothers and Marie-Antoinette, the king decided that enough was enough. Confronted by yet another challenge by the Estates General, which on 9 July proclaimed themselves to be not just a national assembly but also a constituent assembly, on 11 July Louis dismissed his entire government and replaced it with a team of what he believed to be reliable aristocrats. In itself, this was an act of folly, for Necker, in particular, was well known to be genuinely committed to the cause of reform and, still more importantly, cheap bread, and was therefore immensely popular. Still worse, however, the king was also rumoured, correctly enough, to be massing large numbers of troops around Paris in preparation for a bid to restore order by force, the anger whipped up by this development being fanned still further by the fact that many of the troops concerned were known to be composed of Swiss and other foreigners.59 The results were impressive. Within a matter of hours, enormous crowds of Parisians, many of them members of the artisanate and the labouring poor, had flocked to impromptu political meetings held at the Palais Royale and other venues, where the impassioned rhetoric of self-appointed champions of reform such as Camille Desmoulins stirred them into marching through the streets and embarking on a desperate search for arms. The capital then was out of control, but Louis now discovered that the army was no longer willing to play the part assigned to it. For this, there were many reasons, including, not least, the fact that the officer corps was in many instances gripped by precisely the same desire for reform as so much of the rest of the propertied classes, just as the rank and file – billeted as they were on the inhabitants of Paris and the towns and villages roundabout, and drawn in large part from the same groups as they were now being expected to turn their arms upon and themselves frequently unable to buy sufficient food – were being pulled into the axis of the crowd. However, it was not just that. Also very important in the situation were a number of issues that were specifically military. Particularly important here was the fact that, given the situation that reigned with regard to gaining access to the officer corps and securing promotion with its ranks, much of the army’s leadership cadre was deeply disaffected on professional grounds. Louis XVI having never shown much interest in the army – having on the whole favoured the navy – even the grandest of grandee officers could feel mildly aggrieved.60 This, however, was the least of the king’s problems. Thus, disadvantaged by the aristocracy’s links with the court, the petty nobles who made up the bulk of the officer corps – let alone the handful of non-noble officers, the so-called officiers de fortune – were in most cases condemned to never rising above the rank of captain; the senior representatives of the corps of non-commissioned officers had just seen their already-slender hopes of gaining commissions dashed by an ordinance that laid down that henceforth all candidates for admission to the officer corps should be able to prove that not just they themselves but also their parents and even their grandparents were members of the nobility; and, finally, the rank and file endured poor conditions even when the situation was not nearly as dire as it was in 1789 and were subject to the sort of ruthless discipline typical of many eighteenth-century armies.61 Given this situation, the reality was that Louis XVI’s cause was in tatters. As violence and disorder mounted on the streets of Paris, many units simply went over to the demonstrators en masse, including, most notably, the whole of the regiment of French Guards. Here and there, there were some clashes between the crowd and units that as yet remained loyal, but the king’s commanders soon bowed to the inevitable and pulled back their men rather risk further mutinies. In Versailles, however, there was still a great fear that hordes of Swiss and German mercenaries were about to wreak havoc, and 13 July therefore witnessed

18  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars the National Assembly decree the formation of a citizens’ militia tasked with the defence of the revolution against the forces of reaction (at least, that was the public image: alongside it was the equally important goal of maintaining order and, if necessary, facing down the populace).62 In the future, this force, now denominated the National Guard, was to be overtly regularised as a propertied militia, but in Paris the authorities were in no position to enforce such niceties even if they wanted to, and the early hours of 14 July saw a large crowd simply constitute themselves as a revolutionary army and seize the substantial numbers of muskets stored in the great military complex of Les Invalides. Gunpowder, however, was lacking, and it was soon discovered that the city’s entire stock had been transferred to the mediaeval castle known as the Bastille. Royal prison as this also was – it was where those imprisoned by the executive orders known as the lettres de cachets were traditionally imprisoned – military necessity dovetailed neatly with political expedience, and a hastily organised force of around one thousand men therefore closed in on the fortress. The events that followed – a mélange of sporadic negotiations for a peaceful settlement interspersed with outbursts of fighting – need not be recounted in detail. Suffice to say that, by late afternoon, unprepared for a siege as he was and completely unsupported by the substantial force of troops still in the city, many of whom, indeed, mingled with the rioters or even joined them outright, the governor was persuaded that further resistance was pointless and therefore laid down his arms, not that this saved him, along with a number of his men, from being lynched by the crowd. As for the attackers, promptly labelled the vainqueurs de la Bastille, they became the Revolution’s first heroes and their dead its first martyrs.63 Revealed in the fall of the Bastille was one of the chief pillars of the Revolution at the popular level, namely the rage and despair of the urban poor (it was no coincidence that 14 July 1789 saw bread prices in Paris reach their highest level ever, whilst it is also worth pointing out that Necker was seen by the crowd not so much as the harbinger of a new political order as the harbinger of price controls). However, it was not just on the streets of Paris that the weight of popular ire was felt. In the countryside, the spectacle of a Third Estate dominated by bourgeois proprietors of the sort who were associated with some of the very worst efforts to maximise the profits to be made from the feudal system had not gone unnoticed, and rumours now began to spread of a counter-revolution in the countryside aimed at thwarting the demands of the peasantry. With the harvest approaching, the usual bands of desperate migrant labourers were on the move, and these were now transformed in the popular imagination into mercenary gangs called in to engage in intimidation and murder at the behest of the seigneurs (an alternative and less political explanation is that, given the general dearth, the populace were simply terrified of what the arrival of desperate bands of migrant labourers might mean for their communities, and still another that rural France was in the grip of a collective attack of paranoia brought about via the mass consumption of grain contaminated by ergot, but, even if these ideas have weight, the effect was much the same).64 The result was the grande peur. Starting in Franche-Comté and Gascony – areas that were very different from one another geographically and several hundred miles apart – the countryside was gripped by an extraordinary wave of panic and hysteria that had soon spread virtually from one end of the country to another. Terrified and angry alike, village after village turned on the seigneurs. Stewards and bailiffs, then, were frequently assaulted and many chateaux pillaged and burned to the ground, the trouble going on for many weeks. Weather vanes made in the image of coats of arms were a particular target, along with court houses and the manorial rolls that recorded the precise status of the vileins. Grain supplies, too, were requisitioned and, very occasionally, lands that had once belonged to the commons reclaimed. Finally, here and there, a few unfortunate or

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  19 particularly provocative seigneurs were even murdered. In one sense, there was nothing new here – peasant revolts, after all, had a long history in France – but never had anything been seen that was quite so widespread or quite so prolonged, nor had there ever been a threat to an entire harvest (in the past, trouble had come at moments in the agricultural years when little work was needed in the fields). Dominated by the representatives of rural property as it was, the National Assembly could not but be quickly drawn into the crisis, and, after much debate, on 4 August it took the only step open to it to save the harvest and defend its collective self-interest, namely the promulgation of the famous declaration announcing the abolition of feudalism.65 Meanwhile, just as in Paris the need to defend the Revolution from the monarchy had led to the formation of a propertied militia, so many villages saw the recruitment of what were in effect peasant equivalents, this being a development in which some observers later professed to see great significance. To quote Jean-Pierre Bial, the son of a prosperous tenant farmer from a small town in the province of Limousin who went on to become a colonel in the grande armée: A company of twenty-five to thirty men was organised under the command of Monsieur Boutang . . . The sudden transformation of these peasants into disciplined soldiers made for a strange sight. From that moment can be dated the birth among the mass of the nation of the warrior and patriotic spirit that went on to achieve such great things.66 At a stroke, then, the way had been opened to France’s transformation, but was this really the case? As has been pointed out, the vote of 4 August had only been enacted in a desperate bid to put an end to the grande peur and was immediately followed by the establishment of an aptly named ‘Feudal Committee’ whose members appear to have been chosen according to their likely moderation.67 Be that as it may, the French Revolution now stood revealed in all its diversity. At Versailles the Third Estate – an essentially élite property-owning group – and its allies among the clergy and the nobility was pushing for a far-reaching political reform that would open the way to an increase in domestic security, an improvement in the economic situation and a restoration of France’s power in Europe and the wider world. In Paris, especially, a vociferous coven of pamphleteers and propagandists were competing for influence and calling on the power of the street. In the larger towns and cities, including not just Paris but also such provincial centres as Lyons, Marseilles and Strasbourg, the artisans and their still less fortunate fellows wanted cheap bread. And in the countryside, the peasants and the landless labourers wanted an end to feudalism and, with it, access to the land. Over the next few years, events in France were to be dominated by the interplay between these four elements. Mercifully enough, the precise details of much of the next two years or so need not concern us here: suffice to say that, under the influence of such relatively moderate figures as Count Mirabeau and Antoine Barnave, France was transformed into a constitutional monarchy in which political liberty was married to the defence of property, the great charters of the new age being constituted by the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen’ of 26 August 1789 and the Constitution of 3 September 1791, and, with it, a state in which the Church lost much of its influence through the dissolution of the religious orders, the expropriation of its property and, last but not least, the elaboration of the notorious Civil Constitution of the Clergy.68 Even as the new order was being elaborated, however, it was being undermined. Trouble began early on. Horrified by the overthrow of feudalism, the king delayed sanctioning the vote of 4 August for as long as he possibly could and in the meantime insisted

20  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars on maintaining court ceremonial and generally carrying on as if nothing had happened. This last, however, was scarcely the wisest of moves, for, as Caiani has written: A monarch with a strong attachment to the forms, symbols and procedures of the old order made an unconvincing constitutional head of a regenerated revolutionary state. The pageantry of the royal household contrasted starkly with the emergent political culture of France.69 With suspicion growing of counter-revolution – in this respect, it had not helped that the king’s youngest brother, the Count of Artois, had fled the country in the wake of the fall of the Bastille – it only took a single spark to ignite the powder-keg, that spark being an incident in which a group of army drunken officers insulted the tricolour, which had become the symbol of the Revolution, and loudly toasted the monarchy. The response was swift in coming: on 5 October a large crowd of market-women – ever a particularly combative group – driven primarily by an innate belief that somehow Louis’ recalcitrance was connected with the continued bread shortages, marched on Versailles and, having sequestered the king and his family by force – a process accompanied by the murder of two palace guards – forced them to return to Paris, Louis also having to accede to the abolition of feudalism for good measure.70 Back in Paris, the royal family were installed in the palace of the Tuileries to the accompaniment of a certain outward show of respect and much jovial good humour, but nothing could hide the fact that Louis was to all intents and purposes a prisoner nor wash away the memory of the terror to which Marie-Antoinette had been subjected as the crowds had burst into the palace: there had certainly been a moment when she was in danger of her very life. As yet, there was no open breach between King and Revolution, but ever more figures associated with the ancien régime began to head for the safety of the lands beyond the Rhine, the Alps and the Pyrenees. First to go were a number of court aristocrats, but, as the atmosphere in the army and navy became ever more unruly (see Chapter 3) and the anti-clerical tone of public life ever more pronounced, they were followed by ever greater numbers of officers and churchmen. With Artois and his chief ally, the erstwhile chief minister, Calonne, metaphorically knocking at the gates of every palace in Europe and begging for military aid, whilst at the same time beginning to build an army of mercenaries and deserters on the frontier, it was not long before cries were being raised that the king and queen were to all intents and purposes ‘enemies within’.71 From this there emerged a republicanism that had not been on view in 1789 but now to many observers seemed the only way to save the Revolution. As might have been expected, prominent here were the radicals who had been so prominent in 1789: coalescing in a large number of political clubs of which the most important were those of the Cordeliers and the Jacobins (the names come from the erstwhile convents in which they held their sessions), they preached the need to destroy counter-revolution and strove by every means to keep the power of the street lined up behind the Revolution. More and more frightened, in April 1791, Louis and Marie-Antoinette faced a further crisis when an attempt to spend Easter at the suburban palace of Saint Cloud ended in their enforced return to the city, whilst they were also confronted with the – from their point of view – thoroughly objectionable Civil Constitution of the Clergy. In the circumstances, the only way out seemed to be flight, and so, on 20 June, the royal family slipped away from Paris and made what should have been a dash for the frontier. However, dash of any sort it was not: the party’s progress rather being extremely slow, after barely twenty-four hours of freedom, the fugitives were rounded up at Varennes and brought back to Paris to be met by a hostile crowd. It was a key moment. To quote François Furet:

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  21 Between 1790 and 1791 . . . the deputy from Aix [i.e. Mirabeau] argued that the Revolution . . . was not by any means incompatible with a renewed monarchy . . .  The monarchy, on the contrary, chose to offer the spectacle of its separation from the nation.72 With the flight to Varennes, the French Revolution connects once more with the international history of Europe. Thus far, it has to be said that its influence in this respect had been remarkably limited. A few monarchs, certainly, had responded to the news of the fall of the Bastille with alarm and hostility – good examples include Catherine the Great of Russia, Gustavus III of Sweden and Charles IV of Spain – but none had made any real attempt to intervene against the Revolution, whilst Joseph II of Austria’s successor, Leopold II, had been positively gushing in his praise. Thus: The regeneration of France will be an example which all sovereigns and governments will be forced, willy-nilly, to copy. Infinite happiness will result from this everywhere . . . and it will be one of the most useful fashions introduced by France into Europe.73 More cynically, meanwhile, Frederick William II of Prussia, a state which had for some years been showing its contempt for the notion of monarchical solidarity by quietly fomenting dissent in the Austrian Netherlands and Hungary, welcomed the Revolution on the grounds that it would weaken France as an ally of Austria, whilst in Britain, too, vague notions that France was somehow but following the glorious precedent set by the events of 1688 were coupled with the hope that the Royal Navy’s greatest competitor would be crippled.74 Monarchs might disapprove of what was happening in principle or lament this or that event in particular, but the conclusion is unmistakeable: France was either not a matter of much concern or, alternatively, something that they could not do anything about: thus, in Austria, Joseph II’s renunciation in the last weeks of his life of the reformist policies of the 1780s had done little to restore order to his troubled domains; in Prussia Frederick William II prided himself on being a benevolent ruler who had lessened the burden of taxation on the poor and at the same time pleased the propertied classes by pushing on with the legal reforms initiated by Frederick the Great; and, in Russia, Catherine II was fully occupied with Russia’s wars against Sweden and Turkey. In the words of Paul Schroeder, then, ‘The revolutionary events which shook France from May to August 1789 . . . had little impact on international politics.’75 Here and there, we see a period of domestic reaction, but the use of armed force was never even contemplated. With the general complacency reinforced by the National Assembly’s formal renunciation of war as an instrument of foreign policy on 22 May 1790, Artois and his acolytes were therefore offered only the most nominal succour, whilst little response was forthcoming even when the Revolution openly challenged the whole basis of the international order by unilaterally annexing the papal enclaves of Avignon and the Venaissin and failing to exempt the estates held by assorted German princes in Alsace from the abolition of feudalism, the only reason that France came to the forefront being the march of affairs in eastern Europe.76 In so far as these last were concerned, at the moment that we set them aside to discuss the Revolution, the situation was that, whilst peace had been signed in the Baltic, Catherine was still fighting the Turks in the Balkans to the highly complicating accompaniment of a revolution in Poland. In large part thanks to Prussia, meanwhile, stability was a long way away. For all the first-class military reputation she had acquired in the Seven Years War,

22  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars Prussia was the weakest of the Great Powers in that her territories, a large part of which were devoid of agricultural and mineral wealth alike, sprawled from one side of Germany to the other and were unprotected by anything in the way of natural defences. Securing fresh territory and, in particular key fortresses, was therefore something of a fixation and all the more so as the reigning monarch, Frederick William II, was still very much in the shadow of his illustrious predecessor, Frederick the Great, and therefore desperate to prove himself by securing fresh glories. Moreover, Prussia’s position was currently one of great frustration. With Austria bogged down in the war with the Turks, as the latter eagerly pointed out, the obvious move was an attack on her, and early in 1790 the Porte duly succeeded in inveigling the Prussians into signing an offensive alliance that committed the latter to war with Vienna. However, with mobilisation of the army actually in train, Britain – at this point Prussia’s ally – made it very clear that she would on no account tolerate aggression against Austria, while Leopold II in any case shut the door in Prussia’s face by opening peace negotiations with Turkey on the basis of the status quo ante.77 This, however, just produced fresh complications. Much enraged, the Prussian government suggested, first, that France should join Prussia in an alliance against Austria and ,second, albeit all but simultaneously, that Austria should join Prussia in an alliance against France, the ostensible aim of which would be to restore the ancien régime but whose goal was actually to secure Prussia a number of territories belonging to Bavaria, in compensation for which Bavaria and Austria would be offered compensation in France. Neither France nor Austria being prepared to join Prussia, Potsdam now turned its attentions to the Russians, who were currently seeming set fair to mop up in the Balkans without difficulty. The prospect of Catherine the Great settling eastern Europe as she wished being as alarming to Britain as it was to Prussia, the way opened to yet another scheme, this one envisaging the empress being faced by a choice of making peace with Turkey or being attacked by George III and Frederick William II. On the surface, the goal was to ensure that the Russians could not put a stranglehold on Polish trade by denying the Poles access to the Black Sea via the Rivers Bug and Dniestr (in brief, Pitt and the Prussian chief minister, Ewald von Hertzberg, were currently hoping to get Poland to join the alliance of Britain, Holland and Prussia that had been forged in 1787 and therefore wanted to forestall any attempt at blackmail on the part of Russia). Beyond this, meanwhile, the Prussians were also hoping for gains in Poland: included in the package of measures was the demand that Russia should also be made to give up her rights in Poland, this being something, it was argued, that would make the Poles amenable to surrendering the important fortress cities of Danzig (Gdansk) and Thorn (Torun).78 For a fourth time, however, the Prussians were frustrated as domestic political difficulties forced the British prime minister, William Pitt, to back out of the projected démarché.79 This business over, Catherine’s forces were able to press on to victory, July 1791 seeing the Turks forced to make peace at the cost of a large expanse of territory on the north coast of the Black Sea. According to all the canons of eighteenth-century diplomacy, territorial gains for one power ought to mean territorial gains for its neighbours and, particularly, rivals, and so the Prussians once again went on the offensive. In combination with Britain, they had just weeks before been courting Warsaw, but they now reversed their policy, and began to press Austria for an alliance that would open the way to a second partition of Poland. At this there followed yet more scheming. Despite having taken part in the first partition of Poland in 1772, Austria was now very well disposed towards that country, for, if allowed to flourish, the revolution of 1791 bid fair to rescue her from Russian tutelage and establish her as a strong buffer state (as a result of the new constitution, the power of the Polish government was greatly increased and the privileges of the nobility much curtailed). However, all

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  23 too clearly, this arrangement had little chance of being acceptable to Catherine the Great, whilst Prussia was only too likely to come in with Russia if the latter went to war to restore the situation prior to 1791. In other circumstances, Leopold might have fought to defend the Polish revolution, but, as his decision to pull Austria out of the war with Turkey had already suggested, he was deeply averse to conflict: on the one hand, of all the rulers of eighteenth-century Europe, the one who saw most clearly that the endless cycle of warfare had somehow to be ended, he was also well aware that Austria’s finances were simply not capable of sustaining the demands of yet another war. That being the case, Leopold in this instance went along with Prussia: in brief, better to give Frederick William II the territory he wanted and save what was left of Poland rather than see Poland swallowed up by two powers that wanted nothing other than her destruction.80 Yet this was not the end of Leopold’s manoeuvring. By this time, events in France were causing genuine concern in the royal palaces of Europe and, for the first time, calls for an attack on France began to be heard, most notably from Catherine the Great, Frederick William II and Gustavus III. It is fairly clear that, at least in the sense of being motivated by ideological concerns, these should not be taken at face value – Catherine the Great wanted to get Austria and Prussia embroiled in a war with France, Frederick William to obtain more territory and Gustavus III to restore the military power of a traditional ally – but they nonetheless provided Leopold with a heaven-sent opportunity. Whilst genuinely concerned for the safety of the French royal family – Marie-Antoinette was, after all, his sister – he was yet deeply opposed to military action in France and, indeed, anywhere else and wanted nothing more than peace and stability. Still faced by the conundrum of how to attain his preferred cause in Poland – i.e. the survival of the Polish state as it had existed in 1791 without the loss of territory to Prussia or anyone else – he now came up with what in his eyes appeared a winning formula: in brief, why not unite the whole of Europe against France and in the process impose an arm lock on the whole gamut of international relations, thereby at one and the same time saving Poland and ensuring that Austria would not have to engage in any further wars? The result was the circular of Padua, a diplomatic note issued on 6 July 1791 calling for the formation of a concert of Europe aimed at forcing the French government to guarantee the safety of the French royal family on pain of military intervention.81 As diplomatic initiatives go, few can have been more well meaning than the circular of Padua: aimed at guaranteeing peace and protecting the cause of political reform in Poland, it was only in the realms of theory a threat to the French Revolution: with memories of the Dutch debacle of 1787 very recent and all the evidence pointing to the fact that France was in a far worse state militarily speaking than she had been then, Leopold was sincerely convinced that there would be no war – that the Revolution would in effect settle down and allow France to become a stable constitutional monarchy that was no more incompatible with the international order than Britain was. Indeed, when, joined by a Prussia still engrossed in her endless search for territory, Leopold issued the subsequent Declaration of Pillnitz of 27 August 1791, the fact that he wanted to avoid war was made very clear: if France did not moderate her behaviour, she would be attacked, yes, but only if absolute unanimity was attained by the international community.82 Sadly, however, Leopold had miscalculated. In the first place, his apparent belief that fear of the Revolution was now so widespread that it could be mobilised in the service of Austria’s interests in eastern Europe proved to be a disastrous error: the only state that came forward to support him was ever land-hungry Prussia, whilst the very prince whose palace had given its name to the declaration of Pillnitz, namely the Elector of Saxony, pointedly withheld his support.83 And, in the second place, Leopold misjudged the situation in France as well. In Paris, power had

24  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars hitherto been held by constitutional monarchists who were deeply concerned for the social order and therefore desperately anxious to cooperate with Louis and Marie-Antoinette. Opposing them, however, was the faction of the highly influential Jacobin Club – a body which did not just meet in Paris but was establishing a network of branches all over the country – known by virtue of the fact that their chief leader was Jacques Brissot as the Brissotins. Drawn from a mixture of the more radical elements of the National Assembly and the journalists and pamphleteers who had been playing such a major role in French politics since 1789, prominent names amongst them included the Marquis of Condorcet, Jean-Marie Roland and Pierre Vergniaud.84 In brief, as we have seen, their position was quite simple: so long as a monarch was on the throne, the Revolution could not but be in danger, and so logic dictated that France must become a republic, a republic, moreover, in which they would take charge of France’s political destinies (genuinely attractive though the ideas of the Brissotins often were, they cannot be acquitted of personal ambition). And, with a seemingly hostile Europe combining against France, what better way to get rid of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette than by engineering a war that would, in effect, put them in the position of being traitors?85 At the very time that Leopold was moving towards the circular of Padua and the declaration of Pillnitz, events in Paris were moving in a direction that was completely antithetical to his plans. In this respect, matters began with the so-called massacre du Champ de Mars. Determined to show that he and his fellows had the support of the people, on 17 July Brissot organised a great meeting on the parade ground known as the Champs de Mars, this being attended by as many as 50,000 people; the mass support that it received was in part the result of the fact that it was backed by the still more radical elements concentrated in the parallel Cordeliers club led by such figures as Desmoulins. There was no intention of, for example, storming the Tuileries – rather the aim was to collect signatures for a great petition calling for Louis to be deposed – but the authorities called in the National Guard, and, commanded though this was by one of the erstwhile darlings of the first period of the Revolution, the Marquis of Lafayette, the troops opened fire with catastrophic consequences: nobody is entirely certain of the number of casualties, but there may have been as many as fifty dead and wounded, most of them men and women of humble origins.86 In itself, 17 July 1791 was a shattering blow to the cause of moderation: simply by organising the demonstration, Brissot had succeeded in purging the original Jacobin Club of its more conservative members, 264 of whom withdrew and established a rival political club known as the Society of the Friends of the Constitution in the convent of Notre Dame des Feuillants in the Rue Saint Honoré, while Lafayette was immediately forced to step down from the command of the National Guard.87 Already, then, the Brissotins possessed something of a winning hand, the very winning hand, of course, into which Leopold was now proceeding inadvertently to play. No sooner had news of the emperor’s efforts broken than France was gripped by a war-scare that the Jacobins and their adherents strove to whip up by every means possible. With the country swept by rumours of hostile fleets on the seas and hostile armies on the frontiers, the local branches of the Jacobin Club threw themselves into such activities as convening mass meetings and street demonstrations, organising security patrols, locking up suspected spies and counter-revolutionaries, opening the mails, recruiting companies of volunteers and building beacons to warn of invasion. Faced by such pressure, the new provincial authorities, themselves often penetrated by men who shared the ideas of the Brissotins, could not but mobilise the National Guard, whilst from Paris a call went out for 100,000 men to come forward from the ranks of the National Guard to form an auxiliary army that could help defend the Revolution.88

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  25 Even before the new legislative assembly set up by the elections convoked in accordance with the Constitution of 1791 met on 1 October, radicalism was, most literally, on the march. With their cause already favoured by the fact that the original national assembly had decreed that the new body should be drawn entirely from men who had not sat in its ranks – a move that automatically cleared away many moderates and opened the way for many radicals to secure election, including, not least Brissot89 – not to mention the coincidence of the elections to the new body with the great war-scare produced by the circular of Padua and the declaration of Pillnitz, Brissot and his followers were quickly able to secure a dominant position from which they cheerfully defied the strictures of Leopold II and drove the Revolution ever forward: in November, for example the assembly was persuaded to introduce a series of punitive measures against the large numbers of priests who were refusing to take the oath of loyalty specified by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy.90 Such measures were in part designed to force Louis’ hostility to the Revolution into the open by, for example, provoking him into making use of his suspensive veto, but from the beginning the Brissotins’ chief thrust lay in ensuring that the war-scare of 1791 became a self-fulfilling prophecy. At heart, what was planned was no more than a war against Austria, a cause that they knew would enjoy much popularity amongst their supporters (Prussia, it was fondly believed, could be persuaded to stay neutral or even secured as an ally), but from the moment that Brissot opened the campaign with a speech denouncing what he pretended was a gigantic pan-European conspiracy to overthrow the Revolution, he and his followers were swept away by their own rhetoric: France, it was claimed, had needs must to reclaim the position of international dominance of which she had been deprived by the incompetence and pusillanimity of Louis XVI, and this could not but sound like a challenge to the whole edifice of international relations, a cause attractive to many even of the Feuillants, not to mention the hundreds of radicals who had sought safety in Paris in the wake of revolutionary turmoil elsewhere or simply flocked there, as they would doubtless have put it, to partake of the breath of liberty. As for war itself, meanwhile, should it come, it could not but be victorious: on the one hand, now granted her liberty, France would fight all the harder, while, on the other, the oppressed peoples of Europe would burst their chains asunder and rush to support their benefactors, and the soldiers of the ancien régime – according to Brissotin rhetoric, mere slaves who had no interest in what they were fighting for – would turn and run for their lives.91 In so far as Leopold II was concerned, this was not what he had expected at all. However, turning back was not an option: not only did the only way of helping Poland remain using France as a diversion, but Marie-Antoinette was becoming ever more pressing in her pleas for intervention. On 17 January 1792, then, a de facto ultimatum was issued calling on France to desist from all threat of military action against the rest of Europe, restore the rights of the German princes in Alsace, return Avignon and the Venaissin to the Pope and respect the rights of the monarchy; the same document also renewed the calls originally made in the circular of Padua for the formation of a veritable concert of Europe that could enforce these demands. On 7 February, meanwhile, Austrian resolve was further stiffened by the signature of an alliance with Prussia, whilst on 1 March one of the last remaining factors standing in the way of war was removed when Leopold II died suddenly, his young successor, Francis II, being much less inclined to take a permissive view of events in France.92 As can be imagined, the Brissotins regarded the stiffening of the Austrian position with the utmost glee, whilst they had also now received additional support from a number of somewhat surprising sources. First and foremost here was the Marquis of Lafayette: moderate constitutional monarchist though he was, Lafayette had been much piqued by his fall from

26  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars grace in the wake of the massacre of the Champ de Mars and had come to see championing a war against Austria as a means of restoring his position and not just that but of setting himself up as a dictator who could restore the Revolution to safer channels. Still more important, not least because he was someone who was completely untainted by the events of 17 July 1790, was Charles Dumouriez, an ambitious general of the Bourbon army of Brissotin sympathies, who had built strong links with the many Belgian exiles in Paris and harboured dreams of becoming the first president of the free Belgium that he was sure would emerge from a clash with Austria. Finally, also all too happy to support a war was a Louis XVI convinced that France’s armies would fall apart at the first shots, leaving the way open to the destruction of the Revolution: on 15 March, indeed, the king made use of his constitutional powers to get rid of the existing moderate ministry and to replace it with one headed by the Brissotins and their allies in which Dumouriez became Minister of War. What all this meant, of course, was that the Feuillants split in twain, Brissot therefore experiencing no difficulty at all when he put a motion for war before the assembly on 20 April 1792. Significantly enough, however, the declaration of war was in the first place limited to Austria alone and, in the second directed at Francis II, not as Holy Roman Emperor but rather as King of Bohemia and Hungary: as clearly as the Brissotins could say it, then, they were not going to war with Europe as a whole and did not want any such conflict.93 Thus were inaugurated the French Revolutionary Wars. There was no desire for war with the French Revolution per se on the part of the ancien régime – indeed, in Leopold II’s case there was no desire for war of any sort – but in April 1792 clumsy Austrian tactics combined with political manoeuvrings in France herself had produced a crisis. Initially, the belligerents were limited to France on the one hand and Austria and Prussia on the other, but within a year events had drawn most of the states of Europe into a great coalition against France. That said, however, there was no counter-revolutionary crusade: none of the powers that fought France had any desire to restore the ancien régime as it had existed in 1789, and many either limited their commitment to the struggle or dropped out of it altogether: within a short time of Napoleon taking over the Army of Italy in 1796, indeed, Spain was actually fighting on France’s side. For most powers, in fact, the war against the Revolution was either subordinated to long-standing foreign-policy aims or waged in accordance with those aims. Thus, Russia and Prussia always put the acquisition of territory in Poland before the struggle against France, whilst in Prussia’s case she only entered the conflict at all because she thought that it would bring her territorial gains in Germany. Austria was still thinking in terms of the ‘Bavarian exchange’. And, as for Britain, she went to war to prevent France from taking over the Low Countries, did so all the more willingly because war with Paris offered her a way out of the diplomatic isolation that had made her so vulnerable in the American War of Independence, and for much of the time prosecuted the struggle by means of tactics that gave a further boost to her colonial and maritime superiority. None of this was to say that ideology was not present. No ruler wanted revolution at home – there was, indeed, genuine horror at the events of 1792–4 – and many governments therefore clamped down hard on freedom of debate. At the same time, meanwhile, the defence of the ancien régime or the international order was made use of as a handy means of legitimising the war effort, just as counter-revolution was employed – most notably, by the British – as a means of stirring up revolt inside France. Some financial support, too, was given to the many émigrés who fled her borders – a serious issue given the fact that a counter-revolutionary army was being established in the Rhineland composed of a mixture of foreign drifters and deserters, men (mostly Swiss or German) who had fled France with their officers and Alsatian peasants driven from their homes by want of food94 – whilst in

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  27 1791–2 a sub-text in Austrian policy had always been an amelioration of the position of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. And, last but not least, a host of eager men of letters put pen to paper to denounce the Revolution, and in some cases actually believed what they wrote. Yet, even after France became a republic, engaging in a total war to restore Louis XVIII was quite another matter: a Bourbon on the throne might be a good thing in many respects, but in the end it was something that could be sacrificed to expediency.95 What, meanwhile, of France? Here the concept of an ideological war was certainly much stronger than elsewhere. In 1791–2 there had been real fears of a counter-revolutionary crusade, whilst the Brissotins had accompanied their demands with much talk of sweeping the tyrants from their thrones. But appearances are deceptive. In large part the fears of foreign intervention were a deliberate creation of the Brissotins, for whom war was primarily a political tool designed both to consolidate the Revolution and further their personal ambition. And, despite their rhetoric, when France went to war in April 1792, as we have seen, she did so only against Austria: every effort was made to avoid conflict with Prussia, and for some months secret contacts were kept up with Potsdam in the hope of getting the Prussians to turn on their old enemies. Like others conducted with London, these secret negotiations failed, with the result that the Brissotins found themselves faced by a war which they never really wanted. With France hopelessly unprepared for such a struggle – her army was in disarray and the famous Volunteers of 1791 and 1792 a distinctly unreliable weapon – revolutionising the Continent now gained real importance, whilst to some extent Brissot and his own followers simply became carried away with their own speechmaking and drunk with vainglory: hence the glorious abandon with which they declared war on country after country in early 1793. But in the end their crusade amounted to very little. Whilst 1792 saw France offer to give help to any people who wished to recover their liberty, denounce the principles that lay behind such acts as the partition of Poland and set up a variety of foreign legions whose task it was to raise the peoples of their home countries in revolt, there were plenty of clear-sighted realists in Paris who realised that all this was both hopelessly impractical and unlikely to achieve anything in the way of results. From as early as the autumn of 1793, then, the rhetoric of liberation was increasingly disavowed, whilst the Committee of Public Safety made it quite clear that its watchword was France and France alone: amongst those executed in the summer of 1793 were a number of overenthusiastic foreign revolutionaries. Under the Thermidorian régime and the Directory, the pendulum swung back in the direction of aggression, but liberation was now but a word, albeit a useful one, that allowed France’s rulers to prove their revolutionary credentials. In Belgium and the Rhineland, it was code for annexation, and in Holland, where the first of a series of satellite republics were established, a euphemism for political, military and economic exploitation. And, if revolution was supported elsewhere, most notably in Ireland, it was clearly as little more than a device to weaken and disrupt the enemy. As for the specific goals of French policy, it was clear that many of them fitted in very closely with goals that had been enunciated at one time or another under the ancien régime: the establishment of the Rhine as one of France’s ‘natural’ frontiers had, for example, been vigorously pursued by Louis XIV. Also visible, meanwhile, was an intellectual structure that had nothing revolutionary about it at all: at least one member of the Directory – Reubell – for instance, saw Belgium and the left bank of the Rhine simply as France’s compensation for the gains made by the eastern powers in Poland. Ideological commitment to expansion was not completely dead – on the contrary, the balance-of-power concepts advocated by Reubell were challenged by the fiery Revellière-Lépeaux, who was not only an erstwhile Brissotin, but the deputy who on 19 November 1792 had introduced the decree promising assistance to

28  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars any people that wished to recover their liberty – but it was now balanced by calculation: indeed, it is Schroeder’s contention that, under the influence of the prime realist, Carnot, the Directory was at the beginning desirous not of a continuation of the war but rather of a general peace settlement: so anxious was the ‘architect of victory’ for this outcome, indeed, that he was even ready to forsake the Rhine frontier. All this, however, can be left for further discussion in later chapters. Suffice it to say now that what was playing out was not so much a great crisis in France in which the rest of Europe became embroiled but rather a great crisis in eastern Europe in which France became embroiled. Not for nothing, then did Tim Blanning call his work on the subject The French Revolutionary Wars, 1787–1801.

Notes 1 G. Rude, Revolutionary Europe (London, 1967), p. 64. 2 For a detailed exposé of the author’s views in this respect, see C.J. Esdaile, Napoleon’s Wars: An International History (London, 2007). 3 For an excellent introduction to the international relations of mid- to late eighteenth-century Europe, see H.M. Scott, The Birth of a Great-Power System, 1740–1815 (London, 2006), pp. 137–42. 4 J. Black, Eighteenth-Century Europe, 1700–1789 (Houndmills, 1990), pp. 410–11. 5 M.S. Anderson, War and Society in Europe of the Old Régime, 1618–1789 (London, 1988), pp. 188–92. 6 As many recent authors have stressed, the idea that there was a major gulf between the supposedly ‘limited’ warfare of the eighteenth century and the supposedly ‘total’ warfare of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period has been greatly exaggerated. ‘There is a widely held but largely misleading view that warfare before the French Revolution was inconsequential in its results and limited in its methods . . . Such a thesis is mistaken . . . Warfare was far from limited.’ J. Black, Warfare in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1999), pp. 173–5. For those directly caught up in it, meanwhile, it is difficult to see how their experiences of war differed that much from those of their seventeenthcentury predecessors: much of Germany, in particular, was laid waste, whilst Prussia may have lost as much as 10 per cent of her population. C. Clark, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947 (London, 2006), pp. 209–10. See also J. Childs, Armies and Warfare in Europe, 1648–1789 (Manchester, 1982), pp. 158–69. 7 For an interesting discussion of these issues, see P.W. Schroeder, The Transformation of European Politics, 1763–1848 (Oxford, 1994), pp. 47–52. 8 Black, Warfare in the Eighteenth Century, p. 198. 9 Meanwhile, support for the American cause was not without its political effects. To quote Alfred Cobban, ‘Alliance with the Americans not only exposed French society to democratic and republican ideas, but made them fashionable and respectable. Many of the young French nobles who left their wives or mistresses to fight for American independence returned with a new mistress, liberty.’ A.B.C Cobban, A History of Modern France, I: 1715–1799 (London, 1957), p. 122. See also J. Popkin, A Short History of the French Revolution (Abingdon, 2006), p. 16. 10 B. Stone, Reinterpreting the French Revolution: A Global-Historical Perspective (Cambridge, 2002), p. 24. This situation was not just wounding to French pride. As the same author points out, ‘There was no demand in the French Caribbean islands for textiles and iron goods comparable to the desire for such mass-produced wares in the British-dominated markets of the United States. As a result, there was no colonial spur to industrialisation in France (even assuming – counter-factually – a conjuncture of domestic forces favourable to the process there) comparable to the American stimulus to industrialization in England.’ Ibid., p. 25. 11 J. Black, From Louis XIV to Napoleon: The Fate of a Great Power (London, 1999), pp. 274–80, 287–9. For the reform of the army, see S.F. Scott, The Response of the Royal Army to the French Revolution: The Role and Development of the Line Army (Oxford, 1978), pp. 26–32. F. Fox, ‘Negotiating with the Russians: Ambassador Ségur’s mission to Saint Petersburg, 1784–1789’, French Historical Studies, 7, No. 1 (Spring, 1971), pp. 47–71, is a case study in both the futility of much of France’s diplomacy at this time and the difficulties the regime of Louis XVI faced in remedying the situation. 12 D. Beales, Joseph II, II: Against the World, 1780–1790 (Cambridge, 2009), pp. 373–402; Scott, Birth of a Great-Power System, pp. 181–5; Schroeder, Transformation of European Politics, pp. 47–8.

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  29

13 14 15 16

17 18 19

20 21 22

23 24

25 26


For a recent article that is inclined to exonerate Joseph and argue that he was driven into an aggressive policy in the Balkans – a policy that was not in fact his so much as Catherine the Great’s – for fear of losing Russian support against Prussia, see M.Z. Mayer, ‘The price for Austria’s security, Part 1: Joseph II, the Russian alliance and the Ottoman war, 1787–1789’, International History Review, 26, No. 2 (April, 2004), pp. 257–9. Scott, Birth of a Great-Power System, pp. 201–2. Ibid., p. 194. Ibid., pp. 188–91; J.T. Alexander, Catherine the Great (London, 1989), pp. 238–57. For the crisis of 1787 and the fighting that followed, see Schroeder, Transformation of European Politics, pp. 56–61; K.A. Roider, Austria’s Eastern Question, 1700–1790 (Princeton, New Jersey, 1982), pp. 169–88. Not the least of the results of the new conflict was that, with Austria now embroiled in the Balkans, it cleared the way for Frederick William II to send his troops into Holland. For the revolution of 1788 and the background thereto, see N. Davies, God’s Playground: A History of Poland (Oxford, 1981), I, pp. 509–29; J. Lukowski, The Partitions of Poland, 1772, 1793, 1795 (London, 1999), pp. 52–127. W. Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution (Oxford, 1989), p. 43. The most recent biography is J. Hardman, The Life of Louis XVI (London, 2016) although this has been criticised for taking too favourable a view. Just as unsuccessful as Turgot in respect of financial reform was his successor, Jacques Necker, who sought by a variety of means both to find ways of raising extra fiscal revenue and of encouraging financiers to loan the regime more capital only for himself to be dismissed in turn in 1781. For a brief introduction to Necker, see H. Rosenblatt, ‘The banker who brought down the ancien régime: rediscovering Jacques Necker’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 39, No. 4 (Summer, 2006), pp. 546–8. For Marie-Antoinette, see J. Haslip, Marie-Antoinette (London, 1987). Meanwhile, for the campaign of abuse to which she was subjected, see C. Thomas, The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette (New York, 1990). Stone, Reinterpreting the French Revolution, pp. 28–9. The precise figures of ships of the line in commission in 1790 was 145 for Britain and seventythree for France. That said, the Spaniards possessed seventy-two such vessels, whilst French ships were much more heavily gunned than their British counter-parts, so much so, indeed, that the British advantage in guns was a mere one-sixth. See N.A.M. Roger, The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649–1815 (London, 2004), p. 361; N. Miller, Broadsides: The Age of Fighting Sail, 1775–1815 (London, 2000), p. 108. J. Black, European International Relations, 1648–1815 (Houndmills, 2002), p. 208. For a discussion of the double foreign-policy disaster of 1787, see Stone, Reinterpreting the French Revolution, pp. 49–52. For an interesting case study of Nantes and its hinterland, see J.C. Martin, La Loire-Atlantique dans la tourmente révolutionnaire, 1789–1799 (Nantes, 1989), pp. 12–19. Too much concentration on the Atlantic trade, important as it was, can be misleading. In other areas of the world, France was doing far less well. To quote Gwynne Lewis, ‘By the 1780s only a few French ships were to be seen moored along the quays of Canton, their former berths seized by the English in search of Chinese tea, silk and porcelain. The same collapse . . . was apparent in India where France now had just five trading posts.’ G. Lewis, France, 1715–1804: Power and the People (Harlow, 2004), p. 215. For a brief analysis of Bourbon France, see W. Doyle, The Ancien Régime (Houndmills, 1986), pp. 14–33. In fairness, the Hameau de la Reine was about much more than the fantasies of Marie-Antoinette in that it was set up as a model farm designed to encourage the aristocracy to improve both their estates and the lot of their tenants, but such was the scorn with which the monarchy was regarded that the latter’s good intentions did not receive the slightest credit. Blanning sums up the situation perfectly: ‘Victory over the British in America . . . was spoilt by the failures of the last year of the war which obliged French negotiators to accept much less than had been expected. The Russian annexation of the Crimea, Frederick the Great’s formation of the League of Princes in 1785 and, above all, the failure to prevent the Prussians invading the Dutch Republic in 1787 all helped to confirm that France had ceased to be a great power. In an age when the state did relatively little at home and so much more importance was attached to foreign policy, the failures cut very deep.’ T.C.W. Blanning, The French Revolution: Class War or Culture Clash? (Houndmills, 1998), p. 42.

30  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars 28 For an interesting discussion of the debates called forth respecting French foreign policy in the twenty years prior to the Revolution, see G. Savage, ‘Foreign policy and political culture in later eighteenth-century France’, in B. Simms (ed.) Cultures of Power in Europe during the Long Eighteenth Century (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 304–24. With France caught between an increasingly powerful and aggressive Britain on the one hand and the growing threat to her traditional alliance system posed by Prussia and Russia on the other, furious arguments raged between those who wanted the chief emphasis of French foreign and defence policy to be the reinforcement of French seapower and those who rather wanted it to be building a powerful army that could back up Austria. In reality, this was not a debate about principle – the ‘easterners’ were just as concerned about Britain as the ‘westerners’ – but, as the tone of political debate became ever more violent, so those who placed the Austrian commitment first were more and more labelled as ‘traitors’. 29 This is not to say that France was a state devoid of economic growth or even of industrial growth. On the contrary, there is now general agreement the French industry was far from stagnant. In the words of Gwynne Lewis, ‘The production of woollen goods increased by almost 150 per cent between the beginning and the end of the eighteenth century; the number of looms . . . in the silk capital of the world, Lyon, doubled in the same period . . . In and around Rouen . . . production of cotton goods trebled between 1730 and 1750.’ G. Lewis, The French Revolution: Rethinking the Debate (London, 1993), p. 9. All this is taken as read, but the significant rises listed here are undermined by the fact that the base from which they proceeded as very low, while there was no way that the advances were significant enough to be able to absorb sufficient hands to counter the growing problem of surplus population. At the same time, as Lewis goes on to show, from the 1770’s onwards the industrial expansion that characterised the eighteenth century as a whole, began to slow down and even to go into reverse. Ibid., p. 11. 30 P. McPhee, The French Revolution, 1789–1799 (Oxford, 2002), p. 6. On the problem of poverty in general, see Lewis, France, 1715–1804, pp. 117–37. 31 Lewis, France, 1715–1804, p. 217. For the ‘Flour War’, see G. Rudé, ‘The crisis of 1775 and traditions of popular protest’ in I. Woloch (ed.), The Peasantry in the Old Régime: Conditions and Protests (New York, 1970), pp. 82–7. 32 For a general survey, see B. Garnot, Crimes et justice au XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Paris, 2000). The term chauffeur had a very different meaning from the one it does today, referring to the widespread tendency of the brigands to employ ‘warming up’ the feet of their victims as a handy means of torture. Meanwhile, brigands were only slightly less detested by the commonalty than they were by the propertied classes: the preferred prey of the gangs was anyone with money in their pocket and, therefore, by extension, members of the élite, but in times of dearth they frequently turned on the humble just as much. See R. Mandrou, ‘Scarcity and insecurity in agrarian life’, in Woloch, Peasantry in the Old Régime, pp. 19–20. 33 For the maréchaussée, see C. Emsley, ‘The most useful corps for the state: the maréchaussée’, in C. Emsley (ed.), Gendarmes and the State in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Oxford, 1999), pp. 13–36. 34 It will have been noted by now that the term ‘bourgeoisie’ is being studiously avoided in this chapter. That there was a rising bourgeoisie in France is perfectly true in that many families that were not noble had been able to make their way under the ancien régime and not just that but on occasion make considerable fortunes. What is not true, however, is, first, that the bourgeoisie were separate from the privileged orders. In theory, there were a variety of barriers that excluded commoners from such institutions as the officer corps, but for those with money it was perfectly possible to purchase patents of nobility, many feudal seigneurs in fact being recently ennobled members of the bourgeoisie; so much land had passed into the hands of representatives of the Third Estate, meanwhile, that they owned something like 25 per cent of the superficie of France. At the same time, if bourgeois were becoming noble, many nobles were becoming bourgeois in that they were increasingly engaging in activities on which, by tradition, they used to be seen as turning their collective backs: as an example, the de Charette family which fought so ferociously against the Revolution in the Vendée had, prior to the revolution, been heavily involved in ship-building. With regard to the problem of begging, prostitution and petty crime, meanwhile, see Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, pp. 15–16; O. Hufton, ‘Begging, vagrancy, vagabondage and the law: an aspect of the problem of poverty in eighteenth-century France’, European Studies Review, 2, No. 2 (April, 1972), pp. 978–123. 35 The classic example here is the novels of the Marquis de Sade. See S. Spruell, ‘The Marquis de Sade: pornography or political protest?’, Proceedings of the Western Society for French History, 9, (1981), pp. 238–49.

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  31 36 W. Doyle, Origins of the French Revolution (Oxford, 1980), p. 22. So numerous are introductions to the Enlightenment that trying to select a few key texts is an invidious task, but brief works suited to undergraduate readers include R. Porter, The Enlightenment (Houndmills, 1990) and H. Dunthorne, The Enlightenment (London, 1991). 37 N. Hampson, The Enlightenment (London, 1968), p. 252. 38 To quote Blanning, ‘The Enlightenment was a movement of the educated élites for the educated élites.’ Blanning, French Revolution, p. 22. 39 For a useful general survey, see Doyle, Origins of the French Revolution, pp. 53–65; J.H. Shennan, France Before the Revolution (London, 1983), pp. 2–20. 40 For two important discussions of the growth of political libel and pornography in preRevolutionary France, see R. Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution (London, 1991), pp. 67–91, and R. Darnton, The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France (London, 1996). For a more critical view inclined to play down the effects of the attacks on the royal family, see V.R. Gruder, ‘The question of Marie-Antoinette: the queen and public opinion before the French Revolution’, French History, 16, No. 3 (September, 2002), pp. 269–98. 41 J. Hardman, Overture to Revolution: The 1787 Assembly of Notables and the Crisis of France’s Old Régime (Oxford, 2010) is a recent monograph. For a biography of Calonne, see R. Lacour-Gayet, Calonne: Financier, reformateur, contre-révolutionnaire (Paris, 1963). 42 For a particularly concise discussion of what has been deemed ‘the revolt of the aristocracy’, see N. Hampson, A Social History of French Revolution (London, 1963), pp. 34–59. See also Lewis, Rethinking the Revolution, pp. 21–2. 43 F. Furet, Revolutionary France, 1770–1880 (Oxford, 1988), p. 42; Lewis, Rethinking the Revolution, p. 23; J. Hunt, The French Revolution (London, 1998), p. 15. 44 The dangers of too narrow an interpretation of the cahiers have been pointed out by John Markoff. Thus: ‘The demands expressed in cahiers are those that groups constituted in specific ways could agree upon at a specific moment and with a complex audience in mind: at an assembly one had not only to come to terms with the nobles, urban notables or villagers with whom one was trying to agree on a text, but one also had to bear in mind . . . one’s sense – possibly shared with one’s fellows at the assembly, possibly not – of what it was shrewd and prudent to demand.’ J. Markoff, The Abolition of Feudalism: Peasants, Lords and Legislators in the Abolition of Feudalism (University Park, Pennsylvania, 1996), p. 26. Useful discussions, meanwhile, include M. Patterson, ‘Rethinking the French Revolution: political culture and the cahiers des doléances of 1789’, Proceedings of the Western Society for French History, 20, (1993), pp. 155–66; G.V. Taylor, ‘Revolutionary and nonrevolutionary content in the cahiers of 1789: an interim report’, French Historical Studies, 7, No. 4 (Fall, 1972), pp. 480–502; G. Shapiro and J. Markoff, ‘Officially solicited petitions: the cahiers de doléances as a historical source’, International Review of Social History, 46 (2001), pp. 79–106. 45 J. Markoff, ‘Peasants protest: the claims of lords, Church and state [sic] in the cahiers des doléances of 1789’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 32 , No. 3 (July, 1990), pp. 413–54. 46 With regard to the tithe, as Doyle says, this was ‘patchily levied, and seldom took as much as a tenth even from those who failed to avoid it’. Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, p. 33. 47 For a general discussion of the position of the peasantry under the feudal system, see G. Lefebvre, The Coming of the French Revolution (Princeton, New Jersey, 1947), pp. 131–9; C.B.A. Behrens, ‘The peasant problem in the eighteenth century’, in Woloch, Peasantry in the Old Régime, pp. 74–81; Doyle, Origins of the French Revolution, pp. 192–7. 48 D.M.G. Sutherland, The French Revolution and Empire: The Quest for a Civic Order (Oxford, 2003), p. 63. 49 Lefebvre, Coming of the French Revolution, p. 140; F. Aftalion, The French Revolution: An Economic Interpretation (Cambridge, 1990), p. 33; J.Q.C. Mackrell, The Attack on Feudalism in EighteenthCentury France (London, 1973), pp. 150–6. 50 Cit. A. de Tocqueville, The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution, ed. H. Brogan (London, 1966), pp. 205–6. 51 Lefebvre, Coming of the French Revolution, p. 136. 52 For an introduction to the subject of poverty in eighteenth-century France, see O. Hufton, The Poor of Revolutionary France, 1750–1789 (Oxford, 1974); Lewis, France, 1715–1804, pp. 116–44. A further point to note is that such poor relief as was on offer was cold comfort indeed: the state workhouses known as dépôts de mendicité were little better than prisons and ones that were particularly unpleasant at that. See Lewis, France, 1715–1804, p. 217. 53 Blanning, French Revolution, p. 49.

32  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars 54 Hampson, Social History of the French Revolution, pp. 69–70; Doyle, Origins of the French Revolution, pp. 161–6. 55 Lewis, Rethinking the Revolution, p. 24. Whilst Lewis’ aphorism is perfectly correct in principle, it should be noted that the Third Estate did contain a number of radical figures, including Jerôme Pétion de Villeneuve, a lawyer much exercised by the poverty of the populace and the plight of the slaves in France’s Caribbean colonies, and the Comte de Mirabeau, an impoverished nobleman who had been involved in a seemingly endless series of scandals on account of his dissolute life-style, written numerous pamphlets critical of the ancien régime and several times been imprisoned for sedition. 56 Ibid., pp. 27–8. 57 For the erosion of the defence of corporate privilege amongst the First and Second Estates, see J. Markoff, ‘Allies and opponents: nobility and Third Estate in the spring of 1789’, American Sociological Review, LIII, No. 4 (August, 1988), pp. 477–96; M. Hutt, ‘The curés and the Third Estate: the ideas of reform in the pamphlets of the French lower clergy in the period 1787–1789’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, VII, No. 1 (January, 1957), pp. 74–92. 58 Lefebvre, Coming of the French Revolution, p. 89. 59 In common with a number of other contemporary armies, in 1789 the French army included many foreign regiments. Of these the Swiss, especially, were easily distinguishable because of their red uniforms, whilst some of the other regiments wore blue. Even the least discerning eye, then, had no difficulty spotting a build-up of foreign troops. 60 A. Corvisier, ‘La place de l’armée dans la Révolution Française’, Revue du Nord: Histoire et Archéologie – Nord de la France, Belgique, Pays Bas, 75, No. 299 (January, 1993), p. 7. 61 Scott, Response of the Royal Army to the French Revolution, pp. 4–37. 62 The ‘downward-facing’ aspect of the National Guard cannot be stressed too strongly. ‘On the day of its formation’, writes John Ellis, ‘only householders – a singularly select group in eighteenthcentury Paris – were summoned to the meetings in the sixty electoral districts. About 13,000 citizens subsequently enlisted, but all vagrants and homeless persons were excluded from its ranks, as were even a large part of the settled wage earners. In the words of . . . Pierre Barnave, the National Guard was going to be bonne bourgeoise.’ J. Ellis, Armies in Revolution (London, 1973), p. 79. 63 A detailed account of the events of 14 July may be found in J. Godechot, The Taking of the Bastille, 14 July 1789 (London, 1970). For the role of the army, in particular, see Scott, Response of the Royal Army to the French Revolution, pp. 54–60. Given the tendency of the French Revolution to mythologise itself, it is worth pointing out that 14 July 1789 was not much of a jour de gloire. Even had the self-proclaimed vainqueurs de la Bastille actually stormed the walls, it would not have been much of an achievement: not only were the defenders outnumbered ten to one, but the central keep which was the only part of the fortress that the governor tried to defend was not the looming tower that forms the centrepiece of so many prints and paintings. That, however, is by the by: the key point is that the fortress was not stormed at all, the attackers, rather, simply being let in through the main gate. 64 Still another explanation for what occurred is that the disturbances were the work of provincial agitators who had found themselves excluded from the Estates General and now wanted to drive the Revolution forward and secure themselves some sort of political platform. Given the appearance in eye-witness accounts of figures who were clearly not members of the peasantry in leadership roles of one sort or another, this idea does not seem wholly far-fetched. However, how such agitators could possibly have co-ordinated their activities over such vast distances remains unclear. In the end, then, one is led to believe that all the various explanations could well have played some part in events – that there was in fact not one grande peur but several or even many. 65 A classic study of the grande peur is afforded by G. Lefebvre, La grande peur de 1789 (Paris, 1970). More accessible, perhaps, is the account in S. Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution (New York, 1989), pp. 428–41. One aspect of the affair that should, perhaps, be mentioned more often is that, in eastern areas where Jews were a visible element amongst the population, they were made the subject of considerable violence. 66 G. Soulié (ed.), Les carnets du Colonel Bial: mémoires ou souvenirs militaires des guerres de la Révolution et de l’Empire (Brive, 1926), p. 29. What Bial was blind to here, of course, is that the arming of the peasantry was a double-edged sword that ended up being as much used against the Revolution as it was for it. 67 Mackrell, Attack on Feudalism in Eighteenth-Century France, pp. 173–4.

The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars  33 68 Accounts of the period from July 1789 till September 1791 are manifold. See, for example, Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, pp. 112–58. 69 A. Caiani, Louis XVI and the French Revolution, 1789–1792 (Cambridge, 2012), p. 8. 70 For a detailed description of the march on Versailles, see Schama, Citizens, pp. 456–70. 71 This charge, alas, was perfectly true: from late 1790 Louis had been in close touch with Louis de Breteuil, a prominent diplomat with particularly strong links with Gustavus III of Sweden who had replaced Necker as chief minister in the crisis of July 1789 and fled into exile in the wake of the fall of the Bastille, and through him had been endeavouring to whip up support for his cause, whilst the presumed lover of Marie-Antoinette, a Swedish officer serving in the French army named Axel von Fersen, was also very active in this respect. M. Price, ‘Louis XVI and Gustavus III: secret diplomacy and counter-revolution, 1790–1792’, Historical Journal, 42, No. 2 (June, 1999), pp. 435–66. 72 Furet, Revolutionary France, p. 95. 73 Cit. Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, p. 163. 74 B. Simms, The Struggle for Mastery in Germany, 1779–1850 (Houndmills, 1998), p. 55; M. Duffy, ‘British diplomacy and the French Wars, 1789–1815’, in H.T. Dickinson (ed.), Britain and the French Revolution, 1789–1815(Houndmills, 1989), pp. 127–8. 75 Schroeder, Transformation of European Politics, p. 61. For the response of Russia in particular, see Alexander, Catherine the Great, pp. 276–9; H. Troyat, Catherine the Great (London, 1978), pp. 288–9. 76 For all this, see T.C.W. Blanning, The Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars (Harlow, 1986), pp. 74–5. 77 For the background to this decision, see M.Z. Mayer, ‘The price for Austria’s security, Part II: Leopold II, the Prussian threat and the Treaty of Sistova, 1790–1791’, International History Review, 26, No. 3 (September, 2004), pp. 473–514. 78 Pithily described as ‘the foreign-policy equivalent of multiple personality disorder’, Prussia’s activities are analysed in detail in P.G. Dwyer (ed.), ‘Prussia during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1786–1815’ in P.G. Dwyer (ed.), The Rise of Prussia, 1700–1830 (Harlow, 2000), pp. 240–4. See also Blanning, Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars, pp. 81–4; Clark, Iron Kingdom, pp. 284–6. 79 For Pitt’s difficulties, see J. Ehrman, ‘The younger Pitt and the Ochakov affair’, History Today, 9, No. 7 (July, 1959), pp. 462–72. One casualty of the affair was Hertzberg who was promptly dismissed from office by a furious Frederick William II. 80 For all this, see Schroeder, Transformation of European Politics, pp. 83–8. 81 Ibid., pp. 89–90; Blanning, Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars, pp. 85–6. 82 Blanning, Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars, pp. 86–8. There are still many admirers of the French Revolution and, more especially, Napoleon, who imagine that that every move against France was the product of ‘Pitt’s gold’. It is therefore worth stating here that Britain played no part whatsoever in the decisions that led to the circular of Padua and the declaration of Pillnitz. See J. Ehrman, The Younger Pitt (London, 1969–96), II, pp. 47–9. 83 Simms, Struggle for Mastery in Germany, p. 58. 84 An older tradition labels the group led by Brissot as the Girondins on the grounds that some of their leaders were associated with Bordeaux, which, of course, stands at the mouth of the River Gironde. 85 Hampson, Social History of the French Revolution, pp. 135–6. It is conventional to portray the Brissotins’ determination to foment a war as being something that was wholly political, a mere device that would at one and the same time rid France of the king and enable them to humble their political opponents. However, it is at least possible argue that war was always going to be a very likely outcome of the Revolution. At root, the events of 1789 had stemmed from the determination of the political élite to further their interests by, amongst other things, restoring France to greatness, this being a project that in the end could scarcely mean anything else than embarking on a crusade to right France’s many wrongs. See Schama, Citizens, pp. 591–2. 86 Schama, Citizens, pp. 566–7; Sutherland, The French Revolution and Empire, pp. 118–20. 87 The convent taken over by the breakaway group for their headquarters was an unfortunate choice: in the same way as the club from which they had just broken away had become known as the Club de Jacobins, so the new organisation became known as the Club des Feuillants. However, in French une feuille de papier means ‘a sheet of paper’, and so the name ‘Feuillant’ could not but contain an instant hint of mere ‘paper-pushing’.

34  The origins of the French Revolutionary Wars 88 Stone, Reinterpreting the Revolution, pp. 152–4. The decision to make the National Guard the centre-piece of France’s response to Austria and Prussia reveals much about the Revolutionaries’ attitude towards the army. Thus, as witness the many debates on the subject that had taken place in the National Assembly, one of the few things on which moderates and radicals could unite was fear of caesarism. As Ellis says, then, ‘Here was a clear attempt to create at least a part of the regular army that would be motivated by the same political commitment as the National Guard.’ Ellis, Armies in Revolution, pp. 84–5. 89 Whereas the moderate deputies were thus excluded, many of the radicals were able to continue to serve the Revolution in other guises, Jérôme Pétion, for example, being elected Paris’ second mayor in November. 90 Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, pp. 174–9. 91 Stone, Reinterpreting the French Revolution, pp. 163–6; Blanning, Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars, pp. 99–101. 92 Stone, Reinterpreting the Revolution, pp. 166–8. For a discussion of events that is inclined very much to speak to the issue of Austrian responsibility for the crisis, see T. Kaiser, ‘La fin du renversement des alliances: la France, l’Autriche et la declaration de guerre du 20 avril de 1792’, Annales Historiques de la Révolution Française, 351, No. 1 (January, 2008), pp. 77–98. 93 For the role played by Dumouriez in particular, see P.C Howe, ‘Charles-Francois Dumouriez and the revolutionising of French foreign affairs in 1792’, French Historical Studies, 14, No. 3 (September, 1986), pp. 367–90. 94 S. Comeau de Charry, Souvenirs de la Guerre d’Allemagne pendant la Révolution et l’Empire (Paris, 1900), p. 71. 95 A particularly interesting case to note here is that of the United Provinces. Of all the administrations of the ancien régime, that of William V had the most immediate reason to fear Revolutionary France: after all, it was but five years since it had had to face a French-backed revolt that had only been put down by foreign intervention, whilst the partisans of that revolution were once again making their presence felt. Yet, to the fury of émigré agents sent to persuade the Dutch to join the coalition, no such agreement was forthcoming even when the French invaded Belgium in the wake of the battle of Valmy. As the Baron du Crossard snarled, ‘Those men who . . . remained attached to the stathouder maintained that Dumouriez would not attack Holland because they did not want Holland to be attacked.’ Baron de Crossard, Mémoires militaires et historiques pour servir à l’histoire de la guerre depuis 1792 jusqu’en 1815 inclusivement (Paris, 1829), I, p. 17.

2 The armies of the ancien régime

With Europe on the brink of what was to become ten years of general warfare, it is as well that we should devote a chapter to the armies whose task it was going to be to confront the Revolution. In so far as these were concerned, the mere mention of them is prone to conjure up an image of common soldiers recruited from the proverbial ‘scum of the earth’ who were relatively few in number, subjected to a savage code of discipline and utterly disengaged from the causes for which they were supposed to fight; of officers who came from the nobility alone, knew little other than how to cut a dashing figure at court and from start to finish bought their way up the ranks; of tactics that were rigid in the extreme; of superannuated generals who could barely ride a horse; and, in sum, of a military system that did but play at war. Already belonging in the dustbin of history, meanwhile, they were from 1792 onwards consigned to it once and for all by the armies of Revolutionary France, these last sweeping from victory to victory on account of the manifold advantages brought by the Revolution of 1789. In brief, with nothing to believe in and nothing to fight for, the slave-soldier was confronted by the citizen-soldier and in the process found to be utterly wanting. In all this there are, of course, elements of truth, but at the same time there are also elements of stereotype, and these last, alas, far outweigh the former. In this chapter, then, we shall examine the armies of Europe as they stood in 1789 and in the process show, first, that they represented a foe that was worthy of considerable respect and, second, that many of the innovations the French Revolution supposedly brought to the art of war were not in fact innovations at all.1 Let us begin with the simplest question of all, namely whether the armies of eighteenthcentury Europe were as small as they have been portrayed. In assessing this matter, a degree of caution is obviously necessary. As the English author, William Coxe, noted, although the Russian army in theory numbered some 370,000 men in 1785, the actual situation was very different: The real number of effectives always falls far short of this nominal list . . . Although, considering the number of distant garrisons, the extent of the empire and the difficulty of obtaining intelligence, it is impossible for a traveller to ascertain the exact state of the army, yet it is probable that the effective troops . . . scarcely exceed 200,000.2 Yet, whilst this is fair comment, with the exception of Britain – a state whose army was limited in size by a combination of long-standing political mistrust and the very different needs of a world power – there was still nothing paltry about armies that, even if only on paper, in 1789 numbered 426,000 in the case of Russia, 359,000 in the case of Austria and 200,000 in the case of Prussia.3 As for what could be achieved in time of war, at least in terms of percentage of the population, the figures easily rivalled those of later conflicts, the number of men called up by the French in the War of the Spanish Succession amounting to

36  The armies of the ancien régime some 455,000. Even in Britain, the figures were impressive: at the turn of the seventeenth century, the army inherited by Queen Anne numbered no more than about 30,000 men, and yet by 1709 Britain had at least 150,000 men available for service.4 With this question settled, we should next ask of what did the armies of the ancien régime consist and how were they organised. If one excludes the Ottoman Empire, from one end of Europe to the other, the land forces of states large and small conformed to a common pattern. As in all eras, for the simple reason that he was the cheapest to equip and the most versatile, the most common soldier in every country was the infantryman, in most cases a man who fought shoulder to shoulder with his fellows in close order and was armed with a muzzle-loading, smoothbore, flintlock musket together with a bayonet and, sometimes at least, a short sword known as a hanger. In terms of their organisation, meanwhile, they were organised into regiments, named in some instances after their colonels and in others after specific areas from which they might or might not be raised, each of which usually had two or three battalions of perhaps 1,000 men apiece at full strength, the battalions in turn being broken down into a varying number of companies, of which one was invariably composed of élite troops known as grenadiers (in many armies such as the Austrian, these companies were withdrawn from their parent units and formed into separate battalions that could be used to spearhead attacks or shore up sectors of the line that were particularly threatened, though there was much debate as to the impact this had on the efficacy of units as a whole).5 Whilst there were exceptions – the Russians, for example, had recently issued their foot-soldiers with an extremely practical uniform characterised by baggy red overalls reinforced with leather, a short apple-green coatee of a generous cut and a leather helmet6 – it was not just the weapons and units that were similar. On the contrary, infantrymen also dressed the same, favouring leather gaiters, white or buff breaches and waistcoats, a long tailed coat in the national colour (dull red for the British; white for the French, Spaniards and Austrians; light blue for the Bavarians; dark blue for the Prussians and the Swedes) and, depending on the practice of the army concerned and the type of company to which the man belonged, either a tricorne hat, a leather helmet or a cap made of fur or cloth, whilst at the same time being slung about with a cartridge box, a bayonet scabbard, a waterbottle, a haversack and a knapsack. Meanwhile, because their arms were the same, their tactics were the same too. Thus, the musket was only effective when used en masse and this in turn dictated both the use of the three-deep line as the usual fighting formation and reliance on sheer weight of fire rather than accuracy: what mattered was not taking aim but rather learning to load and fire at a rate of three or four times a minute and that in the horrific conditions encountered on the battlefield.7 What actually happened on the battlefield is a subject that will be discussed at a later point. For the moment, let us rather continue with our survey of weapons and troop types. We here come to the first of the many qualifications that show just how stereotypical our view of eighteenth-century warfare is. In brief, whilst the bulk of the foot-soldiers fought very much in the style described here – hence the term by which they were known, i.e. ‘line infantry’ – from early in the eighteenth century, propelled by the need to operate in broken terrain or fight unconventional enemies such as the Turks or the Barbary corsairs, and in many instances possessed of elements in their population that offered themselves for this purpose, a number of armies had developed corps of what were known as light infantry, men who operated spread out in what was known as open order and could therefore move much more swiftly than men deployed in line, as well as being far more able to cope with woods or forests or rocky slopes. The remote origins of this development lay in the need of Austria and Russia to confront the irregular opponents constituted by the Turkish empire

The armies of the ancien régime  37 and the Tartars of the steppes. Faced by this problems, the Habsburgs and Romanovs alike had had recourse to the notion of ‘military frontiers’ – in brief, areas whose inhabitants (in the Austrian case, the indigenous Slavic population, who were one and all deemed Croats, but in the Russian one, settlers known – from a Turkic word meaning ‘adventurer’ – as Cossacks) were given land and a range of privileges, including, not least, freedom from serfdom, in exchange for the obligation to provide military service. Little by little, however, the threat from the Turks and the Tartars diminished, and the result was that these peasant territorials increasingly began to appear in Austrian and Russian forces fighting the troops of other European powers.8 Both states, then, were able to field large numbers of irregulars, and these posed their opponents such problems that they had to put together special units that could counter them in the form of gangs of free-booters known as freikorps who were recruited in time of war and then hastily got rid of as soon as hostilities came to a close.9 So much for the remote origins of light infantry, at least in eastern Europe. Gradually, however, a series of factors including both a search for greater efficiency and the need to impose better discipline (Croats and Cossacks alike were notorious plunderers) led to a series of reforms which saw the Croats given proper uniforms and organised into regular units, and the many Cossacks who were too poor to own horses replaced by battalions of specially trained troops armed with rifles instead of the usual musket.10 In the German states, meanwhile, the freikorps had acquired so evil a name that they too disappeared, being replaced by permanent units of riflemen, who were generally recruited by voluntary enlistment from amongst such groups as foresters and gamekeepers and given special dark green uniforms, interest in the new way of fighting which they represented being manifested in dramatic style by the Prussian creation in 1787 of twenty battalions of fusiliers, these being troops trained to fight in open order who were armed with a version of the ordinary musket that was both lighter and easier to aim.11 The emergence of such troops was not just a phenomenon limited to Austria, Russia and Prussia, however. In Spain the demands of fighting in the mountains of Portugal and need to fight off the constant raids of the Barbary corsairs had led to the formation of three regiments of light infantry.12 Across the seas, meanwhile, Europe’s two great colonial powers had found themselves both fighting irregular opponents, whether white frontiersmen, native Americans or the armies of assorted Indian potentates, in terrain that was often far worse than anything Europe had to offer, the result being that in America and India alike they organised substantial auxiliary forces trained to fight in open or closed order as required. Not content with this, meanwhile, they also began to include light infantry in the orders of battle of their regular armies: in 1739 the need to police the Scottish mountains gave the British army the famous ‘Black Watch’, the first of a long and distinguished series of kilted Highland regiments. These last units, true, quickly lost all trace of their origins as light infantry, but the experience of the American War of Independence showed that light troops were indispensable, and the decision was therefore taken to train one company of each infantry battalion to fight as skirmishers. Finally, in France a similar process led to the formation of twelve battalions of green-coated light infantry known as chasseurs (literally ‘hunters’).13 The same ability to adapt to circumstances and display both flexibility and imagination was also on view in respect of the cavalry. At the beginning of the military revolution of the seventeenth century, the mounted forces of conventional European armies consisted of cuirassiers and harquebusiers – more-or-less heavily armoured horsemen whose task it was physically to break and ride down enemy formations – and dragoons – mounted infantrymen who could rush to secure key positions, provide a mobile reserve on the battlefield and serve

38  The armies of the ancien régime as scouts and foragers. By the middle of the eighteenth century, however, a steady process of evolution had taken place which saw the fully armoured cuirassiers of old disappear altogether; the more lightly armoured harquebusiers discard their helmets and be reclassified as line cavalry or heavy dragoons, or (if they retained their armour) cuirassiers; and the dragoons lose their infantry function and become maids-of-all work who could function as slightly less effective shock troops on the battlefield whilst taking charge of reconnaissance and patrol duties off it.14 Thus emerged two of the three generic categories of mounted troops that characterised eighteenth-century horse in the form of heavy and medium cavalry, and, setting aside the issue of armour, these looked much like infantrymen with the exception, of course, that they wore heavy riding boots. As for their function, by the time of the French Revolution, the days when cavalry had relied primarily on firearms were long gone: instead, in part through the influence of changes introduced in the Prussian army by Frederick the Great, horsemen now relied on their swords and aimed to charge home at full speed in the hope of breaking the enemy by sheer momentum.15 If the heavy and medium cavalry remained the predominant branches of the mounted arm, from the middle of the seventeenth century, however, there also emerged a third type of cavalryman. As with the light infantry, these originated in the need to fight the forces of the Turks and Tartars, a large part of which consisted of fast-moving irregular cavalry armed with bows and lances.16 In Russia the result was the emergence of the Cossacks and, more especially, the irregular horsemen that are the quintessential troop-type associated with them, but states such as Hungary and Poland rather relied on their extensive nobilities to turn out in time of war as mounted horsemen, and the resultant troops had collectively become known as hussars (so named from a combination for the Magyar words for twenty and a unit of land of approximately one acre, the idea being that for every twenty such units a landowner possessed, he had to provide the state with a fully equipped horseman). Initially such men had ridden to war in armour, but by the end of the seventeenth century the need for speed and stamina had led them to abandon such protection, the riders therefore rather appearing in the colourful dress typical of their class and region, namely soft leather boots, tight pantaloons, jackets heavily decorated with embroidered lace and cylindrical caps of wool or fur.17 However, turn out as they did in mere war-bands, in much the same way as with the light infantry, moves were soon underway to find a better way of meeting the needs which they had addressed, the result being the emergence of large numbers of new cavalry units that in some cases – above all, those regiments denominated hussars or lancers – maintained stylised, not to mention highly exaggerated, versions of the original eastern European look, and in others – those denominated chasseurs à cheval (literally ‘mounted hunters’), light horse or light dragoons – favoured a more conventional style. Whichever was the case, however, they were armed with lances (occasionally only), curved swords used for slashing known as sabres, carbines and pistols; mounted on much lighter horses than their fellows; and, in theory, principally employed for raiding and reconnaissance though – not least because, for all cavalrymen, the charge was the very high point of their aspirations – they often also came in useful on the battlefield.18 So much for the cavalry. In all the armies of the larger states, meanwhile, the third pillar upon which they rested was the artillery. Prior to 1700 the numbers of guns employed had been steadily on the increase, and the coming of the new century did nothing to check this development. On the contrary, whereas the largest number of guns ever seen on a single battlefield in the Thirty Years War was eighty-four, the average in Marlborough’s victories at Blenheim, Oudenarde, Ramillies and Malplaquet was 185. With the rise in the number of guns came greater professionalisation: in the Thirty Years War gunners had been

The armies of the ancien régime  39 independent operators chartered by the campaign, but army after army saw the organisation of specialist regiments of artillery recruited in much the same way as the rest of the army, not to mention the establishment of training schools that sought to ensure the presence of competence and doctrinal unity alike. As for the guns, themselves, if they continued to consist for the most part of muzzle-loading cannon cast in bronze, firing solid iron shot at long range and anti-personnel rounds known as canister at short, together with an admixture of shortbarrelled howitzers firing explosive shells, there was at least a move towards standardisation with most Continental armies settling for campaign purposes on a combination of four, eight and twelve-pounders (there were also, sixteen, eighteen and even twenty-four pounders, but these were too heavy to be used on the battlefield and reserved for siege warfare). At the same time, there were also considerable advances in casting, elevating mechanisms and the design of gun carriages, the general effect of which was to improve range, accuracy, manoeuvrability and hitting power alike. The highest expression of the art in this respect was the Gribeauval system, which was introduced into the French army from 1776 onwards – not the least of its innovations was the introduction of back-sights – but the Austrians already had something rather similar as early as 1753, whilst the guns they used were copied by Frederick the Great in the latter years of the Seven Years War. In the wars of the seventeenth century, still little more than expensive investments in sound and fury, a century later cannon and howitzers were well on their way to becoming the queens of the battlefield: thus conscious both of the improvement in the technology and their ever more enhanced professional status, artillerymen began to put forward ideas about how they might intervene in combat that were increasingly ambitious and commanders such as Frederick the Great to listen to them more and more. In consequence, standard features of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars such as grand batteries and oblique fire were also a common phenomenon in the battles of the war of 1756–63, whilst the Seven Years War also saw Frederick experiment with horse artillery (i.e. batteries in which all the gunners were mounted on horseback so as to allow their guns to move very rapidly from place to place). On the other hand, one issue that remained to be resolved was the question of the artillery’s drivers and teams of draught animals: in no army were the drivers militarised, although they were often the owners of the horses and oxen hired to pull the guns, the result being that, while army commanders could usually rely on their guns being pulled on to the battlefield, they could not necessarily rely on there being any way of moving them thereafter. At the same time, the growing understanding that artillery fire was at its best when concentrated was vitiated by the perpetuation of an innovation initially pioneered by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden in the Thirty Years War in the form of the attachment of a pair of light artillery pieces to each infantry battalion (though it has to be said that the guns concerned were generally so small that they would have been useless as a part of most grand batteries).19 Last of the four branches into which all armies were divided was the engineers. In every state without exception a force composed of nothing more than a corps of more-or-less highly trained officers at best only a few hundred strong – in 1717 Britain’s Royal Engineers had just twenty-eight such officers on its books while even in 1782 the number was still only seventy-five20 – this had in most cases to rely on the services of labour drawn from the rest of the army (one of the few exceptions was Austria, which possessed one battalion of sappers, one battalion of miners and one battalion of pontooneers). In consequence, its efforts on campaign were frequently hindered by the habitual sullenness with which infantrymen and, especially, cavalrymen responded to being expected to perform physical labour: in most cases the work got done, but it was frequently not done very well. That said, the engineers were not without considerable importance: it was they who were in

40  The armies of the ancien régime charge of map-making, they who maintained a state’s existing fortifications and erected new ones, and, very, often, they too who conducted the major programmes of public works and civil engineering beloved of the enlightened absolutisms of the eighteenth century: roads, bridges, quays and new towns or suburbs could one and all fall within the purview of engineer officers, and to this extent the academies which were established to keep their ranks up to strength and ensure that their standard of education was sufficiently rigorous may be regarded as the polytechnics of their age.21 So far, so good, but analysis of eighteenth-century armies is complicated by the fact that they did not just break down by arms of service. Thus, on the one hand there were the powerful royal guards maintained by many sovereigns: often very strong and generally composed of long-serving veterans – the Spanish example numbered some 10,000 men including a guard of halberdiers, two six-battalion infantry regiments and two regiments of cavalry – these forces were highly privileged, enjoying better conditions of service and more resplendent uniforms than the rest of the army, and could in theory be expected to turn in a better performance on the battlefield.22 On the other, meanwhile, there were the far lowlier bodies represented by the provincial and urban militias: a militarised version of the trained bands and town guards of the seventeenth century, these forces could in some instances run to a hundred or more battalions in large states and were recruited by conscription, specifically linked to particular geographical areas and commanded either by officers on secondment from the regular army or local worthies who had retired from front-line service, but, other than periodic training sessions of a fairly brief variety, they only served in time of war and could not necessarily be relied upon in battle (that said, drafted into the regular army, as was certainly the practice in France, 20 per cent of whose infantry came from this source in the Seven Years War, they could be a useful means of fleshing out regiments reduced to a mere cadre by combat losses).23 Of course, some infantries were better than others, some cavalries better than others, some artilleries better than others and some corps of engineers better than others. Indeed, armies as a whole were inclined to vary dramatically in quality with those of the smaller and poorer states trailing far behind those of their wealthier neighbours. Amongst the worst was probably that of Portugal. Having performed extremely creditably in the face of the Franco-Spanish invasion that formed one of the last campaigns of the Seven Years War, the army was thereafter allowed to dwindle away for want of finance, the result being, as one anonymous pamphlet complained, that the nobility lost interest in a military career to such a degree that the officer corps had to be filled from nominees among their dependants such as or coachmen and other flunkies.24 For a more detailed analysis we can turn to the future victor of the battle of Valmy, Charles Dumouriez, who penned a long report on Portugal for the French government some years after the abortive campaign of 1762: The Portuguese army is in a tolerable state of discipline: it marches and manoeuvres well, but it ought more frequently to be drawn out into encampments [so] that the little manoeuvres of exercise might be applied to the great operations of war . . . Neither are the troops accustomed to remove earth, to practice the manoeuvres of attack and defence as well as the art of fortification, and all this is essential in a country like Portugal where war must be on the defensive and carried on in detail [i.e. en détaille, meaning by small independent units] . . . Portugal maintains twelve squadrons of cuirassiers in pretty good condition and discipline though I doubt whether they possess sufficient solidity to resist the impetuous shock of the Spanish cavalry . . . There is but one regiment of light dragoons, very ill-exercised, and, of course, incapable of

The armies of the ancien régime  41 engaging in that kind of war for which they are designed . . . The artillery is composed of three battalions, but in a very bad state of discipline; the cannon are ill-made and clumsy . . . There are no field-pieces . . . to accompany the infantry . . . The corps of engineers is ill-formed and extremely ignorant: they can do little more than rule paper and page a register.25 If the Portuguese army was a second-rate force, across the frontier in Spain, things were not much better albeit not so much because of desperate poverty pure and simple as because of the fact that in the reign of Charles III the army very much took second place to the navy, a force that was currently being massively increased in strength. Whatever the reason, however, it was all too obvious that things were not well, not the least of the problem being that the Spanish army was desperately understrength. As the German observer Joseph Texier wrote, for example: The Spanish troops are ill clothed and worse shod . . . Their bravery, docility, loyalty and steadiness are well known – have been demonstrated many times over even – but they require better discipline, better support and better officers if they are ever to become excellent soldiers.26 Another army bedevilled by an unfavourable strategic context was that of Britain. Hit by massive cuts in the defence budget in the wake of American independence, the redcoats were stripped of many hardened veterans and very quickly lost touch with the lessons that had been learned across the Atlantic, the efforts at reform associated with Sir David Dundas culminating in the imposition in 1788 of a tactical system based wholly on the Frederician model. In fairness to many regimental officers, this was from the start perceived as an anachronism, but the general picture was not encouraging. ‘Our army’, complained one well-placed officer in 1793, ‘was lax in its discipline, entirely without a system and very weak in numbers. Each colonel of a regiment managed it according to his own notions or neglected it altogether. There was no uniformity of drill or movements; professional pride was rare; professional knowledge still more so. Never was a kingdom less prepared for a stern and arduous conflict.’27 As one German writer observed, indeed: The English . . . are only soldiers when they are in action and do not trouble themselves much about the business at other times. They are as brave as anything you can call brave, but at this time of day [i.e. at this hour] bravery alone is not sufficient.28 If we turn our attention to the so-called military monarchies of central and eastern Europe, however, the picture is very different. Despite the grievous human losses of the Seven Years War, the Prussian army, for example, continued to dazzle. To quote a frequent visitor to Prussia who wrote an admiring biography of Frederick the Great, for example: The Prussian infantry march wonderfully well, the soldier exhibiting nothing of a stiff or straightened air, and almost constantly preserving silence, without standing in need of the cadence of musical instruments, yet are his steps not less in time, or less exactly measured than if the drum was beating . . . The Prussian cavalry always perform their manoeuvres with the greatest dexterity, sword in hand and on the full gallop . . . They observe their distances [i.e. the distances between each sub-unit] . . . with the most scrupulous

42  The armies of the ancien régime exactness. If the difficulties occasioned by the nature of the ground sometimes produce irregularities, this inconvenience is soon remedied by the attention of the officers and there is scarcely time to perceive them . . . On beholding all these manoeuvres, we are lost in . . . admiration and can scarcely believe it possible for human art to carry activity, order and precision to a higher point of perfection.29 If this was so, meanwhile, it was because of rigorous training. Thus: The garrison towns are real camps where the troops are constantly exercising, and the field exercises form so many fields of battle in which the Prussian armies, divided into enemy parties, place themselves in all possible situations and study, arms in hand, every resource of art to conquer or at least not be defeated.30 In the historiography, it is a common-place to maintain that somehow the Prussian army was in decline by the time of the French Revolution, and it may be that it did indeed suffer from the loss of the extraordinarily energetic guiding hand represented by der alte Fritz. That the king’s personal influence was very strong is undeniable. In the words of the same observer: Frederick was the soul of all these exercises and his indefatigable activity caused him to be present in every part of the army . . . As soon as the roads became passable in spring, he flew from province to province, reviewing his whole army . . . punishing neglect, redressing grievances and, by reproaches and commendations opportunely distributed, inflaming or awakening the military zeal.31 At the same time, such was the hold of the Frederician system that in the years after Frederick’s death, a certain conservatism or reluctance to change infected many officers: after all, with the scourge of combat all but lifted from their shoulders, there were plenty who were growing old in the service, and such men were not much disposed to be receptive to criticism from the outside, and particularly not from a France utterly discredited by the battle of Rossbach: thus it was that one visitor to Berlin could write that the Count of Guibert, the progenitor of the tactical system that from 1792 onwards was to pose the Prussian way of fighting battles with its greatest challenge, ‘is looked upon here as the most miserable driveller in the whole world’.32 Yet the forces of Prussia remained formidable. As their most recent historian has written: The Prussian king’s decision [to go to war] was substantially validated by an army that between 1792 and 1795 performed up to and beyond reasonable expectations: Prussia’s senior officers were no worse than their British and Austrian counterparts or, on the whole, their French enemies . . . The line battalions combined well-regulated volleys and well-controlled local counter-attacks to match, if not always to master, the élan of their opponents. Prussian light infantry proved formidable opponents against French foragers and raiding parties. In large actions as well, the fusiliers taught some sharp lessons . . . in marksmanship and skirmishing.33 Moving on, we come to the Austrian army. Prussia’s most inveterate opponent, this force has been much underrated: in the same work as the one just cited, for example, we find it being stigmatised as ‘a small professional army’ hampered by ‘out-dated notions of training

The armies of the ancien régime  43 and deployment’, wedded to ‘the tradition of the previous century’ and commanded by an officer corps ‘well-known for its lack of interest in intellectual development’ whose members were ‘rarely, if ever . . . encouraged to think for themselves’.34 Only slightly less derisive was the leading specialist in the Austrian army of the Napoleonic Wars, Gunther Rothenberg, who saw it as being ‘overly defensive minded . . . pedantic and schematic’.35 This is, however, at best a caricature. Whilst it was true that the habitual use of linear formations in battles against conventional adversaries made attacking difficult, this was just as true for every other army on the continent. In so far as quality was concerned, then, Joseph II and his successors could actually feel very confident. Austria’s cavalry was generally regarded as being the best in Europe; the artillery was excellent, outmatched though its weapons now were by the more-up-to-date pieces fielded by France and Prussia; and its infantry was possessed of excellent skirmishers. Under Joseph II, meanwhile, the military estate had been subjected to a series of reforms aimed at improving efficiency and cutting costs, and there is therefore little reason to believe that the army fell far short of the extraordinary standard it had achieved in the Seven Years War.36 Also very impressive, meanwhile, was the Russian army. In the Seven Years War the forces of Peter III had repeatedly fought Prussian generals to a standstill whilst at Kunersdorf they had even inflicted a catastrophic defeat on Frederick himself. There having followed many more victories against, first, the Poles and then the Turks, this was not an army to be trifled with, and all the more so as Catherine the Great had no sooner acceded to the throne than she had embarked on a major programme of reform that brought the changes in the cavalry and introduction of light infantry already noted, as well as new tactical regulations and widespread improvements in training.37 This is not to say that the Russian army was perfect, however. On the contrary, there was a general feeling that, while still more than capable of dealing with the Turks, it had not kept up with its European counterparts, relying instead on the innate qualities of the Russian peasant soldier. To quote Roger de Damas, a young French nobleman who secured a commission in its ranks in 1788: At the time of which I am speaking, the Russian army was greatly inferior in tactics to the armies of the other first-rate powers. This was especially true of the cavalry which was positively ignorant, but the steadiness of the men in the ranks, their handling of arms, their deportment and discipline, were perfect to the last degree . . . The inferiority of the Russian army in the matter of training is counterbalanced by its discipline and steadiness.38 Finally, we should, perhaps spare a word for the armies of the minor German and Italian states. Generally much too small to constitute much of a significant fighting force in themselves, they essentially existed on the one hand to promote the prestige of the ruling dynasties or, in the case of the German ecclesiastical territories, prince-bishops, and on the other to promote law and order and strengthen the social fabric. As Riesbeck wrote of the army of the Elector of Mainz, for example, ‘The military establishment of the country appears to be more calculated for the purpose of feeding a hungry nobility than for real use.’39 Rather more efficient, it seems, were the forces of Hesse-Darmstädt, but, even so, at least to keen observers, their domestic function was still very apparent. Thus: Better or more active troops than the three Darmstädt regiments of infantry are not to be seen in Germany, the Prussians not excepted. They consist of about 6,000 men. The regiments . . . quartered at Pirmasens [are] . . . a pattern of discipline,

44  The armies of the ancien régime economy and good behaviour . . . It is incredible how little they cost, and, as they have frequent furloughs granted, agriculture suffers nothing from them: they are, in fact, only a well-disciplined and well-regulated militia. Nor is the military education without its advantages in other respects: one immediately sees upon looking at [the] peasants that they have seen service, for the natural consequences of it, a peculiar degree of order, cleanliness and activity, distinguish them from their neighbours.40 Yet, if they were small, at least some of these miniature armies yet had a considerable military reputation. The troops of Hesse-Kassel were very much the first choice whenever the British had occasion to hire entire regiments of Germans as was, most famously, the case of the American War of Independence, whilst the Prussian commentator, Von Helldorff, was glowing in his praise of the Saxons. As he wrote: With regard to the discipline introduced in this army, it may be truly said that it is inferior to none in Europe, and their dexterity in manoeuvring and in military evolutions does equal credit to them . . . As to the corps of artillery and engineers, it may, without prejudice, be portrayed as the most perfect of its kind . . . Commissions in this army are never sold but are given as a reward for merit.41 Taking ancien-régime Europe as a whole, then, what emerges is a picture of armies that, given an adequate degree of financial support, were in most cases highly effective fighting machines, and military estates that were far more flexible than they have usually been given credit for. However, one area in which all armies were universally deficient was in their staff-work. The commanders of field armies, of course, could only be appointed at the start of a war, but this would have been of little import had France, Prussia and the rest possessed general staffs of an adequate size. To say that there were no permanent general staffs whatsoever is an exaggeration – most armies, indeed, had a body known as the quartermaster-general staff which was responsible for planning and over-seeing the movement and encampment of field armies, and another known as the adjutant-general staff which attended to matters of internal administration such as discipline and recommendations for decorations or promotion42 – and in 1765 Prussia even saw Frederick the Great effectively unite the two departments by making the same general the head of both. Yet at best these bodies were far too small – as late as 1783 the Prussian examples only employed around fifty such officers – whilst their technical resources were extremely limited: in the archives of the Ministries of War and other organisations responsible for the administration of the armed forces, there might exist reports on fortresses that were going to have to be besieged or provinces that were going to have to be invaded, but, then again, there might not. Put these two problems together and the result was that campaigns frequently had to be planned in the most ad hoc of manners and conducted by groups of officers brought together by little more than patronage, and, what is more, groups of officers whose only mode of communication was a man on horseback. Yet another problem was that in no field army was there ever any higher formation than the brigade of from three to five infantry battalions or cavalry regiments, this meaning that far more copies of any given order would have to be prepared and sent out than would normally be the case (meanwhile, it should also be noted that brigades had no existence in peacetime, rather having to be improvised in time of war). Some help was derived from the fact that over the years certain forms and processes had evolved that were more or less well understood, whilst in some instances important posts in the staffs of the quarter-master-general or adjutant-general were occupied by officers who had a real

The armies of the ancien régime  45 talent for staff-work, but this last was rarely more than the result of pure happenstance. Incredibly enough, some impressive feats of planning and execution were still achieved, but all too clearly what was needed was permanent bodies that could wrestle with the problems involved in marching on Paris or Potsdam or anywhere else in peace as well as in war, not to mention staff academies that could provide experienced officers with training in the multifarious skills that were so necessary, but, except in France, where a general staff was established in 1783, such few steps as were taken towards this goal were either undermined or thrown out altogether by vested interests who feared that a general staff could not but become too powerful.43 It was not just operational efficiency that suffered as a result of poor staff-work. Thus, amongst its other effects were endless logistical problems that ensured that armies often suffered terrible privations in the field. Here, for example, is Roger de Damas on his experiences before the Turkish fortress of Ozu Kusamatsi (Ochakiv): I should find it hard to give any idea of the sufferings of the army and of every individual in it, at this period. There was snow on the ground to a depth of two feet, accompanied by twelve or fifteen degrees of frost, which often upset the tents . . . In these immense deserts there were no woods or resources of any kind, and the inferior ranks were deprived of wine, brandy and even meat since they could not pay the price that was demanded. The generals and colonels could only ameliorate their lots with a few comforts by paying their weight in gold . . . It is impossible to give any idea of the misery of our condition.44 To lambast the armies of the ancien régime for such deficiencies is to miss the point, however. That there were numerous deficiencies is true enough, but this does not mean that the military world was hidebound. On the contrary, there were plenty of highly cerebral officers whose writings show a strong desire to explore the innermost workings of warfare and to reach a higher state of efficiency, men like Prince Wilhelm of Schaumburg-Lippe, the Marquis of Santa Cruz de Marcenado, the Count of Guibert, the Prince of Ligne, Maurice de Saxe, the Count of Saint-Priest, the Marquis of Puységur and Jean de Folard. Nor were these writers operating in a vacuum or in a climate that was unreceptive of their efforts: by 1789 in Germany, in particular, there existed a vigorous periodical press specialising in military affairs, the thoughts of the ‘greats’ were echoed and re-echoed in the many books published by figures who were much humbler in stature but no less thoughtful, and we find the conqueror of Quebec, James Wolfe, urging young officers to immerse themselves in the works of Schaumburg-Lippe and the rest.45 Nowhere were the debates engaged in by these writers more fiercely waged than in the field of tactics. Here commanders faced a real problem. Battle in the eighteenth century was a bloody and protracted affair, and there was therefore much interest in finding a way of securing a result more rapidly and thereby saving lives: soldiers being a valuable investment, battles which regularly led to 30, 40 or even 50 per cent casualties were not to be contemplated with equanimity, if indeed they were to be contemplated at all (if Frederick the Great fought far more battles than most other commanders, it was not because he wished to do so, but rather because he was usually in so beleaguered a situation that there was no way he could do anything else). In brief, the issue was the line: inherently a slow and unwieldy formation, this was hard even for a single battalion to manoeuvre in, let alone a force of half a dozen or more. Particularly if the enemy had a plentiful supply of artillery, there were likely to be heavy casualties before the attackers could fire a single shot, and, when they did

46  The armies of the ancien régime get within range, matters very rapidly deteriorated still further. According to the received wisdom of the period, the attackers would then open fire themselves, but at the same time keep moving forward, thereby so shaking the defenders that they would eventually break and run. Yet the reality of what occurred was invariably very different. As soon as the troops opened fire, the sheer noise, let alone the other pressures of the moment, was enough very quickly to disrupt the ordered sequence of platoon volleys that were supposed to ripple up and down the line from one end to the other. Very soon, then, men were simply firing individually as fast as they were able whilst all suggestion of an advance was soon lost: while the men were shooting at the enemy, they could legitimately persuade themselves that they were satisfying their obligations and thereby escape the need to undertake the psychologically very difficult step of pressing home the advance (another factor to consider here was the immense quantities of smoke produced by prolonged musketry: growing ever thicker, this came to serve almost as an artificial wall which, at one and the same time, offered at least the illusion of cover whilst at the same time hiding dangers that were all the more terrible for being invisible). With the officers and sergeants being cut down just as fast as the rank and file, they were incapable of getting their men to advance, and thus it was that whole attacks would become bogged down and battles degenerate into prolonged exchanges of fire that would involve terrible casualties.46 Finding a remedy to this situation was by no means straightforward. For a while the response of Frederick the Great was to order his men to advance without firing, but the net result of this was simply to see them shot down by the hundred without being able to kill a single man in return. Far more promising in this respect were the theories put forward by the French thinker Folard. Rooting his ideas in a study of ancient warfare, Folard argued that best way of securing a quick resolution to a battle, and, indeed, the only way of doing so in a decisive fashion, was to have the infantry advance upon the enemy without firing and to rely entirely upon the bayonet. To do this effectively, however, reliance on the line would have to be abandoned and the troops formed in dense masses that could rush the enemy and not have to pay constant attention to aligning themselves on neighbouring units. In principle, such an idea had many advantages, including, not least, the fact that it meant that far more soldiers could be concentrated on any given point than would otherwise be the case, but at the same time there were also serious problems with the idea in that such masses were extremely vulnerable to artillery fire, being both easier to hit than lines and susceptible to heavier casualties (a cannon ball striking a line would kill or disable three men whereas one striking a column could bring down three or even four times that figure). On top of that, the column was very much an all-or-nothing weapon: were it to be brought to a halt, under the tactical regulations of the early and mid-eighteenth century, there was no way that it could be redeployed in line. Hardly surprisingly, then, it was only in the Russian army – a force that spent most of its time fighting opponents with only limited firepower47 – that the column became a normal feature of battlefield tactics and then not until the years after the Seven Years War. Particularly important here was the influence of Alexander Suvorov. A veteran of all the wars in which Russia engaged in the period from 1756 onwards, Suvorov was a charismatic, even wildly eccentric, figure adored by his soldiers and possessed of a positive lust to take the war to the enemy. Very much an ‘easterner’ who believed in a specifically Russian way of making war, he therefore rejected Frederician-style linear tactics in favour of bayonet attacks. Many years before the French made the column a standard feature of their tactics in the period from 1793 onwards, the Russians were therefore well used to fighting in this formation, and all the more so as it was more or less impervious to the attacks of the irregular cavalry which they so often found themselves fighting (it is worth

The armies of the ancien régime  47 pointing out, however, that even Suvorov admitted that against western-style armies, the line was very much a necessary technique, and not just that, but, in some instances, the only possible technique).48 All this said, the column was not solely a Russian phenomenon. Confronted by very similar conditions in the Balkans, the Austrians employed formations known as ‘battalion masses’ that were based very much on the same principle. Meanwhile, it was not just eastern Europe that saw armies responding to local conditions: in the American War of Independence, for example, the British army reduced the depth of the line from three ranks to two, whilst many commanders authorised their men to cut short the tails of their coats, replace their breeches and gaiters with canvas leggings and transform their stiff tricorne hats into the shapeless affairs typical of the American frontier.49 More formally, meanwhile, further encouraged by increasingly fashionable notions of national characteristics that held that Frenchmen were too excitable and volatile to be suited to the rigid discipline of the battle-line, French proponents of the offensive continued to mull over the problems raised by Folard’s theories until at length a later thinker, the Count of Guibert, came up with a system that allowed battalions advancing in column to extend into line more or less at will whilst advancing on the enemy and then to switch back into column just as easily, the manoeuvres concerned being formally sanctioned with the publication of new drill regulations in 1791 (no thanks, be it said, to the Revolution, the new regulations having been adopted some years prior to 1789). Over and over again, then, one sees not hidebound traditionalism but a willingness to experiment and adapt to new circumstances.50 At the operational level, too, there is much to ponder. According to tradition, eighteenthcentury armies were ponderous affairs which were weighed down by immense baggage trains carrying, on the one hand, the complicated paraphernalia which a pampered officer corps needed to maintain its lifestyle in the field and, on the other, the enormous weight of canvas required to keep the common soldiers – valuable investments, after all – safe from the ravages of rain and cold, and, what is more, ponderous affairs that were weighed down still further by the need to set up fortress camps designed not so much to keep out the enemy but to keep in the soldiery. All this, of course, made for a very slow rate of march, while the pace of operations was slowed still further by the need to stay in touch with the magazines that fed the troops – ever prone to desertion, the men could not be allowed to forage for themselves – and the absence of any mechanisms that allowed armies to march divided whilst yet coming together to fight. In all this there is some justification, but the picture has again been exaggerated. Thus, prescient commanders might well establish magazines, but the reality was that, the vast majority of the time, armies depended on the resources of the areas in which they found themselves, the only proviso being that the process was carried out by an orderly process of requisitioning rather than the rank and file being turned loose to ravage the countryside on their own account. Meanwhile, wagon trains or no wagon trains, rates of march were respectable enough even by the standards of later times, whilst eighteenth-century generals were also well aware of the advantages of splitting their forces during the manoeuvre phases of campaigns and in fact frequently did so.51 If it is necessary to revisit how armies fought (and, indeed, thought), it is also necessary to do so with respect to how they were recruited. Here again the stereotype is one that is highly compelling: officers were gentlemen – nobles even – and the rank and file the lowest of the low. In respect of all this, let us begin with the former. The first thing to say, of course, is that, historically, there was a very strong link between the concept of nobility and military service. If the Church prayed for society, the nobility fought for society, and, should the one cease to pray and the other to fight, their claims to predominance were clearly forfeit.

48  The armies of the ancien régime Under the feudal system, this made sense: knights were required to turn out at the call of their lords, whilst it was only through their economic power that large numbers of common soldiers could be raised with any ease. Gradually, however, the situation began to change. The monarchs of Europe no longer needed to make use of feudalism as a mechanism for mobilisation, but rather began to hire bands of soldiers who could offer much more in the way of armed support. By means of the so-called ‘military revolution’ of the seventeenth century, there emerged the modern standing army, and on one level this undermined the nobility’s ability to legitimate itself still further: no longer needed to fight for the monarchs of Europe in their capacity as seigneurs, they could now not even defend their interests by force, the state having acquired a de facto monopoly of force. That said, however, the new armies did not just operate in this fashion. Rather, they also offered nobilities a means of reasserting their military identity and monarchs a means of sweetening the pill of political emasculation. In brief, the new armies needed officers, while offering the resultant commissions to the nobility gave the latter a new position in the state, albeit a position in which their subordination to the throne was rendered very clear, and, not just that, but one that served to reinforce the existing social order. As for the nobility, meanwhile, they were happy to accept the bounty on offer: aside from the issue of the need to assert their social superiority and maintain family traditions of chivalry and heroism, many nobles were far from rich and were therefore delighted to enjoy the perquisites offered them by membership of the officer corps. These last, meanwhile, were numerous: a commission brought a variety of fiscal and legal privileges, whilst there were also the huge sums to be derived from the socalled inhaber system whereby colonels were considered proprietors of their regiments and captains proprietors of their companies, this opening the way to a wide range of more or less fraudulent practices which offered huge profits. Hence, in part at least, the very common phenomenon one comes across of commissions as ensigns being secured for boys as young as five or six: the earlier feet were placed on the ladder, the quicker access would be obtained to a captaincy.52 In the beginning, then, the vast majority of officers came from the nobility, and it was in fact generally expected that young noblemen would do their duty by the state whether they liked it or not, the point being driven home, in Russia, by a decree of Peter the Great that actually forced the sons of the nobility to enter either the army or the bureaucracy and, in Prussia, the forcible enrolment of young junker in cadet schools by Frederick William I.53 Yet, setting aside countries like Britain where the nobility was simply too small a group for commissions to be limited to their ranks, nobility was an elastic term, whilst it was by no means an indispensable prerequisite to obtaining a commission. In most armies there were at the very least instances of men being promoted from the ranks for acts of heroism or years of meritorious service, whilst the technical arms always tended to be more open to recruits from outside the nobility, if only because there was a tendency among young nobles to disdain the idea of grubbing around in trenches and batteries when they could be carrying a regiment’s colours or heading some gallant cavalry charge. Also of some importance was the extensive influence which remained in the hands of commanding officers: a word from them was enough to secure many young men their first commissions, and, if they chose to turn a blind eye to some aspirants’ social origins, there was little that could be said to them: hence the fact that Frederick the Great’s generals included a Jew and men whose fathers were a drummer, a sergeant and a Lutheran pastor, and that despite the king’s well-known hostility to anything that smacked of the bourgeoisification of the officer corps (indeed, so numerous did such men become in the ever-growing Russian army that Peter the Great eventually decreed that all men who reached the eighth level

The armies of the ancien régime  49 of the ‘table of ranks’ he established for all officials and army officers would automatically be admitted to the hereditary nobility). As the Enlightenment took hold, meanwhile, so there was a tendency noted in at least some countries for the scions of particularly wealthy families to scorn the notion of a military career, the criticism of writers such as Voltaire having tended to call its prestige into question, a further issue here being reforms that, particularly in Austria, got rid of many of the perquisites of the inhaber system. So great was the problem in Austria, indeed, that Catherine the Great was left with no option but to throw open the doors of the various military schools she had established in Vienna to anybody who could satisfy certain basic educational qualifications and, more than that, offer free tuition, from which point onwards the Habsburg officer corps emerged as the most meritocratic in Europe – famously, Karl von Mack, the commander of the Austrian army destroyed by Napoleon at Ulm in 1805, had begun his military career as a common soldier. By 1789, then, many armies had considerable numbers of non-noble officers: even in Prussia, the figure may have been as high as 10 per cent. As we have seen with regard to the French example, however, the officer without money or connections, and particularly those men elevated from the ranks, could generally expect only a very slow rate of promotion: there were, then, plenty of officer corps possessed of an embittered sub-stratum of ageing lieutenants (for such men to rise even as far as captain was very hard).54 Also worthy of question is the common view that career progression was a simple matter of officers simply buying their way up the ranks, a very good example here being the Duke of Wellington who rocketed from ensign to lieutenant colonel in just six years. Yet, even in the British army, purchase was never the only route for advancement: many first commissions were acquired by preferment, whilst promotion could be obtained by seniority or even merit.55 In other armies, meanwhile, the norm was usually a mixture of preferment or seniority, the former being predominant in the infantry and cavalry and the latter in the artillery and engineers. Yet the fact that purchase was not widespread did not necessarily mean that armies were meritocracies. On the contrary, money talked: in France and Austria, all promotions carried with them a fee payable to the officer whose place was being taken; in France and Spain, preferment came to titled aristocrats who possessed sufficient wealth to maintain themselves at court much more easily than it did to penniless nobles confined to provincial garrison towns; and in Britain, officers who could not afford to live as gentlemen – essentially anyone without substantial private means – found it hard to attract the favour of their superiors.56 What of the education of the officer corps? Here, too, caricature has ruled the day with officers frequently being depicted either as effeminate fops more familiar with courts than with cannon or roistering figures given over to gambling, drinking and hunting who had no interest in their men and little knowledge of the art of war. Yet again, however, we need to be careful. It is certainly true that, by contrast to the artillery and engineers, who invariably attended such colleges as the one at Segovia dedicated to turning out Spain’s gunners, only a minority of infantry and cavalry officers could boast of having attended the various military academies that sprang up around Europe in the course of the eighteenth century, the vast majority rather beginning their careers as cadets or ensigns in some regiment or other. For obvious reasons, this was less than ideal: not only was the quality of training that they received very mixed, but the young boys concerned, some of whom were as young as twelve or thirteen, could easily be corrupted by the wilder spirits in the officers’ messes. For men denied advancement by the prevailing norms, meanwhile, there was little incentive to engage in such activities as study. Inevitably, then, drinking, gambling and other vices were indeed rife, while garrison towns were also the scene of endless horseplay, not to mention downright bullying of the civilian

50  The armies of the ancien régime population and endless duelling amongst the officers themselves. However, as the eighteenth century wore on, so a number of influences began to counteract the negative ones outlined here; in the first place, monarchs such as Maria Theresa strove to encourage greater learning among the officer corps; in the second place, the penalties for overstepping the bounds of what was acceptable were often considerable; and, in the third, the gradual spread of the notion of the ‘polite society’ also tended to impose at least a veneer of refinement. In 1789, then, whilst there were plenty of officers who were indeed, if not outright reprobates, then creatures of routine whose ignorance was all too obvious, there were others who exhibited a high level of professionalism (in this respect, of course, much depended on circumstance: in the Prussian army the manoeuvres conducted every year ensured that officers were at least basically competent whilst, in countries such as France and Spain, the absence of such manoeuvres meant that anything other than battalion drill was a real challenge; equally in the French army leave was very generous – in the five years following gaining his commission in the artillery, Napoleon spent barely six months with his regiment – whereas in the Austrian one it was extremely limited ).57 Over-generalisation about the officer corps is therefore unwise, it only being with regard to the rank and file that one can be more certain of the stereotype. In the vast majority, then, the common soldiers came very largely from the urban and rural poor. At the simplest level, enlistment could either be voluntary or the result of some form of conscription. Beginning with voluntary enlistment, this consisted of regiments sending out recruiting parties to tour particular areas of country and persuade young men to enlist in exchange for a bounty. This was, however, a procedure which was notorious for being attended with a wide range of fraudulent practices: men were frequently tricked into enlisting and cheated out of much of their fee.58 If fraud was so prevalent, meanwhile, it was a reflection of the obvious fact that military service was extremely unattractive. In every locality, true, there were always a few young men who were bored or alienated enough to take the king’s shilling or its equivalent, but, for anyone who had a reasonable chance of making a go of civilian society, the sight of dirty, half-fed soldiers being bullied by foul-mouthed corporals and sergeants, and, still more so the legions of maimed, blinded or simply cast-off ex-soldiers eking out a miserable existence as beggars, was scarcely an encouragement. Added to this, meanwhile, was, first, the fact that service was often either for life or, at the very least, some lengthy term such as twenty-five years and, second, simple fear of travel: the vast majority of the free elements of the populace – and it should be noted that across much of central and eastern Europe the population were serfs who could not enlist voluntarily even if they wanted to – were peasants or landless labourers who had never travelled more than a few miles from their homes and were most unhappy at the prospect of having to do so. Hardly surprisingly, then, recruiting parties for the most part only obtained recruits from amongst the poorest and most desperate elements of society, men who were, of course, themselves the worst possible advertisements for military life. As the Frenchman Laborde observed of Spain, for example, fresh blood was only to be found in spots that abounded in ‘dupes and libertines’.59 For a stark comment on the situation, we need only cite the words of an officer in the Austrian army named Cognazzo who defected to the Prussians and published a series of biting critiques of the Austrian war machine. Thus: We should not allow ourselves to be blinded by ‘love of country’ or ‘inclination towards military service’. If we take the trouble to investigate the most important impulses which bring the lads to the . . . recruiting table, we shall find that they are things like drunkenness, a frenzy of passion, love of idleness, a horror of any useful trade, a wish

The armies of the ancien régime  51 to escape from parental discipline, inclination towards debauchery, an imaginary hope of untrammelled freedom, sheer desperation [or] the fear of punishment after some sordid crime.60 The difficulties of relying on the populace for volunteers had been demonstrated all too graphically in Austria in the wake of the War of the Austrian Succession.61 In brief, driven in part by notions of benevolence and in part by the dictates of expedience, Maria Theresa renounced conscription and announced that henceforward all recruitment to the army would be voluntary.62 The result, however, was a failure of dramatic proportions, it therefore being all too clear that it would be necessary to resort to other means. In Austria, France and Prussia, not to mention many lesser states, an important way forward here was the recruitment of foreign deserters. With discipline harsh and conditions poor, many soldiers fled their regiments only in many instances to find themselves hundreds of miles from their homes and possessed of no means of survival except banditry: in the Seven Years War alone, no fewer than 212,000 soldiers disappeared from the armies of Austria, Russia and Prussia, while even in peacetime many men took the first opportunity of escaping that was offered.63 Such fugitives were in many instances ripe for recruitment, and thus it was that many armies contained large numbers of foreigners, such men either simply being incorporated into ordinary units, as in Prussia and Austria, or used, as in France and Spain, to maintain units that were specifically foreign: in 1789, for example, the latter had three line-infantry regiments that were notionally Irish and one that was equally notionally Italian.64 With large bounties on offer on all sides, there were even men who made a living by becoming serial deserters, who fled from one army to the next with gay abandon, one such being the future Marshal Augereau who, by 1789, is supposed to have been a veteran of service in no fewer than four different states.65 Finally, the French, the Spaniards and the Papal States all recruited units of red-coated mercenaries from Switzerland, then a poverty-stricken backwater whose population could only find relief from their misery by selling themselves as soldiers, while in the mid-eighteenth century the Austrians were able to persuade a number of minor German states to provide them with contingents of recruits. Again, however, such men were a doubleedged sword: if, on the one hand, they were a useful source of manpower, on the other, they were, like the indigenous volunteers, very poor material, ‘a most wretched crew’ or, indeed, ‘a mass of unfortunates’.66 Though there were problems even there, only in Switzerland was the situation much different: here service in foreign armies had been such an important part of the Swiss economy for so long that in many families it had become a tradition. To quote Corvisier, ‘Special consideration must be given to recruiting in Switzerland. The factor of poverty . . . gave way to a sense of vocation.’67 If one type of recruit was the volunteer, the other was the conscript. The press had been in existence in one form or another since at least the seventeenth century, if not before, but, in the course of the eighteenth century, it was gradually codified and given clearer legal form. In Spain, for example, a tradition established itself known as the sorteo whereby the state periodically issued a call for so many recruits, who were then apportioned amongst the country’s provinces and municipalities on as proportionate a basis as possible and actually obtained by means of a ballot, this system being given definitive form by means of new regulations issued in 1770. The intention was that the call-up should take place annually, but this caused uproar, and in 1777 a major riot in Barcelona convinced the authorities that the system should only be used in time of war, and preferably not then either. Alongside voluntary enlistment, however, there continued to exist the so-called leva or levy, this essentially being periodic round-ups of anyone whom the authorities deemed to be a threat to public order.

52  The armies of the ancien régime In theory, of course, the target was such groups as pimps, footpads and the idle, but, in the context of a country in which large parts of the rural population depended on seasonal day labour, the net result was that the measure became a bludgeon that descended on the heads of the deserving poor and undeserving poor alike. Not all those who were picked up were sent into the army – proven criminals were instead consigned to chain gangs, and a few lucky individuals were even released – but over the years the leva nevertheless provided thousands of men for the rank and file, and it is in fact quite clear that the vast majority of recruits came from this source.68 The most well-known system of conscription in the Europe of the late eighteenth century was, of course, that of Prussia. Dating from 1733, this had not replaced the voluntary enlistment on which the Prussians had previously relied but had rather been introduced alongside it. In brief, every infantry regiment (the cavalry and the artillery, by contrast, continued to rely on volunteers alone) was assigned a district from which to draw the men it needed, and the able-bodied male population of each district aged between the ages of eighteen and forty declared liable for military service (uniquely, in the Prussian service the conditions for being declared as being ‘able-bodied’ included possessing a height of at least five foot seven inches whereas elsewhere a mere five feet nothing was usually quite sufficient); each district, meanwhile, was further broken down into a number of sub-districts, known as cantons, at a rate of one for each company of the regiment. This done, the stage was set for annual levies, which were set at whatever level was needed to keep each regiment up to strength, but, in peacetime at least, the number taken was generally very few, often a mere two or three men from a canton that could easily include 500 families. This, however, was just as well, for the pool from which recruits were selected was rendered much smaller than it might have been by the establishment of numerous exemptions, some of them humanitarian (married men, only sons), some occupational (bakers, millers, pastors) and some social (nobles). As to who was taken, this rested on the local lord of the manor, but, whereas in other countries, the men picked out by the local authorities tended to be known trouble-makers or the physically or mentally handicapped, in Prussia, the fact that the lords of the manor were invariably serving or retired officers meant that the recruits tended to be fine physical specimens possessed of excellent characters. As to why such men could be spared, this was simple: after an initial two years in which they received their basic training, the men were sent home to live with their families and sustain themselves by labour on the land, only normally having to return to the army for the manoeuvres conducted each year for two weeks in the wake of the harvest. So manifold were the advantages of this system – it was extremely cheap, productive of excellent recruits, reasonably acceptable to the populace and helpful in respect of unit cohesion – that it remained in use in Prussia right up till the catastrophe of 1806, whilst, starting in 1781, Joseph II imposed it province by province in his domains as well, even if the Tyrol and Hungary had to be allowed to resume their highly preferential traditional arrangements in the wake of the protests of 1789–90.69 The demands of the state being everywhere limited by a wide range of exemptions of the same sort to be found in Prussia, one certainly cannot speak of universal conscription. That said, taking the eighteenth century as a whole, enormous numbers of men were still called up, while, under pressure, states were quite capable of overthrowing convention. With Prussian manpower seriously depleted in the wake of the Seven Years War, Frederick the Great, for example, took a step that shook contemporary opinion to its foundations, in which respect we can here turn to comments made by Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, a sometime functionary of the East India Company who visited Potsdam in 1779:

The armies of the ancien régime  53 The Jews, who have, ever since the time of Hadrian, manifested the most decided inaptitude and antipathy to war, have nevertheless attracted the attention of Frederick as capable of being made subservient to the general protection or defence. After the partition of Poland . . . finding that there was a very considerable proportion of them resident in the territory which fell to his share, he determined to embody them and instruct them in the science of arms. They vainly remonstrated to His Majesty that war was neither analogous to their national genius, nor agreeable to their private feelings. A corps of several thousand was formed, compelled to learn the manual exercise and passed in review. But such was found to be, on trial, their insurmountable disinclination to bear arms that, after many fruitless endeavours, they were finally broken and disbanded.70 If Jews had initially been excluded from service in the armies of Austria, Russia and Prussia, in Britain, much the same applied to Catholics, and, by extension, a large majority of the population of Ireland: thanks to the penal laws of the seventeenth century, the British army was prohibited from enlisting Irishmen. In theory, this remained the case until 1793, when the law concerned was repealed by the Militia Act, this being a measure which, as we shall see, extended the county militia to Ireland. However, driven by the need for recruits, by the late eighteenth century, many regiments appear to have been turning a blind eye to the practice, particularly if the men concerned could immediately be whisked off to foreign service. In the west as much as in the east, then, should the circumstances require it of them, military establishments were prepared to set aside religious or political prejudice if that was the price of obtaining sufficient recruits.71 Whatever social groups they came from and however they were recruited, the soldiers of eighteenth-century Europe were subject to the most ferocious discipline. Both at the time and in later years, attempts were made to downplay this aspect of military life. Christopher Duffy, for example, has been keen to stress the moves made in the Austrian army to humanise discipline, regulate the treatment of common soldiers by officers and sergeants and, in general, appeal to the soldiers’ better nature rather than simply relying on terror, while Johann Riesbeck insisted that the Prussian army, a force notorious for its brutality, was not nearly as bad as was generally painted. Thus: The hardships of the situation have been much exaggerated . . . Even blows, about which so much has been said, are only used when the man shows incorrigible stupidity, awkwardness, negligence or wickedness. In no armies are recruits treated with more gentleness than they are in the Prussian.72 Let us concede that Riesbeck has a point here and that the Prussian service was indeed less onerous than has been claimed. Yet, even if this was so, it was not just Prussia: across Europe soldiers were every day subjected to casual kicks and blows by their superiors or, still worse, sentenced to hundreds of lashes; to long periods sitting astride the wooden horse (a very instrument of torture consisting of two planks placed edge to edge and set too high off the ground for the malefactor to take any weight on his feet); to run the gauntlet (a particularly barbaric punishment whereby men were repeatedly made to march the length of two files of men armed with hazel switches with which they were compelled to whip him each time he passed by); and, for particularly serious crimes, the noose or even the firing squad. As for the reasons for this savagery, they were obvious enough: in the eyes of the military and, indeed, civil establishment, soldiers were dangerous brutes who had to be kept in their place in times of peace

54  The armies of the ancien régime and driven to fight in times of war, on top of this there was the need to be able to conform to complicated manoeuvres and, above all, fire a musket three times a minute or even more.73 All this begs an obvious question. Soldiers were not just subjected to great brutality, but unfairly recruited; paid little; poorly fed; housed in many instances in stinking, overcrowded barrack rooms; dressed in uniforms that tended to grow ever more tight and uncomfortable as the eighteenth century wore on; forced to dress their hair with a disgusting mixture of grease and flour that regularly attracted the attention of rats while they were trying to sleep at night; and seemingly offered little in the way of reward: if they were mutilated, they might get a licence to beg or a small pension, or, if they were really lucky, a place in one of the great hospitals-cum-care homes established for the purpose, but that was about all. Why, then, should they have fought, and, what is more, in general fought so well (Prussian casualties in Frederick the Great’s battles were generally proportionately much higher than they were in those of Napoleon)? That fear mattered cannot be denied: when battalions were deployed in line, their natural line of retreat was blocked by a line of officers and noncommissioned officers armed with pole-arms – spontoons, halberds and half-pikes – whose sheer length ensured that men who turned and ran would receive short shrift. Yet there were a number of different factors at work here, some of them obvious and some of them less so. Let us begin here with small-group loyalty, the focus of this being the tent-party of eight to ten men. Unless soldiers chose to desert, the regiment was the only home they had, and they therefore had no option but to fight, for a soldier who left himself open to the scorn of his immediate messmates by running away risked being cast out into, quite literally, the outer darkness: gone would be the communal campfire, not to mention the comradeship and pooling of resources that was the chief factor in making life bearable for the common soldier: not for nothing, then, do we find Prussian soldiers swearing oaths to one another before the battle of Leuthen to stand by one another come what may.74 At the same time, too, there was also the issue of professional pride. Generally men who had little or nothing in civilian society, by enlisting in an army, they obtained a tiny degree of status that was worth hanging on to at all costs. The life of a soldier was not much, but it was better than that of a beggar, and across Europe there were many men who must have responded to that simple fact, whilst the very contempt with which soldiers were regarded by many civilians doubtless acted as a spur in the direction of greater commitment to the military estate.75 For cantonalists of the sort that filled the Prussian army and, later, its Austrian counterpart, the situation was rather different: unlike the volunteers, such men had homes to go to and other lives in which they could take refuge. Yet, here, too, there were social bonds whose ties were hard to throw off. Given the fact that regiments were assigned specific recruiting districts, men served alongside neighbours, the result being, of course, that flight could lead to social disgrace and even reprisals. In short, whilst the pressures facing cantonalists were rather different from those facing volunteers, they were still very real. And, yet, it was not just a question of social pressure. Thus, for cantonalists, as much as volunteers, military service brought with it certain benefits – the right in all cases to trial in military courts rather than the normal manorial ones, the right to petition the throne – that marked out the men concerned from their fellow villagers and can be assumed to have been something felt worth living up to.76 For all troops, meanwhile, there was also the possibility of identifying with particular military commanders who either projected an image of genuinely caring for their troops or were associated with military success. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, one such had been the Duke of Marlborough, or, as his men called him, ‘Corporal John’, whilst another was Frederick the Great. Here, for example, is Riesbeck:

The armies of the ancien régime  55 In all the countries belonging to the bishops and in many of the free states, I met with soldiers who had served the King of Prussia and who had most of them deserted from him . . . I talked with about twenty of these deserters and did not meet one of them who did wish himself back again . . . I sometimes . . . endeavoured to show them what far more pleasant days they endured under their bishops or magistrates, and how impossible I thought it, from all the accounts I had heard of the Prussian army, that they should be displeased with their change of situation. They all speak of the king’s great achievements with a degree of enthusiasm which often struck me not a little, and the conclusion of what they said was always . . . [that] in other places men are only half-soldiers and derive no credit from it. Notwithstanding they have the utmost liberty under these petty princes . . . many of them . . . desert back again to the King of Prussia.77 Pride in a warrior-king, of course, could very easily be translated into identification with the state he ruled, and it is at least possible to argue that, under Frederick the Great, at least some of his soldiers began to see themselves as Prussians and, conceivably, even as Germans: was not a constant feature of Prussian propaganda the idea that Frederick was fighting to protect the interests of all Germans from the over-weening ambition of the emperor? In Britain, meanwhile, it is clear that by the middle of the eighteenth century a powerful proto-nationalist discourse with which the soldier – until the 1750s almost invariably an Englishman and, until the 1790s, usually a Protestant to boot78 – could clearly identify. At the heart of this was religion: if Britain was a green and pleasant land by comparison with much of Europe, it was because she was Protestant, whilst, if British soldiers and British sailors regularly triumphed over their opponents, it was because these last were Catholic. To quote Linda Colley: It was Protestantism that helped to make Britain’s successive wars against France after 1689 so significant in terms of national formation. A powerful and persistently threatening France became the haunting embodiment of that Catholic Other which Britons had been taught to fear since the Reformation . . . Imagining the French as their vile opposites . . . became a means – particularly for the poor and less privileged – to contrive for themselves a converse and flattering identity.79 Whether under Marlborough, Wolfe, Burgoyne, Cornwallis or, ultimately, the Duke of York, British soldiers had a proud record to live up to, and there were in truth few occasions when they did not do so.80 To conclude, then, the military world of the late eighteenth century was very far from being as rickety as is commonly presented. In the first place, armies were for the most part far from being the tiny forces of legend, whilst, even if they were, they were rapidly expanded in time of war. Meanwhile, although recruited from the lowliest sectors of society and led predominantly, though not exclusively, by the nobility, their soldiers usually fought extremely well, just as their officers were in many cases clearly competent professionals and, what is more, competent professionals who were anything but averse to new ideas: the characteristic that comes over above all, indeed, is not a slavish devotion to tradition, but rather an adaptability that allowed for both the incorporation of new ideas and technologies, and the modification of existing doctrine in accordance with changing opponents and tactical realities. In so far as this chapter is concerned, there is much more that could be said about the armies of the eighteenth century – for reasons of space, for example, it has been impossible to say very much about the manner in which they fitted into their parent

56  The armies of the ancien régime societies – but there are other works to which the reader can easily refer here such as those by Childs, Anderson and Corvisier. In the context of the current work, the important point is simply this: that the armies of Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia were scarcely walkovers, and that their eclipse – an eclipse that was in any case but partial – therefore cannot be attributed solely to the simplicities that have so often been advanced in respect of the military impact of the French Revolution.

Notes 1 For a detailed critique of the notion that eighteenth-century warfare was limited, indecisive and generally lacking in verisimilitude, see J. Black, European Warfare, 1660–1815 (London, 1994), pp. 67–86. 2 W. Coxe, Travels into Poland, Russia, Sweden and Denmark, (London, 1791), V, pp. 346–7. According to Gunther Rothenberg, the effective strength of the Austrian army in 1789 was but 230,000 men. G. Rothenberg, Napoleon’s Great Adversaries: The Archduke Charles and the Austrian Army, 1792–1814 (London, 1982), p. 24. 3 C. Duffy, The Military Experience in the Age of Reason (London, 1987), p. 17. 4 For all this, see C. Barnett, Britain and Her Army (London, 1970), pp. 126–213 passim, and J. Black, Britain as a Military Power, 1688–1815 (London, 1999), pp. 45–78. 5 When they first appeared in the latter half of the seventeenth century, grenadiers were shock troops whose task, as the name suggests, was to clear the way for assaults by going ahead of the main body and hurling hand grenades – then small spheres of iron filled with gunpowder ignited by a piece of slow-match – it being in recognition of this role that they were issued with upright fabric or sometimes bearskin caps, the broad-brimmed hats worn by most soldiers being regarded as an impediment to their throwing arms. By the time of the French Revolution, the use of hand grenades had fallen into abeyance, but grenadiers had survived as élite units, access to whose ranks acted as a useful means of rewarding deserving soldiers with greater pay and status. Uniquely, in the Prussian army the grenadiers were organised as separate battalions within each three-battalion regiment. 6 The Russian army had Catherine the Great’s favourite and lover, Grigorii Potemkin, to thank for this development. A highly experienced soldier who had made his name in the war against the Turks of 1768–74, Potemkin was a great exponent of mobility and the need to develop specifically Russian ways of waging war. B.W. Menning, ‘The Russian imperial army, 1725–96’ in F.W. Kagan and R. Higham (eds.), The Military History of Tsarist Russia (Houndmills, 2002), p. 68. 7 For a general introduction to eighteenth-century infantry, see C. Jorgensen et al., Fighting Techniques of the Early-Modern World, AD1500–AD1763: Equipment, Combat Skills and Tactics (London, 2005), pp. 56–60. 8 M. Fussell, ‘“Feroces et barbares”: Cossacks, Kalmucks and Russian irregular warfare during the Seven Years’ War’, in M.H. Danley and P.J. Speelman (eds.), The Seven Years’ War; Global Views (Leiden, 2012), pp. 243–62; R. Bassett, For God and Kaiser: The Imperial Austrian Army from 1619 to 1918 (London, 2015), pp. 60–1; K. Wesseley, ‘The development of the Hungarian military frontier until the middle of the eighteenth century’, Austrian History Yearbook, 9 (1973), pp. 45–110; C. Duffy, Instrument of War: The Austrian Army in the Seven Years War (Rosemont, IL, 2000), pp. 301–15. Cossacks are normally envisaged as irregular cavalry, but, lacking horses, the poorer elements of the population had no option but to serve on foot. 9 Duffy, Military Experience in the Age of Reason, pp. 271–3; Jorgensen et al., Fighting Techniques of the Early-Modern World, pp. 53–6. 10 Menning, ‘Russian Imperial Army’, pp. 64–5; Bassett, For God and Kaiser, pp. 173–4. Like muskets, rifles were muzzle-loading while they were ignited by the same flintlock mechanism. However, unlike muskets, they were not smoothbores: rather, spiral groves known as rifling were engraved along the length of the inside of the barrel, and the ball made to grip its sides by being forced down it wrapped in a leather pouch. At least in theory, accuracy and range were thereby dramatically increased albeit at the cost of rate of fire, many armies therefore coming to the conclusion that they were more trouble than they were worth. In the various German states – Austria and Prussia included – and Russia, men equipped with such weapons were known as jäger (literally ‘hunters’).

The armies of the ancien régime  57 11 P. Hofschroer, Prussian Light Infantry, 1792–1815 (Oxford, 1984), pp. 3–4. 12 C.J. Esdaile, ‘The Spanish army’ in F.C. Schneid (ed.), European Armies of the French Revolution (Norman, Oklahoma, 2002), p. 153. 13 For the origins of light infantry in the British army, see D. Gates, The British Light-Infantry Arm, c.1790–1815: Its Creation, Training and Operational Role (London, 1987), pp. 10–26. As in Austria, meanwhile, there were experiments with rifles, but it was decided that these weapons were not suited to battles in Europe. 14 These changes were not achieved without controversy. Not only did some conservative thinkers lament the disappearance of the old-style cuirassier, but in Russia there was much debate between those who wished to maintain the traditional function of dragoons and, indeed, convert the whole of the regular cavalry into such troops – on the grounds that men who fight on foot as well as on horseback were far better suited for the campaigns against the Turks, which they believed should be Russia’s chief strategic focus, than western-style heavy cavalry – and those who rather wanted to increase the number of heavy cavalry regiments so as to improve Russia’s chances in wars against Austria and Prussia. Menning, ‘Russian imperial army’, pp. 65, 67–8. 15 There being clear signs that there were limits to the efficacy of mounted action in the face of resolute and well-trained infantry, the continued fascination with heavy cavalry can be seen as one area in which the military estate demonstrated its conservatism. Yet it is possible to go too far here: delivered in the correct circumstances, cavalry charges could be absolutely devastating and were in fact one of the only ways in which in the achievement of tactical superiority could be translated into a decisive victory, whilst the fact that the proportion of field armies that the cavalry represented steadily diminished as the eighteenth century wore on is clearly evidence of a readiness to acknowledge battlefield realities. 16 In the course of the eighteenth century, the Russians acquired the services of some of their old enemies, the bands concerned swelling the size of their irregulars still further. Herewith the description of the English traveller, Andrew Swinton, who observed a force of such troops in the course of a visit to Saint Petersburg in 1789: ‘Several thousand Tartars, Bachkirs and Kirghizes are arrived and encamped near the city. They are all horsemen, poor, miserable looking creatures, especially the Kirghizes. They resemble a band of gypsies and their camp keeps up the resemblance . . . Their arms are bows and arrows and a kind of spear, a piece of stick with an iron spike . . . at the end of it . . . The officers have pistols and sabres, richly ornamented with silver and gold . . . They are not fond of fighting . . . against musketry . . . I am at a loss to guess what service they can be of in Finland, whose rocks and mountains, so unlike the plains of Tartary, will be another world to those tribes. They may, indeed, butcher the defenceless peasants, but I hope this disgrace will not happen to the Russian arms.’ A. Swinton, Travels into Norway, Denmark and Russia in the Years 1788, 1789, 1790 and 1791 (London, 1792), pp. 244–7. 17 Initially the Russians had also fielded large numbers of noble cavalry of the sort described here, but, by the middle of the eighteenth century, this element of their forces had disappeared thanks to the reforms of Peter the Great. For some details on early light cavalry, see G. Gush, Renaissance Armies, 1480–1650 (Cambridge, 1975), pp. 61–91 passim. 18 By the time of the French Revolution all the major armies had units of regular light cavalry, the only state which continued to make use of the original noble levies being Poland. As for Russia, she, too, employed such units – by 1774 her order of battle included no fewer than twenty-three regiments of hussars, lancers and light horse – but with them she continued to deploy many regiments of mounted Cossacks, and that despite the fact that it was all too clear that they were hopelessly undisciplined, a terror to the civilian population of all the areas through which they passed and all but useless on the battlefield. Menning, ‘Imperial Russian army’, pp. 66–7. Meanwhile, writing in the early 1780s, the German author, Johann Riesbeck, has interesting things to say on the militarisation of the original hussars. Thus: ‘It is remarkable enough that, whilst in imitation of the Hungarian soldier, the hussar has become an essential part of the Prussian army . . . . . . the true original is lost in his own country. Not one of the . . . regiments of hussars in the emperor’s service is made up entirely of Hungarians . . . The Hungarian has entirely lost his spirit by [the imposition of military] discipline . . . This [last] was not enough to make the Hungarian a match for the Prussian hussars in the Silesian War: on the contrary, they always proved inferior to them.’ J.K. Riesbeck, Travels through Germany in a Series of Letters (London, 1787), II, pp. 47–8. 19 Duffy, Military Experience of the Age of Reason, pp. 230–3; B.P. Hughes, Open Fire! Artillery Tactics from Marlborough to Wellington (Chichester, 1983), pp. 36–51. Russian infantry regiments had no

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24 25 26 27 28 29

30 31 32 33 34 35

fewer than four pieces of artillery attached to them (two howitzers and two cannon), and this may explain the disproportionately heavy losses which they were able to inflict on the Prussians in battles such as Zorndorf and Kunersdorf. With regard to Frederick the Great’s use of horse artillery, a treatise on the Prussian army in the 1780s waxed enthusiastic. Thus: ‘I was myself an eyewitness to the use and effect of mounted artillery in the year 1761 when . . . General von Zeithen . . . marched into Poland to oppose the Russian army . . . An advanced post of the Russians, 6,000 men, infantry and cavalry . . . was attacked near Costin . . . by sixteen squadrons of horse commanded by Colonel von Lossow . . . who, having six three-pounders with him, attacked in column . . . masking his six cannon . . . and, having come up close with the enemy . . . fell off to the right and left. Meanwhile, the six cannon . . . kept up such a well-directed, brisk and unexpected cartridge fire . . . that the enemy in a minute’s time were absolutely thrown into disorder.’ J.M. Helldorff, An Historical Account of the Prussian Army and its Present Strength to which is added a Succinct Account of the Army of the Elector of Saxony, (London, 1783), pp. 20–1. M.S. Thompson, Wellington’s Engineers: Military Engineering in the Peninsular War, 1808–1814 (Barnsley, 2015), p. 5. J. Langins, Conserving the Enlightenment: French Military Engineering from Vauban to the Revolution (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2004); H. Capel et al., De Palas a Minerva: la formación científica y la estructura institucional de los ingenieros militares en el siglo XVIII (Madrid, 1988). Duffy, Instrument of War, pp. 291–300. For an introduction to the various royal guards of the eighteenth century, see P. Mansel, Pillars of Monarchy: An Outline of the Political and Social History of Royal Guards, 1400–1981 (London, 1984), pp. 23–32. For some general coverage of the militias, see J. Childs, Armies and Warfare in Europe, 1648–1789 (Manchester, 1982), pp. 59–60, and A. Corvisier, Armies and Societies in Europe, 1494–1789 (Bloomington, IN, 1979), pp. 54–7, 131–2, whilst discussions of a particularly bad example can be found in C. Corona Marzol, ‘Las milicias urbanas de la baja Andalucía en el siglo XVII’, in I. Marín Marina (ed.), Milicia y sociedad en la baja Andalucía, siglos XVIII y XIX: VIII Jornadas Nacionales de Historia Militar (Sevilla, 1999), pp. 377–89. For obvious reasons, England is particularly well documented as witness M. McCormack, Embodying the Militia in Georgian England (Oxford, 2015) and J.R. Western, The English County Militia in the Eighteenth Century: The Story of a Political Issue, 1660–1802 (London, 1965). Anon., Letters from Portugal on the Late and Present State of the Kingdom (London, 1777), p. 36. C.F. Dumouriez, An Account of Portugal as it appeared in 1766 to Dumouriez, since a Celebrated General in the French Army (London, 1797), pp. 109–14. Cit. H. Friedrich-Stegmann, La imagen de España en los libros de los viajeros alemanes del siglo XVIII (Alicante, 2014), p. 132. H. Bunbury, Some Passages of the Great War with France from 1799 to 1810 (London, 1854), p. vii. Riesbeck, Travels in Germany, II, p. 171; for a general survey, see H.C.B. Rogers, The British Army of the Eighteenth Century (London, 1977). J.C. Lavaux, The Life of Frederick II, King of Prussia, to Which Are Added Observations, Documents and a Variety of Anecdotes (London, 1794), II, pp. 121–30. Of the Prussian cavalry, Riesbeck wrote, ‘As wonderful as the Prussian infantry is, it is . . . infinitely surpassed by the cavalry . . . Even English travellers, who are not apt to give favourable accounts of what they meet with in other countries, and who are so proud of their own cavalry, confess that this part of the Prussian army goes beyond all that can be conceived of it.’ Riesbeck, Travels in Germany, III, pp. 20–1. Lavaux, Life of Frederick, II, pp. 118–19. Ibid., p. 119. Riesbeck, Travels through Germany, III, p. 18. D. Showalter, ‘The Prussian army’ in Schneid, European Armies of the French Revolution, pp. 45–6. L. Eysturlid, ‘The Austrian army’ in ibid., pp. 64–85. Rothenberg, Napoleon’s Great Adversaries, pp. 28–9. In fairness, Rothenberg’s opinion can be sustained by reference to contemporary authors. Here, for example, are the thoughts of a contemporary French observer: ‘The inequality between the Turkish army and the armies of all the European powers is immeasurable . . . Thence arises a problem difficult to resolve: why do the Russians invariably defeat the Turks, while the Austrians’ success against them is very uncertain? There is no lack of honour or courage in the Austrian army: there are good generals, excellent soldiers and better cavalry of all kinds than the Russians possess. Yet the Austrians often have losses,

The armies of the ancien régime  59


37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44

45 46


the Russians never . . . The Russian despises the Turk, while the Austrian officer thinks he counts for something and the Austrian private fears him . . . I think the Austrian generals must fight in much the same spirit as a gambler shows when he is discouraged by losing twice in succession The man who loses his head because he has been beaten in his first rubber of whist will assuredly be beaten in the second . . . The Austrian army, while it has more knowledge, hesitates and vacillates at the moment of attack, and for this reason receives the charge oftener than it makes it.’ J. Rambaud (ed.), Memoirs of the Comte Roger de Damas, 1787–1806 (London, 1913), pp. 46–8. Another Frenchman who had occasion to observe the Austrians was Sébastien Comean de Charry, a twenty-two-year-old émigré serving in the army of the Prince of Condé who fought alongside an Austrian force at the battle of Bienwald on 20 August 1793: ‘Sitting on one of my cannon with my arms crossed, I reflected on the battle, the first I had ever taken part in . . . In so far as I could see, the army of Condé was the only force that had done well: the Prince had formed his men into a single mass, and with that mass had outflanked the enemy line and forced it to retreat . . . As for the rest of our superb army, it had manoeuvred with great regularity, kept up a methodical and well-nourished fire and made a splendid display of its cavalry, but it had obtained only the feeblest of results. I could see the problem: the Austrians were slow and saw a battle-line in terms of a parade-ground manoeuvre, whereas I saw it rather as a means of attacking and pursuing the enemy. I realised afterwards that, as a good Frenchman, I instinctively grasped how to wage war, whereas the Austrian army possessed nothing more than the slowest and most ponderous routine.’ Comeau de Charry, Souvenirs de la guerre d’Allemagne pendant la Révolution et l’Empire, p. 84. For Joseph’s reforms, see Bassett, For God and Kaiser, pp. 167–74. Duffy, Army of Maria Theresa, pp. 208–9. Particularly in respect of the changes these brought to the inhaber system, these aroused immense opposition within the military estate. As Riesbeck remarked, the figure most associated with the reform next to Joseph II, Field Marshal Lacy, was ‘universally hated’. Thus: ‘The reason is a very evident one. Before his time every captain had an opportunity of cheating his sovereign by furnishing the soldiers of his company with every article of clothing [while] those of a higher rank . . . divided the contents of the military chest between them. That is now all at an end: the soldier is supplied out of the emperor’s warehouses with every possible article for which he can have occasion . . . receives his pay the moment it is due . . . is better clothed than any soldier in Europe and . . . accustomed to a thrift which cannot but contribute to the increase . . . of his health and strength.’ Riesbeck, Travels through Germany, I, p. 273. G. Soleyveytchik, Potemkin: A Picture of Catherine the Great’s Russia (London, 1949), pp. 117–18; Menning, ‘Imperial Russian army’, pp. 63–9. Rambaud, Memoirs of the Comte Roger de Damas, pp. 47–8. Riesbeck, Travels in Germany, III, p. 240. Ibid., II, pp. 147–8. Helldorff, Historical Account of the Prussian Army, pp. 125–6. An exception here was Austria: although regulations issued in 1769 laid down that each field army should have such bodies, these were only actually assembled on the outbreak of war. Rothenberg, Napoleon’s Great Adversaries, p. 19. Duffy, Military Experience in the Age of Reason, pp. 176–82. For a detailed discussion of the Prussian example, see C. Duffy, The Army of Frederick the Great (Newton Abbott, 1974), pp. 143–4. Rambaud, Memoirs of Comte Roger de Damas, pp. 61–2. The influence which good staff-work and an effective plan could have here is graphically illustrated by Marlborough’s march to the Danube in 1704: admittedly this took place in a far more favoured area of Europe, but at the end of each day’s march the troops found ample supply depots waiting for them, losses due to ‘wastage’ being kept to a minimum. W. Shanahan, Prussian Military Reforms, 1786–1813 (New York, 1945), pp. 61–3; Childs, Armies and Warfare in Europe, pp. 91–2. Duffy, Military Experience in the Age of Reason, pp. 212–14. Also extremely useful here is R. Muir, Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon (London, 1998): although this is centred on the Napoleonic era, much of what Muir has to say is equally applicable to fighting in the late eighteenth century. Some commentators have seen the fact that Russia had to devote much time and energy to fighting in ‘alternative’ environments as being key to a particularly flexible approach to warfare. To quote Brian Davies, ‘In the later Turkish Wars . . . we see the Russians achieving crushing victories through new variable-formation tactics, especially through the chequerboard deployment of

60  The armies of the ancien régime


49 50


52 53 54

55 56



mutually supporting hollow squares . . . Once again the more significant military innovations of the period had developed out of the struggle on the Turco-Tartar frontier rather than from operations against the European powers,’ B.L. Davies, ‘The development of Russian military power, 1453–1815’, in J. Black (ed.), European Warfare, 1453–1815 (1999), pp. 174–5. To deal with the enemy cavalry, the Russians also introduced squares made up of a number of different battalions of a sort that would be recognisable to the French army sent to Egypt in 1798 and successive British armies in the colonial wars of the nineteenth century. For the reforms of Potemkin and Suvorov, meanwhile, see Menning, ‘Russian imperial army’, pp. 69–74. Also useful is P. Longworth, The Art of Victory: The Life and Achievements of General Suvorov, 1729–1800 (London, 1965). For an interesting case study, see M. Urban, Fusiliers: How the British Army Lost America but Learned to Fight (London, 2007). For the process of thought that led to the regulations of 1791, see H. Strachan, European Armies and the Conduct of War (London, 1983), pp. 25–7; meanwhile, for a recent discussion of Guibert, who is associated not just with the introduction of a practical system of columnar tactics, but also the conceptualisation of the nation-in-arms, see B. Heuser, ‘Guibert: prophet of total war?’, in R. Chickering and S. Förster (eds.), War in an Age of Revolution, 1775–1815 (Cambridge, 2010), pp. 49–68. For an interesting discussion of the logistics of eighteenth-century warfare, see M. van Creveld, Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton (Cambridge, 1977), pp. 17–39. For the nature of campaigning, meanwhile, see C. Telp, The Evolution of Operational Art, 1740–1813: From Frederick the Great to Napoleon (Abingdon, 2013), pp. 12–25, and Strachan, European Armies and the Conduct of War, pp. 34–5. Childs, Armies and Warfare in Europe, 1648–1789, pp. 77–9; Corvisier, Armies and Societies in Europe, pp. 87–105. M.S. Anderson, War and Society in Europe of the Old Régime, 1618–1789 (London, 1988), pp. 115–16. For a detailed discussion of the situation of the officer corps in the Prussian army, see Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great, pp. 25–7. As for Austria, the situation there is discussed in C. Duffy, The Army of Maria Theresa (Newton Abbot, 1977), pp. 24–5, and M. Hochedlinger, Austria’s Wars of Emergence, 1683–1797 (Harlow, 2003), pp. 305–8. It should be noted, meanwhile, that promotion from the ranks was not necessarily a positive development: with the best will in the world, erstwhile sergeants were unlikely to be men of much education, and they and their wives were often snubbed by officers of a higher social class; deprived of any hope of advancement, they therefore tended to slide into alcoholism (not for nothing did the Duke of Wellington later state that he did not approve of promoting men from the ranks as they invariably turned to drink). See Duffy, Instrument of War, pp. 140–1. For a discussion of the purchase system in the British army, see E. Robson, ‘Purchase and promotion in the British army in the eighteenth century’, History, 36, Nos. 126–7 (February, 1951), pp. 57–72. For the Austrian example, see Duffy, Army of Maria Theresa, pp. 34–5; M. Hochedlinger, ‘Mars ennobles: the ascent of the military and the creation of a military nobility in mid-eighteenth century Austria’, German History, 17, No. 2 (April, 1999), pp. 141–76; and T.M. Barker, Army, Aristocracy, Monarchy: Essays on War, Society and Government in Austria, 1618–1780 (New York, 1982), pp. 128–46. For France, meanwhile, see Corvisier, Armies and Societies in Europe, pp. 101–2. Corvisier, Armies and Societies in Europe, pp. 105–9. For two case studies, see Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great, pp. 42–52; Duffy, Army of Maria Theresa, pp. 38–46. The Austrian officer corps has often been singled out for its ignorance, but Riesbeck paints a picture which is entirely different. Thus: ‘Amongst all the imperial officers I was acquainted with, I did not meet one, of a certain age, who did not possess a certain fund of philosophy. During my stay here [i.e. Vienna], I found them by far the best company in the place, and, with the permission of the professors, doctors and other literati, must think them by far the most enlightened people in the Austrian dominions . . . There has long been a freedom of thinking and reasoning in the army, which . . . does the emperor the utmost honour. Every regiment has a library to itself, and the officers find means to procure every good book, however prohibited it may be.’ Riesbeck, Travels in Germany, II, pp. 103–4. For an excellent survey of the practice of recruiting in Britain, see R. Holmes, Redcoat: The British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket (London, 2001), pp. 135–50.

The armies of the ancien régime  61 59 A. de Laborde, A View of Spain (London, 1809), IV, p. 505; see also Childs, Armies and Warfare in Europe, pp. 61–2. In so far as recruitment was concerned, the cavalry regiments tended to do better than infantry regiments, perhaps because the opportunity to ride a horse carried with it a subconscious suggestion of assimilation into the gentry. At the same time, productive, perhaps, of a greater spirit of risk taking, towns and cities tended to produce more recruits than villages: hence the disproportionately urban nature of the French army in 1789. 60 Cit. Duffy, Army of Maria Theresa, pp. 48–9. For an interesting discussion of one particular aspect of recruitment in England, see J. Hurl-Eamon, ‘Did soldiers really enlist to desert their wives? Revisiting the martial character of marital desertion in eighteenth-century London’, Journal of British Studies, 53, No. 2 (April, 2014), pp. 356–77. A rather more positive gloss is put on all this by André Corvisier: ‘There is no question that the army appeared to be a refuge for any who wished to avoid all kinds of bondage: sons rebelling against parental authority . . . young men made impatient by social constraints [or] the bonds of the rural community . . . Protestants who found relative tolerance for their beliefs among the troops, who were generally unconcerned about religion. Psychological misery [also] became an increasingly important factor. Widowers, orphans, uprooted foreign vagrants . . . men from the countryside who had not succeeded in finding positions in the cities, looked to the army for human contact and support.’ Corvisier, Armies and Societies in Europe, pp. 132–3. 61 It should be noted, however, that both the British and the French armies continued to rely on voluntary enlistment. That said, in Britain, at least, in the Scottish Highlands, it is clear that there was a considerable degree of unofficial conscription. In brief, in the wake of the unsuccessful Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745–6, the lairds were anxious to demonstrate their loyalty to the Crown, and the net result was that when the American War of Independence led to a great expansion of the army, they rushed to form new regiments for either home defence – the so-called fencibles – or service overseas (in addition to acting as tangible proofs of their devotion to the house of Hanover, these units also provided the men who formed them with a wonderful opportunity for patronage). In all these units, service was theoretically voluntary, but, in practice, compulsion was widespread, the impoverished tenant farmers who made up the bulk of population being threatened with the loss of their holdings – something that was in any case highly beneficial to the lairds – unless they gave up one or more sons as recruits. 62 Duffy, Instrument of War, p. 195. 63 For a useful case study, see A.N. Gilbert, ‘Why men deserted from the eighteenth-century British army’, Armed Forces and Society, 6, No. 4 (Summer, 1980), pp. 553–67. 64 The presence of Irish troops is explained by the flight to France and Spain of many of the Irish troops who had been raised to fight for the cause of James II in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution. For many years, the ranks of these units had been kept up to strength by Irish boys desperate to escape the poverty of their home villages who made their way to France with the help of Jacobite agents, but by the middle of the eighteenth century the flow of recruits had been reduced to a trickle, while the Catholic gentry had also started to abandon what was generally perceived as a lost cause. Though the defeat of the revolt of 1745–6 had brought over some few Scots, including the father of the future Marshal Macdonald, by 1789, all that all that was left was different coloured uniforms – red in France and sky-blue in Spain – a tiny handful of officers who had actually been born in Ireland and a large number of second- or third-generation immigrants with Irish names such as, to name but a few, Lacy, O’Donnell, Blake and O’Donoghue. See M.G. McLaughlin, The Wild Geese: The Irish Brigades of France and Spain (Oxford, 1980). 65 J.R. Elting, ‘“The proud bandit”; Augereau’, in D.G. Chandler (ed.), Napoleon’s Marshals (London, 2003), pp. 2–3. 66 W. Dalrymple, Travels through Spain and Portugal in 1774 (London, 1777), p. 65; cit. FriedrichStegmann, Imagen de España, p. 131. In the case of some of the contingents sent by the minor German states, it is probable that at least some of them were victims of some form of impressment. 67 Corvisier, Armies and Warfare, p. 135. 68 For the leva, see R.M. Pérez Estévez, El problema de los vagos en la España del siglo XVIII (Madrid, 1976), pp. 55–248 passim. Meanwhile, pieces of legislation known as Press Acts had authorised the use of similar measures in Britain in no fewer than four different times of crisis in the course of the eighteenth century (1704–12, 1745–6, 1755–7, 1778–9). Anderson, War and Society in Europe of the Old Régime, p. 121. As in Spain, so in Austria and Russia. Desperate for troops, Maria Theresa was forced to institute a quota system whereby each province was expected either to

62  The armies of the ancien régime




72 73 74 75

76 77 78

79 80

contribute so many recruits to the army or to pay a substantial sum of money that could be used to hire more foreigners, whilst in Russia, too, from the time of Peter the Great, each province was subjected to a periodic draft that generally looked to take two or three men in every hundred. In both cases, the task of who was actually to be sent was left to the local authorities, and thus it was that the men sent were invariably petty criminals, migrant labourers (a group who could easily be represented as vagrants), the physically and mentally handicapped and serfs who had shown themselves to be poor workers or otherwise of little value to the community. On Prussia, see D. Showalter, ‘The Prussian military state’ in G. Mortimer (ed.), Early-Modern Military History, 1450–1815 (London, 2004), pp. 118–34; Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great, pp. 54–6; O. Büsch, Military System and Social Life in Old-Régime Prussia, 1713–1807: The Beginnings of the Social Militarization of Prusso-German Society (Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, 1997), pp. 2–48. The extension of the system to Austria, meanwhile, is discussed in Hochedlinger, Austria’s Wars of Emergence, pp. 292–5. N. Wraxall, Memoirs of the Courts of Berlin, Dresden, Warsaw and Vienna I, pp. 218–19. The Russian army also experimented with formations of Jewish troops. Thus, acting on the rather unlikely pretext that a Jewish state could one day be created from the ruins of an overthrown Ottoman Empire, and that this state would need an army, in his capacity as governor of the territories acquired from Turkey in 1774, Potemkin formed a regiment of Jewish light cavalry. Soloveytchyk, Potemkin, p. 118. In the Austrian army, meanwhile, conscription was extended to the Jews as a result of the demands of the war against Turkey of 1788–90. Beales, Joseph II, II, pp. 577–8. For recruitment amongst Irish Catholics prior to 1793, see C. McDonnell, ‘Irishmen in the British service during the French Revolutionary Wars, 1793–1802’, National University of Ireland (Maynooth) PhD thesis, 2013, pp. 9–10. An earlier example, and in some respects one that was no less astonishing, was the way in which in the course of a few short years, the Scottish Highlands were transformed from the most savage of savage peripheries that had had to be suppressed at the cost of three major wars to a repository of recruits popularly seen as some of Britain’s most devoted and heroic common soldiers. L. Colley, Britons: Forging the Nations, 1707–1837 (London, 1992), p. 103. Riesbeck, Travels in Germany, III, p. 15. For the amelioration of discipline in the Austrian army, see Duffy, Army of Maria Theresa, p. 56. Childs, Armies and Warfare in Europe, pp. 67–73; Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great, pp. 62–4. Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great, p. 176. Duffy, Military Experience in the Age of Reason, pp. 129–31. In the Russian army, the tent-party was given institutional reality through the so-called artel, this essentially being a friendly society to which all of its members surrendered their pay and, if they ever acquired any, plunder so that it could be disbursed for the good of the whole. For a case study in the operation of small-group loyalty as a focus for motivation in combat, see E.J. Coss, All for the King’s Shilling: The British Soldier under Wellington, 1808–1814 (Norman, OK, 2010), pp. 191–210. Büsch, Military System and Social Life in Old-Régime Prussia, pp. 31–3. Riesbeck, Travels through Germany, III, pp. 16–17. Until the 1750s the British army was overwhelmingly both English and Protestant. At that point, significant numbers of Scots began to appear in the ranks, some few of whom were Catholic. However, it was not until the French Revolutionary Wars, when sheer necessity forced the state to turn to the resources of largely Catholic Ireland – something hitherto impossible due to penal laws not abolished till 1792 – that the bounds of ethnicity and confessionalism were finally broken. Colley, Britons, p. 368. For a survey of the mixture of crude xenophobia and popular patriotism that motivated the English soldier of the eighteenth century, see L. James, Warrior Race: A History of the British at War (London, 2001), pp. 275–80.

3 From the Bastille to Valmy

On 20 September 1792 there occurred perhaps the greatest non-battle in all history. In brief, after a somewhat confused campaign, 30,000 Prussian troops under the Duke of Brunswick confronted some 54,000 men under General Dumouriez in an excellent defensive position near the small village of Valmy (in theory, Brunswick had also had 7,000 Austrian troops at his disposal under Clerfayt, but they were delayed in their approach to the battlefield and did not arrive until after the fighting was over; also present with his army was King Frederick William II). Both the contestants being plentifully supplied with artillery, a massive cannonade broke out and for the full length of the morning the rival guns fired salvo after salvo at the opposing ranks, though seemingly with little effect (the weather having been exceptionally wet, it is probable that many cannon-balls simply buried themselves in the mud). About an hour after midday, Brunswick ordered an advance, and his infantry battalions dutifully marched forward across the undulating plain beneath the hills on which Dumouriez had arrayed his forces. What might have happened then is one of the great ‘what ifs’ of military history, but, as we shall see, it is entirely possible that, had Brunswick pushed home his advance, the defenders would have turned and run; even as it was, two particularly raw battalions disintegrated when a lucky enemy shot caused a massive explosion by setting fire to a number of ammunition wagons. However, in the event, Dumouriez’s forces were not put to the test: halting his men when they were only half-way to the French positions, Brunswick retreated tamely off the field. Some great day of glory, then, it most certainly was not. All one future Napoleonic marshal could find to write about it in his memoirs were two laconic lines: ‘General Dumouriez . . . took up his quarters . . . at Sainte Menehould . . . The Prussians attacked him there: he resisted; the enemy retired.’1 Setting aside later ridiculous ‘picture-book’ style depictions of the battle, featuring French troops marching heroically on the enemy in column, there is little dispute as to the nature of these events.2 This is not the case with their significance, however. Famously, the German poet, Johann von Goethe, who was present with Brunswick’s forces as a member of the personal suite of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, claimed that the triumph of the French represented the birth of a new era of world history and at the very least implied that, in military terms, it represented the triumph of the old order over the new, while Friedrich Laukhard, a man of considerable education who had enlisted as a common soldier in the Prussian army after running away from the seminary in which he had been studying for the priesthood and eventually deserted to the Republican forces, like Goethe, wrote an account of the campaign in which he was scathingly critical of the military arrangements of the ancien régime and portrayed his comrades as dupes who had been tricked into enlisting and in consequence had absolutely no chance of taking on the thoroughly enthused French

64  From the Bastille to Valmy on equal terms.3 One of the Frenchmen concerned, meanwhile, was Charles François, a seventeen-year-old volunteer from Picardy who had enlisted in a Parisian battalion scarcely a month before the battle, and, for him, too, the patriotic verve of the French soldiers was in the end what won the day: General Kellermann galloped up, and ordered us to extend in line. ‘Comrades!’ he cried. ‘Victory is ours . . . Long live the Nation!’ These words electrified us: we raised our hats on our bayonets . . . The enemy advanced nearer and nearer as steadily as though on parade. At this moment, the mist cleared and we gave them a terrible volley which knocked over the front ranks . . . The others crushed one another in their anxiety to bolt, and their officers had immense trouble to rally them . . . This first success redoubled our ardour.4 Composed many years after the events in question, François’ tale had grown in the telling: in fact, very few French troops came within musket range of the Prussians at Valmy (what is interesting, however, is that he mentions the use of traditional line formations, rather than the columns that are more traditionally associated with the armies of the French Revolution). Rather more revealing, then, are the words of Philippe Girault, a musician in the regular infantry regiment of La Perche who had joined the regular army in 1791: At the moment when the fire was at its most intense, the son of the Duke of Orléans, the man nicknamed General Equality . . . rode over to us musicians, and said, ‘It is a while since we have heard the “Ça ira”: play that for us.’ We jumped to it at once, and all the other musicians roundabout followed suit. However, we didn’t keep it up for very long: we had hardly begun the refrain when two of us were wounded and another killed, and this put an end to the music at a stroke, the same discharge of artillery . . . sweeping away twenty-one men of the front rank of our fifth company. Meanwhile, I was feeling anything but good as it was the first time I had been under fire. Luckily, I was soon out of it as my coat got completely plastered with the brains of an officer who was killed a few paces in front of me.5 Here, one suspects, speaks the voice of the authentic front-line soldier, and it is one from which the influence of enthusiasm for the Revolution is entirely absent: Girault tells us that he had only joined the army in the first place because spending his life working in a quarry alongside his father held little appeal to him, whilst in the wake of Valmy he collaborated with the other eight members of the regimental band in obtaining a completely fraudulent collective sick note that saved them from the horrors of a winter encampment for several weeks.6 Such evidence, however, has not prevented a variety of historians from insisting that what triumphed at Valmy was the entirely new concept of the people-inarms, namely the mobilisation of an entire people in defence of political principles to which they were bound by self-interest. Amongst the more recent examples is David A. Bell’s The First Total War: The French held. The troops cheered every French shot and every Prussian miss with the cry ‘Vive la Nation!’ They sang Revolutionary songs, particularly the bloodthirsty Ça ira . . . and the new favorite called the Marseillaise. The French could not compare with the Prussians for discipline, but their very indiscipline could give them a degree of bravura.7

From the Bastille to Valmy  65 Less bold, but only slightly so, is William Doyle: Kellermann and Dumouriez had more men than the Prussians. They had fewer guns, but those that they had were superior and handled by graduates of the outstanding pre-Revolutionary gunnery schools. So they outgunned the enemy, and, when they followed up their advantage, the French charged to cries of ‘Vive la Nation!’ and the singing of the Ça ira. They fought with an enthusiasm and determination not seen on European battlefields for generations, and they stopped the invaders in their tracks.8 Although accounts can be found from men fighting with the invaders that suggest that at the very least the sheer numbers that Dumouriez had been able to bring to the field were an issue – for example: ‘The Duke, when his lines were formed, galloped to the crest of the hill, and, suddenly coming within view of the enemy’s lines, cried, “The devil! What a lot of them there are!”’9 – such writing, however, is at best incautious: indeed, Doyle’s version of Valmy is not one known to history, whilst his words betray an extraordinary lack of knowledge of such stricken fields as Kolin (18 June 1757) and Kunersdorf (25 August 1758).10 Fortunately, other historians have been more judicious. Here, for example, is Geoffrey Best: ‘Although the French infantry stood its ground stoutly . . . it was the French artillery, of purest ancien-régime construction and training, whose “cannonade” did most to win the day.’11 Still more explicit is John Lynn. Thus: The numerous and obvious assertions of intense nationalism in the army tempt historians to conclude that French troops were driven by something approaching fanaticism. That conclusion is too extreme . . . Patriotism mattered, but it did not alone transform men into superb fighters.12 Next, we have Paddy Griffith: In the battle of Valmy . . . there is plenty of reason to believe that the French infantry would have run away . . . if only the enemy had persisted with his . . . massed attacks. In the event French artillery fire and Prussian . . . indecision conspired to save them from any serious test, but it was always a pretty near-run thing.13 And, finally, Tim Blanning has pointed to issues beyond the confines of the battlefield, namely the errors in strategy and other issues that led to Brunswick failing to concentrate his entire army at Valmy, and the terrible epidemic of dysentery that beset his troops as they advanced into France.14 These points are very strong, entirely defensible even, but their influence has tended to swing the pendulum of debate too far in the opposite direction. Traditional historians of war are inclined to be conservative in their prejudices, and, confronted by the forces of the Revolution, they have rarely liked what they have seen, this trend being exemplified by the sharp words of Edward Creasy. To quote his account of Valmy: The carmagnoles, as the Revolutionary volunteers were called . . . were utterly undisciplined and turbulently impatient of superior authority or systematical control. Many ruffians, also, who were sullied with participation in the most sanguinary horrors of Paris, joined the camps and were pre-eminent alike for misconduct before the enemy and for savage misconduct against their own officers.15

66  From the Bastille to Valmy From this point, it was but a step to the obvious conclusion: victory had been obtained, not by the new order but the old.16 Clearly there is room for much debate here, and, by contrast, no room for facile explanations. That said, to discuss Valmy at this stage is to put the cart before the horse: what we must rather do being to examine the impact of the Revolution on the army. Here we must begin with the issue of manpower. Prior to the Revolution, whilst there had always been a steady trickle of deserters, in many units the annual average was very low, so much so, indeed, that it was almost never more than two or three dozen and often less. With the coming of the Revolution, however, the situation changed dramatically in that desertion rates shot up dramatically.17 With recruitment badly down as well, by the end of 1790, the strength of the army had fallen to around 130,000 rank and file from a total at the beginning of the Revolution of 156,000. What, however, did this development represent? In the first place, as the administrative situation became more and more confused, so the living conditions of soldiers deteriorated dramatically, many men leaving for no better reason than that they were hungry and unpaid. Also likely to abscond, meanwhile, were men who had never been happy with their lot but had hitherto decided that desertion was too risky. That said, there were also strong political imperatives. Initially there was a willingness, perhaps, to give the National Assembly a chance, but, as the counter-revolutionary attitude of large parts of the court and aristocracy became ever more apparent, so the rank and file, the long-serving corporals and sergeants with hopes of gaining access to the ranks of the officer corps, and the officiers de fortune began to lose faith in the liberal aristocrats and petty nobles who were the de facto spokesmen of the military, and all the more so as there seems to have been little or no attempt on the part of the latter to reach out to the men below them and seek to win their trust and loyalty (it was symbolic here that many officers – amongst them a certain Napoleon Bonaparte – seem to have been completely oblivious to the increasingly serious nature of the situation and, as was usual over the autumn and winter, disappeared for long periods of leave, leaving their men to cope with the deteriorating conditions on their own). The net result was a growing number of outbreaks of indiscipline and mutiny as the lowlier elements of the armed forces began to kick against their fate and imbibe the excitement in tavern and street. Bored and angry, the rank and file protested against having to do drill and fatigues and accused officers trying to get them to do their duty of being ‘counter-revolutionary’ – it did not help in this respect that many regiments responded to the growing turmoil by purging men who were judged to be agitators – whilst any form of disciplinary procedure was likely to produce angry denunciations of injustice. All this, meanwhile, was stirred up from beyond the ranks of the army in that soldiers were constantly being harangued by supporters of the Revolution keen to get them to join political clubs, set up links between their regiments and local units of the National Guard, and participate in fêtes révolutionnaires of every sort.18 By the summer of 1790, the growing tension had reached crisis point, the result being a series of mutinies and disturbances so severe that the army began to slip into what looked suspiciously like a state of complete and total dissolution. The details of what happened varied: in some places, the issue was rival units falling out with one another over more or less fabricated differences of political allegiance; in others, it was suspicion of the manner in which officers were managing the regimental funds on which the common soldiers depended for much of their well-being; in still others, it was anger at disciplinary decisions that were perceived as unjust, attempts to check the spread of political propaganda or the antics of particularly unpopular officers; and in others again, it was the receipt of orders aimed at transferring particularly suspect units to other towns and cities. However, the

From the Bastille to Valmy  67 differences between each instance and the next scarcely matter: everywhere the pattern was much the same in that the regiments involved rioted, barricaded themselves in their barracks, took over the towns in which they were stationed, detained officers whom they suspected of counter-revolutionary feeling and fraternised with the local radicals egging them on from without. Disturbances took place in many places, amongst them SaintServan, Epinal, Stenay, Longwy, Metz, Saarlouis, Compiègne, Hesdin, Perpignan, Lille and Nancy, whilst as much as one-third of the army’s units appear to have been affected at one time or another. In most cases, peace was restored by means of mediation, but in the last two instances there was bloodshed. Fairly minor in Lille, which merely saw several days of brawling, in Nancy the disturbances escalated into the worst violence France had seen since the storming of the Bastille. Thus, provoked on a number of different fronts, in the middle of August 1790 the three regiments that formed the garrison rose in revolt, only for the National Assembly to order the arrest of the delegates they sent to Paris to state their case and, still more dramatically, dispatch loyal troops to restore order, the result being a pitched battle that saw over a hundred casualties.19 In the wake of the fighting at Nancy, twenty-three of the ring-leaders were executed, but such extremes of punishment were distinctly unwise, for they could not but drive the lower ranks of the army into the arms of the emerging forces of political radicalism, this process soon being intensified still further by the influence of emigration. In brief, then, from the first months of 1791, a steady trickle of officers began to abandon their posts and travel to the frontiers where in many instances they enlisted in an army that was being put together in the Rhineland by a connection of the royal family styled the Prince of Condé. By the summer, meanwhile, augmented by a resumption of the unrest in the barracks, the ever growing demands that were being voiced amongst more radical elements for the officer corps to be restructured, democratised or even purged, the flight to Varennes and, last but not least, the imposition of a new oath of loyalty which placed support for the constitution before support for the king, the trickle had become a flood.20 One eyewitness was Henriette de la Tour du Pin, the twenty-year-old wife of the Count of Gouvernet: The greater part of the officers, instead of opposing the efforts of Revolutionists with consistent firmness, sent in their resignations and left France. Emigration became a point of honour. The officers who remained with their regiments received letters from those who had emigrated, reproaching them for cowardice and lack of attachment to the royal family. They endeavoured to make them see it was their duty to abandon their sovereign. They promised them the intervention of enormous armies of foreigners. The king . . . hesitated to arrest this torrent. It thus happened that every day saw the departure of some members of his party or even of his household.21 Though by no means every arm of service was affected equally – cavalry officers were far more likely to emigrate than infantry officers, and infantry officers in turn far more likely to emigrate than artillery officers – by the end of the year some 6,000 officers had gone, most of them voluntarily, but a few of them after having been forced to leave by pressure or, on occasion, direct action by the rank and file, the latter being unwilling to trust men whom they suspected of being implicated in counter-revolution.22 Still worse, if only because they did not have families to worry about, the men who went tended to be drawn from the younger age groups.23 In the meantime, the departure of so many officers initiated a further process of change in the army. With 60 per cent of the leadership cadres the other side of the frontiers, new men had to be found to head the troops, and these, obviously

68  From the Bastille to Valmy enough, could not but be found among the ranks of the officiers de fortune and the senior non-commissioned officers. Fortunately, the whole issue of privilege in the officer corps being a major item on the National Assembly’s agenda, the mechanisms were already being put in place to effect a change: as early as September 1790 it had been agreed that an examination system would replace birth as qualification for obtaining a first commission in the officer corps and that one-quarter of the positions would be reserved for men who had made their way up the ranks, whilst a revised pay scale introduced two months earlier had eased the need for officers to have substantial private incomes.24 By the end of 1791 no fewer than 800 erstwhile sergeants and warrant-officers had been commissioned as lieutenants and captains, whilst their good fortune was shared by numerous non-noble officers who were hastily promoted to higher ranks.25 The development can be studied in detail by reference to the future marshals of Napoleon. Thus, a sergeant in the Royal Maritime Regiment in 1789, in November 1791, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte was gazetted as a lieutenant, while, another man who made the same leap was Michel Ney, in 1791 a sergeant in the Colonel-General cavalry regiment. Equally, a lieutenant in the Dillon regiment at the start of the Revolution and with it a classic officier de fortune, Etienne Macdonald went to war in April 1792 as a captain, the same being true of Bon-Adrien Jeannot de Moncey, a light-infantry officer who had taken eleven years to advance from his first commission as a sub-lieutenant to the heady heights of full lieutenant before finally being given command of a company in 1791. Finally, a battalion commander in the Regiment of Médoc and member of the petty nobility who had taken thirty-four years to advance to the rank of captain, Philibert Sérurier served at Valmy as a lieutenant-colonel.26 Tough and uncompromising, it was above all such figures who restored at least a modicum of order in the armed forces prior to the outbreak of hostilities, yet at the same time it has to be recognised that, whilst much talent was unleashed by the method fixed upon by the National Assembly, there were many negative effects that have rarely been recognised. If we know about them at all, it is largely due to the American historian, Rafe Blaufarb, who has shown that in practice ‘deputies, local politicians, courtiers and revolutionary celebrities’ were able to insert themselves into the process, and by one means or another ensure that candidates who they had adopted were granted commissions by the Minister of War. Some of the men concerned were, to be sure, erstwhile officers and non-commissioned officers of the old army, but plenty were not. Thus, in a sample based on the records of fourteen different regiments, Blaufarb has shown that no fewer than 332 men who had hitherto been civilians, each and every one of them sons of ‘active citizens’, were granted commissions between 1790 and 1792, of which at least twenty-four were related to deputies to the National Assembly, and most of the others members of families with considerable social influence; as many as 20 per cent, indeed, were even nobles. His conclusions, then, are exceptionally stark: The replacement operations definitively ended the traditional equivalence between the terms ‘officer’ and ‘noble’, but did not result in social levelling . . . The system was unabashedly nepotistic . . . Deputies used patronage to spread the spoils of the Revolution to family, friends and neighbours at home.27 The presence of so many interlopers did nothing to restore the stability of the officer corps, whilst at the same time often having unfortunate results. As Bial wrote of his experiences immediately prior to the battle of Valmy, ‘Only a few of the officers knew any of the theory, whilst plenty of them did not even see the necessity for learning it.’28 Yet at no time had good officers ever been more necessary. As we have seen, the period 1789–90 was marked by

From the Bastille to Valmy  69 a considerable amount of desertion, but 1791 saw the situation completely turned around. As ever, economic misery – now even more severe than it had been in 1789 – began to propel large numbers of men into the army who would probably never have enlisted had the situation been more favourable. In all, then, perhaps 50,000 new recruits had joined the army by the end of 1791: on average 900 men strong in the summer of 1790, at the end of the period, infantry regiments had reached a strength of around 1,300.29 Given the context – growing fears of counter-revolution and foreign aggression – it is possible to argue that this surge of recruitment was the result of heightened patriotism and enthusiasm for the Revolution, but, whilst idealism may have played a role in some individual cases – we know that future corps commander, Dominique Vandamme, had been a member of the Society of the Friends of the Constitution before he joined the Regiment of Brie in June 179130 – such claims do not ring especially true, and all the more so as the three testimonies that we have from men that joined the regular army at this time make no reference to political factors playing a part in their decision to enlist: Phillippe Girault and Nicolas Duvernois both tell of being bored and frustrated, while the future Marshal Marmont, who volunteered for the artillery in 1790, afterwards said of his decision only that he had had designs on becoming a soldier from a very early age.31 Many historians, then, are doubtful of the idea. To quote Corvisier, ‘More than revolutionary fervour, these enlistments were due to poverty.’32 In this respect, the fact that volunteers continued to be paid substantial bounties cannot be disregarded; all that can really be said is that the National Assembly introduced a number of reforms that made joining the regular army less unattractive as an option: corporal punishment, for example, was abolished and men who served out their full enlistments and maintained a good record were guaranteed political emancipation as active citizens.33 The expansion, and with it, political transformation, of the regular army seen in 1791 not only continued but picked up speed in 1792. New recruits continued to arrive in droves – by the end of the year, over half the army had been recruited since 1789 – and, with France at war from April onwards, it is even more tempting to argue that the populace was in the grip of a wave of ideologically driven bellicosity. Once again, however, it does not feel inappropriate to question such assumptions. That some men were driven to volunteer by political imperatives cannot be denied, but nor can the facts, first, that the problem of hunger remained as strong as ever and, second, that enlistment continued to be rewarded by the payment of sums of up to 120 livres. Meanwhile, prepared though he is to recognise the importance of the political, the leading specialist in the area, Samuel Scott, is firm in his contention that other factors should be prioritised. Thus; Two laws in January and July 1792, which have been generally disregarded by historians, were responsible for the great increase in the strength of the regular army in that year. The law of 25 January 1792 . . . [reduced] the term of enlistment . . . from eight years to three years . . . A decree sanctioned July 22 . . . maintained the same length of enlistment . . . However, the minimum age was lowered from eighteen to sixteen.34 Nor is Scott wrong to take such a line. Thus, the geographical origins of the new recruits are highly instructive: prior to 1789, common soldiers had come very disproportionately from Paris and, in addition, eastern parts of France that were exposed to invasion. In the wake of the Revolution, it might have been expected that this pattern would change – that recruits would now be found in a much broader swathe of the country. Not a bit of it, however: until the introduction of conscription in 1793, there was but little difference, areas such as Brittany, Guyenne, Gascony and the Auvergne providing as few men as ever.35

70  From the Bastille to Valmy In so far as enlisting in the army is concerned, then, the fact that Revolution was at war had little impact on popular attitudes to military service. What cannot be denied, however, is that, for whatever reason men enlisted, once in the ranks they were subjected to a barrage of politicisation that outweighed everything seen in 1790 and 1791. Possibly seeing all too clearly that the crowds of men flocking to enter the barracks were in the end in large part a mixture of street urchins and failed artisans moved above all by the need to feed their bellies, in some instances wary of the very notion of a regular army, and fearful of the retribution with which they were increasingly threatened, around the country, town councils and Jacobin clubs engaged in a ferocious battle for hearts and minds: on the one hand, France’s soldiers had to be instilled with suitable notions of heroism and self-sacrifice, while, on the other, their political allegiance had to be assured against counter-revolutionary bribery and seduction. Harangue, then, followed harangue, article followed article, pamphlet followed pamphlet, and banquet followed banquet, while soldiers were everywhere encouraged to join political clubs and befriended by civilians who ten years before would have regarded a man in uniform as little better than a diseased and dangerous outcast.36 Still more strikingly, the army was issued with songbooks full of such stirring and bloodthirsty anthems as the Chant du départ and, above all, the Marseillaise.37 How far this campaign succeeded is a moot point – throughout the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars one suspects, for example, that the song that was heard most often around French campfires was the resoundingly apolitical Chanson de l’oignon38 – but what is clear is that, to the extent that it survived at all, the rigid discipline of the old army continued to be eroded: henceforward men were far more prone to stand on their rights, to challenge the authority of their officers and even to question their orders, the consequence being that leadership had to take on a new ethos based on something other than social status.39 Whilst they might have fought at Valmy wearing the white uniforms of the Bourbon monarchy, even the regular soldiers of Dumouriez therefore cannot be regarded as being coterminus with the troops of 1789. Nor, meanwhile, was this just a case with their spirit: what with the decline in their training, on the one hand, and the influx of new recruits, on the other, the regular army of 1793 was simply incapable of functioning on the battlefield with anything like the same precision as, say, the men who had fought at such places as Yorktown in the closing years of the War of American Independence. As Blanning notes, then, ‘By the time the war broke out in April 1792, what had once been the royal army had been transformed.’40 From all this, it follows that to give the old regular army credit for saving the Revolution at Valmy is so much romantic nonsense. That said, this scarcely means that the palm can go to the new forces generated by the Revolution. Let us begin here with the National Guard. As we have seen, the origins of this force can be found in the events surrounding the attempted coup of July 1789, in that the National Assembly had responded to the threat of counter-revolution by decreeing the formation of a civic militia in Paris.41 Thanks in large part to the grande peur, this development was copied in towns and villages across the country, and by the late summer it had all but become a national institution, although in organisational terms it was to retain its purely local character until 14 July 1790 saw the National Assembly order the unification of all the local detachments into a single force. Placed at the head of the whole was the popular hero, the Marquis of Lafayette, while a further law of 14 October 1791 obliged all active citizens and those of their sons who had attained adulthood to enlist in the Guard, and what is more, fund the cost of their uniforms, weapons and equipment (a sum that came to a figure that it would take a middling artisan several months to put together); established an order of battle based on the new system of local government that had been brought in in the wake of the Revolution; and laid down

From the Bastille to Valmy  71 that the whole force should now adopt the blue coats, red facings and white breeches or trousers which the original Parisian force had inherited from the mutinous French Guards, many of its first recruits having come from the ranks of this regiment, one such being the future Marshal Lefebvre. As for the role of the men concerned, they had since the days of their first creation essentially acted as the police arm of the Revolution, hunting down bandits, suppressing riots and providing guards of honour for this or that civic ceremony. Very soon, however, it became clear that all was not well. One of the force’s earliest members was Paul Thiébault, the twenty-one-year-old son of a Frenchman who had become a professor at Prussia’s leading military academy: having enlisted as a private in 1789, he later described how the zeal of the early days quickly died away to such an extent that ‘to get twenty, you had to order out sixty’.42 Despite such issues, the National Guard played a key role in the political history of the French Revolution, whilst many of its members were anything but mere time servers. Given permission by his parents to join the National Guard in exchange for surrendering his ambition to join the regular army, Bial later claimed to have become influenced by a mixture of Revolutionary principles and dreams of heroism: The fall of the Bastille had not failed to have a certain influence on my spirit. Resounding as it was on all sides, the word ‘liberty’ flattered my ears, while my head and heart alike were filled with visions of the marvellous heroism of the Greeks and Romans.43 Eventually transferring to the regular army, Bial went on to become a general, but the preeminent example of political fanaticism in the National Guard is surely Louis de Saint Just, a failed law student, would-be poet and bitter critic of the ancien régime who, though he lacked the property qualifications necessary for enlistment, secured a place in the National Guard of his home village of Blérancourt through the good offices of a brother-in-law who had a seat on the council.44 Finally, amongst the excited boys and Revolutionary fanatics were plenty of erstwhile officers in the Bourbon army including, not least, the redoubtable Nicholas Davout, a fervent supporter of the Revolution who had championed the military rebellion at Nancy, a further element of military expertise being lent by the secondment to the force for training purposes of such figures as Alexandre Berthier, hitherto a lieutenantcolonel in the Soissonais infantry regiment.45 As a bastion of the Revolution in terms of armed conflict, however, the National Guard was a nullity, for its members could not be required to serve outside their home departments. More than that, many of the men who joined its ranks did not see themselves as soldiers at all. To quote Alan Forrest once more: Urban merchants’ and country lawyers’ sons who flocked to join were participating in a public demonstration of their patriotic principles, generally in the company of their friends and social peers. For the great majority of them, their sense of obligation ended there. They did not for a moment imagine that they were signing up for service in a real army, or that their service might involve a sustained period of absence from their local community.46 That said, as the internal and external dangers to the Revolution seemed to multiply, so it was not long before a variety of politicians were eyeing the Guard as a means of supplementing the army. Essentially, the problem was a political one. If the army had been revolutionised through the emigration of as many as two-thirds of its officers and, more symbolically, the

72  From the Bastille to Valmy abolition of the old regimental titles – almost all of which were either provincial or referent in one way or another to the ancien régime – in favour of numbers, the generals were to a man not just men who had spent their lives in the service of the old order but also nobles, much the same applying to the colonels and lieutenant colonels. Expanding the army might be viewed as a necessity – indeed, in order after order, it was pushed very hard – but, in political terms, it was also a threat, and thus it was that the idea emerged of the creation of a field force drawn from the National Guard. In this, of course, political considerations were well to the fore, but, however naïvely, there was also a sincere conviction that ideological drive would be a far better preparation for soldiering than arms drill. To quote Alan Forrest, ‘The political leaders in the assembly were convinced that . . . passion for the nation and its Revolution would compensate for any lack of traditional tactical training.’47 Established in a somewhat piecemeal fashion by a series of decrees promulgated between 21 June and 17 August 1791, the new force was eventually set at a total of 101,000 men formed into 169 independent battalions, it being further agreed that the men would elect their own officers, enlist for a single year only, receive twice the pay of a soldier of equivalent rank in the regular army and be recruited, organised and equipped by the departmental authorities. As for the response, there has been a tendency in the historiography both to take it as read that 100,000 men actually came forward, and to claim that the rank and file were solidly bourgeois (in the propertied sense) and therefore probably the most politically enthusiastic recruits the French cause ever obtained. The reality, however, was rather different. In the end no more than 50,000 men appeared – just sixty battalions – while service in the new force appears to have had limited appeal amongst those elements of the population who had little track record of providing France with her soldiers. Thus, setting aside the sizeable number of deserters from the regular army – the proportion of 12 per cent that marked one battalion whose social composition we have a good grasp of may not be out of line – the social and geographical base of recruitment was almost exactly the same as it had been in the old army. Thus, the rank and file was largely young, urban and overwhelmingly artisan in character, while the regions that contributed most troops were traditional recruiting grounds – Paris and the swathe of departments stretching across Champagne and into Burgundy – that had always sent large numbers of recruits to the regulars, just as the areas of the country that were least well represented were areas that had always been averse even to voluntary military service such as Brittany, Poitou, Aquitaine and Gascony.48 In social terms, this looks very odd – the fact that the National Guard was recruited only from active citizens should have guaranteed the new battalions a much more bourgeois appearance – but the fact was that few men of property had the slightest wish to serve as private soldiers, whilst there was still the issue of law and order: if solid citizens were away fighting foreign enemies, who would be left to fight the canaille? As Ellis points out, implicit in the very terms of the decree creating the new force was an acceptance that ‘passive’ citizens would have to be recruited – did not said decree lay down that the cost of the recruits’ weapons and equipment would be met by the authorities? – while, as Forrest admits, particularly in those areas where recruitment to the army had always presented problems, getting the requisite men together was a dirty business: Mayors . . . used sleight of hand to fulfil their military obligations, filling their quotas with . . . men who had physical disabilities or who did not fulfil the basic height qualifications, vagrants and petty criminals and those living on the margins of village society.49

From the Bastille to Valmy  73 Only in the case of the officers is there really a case for arguing that the Volunteers of 1791 were a bourgeois army, and, even then, this is open to qualification. In principle, the necessary leadership cadres were to be elected by the men of each unit from their own number, but this concession was limited by the principle that men could only stand for election to the higher ranks if they met certain basic tests of military experience: to become a lieutenant-colonel, for example, a candidate had to have previously exercised the rank of captain or above). In practice, then, the number of posts which even the wealthiest military neophytes could occupy was limited, the bedrock of the officer corps being, first, captains and lieutenants of the regular army who had refused to emigrate; second, retired officers; and, third, long-serving sergeants and corporals, no more than one-third of the men concerned coming from civilian society.50 The impression that the conventional view of the Volunteers of 1791 is difficult to sustain is confirmed by a quick review of a few individual cases. Here and there, it is possible to come across figures who do seem to conform to the stereotype. Pyrenean volunteer Guillaume Latrille de Lorencez, was a student in a Capuchin college in Pau, who ran away to join the Volunteers of Basses-Pyrenées.51 Also from the Pyrenees was Antoine Noguès, the youngest son of a prosperous farmer who enlisted in the Second Battalion of Volunteers of Hautes-Pyrénées along with his elder brother at the tender age of thirteen.52 And, finally, we have Louis Suchet, the son of a Lyons silk-manufacturer, who switched from the National Guard to the Fourth Battalion of Volunteers of the Ardèche in April 1792.53 However, alongside such figures we have FrançoisXavier Joliclerc, the only son of the widow of a freehold peasant from the village of Froidefontaine near Belfort, who enlisted in the Seventh Battalion of Volunteers of the Jura; Denis Belot, a peasant or, possibly, day labourer, from the region known as Brie, the only son of a widower, who enlisted in one of the battalions raised in Seine-etMarne; Jean Lannes, an apprentice dyer who joined the Second Battalion of Volunteers of the Gers in April 1792; Jean de Dieu Soult, a sergeant in the Royal Regiment who became a drill-instructor in the First Battalion of Volunteers of Haut-Rhin; Claude Perrin, an ex-soldier who had briefly turned shopkeeper in the garrison town of Valence after coming out of the army in 1781 before re-enlisting in the Third Battalion of the Volunteers of Drôme in the same year; André Masséna, a time-served veteran of the Royal Italian Regiment who joined the Second Battalion of the Volunteers of the Var; and Nicolas Oudinot of the Third Battalion of Volunteers of the Meuse, who had run away from home to join the army in 1784, only to be forcibly bought out by his father and set to work as a clerk.54 Finally, though on what grounds is far from clear, the first British historian of the Revolutionary armies, Ramsey Phipps, claims that at least a part of the rank and file were constituted by the mass of men turned adrift when the old provincial militia had been dissolved in 1789, this at least guaranteeing that the number of men with military service was reasonably high.55 If the identity of the Volunteers of 1791 refuses to conform to stereotype, their motivation is even more problematic. Only a very few of such personal accounts as we have address the matter clearly, and, when they do, we can rarely be certain that their comments can be taken at face value, whilst there is also the danger of making unwarranted assumption: for example, if Jolicerc became a rabid Jacobin, there is no way of knowing that he possessed those views before he enlisted and, indeed, some hint that he joined up for reasons that were not political at all (in brief, unhappiness at his domestic situation). With regard to the exsoldiers, meanwhile, one wonders whether the issue was not so much political conviction as

74  From the Bastille to Valmy the loneliness and alienation often felt by such men. One historian honest enough to tackle the problem despite a generally sympathetic view of the Revolution is Alan Forrest. Thus: In 1791 the lot of the volunteer still seemed glorious and faintly exotic, the once-in a-lifetime chance . . . to escape from humdrum reality for a few carefree months in the service of the patrie. If many of the new volunteers did care deeply about the cause in which they had enlisted . . . there were others for whom the volunteer battalions represented an opportunity to get away or a means of satisfying a thirst for adventure. There were so many possible reasons for enlistment. Some were rebellious spirits seeking a means of escape from parental authority; others were impoverished and hungry and were attracted by the relatively high level of income; others again were bored or were lured into volunteering by the bravado of their friends.56 Given these doubts, it follows that the Volunteers of 1791 were not much of a reinforcement to France’s military strength, a military strength that, as the powers of Europe rightly judged, the years from 1789 to 1792 had left sorely denuded. On the contrary, scarcely had the fighting begun than the Revolution experienced a series of humiliating reverses. Having assembled a considerable force around Lille, late in the evening of 28 April, the newly appointed commander of the Army of the North and erstwhile hero of the American War of Independence (in this latter conflict, he had commanded the French expeditionary force), the Count of Rochambeau dispatched a substantial force of French troops commanded by Theobald Dillon across the frontier in what appears to have been intended as a surprise attack that would strike the defenders in the first light of dawn. On the same day, meanwhile, a second force under the Duke of Biron (a commander who, under his original title of the Duke of Lauzun, had won much fame in the American War of Independence at the head of an independent ‘legion’ of light troops recruited from foreign deserters) marched on Mons. Having advanced only a few miles, the invaders ran into the Austrian outposts, and proceeded at a stroke to disprove the complacent theorising that had led France to war. The Austrians were badly outnumbered, but, in both the actions that followed, a handful of cannon shots were sufficient to cause panic in the French ranks and, not just that, but have the whole assembly running for the French frontier in a matter of minutes.57 For a good account of the events that befell the column commanded by General Dillon, an officer of Irish birth who had, as was common enough among the surviving Catholic gentry, fled his native land to take service in the French army in the 1760s, we can turn to the account provided by the then captain of engineers and future general, Armand Marescot. To quote a letter that he wrote to a friend on 14 May 1792: I have really been in very great danger. Thus, I was at the action that took place on the road to Tournai. This has been somewhat distorted in the newspapers, but in the last analysis the result cannot be seen as anything other than a complete rout and an utterly shameful one at that . . . It was about four o’clock in the morning. For the past few hours there had been a series of skirmishes in which our chasseurs had been badly shot up, but all of a sudden . . . an enemy column appeared . . . and marched upon us in the best order . . . Although the enemy was still 800 toises away, the first shots of their cannon were sufficient to cause the whole of our cavalry to flee in disorder. The rapidity with which this happened was astonishing, whilst it was very distressing to see the road covered with carbines, pistols and cuirasses, not to mention men who had fallen from their steeds and horses who had stumbled in their flight. I am very surprised that, abandoned as they were in the middle of a plain, the whole of our infantry were not enveloped and taken prisoner.58

From the Bastille to Valmy  75 What had happened in this unfortunate affair is clear enough: tired and in all probability marching in a state of complete disorder, the French forces were simply taken by surprise. In the febrile atmosphere conjured up by Brissot and his allies, however, there was but one explanation for failure, and that was treason. What happened next is described by a friend of Dillon’s who had happened to be Lille at the time the advance began. Thus: At a place near the town I met four dragoons . . . crying that all was lost, that the army had been betrayed, and cut to pieces . . . I returned into town with . . . an officer of the National Guards, [mounted] on a horse belonging to one of the artillery carriages, who also cried that all was lost, betrayed, and cut to pieces, but . . . could not give any detail of particulars . . . The street was full of . . . the cry of ‘Treason, aristocrate, and à la lanterne!’ The . . . infantry now presented themselves . . . Not one wounded . . . I asked many officers and soldiers news of the general; not one could give me any account of him. An officer of the cuirassiers said that he was surprised to hear me ask news of a general who had led them to butchery . . . A hundred steps from the gate, they had hung an officer of engineers, M. Berthois, by his feet: I saw more than twenty shots through his body . . . At length I heard cries of ‘He’s coming! He’s coming! To the lanterne!’ I asked, with a trembling voice, ‘Who?’ ‘Dillon’, they answered. ‘The traitor, the aristocrate! We are going to tear him to pieces, he and all that belong to him . . . Dillon is coming in a cabriole . . . Let’s go and finish him!’ The cabriole soon appeared; the general was in it, without a hat, with a calm and firm look . . . He had hardly passed through the gate, when more than a hundred bayonets were thrust into the cabriole, amidst the most horrible shouts . . . and I think this killed M. Dillon, for I never saw him move afterwards.59 Somewhat sententiously, John Lynn remarks that ‘those observers who wish to portray volunteer battalions as unreliable and line troops as steady and loyal should note that Dillon’s entire column of 2,300 men included only one company of volunteers’.60 As it happens, this statement is quite correct, but it does tend to miss the point, this being, of course, that, thus far, the French Revolution had added but little to France’s military capacity. So obvious was this that the ‘battle’ of Tournai shook the new political establishment to the core, but, to its credit, it did not crumble but rather redoubled its efforts. With the term of service of the Volunteers of 1791 rapidly coming to an end, yet more troops were needed, and so, along with decreeing the mobilisation of the whole of the National Guard, in July 1792, it issued a further call for volunteers, whilst yet continuing to build up the regular army.61 This time, however, there were enormous differences. Thus, service was to be for the duration of the war, whilst the de facto limitation of enlistment to the propertied classes was ended: henceforward all Frenchmen could be soldiers. The trouble was that not all Frenchmen wanted to be soldiers, indeed that comparatively few wanted to be soldiers. Thus, the appeal netted not the 200,000 men hoped for but, at best, 120,000, and that despite a variety of measures designed to substitute other benefits for the previous limitation of service to a single year, not to mention a reduction of the minimum height which volunteers had to demonstrate before they could be accepted into the ranks. Nor should the lacklustre nature of the response have come as a surprise: such as it was, the carnival atmosphere of the previous year had been replaced by a much darker picture marked by the real possibility of military defeat, whilst the new call to arms coincided with a moment in the agricultural year when labour was at a premium and rural households desperate to retain all the labour they could.62 At the same time, the ‘Volunteers of 1792’ were very much an army of the poor. Amongst their ranks, we may discern a few recruits who would not have been out of place

76  From the Bastille to Valmy amongst their predecessors of the previous year: the Paul Thiébault we have already met; Jean-Pierre Dellard, the eighteen-year-old son of a prosperous fermier from Cahors, who enlisted in one of the three battalions raised in the Department of Lot in August 1792 after first having had to hide his failure to attain the requisite height by inserting packs of cards in his shoes, and was immediately elected to the rank of quartermaster-sergeant by his fellows; and, finally, Jean Vivien, the sixteen-year-old son of an Orléans wine merchant who, having already attempted to join the regular army at the age of fourteen, now enlisted in the Second Volunteers of Loiret and was almost immediately elected as a company sergeant-major.63 However, if Dellard’s account is replete with patriotic ardour, it also contains a hint of something else besides. Thus: Every department furnished a contingent for the task of saving the Fatherland from the ills which threatened it. My own – that of the Lot – was by no means the slowest to rush to its help. In fifteen days at the most, three fine battalions were on the march for the frontiers . . . Already inclined towards a career of arms, I seized the opportunity with the greatest enthusiasm and threw myself into becoming a soldier.64 Once again, then, there is a very strong hint of recruits being motivated by factors other than patriotism. More importantly, however, such scions of the propertied classes as Dellard were very much in a minority (again, something that should be no surprise, for there was little reason to believe that men who had been unwilling to avail themselves of the very favourable conditions of 1791 would come forward of their own volition in 1792). Thus, to return to Bertaud, his research makes it very clear that the Volunteers of 1792 were, if not a much more plebeian body than their predecessors, then certainly one which was much more representative of the country as a whole. Thus, whereas only 15 per cent of the Volunteers of 1791 came from rural backgrounds rather than urban ones, in 1792 the percentage had risen to 69 per cent (these totals, however, should not be equated just with peasants: rather they also include such groups as servants and artisans). Everywhere, meanwhile, it was, so he says, ‘the most humble social groups that furnished the contingents’, amongst the many factors that suggest that this was the case being the fact that the new recruits were on the whole much shorter than their predecessors: whereas only one-third of the Volunteers of 1791 had been shorter than five feet and four inches, this figure had now doubled.65 As for how the increase in numbers was achieved, an obvious answer would be a heightened use of propaganda on the part of the régime, and this was certainly on view. Meanwhile, too, the foreign menace was now very real. Yet, as we shall see in Chapter 7, if large parts of the urban population were enthused by the Revolution, in the countryside, disillusion and resentment were spreading rapidly, and it is difficult to see how the massive expansion of recruitment in the countryside can possibly have been achieved without heavy administrative pressure: in brief, six months before the move that plunged large parts of France into revolt over the self-same issue, the rural populace was already being bullied into giving up its sons. In the slightly enigmatic words of John Lynn, ‘Since the legislation demanded quotas and stipulated that men were to be “chosen by their brothers in arms”, some compulsion might be used.’66 What we have, then, is a picture that is again rather different from the norm. Some of the Volunteers, perhaps, were genuinely enthusiastic. Already a sergeant-major in the Calvados National Guard, for example, Charles Decaen says that he joined up because he believed that ‘every citizen had to contribute to the utmost of his capacity to the repulse of the enemies who had dared to ignore our borders and advance into the

From the Bastille to Valmy  77 interior of the country with a view to imposing their will upon us’.67 Meanwhile, to quote a letter which the peasant, Denis Belot, wrote to his father to explain his decision to enlist: I am a soldier, then . . . Animated by the same zeal as you, I could not see the Fatherland menaced by a gang of criminals . . . without my soul being stirred by that holy love which is always ready to champion the rights that are threatened with being cast aside with impunity in favour of the atrocious despotism under which we used to languish.68 And, finally, like Belot a volunteer in the same department of Seine-et-Marne, a gardener named Fricassé said that he enlisted because, ‘having heard over and over again . . . that the French army was being thrown back and beaten everywhere, I was burning to see for myself these things which I found impossible to believe’.69 But even ardour for the cause was not entirely helpful: made up of representatives of the most violent and determined elements of the crowd, the Parisian units were certainly keen on fighting the enemy, but unfortunately they coupled this with an aversion to military training, not to mention a tendency to see treason in the slightest actions of their ancien-régime generals. And, of course, plenty were not moved by political feeling at all, this being something that, at the very least, did not make for good behaviour. Thus, one of the comparatively few Volunteers of 1791 who re-enlisted for a further turn of service rather than returning home, Noguès paints a very negative picture of life in his battalion, suggesting that drunkenness was rife and that there were frequent fights with regular soldiers stationed in the area, not to mention numerous desertions or attempts to feign illness.70 If doubts can be raised about the Volunteers of 1792, this is even more the case with respect to the still more exotic units represented by the various and often spectacularly uniformed ‘legions’ that had emerged under the aegis of the Brissotins.71 Conceived of as independent forces of all arms that could range deep behind enemy lines and encourage the populace of enemy territories to rise in revolt against their masters, in the end fifteen such legions were formed, eight of them French and seven of them foreign, but, whether formed by political exiles such as François Doppet, a Savoyard disgruntled at his failure to ingratiate himself with his home province’s Piedmontese rulers, ambitious Republican politicians or simply generals out to recreate the freikorps of the Seven Years War, these forces were in general worse than useless.72 Typical enough, alas, was the German Legion. Created on 4 September 1792 at the petition of a committee of German émigrés headed by the so-called Anarchasis Clootz, this was supposed to be composed of two regiments of light cavalry, three battalions of infantry and one battery of artillery, whilst its command was given to a sometime colonel of a Seven-Year-War Prussian freikorps named Dembach. Like many such men, however, Dembach quickly proved to be a mere adventurer. Nor was this an end to the problems suffered by the unit: the officers, of which there were far too many for the number of men who were actually raised, were utterly incompetent and bent solely on advancing themselves by any means available; and the rank and file were mostly erstwhile Swiss Guards who had somehow escaped the massacre of 10 August 1792 (see below). Deployed against the Vendéen rebellion in the summer of 1793, then, the legion disintegrated in its very first action, a large part of the rank and file not just running away but actually joining the insurgents.73 Just as bad, meanwhile, was the Belgian unit known as the Legion of Montesquiou, one officer who was persuaded to join its ranks, being shocked to discover that in reality it consisted of nothing more than ‘four or five hundred unfortunate men all in tatters whose officers alone were wearing the smart uniform of which so much had been made’.74

78  From the Bastille to Valmy Let us say, however, that, in whatever units they happened to be serving, at least some of the new recruits were enthused by the Revolution and eager to pit themselves against the foe. Very soon, alas, such men, found themselves confronted by the miseries of campaigning in the very wet summer of 1792. Here, for example, is Jean Sibelet, a soldier of the old army who had enlisted in 1781 and was now serving in the Eleventh Regiment of Chasseurs à Cheval: The rain that fell on us all the time . . . was a great trial to men and horses alike. Every move that our mounts made plunged them up to their knees in mud, while they could never eat their fill as grain was no sooner spread before them than it was turned to sludge.75 Equally cold and wet, meanwhile, was the Parisian National Guard, Paul Thiébault: On the very first night we got a pretty exact idea of the delights of camp life in a rainy autumn. It came down in torrents all night long and the wretched canvas which was our only defence from the clouds was soon penetrated. The water at first strained through, but soon began to form big drips which, following in quick succession, were for each of us as good as any number of spouts. Falling asleep . . . we were woken by cold water trickling all over us and wetting us through and through.76 And, finally, there is Denis Belot. To quote a letter that he wrote to his father on 25 May: On the 20th day of this month great masses of cloud piled up before our eyes to the accompaniment of terrible rumbles of thunder. Almost immediately hail fell in great quantities, whilst the stones were so big that they pierced our tents and [the canvas coverings of our] supply wagons . . . As for the straw in which we slept, it was turned to so much slurry, and what made this worse was the fact that we had nothing with which to replace it . . . The first night that we slept in our tents, I complained of the hardness of the ground, whilst the straw scratched my face and hands . . . That night, however, was completely the other way about: straw and ground alike were so wet that I sank into them as if they were an eiderdown.77 Faced by these privations, large numbers of men deserted, and, if Dumouriez got any of the Volunteers to stand at all at Valmy, it was by dint of a programme of intensive training that each and every one of them was subjected to as soon as they reached the base camps in which the French generals were trying to re-organise their forces. As Bial wrote: Our equipment having soon been completed, from the most senior officers down to the lowliest private now had to occupy ourselves with the task of instruction . . . From morning to night, then, we wholeheartedly gave ourselves over to drill without a moment’s repose.78 Thus far, this chapter has been very much a military narrative, and it is therefore entirely proper that we should return to a discussion of the history of the French Revolution. Even if this had had only a limited practical effect on the efficiency of the French forces, the general tendency had been one of an increasing radicalisation that was soon to exercise a dramatic influence on the international situation. Though Brissot and his fellows had

From the Bastille to Valmy  79 not anticipated a French defeat, the war that they had embarked on was soon working its magic. Thus, in Paris there were all too many observers who responded to the murder of the unfortunate Dillon by applauding what the troops had done and calling for more of the same: conspiracy was all around, it was shouted, and the traitors must needs be rooted out, whilst Robespierre was not alone in claiming that, as men who had been appointed to command under Louis XVI, France’s generals could not be trusted. Over the course of May, then, surveillance of foreigners and the regulations against non-juring priests were tightened up, while on 29 May the small bodyguard that Louis XVI had been allowed to retain (the so-called Constitutional Guard) was disbanded. If the king lost his guard, meanwhile, the new régime acquired one in that every detachment of National Guard in the country was directed to send a party of officers and men to a great encampment outside Paris that was eventually to consist of 20,000 men, the idea being that this force (always known as the fédérés on account of the fact that it was ordered to assemble on 14 July – the so-called Feast of the Federation of the National Guard) should take the place of the city’s garrison of regular troops. Finally, last but not least, the restriction of membership of the National Guard to the propertied classes was swept aside, its ranks, in Paris at least, now being filled with large numbers of angry sans culottes.79 Under ever greater pressure, Louis chose this moment to make a stand. Hoping, perhaps, to capitalise on the concerns raised by the concentration of such a large force of men – men, moreover, who were rightly judged to be likely to represent the most extreme wing of the Revolutionary movement – in the vicinity of the capital, the king announced that he intended to veto the decree summoning the fédérés to Paris. This action eliciting angry protests from a group of government ministers, he promptly sacked them, only thereby to play straight into the hands of his enemies. On the one hand, the Parisian population was continuing to suffer severe hardship: if wheat was available in reasonable quantities due to careful stockpiling on the part of the authorities, the outbreak of rebellion in Saint Domingue the previous year had driven up the price of sugar and coffee, whilst growing problems with the assignats – essentially, the paper money issued from 1790 onwards to finance the Revolution80 – meant that inflation had become a very serious issue. And, on the other, the populace was increasingly well organised through the establishment of revolutionary clubs in most of the wards, or ‘sections’, into which the city was divided for the purposes of local government. In consequence, it proved relatively easy to organise a massive demonstration in the Place du Carrousel on 20 June to demand the reinstatement of the ministers, a considerable number of the crowd actually forcing their way into the adjacent Tuileries palace in an effort to terrorise Louis into surrender in person, only withdrawing when the mayor of Paris, Brissot’s ally, Jérôme Pétion, came in person to beg them to go home. By then, however, it was too late. To quote Simon Schama, ‘With the humiliation of 20 June, the last vestiges of the royal aura had been stripped away.’81 With matters in this situation, events at the frontiers now once more conspired to intensify the crisis. Such as they were, the forces of the Duke of Brunswick were now clearly preparing to invade France, and the result was the first of the series of calls that led to the formation of the Volunteers of 1792. On the very eve of the long-awaited invasion, Brunswick blundered by issuing a proclamation that had been written for him by the Prince of Condé in which he threatened dire retribution if either Louis or Marie-Antoinette suffered the slightest injury and, in addition, announced his determination to restore order in France.82 According to the traditional version of events, this manifesto stiffened the determination of the French people to resist and, at the same time, sealed the fate of the monarchy by generating the blood-soaked rising of 10 August, but

80  From the Bastille to Valmy more up-to-date scholarship has suggested that this argument cannot be substantiated, the rising having actually been in preparation since the time of the demonstration of 20 June.83 At all events, the story now moved to a bloody and horrific conclusion. On 9 August, Paris rose in revolt. Much to the dismay of the Brissotins, who at this point wanted only to have themselves restored to power and had been making increasingly forlorn efforts to get Louis to back down, the radicals who controlled the sections sent their followers on to the streets and took over the city, which they declared to be under the rule of a revolutionary commune. Instantly supported by much of the National Guard, the rebellion was also able to call on the fédérés, the latter immediately setting off to march on the Tuileries and embark upon what was perceived as a re-run of the storm of the Bastille. Trying to make his way to join the defenders, the Count of La Vallette, at this point a young assistant in the royal library, found the atmosphere dark indeed. Thus: Numerous groups of men of the people armed with sabres, pikes or pistols, were passing along the Rue Saint-Antoine . . . and glanced at us with threatening looks . . . The women were at the windows, or were weeping and kissing their husbands and sons in the street. Sombre energy was depicted in the faces of these men, and in every movement they made.84 There followed scenes of horror of a sort that dwarfed anything that happened on 14 July 1789. In the early morning of 10 August, up to 20,000 National Guards and sans culottes converged on the Tuileries, only to find that the Revolution at last faced a real fight. Lining every window of the palace’s long façade were 900 Swiss Guards, while they had been joined by several hundred civilians. Also in the palace was Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and their children, but in this final crisis the king proved less than equal to the situation: ‘His coldness and apathy in so terrible a situation were unpleasant to see’, wrote La Vallette. ‘He spoke a few words to us as he passed, which we did not hear, and he soon went back to the palace. This inadequate appearance made a very sad appearance.’85 Eventually, the king’s courage failing him altogether, he retired from the palace and escaped to the nearby National Assembly, taking with him his family. In the circumstances, this decision was understandable enough, but, already discouraged, the defenders were left uncertain as to whether they were still supposed to fight. Sensing their hesitation, the crowd rushed forward, and, the hail of fire with which they were greeted notwithstanding, within a matter of minutes, they were flooding into the palace. To quote La Vallette once again: The unhappy Swiss were no long capable of defending themselves. Soon the most horrible massacre began, and [this] only ended with the death of the last of them. They were pursued from room to room: the darkest corners . . . even the chimneys in which some had hidden themselves did not avail to save them from massacre. They were thrown out of the windows and their naked bodies were exposed to the savage jeers of the women of the people.86 La Vallette notwithstanding, some members of the Guard did survive, but even so their dead numbered at least 600, while the losses of their assailants came to around half that figure. For the monarchy, however, it was the end, the royal family being that same evening imprisoned in the prison known as the Temple. Under the direction of the Paris Commune, moreover, the National Assembly, many of whose members had understandably fled in their turn, dutifully signed its own death warrant by announcing the convocation

From the Bastille to Valmy  81 of a national convention whose task it would be to decide how France should now be governed, the various ministers who had been dismissed in June at the same time being brought back with the addition of Georges Danton, the president of the radical Cordeliers’ Club, who was appointed Minister of Justice.87 Horrified at what had occurred and well aware that the radicals had been out for his blood for some time, Lafayette attempted, to use the later Spanish phrase, to ‘pronounce’ against what had occurred, but the troops at his command – the Army of the North, at whose head he had replaced the unfortunate Rochambeau – refused to follow his lead, and he was left with no option but to flee to the safety of the enemy lines. As for his replacement, it was the ever bellicose Dumouriez, the latter having voluntarily quit the government at the time of the purge of its ranks that had precipitated the crisis of 20 June and taken refuge at Lafayette’s headquarters.88 If Brunswick had hoped to cow the Revolution into surrender, he could therefore not have got the situation more wrong. All that was left was force, and, in the middle of August, his army crossed the frontier, taking first Longwy and then Verdun and at the same time devastating the country through which he passed. As one inhabitant of Sainte Menehould complained: Short of wood for fuel, having cut down and thrown on the fire all the trees along the high road . . . the soldiers were obliged to strip the empty farms which they passed of their floors, their shutters and their very beams . . . In every place occupied by the enemy the picture was one and the same . . . The site of every Prussian encampment was strewn with the remains of chests, cupboards and other items of furniture that had been seized to augment the bivouac fires . . . What was astonishing in the extreme, meanwhile, is that the chateaux, the farms and the houses of the émigrés were not spared in the slightest.89 Meanwhile, the fall of Longwy and Verdun caused much alarm. ‘We do not understand’, wrote Denis Bellot, ‘how free men could have abandoned fortifications capable of sustaining a siege of several months without dying of shame.’90 Not surprisingly, the ramifications were considerable. At the front, if Lafayette was replaced by Dumouriez, the much smaller Army of the Centre was handed to the highly experienced François de Kellermann. Meanwhile, in Paris, the streets reverberated with a mixture of fear and panic, while Danton ordered every house in the city to be searched for suspects and caches of arms, the net result being the arrest of 3,000 people deemed, for whatever reason, to be hostile to the Revolution. Yet this produced another problem. In brief, Paris’ gaols were now crammed with prisoners, and the fear began to grow that they might break out and take over the city. With the situation further inflamed by wild rhetoric on the part of Danton and his associate, the still more demagogic Jean-Pierre Marat, groups of sans culottes and other elements began to take the law into their own hands, the result being the infamous ‘September Massacres’. Breaking into the city’s many jails, then, crowds set up makeshift tribunals and proceeded to try the unfortunate men and women they found within the walls. In fairness, perhaps half of the cases resulted in acquittal, but, for anything up to 1,400, most of them common criminals who had no connection with sedition of any sort, the result was execution, often in the most brutal of circumstances. ‘Those days’, wrote Paul Thiébault, ‘were the most hideous in the Revolution, and made an indescribable impression on me, exceeding my utmost fears. I was disgusted, humiliated, annihilated.’91 Thiébault was anything but alone in this reaction, but the slaughter did nothing to check progress towards the establishment of the new assembly, the National Convention.

82  From the Bastille to Valmy Thus, based on a much wider suffrage than had been the case under the Constitution of 1791 (though still nothing even approaching universal manhood suffrage) but, at the same time, an indirect voting system that, as before, protected the interests of property, the polls went ahead over the period 27 August–2 September. At but 20 per cent, turnout was low, but the 749 deputies had no sooner met on 21 September than they proclaimed Louis XVI to be overthrown and, by extension, France to be a Republic.92 To quote La Vallette: The shedding of so much blood did not appease the men of September. They well understood that the murder of 1200 persons would spread panic and anger throughout . . . the whole of Europe, [and that] therefore it was necessary to win at any price . . . In less than fifteen days nearly 60,000 men left Paris for the army.93 However, whether these men constituted much of a reinforcement is another matter, their arrival at such bases as Chalons and Valenciennes being accompanied by serious disturbances as well as a number of panics in which hundreds of men scattered into the countryside screaming that they had been betrayed.94 Nor is it even clear that the sans culottes were wholly enthusiastic. For an interesting description of the departure of one contingent, we can turn to the memoirs of a gunner named Louis Bricard: Having received our orders, we set off via the Rue Saint Martin accompanied by a large crowd of women in floods of tears at the departure of their husbands or lovers. However, once we reached the Barrière Neuve de Saint Martin, everyone had to go their separate ways: whilst the women made their way back into the city with tears in their eyes, we gunners whipped up our horses. Some of the most foolish of us even began to strike up patriotic songs.95 Meanwhile, notwithstanding secret efforts on the part of Dumouriez to negotiate a convention that would take the Prussians out of the war – not the least of the Brissotins’ many miscalculations when they went to war against Austria was that Frederick William II would actually join them in this endeavour rather than fighting on the other side – the war went on, though both sides were having to battle appalling weather conditions as much as they were each other.96 To quote Paul Thiébault: Say what anyone will about the mud of Champagne, it is hard to form an idea of what it was that autumn. The open country was quite impracticable; the roads, washed up by continual rain and broken up by the movement of so many armies, were covered by five or six inches of chalky slush in which I marched whole hours without seeing my feet.97 Yet, thanks to Valmy, the more politically conscious of the Volunteers remained in good heart, the feelings of such men probably being summed up by one Soulbaut, the son of a peasant from the village of Pionsat near Riom; as he wrote to his father in a letter dated 29 October 1792: I have joined the volunteers in Paris and am ready to leave to fight the enemies of the Fatherland. I was born French, and with all the other French, I want to share in the danger and glory alike . . . We are all, my comrades and I, of one and the same sentiment. In a word, I am voluntarily consecrating myself in good faith and with all my heart to the defence of the Fatherland. ‘Live free or die!’ That is my motto.98

From the Bastille to Valmy  83 On the home front, too, youthful enthusiasm was blooming. A good example of this, perhaps, is constituted by that of Boulart. In 1791 a fourteen-year-old schoolboy studying in a Churchrun college at Reims, his studies were abruptly terminated when the college was shut in the autumn of that year. With war looming, the obvious thing to do seemed to be to consider a military career, but Boulart’s parents were fearful for his safety and therefore decided to have him study medicine preparatory to taking up the relatively safe position of surgeon. This plan, however, was frustrated, and, to his evident delight, Boulart ended up as a secondlieutenant in the artillery instead, albeit not until the following year. Thus: By the end of 1792 the defeat of the Prussians at Valmy . . . [and] the decision of the foreign powers to take up arms in favour of the émigrés . . . had inflamed the enthusiasm of the nation to the point of delirium. There was but one cry: ‘To arms!’ Such enthusiasm being easily communicated, my father realised that I shared in it, and decided that it was time to fix on a course of action. I was already well enough educated to present myself for the artillery entrance examinations that were due to be held in five months’ time . . . but my father did not hesitate for a moment: although it must have been very difficult for him to fund, very soon he had found a place for me at a school that specialised in candidates for the artillery examinations, the first days of December therefore seeing me installed in the Desmarets Institute at Chalons. Having till just 1 May 1793 to complete my instruction . . . for the next five months I threw myself into my studies with such ardour that I was putting in fifteen hours a day.99 In short, all looked set fair for an offensive, and on 6 November Dumouriez duly attacked the army of Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen-Gotha just west of Mons at the village of Jemappes. With scarcely 14,000 men to their name, the Austrians were badly strung out, while they were also heavily outnumbered, Dumouriez having some 36,000 men and 100 guns. Yet the battle was not the foregone conclusion that the raw data suggests, and that despite the fact that for the first time the French were making use of the columnar tactics associated with Guibert that have always been seen as a key part of their success. For one thing, the defenders were heavily entrenched, the result being that the French artillery could not do its job effectively. To quote Augustin Belliard, an officer of the old army who was serving as an aide de camp: ‘Our cannon – indeed, even the two sixteen-pounder guns stationed on the right of the advanced guard – did not have the slightest effect, whereas the enemy shot caused many casualties.’100 For a brief account, we can do no better than turn to Etienne Macdonald: The army advanced upon the enemy and opened the attack with plenty of determination . . . However, our lines began to reel and even to fall back . . . General d’Harville, who was to support our right and turn the enemy’s left, did not advance, notwithstanding repeated orders to him to hasten his march. Our left did not advance: the general [i.e. Dumouriez] went to discover the reason, and recognised the difficulty of forcing the Austrians right. Our advanced guard . . . had just been repulsed; a second charge produced no better result . . . Dumouriez left me with the Duke of Chartres [i.e. the future LouisPhillippe], who desired me to bring him a regiment of dragoons left in reserve. Whilst this regiment was coming up, we saw Dumouriez . . . rush forward at the head of the advanced guard . . . This rapid and decisive attack . . . appeared to decide the enemy to retreat.101 For many observers, the key lesson of Jemappes was not the fact that Dumouriez’s troops had had to fight desperately hard to vanquish an army less than half their size, but rather

84  From the Bastille to Valmy that victory had been obtained through the use of the column. That such a conclusion was seized upon was rather unfortunate. In reality, the massed ranks of French infantry had suffered grievously at the hands of Austrian artillery, and it is very doubtful that Dumouriez would have won the day had he not outnumbered the unfortunate Saxe-Teschen by over two to one. In the minds of the ideologues of the Revolution, however, the picture that presented itself was very different. The French, they agreed, were not British, Germans, Dutchmen or Spaniards and, as such, when employed in the old way, had never been able to compete with the armies of the other powers on equal terms (a fiction useful not least because it explained away the repeated defeats of the War of the Spanish Succession and the Seven Years War). What the French did have, however, was élan, a word that is impossible to translate, but combines concepts such as dash, daring and bravura. It had, of course, been precisely this quality that had rendered useless every attempt to make them fight their enemies in the same style as said enemies, but this problem was now exacerbated as Frenchmen were free citizens, men who thought for themselves and were less amenable than ever to the bullying of their superiors, men, indeed, who did not even recognise the concept of superiors. From this, of course, it followed that the proponents of l’ordre profonde were more right than ever and, not just that, but that the bayonet was the logical weapon of choice for all French soldiers – that the essence of tactics, indeed, was for them simply to hurl themselves upon the enemy with the utmost ferocity. This was, of course, but to make necessity a virtue – even by the time of Valmy, large parts of the French forces could barely load and fire their muskets, let alone manoeuvre in line – but such an article of faith did the idea become that many commentators, including, not least, the current Minister of War, Joseph Servan, began to argue that the troops should be issued with pikes rather than muskets, thereby obviating any chance that they would stop to open fire (an action that was generally – and, indeed, correctly – agreed as being likely to put an end to all forward movement).102 So convinced were Servan and his followers of this logic that, in October 1792, 500,000 pikes were ordered for the use of the French forces, and, particularly on less well-provided fronts such as the frontier with Spain, in the campaigns of 1793–4 there were even cases were entire battalions went into action carrying such weapons.103 In the use of the column, at least, there was some sense in military terms: forgetting the issue of training, for example, it made the simple cheer a far more effective weapon than might otherwise have been the case, and also allowed each battalion’s drummers to be concentrated in the middle of the unit, thereby greatly multiplying the sound which they produced and making it easier to beat out the frightening rhythm know as the pas de charge Nor, meanwhile, could anyone argue with the fact that battalions deployed in column could move much faster than troops deployed in line: not only was it much easier for them to keep their formation, but they no longer had to be obsessed with the need to keep their alignment with the units on either side. And, last but not least, even a single infantry battalion was an imposing sight when advancing in column, whilst this effect was reinforced by the fact that the use of columns allowed far more troops to be concentrated in a small area than had been the case before. All this being the case it seemed that the French had discovered the key to invincibility on the battlefield, and this in turn contributed to the mood of recklessness that very soon had expanded the conflict beyond all reckoning. Yet if the renewed advance into Belgium proved anything, it was that the cult of the column, let alone the cult of the arme blanche, was dangerously flawed. To quote Lynn, indeed, ‘There is a great deal of truth to the assertion that, to be effective, tactics must correspond to the value and temperament of the soldiers who employ them, but the cult of the bayonet erred in its extremes.’104

From the Bastille to Valmy  85 Jemappes was not much of a victory, but it was enough.105 Their defensive cordon penetrated, the Austrians fell back to the east, leaving Dumouriez free to overrun the whole of Belgium, while Montesquieu marched into the Piedmontese possessions of Savoy and Nice, and the Count of Custine not only occupied the left bank of the Rhine but struck east as far as Frankfurt.106 Back in Paris, meanwhile, the Brissotins, and, indeed, public opinion in general, applauded wildly and began to dream of the idea of attaining France’s ‘natural frontiers’ – specifically, the Rhine, the Alps and the long-since attained Pyrenees – this being something made all the more attractive given that control of Belgium, in particular, had been a goal of French foreign policy since the days of Louis XIV. Naked annexationism was not in tune with the ostensible spirit of events in France since the Revolution, however, and thus it was that pamphleteers, journalists, deputies and political leaders alike began to cast about for the fig leaf that was eventually given concrete form in the so-called ‘Edict of Fraternity’ of 19 November 1792 whereby, despite a variety of dissenting voices, including, not least, that of Maximilian Robespierre, the infant Republic promised to give aid and assistance to all peoples wishing to recover their liberty, whilst the Brissotin régime’s determination to defend the Revolution was reinforced by the trial and, at length, execution of the hapless Louis XVI. For good measure, navigation of the River Scheldt – a right hitherto reserved to the United Provinces – was declared open to all comers, thereby greatly jeopardising Britain’s security by raising the possibility that a French fleet might base itself at Antwerp (a frightening possibility as Antwerp was for meteoreological reasons a much better base from which to operate against Britain than, say, Brest or La Rochelle). From these decisions, as we shall see, further wars could not but come, but for those wars the Republic was but ill-prepared: the forces available to the French generals had been much increased in number certainly, but it is all too clear that there were serious issues with their military value; that the enthusiasm on which the mobilisation of 1791–2 was supposedly based in reality took a very poor second place to poverty, chicanery and administrative pressure; and, finally, that the new tactics on which the Brissotins, in particular, were relying for victory were at best seriously flawed. In short, 1793 promised to be a turbulent year and one from which Brissot and his fellows were unlikely to emerge unscathed.

Notes 1 C. Rousset (ed.), Recollections of Marshal Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum (London, 1892), I, p. 137. Someone else who, though at the battle, clearly did not think the story worth telling was Paul Thiébault, all that he says being that it ‘taught the coalition what sort of men they had to deal with’. A. Butler (ed.), The Memoirs of Baron Thiébault, late Lieutenant-General in the French Army (London, 1896), I, p. 135. 2 By far the best account of the battle of Valmy in English is A. Coox, ‘Valmy’, Military Affairs, 12, No. 4 (Winter, 1948), pp. 193–205. See also T.C.W. Blanning, The French Revolutionary Wars, 1787–1802 (London, 1996), pp. 73–80. 3 For an analysis of these accounts, see E. Krimmer, ‘A portrait of war, a grammar of peace: Goethe, Laukhard and the campaign of 1792’, German Life and Letters, 61, No. 1 (January, 2008), pp. 46–60. 4 Cit. J. Clarette (ed.), From Valmy to Waterloo: Extracts from the Diary of Captain Charles François, a Soldier of the Revolution and the Empire (London, 1906), pp. 29–30. Commander of the Army of the Centre (a subsidiary force which had just been attached to Dumouriez’s Army of the North), Kellermann was far more the victor of Valmy than Dumouriez was. 5 P.R. Girault, Mes campagnes sous la Révolution et l’Empire, ed. C. Girault (Paris, 1983), p. 17. The ‘General Equality’ mentioned by Girault was the future King Louis Philippe of France, or, as he styled himself at this point, ‘Philippe Egalité’: at Valmy he commanded a brigade of cavalry. 6 Ibid., pp. 20–1.

86  From the Bastille to Valmy 7 D. Bell, The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It (Boston, 2007), p. 134. 8 Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, pp. 192–3. 9 Rambaud, Memoirs of the Count Roger de Damas, p. 178. 10 At Kolin, Frederick the Great lost 10,000 dead and wounded out of the 32,000 he had on the field, while, at Zorndorf, around 45 per cent of the 88,000 combatants became casualties. Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great, pp. 171–3, 182–3. 11 G. Best, War and Society in Revolutionary Europe (London, 1982), p. 81. 12 J. Lynn, The Bayonets of the Republic: Motivation and Tactics in the Army of Revolutionary France, 1791–94 (Urbana, IL, 1984), p. 179. 13 P.G. Griffith, The Art of Warfare of Revolutionary France, 1789–1802 (London, 1998), p. 183. The problem faced by the French was not just related to the quality of their troops. In addition, there was also the question of their position. Thus, Dumouriez’s forces were deployed in depth with one portion of the army holding the hill known as Mont Yron, and and the other held much further back on a second area of high ground. In effect, this meant that the French had only 36,000 troops to face Brunswick’s 30,000 Prussians, these being odds that were obviously much less favourable to the Revolutionary cause than those which are usually quoted. In theory, of course, Dumouriez could have sent reinforcements to Mont Yron, but this would have required his raw troops to carry out complicated manoeuvres under fire and, still worse, in the face of an enemy that possessed a considerable superiority in cavalry. In short, Dumouriez had exposed himself to defeat in detail, and was extremely fortunate that Brunswick did not make better use of the situation. However, all this said, it is worth pointing out that a much more serious attack conducted by some of the Austrian troops attached to Brunswick’s army near the village of Mauffrecourt in an attempt to turn Dumouriez’s right flank was beaten back without too much difficulty. M. Vinet (ed.), Mémoires du Comte Belliard, lieutenant-général, pair de France, écrits par lui-même (Paris, 1842), I, pp. 75–6. 14 For all this, see Blanning, French Revolutionary Wars, p. 80. 15 E. Creasy, The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World from Marathon to Waterloo (London, 1883), p. 316. 16 E.g. G. Rothenberg, The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon (London, 1977), p. 114. 17 S. Scott, ‘The regeneration of the line army in the French Revolution’, Journal of Modern History, 42, No. 3 (September, 1970), pp. 311–19. 18 Scott, Response of the Royal Army to the French Revolution, pp. 81–4. 19 Ibid., pp. 84–94. R. Blaufarb, The French Army, 1750–1820: Careers, Talent, Merit (Manchester, 2002), pp. 75–81. The panic displayed by the National Assembly on this occasion was closely linked with the damning images that characterised the soldiers of the eighteenth century. To quote Alan Forrest, ‘Soldiers were depicted as gratuitously violent and permanently drunk, a source of danger to such decent people as they might meet and of nuisance to the local communities on which they were imposed . . . like beggars and vagabonds, a section of society that needed to be closely supervised and strictly policed.’ A. Forrest, Soldiers of the French Revolution (Durham, NC, 1990), p. 31. 20 Scott, Response of the Royal Army to the French Revolution, pp. 105–6. For the assault on the officer corps on the part of the radicals, see Blaufarb, French Army, pp. 85–91. 21 H.L. Dillon, Recollections of the Revolution and Empire, ed. W. Geer (London, 1921), pp. 122–3. 22 Scott, Response of the Royal Army to the French Revolution, p. 106. 23 Corvisier, ‘La place de l’armée dans la Révolution Française’, p. 12. 24 Scott, ‘Regeneration of the line army in the French Revolution’, p. 320; Blaufarb, French Army, pp. 91–3. 25 Scott, Response of the Royal Army to the French Revolution, pp. 111–14. 26 Brief biographies of Bernadotte, Macdonald, Moncey, Ney and Sérurier, may be found in Chandler, Napoleon’s Marshals, pp. 18–40, 236–53, 296–310, 358–80 and 441–54. Only slightly behind these men was Napoleon’s future brother-in-law, Joachim Murat: still a corporal in April 1792, he did not become an officer until October. Ibid., p. 336. It is worth pointing out, perhaps, that the decision to stay was by no means necessarily dictated by loyalty to the Revolution as such. According to Macdonald, for example, if he stayed it was for reasons that were entirely personal. Thus: ‘There had been considerable emigration among the officers of the army, and particularly among those of my regiment. Efforts were made to induce me to go, too, but I was

From the Bastille to Valmy  87 married, and very much attached to my wife, who was near her confinement . . . Besides I care nothing about politics.’ Rousset, Recollections of Marshal Macdonald, I, p. 136. Writing in the France of Charles X as he was, the ageing commander could be argued to have had good reason to write as he did, yet one suspects that there were plenty of other officers who found themselves in a similar situation. 27 Blaufarb, French Army, pp. 93–6. 28 Soulié, Carnets du Colonel Bial, p. 44. 29 Scott, ‘The regeneration of the line army in the French Revolution’, pp. 322–3. 30 J. Gallagher, Napoleon’s Enfant Terrible: General Dominique Vandamme (Norman, Oklahoma, 2008), pp. 7–8. 31 Girault, Mes campagnes, pp. 13–14; A. Dufourcq (ed.), Mémoires du Général Desvernois, 1789–1815 (Paris, n.d.), pp. 33–4; Chandler, Napoleon’s Marshals, p. 256. Still another man who enlisted in the army at this time, namely Claude Guyot, a cavalryman who ended up commanding the heavy cavalry division of the Imperial Guard at Waterloo, does not offer even so much of an explanation as this. See J.H. de Font-Réaulx (ed.), Général Comte Guyot: carnets de campagnes, 1792–1815 (Paris, 1999), p. 17. 32 Corvisier, ‘La place de l’armée dans la Révolution Française’, p. 12. A further point to note here is that there was no decline in the rate of desertion and that in some instances, notably that of the cavalry, it actually increased. However, this point must needs be qualified by pointing out that desertion amongst the rank and file was particularly strong among the many Swiss and German soldiers in the French army. Viewed by political activists and, increasingly, their fellow soldiers, as potential enemies of the Revolution, even confirmed enemies of the Revolution, for their own safety as much as anything they began to head for the frontiers, in some cases marching away as entire units. Scott, ‘The regeneration of the line army in the French Revolution’, p. 319; Scott, Response of the Royal Army to the French Revolution, pp. 111–14. 33 Scott, ‘The regeneration of the line army in the French Revolution’, p. 322. 34 Ibid, pp. 324–5. 35 Forrest, Soldiers of the French Revolution, p. 59. See also Scott, Response of the Royal Army to the French Revolution, p. 184. 36 Scott, Response of the Royal Army to the French Revolution, pp. 148–50. 37 For an introduction to the Revolution’s use of song as a means of political education, see F. Moureau, ‘Stratégie chansonnière de la Révolution Française’, The French Review, 62, No. 6 (May, 1989), pp. 967–74. According to Moureau, 325 battle hymns of various sorts were published in 1792 alone. 38 Other traditional marching songs that remained popular with the army included Au pres de ma blonde and Marlbruck s’en va-t-en guerre. As for the Chanson de l’oignon, it may be described as a hymn to the realities of soldiering and is completely apolitical in its sentiments. Thus: ‘I like onions fried in oil; I like onions fried in oil; I like onions fried in oil; I like onions because they are good! Let’s march, comrade! Let’s march, comrade! Let’s march, let’s march, let’s march! Let’s march, comrade! Let’s march, comrade! Let’s march, let’s march, let’s march!’ Lyrics accessed at 10 June 2017. 39 With regard to overt fervour for the Revolution, Scott gives numerous examples of regular units engaging in such actions as petitioning against suggestions that their pay should be increased, denoting part of their pay to a variety of patriotic causes and marching into one town or another singing specifically Revolutionary anthems. Scott, Response of the Royal Army to the French Revolution, pp. 111–14. However, how far such statements of political loyalty and commitment to the cause can be taken at face value must be open to challenge: we simply do not know how they were got up or how far they were accepted with anything other than grudging acquiescence. 40 Blanning, French Revolutionary Wars, p. 85. 41 For the Parisian origins of the National Guard, see M. Alpaugh, ‘A self-defining “bourgeoisie” in the early days of the French Revolution; the milice bourgeoise, the Bastille days of 1789 and their aftermath’, Journal of Social History, 47, No. 3 (Spring, 2014), pp. 696–720; D.L. Clifford, ‘The National Guard and the Parisian community, 1789–1790’, French Historical Studies, 16, No. 4 (Fall, 1990), pp. 849–78. 42 Butler, Memoirs of Baron Thiébault, p. 75. For the general development of the National Guard, meanwhile, see F. Devenne, ‘La Garde Nationale: création et évolution, 1789–aout 1792’ in Annales historiques de la Révolution Française, No. 283 (January 1991), pp. 49–66.

88  From the Bastille to Valmy 43 Soulié, Carnets du Colonel Bial, p. 31 44 Setting aside Saint-Just, other future leaders who enlisted in the National Guard directly from the civilian world included Jean-Baptiste Bessières, who had initially studied medicine in Cahors before being forced by economic difficulties to return home without any qualification, the dissolute Parisian typesetter Guillaume Brune, and Edouard Mortier, the son of a wealthy Cateau-Cambrésis cloth merchant who had sat in the Estates General. Chandler, Napoleon’s Marshals, pp. 62, 80, 312. 45 Ibid., pp. 44, 94. To men serving in the army can be added a number of others who had served in the army in the past as either officers or members of the rank and file, including Jean-Baptiste Jourdan and the far less well-known Dominique de Pérignon. Ibid., p. 158. 46 Forrest, Soldiers of the French Revolution, p. 60. 47 Ibid., p. 60. 48 Ibid., pp. 66–7. Politically highly charged, the subject of the Volunteers of 1791 is a minefield, to say the least. For an interesting discussion of the historiography, see T. Hippler, ‘Volunteers of the French Revolutionary Wars: myths and interpretations’ in S. Levsen and C.G. Krüger (eds.), War Volunteering in Modern Times: From the French Revolution to the Second World War (Houndmills, 2010), pp. 23–39. 49 Ellis, Armies in Revolution, p. 85; Forrest, Soldiers of the Revolution, p. 64. 50 J.P. Bertaud, La révolution armée: les soldats-citoyens et la Révolution Française (Paris, 1979), p. 68; Lynn, Bayonets of the Republic, p. 73. 51 P. de Bourgoing (ed.), Souvenirs militaires du Général Comte de Lorencez (Paris, 1902), p. 2. The Bernadotte referred to is the future marshal and king of Sweden. 52 A. de Maricourt (ed.), Mémoires du Général Noguès (1777–1853) sur les guerres de l’Empire (Paris, 1922), p. 45; Chandler, Napoleon’s Marshals, p. 192. 53 Chandler, Napoleon’s Marshals, p. 480. 54 For Joliclerc, see E. Jolicler (ed.), Joliclerc, volontaire aux armées de la Révolution: ses lettres, 1793–1796 (Paris, 1905), whilst Belot may be investigated via the collection of letters published in L. Bonneville de Marsangy, Journal d’un voluntaire de 1791 (Paris, 1888). As for, Lannes, Soult, Perrin (better known as Victor), Masséna and Oudinot, they are all discussed in the appropriate chapters of Chandler, Marshals of Napoleon. Meanwhile, Soult’s account of his enlistment is as follows: ‘At the time that the battalions of the National Guard designated for service in the field were formed, my regiment was in garrison at Schelestad in Alsace. The first such units to be formed in the area was the First Haut-Rhin. This unit was strong in number and animated by an excellent spirit, but it possessed very few officers who were capable of doing their jobs: like the rank and file, none of them had seen any service, and they in consequence knew nothing of military affairs. The colonel . . . had been a captain in the Swiss Diesbach regiment and very much wanted to put his soldiers on the same footing as those of the line, but he had no-one who could second him. At length someone told him of me, and he asked . . . to have me transferred to his battalion . . . with the rank of sub-lieutenant. This was something of an irregularity as the volunteers had the right to appoint their own officers, but the grenadier company saved the day by asking for me to be placed at their head.’ S.A. Soult (ed.), Mémoires du Maréchal-Général Soult, Duc de Dalmatie (Paris, 1854), I, pp. 4–5. 55 R.W. Phipps, The Armies of the First French Republic and the Rise of the Marshals of Napoleon I (Oxford, 1926), I, p. 16. 56 Forrest, Soldiers of the French Revolution, p. 63. 57 Phipps, Armies of the First French Republic, I, pp. 77–8. 58 Cit. M.G. Cottreau, ‘Lettre de Marescot, 1792’ in Carnets de la Sabretache, 21 (1913), pp. 308–9. 59 Anon., ‘Relation of the assassination of M. Theobald Dillon, maréchal de camp, at Lille on the 29th of April 1792’, in Anon. (ed.), A Political State of Europe for the Year MDCCXCII containing an Authentic and Impartial Narrative of Every Military Operation of the Present Belligerent Powers and a Correct Copy of Every State Paper, Declaration, Manifesto, etc., That Has Been and May Be Issued during the Current War upon the Continent (London, 1792), I, pp. 51–3. 60 Lynn, Bayonets of the Republic, p. 221. 61 Though hit hard by the better conditions available in the Volunteers, recruitment to the regular army continued throughout: in April 1793, for example, Jean Curély, the 18-year-old illiterate son of a poor peasant from Lorraine was found a place in a cavalry regiment in which a connection of the family had become an officer. See C. Thoumas (ed.), Le Général Curély: itineraire d’un cavalier léger de la Grande Armée, 1793–1815 (Paris, 1887), pp. 97–8

From the Bastille to Valmy  89 62 Forrest, Soldiers of the French Revolution, p. 65; J.P. Bertaud, ‘The Volunteers of 1792’, in A. Forrest and P. Jones (eds.), Reshaping France: Town, Country and Region during the French Revolution (Manchester, 1991), pp. 168–78. 63 J. Vivien, Souvenirs de ma vie militaire, ed. E. Martin (Paris, 1907), pp. 6–7. 64 J.P. Dellard, Mémoires militaires du Général Baron Dellard sur les guerres de la République et de l’Empire (Paris, n.d.), p. 3. 65 Bertaud, La révolution armée, pp. 82–3. 66 Cit. Lynn, Bayonets of the Republic, p. 52. One young man who was certainly recruited by force was the future general, Etienne Hulot: in 1792 a student at Reims, he says that he was dispatched to the army as a part of a requisition. J.L. Hulot, Souvenirs militaires du Baron Hulot (JacquesLouis), général d’artilleries, 1773–1843 (Paris, 1886), p. 8. 67 E. Picard and V. Paulier (eds.), Mémoires et journaux du Général Decaen (Paris, 1910), I, p. 4. 68 Bonneville de Marsangy, Journal d’un voluntaire de 1791, p. 10. 69 L. Larchey, Journal du marche du Sergent Fricassé, 1792–1802 (Paris, 1882), p. 5. 70 Maricourt, Mémoires du Général Noguès, pp. 52–60. 71 At least in theory, the Légion des Allobroges mentioned below, for example, were arrayed in distinctive dark-green uniform that bore no resemblance to anything worn by any other unit of the French army. P. Haythornthwaite, Uniforms of the French Revolutionary Wars (Poole, 1981), p. 99. 72 Bertaud, Révolution armée, pp. 85–8.The formation of the Allobrogian Legion – the name commemorated the tribe that lived in the Savoy area at the time of Caesar’s conquest of Gaul – can be dated to 31 July 1792 when Doppet’s proposal to form such a unit was brought before the National Assembly. Having obtained the latter body’s sanction, Doppet then participated in the storm of the Tuileries at the head of the handful of men he had managed to get together thus far and saved the lives of a number of Swiss Guards who he proceeded to incorporate into his command. See F. Doppet, Mémoires politiques et militaires du Général Doppet (Carouge, 1797), pp. 50–2. According to the Legion’s commander, in the course of the autumn ‘whole platoons of volunteers arrived from Geneva every day’, but this is so much braggadocchio. ‘In the event’, writes Blanning, ‘Lieutenant-Colonel Doppet, as he had now become, was able to muster just one company to help Montesquiou’s army invade Savoy’. Blanning, French Revolutionary Wars, p. 89. 73 H. de la Bassetierre, ‘La Légion Germanique, 1792–93’, Carnets de la Sabretache, II (1894), pp. 367–81. It is somehow no surprise to find that amongst the recruits gleaned by this force was the serial deserter, Pierre Augereau. Chandler, Napoleon’s Marshals, p. 4. 74 A.M. Chamans, The Adventurous Life of Count Lavallette by Himself, ed. L. Aldersey White (London, 1936), I, pp. 67–8. 75 Cit. Anon. (ed), ‘Le journal du Capitaine Sibelet’, Carnets de la Sabretache, II, (1894), pp. 463–4. The term chasseur à cheval is often mistranslated as ‘mounted rifleman’. It rather means ‘light cavalryman’. 76 Butler, Memoirs of Baron Thiébault, I, p. 134. 77 Bonneville de Marsangy, Journal d’un voluntaire de 1791, p. 23 78 Soulié, Carnets du Colonel Bial, p. 44; Lynn, Bayonets of the Republic, pp. 221–2. It was not, of course, just the Volunteers who were put through this programme but also the troops of the regular army. 79 Schama, Citizens, pp. 602–4. The fédérés came to acquire a particularly evil reputation. Admittedly a hostile witness, Thiébault describes them as ‘scoundrels who distinguished themselves only by want of discipline, pillaging and cowardice’. Butler, Memoirs of Baron Thiébault, I, p. 132. 80 So important were the assignats to the history of the Revolution that some explanation is needed of their origins and function. In brief, the story is as follows. In 1789 the National Assembly had taken two decisions which can only be described as being absurdly contradictory. Thus, on the one hand, it effectively imposed a moratorium on the levying of taxation, and, on the other, it committed itself to honouring the debts of the Bourbon state. To deal with this situation, it was proposed that creditors should be satisfied with bonds – the self-same assignats – redeemable against the expropriated lands of the Catholic Church. In itself, this was not a bad scheme, but, still Minister of Finance at this point, Necker badly underestimated the size of the deficit it would need to cover, and the National Assembly responded, not by cutting expenditure, as he wanted, but issuing more bonds whilst at the same time ordering that they should be allowed to circulate as legal tender. The result was catastrophe. Virtually from the moment of their first issue, the

90  From the Bastille to Valmy value of the assignats collapsed – by August 1790 they had lost 20 per cent of their value – while, for reasons that need not concern us here, coin disappeared from circulation, this in turn having a serious impact on the job market and also fuelling inflation in that shopkeepers forced to accept payment in assignats raised their prices in a desperate attempt to recoup the money they were otherwise certain to lose. Still worse, unwilling to be paid in depreciating paper money, peasants put less of their produce on the market, thereby at one and the same time giving an added twist to the inflationary spiral and depressing the domestic consumption of manufactures. To none of this, however, did the National Assembly have any answer other than saturating the market for land with the sale of more and more of the biens nationaux and issuing still more paper money. In part motivated by a desire for financial stability, then, in the short term, the Revolution had precisely the opposite effect. For all this, see Aftalion, French Revolution, pp. 68–101 passim. 81 Schama, Citizens, p. 609. 82 See, for example, H.A. Barton, ‘The origins of the Brunswick manifesto’, French Historical Studies, 5, No. 2 (Autumn, 1967), pp. 146–69. 83 See E. Cross, ‘The myth of the foreign enemy: the Brunswick manifesto and the radicalization of the French Revolution’, French History, 25, No. 2 (June, 2011), pp. 188–213. 84 Chamans, Adventurous Life of Count Lavallette, I, p. 47. 85 Ibid., p. 48. 86 Ibid., p. 52. For an alternative account, see H. Morse Stephens, ‘M. de Durler’s account of the defence of the Tuileries on 10 August 1792’, English Historical Review, 2, No. 6 (April, 1882), pp. 350–7. Amongst the eye-witnesses to the fighting was none other than Napoleon Bonaparte: in Paris by chance, he was deeply horrified by what he saw and carried the image with him right up till his downfall in 1814. For a graphic account by a modern historian, meanwhile, see Schama, Citizens, pp. 612–18. 87 For the aftermath of the journée of 10 August, see Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, pp. 189–91. 88 Scott, Response of the Royal Army to the French Revolution, pp. 118–19. 89 Cit. Anon., ‘La première invasion prussienne (1792)’, Carnets de la Sabretache, 4 (1896), pp. 618–19. Given the miseries endured by the Prussian army in its advance, the general want of discipline is all too understandable. ‘September arrived’, wrote Tercier, ‘and, with it, torrential rain that lasted for six full weeks. The roads became completely impracticable and foodstuffs extremely scarce. Dysentery seized hold of the army on account of the quantity of unripe grapes eaten by the soldiers, and the Prussians in consequence lost a great many men.’ C. de la Chanonie (ed.), Mémoires politiques et militaires du Général Tercier (Paris, 1891), p. 59. 90 Bonneville de Marsangy, Journal d’un voluntaire de 1791, p. 36. 91 Butler, Memoirs of Baron Thiébault, I, p. 128. For a detailed (and highly critical) discussion of the September massacres, see Schama, Citizens, pp. 627–39. 92 Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, pp. 193–4. 93 Chamans, Adventurous Life of Count Lavallette, I, p. 61. 94 E.g. Hulot, Souvenirs militaires, p. 11; Vinet, Mémoires du Comte Belliard, I, p. 68. 95 A. Bricard and E. Bricard (eds.), Journal du cannonier Bricard, 1792–1802 (Paris, 1891), p. 3. 96 Dumouriez’s attempts to negotiate with Brunswick are discussed in Blanning, French Revolutionary Wars, p. 82. 97 Butler, Memoirs of Baron Thiébault, I, pp. 136–7. 98 Cit. E. Picard (ed.), Au service de la nation: lettres des voluntaires, 1792–1798 (Paris, 1914), pp. 1–2. 99 J.F. Boulart, Mémoires militaires du Général Boulart sur les guerres de la République et l’Empire (Paris, n.d.), pp. 1–4. 100 Vinet, Mémoires du Comte Belliard, I, p. 86. 101 Rousset, Recollections of Marshal Macdonald, pp. 140–1. 102 Lynn, Bayonets of the Republic, pp. 187–91. 103 J. Lynn, ‘French opinion and the military resurrection of the pike, 1792–1794’, Military Affairs, 41, No. 1 (February, 1977), pp. 1–7. 104 Lynn, Bayonets of the Republic, p. 193. 105 Amongst Dumouriez’s troops, certainly, there was much excitement. As a soldier named Huret of the First Battalion of Volunteers of Loiret wrote to his cousin on 16 October 1792, ‘However long I make it, this letter would never be sufficient to detail all the heroic feats that took place in the battle. The enemy ended up by abandoning Mons by means of a retreat, or rather flight, that was

From the Bastille to Valmy  91 disorderly in the extreme. The number of their slain is so considerable that we still don’t know how many it amounts to: although . . . the inhabitants have been occupied in burying them ever since the battle ended, the fields . . . are still absolutely covered. As for us, we lost between 700 and 800 men.’ Cit. Picard, Au service de la nation, pp. 127–8. 06 The son of a general who had been killed at the battle of Rossbach, Custine was an engaging 1 figure who was nicknamed by his men ‘Moustaches’ on account of his luxuriant facial hair. Later one of Napoleon’s greatest marshals, Gouvion Saint-Cyr was one of his aides de camp: ‘General Custine [was] . . . the first commander to give the French a taste of victory. At the beginning of the campaign, he had saved the fortress of Landau from a surprise attack by the Prince of Condé . . . and later there had come, first, the affair at Spire in which he had netted 3,000 prisoners, and then the capture of a . . . town as strong and important as that of Mainz . . . All this had brought him the entire confidence of his troops, whilst his manner of haranguing them, his friendliness, and his enormous moustaches all contributed not a little to exciting enthusiasm for his person. I have never seen a general who was so loved. Brave and energetic, on a day of battle he was to be seen everywhere.’ G. Saint-Cyr, Mémoires sur les campagnes des Armées du Rhin et du Rhin-et-Moselle de 1792 jusqu’a la paix de Campo Formio (Paris, 1829), I, p. 80.

4 Saving the Revolution

If there is one thing on which all histories of the Revolution are agreed, it is that the year 1793 marked the most dramatic moment in its trajectory. On 21 January, the hapless Louis XVI was sent to the guillotine, and, within a matter of months, France found herself fighting not just Austria and Prussia, but Britain, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Piedmont, Naples and, at least in theory, Russia, together with many minor states, whilst at home she was gripped by both civil war and counter-revolutionary revolt. Far from triumphing over the soldiers of the ancien régime, her soldiers were tumbled from their conquests in Belgium and the Rhineland, and her territory once again invaded by foreign armies. With the forces inherited from the developments of 1791–2 in tatters, it seemed that the Revolution was doomed, but then the situation was turned around in dramatic fashion. A new set of politicians seized power in Paris and, throwing aside the bounds of doctrine, availed themselves of the full weight of France’s human and material resources, whilst at the same time proving utterly merciless in their determination to root out anyone who threatened the stability of the Republic. To all this, the people responded with good will and enthusiasm, and the result was that new armies emerged that carried all before them, in part because they were commanded by new generals freed from the conventions of the eighteenth century, whose careers owed everything to the Revolution. In the process, meanwhile, France invented the concept of total war, thereby initiating an entirely new period in military history. It is a beguiling picture and one which has duly had a long history of beguiling. Yet, whilst it cannot be said to be entirely without foundation, it is shot through with problems of all sorts, the object of this chapter being to engage with its various tenets in a rather more sceptical fashion than has tended to be on view hitherto. Flawed though the heroic version of the events of 1793 may be, its starting point is sensible enough. Thus, the new year found France in a situation that was at the very least very frightening. Here, for example, is the assessment of one of the finest military minds of his generation: All things considered, given the lack of training of our troops, the inexperience of our generals and the weakness of our government, the results that had been obtained from the campaign of 1792 were quite satisfactory, but it was not difficult to see that, in the campaign that was certain to follow, the coalition would make greater efforts and, further, that it would be supported by other powers . . . Even the least clairvoyant of men could easily see the dangers that threatened the Republic, whilst nobody could understand the folly with which the Convention, far from trying to diminish the number of its enemies, was seemingly bent on augmenting said number by its successive provocations. An irrational pride and self-confidence had taken it in its grip, and it had come to believe that it could topple each and every throne with mere decrees. As for

Saving the Revolution  93 its armies, these were completely ignored, indeed, left in a state of the utmost nudity, and the precious time afforded by the rigours of the season squandered in horrible discussions that served only to alienate opinion in France and the outside world alike.1 That the situation in the army was very serious was certainly all too clear. In the first place, the flood of volunteers having quickly dried up, it could at best hope to maintain its strength, but even this modest objective was undermined by the conditions being experienced in its freezing encampments. Let us here cite a letter of Pierre Riel, then commander of a de facto division of the Army of the Moselle, to his superior, Custine, dated 13 January 1793: My cavalry are not in a fit state to move: to repeat what I have already told you, their harness and saddles are in a dreadful condition; the soldiers have no breeches; and I doubt whether the horses are up to taking the field . . . on account of having spent the last month out in the snow with their backs covered in ice . . . The rest of the army set off to attack Triers bare-footed and bare-arsed alike, and it has come back in the same condition, while I receive nothing from the Minister except promises which do nothing to clothe them or put shoes on their feet. To order troops who are all but naked to take the field once again in so rigorous a season would be to run clean counter to humanity and justice alike . . . Your orders are given with all the weight of the sovereign authority and my response is that of an obedient soldier, but one cannot engage in operations without the means to do so. Give me those means and I will be ready for anything, but, if you ask the impossible of me, I will simply tell you that undertaking what you want is beyond my power . . . and consent to seeing myself replaced by someone who you judge to be more capable.2 Hardly surprisingly, then, discipline and morale alike were very low. At Ath, for example, Roch Godart, a sometime corporal in the Orléans infantry regiment who had enlisted in a Pas-de-Calais volunteer battalion in September 1792 and had immediately been elected to the position of battalion commander, found himself facing a major mutiny occasioned by a variety of grievances, including not least his men’s insistence that ‘at the end of the day they were volunteers and should therefore be treated as such’, not to mention their belief that ‘as the officers owed their election to their good offices, they should treat them as their benefactors’.3 Having re-enlisted when his term of service expired, Antoine Noguès was now a sergeant in garrison in Roussillon, and his memoirs paint a very negative picture of life in his battalion at this time. Thus, drunkenness was rife and there were frequent fights with regular soldiers stationed in the area, while Noguès himself confessed to have spent most of his time out hunting; still worse, when news broke that the Spaniards had declared war, there were numerous desertions, whilst plenty of other men feigned illness.4 With regard to the volunteers, in particular, meanwhile, Riel was scathing: ‘I am well aware that there are 240 battalions of volunteers in existence, but I am also aware that there [is] . . . a great amount of desertion.’5 The consequence was dire: with sickness also rife, by February 1793 the number of men under arms had fallen to 228,000 men, and even such troops as remained with the colours were in an appalling state. Philippe Girault, for example, was stationed near Landau: Constantly exposed to snow and ice . . . for five days, we were left without any food. I had . . . a few assignats and took the risk of heading off to a nearby village, but the inhabitants had nothing left: absolutely everything had been pillaged. The only thing available was a few potatoes, but nobody would take my paper . . . For a little while

94  Saving the Revolution we got some provisions from the inhabitants of Bitsche: it so happened that we had a number of young men from that place, and when their families found out about the desperate state that we were in, they hastened to bring us some food . . . But eventually it was all gone, while we still had to eat. That being the case, the battalion commander took the decision to bring things out into the open. Half the battalion was sent across the frontier . . . Coming across a village, they put it under contribution. All the food in the place was loaded into carts and brought back to camp.6 France’s armies, then, were shrinking, but those of her enemies were growing: on 31 January the Convention had declared war on Britain and Holland in response to their moves to secure Antwerp from French aggression, whilst, in part thanks to the general horror at the fate of Louis XVI, relations with most of the other states of Europe began to worsen very rapidly. In the face of this situation, the state of the army could not be neglected for any longer. On 24 February, then, the Convention voted for a levy of 300,000 men. In the first instance, it was agreed, the departments could raise the quotas that were for the first time assigned to them by obtaining more volunteers, but, if these proved not to be forthcoming, then they were authorised to make use of compulsion. Volunteers, however, were few and far between, and the upshot was that France faced the possibility of conscription. Understandable as the introduction of this measure was, however, the Brissotins had continued to display a tendency to place rhetoric ahead of detail in that, other than stating that those liable for service would include all unmarried men and childless widowers between the ages of eighteen and forty, they failed to stipulate exactly how the principle of compulsion should be enforced. This, however, was a disaster. Conscription of any sort had always been hated, but what happened next was an outrage: left to their own devices, in many instances – most instances perhaps – the local authorities did everything they could to ensure that they and their associates were not affected by the new measure, and in some instances did not even trouble to institute a ballot, but rather simply co-opted those members of the community who were particularly vulnerable – ‘village idiots’, for example – or had in some way or other incurred their wrath. As if this was not enough, meanwhile, the few men chosen who had money and connections were often able to escape by other means: currently employed in the household of a local noble as a tutor, for example, a sometimeseminarian named Antoine Pion de Loche persuaded his master to send one of his servants in his place.7 The result was uproar. In the area of France to the south of the lower reaches of the River Loire that was to become known as the Vendée and also much of Brittany, large parts of the populace, as we shall see, sprang to arms in opposition to the decree, but there were very few areas of the country where the measure was not greeted with the utmost resentment. To take just one example, Haute Vienne saw disturbances of one sort or another take place in Poitiers, Chasseneuil, Dissais, Mezeau, Ligugé, Beruge, Smarves and Villedieu, and appears only to have met its quote of 990 men by the offer of generous bounties to anyone who would join up.8 Thus was unleashed a theme that was going to be a recurrent issue in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, namely the need of the French state to wage war on much of its own people. At times – 1794–8 and 1815 – it was to walk away from that struggle; at times – 1806–13 – it was to secure so strong a position that the population were quiescent; and, finally, at still other times – 1793–4, 1798–1806 and 1814 – it was to be locked in bitter battles in which it either secured a pyrrhic victory or was actually defeated outright. Waged in the spring of 1793, the first battles in this long struggle very much went to the people. Resistance, then, was massive: men faked illness; contracted hasty marriages, sometimes of

Saving the Revolution  95 the most improbable kind (there were numerous cases of young men marrying widows in their eighties and even nineties); faked physical handicap or disease; rendered themselves incapable of firing a musket by amputating their trigger fingers or having their two front teeth extracted; went into hiding; or simply ran away. Meanwhile, as if these acts of individual resistance were not enough, there were also numerous acts of collective resistance in the form of riots, petitions and protest meetings, the result being that by the summer barely half the number of recruits required had actually been obtained.9 With desertion continuing at a very high rate, the Republic’s military position was now desperate. To quote Jean-de-Dieu Soult, Several months would have to go by before the . . . levy could produce the least result, and in the meantime the ranks continued to melt away . . . it therefore being necessary to use such few new recruits as reached the army to replace its losses. As for the enemy, they were not only better trained, better clothed and better organised, but also far stronger in number.10 In so far as the war against the rapidly growing First Coalition was concerned, on several fronts the French were in full retreat. Let us begin in the south where the Republic had declared war on Spain on 7 March. As we have seen, many years of the government of Charles III pouring the bulk of the defence budget into the navy had produced an army that was badly understrength, and it was only with considerable difficulty that the Spaniards mustered an army in Catalonia and pushed across the frontier into Rousillon (for example, it took them a month just to capture the isolated border fort of Bellegarde). Fortunately for them, however, the Republican forces in the area were amongst the worst trained and equipped in the whole of France, and they therefore buckled before the Spanish onslaught, ponderous though this was: when Antoine Noguès’ volunteer battalion first encountered the enemy, for example, it discovered that it had been issued with musket balls of the wrong calibre, immediately fleeing in panic to the accompaniment of cries to the effect that they had been betrayed.11 Pushing on northwards, then, the Spanish commander, Antonio Ricardos, vanquished a French force at Mas Deu on 17 May and then moved to blockade Perpignan. Nor was this surprising, for the French forces in the region were little better than they were before. To take just one issue, between 1 May and 1 September, no fewer than 9,000 men fled the ranks.12 Here, for example, is the future General Lorençez: The nucleus of the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees was composed of two or three battalions of the monarchy, together with a number of volunteer battalions that were but barely organised . . . Indiscipline was at its height . . . Cast down by constant defeat and undermined by constant licence, the troops had become almost as cowardly as they were insubordinate, it being by no means rare to come across men breaking their arms in order to have an excuse not to go into battle . . . If anything, the officers were even worse than their men, having given up not just any attempt to watch over the latter, but even the pretence of sleeping in the camp . . . As a result, the most disgusting filth was the norm on all sides. Exposed both to the excessive heat and the extremes of their own intemperance, the unfortunate soldiers therefore fell sick by the hundred, only to die in the hospitals for want of care.13 The Pyrenees, however, were very much a sideshow. Far more important were Belgium and the Rhineland. Here, moreover, the campaign did not even end in the stalemate that

96  Saving the Revolution prevailed in Roussillon. Belgium, as we have seen, had been occupied by Dumouriez, but his army was far from ready for battle. As Jean Dellard admitted, for example, ‘Still a novice when it came to the art of victory, our army could offer no other barrier to the forces of the coalition than its love of liberty and devotion to the Fatherland.’14 This, however, was not enough, and all the more so as there were plenty of French soldiers who actually were full of gloom at the idea of the new campaign. Pierre Girardon, for example, was the son of a landowner from the town of Bar-sur-Aube who was currently serving as an aide de camp of General François Drouot de Lamarche. Hitherto an ardent Jacobin, 1793 found him a worried man. As he wrote to his brother on 11 January: If we have a change of clothes . . . to put on, we consider ourselves to be very happy: at this moment there are plenty of people in the army who are going about entirely naked . . . As for making war, we need bread, corn and hay, all of which are lacking.15 A few days later, meanwhile, he had become downright despondent, if at the same time a little whimsical. To quote a further letter written to his brother on 30 January: We are facing a terrible war . . . Rivers of blood are certain to flow on both sides . . . The women, then, are certain to suffer: there won’t be enough young men for all of them to get married. If they had any wit, they would share each of the ones that are left with a group of two or three others: perhaps they could have the fellow a week at a time in rotation . . . For some days I have been very pensive, in a world of my own even, and I am not afraid to say my head is full of the darkest thoughts . . . I have taken up the cause of the nation and will continue to sustain it to the end. That said, saying such things is all well and good when one is knocking back the best of wines in some bar: one has to be able to say it in the face of the enemy. Without that we are done for: what we did in the last campaign was but the beginning – we must be prepared for episodes of far greater violence.16 Such doubts, perhaps, come as a surprise, but the fact was that on the ground the reality of the Republican war effort was all too clear. To make matters worse, the whole basis of the campaign was open to question. To quote Paul Thiébault: On 1 February the Convention had declared war against England and Holland and had ordered the conquest of the latter country. Such an operation . . . could only be carried out after crossing three great rivers . . . [and] would bring our left to Amsterdam while our centre and right were . . . seriously threatened and . . . an Anglo-Dutch army of 40,000 men on the march against our left. I have never been able to understand how the Convention . . . could have dreamt of such an enterprise.17 Himself blinded by ambition nearly as overweening as the overconfidence of the Convention, Dumouriez duly pushed north into Holland where he quickly took a number of fortresses such as Breda, whilst another French force, commanded by a Spanish exile named Francisco de Miranda who eighteen years later was to become the leader of the revolt of Venezuela against Spanish rule, besieged Maastricht.18 However, left to their own devices, some 40,000 Austrian troops were soon marching into Belgium under Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Attacked by overwhelming numbers outside Maastricht on 27 February, Miranda was completely routed. Amongst the men caught up in the desperate scramble to escape the disaster was Louis Bricard:

Saving the Revolution  97 We set off in the dead of night to the accompaniment of a howling wind. So bad was the noise and so intense the darkness that we could neither hear nor see even the men who marched on either side . . . In the end we managed to get across the Meuse . . . by means of a bridge of boats . . . From there we marched to Tirlemont amidst scenes of the utmost disorder: everyone regarded himself as being his own master, and it was a matter of devil take the hindmost, and the soldiers would no longer obey. As for the countryside through which we passed, it was pillaged – nay, ravaged – by the army’s many stragglers.19 Dumouriez in consequence had no option but to retreat. There being plenty of French troops in Belgium, the victor of Valmy could easily have assembled an army big enough to turn the tide, but instead he compounded his errors by attacking the Austrian army straight away with such men as he had ready to hand. Fought at Neerwinden on 18 March, the battle that followed was a disaster. Possessed of a numerical advantage of only perhaps 5,000 men, Dumouriez was thrown back with heavy losses and forced to withdraw in great disorder in the face of vigorous Austrian counter-attacks, perhaps half his surviving troops deserting over the next few days. For the French army it was a traumatic experience: The cannonade did terrible damage: each shot would strike down an entire file in the first line of units, and then do the same in the one behind; already the ground was covered with dead and wounded . . . We now saw a large force of cavalry advancing towards us supported by a large number of pieces of light artillery. At once disorder took hold of our ranks, and this allowed the horsemen to force their way in amongst the infantry and set about putting them to the sword. Luckily a number of twelve-pounder guns had just come up together with some howitzers . . . and these directed such a fire on the enemy that they were forced to fall back, leaving the battlefield strewn with a large number of men and horses . . . Never had we seen so murderous a fight: the houses, the streets and the gardens were all full of dead bodies.20 Beaten again on 23 March at Pellenberg, the French commander negotiated a convention with the Austrians whereby Belgium would be evacuated without a fight in exchange for a withdrawal to the French frontier. As if this was not shocking enough for opinion in Paris, meanwhile, a few days later, a Dumouriez increasingly disillusioned with the political situation in France, and rightly convinced that his personal ambitions lay in ruins, defected to the Allies, though not before he had sought to persuade his army to launch a coup.21 Meanwhile, things got no better, for to the west the Austrians were now reinforced by a large force of English, Hanoverian and Hessian troops commanded by the Duke of York (he of the famous ‘10,000 men’). Coming into action at Famars on 23 May, these troops immediately gained a dramatic victory. Amongst the beaten Frenchmen was Jean Dellard: Very early in the morning we set off . . . With us was a train of artillery consisting of thirty field guns . . . A quarter of a league from the point of attack, we . . . formed our eight infantry battalions, each and every one of which had a large number of raw recruits lacking in experience and enthusiasm alike, into a single mass . . . Dragging the artillery along with us, we then advanced on the enemy entrenchments with our cavalry on our left. The English and the Austrians appeared to have been warned of what we were up to, and had therefore made ready to receive us. As soon as we were within range, then, their artillery opened a heavy fire . . . whilst thirty squadrons of cavalry sallied out and deployed in battle formation. General Chapuis had ridden ahead to

98  Saving the Revolution reconnoitre the terrain, but, evidently coming to the conclusion that he had made a serious error and that the day was lost, he promptly gave himself up to the enemy. At the sight of what Chapuis was about, meanwhile, General Proteau, a man who was as imprudent as his superior was cowardly, galloped back towards the column shouting in the most discouraging manner imaginable, ‘Fall back! About turn!’ These words producing general uproar, the columns immediately turned about . . . Profiting from our situation, the enemy’s numerous cavalry immediately attacked us in force. Beset in front, flank and rear alike, the mere crowds to which we were reduced were soon suffering the most dreadful damage. As for our troops, they put up not the slightest resistance . . . In short, confusion and terror reigned supreme.22 Finally, in the Rhineland the French had also been defeated. Isolated deep in the heart of Germany, Custine had quickly had no option but to give up Frankfurt, but it might have been expected that he would have stood firm on the Rhine. This, however, proved not to be the case. Led by Friedrich von Kalckreuth and the Duke of Brunswick, a mixed force of Austrians, Prussians, Saxons and Hessians crossed the river and besieged Mainz, shutting up no fewer than 19,000 French troops inside the city.23 The events that followed were dramatic in the extreme. As we shall see, in the wake of the city’s occupation by the French, elections had been held for a national assembly, and, meeting little more than days before the siege begun, this had voted to seek union with France. The response was chilling: the city having been surrounded by heavy guns, these last opened fire, not on sectors of the ramparts that had been selected as likely spots for a breach, but rather the city itself. As Goethe (again a witness to events) noted in his journal: The twenty-eighth of June, in the night: continuance of the bombardment, the fire being directed against the cathedral; the tower and roof and a number of houses near it are in flames; after midnight the church of the Jesuits catches fire. We surveyed this fearful spectacle from the trenches in front of Marienborn: it was . . . a new sight for us, the rising and falling of the fireballs: we saw them ascending in the form of an arch as if they would strike the firmament, and when they . . . cracked asunder . . . the flames that burst forth soon announced that they had done their work.24 Direct attacks on the civilian population as a way of stoking tensions between said civilian population and the garrisons defending the towns in which they lived were not new – exactly the same tactic had been employed at Royalist-held Chester in the English Civil War – but the heightened ideological climate of the moment made it appear that the object was above all punishment, and for this reason the episode is sometimes portrayed as one more harbinger of the coming age of total war.25 Be that as it may, despite the most appalling privations, the garrison held out until 23 July, whereupon, in graphic testimony to the continuing influence and, indeed, prevalence, of older patterns of warfare, the garrison was allowed to march out with full honours of war and depart to France with the stipulation that the men concerned should not serve against the Allies for at least a full year (what interpretation the authorities in Paris employed in respect of this clause in the articles of surrender will become clear in Chapter 7).26 However, the lengthy resistance put up by the garrison mattered not a whit, for, long before the city fell, the last French forces were back on the frontier. Lamentably, however, their retreat had not been precipitate enough for the countryside to be spared one last experience of French liberation. Amongst the retreating troops was Pierre Girault:

Saving the Revolution  99 There was nothing for it but to beat a retreat as quickly as possible . . . That said, as we did so, we were ordered to strip the countryside of all the livestock we could find. Horses, cows, sheep, they were one and all driven ahead of the army. At length we arrived in a village whose inhabitants . . . had rendered us many services. However, that did not save the whole place from being pillaged. Disliking such proceedings as I did, I betook myself to a house whose inhabitants had treated me very kindly . . . my hope being that I might be able to protect them a little. More than that, I tried to keep back one of their cows . . . but in the end I had to give up and it was taken away . . . the unfortunate people concerned being left in a state of the greatest affliction.27 With the Vendée now completely out of control, the French Revolution was seemingly facing the worst crisis in its brief history. Nor was it just a question of military defeat. On the contrary, a variety of difficulties that had been simmering in the Revolutionary camp for some time now suddenly boiled over. At the root of the problem was a major split that had developed between the Brissotins on the one hand and another faction that had emerged in the Jacobin Club known as the Montagnards (literally ‘men of the mountain’, so-called because the deputies associated with them sit on the top-most tiers of seating in the Convention). As has been rightly pointed out, these two groups were not parties in the modern sense and, apart from a relatively small hard core on each side, the men associated with them were fairly loose in their allegiance and quite capable of differing from one another. At the same time Marxist attempts to identify the Brissotins and the Montagnards as being representative of rival sections of the bourgeoisie have long since been discredited: in practice, the two camps were almost impossible to differentiate in terms of social class or the sort of society to which they aspired.28 Yet, for all that, on show were clear differences in outlook. In brief, purism confronted pragmatism. In the first instance, the issue was the origins of political power in Revolutionary France. The monarchy had been overthrown by the Paris crowd: having seized control of both a large number of the forty-eight ‘sections’ into which Paris was divided for the purposes of local government and a considerable part of the National Guard, the sans culottes and their political leaders – men like the sometime priest, Jacques Roux; the postal official, Jean Varlet; and the wealthy brewer, Antoine Santerre – had played the leading role in the storming of the Tuileries, while the new commune that had been established in the course of the uprising was also very much under their thumb. Pleased though they were by the coming of the Republic, the Brissotins could not but look askance at this development: in most cases at least, men of some means, they could not but fear the radicalism of the crowd, whilst they saw, too, that the Revolution was not just a Parisian movement but rather a national one – that the people of Paris, indeed, were not co-terminus with the people of France. Very soon, then, cracks had begun to appear in the Republican camp in that the Brissotins succeeded in placing the task of deciding what sort of régime France should have in the hands of a national convention elected by a complicated system of indirect suffrage that favoured the propertied classes, and, still worse, exploited this success by setting up a constitutional committee forged in their own image that proceeded to elaborate a document of a very moderate sort. Having thus compromised themselves with the sans culottes, within a very short time the Brissotins had done so again, the issue on this second occasion being the trial of the hapless Louis XVI. Still secretly hoping to limit the war to Austria, the Brissotins would in many instances gladly have spared the life of the erstwhile king, and, faced by the implacable determination of the radicals to put him to death, they tried once again to turn to the country as a whole, first demanding that the whole issue of a trial should be submitted to a referendum, and then trying more or less the same tactic with regard to the eventual death sentence.29

100  Saving the Revolution In all this, there was much in the way of prudence and humanity alike, but little in the way of practical politics, in proof of which all those deputies who had voted for the acquittal of the king now found themselves expelled from the Jacobin Club. Just as stark, meanwhile, was the lack of vision that accompanied the Brissotins’ conduct of the war. Already the events of 1791–2 had shown all too clearly that war must necessarily involve an appeal to the people, and now that France was seemingly on the brink of war with all the powers of Europe, the case for such an appeal was all the more compelling. Yet all too clearly, neither commitment to the Revolution nor economic desperation were infinite in their capacity to produce volunteers, logic therefore suggesting that something more was needed. And, as to what that something was, this was clear enough: town and city dwellers would have to be offered cheap bread and the rural populace more land. Yet the Brissotins were slow to bend before this wind: not only would doing so fly in the face of the right of the freedom of property – the corollary of cheap bread was the introduction of price controls and the prohibition of grain speculation – but the victories of Dumouriez and Custime seemed to obviate any need to do so.30 At the same time, victory would see them freed from another tangle: with the Revolution constantly threatened by counter-revolution and the power of the state in sore need of augmentation, legality – indeed, the very notion of constitutional guarantees – appeared a luxury that France could ill afford, and yet the Brissotins shied away from even considering such sacrifices. For most of the Montagnards, by contrast, the situation looked very different. It was not that they disagreed with the Brissotins exactly, but they realised that the conflict with Austria and Prussia had changed everything. In 1792, fear that this would be the case had led a few of them to speak out against war in the weeks leading up to its outbreak, the most notable example being Maximilien Robespierre. But, what was done was done: all too clearly, or so their analysis continued, a deal would now have to be struck with the sans culottes, and that in short order. As Doyle says, ‘To Girondin [i.e. Brissotin] intransigence, they opposed prudence and practicality.’31 In other circumstances, the Brissotins might have been able to hold their ground, but even before the arrival of the dire news from Belgium and the Rhineland, let alone the Vendée, they were in a very difficult position. Thus, Paris was on the move again. Since 1789 the economic situation had continued to deteriorate in the capital, not least because the flight of so many nobles had undercut the market for the luxury goods which were the staple products of many Parisian artisans, whilst the assignats had become ever more worthless and the price of bread ever higher (in this respect, it did not help that the harvest of 1791 was extremely poor). Also at issue was the cost of sugar and coffee: in 1791, as we shall see, revolt had broken out in the vital colony of Saint Domingue, thereby greatly reducing the quantity of such commodities that reached France. By early 1792, then, Paris was experiencing a rash of bread riots, what the population wanted above all being price controls and with it a voice in the deliberations of those who they no longer saw as their betters: hence, of course, the political ferment that had produced the events of 10 August. Driven in part by the war and in part by the issue of ever greater numbers of assignats, prices had continued to rise, and, with them, popular discontent in the streets of Paris, whilst fuel was added to the flames by the oratory of the so-called enragés, essentially a group of ‘outs’ who, whether through sincere conviction or cynical self-promotion, took to the sections, the popular societies and even the streets to preach a message of social radicalism whose chief tenets were demands for price controls, public assistance, the payment of pensions to the families of men killed in the war, the sequestration of hoarded supplies of grain and the punishment or even execution of speculators. For all the novelty of their tactics, however, the enragés found themselves repelled by the new political establishment represented

Saving the Revolution  101 by the National Convention (a body that in terms of its social composition was no more representative than any of its predecessors): on 12 February and then again on 22 February, deputations that appeared before the deputies calling for the introduction of a ceiling on bread prices were sent away empty handed. Underpinning all this, meanwhile, was a push for the democratisation of the Revolution: with the Brissotins now being represented as, at the very least, friends of speculation, if not closet royalists, the enragés secured the support of the more radical elements of the sections and the popular societies for a move designed to remove them from the political scene altogether.32 On 12 March these latest intrigues bore fruition in the form of a rising that saw bands of National Guards and sans culottes assault the premises of a number of Brissotin newspapers. In the event, the general revolt this action was supposed to precipitate did not materialise, but, had the enragés acted but a few days later, they might have achieved more success. Thus, it was over the course of the next two weeks that Dumouriez and Custine were ejected from their conquests and revolt broke out in the Vendée. Their hand having already been forced over conscription – yet another measure that conflicted with their fundamental political principles – the Brissotins were forced to cede still more ground to the Montagnards. Thus, for the duration of the war at least, due legal process was set aside, the second half of March seeing the establishment of a revolutionary tribunal in Paris; the creation of local police committees with powers of summary arrest; and the promulgation of a decree subjecting priests, nobles, public officials and army officers caught leading or stirring up rebellion to trial by court-martial. Meanwhile, in an effort to revivify the war effort, eighty members of the Convention were sent out to the provinces and field armies as all-powerful commissars charged with the task of enthusing the populace, urging on the civil and military authorities and rooting out treason and incompetence alike.33 The extent to which the répresentatives en mission did any good has always been open to debate, but in the short term it was clear enough that they were a failure: not only did the military situation continue to deteriorate, but early April saw the defection of General Dumouriez. Faced by this situation, the Montagnards now at last moved fully into the camp of the enragés: as late as February, figures as radical as Marat had been refusing to back price controls, but now Robespierre, Danton and other spokesmen began to call not just for a ‘law of the maximum’, as the idea was apostrophised, but a wide range of other measures designed to force the rich to accept their social responsibilities. Desperate resistance on the part of the Brissotins proving unavailing and, indeed, counter-productive – an attempt to arraign Marat for sedition, for example, was thrown out by the Revolutionary Tribunal amidst scenes of wild excitement – the beginning of May therefore saw the introduction of a system of price controls, though even then it is noticeable that it took threats of another popular insurrection to get the Montagnards to act on their rhetoric: some exceptions aside, they clearly remained men driven to social radicalism rather willing soldiers in the cause. That said, confronted with what they now genuinely believed was a life-or-death situation, Robespierre and his fellows did not hesitate. With the Brissotins seemingly on the brink of recovering some ground, they now swung into action. Thus, on 31 May a large force of National Guards and sans culottes surrounded the Convention in what looked set to be a replay of the events of 10 August. Astonishingly, however, the assembled deputies, the majority of them either Brissotins or members of the uncommitted sector of the chamber known as la plaine, refused to be intimidated into authorising the demands of the rebels – above all, the arrest of twenty-two of the Montagnards’ leading opponents – and the revolt collapsed. To the conspirators, however, failure was unacceptable, and 2 June therefore saw the Convention besieged once again. This time there was no mistake, the rebels having not only mustered in

102  Saving the Revolution far greater strength than before but taken the precaution of accompanying their foot-soldiers with a large number of cannon. In the event, perhaps, surprisingly, there was no killing, but the purge was nonetheless extremely thorough: in defiance of their immunity from prosecution, twenty-nine deputies were arrested including most of the leading Brissotins. Also taken, meanwhile, were two Ministers, namely Clavière and Lebrun. It was a sad moment: as Schama laments, 2 June 1793 saw the disappearance of ‘the last scrap of pretence that the republic was founded on legality or even on representation’.34 There is, of course, a case for arguing here that the end justified the means, that what mattered was the fact that power had been placed in the hands of a faction that was not afraid to wield it and that the way had thereby been opened to the restoration of France’s position on the battlefield. In the short term, however, it actually made things worse rather than better. We come here to the so-called ‘revolt of the provinces’ or ‘federalist revolt’.35 Though sometimes lumped together with the armed resistance to the Revolution that was currently wreaking such havoc in western France, this actually represented something very different, namely not a clash between revolution and counter-revolution, but a civil war in the Revolutionary camp. In this respect, trouble had been brewing for some time in that many towns and cities had been experiencing bitter strife between different elements of the Jacobin movement or, alternatively, the Jacobins and more moderate forces aligned with the Feuillants. Thus far, thus good – one can see what looks very much like a clash between radicalism and social conservatism – but matters were not in fact so simple as in many places particular circumstances (usually particularly difficult economic problems) meant that, far from following the lead of the Montagnards or their local equivalents, the local sans culottes were rather inclined to reject them. In at least three cities – Bordeaux, Marseilles and Lyons – meanwhile, so great were the tensions involved that they had come to a head, days or sometimes even weeks, before news arrived of the coup of 31 May–2 June, though it is clear that successive reports from Paris of the ever worsening situation in the capital, and, in at least some instances, the passionate appeals for assistance issued by such figures as Vergniaud, did nothing to assuage the outrage and intransigence which came to characterise the various factions. Everywhere, meanwhile, the common factor was, first, a local Jacobin leadership that was, by turns, arbitrary, threatening and extremely aggressive, and, second, a general desire for an end to the constant turmoil or, to put it another way, a return to normality. In these circumstances, the arrest of the Brissotins constituted the last straw, and there therefore followed a series of revolts against the authority of Paris: on 7 June the scene was Bordeaux; on 9 June Caen; on 11 June Montpellier; on 15 July Toulon. Yet it cannot be stressed too much that sympathy with the Brissotins was not the root of all evil: Lyons had not waited on the news from Paris, exploding into revolt on the very day the Montagnards moved on the Convention, while trouble in Marseilles began as early as 27 April.36 The extent of the military challenge which all this posed to the government in Paris was not very great, whilst claims that over sixty of France’s eighty-three departments were in a state of open revolt are wildly exaggerated: in fact only something over forty departments even protested verbally at the purge of the Convention, whilst, in most of the few areas that took up arms, the insurgents melted away as virtually as soon as loyal troops hove into sight. Only in Lyons and Toulon were things any different, in the former, because the city’s isolation deep in the heart of France meant that the news of the collapse of almost all the revolts elsewhere reached it so late that the time had long passed when there was a serious chance of negotiating a settlement with the vengeful Montagnards and, in the latter, because the city’s massive fortifications gave the insurgents a false sense of security. In both

Saving the Revolution  103 places, meanwhile, there were substantial supplies of arms, whilst the initial leadership was joined by a number of serving and retired officers who were in reality closet royalists who had everything to gain by stiffening the cause of resistance. Finally, reduced to the utmost penury by the collapse of the silk industry, on the one hand, and naval construction, on the other (Toulon, of course, was one of France’s principal naval bases), much of the crowd remained solidly behind the insurrection. However, unable to carry the war to the Montagnards, the rebel leaders could only wait for the axe to fall, and fall it did, military operations starting against Lyons on 9 August and Toulon on 8 September.37 By then, however, there was an added twist to the situation: in the latter city, the revolt had originally been as solidly republican as it was everywhere else, but on 25 August Marseilles had been retaken by the forces of the government. What followed was not as bad as the scenes that were later to occur in Lyons, but it was still bad enough, the city being subjected to a brutal purge that cost the lives of 405 individuals, most of them wealthy merchants or other leading citizens.38 First port of call for those lucky enough to escape was Toulon, and the tale that they told was so terrible that the rebel leadership was shocked into accepting an offer of protection from the commander of the British squadron blockading the port, Admiral Hood, the net result being the arrival in the nick of time of 13,000 British, Spanish, Neapolitan and Piedmontese troops.39 No fewer than one-third of the French navy being moored in its port, the Allied occupation of Toulon was a major disaster. Yet, for the rest, the federalist revolt had in the end amounted to very little: only a few of the rebel leaders had much appetite for a fight, whilst the populace were but little engaged in the fate of a handful of politicians in Paris. To speak thus, however, is to speak with the benefit of hindsight. In the dark days of June 1793, matters were by no means so clear: the enemy were not just at the gates but within the walls as well. In so far as the Montagnards were concerned, then, the Revolution was in danger, and it was time to proceed to desperate measures. In the first instance, what this meant was the establishment of a revolutionary dictatorship, and Robespierre, by now the undisputed leader of the Montagnards, made this reality by seizing control of the special executive committee of the Convention created in the wake of the outbreak of the revolt in the Vendée and packing it with his supporters, whilst at the same time giving it extensive powers including, not least, the right to emit decrees on its own account, control of the memberships of all the other committees set up by the Convention and, to all intents and purposes, the ability to direct the operations of the government and army commanders alike. Known as the Committee of Public Safety, the twelve members of which this body came to exist remained subject to re-election every month at the hands of the Convention as a whole, but in practice such was its power to round on anyone who challenged its authority that this was a dead letter. As to its membership, as gradually restructured in the course of the summer, eight of the so-called ‘twelve who ruled’ – Robespierre, Couthon, Saint Just, Prieur, Saint André, Billaud-Varenne, Collot-d’Herbois and Hérault de Séchelles – were either Montagnards or men who were in some respects still more hard-line, whilst the others – Barère, Carnot, Lindet and Prieur-Duvernois – were centrists inclined to technocratic solutions and, at the least, open to persuasion when it came to agreeing with Montagnard policies.40 As Robespierre was now to emerge as the first modern war leader, it is perhaps a good idea to spend a few lines on his character. A small-time lawyer from Arras who was deeply read in the writings of the philosophes and dabbled in publication himself, he had been elected to the legislature in the elections of 1791 and won notoriety as a man of advanced democratic views, and had then served in the Paris commune of 1792 before going on to stand for election to the Convention. Here he had orchestrated the moves that led to the trial and

104  Saving the Revolution execution of the king and, as we have seen, played a key role in the coup of 31 May–2 June. So much for the bare facts, but evaluating the man is far harder, about the only thing that is absolutely clear here being that, unlike many of the Revolution’s other politicians, he was utterly incorruptible and lived in the simplest of fashions. Beyond that, however, there is much agreement that he was an extremely cold individual who had few personal friends, was suspicious of all around him and, though not personally cruel, was ruthless in his pursuit of his vision of the Revolution, a vision, moreover, which brooked no alternatives.41 That all this does not make for a flattering picture scarcely needs to be said: if Robespierre had talent in abundance, he lacked warmth, charisma and humanity alike. Nor, of course, was he a military man, much the same being true of the rest of the committee: whilst a few members, like the youthful fanatic, Saint Just, had served in the National Guard, only two – Carnot and Prieur – were army officers, and neither of them anything more than captains in the engineers. In this respect, then, it was probably just as well that, by the time that Robespierre and his fellows had entrenched themselves in power, the military situation had eased more than somewhat. Thus, federalism had been successfully contained, whilst much the same was true of the rebellion in the Vendée: as we shall see, win battle after battle though the Vendéens might, it had become clear that they could not break out of their tangled heartlands, let alone take on the forces of the Republic in open country. Also much easier was the situation at the front. In the north-east, Saxe-Coburg and the Duke of York had taken Condé and Valenciennes, but they had not pressed their advance any further thanks to the insistence of the British government that, before doing anything else, York should take heavily fortified Dunkirk, the Austrians in the meantime settling down to besiege Le Quesnoy and Maubeuge. In the Rhineland, while Mainz had surrendered, its prolonged resistance had ensured that no enemy troops had succeeded in getting across the frontier. In the Alps, the Piedmontese had reoccupied Savoy when the bulk of the French forces there had been withdrawn to deal with the revolt at Lyons, and also established a foothold in Nice, but were otherwise quiescent. And, finally, in Roussillon, undermanned and poorly supplied, the Spaniards had been unable to advance any further than the vicinity of Perpignan. The French armies, certainly, were still in disarray, but, for the time being, the Convention had been afforded a breathing space, one result of this being the undoing of Danton, who had responded to the crisis by proposing negotiations with the Prussians, on the one hand, and the provinces, on the other, and was therefore badly discredited.42 With the military threat in temporary abeyance, the initial focus was once again the domestic situation. Here the priority was very simple: in brief, the people (as defined by the sans culottes of Paris) had to be given what they wanted, there being a very strong chance that otherwise the enragés would seize control and push the Revolution still further to the left. Hardly had the Brissotins been ejected from the Convention, then, than work was underway on a new constitution which offered universal manhood suffrage, guarantees of public education, health care and social assistance, and, finally, the right to rise in revolt against the government should it betray the principles of the Revolution, all this being buttressed by a new declaration of the rights of man which went far beyond the document of the same name promulgated in 1789.43 Still more important than satisfying the political demands of the Paris crowd, meanwhile, was that of filling its bellies, and here, too, the Convention was not remiss: on 26 July hoarding was made a capital offence, though such was the reluctance of much of the Montagnard leadership to jettison the principles of free trade that it took a massive show of strength on the part of the sections on 5 September to persuade the deputies to impose the famous ‘law of the maximum’. Meanwhile, no longer was the supply of food to be left to chance: in an example eventually copied in over fifty departments, Paris was given

Saving the Revolution  105 a so-called armée révolutionnaire, the task of this force – essentially a volunteer sans-culotte militia some 7,000 strong – being to sally out into the countryside to seize hoarded grain and force the peasants to dispatch their produce to the capital.44 Important as the new constitution, the law of the maximum and the armées révolutionnaires were, they were not the only means of stealing the clothes of the enragés. Indeed, there were others that promised to be not only easier to effect but less challenging to the sensibilities of the Brissotin power base. We come here to the eradication of counterrevolution and the defeat of the armies that had invaded France. To begin with the former, one obvious way forward was a vigorous offensive against the Vendée and the federalists: hence the decision to employ the garrison of Mainz against the one and to dispatch troops against the other. However, the enemies of the Republic were not just restricted to a minority who had taken up arms: on the contrary, also to be considered were the legions of spies and enemy agents who were deemed to be lurking in every nook and cranny, not mention the numerous representatives of the ancien régime who were still at liberty. Amongst the many goals espoused by the enragés was the root-and-branch elimination of these elements, and this, too, was something in which the Montagnards were variously either happy to oblige, willing to go along with or simply unable to stop. Already the mechanisms necessary for such a purge existed in the various tribunals and police committees created in response to the revolt in the Vendée, not to mention the increasingly draconian legislation which had been enacted in respect of the émigrés and the non-juring priests, and on 17 September the way was opened for these to go into action by means of the so-called ‘Law of Suspects’, a measure which in brief threatened almost anyone with arrest and prosecution on the flimsiest of pretexts. The result was the famous ‘Great Terror’, though in Paris this began slowly enough, only 177 executions (amongst them those of Marie-Antoinette and the leading Brissotins) being carried out in the capital between the start of the purge in October and the close of the year (arrests, however, were numerous, amongst those picked up being most of the leading enragés, Roux, Varlet and the rest having long since outlived their usefulness as far as the Montagnards were concerned).45 Two places which did feel the full weight of the Terror in 1793, though, were Lyons and Toulon. Having been subjected to a long siege marked, like that of Mainz, by prolonged bombardment not so much of the walls but rather of the city’s crowded streets, Lyons surrendered on 9 October and was immediately subjected to a savage wave of repression in which some 1,900 people were put to death.46 As for Toulon, the death toll when the port was finally taken in December appears to have come to around 1,000.47 In the case of Lyons and Toulon, of course, such killings were only to be expected, whilst the dispatch of the queen and the Brissotins was also a foregone conclusion. However, what was not quite so predictable was the manner in which the concept of counter-revolution was now stretched to cover not just armed rebellion or political hostility but also honest failure: thus, an attempt by Custine to relieve Condé having been beaten off, he was summoned to Paris, put on trial and sentenced to death.48 If war was to be waged against counter-revolution at home, it was also to be waged against counter-revolution abroad. With the French armies haemorrhaging deserters and the enemy quite literally at the gates, the result was the levée en masse of 23 August 1793. Probably the most famous single measure of popular mobilisation of all time, this effectively gave the state the right to requisition whatever resources it deemed necessary, whether human or material, for the war effort and ordered the immediate conscription of all single men and childless widowers between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five.49 As before, however, this measure was accompanied by great injustice – not only did the 200,000 men

106  Saving the Revolution serving in the National Guard and the armées révolutionnaires enjoy de facto exemption on the grounds that they were already doing their duty, but the propertied classes escaped the universal character of the draft without the slightest difficulty, and that despite the fact that the practice of buying substitutes that had spared many prosperous families in February was expressly forbidden (in the wealthy Place-Royale section of Paris, for example, artisans and labourers constituted just one-third of the population, and yet they contributed two-thirds of the conscripts). In consequence, resistance flared up once again, whilst the enormous rate of desertion – at least 25 per cent – told its own tale of popular discontent. Instead of the 500,000 men hoped for by Committee of Public Safety, then, in reality only three-fifths of that amount were ever raised though this was still sufficient to increase the number of men under arms to 750,000.50 Amidst the new recruits, there were doubtless some men who were happy to march to war. One such may well have been Joseph Rousseau, a private in the Thirty-Seventh Line. As he wrote to his father on 22 December 1793: You tell me to have courage. Know, then, that I . . . am burning with the most ardent love for the Republic; and that . . . I have sworn not to leave the colours until every last one of the satellites of the despot rulers who are ranged against us have been driven from the soil of France.51 Yet, given the evident reluctance of many of the Revolution’s most committed supporters to risk their lives – an attempt to raise an élite cavalry brigade by eliciting volunteers from the membership of the Jacobin clubs, for example, produced barely a quarter of the 2,000 men hoped for52 – one cannot but feel that such men were exceptions. For most of those concerned, indeed, the moment of departure was one of complete despair. Here, for example, are Pion de Loches’ recollections of how he took his leave from Lons-le Saulnier: The day of our departure was 8 October. The rapidity with which events had succeeded one another over the past month had left me too stunned to take in my new destiny, and I all but forgot to send my farewells to my family. The letter that I sent them was filled with a resignation that was very far from what I was actually feeling . . .  We marched without order amidst the most profound silence, each one of us lost in his thoughts.53 The most that could be expected was therefore probably the sentiment voiced by a young recruit named Cognet: When we said goodbye to our parents and our friends, our hearts were heavy indeed, but, little by little, marching along to the noise of the drums diverted us from our regrets and stiffened the resolve even of the most timid . . . By the time that we arrived at [our first halt], then, we had begun to assume a warrior-like aspect . . . After two more days of marching, we arrived at Guise, if not hardened soldiers . . . then at least resigned to our fate.54 In reality, of course, boosted though it was by a frenetic campaign of propaganda, such socialisation took much longer than a few days. On 22 October, indeed, Cognet’s battalion was gripped by an outbreak of panic that spoke volumes about the combat readiness of such troops. As he wrote, then:

Saving the Revolution  107 Just as night was falling, convinced that they had spotted an enemy column that had slipped through our pickets and penetrated to the heart of our position, some raw recruits from my regiment started shouting that we should stand to arms. The result was a panic among the new battalions . . . As to the cause of all this, it seems that the authors of the alarm had mistaken some pollarded willow trees for a force of Austrian troops marching to surprise our camp. I was deeply embarrassed that a hullaballoo of this sort could have started in my battalion and, still more so, that nothing could be done to bring it under control. However, the only one of the officers who had seen any previous service was the battalion commander . . . while the others were young men . . . who owed their posts to elections and had neither experience nor real authority.55 Even before this unfortunate incident, the limitations of the new recruits had been cruelly revealed. In Roussillon, lack of numbers and supplies alike meant that the Spanish forces had become increasingly vulnerable to a counter-attack, and on 17 September a somewhat foolhardy attempt on the part of the Spanish commander, Antonio Ricardos, finally to cut Perpignan off resulted in a small French victory at Peyrestortes. Badly shaken, the Spaniards fell back from the environs of the fortress and retired a few miles southwards. Determined to eject the Spaniards from French territory, the commander of the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees, General Dagobert, followed and on 22 September made a determined attempt to drive them from their new positions at Trouillas. This, however, was easily ordered, but much less easily achieved. Despite being outnumbered by 5,000 men, the 17,000 defenders put up a spirited fight and repelled every French attack without difficulty: not only were several French infantry battalions armed only with pikes and composed of men who had only been in the army for a matter of days, but Dagobert was also badly outgunned by the Spanish artillery, the coup de grâce being delivered by a spectacular cavalry charge that flung the attackers back across the river in a state of complete rout.56 If Trouillas was a disappointment, the growing pressure on the Spaniards was not without effect, Ricardos now resolving to retreat still further to the line of the River Tech.57 Elsewhere, meanwhile, the situation was gradually getting better. In Flanders, as we have seen, the Allied invasion had been slowed down by the insistence of the British government that York should make his primary objective the capture of Dunkirk, and that commander had duly concentrated his British infantry and artillery before the walls, leaving the remainder of his troops – his British cavalry together with some 14,500 Hessians and Hanoverians commanded by Wilhelm von Freytag – to cover the approaches to his positions from the south and west. To do this, Von Freytag pushed forward some miles into the Flemish countryside, but his attempts to cover every possible approach led his troops to become spread out over a front of many miles. As can be imagined, this was a recipe for disaster. Not only were the outposts of the Army of the North only a few miles away, but it had recently received large numbers of reinforcements. Custine’s replacement, Jean Houchard, an erstwhile officier de fortune, was therefore in an excellent position to take the war to the enemy. On 6 September, then, the French commander led his men to the attack. There followed a day of confused fighting in countryside that was a maze of drainage ditches, hedged fields and small villages, but, by the end of the day, Von Freytag and his men were in full retreat. Had he renewed his attack the following day, Houchard might have won a great victory, but he held back in order to rest and regroup, and then badly mishandled matters when he did attack again on 8 September, not the least of the problems being that many of his troops appear to have lost their formation and fought entirely as skirmishers. In the end, however, bitter fighting centred on the village of Hondschoote saw the Republican forces gain a marginal

108  Saving the Revolution victory, the result being that York was left with no option but to evacuate his positions before Dunkirk and, not just that, but also abandon his entire siege train. Five days later, there followed a second success at Menin in which Houchard overcame a Dutch division of 5,000 men, but on 11 September the beleaguered fortress of Le Quesnoy surrendered to the Austrians. Still worse, on 15 September an Austrian counter-attack secured a minor success at Courtrai and drove Houchard into headlong retreat, the unfortunate French commander promptly being recalled to Paris and, like Custine before him, sent to the scaffold.58 In Flanders, then, the campaign of 1793 ended in a draw, but, in the condition in which France found herself at this point, anything better than a defeat rated as a victory. Meanwhile, further east, the situation was better still. On 30 September the Austrians of Saxe-Coburg had sat down to besiege Maubeuge, and Houchard’s replacement as commander of the Army of the North, Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, was ordered to march to the town’s relief. We come here to the first example of a phenomenon which has always been highlighted as one of the ways in which the Revolution transformed France’s fortunes.59 Thus, in brief, in 1789 Jourdan had been a haberdasher in Limoges. Enlisting in a local volunteer battalion in 1792, he was immediately elected to the rank of battalion commander for no better reason than the fact that he had fought as a private in the American War of Independence. Having distinguished himself in the battle of Jemappes, he was rapidly raised to the rank of general of division. To put it mildly, then, Jourdan’s rise had been meteoric, but he showed no signs of being overawed by the fact that he now had 100,000 men under his command. With the defenders of Maubeuge almost reduced to the point of surrender, on 15 October, he attacked the Austrian forces covering the siege. Named after the village of Wattignies, the battle that followed raged for two days. In the first day’s fighting, the Austrian commander, Clerfayt, had much the better of the engagement despite being heavily outnumbered by the French, but the next day Jourdan concentrated the bulk of his troops against the Austrian left and broke through, Saxe-Coburg being left with no option but to abandon the siege and retire across the River Sambre.60 At some 5,000 men, French losses had been very heavy. In the words of one infantryman: Our battalion suffered very badly . . . Hugon, who comes from Nozeroy, has a ball through his thigh; Carrez, from Communailles, one in his neck; and little Chauvin one which struck him just below the ear and came out through his mouth, breaking his jaw. Venier, from Mignovillard, has a badly bruised thigh . . . Ducret, from Arsurette, was shot in the foot; our drummer, one Tinnot, was hit in the knee; and the brother of a man called Magnien who lives in Nozeroy . . . got a ball in his shoulder. Plenty of men who were not from our district were left lying on the field, stone-dead, while various others were carried away, only to die some hours later.61 Yet after the mediocre results that had been achieved in Roussillon and Flanders, Jourdan could feel well pleased, and that despite the fact that much of the credit for his victory was stolen by Lazare Carnot: attached to his headquarters as répresentant en mission, the latter returned to Paris and regaled all and sundry with tales of how he had won the battle single handed that put Jourdan in such a poor light that they almost cost him his life.62 As for his soldiers, their faltering morale was much restored. To quote Pierre Girardon, who was now serving in the Fourth Hussars: The great blows have been struck: the enemy is scattered and we are in pursuit. We hit them at every point . . . everywhere got the better of them . . . [and] did not show them the slightest mercy: some of them received more than fifty blows from our sabres. Victory is complete: we have overthrown their cannon and burned all their caissons.63

Saving the Revolution  109 Next, we must consider the situation on the frontiers of the Rhineland. Here the fall of Mainz had placed the Republican forces in an extremely difficult position in that, split into two armies – those of the Moselle and the Rhine – 80,000 Frenchmen, few of whom were in much of a state to fight, faced over 100,000 Austrians and Prussians.64 Yet the Allied commanders completely failed to press home their advantage: thanks to growing differences between the Duke of Brunswick and the Austrian commander, Wurmser, for weeks nothing happened at all, and, when at last operations did resume, they almost immediately foundered in a welter of mutual recriminations. Eventually resolving to move forward on his own, Wurmser was checked at Bergzabern on 27 August, but on 14 September a French attack on a Prussian division at Pirmasens was repelled with heavy losses. Still worse, meanwhile, on 13 October Wurmser tore a hole in the so-called Wissembourg Lines, a formidable line of entrenchments guarding the frontier dating from the War of the Spanish Succession. Yet the Allies once again failed to advance, rather contenting themselves with besieging the minor frontier fortresses of Bitsche and Landau. At Biesingen on 17 November and Kaiserslautern on 28–9 November, French counter-offensives were again defeated, and that despite the fact that the attackers had a considerable numerical advantage and were led by Lazare Hoche and Jean Pichegru, both of them generals made by the Revolution (in 1789 the former had been a corporal in the French Guards and the latter a sub-lieutenant in the artillery). Not until 26 December was the situation finally remedied with the defeat of Wurmser at the second battle of Wissembourg, but long before then it was clear that the Allies had abandoned all thoughts of further aggression: the Austrians could not mount a successful advance without the Prussians, but, believing that Vienna was out to annexe Alsace and Lorraine, the latter would not lift a finger to help them. To quote the later military theorist, Jomini, then, ‘Once again the Allies . . . were treading the territory of the Republic. Yet a situation which should have redoubled their energy served only to wreck all accord between them.’65 Finally, there is the particularly difficult theatre of war represented by the Alps. In the northern sector, as we have seen, the Piedmontese had taken advantage of the revolt in Lyons to march back into Savoy, but they had not attempted to advance any further, whilst the number of troops they had been able to deploy in the territory had not been very great. In consequence, having retaken Lyons, the commander of the Army of the Alps, François Kellermann, had not had the slightest difficulty in throwing them back across the frontier (not that this did him any good: deeply suspect as a general of the old army, he was promptly recalled to Paris and thrown into prison). In the southern sector – essentially, the erstwhile Piedmontese territory of Nice – by contrast, the French had been lucky rather than successful in that an Austro-Piedmontese offensive launched in an attempt to take advantage of the siege of Toulon that might have caused them real problems had been abandoned on account of heavy snow storms, but at least the gains made by the Piedmontese had in effect been kept to a minimum.66 In the interior of France, meanwhile, the situation had also improved. As we have seen, Lyons had surrendered on 9 October, whilst, although it held out until December, Toulon was now under siege by an army whose artillery had just gained a new commander in the person of a hitherto unknown artillery officer of Corsican origin named Napoleon Bonaparte (it should be noted, however, that, fall though the city eventually did, even the future ruler of France could not prevent the British from either destroying or sequestering eighteen warships as the Republican forces closed in, not to mention torching all the naval base’s magazines and other facilities).67 In the Vendée, too, on 18 October, months of savage fighting had culminated in a major victory at Cholet, which ended in the main rebel army being driven north across the River Loire and forced to embark on a desperate

110  Saving the Revolution two-month odyssey which ended in its complete destruction. Meanwhile, the imposition of a radical agenda continued, one way in which this was apparent being the emergence of dechristianisation. Officially, the religious policy of the Convention remained unchanged from the early days of the Revolution – the Church was to be subordinated to the state, but otherwise allowed to function – but various elements of the Convention and Paris sections alike sensed that the moment was ripe to satisfy their deeply held prejudices, the autumn and winter therefore seeing a savage attack on even collaborationist sectors of the religious establishment: services were regularly disrupted, hundreds of churches closed or vandalised, the constitutional clergy subjected to intense harassment and many ordinary believers bullied or abused. Meanwhile, it was at this time that the Republic adopted its notorious secular calendar, that many towns and villages were stripped of the prefix ‘Saint’ and that the fashion emerged of giving babies classical names rather than Christian ones. Capping all this, meanwhile, was the emergence of the so-called Cult of Reason, the inaugural service of which was held in Notre Dame on 10 November.68 Implicit in the campaign of dechristianisation was very definitely a military purpose in that it was a way of inspiring hatred of the enemy and promoting solidarity with the war effort. Also central to this last, meanwhile, was the republicanisation of the army. For many radicals – indeed, for many liberals too – armies were instruments of oppression, and it was essential that the free citizens who now filled the ranks should remain just that – free citizens. Despite the bombast of politicians and journalists alike, meanwhile, it was clear that the Republican armies remained at best an uncertain quantity: even on battlefields which saw French victories, there were plenty of soldiers who had done more fleeing than fighting. The net result, then, was a sharp intensification of the propaganda campaign that had been under way since 1791. New conscripts were sent off to war to the accompaniment of banners, banquets and cheering crowds; radical newspapers flooded the army’s encampments; the représentants en mission harangued the troops at every opportunity and published pamphlets and newspapers of their own; beautifully engraved weapons began to be presented to men who had distinguished themselves; measure after measure was taken to increase the common soldiers’ sense of dignity and self-worth and soften the impact of traditional hierarchical distinctions; and Jacobin clubs tried hard to provide the troops with extra comforts and support their families (a task that was also assumed by the state, a new law passed in November promising the payment of pensions to the families of all those who died in battle). To quote Rafe Blaufarb, indeed, ‘The Republic virtually made a cult out of the common soldier.’69 Whether any of this had any effect is another matter. One of the men drafted by the levée en masse was Charles de Pelleport. As he wrote of the unit in which he was enlisted in his home town of Toulouse: Hard to manage though they were, the battalion was armed with pikes. As for uniforms and equipment, it was pointless even to dream of them. Something needed to be done, then, in respect of our courage . . . Drawn up in the Place du Capitole, we were inspected by the representative of the people on mission in the Department of Haute Garonne. I can still see this individual, and a right ham actor he was too, sporting, as he did, a hideous hat designed to make him look important. As for his sword, it was there for no other purpose than to give him the air of a soldier who had just come back on leave. Nothing was spared, in short, to create the impression of courage, but all he achieved as far as I was concerned was to irritate me enormously. After having walked up and down amongst us for a little while, he told us that the one, indivisible

Saving the Revolution  111 and immortal Republic counted on our patriotism, that the pike was the only weapon for the sans culotte, that the tricolour cockade would rule the world. Aside from some words of scorn for Pitt and Coburg, this nonsense was brought to an end by a rendition of the Marseillaise, whereupon we took the road for Perpignan.70 Such cynicism was beyond doubt widespread, but, as Palmer has pointed out, it is difficult to believe that some of this acculturalisation did not rub off on the conscripts, and all the more so once they found themselves in combat with the enemy, the army therefore becoming a veritable ‘nursery of patriotism’.71 What also helped here was a sense that the Committee of Public Safety and its representatives were labouring long and hard to make good the army’s deficiencies. Scarcely had he arrived at the headquarters of the Army of the North, then, than Carnot succeeded in obtaining 15,000 bayonets and 8,000 pairs of shoes, whilst, in Paris, Robert Lindet, another member of the Committee of Public Safety, headed a General Subsistence Committee whose task it was to keep the armies supplied with food. Conscious of the need for more arms, meanwhile, the authorities set workshops all over the country the task of producing uniforms, equipment and weaponry and, in Paris, at least, established numerous state manufactories: small-scale though many of these were, by the end of the year, they were employing a workforce of around 2,000 men. Production, meanwhile, was kept up by the imposition of a draconian code of labour laws, while dozens of France’s leading scientists were employed to advise on new techniques and pursue innovations of every sort. As for private property, the concept scarcely existed: in line with various provisions of the decree of the levée en masse, stocks of timber, coal and iron were requisitioned or, at least, subjected to compulsory purchase at rates set by the authorities, whilst a forced loan was imposed on the wealthier sections of society (payable, as it was, in assignats, this last measure brought in little in the way of finance, but it took so much paper out of the market that it did lead to a considerable recovery in the value of the currency).72 Clearly, then, France was being organised for total war. Along with this process, meanwhile, went the consolidation of political authority. If Robespierre and his closest collaborators had been prepared to go along with much of what was happening in Paris and the rest of the country, this did not mean that they were comfortable about it. On the contrary, they were but waiting for the moment when it was possible to reverse the march towards what they increasingly saw as anarchy, and, with the steady restoration of France’s military situation, that moment was now at hand. Almost from the very time of the rising of 5 September, moves had therefore been afoot to curb the more radical elements of the Revolution. With regard to the issue of feminism, Olympe de Gouges was guillotined on trumped-up charges, the various clubs that such figures as Pauline Léon had helped form shut down and the few women serving openly in the army as soldiers rooted out and sent home; with regard to the Church, dechristianisation was denounced by Robespierre and the Convention bullied into passing a law confirming the principle of freedom of worship; with regard to the Jacobin clubs, hundreds of members were denounced and expelled; with regard to the many foreign enthusiasts for the Revolution, these were frequently arrested and in some cases executed; with regard to the central committee that had been formed by the Paris sections to coordinate their activities, this was shut down; with regard to the armées révolutionnaires, these were dissolved; and, finally, with regard to the Committee of Public Safety, this was effectively given dictatorial power.73 It should not be thought that all this brought much change to the character of Revolutionary rule. Certainly, there were no more examples of the sort of slaughter seen in Lyons or Toulon, let alone the even greater atrocities witnessed, as we shall see, in the course

112  Saving the Revolution of the repression in the Vendée: though the majority of the victims of the guillotine had yet to perish, hereafter, those who died were for the most part members of either dissident Revolutionary factions or representatives of institutional counter-revolution (essentially the Church and the nobility). Moreover, the instigators of some of the worst excesses were recalled to Paris and in some cases even arrested. But there was no backing away from ruthlessness, no abandonment of the instruments of Terror and no retreat from the policy of giving the populace something to fight for. Thus, in the army, représentants en mission such as the utterly fanatical Louis Saint Just adopted the most ruthless measures against men who they decided were cowards, defeatists, incompetents or counter-revolutionaries, whilst also clamping down hard on not just mutineers and deserters but also, in at least some cases, men guilty of pillage.74 In the Convention, at the instigation of the same Saint Just, now back in Paris as president of that body, laws were introduced which opened the way for the confiscation of the property of all those guilty of any form of sedition or counter-revolutionary activity and its redistribution among the politically-deserving poor.75 In Paris, a variety of factors determined Robespierre on a savage purge which, along with many priests and nobles, wiped out, on the one hand, the radical faction headed by Hébert and, on the other, the more moderate group headed by Danton and Desmoulins who were calling for what amounted to moves in the direction of social conciliation.76 And, in France as a whole, most churches remained shut until Robespierre reopened them for the purpose of a new religion – the so-called ‘Cult of the Supreme Being’ – devised by himself which he brought in as a replacement for Catholicism in May 1794.77 In short, it was very much a case of plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose, the only difference being that policies that had hitherto been driven from below were now being driven from above. What, though, of the French Revolutionary Wars? By this point, of course, all chance that the Revolution could have been overcome by military means in short order was long since dead. Before concluding this chapter, however, we have to consider what saved the Convention from the dreadful dangers that appeared to be on the point of overwhelming it in the summer of 1793. The Revolution had been saved and at the same time given a completely different direction, and it would be very tempting to argue that these two processes were firmly linked. At almost every point, however, the traditional thesis does not really work. To pretend that the triumph of the Montagnards made no difference whatsoever would be ridiculous: for example, if the levée en masse did not immediately provide the Republicans with large numbers of fresh troops – Dellard is probably not atypical when he says that he saw none of the new levies until well after the campaign of 1793 had come to an end78 – it undoubtedly brought new hope to the politically committed, just as the copious employment of propaganda, not to mention the radical policies first espoused by the enragés and then taken on board, however reluctantly, by the Convention, may have encouraged some soldiers to accept their lot and possibly even to fight harder than would otherwise have been the case. Yet, setting aside the fact that large areas of France had to be dragooned into giving up their young men, to the end, morale on the battlefield was uncertain. As one conscript wrote of his first action, for example, At the first whistle of a ball, the battalion disintegrated. I myself stuck to my post as rigidly as any Russian, which I suppose was better than nothing. The battalion commander, a man who went about sounding like a talking tactical manual, disappeared and did not return till the next day.79 Then, too, we have the représentants en mission: whilst some of these men did well in 1793 – at their best they stiffened the backbone of those around them, there being no doubt, for

Saving the Revolution  113 example, that Saint Just succeeded in rallying the Army of the Rhine – the bullying and high-handed methods to which too many of them resorted played a major role in the origins of federalism.80 And finally, there are the generals. In this respect, 1793 was certainly marked by a definite move in a direction which ultimately gave the French armies a considerable advantage over their opponents, namely the employment of ‘new’ men who owed much, if not all, to the Revolution. Out had gone Dumouriez and Custine, and in had come figures like Houchard and Dagobert, both of them ageing subaltern officers in 1789, and Carteaux (the general who had commanded the siege of Toulon), Hoche and Jourdan, of whom the first had been a painter, the second a corporal and the third a shopkeeper. And yet, of these five, only Jourdan had been an unqualified success, and even then, if his use of columnar attacks had eventually triumphed at Wattignies, the use of the very same tactics by Dagobert at Trouillas had proved a failure: refusing to be overawed by the charging French columns, the despised slaves of Spanish despotism had calmly shot them to pieces and then swept them away with sword and bayonet. In short, then, it is hard to make a ‘political’ case for the survival of the Revolution in 1793, what really mattered rather being the mistakes and limitations of its opponents. Beginning with the home front, we find a Vendeén insurrection that was able to raise substantial armies but could never muster the training or equipment necessary to take the port that might just have been its salvation; a Breton guerrilla insurgency that never came close to equalling the achievements even of the Vendéens; and a few scattered foci of political opposition that eventually took up arms but could not obtain the popular participation that would have been necessary to allow them to gain a measure of success. As for the Republic’s external opponents, the émigrés were never more than a negligible force that was incapable of independent action; the Spaniards lacked the strength even to besiege Perpignan, let alone advance beyond it; whilst the Prussians had kept most of their forces in the east a year previously so as to ensure that they did not lose control of the substantial gains that they made in the second partition of Poland in 1792, and were suspicious that a good Austrian showing in the campaign against France could lead to unfavourable territorial changes in Germany, including, most specifically, the much-dreaded Bavarian exchange. At least, the Spaniards and the Prussians had joined the fighting, however: by contrast, for all that Catherine the Great was amongst the loudest of the European monarchs when it came to denouncing the Revolution and had been at war with France since March 1793, she had not sent a single man to help France’s enemies. To all intents and purposes, this left the British and the Austrians. Neither were especially well commanded (though Saxe-Coburg had a distinguished record in the recent war against the Ottoman Empire and was certainly not a mere nonentity), and yet Famars and Neerwinden showed that they were more than capable of defeating armies of the sort that the French could field in 1793. Invading France was harder than driving the French from Belgium, for, ever since the days of Louis XIV, the frontiers of Flanders, Artois and Picardy had been studded with formidable frontier fortresses that barred every avenue of invasion. To advance into the heart of France, it was not necessary for them all to be taken, however, and, at the cost of considerable time and effort, Saxe-Coburg succeeded in creating the gap he needed by taking Condé, Valenciennes and Le Quesnoy. However, just at the moment of success, the Duke of York was pulled aside by the British government and forced into moving on Dunkirk, and so the opportunity was lost. Equally, and in many ways still worse, in the Rhineland and Alsace, victory had been thrown aside by a combination of the personal quarrels of Brunswick and Wurmser, and Prussian suspicions of Austrian aggrandisement. In short, if the Revolution was indeed saved in 1793, it was saved by its enemies. ‘How many times has it been repeated’, wrote

114  Saving the Revolution Thiébault, ‘viva voce as well as in writing, [that] “without generals, without officers, without soldiers, we beat all the armies of the world”? Nothing can be more ridiculous or untrue. But for the systematic slowness of the Austrians, we should have been beaten ninety-nine times out of a hundred. They alone saved us by giving us time to make soldiers, officers, generals.’81

Notes 1 Saint-Cyr, Mémoires sur les campagnes des Armées du Rhin et de Rhin et Moselle, I, pp. 19–21. 2 Cit. G. Bompard (ed.), ‘Lettres du Général [Riel de] Beurnonville (Armée de la Moselle, 1793)’, in Carnets de la Sabretache, 21 (1913), pp. 687–8. A lieutenant in the Bourbon army, Riel had rallied to the Revolution and become the commander of the detachment of the National Guard raised by his home municipality. Appointed to the command of a division in the autumn of 1792, he was invited by the tiny village where he had grown up – one Beurnonville – to take its name as a mark of its esteem. Meanwhile, not the least of the problems faced by Riel and other commanders was that the uniforms and equipment issued to many of the Volunteer battalions had been shoddy in the extreme, having been manufactured on the cheap by contractors out to maximise their products. E.g. N. Alzas, La liberté ou la mort: l’effort de guerre dans I’Hérault pendant la Révolution (Aix-en-Provence, 2006), pp. 34–5. 3 J.B. Antoine (ed.), Mémoires de Général Baron Roch Godart, 1792–1815 (Paris, n.d.), p. 9. 4 Maricourt, Mémoires du Général Noguès, pp. 52–60. 5 Cit. Bompard, ‘Lettres du Général Beurnonville’, p. 696. 6 Girault, Mes campagnes sous la Révolution et l’Empire, pp. 25–6. 7 A. Pion de Loches, Mes campagnes, 1792–1815, ed. M. Chipon and L. Pingaud (Paris, 1889), pp. 2–3. 8 Bertaud, Révolution armée, pp. 99–102; J. Gallaher, ‘Recruitment in the district of Poitiers, 1793’, French Historical Studies, 3, No. 2 (Autumn, 1963), pp. 246–67. 9 For a wide-ranging discussion of resistance to conscription in France that looks not just at 1793 but the whole gamut of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period, see A. Forrest, Conscripts and Deserters: The Army and French Society during the French Revolution and Empire (Oxford, 1988), pp. 43–73. Meanwhile, C. Munford, ‘Conscription and the peasants of the Morvan district of Chateau Chinon, 1792–1794’, Canadian Journal of History, 3, No. 2 (September, 1968), pp. 1–18, is a useful case study. 10 Soult, Mémoires du Maréchal-Général Soult, I, pp. 18–19. 11 Maricourt, Mémoires du Général Noguès, pp. 64–5. 12 Alzas, Liberté ou mort, p. 66. 13 Bourgoing, Souvenirs militaires du Général Comte de Lorencez, pp. 4–6. For a general account of the Spanish invasión, see Phipps, Armies of the First French Republic, III, pp. 133 14 Dellard, Mémoires militaires, p. 12. Reading between the lines, we may infer from this that Dumouriez’s troops were low on arms and training alike. However, the Army of the North had probably been the most politically fervent force the Republic possessed in 1792, and it is therefore possible that that at least a measure of ideological commitment had survived the winter. To quote a letter written by Joliclerc to his mother on 23 July 1793, ‘Hearing that you are worried about me gives me greater distress than all the privations to which I am exposed put together . . . However, you should rather rejoice: either you will see me return covered in glory, or you will have a son . . . who knew how to die in the defence of the Fatherland.’ Cit. Jolicler, Joliclerc, volontaire aux armées de la Révolution, p. 103. 15 Cit. L. Morin (ed.), Lettres de Pierre Girardon, officier barsuraubois pendant les guerres de la Révolution, 1791–1799 (Bar-sur-Aube, 1898), p. 28. 16 Cit. ibid., p. 30. 17 Butler, Memoirs of Baron Thiébault, I, p. 153. 18 A figure as vainglorious as that of Dumouiriez, Miranda was not the most competent of commanders. However, the failure to overcome Maastricht was not just the result of his many failings. To quote one eyewitness, ‘There were not enough guns, powder was lacking and many of the cannon-balls were found to be of the wrong size. As for the enemy, the émigrés who formed the garrison fought extremely hard and aimed their pieces with deadly accuracy . . . I saw men who had climbed up onto the parapets of the trenches cut in two, while the liberty trees the soldiers had erected were all beaten to the ground.’ Vinet, Mémoires du Comte Belliard, I, p. 101.

Saving the Revolution  115 19 Bricard and Bricard, Journal de Cannonier Bricard, pp. 31–3. 20 Ibid., pp. 402. In view of the many claims we have noted to the effect that the Austrian army was lacking in offensive spirit, the ferocious counter-attacks faced by the French at Neerwinden are particularly worthy of note. 21 In fairness, in the wake of Neerwinden, Dumouriez had some reason to fear for his safety. To quote the future marshal, Etienne Macdonald, then a regimental commander in the Army of the North, ‘We soon had news of . . . Dumouriez’s retreat. His enemies declared that treason had been at work: from that moment he was lost and the important services he had rendered in Champagne, Belgium and Fanders were forgotten. Such is the fate of men who serve revolutions!’ Rousset, Recollections of Marshal Macdonald, p. 143. A side effect of his defection, meanwhile, was growing pressure to purge the officer corps of every member of the nobility still to be found in its ranks. Pursued with considerable vigour as it was, by the end of 1793, this policy had led to the suspension of some 296 generals alone, of whom some fifty-three appear to have been executed. It was not just the generals who suffered – many more junior officers were also investigated – but at the lower levels of the officer corps the purge was much less thorough. Lynn, Bayonets of the Republic, pp. 79–83. As to the effect on the quality of officer corps, this is unclear: whilst there was clearly some loss of talent, to assume that it led to a massive improvement is to assume that the noble element of the officer corps was disproportionately incompetent, this being something for which there is not the slightest evidence. 22 Dellard. Mémoires militaires, pp. 19–20. 23 Custine scarcely distinguished himself in this campaign, but in his defence, Soult, whose regiment formed part of his army, points out that he was outnumbered by more than two to one, and at the same time badly hampered by the activities of the three représentants en mission who had been sent to his headquarters. Soult, Mémoires du Maréchal-Général Soult, I, pp. 23–4. 24 Goethe, Campaign in France, pp. 318–19. Inside Mainz conditions were horrific. Herewith the account of a Volunteer of 1792 named Vaxalaire: ‘Bombs, shells and cannon-balls fell on the town like so much hail. We soldiers had enough to complain about, but for the townsfolk things were far worse, for it was their houses that were being flattened, their possessions which were going up in flames. At the same time, they were in far more danger of losing their lives than we were, for when the enemy’s fire reached a level which it was impossible for us to bear, we were allowed to take shelter in the casemates beneath the ramparts . . . though the smoke from the explosions got in through the various openings and created such a fug that many of us fell sick.’ H. Gauthier-Villars (ed.), Mémoires d’un vétéran de l’ancienne armée, 1791–1800 (Paris, n.d.), p. 23. 25 The deliberate bombardment of the civilian population was not the only example of hard-line behaviour on the part of the Allied commanders, as witness, for example, their refusal to accede to the governor’s request that all non-combatants should be granted safe passage from the city. Picard and Paulier, Mémoires et journaux du Général Decaen, I, pp. 18–19. 26 The situation to which Mainz was reduced is described at length by Decaen: ‘Every magazine of supplies that was not situated underground . . . had fallen prey to the flames, while the cathedral and a great number of other buildings had suffered the same fate. The building which had been used to prepare various devices needed by the defenders had been blown up. The flour mills along the Rhine had all been burned by mortar bombs fired from a number of gunboats that had sailed down the river from Holland, and the workshop that had been taken over for the handmills had been rendered so dangerous that it was only sabre in hand that we could induce the workers employed there to carry out their duties . . . All those horses that were not judged to be absolutely indispensable to the needs of the garrison having long since been slaughtered, for the past two months the only ones the troops were allowed to eat were those killed by the enemy. All the tallow and lamp-oil had been consumed, and not just them but the very dogs, cats and rats . . . There were more than 2,000 sick or wounded, and the number was growing, on top of which the garrison had lost another 2,000 men killed in action or dead of disease. As for the inhabitants, not only were they in desperate straits when it came to food, but a great number of both sexes and every age been killed or wounded, the majority of the survivors having therefore taken to the cellars to avoid a similar fate.’ Ibid., pp. 44–5. 27 Girault, Mes campagnes sous la Révolution et l’Empire, p. 31. In the course of this retreat, Girault and his fellows came across a rather small soldier bent under the weight of the dead body of someone they presumed to be that of a comrade, but were astonished to discover that the soldier was actually a woman and the corpse that of her husband. Ibid., p. 28. Such cross-dressing is a

116  Saving the Revolution

28 29 30

31 32 33 34 35


common theme in writing on the role played by women in the French Revolutionary Wars, and there has been some attempt to argue that significant numbers of women took up arms to fight for the Republic. That a handful of women did enlist in this fashion, there is no doubt, whilst in 1792 an even smaller number openly joined up as women, but, as here, many of the cross-dressers had a male ally of some kind; by the early months of 1793, the Republican government was bent on eliminating women from the military sphere, and it is noticeable that in the case unmasked by Girault’s battalion no-one seems even to have considered the possibility of allowing the woman concerned to go on serving in the army. As a result, it seems safe to say that the experience of the French Revolution brought not the slightest change in the position women occupied in the military world: at best, they were tolerated in the most limited of numbers and restricted to the tasks that had always fallen to camp-followers, whether it was preparing food for their husbands or lovers or acting as sutlers or washer-women. See T. Cardoza, ‘“Habits appropriate to her sex”: the female military experience in France during the Age of Revolution’, in K. Hagemann et al. (eds.), Gender, War and Politics: Transatlantic Perspectives, 1775–1830 (Houndmills, 2010), pp. 108–206. This is not, however, to dismiss the issue of female activism: in Paris and elsewhere, hundreds of women were caught up in the mood of the moment, whilst there were persistent demands both for women to be allowed to enlist in volunteer battalions or to be allowed to form special battalions of their own. See, for example, McPhee, French Revolution, 1789–1799, p. 19; Alzas, La liberté ou la mort, pp. 109–14. Lewis, French Revolution, pp. 38–40. For the manoeuvrings of the Brissotins in the wake of the fall of the monarchy, see Schama, Citizens, pp. 644–62; M.J. Sydenham, The First French Republic (London, 1974), pp. 10–14. These charges of immobilism can, perhaps, be taken too far: on 25 August the old legislative assembly had voted through a series of measures remedying some of the more socially unjust features of the original Revolutionary settlement (it was, for example decreed that ‘national properties’ should henceforth be sold in much smaller lots) and finally putting an end to the perpetuation of the payment of feudal dues under other names. McPhee, French Revolution, p. 23. Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, p. 236. Needless to say, the ever deepening splits in the Jacobin camp were fuelled by divisions that were personal as well as political. Roland, for example, hated Danton, just as Camille Desmoulins hated Brissot. Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, p. 223; Schama, Citizens, pp. 710–14. The enragés are of particular interest because of the manner in which they made a specific effort to mobilise women. Indeed, two of them, Pauline Léon and Claire Lacombe, even were women. Schama, Citizens, p. 706. Schama, Citizens, p. 724. There are many accounts of the events of 31 May–2 June, including not least that offered by Schama (see ibid., pp. 721–4). However, for one of particular clarity and wealth of detail, see C. Hibbert, The French Revolution (London, 1980), pp. 198–201. Neither of these terms is especially helpful. Certainly, the revolt was provincial in character, but the provincial opinion was by no means unified in its opposition to the Montagnards just as the Montagnards were by no means wholly Parisian: at least some of the National Guards who stormed the Tuileries had been fédérés from the provinces. As for the idea that the revolt was federalist, this is simply nonsense: the rebels may have objected to Parisian domination of the Revolution, but they at no point envisaged anything other than a unitary state. For a discussion of this issue, see Sydenham, First French Republic, p. 16. Also subject to challenge, meanwhile, is the notion that the rebellion was a conservative reaction to the rise of radicalism: according to Antonio de Francesco, the local administrations from which the revolt sprang were as democratic as anything to be seen in Paris, the confrontation between the capital and the provinces rather arising ‘from the collapse of the existing administrative order, and from the quest at local level for an alternative power structure which was more closely reconciled with the development of popular rule.’ A. de Francesco, ‘Popular sovereignty and executive power in the federalist revolt of 1793, French History, 5, No. 1 (March, 1991), p. 99 Works on the revolts of May–July 1793 are numerous, but useful introductions are to be found in B. Edmonds, ‘“Federalism” and urban revolt in France, 1793’, Journal of Modern History, 55, No. 1 (March, 1983), pp. 22–53; P.R. Hanson, ‘The federalist revolt: an affirmation or denial of popular sovereignty?’, French History, 6, No. 3 (September, 1993), pp. 335–55; and P.R. Hanson, The Jacobin Republic under Fire: The Federalist Revolt in the French Revolution (University Park, PA, 2003). Meanwhile, see also A. Forrest, Paris, the Provinces and the French

Saving the Revolution  117

37 38 39 40

41 42 43 44

45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54


Revolution (London, 2004), pp. 151–6; H.C. Johnston, The Midi in Revolution: A Study of Regional Political Diversity, 1789–1793 (Princeton, NJ, 1986), pp. 222–49; A. Forrest, Society and Politics in Revolutionary Bordeaux (Oxford, 1975), pp. 109–80; A. Forrest, The Revolution in Provincial France: Aquitaine, 1789–1799 (Oxford, 1996), pp. 181–212; W. Scott, Terror and Repression in Revolutionary Marseilles (London, 1973), pp. 40–126. For events in Lyons prior to the outbreak of the siege, see B. Edmonds, Jacobinism and Revolt of Lyon, 1789–93 (Oxford, 1990), pp. 223–46. Toulon, meanwhile, is covered by Crook, Toulon, pp. 126–32. Scott, Terror and Repression, pp. 127–63. Crook, Toulon, pp. 139–41. The clearest outline of the Committee of Public Safety is that afforded in C. Jones, The Longman Companion to the French Revolution (London, 1988), pp. 88–91. Though it owed its final form to the changes pushed through by Robespierre, it had its origins in an earlier body entitled the Committee of General Defence which had been set up in January and was remodelled with the new title of Committee of Public Safety in April. Though possessed of much less power – in theory, its role was simply to facilitate the work of the government ministers – even then, in one more example of the Brissotins’ growing weakness, it was essentially a Montagnard concern. Pen portraits are numerous, e.g. Hibbert, French Revolution, p. 203; J.M. Thompson, Leaders of the French Revolution (London, 1929), pp. 215–21; R.R. Palmer, Twelve who Ruled: The Year of Terror in the French Revolution (Princeton, NJ, 1941), p. 39; Furet, Revolutionary France, pp. 143–5. For the expulsion of Danton, see N. Hampson, Danton (London, 1978), pp. 120–4. For the Constitution of 1793, see Jones, Longman Companion to the French Revolution, pp. 70–1. One point that is worth noting is that, although suffrage was now universal, it was also indirect. Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, pp. 249–51; Palmer, Twelve who Ruled, pp. 44–51. For the armées révolutionnaires, see R. Cobb, The People’s Armies: the Armées Révolutionnaires, Instrument of Terror in the Departments, April 1793 to Floréal Year II (Yale, 1987), pp. 25–43. The principle of a Parisian armée révolutionnaire had in fact been conceded by the Convention in the course of the uprising of 2 June, but nothing had been done to put this agreement into practice. Meanwhile, it is notable that this force was restricted to a size of less than one-tenth of the 100,000 men demanded by the sections. Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, p. 253. Edmonds, Jacobinism and Revolt of Lyon, pp. 282–91. Crook, Toulon, pp. 150–1. Phipps, Armies of the First French Republic, I, pp. 188–9. For a detailed discussion to the background of this measure, see S. Lyttle, ‘Robespierre, Danton and the levée en masse’, Journal of Modern History, 30, No. 4 (December, 1958), pp. 325–37. Bertaud, Révolution armée, pp. 123–39; Forrest, Conscripts and Deserters, pp. 32–4. For an interesting case study of the department of Puy-de-Dôme, see Palmer, Twelve who Ruled, pp. 134–9. Cit. Picard, Au service de la nation, p. 32. M. Kennedy, ‘Jacobin cavalrymen’, French Historical Studies, 17, No. 3 (Spring, 1992), p. 673. Pion de Loches, Mes campagnes, p. 8. A.A. Ernouf (ed.), Souvenirs militaires d’un jeune abbé (Paris, 1881), pp. 2–3. One question that is worth looking into here is the role played by Terror in the implementation of the levée en masse. If the matter is considered solely in terms of executions, the answer might appear to be very little, for the 17,000 executions estimated to have taken place in France in 1793–4 bore most heavily on ‘class enemies’ (the clergy and the nobility), rebels taken in arms, or supporters of political groups opposed to the Montagnards: many areas of the country, indeed, witnessed very few executions or even none at all. A man whom one conscript saw being guillotined at Toulouse for preaching against the levée en masse therefore seems to have been rather unlucky. That said, however, death was not the only punishment meted out by the Revolutionary tribunals, whilst the number of those arrested was enormous – possibly as many as 500,000. Opposition to conscription does not figure strongly in such analyses as we have of the indictments, but ‘sedition’ – the crime involved in almost three-quarters of those cases which have been documented – could as easily cover this as it could, say, expressing pro-royalist sentiment. To imagine, then, that fear was not a factor in the success of the levée en masse would therefore be naïve in the extreme. For a detailed discussion of the Terror in general, meanwhile, see D. Greer, The Incidence of the Terror during the French Revolution: A Statistical Interpretation (Gloucester, MA, 1966). Ernouf, Souvenirs militaires, pp. 4–5.

118  Saving the Revolution 56 Phipps, Armies of the First French Republic, III, pp. 151–9. Although the defeat had in large part been the result of the failure of his subordinate generals to give him adequate support – at least one of them, indeed, had not advanced at all – Dagobert was recalled to Paris and replaced by, first Turreau and then Doppet, but he was eventually exonerated and allowed to the Pyrenees, only to perish from illness within a few days of his arrival. Doppet, Mémoires politiques et militaires, pp. 206, 258. 57 That said, the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees was in no fit state to take the field. To quote a letter written by Doppet when he was appointed to its command in December 1793, ‘As I travelled from one formation to the next, I saw an infinity of horses and mules who had died of starvation. As for our brothers in arms, they were for the most part huddling in tents without the benefit of even a wisp of straw, and there were actually some battalions which did not even have tents . . . Meanwhile, the rain is coming down all the time, and this has not only caused some of our men to lose all spirit, but also led to many of them falling sick.’ Cit. Doppet, Mémoires politiques et militaires, pp. 211–12. By the close of the year, meanwhile, it was not just a matter of men falling prey to exposure: on the contrary, Doppet’s troops were struck by an epidemic which may have claimed as many as 10,000 victims. Ibid., p. 239. 58 Phipps, Armies of the First French Republic, I, pp. 218–45. 59 In fairness, a mere captain in 1789, Houchard could also be regarded as a case in point, but at fiftyfive he lacked the drive typical of most of his counterparts. For a portrait, see Palmer, Twelve who Ruled, pp. 84–5. 60 Phipps, Armies of the First French Republic, I, pp. 246–57. 61 Cit. Jolicler, Joliclerc, volontaire aux armées de la Révolution, p. 129. 62 Chandler, Napoleon’s Marshals, pp. 160–1. Thanks to the intervention of another of the représentants en mission posted to the Army of the North, Jourdan escaped with his life, but he was stripped of his command and ordered to retire to his home town of Limoges. 63 Cit. Morin, Lettres de Pierre Girardon, p. 38. Whilst Girardon’s regiment may indeed have been as effective as is portrayed here, in general the French cavalry were in an extremely parlous condition: hit very badly by emigration, most regiments were short of horses and badly under strength, whilst the levée en masse had not added even one new unit of mounted troops to the army’s order of battle. Kennedy, ‘Jacobin cavalrymen’, pp. 274–6. 64 The parlous state of the Army of the Rhine was later described in graphic terms by Soult. Thus: ‘Never had the army been in a worse state of disorganisation: the successive commanders who had been placed at their head had not inspired the slightest confidence, whilst the general staff was in chaos. As for the troops, they were too few in numbers to defend the positions to which they had been assigned.’ Soult, Mémoires du Maréchal-Général Soult, I, p. 63. 65 A. de Jomini, Histoire critique et militaire des guerres de la Révolution (Brussels, 1840), I, 401–2. What makes matters worse is the fact that in the period July–October the Army of the Rhine had no fewer than five different commanders. One factor in the revival of the fortunes of the Army of the Rhine that should be noted is the contribution of Louis Saint-Just as représentant en mission: having arrived at Strasbourg in late October, he spent the next two months engaged in an unrelenting campaign to improve discipline and morale and root out incompetents and defeatists. Palmer, Twelve who Ruled, pp. 182–5. 66 Phipps, Armies of the First French Republic, III, pp. 98–102. 67 For the siege of Toulon, see D.G. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon: The Mind and Method of History’s Greatest Soldier (London, 1966), pp. 22–8; B. Ireland, The Fall of Toulon, the Last Opportunity to Defeat the French Revolution (London, 2005). 68 McManners, French Revolution and the Church, pp. 86–97. For a regional case study, see Forrest, Revolution in Provincial France, pp. 223–30. 69 Blaufarb, French Army, p. 111. See also Forrest, Soldiers of the French Revolution, pp. 89–124. For a case study in one particular aspect of the attempt to use propaganda to whip up commitment to the war amongst the rank and file, see J. Lynn, ‘An aspect of the political education of the French army: the distribution of political journals, 1793–94’, Consortium of Revolutionary Europe Proceedings, 12 (1982), pp. 75–90. The role of the Jacobin clubs was twofold: on the one hand, they worked to raise morale and encourage recruitment, and, on the other, they assumed a police function, hunting down deserters and draft evaders and rooting out disaffection. Forrest, Revolution in Provincial France, pp. 292–3.

Saving the Revolution  119 70 V. de Pelleport, Souvenirs militaires et intimes du Victor Comte de Pelleport de 1793 à 1853 (Paris, 1857), I, pp. 8–9. 71 Palmer, Twelve who Ruled, pp. 80–1. Whilst one cannot argue with Palmer’s logic, it is not difficult to find examples which at the very least call it into question. Amongst the new recruits, for example, was a sixteen year-old-boy from Saint Quentin named Toussaint Trefcon who had grown up in a background of what is probably best described as genteel poverty. Already a member of the local National Guard, there was no need for him to have gone, and his decision to join a volunteer battalion could therefore be seen as a sign of enthusiasm for the Revolution. However, according to his own account, he claims only to have volunteered out of curiosity, while the winter of 1793 saw him turn deserter and go home with what appears to have been a sigh of relief. As for the idea of resuming a military career, nothing of the sort entered his head until he was called up under the terms of the Loi Jourdan, and even then he was a most reluctant soldier. A. Lévi (ed.), Carnet de campagne de Toussaint Trefcon (Paris, 1914), pp. 1–5. 72 Palmer, Twelve who Ruled, pp. 225–38. 73 Ibid., pp. 113–22; 119–28; Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, pp. 262–3. 74 I. Germani, ‘Terror in the army: representatives on mission and military discipline in the armies of the French Revolution’, Journal of Military History, 75, No. 3 (July, 2011), pp. 733–68. 75 Palmer, Twelve who Ruled, pp. 284–7. 76 Jones, French Revolution, pp. 76–7; Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, pp. 269–75. 77 For an excellent discussion of Robespierre’s views on religion, see F. Tallett, ‘Robespierre and religion’, in C. Haydon and W. Doyle (eds.), Robespierre (Cambridge, 1999), pp. 92–108. 78 Dellard, Mémoires militaires, p. 25. 79 Pelleport, Souvenirs intimes et militaires, p. 10. 80 For a helpful discussion, see Griffith, Art of War of Revolutionary France, pp. 82–106. 81 Butler, Memoirs of Baron Thiébault, I, p. 184.

5 Exporting the Revolution

Grandiloquent rhetoric and more or less abortive offensives notwithstanding, the period 1792–3 had essentially been one in which France stood on the defensive. From early in 1794 onwards, however, the situation was very different. In 1794 the French armies drove the last foreign invaders from the soil of France and recovered Belgium and the Rhineland; in 1795 they conquered Holland; and in 1796, if repelled in Germany, they overran northern Italy. Beyond doubt, this was a bravura performance, and, in consequence, it has given further ammunition to those who would argue that the French Revolution had transformed warfare and turned its army into an irresistible force. Again, however, this must be counted as an exaggeration. In a variety of ways, the army of the Republic was a powerful weapon, but it was never invincible, and in any case took some time to eradicate the problems on view in 1792–3, whilst conquering western Europe was an achievement of a scale very different from that of simply staving off defeat. As for the idea that political factors played a major role in these events, this cannot but be called into question: while their beliefs encouraged some French soldiers to fight harder, there is little evidence that propaganda weakened the resistance with which they were faced. To explain the sudden expansion in French military power, we therefore need to look elsewhere, in which respect the most important factor was beyond doubt the weakness of the First Coalition: in the words of Paddy Griffith, ‘It was not so much a case of the French winning a victory, but of the Allies losing one.’1 Of all this more in due course. In the short term, we need first to review the situation in France. Here, as we have seen, the tide had turned against the radicals, and that this was so was as clear in the military world as it was anywhere else. Nor was this surprising, for the guiding hand behind the implementation of the levée en masse was not some enragé but rather the erstwhile captain of engineers, Lazare Carnot. In some general histories, he is remembered as a brilliant soldier and, further, a moderate opposed to the more extreme policies of the Convention, but in fact neither of these ideas has much basis in fact: in the Wattignies campaign, the failure of the French attacks on the first day had in large part been the result of his insistence on attacking the Austrians on a wide front, whilst his many interventions as a deputy in the national assembly suggest that he was as single-minded in his determination to build a new France as any of his peers.2 That said, what he did possess was an excellent grasp of the measures needed to realise the massive potential represented by the levée en masse. Having secured election to the Committee of Public Safety in August 1793, for the next eleven months he threw himself into remedying the many faults in the forces of the Revolution, perhaps his greatest achievement being to realise the plan agreed by the Convention as early as February to meld the old regular army and the medley of volunteer battalions and independent legions into a coherent whole, the basic idea being that each battalion of line and light infantry would be put together with two of volunteers

Exporting the Revolution  121 to form a new unit called a demi-brigade.3 Known as the amalgame, this arrangement made for a great advance in administrative efficiency. However, still more importantly, perhaps, Carnot also put an end to the practice of forming more and more new battalions, which, as independent units, all required costly headquarters that were far too elaborate for the numbers of men concerned, and were in addition both composed entirely of raw recruits and very difficult to keep up to strength: henceforward all new conscripts were to be fed into existing battalions. In this fashion, Carnot paved the way for one of the French army’s enduring sources of strength over the next twenty-five years, namely the manner in which conscripts were inducted into life in uniform by distributing them among soldiers who, if not hardened veterans, at least had more experience than they did.4 To pretend that Carnot solved all the army’s problems would be unwise, but he did at least put it on a firmer footing than it had been in the first half of 1793. Meanwhile, equally important was his contribution to the issue of command and control. With regard to the officer corps, for example, a problematic issue ever since its introduction – many of the men elected had had no military knowledge whatsoever, whilst some had even been unable to read and write – the practice whereby units were allowed to elect their officers had already been limited, but in the course of 1794 it was abolished altogether and replaced by the principle of promotion on merit.5 As for the issue of control or, to put it another way, strategy, the campaigns of 1793 had been marred by problems of all sorts with generals constantly clashing with both one another and the représentants en mission attached to their headquarters as to how their troops should be deployed and what they should actually do: the defeat of Wurmser, for example, had arguably been badly retarded by the determination of Hoche and Pichegru to go their own way.6 To deal with this issue, Carnot effectively launched a coup against the generals by getting the Committee of Public Safety to proclaim its control of all strategy, whilst at the same time issuing a general plan of operations and attaching a special topographical bureau to the Committee of Public Safety.7 Last but not least, even in the campaigns of 1793, there had been significant improvements in the combat capabilities of the French armies. Over the winter, however, the pause in operations allowed these foundations to be built upon still further. To quote a letter written by Cognet on 15 January 1794, for example: I have to admit that up until now, whilst we have certainly been living a communal life, we have not been living a military one. All that has now changed, however. Exercises, reviews and fatigues, one and all they have to be carried out with the most strict attention to detail.8 On 11 March, meanwhile, the same observer reported a further improvement: In terms of appearance and military habits alike, we are making rapid progress: there are drill sessions twice a day, whilst we also go out on patrols that often take us close to the enemy . . . As we are constantly on the alert, our performance has been sharpened up a great deal.9 With better training and experience, of course, came better performance on the battlefield. We arrive here at the question of the tactics used by the French army. These have often been seen as having been crucial in the victories which it obtained from 1792 onwards: on the one hand, there are accounts which claim that entire battalions, divisions or even armies of French troops dispersed in open order and fought as skirmishers, overcoming their

122  Exporting the Revolution opponents by a constant hail of fire to which the latter, who were for the most part trained only to fight in close order, had no response; and, on the other, we hear of column attacks in which great blocks of men hurled themselves upon the enemy and drove them from the field by moral force alone. Yet the record of such innovatory, or, at least, semi-innovatory, methods was not good. At Jemappes, column attacks very nearly failed, not least because Dumouriez made the mistake of having his men deploy into line as soon as they came within musket range of the enemy line (a manoeuvre that was certainly specified by the regulations of 1791 as being the correct thing to do but in practice risked disaster) and at Trouillas they did fail; and the swarms of skirmishers seen at Hondschoote almost certainly reflected not a conscious choice but rather indiscipline and lack of training, the inability of Houchard’s men to cope with the difficult terrain in any other manner in fact being the chief reason why the battle proved so difficult to win. That said, there was clearly much interest in the Revolutionary army in the employment of skirmishers, and, if only because many volunteer battalions had chosen to designate themselves as chasseurs or tirailleurs in order to appropriate a degree of panache, the number of light-infantry battalions had more than doubled. However, whilst there appears to have been a continued tendency to employ light-infantry battalions whenever circumstances rendered the use of conventional tactics difficult – good examples are the defence or occupation of woods and villages – the real innovation here was the idea that all infantry, no matter what their designation, should be able at the very least to send out their own skirmishers if not to fight in open order in their entirety, the key development in this respect being a steady move towards the British practice of designating one company in each battalion as light infantry. Much thought about, too, meanwhile, was the need to coordinate the employment of infantry and artillery (a development that led to the emergence of horse artillery as an important element of the French order of battle), and the consequence was the emergence of a new system of tactics based neither solely on the use of columns nor the use of large numbers of skirmishers, but rather a sophisticated doctrine of combined arms that had few equals elsewhere.10 However, important though this was, France’s generals did not just benefit from infantry tactics that were more flexible than those of the opposition. Thus, the growing need for a combined-arms approach was matched by the adoption of a new form of organisation. For a long time, generals had been aware of the logistical advantages of breaking armies down into smaller parts – in the parlance of the time ‘divisions’ – that could march by different routes and only come together for battle. However, in the first place, these were purely manoeuvre formations in that, having rejoined the main army, they were then absorbed back into the mass, a further issue being that they were usually composed solely of either infantry or cavalry. What the Revolution now did, however, was to take the idea several steps further. Prior to 1789 one important step forward had already been taken in that the division had become a permanent feature of the French army, this last being split up in peacetime into eighteen regional all-arms garrisons under the command of a single general. Confronted by very difficult challenges inherent in the French Revolutionary Wars, it was but natural that French generals should have turned to it as a model: if French armies were unlikely to be successful unless they resorted to a combined-arms approach, it followed that they should be given an organisation that guaranteed the possibility of such an approach. Increasingly, then, every French field army was divided up into permanent divisions, each of which was composed of infantry, cavalry and artillery alike.11 Exactly as had been the case in earlier conflicts, these were expected to manoeuvre independently of one another, but, in contrast to the previous norm, once battle had been joined, they stayed together and continued to operate as a separate entity. As yet there was

Exporting the Revolution  123 little attempt at standardisation – a division might have as few as 3,000 men or as many as 10,000, whilst the number of units it contained was also likely to vary enormously – but within a short time the principle had become a fundamental feature of French armies, and not just that but an important part of their hitting power: in brief, a force organised in divisions was both much easier to manage and much more flexible than one organised in the traditional manner.12 What rendered the greater autonomy conveyed by the divisional system all the more important was that its introduction coincided exactly with the moment when the French Revolution’s impact on the officer corps came to the fore: as we have seen, not the least of the changes seen since 1794 was the rapid promotion of many men who would never previously have been able to attain high rank. Amongst the figures suddenly pitchforked into positions of command, there was certainly a degree of dross – a good example is Antoine Santerre, the Parisian beer magnate who secured a colonelcy in the National Guard and featured very briefly in war in the Vendée13 – but the reality was that, whilst such disasters were prominent, there were not as many as might have been expected. Thus, the new generals were for the most part not men plucked from the ranks of civilian society. Whilst these did exist – Jourdan was the first to become prominent – the lowerranking officers and rank and file of the Bourbon army were far more important, with the former very much in the majority (of eleven army commanders in June 1794, only one – Jourdan – came from civilian society, while, of the other ten, no more than three had started life in the rank and file). In so far as their advancement was concerned, political connections of one sort or another certainly helped, but neophytes they were not.14 One and all, such men were hungry for fame and advancement, and perhaps all the more so because, contrary to the usual image, many of them were far from young, while the shadow of the guillotine was always there to remind them of the consequences of failure. At the same time, the changing nature of the army meant that they could not rely on deference, but rather had to obtain the respect of their men. Not for nothing, then, did Rothenberg write of the marshals of Napoleon that they ‘all . . . had one common quality, conspicuous physical bravery’.15 Following the second battle of Wissembourg, the guns had temporarily fallen silent. However, with the coming of spring, fighting began again on 6 April with a massive offensive against the Austrian and Piedmontese troops occupying the Maritime Alps. Now known as the Army of Italy, in a plan believed to have been drawn up by Napoleon, the troops concerned split into two, one element demonstrating against the defensive positions held by the main Austro-Piedmontese army under Micheleangelo Colli around Saorgio, and the other pushing along the coast to Oneglia before swinging inland to take Colli in the rear. The results were spectacular: taken completely by surprise, within a matter of days the defenders were in full retreat for the Piedmontese frontier fortress of Cuneo.16 As this offensive came to an end, so a second started. Next to suffer were the Spaniards, who had now been reinforced by a division of Portuguese and were headed not by Ricardos, who had just fallen victim to pneumonia, but the Count of La Unión. Commanded by Jacques Dugommier, the officer who had finally secured the surrender of Toulon, on 30 April the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees fell upon the Spaniards at Boulou in what became a bitter two-day struggle. Unusually, the French outnumbered their opponents by only a few hundred, but the invaders were spread out over far too wide an area, and the result was that Dugommier was able to achieve local superiority and break through. By dusk on 1 May, then, the Spanish forces were fleeing in panic. That said, it is not clear that the French victory had anything very much to do with new tactics. To quote Lorençez:

124  Exporting the Revolution In truth, I declare that I have never known men who were more patient, more sober, better disciplined or braver in battle than the Spanish soldiers I encountered . . . Their misfortunes . . . came from their absolute confidence in their cannons, their ramparts, their endless fortifications . . . To think that an army spread out in small groups along the whole length of its line of battle, and at the same time penned up in defensive positions and possessed of only the most limited capacity of movement can fight a general with even a minimal idea of manoeuvre with any hope of success is but an illusion! Is it not evident that, however strong the line is, there will always be somewhere where it can be penetrated, and that, once this is achieved, there is nothing for it but flight?17 Having driven the Spaniards from their winter quarters, Dugommier pushed on southwards and reoccupied most of the territory that remained in their hands but, having at last reached the Pyrenees, he was checked by the same frontier fort at Bellegarde that had posed Ricardos such problems a year before: though two attempts to relieve the place were beaten off in the battles of La Junquera and San Lorenzo de la Muga, it was not until 17 September that it was finally forced to surrender, thereby opening the way for the invasion of Catalonia.18 At the other end of the front, the French had also been successful: in late July the future Marshal Moncey had launched an offensive on the frontier of Navarre, outflanked the defenders and taken the fortress of San Sebastián.19 In discussing events in the Pyrenees, we have been outstripping the narrative of events elsewhere. On the crucial northern front, 17 April had seen the forces of the Duke of York and the Prince of Saxe-Coburg advance to besiege the fortress of Landrecies, and, within a few days, the Army of the North, now commanded by Pichegru, was on the march to relieve the garrison. Fighting began on 26 April with three separate attacks on the covering forces commanded by Clerfayt, but these proved a disaster, the French being everywhere repulsed with heavy losses. This fiasco was avenged by a victory at Mouscron three days later, but, badly demoralised, the defenders of Landrecies surrendered on 30 April. Undeterred, Pichegru maintained his position and on 17 May his subordinate, Joseph Souham, defeated a counter-offensive on the part of Clerfayt at Tourcoing.20 Further east, meanwhile, furious fighting had now broken out in the area of Charleroi, where Jourdan’s Army of the Moselle (shortly afterwards renamed the Army of Sambre-and-Meuse) had embarked on attempt to drive back the Austrian forces holding the left bank of the River Sambre. In three separate actions, however, the French were thrown back. Amongst the men caught up in these fruitless attacks was the same Cognet we first met marching to war in the wake of his conscription: Sheltered by a terrible downpour that had been coming down since the previous evening, the enemy launched a vigorous attack on us . . . yesterday afternoon and broke our centre . . . We stood to arms immediately, but our flank was in the air . . . and the result was that we could not hold our positions for very long. Most of our skirmishers were quickly cut down and . . . had it not been for the order to retreat, we would have been gravely compromised by an enemy cavalry charge. At first the withdrawal was carried out in good order, but then we saw our cavalry heading for the bridges at top speed to get clear of the enemy. At this the retreat became a rout, and our brigade arrived at the bridge of Jeumont in the most complete disorder . . . Here took place the saddest episode of the defeat. To die in combat, is but to do one’s duty, but to die without honour, miserably crushed to death against the parapet of some bridge or drowning in an attempt to escape by swimming for it, is the height of misfortune. Yet such was the fate

Exporting the Revolution  125 of too many of my comrades . . . How many men were missing when it came to taking a roll-call! All the units in the brigade had suffered to some extent or other, while my own battalion had lost almost a quarter of its strength.21 Even when the French got across the river on 30 May and settled down to besiege Charleroi, the Austrians were still not finished: on 16 June a massive counter-attack at Lambusart broke part of the force covering the siege and forced Jourdan to pull back south of the Sambre. Undeterred, and perhaps spurred on by the presence of Louis Saint Just, who was once again acting as a répresentant en mission, within a few days Jourdan was on the move again, this time striking east in the direction of Namur. Taken by surprise, the Austrians were slow to react, and the French commander was therefore able to close in on Charleroi once more, the garrison of which laid down its arms after only the briefest of resistance. Unbeknownst to them, however, a large relief force was nearby under Saxe-Coburg, and on 26 June there followed the battle of Fleurus. One of the biggest clashes of the conflict to date, this saw some 80,000 French troops pitched against only 60,000 Austrians, whilst Jourdan’s advantage was reinforced by the facts, first, that he was fighting on the defensive and, second, that he was operating on interior lines, Saxe-Coburg’s assault being launched from no fewer than five different directions. In the circumstances, then, it was a credit to the Austrians that they performed as well as they did. Thus, both the French wings were driven in, and it is possible that the Austrian commander might have won a great victory had he possessed the strength to press home his attack, but, in the end, he had to pull back to Waterloo, a small town south of Brussels that twenty-one years later was to give its name to an even bigger battle. Amongst the troops who survived was émigré Claude Tercier, who was fighting in the ranks of the army of the Prince of Condé: Count Haddick was the general in command of our division; he was a great friend of my unit. On 25 June the entire Allied army got underway in preparation for a general attack . . . The French army’s centre and right wing were overcome. Even from some distance away we could see units of infantry and cavalry effecting their retreat. As for us, we kept advancing from one position to the next, and congratulated ourselves on the success of a battle that bid fair to put an end to so horrible a revolution . . . Finally, the French fell back across the Sambre, and we therefore ended the day feeling very pleased with ourselves . . . The next morning, however, General Haddick received an order directing him to take the Brussels road. At this news our astonishment was extreme, and we embarked on our retreat without in the least understanding what was going on.22 Dramatic though the effect of the battle of Fleurus was – utterly disheartened, Saxe-Coburg fell back to the Rhine, thereby abandoning the whole of Belgium to the French, whilst to the west the Duke of York had no option but to retire northwards to the frontiers of Holland23 – it is chiefly remembered for the fact that it witnessed the first ever attempt to use air-power in warfare, the Army of the North having been joined by a unit equipped with hot-air balloons of the type pioneered a few years before by the Montgolfier brothers. However, given, first, that the amount of information that reached Jourdan from the balloons’ crews does not seem to have been very great and, second, that the devices proved so difficult to operate in the context of a campaign that they were immediately withdrawn from service, this is but a footnote: what mattered was not the readiness of the French to dabble with new technology but the ability of the French to triumph in conventional operations. But, for the

126  Exporting the Revolution Montagnards, this last was a double-edged sword. As spring ran into summer, so the pace of the Terror had stepped up alarmingly: with Robespierre and his allies determined to safeguard national unity at all costs, in June their ability to proceed exactly as they wished was reinforced by a new law which virtually abolished judicial process altogether. With more and more victims heading for the guillotine and rumours rife to the effect that, having achieved his goals, Robespierre intended to distance himself from the slaughter by turning on the very functionaries with most blood on their hands on the grounds that they had gone too far, the result was inevitable: if France, as Fleurus suggested, was in a position to defend herself, the need for the emergency measures of the past year was clearly at an end. On 27 July, then, Robespierre was denounced in a stormy session of the Convention. Hearing of what was afoot, the Commune tried to organise a coup, but its forces melted away, and the small hours of 28 July saw the leading Montagnards arrested at the Commune’s headquarters in the Hôtel de Ville, Robespierre, Saint Just and eleven of their confederates being executed without trial the next day.24 Though many of its leading members had died with Robespierre, the Committee of Public Safety survived, but its powers were greatly restricted while moves were put in train for the elaboration of a new constitution. Thus was born the new period of the Revolution’s history, known – from the month of the Revolutionary calendar in which it was initiated – as the Thermidorian reaction, and with it a steady retreat from the democratic ideals voiced by Robespierre. That said, any thought that Thermidor might produce a more conciliatory foreign policy proved stillborn, not least because, having shifted the Revolution to the right, the men behind the coup were in desperate need of legitimacy.25 To make matters worse, meanwhile, the revival of France’s fortunes continued apace: in Belgium, now commanded by Pichegru, the French advanced to the frontiers of Holland, driving York’s army before them as they went; in the Rhineland Jourdan had taken command of the Army of the Rhine and moved forward to besiege Mannheim and Mainz; and in Catalonia, albeit at the cost of the life of Dugommier, 17–20 November had seen the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees defeat the Spaniards at Figueras and seize the great citadel of San Fernando that blocked the main road south, and that despite the fact that the Spanish commander, La Unión, had strengthened his positions with a chain of no fewer than ninety-seven forts which between them mounted 250 guns. The French forces having been much harassed by irregular resistance in the mountains to their rear (see Chapter 7), the unfortunate Spaniards were treated with great savagery, large numbers of prisoners being summarily put to death: ‘Coming across a number of Spanish casualties lying on the ground, I saw one of our cavalrymen repeatedly try to drive his horse to and fro across them’, wrote one participant. ‘The animal, however, was most unwilling . . . and it therefore seemed to me that it had much more humanity than his master.’26 In more conventional times, this battle would have marked the end of the campaign of 1794, but these were not conventional times, and the victorious forces of the Republic therefore continued to take the war to the enemy. In Holland a bitter winter had set in and, pressed by the remodelled Committee of Public Safety, Pichegru used the fact that the Rhine and Waal had completely frozen over to invade. In the face of this assault, the Dutch collapsed and the entire country was overrun almost without a shot being fired.27 Holland, then, was out of the war, and in the period March–July 1795 the First Coalition was further undermined by the defection of several of its other members, namely Tuscany, Prussia and Spain: in brief, Ferdinand III of Tuscany had never wanted to fight the French in the first place; Frederick William II of Prussia wanted to extract his troops to concentrate on events in Poland (see Chapter Six); and Charles IV of Spain knew that he was facing both

Exporting the Revolution  127 bankruptcy and growing internal unrest. Henceforth, the Tuscans and the Prussians alike were to seek refuge in neutrality whilst yet cultivating friendly relations with France, but, deeply suspicious of Britain, the Spaniards took the process a step further by signing a treaty of alliance with the Republic in an attempt to reconstruct the Franco-Spanish partnership that had reigned for most of the eighteenth century.28 Meanwhile, the odds faced by France were also being reduced in another sense. Amongst the troops caught up in the rout in Holland had been the Anglo-Hanoverian army. York having been recalled, this was now commanded by a relatively obscure general named William Harcourt, and the latter deserves some credit for the manner in which he now succeeded in extricating his forces from the disaster and retreating with them to Bremen from where they were rescued by the Royal Navy in an early demonstration of the importance of Britain’s control of the sea. Yet, conducted in bitter cold, the retreat was a terrible experience which had witnessed the complete collapse of discipline in many units, and the heavy losses involved, together with the persistent difficulties which had been experienced in cooperating with the Austrians, led the government of William Pitt to abandon any idea of fighting in Europe in favour of a colonial strategy centred on the capture of French colonies in the West Indies. The way in which this change in policy worked out being discussed at length in Chapter 10, there is no need to go into it any further at the current moment, all that needs to be said here being that it was clear that a substantial British presence on the Continent had been rendered unlikely for years to come.29 If France’s diplomatic situation was much improved, meanwhile, by the end of the summer, the situation on the home front had also been consolidated by, first, the dissolution of the Commune of Paris and the sans-culotte dominated sections; second, the promulgation of a new constitution which abolished universal suffrage, established a bicameral legislature and created a five-man collective presidency known as the Directory; and, third, the abandonment of both conscription and dechristianisation. Also important was the fact that on 1 April an insurrection by the sans culottes of Paris in protest at rising food prices and the complete collapse of the assignats over the winter – the result of the abolition of the ‘law of the maximum’ and the rest of the Montagnard war economy – had been crushed, several leading Montagnards then being arrested and either imprisoned in Paris or deported to the French colony of Guyana.30 Meanwhile, the armies of the Republic were soon on the march again, the object of their attentions being the only two theatres of war in which they still face armed opposition on the Continent, namely Germany and Italy. In Germany progress was minimal – thanks to bitter rivalry between Pichegru (now in command of the Army of the Rhine and Moselle) and Jourdan, the Austrians and their remaining allies among the minor German states were able to maintain a substantial bridgehead in the Rhineland and, in an episode that has often been put down to treason on the part of Pichegru, not just that but retake Mannheim and inflict a heavy defeat on the French troops blockading Mainz31 – but in Italy an offensive that was launched against the Austrians and Piedmontese in the Maritime Alps by Barthélemy Scherer in late November brought a further victory at the battle of Loano.32 As 1795 moved into 1796, so the Directory continued to pursue its aggressive policies. In brief, a three-pronged strategy was adopted. Whilst the bulk of the French armies struck eastwards in Germany, recently promoted to the command of the Army of Italy, Napoleon Bonaparte would march on Milan and then invade Austria by way of the Tyrol; meanwhile, the troops in the west of France having been in large part freed up by the end of resistance in the Vendée (see Chapter 7), they would be sent to attack Britain by sea. Finally, with many units desperately short of strength due to the collapse in recruitment since the

128  Exporting the Revolution abandonment of conscription, the army was reorganised in preparation for the new wave of hostilities, the 211 demi-brigades of line infantry that had resulted from the amalgame of 1794 being reduced to just 110 (interestingly, however, in testimony to the importance of skirmish tactics in the French armoury, and, possibly at least, the greater ability of élite units to hang on to their men, the thirty-two demi-brigades of light infantry only suffered two losses).33 It was not, however, a reshuffling of the army’s manpower that was to make the difference to the campaign of 1796, but rather the advent of Napoleon Bonaparte as an army commander. Though we have met the young Corsican once or twice before, it is now time to introduce the figure who was to dominate the latter part of the French Revolutionary Wars. So often has the story of Napoleon been recounted, not least by the current author, that it is wearisome to have to do so yet again. However, in brief, the salient points are as follows. The scion of a prominent family of the Corsican nobility, Napoleon was born in Ajaccio in 1769, a few months after the collapse of Corsica’s long struggle for independence in the face of French invasion. Though a close ally of the Corsican leader, Paoli, Napoleon’s father chose the path of collaboration, and this secured the young boy an entrée to the system of military academies established in the latter years of the ancien régime. Though he was duly commissioned into the artillery in 1786, Napoleon emerged from this process an embittered and unhappy young man: often homesick during his years of schooling in France, he appears to have deeply resented the more aristocratic elements among his fellow cadets and to have been something of a lone wolf who sought refuge in reading the histories of the great commanders of the past. From an early age, then, Napoleon aspired to finding fame and fortune on the battlefield, but initially the context of these dreams was solidly Corsican: sickened by his father’s collaboration with the French, Napoleon’s desires were centred on liberating his homeland and becoming a new Paoli (a figure who had combined military prowess with the reputation of a great law-giver and administrator). Determined, as he was to free Corsica, it is hardly surprising to find the young artillery officer sympathising with the Revolution, but it was not France with which he was concerned, and in fact he spent most on the period from 1789 to 1793 on leave in Ajaccio, where he devoted himself to securing the leadership of the reborn liberation movement. However, these efforts not only did not bear fruit but eventually attracted so much ire that in June 1793 he was forced to flee into exile in France along with his entire family. Almost immediately caught up in the federalist revolt, through sheer good fortune Napoleon then secured the command of the artillery deployed before Toulon and played the key role that we have already noted, and then for some while remained on the staff of what now became the Army of Italy. Various vicissitudes notwithstanding, by the autumn of 1795, he was serving in Carnot’s new topographical bureau in Paris and was, in consequence, once again fortunate enough to be in the right place in that October saw a rising in Paris in protest against the various measures that had been taken to ensure that the new assembly would include a large number of men who had sat in the Convention, Napoleon immediately offering his services with regard to assisting in its suppression, a job in which he played a key role. Having thus secured the favour of the Directory, and, in particular, its most influential member, Paul de Barras, though still only twenty-four, he was given command of the Army of the Interior. This, however, was not to his taste – it offered, after all, little in the way of glory – and by dint of a constant criticism of Schérer’s failure fully to exploit the victory of Loano, in March 1796, he was appointed to the command of the Army of Italy.34 At first sight it is difficult not to wonder whether this was something of a poisoned chalice. In the first place, the French were badly outnumbered: whereas the Austrians and

Exporting the Revolution  129 Piedmontese together numbered 52,000 men, the Army of Italy had fewer than 38,000. Still worse, meanwhile, the latter was short of artillery and cavalry, largely unshod, dressed in little more than rags, badly underfed and all but unpaid. As a result, discipline was very poor: pillage was rife and mutiny a frequent occurrence. Also at least potentially a problem was the attitude of its three divisional commanders, Pierre Augereau, Philibert Sérurier and André Masséna, all of whom were considerably older than Napoleon and possessed of much more combat experience. To get as much out of his army as he did, then, was something of a feat, and there is no doubt that the new commander’s achievement in the days following his arrival was considerable. Thus, by dint of a mixture of charm, braggadocchio and personal charisma, Napoleon appears to have won over officers and men alike and, perhaps above all, to have restored a sense of hope, even if, as may well be the case, the famous proclamation in which he implied that the wants of the army would be made good by the systematic plunder of northern Italy is a later fabrication. Here, for example, is the impression that he made upon the future General Roguet, ‘The height of General Bonaparte was below average, but his lively . . . demeanour, gracious . . . manners, imposing features . . . indefinable expression and, above all, air of brilliance, set him apart from other men.’35 Operations on the Italian front began on 11 April, a mere twelve days after Napoleon had arrived at his headquarters. According to his instructions, the main target was to be the Austrians, the Directory’s hope being that, if left to their own devices, the Piedmontese might make peace of their own accord. To the French commander, however, this was anathema for a negotiated settlement with Turin could not but reduce his opportunities for winning resounding victories. Striking northwards from the coast, the Army of Italy broke through the enemy cordon facing them at the town of Dego and defeated an Austrian force at Montenotte and then a Piedmontese one at Ceva. Falling back to the north, the Piedmontese were defeated a second time at Mondovi, the government of King Victor Amadeus then immediately suing for peace. It should be noted, however, that there was nothing remotely feeble about the resistance offered by the Austrian commander, Beaulieu. Herewith, once again, François Roguet on a counter-attack that took place the night after Dego: Assembling a corps of 8,000 picked troops, Beaulieu set out to attack us. By dint of marching all night, by the time dawn broke he was ready to advance, his efforts being favoured still further by a thick fog mixed with heavy drizzle. Scarcely had it got light, then, than the presence of the enemy was announced by the sound of gunfire . . . Taken completely by surprise and unable to put up the slightest resistance, our pickets fell back in disorder and spread alarm throughout the camp . . . A ball broke the arm of our intrepid colonel, whilst the brigade commander, General Rondeau, was also wounded. As for us, we were swept away by a jumbled mob of men of every regiment and every rank . . . every one of whom was rushing for the rear . . . the enemy then establishing themselves in the village and retaking all the artillery captured the previous day . . . Emboldened by their previous success, the enemy sallied forth from amidst the houses . . . only to be met with a heavy fire that turned back anyone who was not killed or wounded. The battlefield became a scene of carnage, but, in the end, French valour carried all before it, and Dego was carried at the point of the bayonet.36 The defeat of Piedmont, however, was but the beginning. Whilst much of Napoleon’s record is open to question, nobody can possibly question his mastery of many elements of the art of generalship. A great strategist he never was – if anything, the reverse is true – but he was a

130  Exporting the Revolution master of the operational art – the science of conducting a campaign in specific theatres of war – and grand tactics – the assessment and management of individual battlefields – alike; had a command of facts and figures that is best described as phenomenal; and was, quite simply, one of the greatest leaders of men of all time, his capacity to inspire the devotion of his soldiers being all but unrivalled. At the same time, he was also fortunate in his subordinates: Masséna is invariably reckoned as one of the greatest of his marshals, whilst his chief of staff was Alexandre Berthier, an officer of the old army of noble origins of whom even Thiébault, often a waspish and unpleasant observer, is warm in his praise: No sooner was Bonaparte appointed than he looked out for a suitable chief of staff. His choice fell on General Berthier, who was then at Paris, and it was a lucky one. Berthier had served from his youth; he had been through the American war under Washington and in all our campaigns. Besides his special business of mapping engineer, he had knowledge and experience of staff duty, and a wonderful understanding of all that pertained to war. More than anyone else, he had the gift of remembering orders as a whole and conveying them rapidly and clearly . . . Nobody, therefore, could have better suited Bonaparte, who wanted nothing but a man capable of relieving him of detail, [and] of understanding at a word what he meant, or, at a pinch, divining it.37 With the confidence of his army growing by the day, after a short lull Napoleon struck east to deal with the Austrian army that he had first defeated at the battle of Montenotte. Commanded by General Beaulieu, this had taken shelter behind the River Po to the south and south-west of Milan, but even so great a waterway represented little in the way of security. In the Montenotte campaign, the French commander had already displayed a technique that was to be one of his hallmarks in the years to come, namely, the strategy of the central position, whereby, if faced with two enemy armies which together outnumbered his own, but which he outnumbered if he could deal with them separately, he would drive a wedge between them and pin one down while crushing the other. On view, now, however, was the so-called ‘manoeuvre upon the rear’, whereby Napoleon’s hapless opponents were fooled into thinking that the attack was coming from one direction when in fact the French commander was working his way around one flank or the other to take them in the rear. Thus, whilst Sérurier demonstrated against the line of the Po in the vicinity of Valenza, the rest of the Army of Italy marched eastwards along the south bank of the river to the unguarded town of Piacenza where it swung north and made to cut Beaulieu’s line of communications. Utterly discomforted, the Austrian commander retreated in great haste, abandoning Milan, which promptly fell to the French without a shot being fired, and fleeing across the face of the oncoming French columns to reach the temporary safety of the River Adda. Frantic to catch Beaulieu before he could escape the trap, Napoleon pushed his men to the utmost, but he was just too late, though he did secure the consolation prize of a dramatic victory at Lodi that prevented Beaulieu from making the Adda his next line of defence (famously, it was during the night that followed this battle that the French commander afterwards claimed that he first conceived the idea that he could become ruler of France).38 In the Austrian camp, meanwhile, all was confusion. A future hero of the Peninsular War, Sir Thomas Graham was serving at Beaulieu’s headquarters as a liaison officer: The general from personal intrepidity seems to expect too much from troops in the state his are in, and his language . . . is not conciliatory or encouraging either to officers or soldiers. His temper, naturally warm, seems irritated by disappointment, and he is

Exporting the Revolution  131 anxious to vindicate his own plans by throwing the whole blame on the execution. On the other hand, if I may judge from the very improper language held unreservedly by the officers I have conversed with, his army has no confidence in him.39 Given the various administrative matters that accompanied the fall of Milan, including, not least, the imposition of a massive financial levy, Lodi saw a brief pause in operations, whilst the resumption of the offensive was further delayed by a shortlived insurrection that broke out at Pavia (see Chapter 8).40 On 30 May, however, the position to which Beaulieu had withdrawn on the River Mincio was pierced at Borghetto, the French going on to occupy Verona, advance to the shores of Lake Garda and initiate the siege of the key fortress of Mantua, Napoleon’s forces having now been reinforced by the 20,000 troops who had been guarding the frontiers of Savoy.41 Meanwhile, thanks to his assiduous self-promotion (possessed from the beginning of a genius for propaganda, he founded two newspapers, the sole purpose of which was to augment his glory), the French commander, still only twenty-six, had become the hero of the hour. Louis Bro, for example, was a schoolboy in Paris: Amongst we youths Bonaparte became a demi-God to whom one raised veritable altars. All sorts of stories were told about him. In the office of my father . . . the clerks amused themselves by sketching his portrait and composing epic poems which compared him with the famous Alexander. Only one, a fellow by the name of Garponnet, had the nerve to denigrate our hero: the discussion took a very lively turn, and Garponnet received a good beating.42 With Napoleon besieging Mantua, we must now deal with the fighting in Germany. As we have seen, it was here that the main weight of the French offensive in continental Europe was to fall. Involved in the operations were two field armies, the 78,000 men of the Army of the Sambre-and-Meuse under Jourdan and the 65,000 men of the Army of the Rhine-and-Moselle under General Moreau (vice Pichegru, who had, as we have seen, recently resigned in consequence of criticism of his conduct of operations in the Rhineland in the previous year). Facing them, meanwhile, were two Austrian armies, Moreau being faced with the 83,000 men of General Wurmser and Jourdan with the 92,000 men of the Archduke Charles. In short, the French were badly outnumbered, while their difficulties were further increased by the fact that the Austrians held a considerable amount of territory on the left bank of the Rhine between Kaiserslautern and Mainz, the result of this being to make cooperation between Sambre-and-Meuse and Rhine-and-Moselle extremely difficult. At the same time, the French forces were barely in a position to take the field. To quote Jean-de-Dieu Soult, who had now reached the rank of divisional commander: Although our troops were excellent and in the best of spirits, they were short of many things in the way of matériel and transport . . . Our artillery, for example, had insufficient draught animals while our cavalry barely numbered half that of the enemy.43 Nevertheless, pressed by orders from Paris, in June the two generals launched their offensive. Much aided by the fact that Napoleon’s victories in Italy had led to Wurmser being ordered to march for northern Italy with 25,000 of his men, Jourdan was able to advance south-eastwards from the bridgehead he controlled at Düsseldorf and Moreau to get across the Rhine by means of a daring amphibious assault at Kehl. Amongst the first men to land on the right bank was Charles Decaen:

132  Exporting the Revolution My boat was coxed by . . . a man by the name of Braun who throughout gave proofs of the utmost sang-froid . . . I should have been followed by five other boats carrying 160 men, but, thanks to the strength of the current, these failed to follow the line they had been instructed to take . . . with the result that I found myself facing the fire of the enemy redoubt all alone . . . the only men I had with me being one officer, one sergeant, fourteen grenadiers . . . and two pontooneers. Nevertheless, the boat was brought alongside the bank so skilfully that we were all able to leap ashore at once and charge the enemy. At this . . . the defenders of the redoubt took to their heels, leaving behind their two pieces of artillery.44 Fortunately for them, having seized their initial bridgehead, Moreau’s troops were left alone to consolidate their position. In the north, by contrast, Jourdan had found himself fighting off a series of Austrian counter-attacks which gave yet one more proof of the fighting qualities of the Habsburg armies. Typical enough was the struggle that took place at the village of Dill on 16 June, in which the future Marshal Lefebvre, at this point a divisional commander, found himself fighting off 15,000 Austrians at the head of a mere 6,000 of his own troops. As one participant later wrote: A lively attack on the part of five battalions of Hungarian grenadiers drove back our infantry, while the enemy cavalry . . . charged our guns, paying no heed to musketry and canister alike. Seeking to save the guns, General Richepanse charged the enemy horse with just four squadrons of cavalry, and succeeded in cutting his way through them and throwing them into disorder. Forced to retreat in his turn, he nevertheless managed to rally his men, and . . . bought sufficient time for the infantry to escape to the edge of the forest in their rear . . . Nevertheless, two cannon and a howitzer were left in the power of the enemy. Encouraged by this success, the latter resumed their attack, but they paid dearly for their temerity: a battalion of the 38th demi-brigade and another of the 9th demi-brigade . . . met them with a general volley of musketry that brought down almost an entire squadron of enemy cuirassiers . . . the Austrians being so disconcerted by this unexpected resistance that they fell back across the Dill.45 Temporarily checked by this resistance, Jourdan ordered a retreat, but news that Moreau had crossed the river persuaded him to resume the offensive, and he was soon back on the line to which he had advanced prior to being driven back. Nor did he halt there: on 16 July, indeed, Frankfurt was reoccupied after a brief bombardment. Further south, meanwhile, the Army of the Rhine-and-Moselle had been equally successful and was poised to invade Württemberg and Bavaria. As for the Archduke Charles, he had fallen back south-eastwards towards the shelter of the River Danube. With the way thereby opened for the unification of the Sambre-and-Meuse and Rhine-and-Moselle, all seemed set for a great French triumph, but at this point things started to go badly wrong. In the first place, the Austrian commander had left large garrisons in Mainz and Mannheim, and this persuaded Jourdan to leave over a third of his troops behind to keep them under observation. Still worse, meanwhile, an order arrived from Paris directing Jourdan and Moreau to mount two entirely separate operations against the Austrians, the one on the frontiers of Bohemia and the other in the Danube valley. This last, however, was a serious mistake as it in effect restored the advantage of the central position to the Archduke Charles, and the latter now took full advantage of the situation. Having previously passed through the towns of Wurzburg, Bamberg and Nuremberg, on 20 August Jourdan had reached the

Exporting the Revolution  133 river Naab. Spread out to ease the problems of supply, his divisions were widely separated, and, believing that the Archduke Charles was fully occupied with Moreau, he had few troops watching his right flank. Seizing the moment with gusto, Charles struck north from the Danube with 28,000 men and on 22 August attacked the 6,000-strong division of Bernadotte – yet another officer destined to become a marshal under Napoleon – at Neumarkt and forced it to retreat. Fearing for his line of communications, the French commander immediately fell back on Amberg, only to be attacked by Charles on 24 August. Mishandled by the Austrians, this action was not as successful as it might have been, but even so Jourdan certainly had much the worst of the day. Amongst the troops engaged was the future Marshal Ney, who was the commander of an infantry brigade. To quote an early biography put together from his private papers: Every point that was occupied was attacked, indeed enveloped. The battle was nothing more than a blood-soaked scrimmage in which a handful of gallant men held out in the midst of the masses of enemy troops that incessantly hurled themselves upon them.46 Another future marshal caught up in the chaos was Jean-de-Dieu Soult: I had been detached with my brigade . . . to observe the movements of an Austrian column that had advanced on our left and appeared to be trying to outflank us. However, whilst I was engaged with this force in the vicinity of Mockendorff, the units on my right suddenly fell back . . . At once I made to follow them, but on every side danger loomed. In front of me were ranged troops that I had been hard put to contain, while I discovered that an enemy force much larger than my own had come up behind me and was completely blocking my retreat. A decision was vital, for any hesitation would have increased the gravity of the situation and demoralised my men by giving them time to appreciate just how bad things had become. That being the case, I resolved to clear the obstacle blocking my retreat . . . In order to achieve this, I made it look as if I was going to try to break through along the road to Bamberg, which was on my right . . . in response to which the enemy immediately rushed as many men as they could to resist such a move. Of course, this was exactly what I wanted them to do, and, no sooner had they committed themselves, than I swung left and burst through their right wing . . . They thought that they had got me, but with a single manoeuvre I had freed myself and opened the way to the safety of the River Main.47 Had the Archduke Charles pressed home his offensive, he could probably have secured an even greater success, but just at this point he was distracted by the arrival of bad news from the southern front. Here the period July–August had seen Moreau push slowly eastwards in the direction of Augsberg, but on 11 August he had been attacked by the Archduke Charles at Neresheim in an attempt to discourage him from acting too aggressively while the Austrians marched north to surprise Jourdan. Once again, the French found themselves having to fight very hard: At five o’clock in the morning, I mounted my horse with a view to conducting a reconnaissance. Just at that moment a heavy cannonade broke out and I was astonished to learn that the enemy had launched a vigorous attack. As the firing had first broken out and seemed to be strongest towards the left of my position, the very sector of my front about which I was most worried, I first rode in that direction . . . In the event,

134  Exporting the Revolution however, as the course of the battle revealed, the attack on my left was but a feint. Not so the attack on my right . . . Having ridden over there in haste, I discovered the enemy had already forced the brigade of General Lambert, the unit on which my right flank rested, to retire and driven in my pickets . . . My troops were putting up a good fight, but the attacks of the enemy were no less vigorous, their canister causing me a great many casualties.48 In the end, Moreau escaped with a draw, but Charles had nonetheless achieved his object, for the former was so shaken that he stayed at Neresheim for several days, thereby enabling the Archduke to march on Jourdan with the bulk of his forces. At length, however, even Moreau (a commander who was distinctly timorous by French standards) could delay no more, and, seemingly unaware of his fellow general’s misfortunes, he therefore pushed northeast to take, first, Augsberg and then Ingoldstädt, it being this advance that led the Archduke to ease the pressure on Jourdan. Determined to rescue something from the campaign, the commander of the Army of the Sambre-and-Meuse now resumed the offensive in the apparent hope of catching Charles between two fires. Unfortunately for him, however, he had once again underestimated his opponent. Thus, far from waiting to be attacked, the Austrian commander struck west across the River Main and attacked Jourdan’s left flank at Wurzburg. The result was a further defeat. Badly outnumbered, the Army of the Sambre-and-Meuse was exhausted by weeks of incessant marching and counter-marching, whilst it was also running short of food and under constant attack from angry bands of peasants.49 As Soult recalled, then, ‘The troops fought heroically, but the game was too unequal, and the army was lucky to be able to get away . . . during the night with the loss of only moderate casualties.’50 With the defeat at Würzburg, Jourdan was out of the fight, and he now fell back on his starting point, the only territory that was retained east of the Rhine by the Sambre-andMeuse being a pocket of territory a few miles deep stretching from Düsseldorf to Coblenz. As for the Rhine-and-Moselle, for a little while, Moreau hung on in eastern Bavaria, but it became more and more apparent that his position was untenable. On 19 September, then, his army evacuated its base at Augsberg. The direct road west being too vulnerable to attack, Moreau chose rather to take a long detour that almost took him to the Swiss frontier, and it was not till 26 October that the last of his men crossed the Rhine via a pontoon bridge at Huningue. The army may not have been beaten, but it had yet been hit very hard. To quote Roch Godart, ‘When the army had crossed the Rhine, my demi-brigade had had a strength of 2,350 men. Of these, 700 had been killed or wounded and another 700 taken prisoner, while a further 300 were sick.’51 All that was left to the French here was now the fortress at Kehl, and even this was duly besieged by the Austrians, though it did not surrender till 9 January 1797. Prolonged though the defence was, it was still an inglorious end to the campaign. As a newly commissioned gunner who experienced the siege recalled, ‘The infantry . . . more than once refused to do their duty; and . . . the senior officers . . . stayed snug in their guard room . . . and made no attempt to visit the batteries guarding the walls.’52 In 1796 as much as in any other year, however, it was an ill wind that bore nobody any good. Failure in Germany meant that the secondary front initially represented by Italy was suddenly catapulted to the forefront of affairs, while Amberg and Neresheim could not but magnify the importance of Montenotte and Mondovi, not to mention the figure of Napoleon. Already, indeed, the young general was in a position to defy the Directory, an attempt on the part of the latter to curb his prominence by splitting his army into two and giving him the relatively menial task of marching on Rome to force the Papal States to make peace while the rest of the French forces continued to fight the Austrians being

Exporting the Revolution  135 scornfully rejected. That said, the principle of securing the southern flank of the Army of Italy made sufficient sense for Napoleon to adopt it on his own, the Austrians being granted a brief respite by a quick thrust southwards that led to the occupation of neutral Tuscany and the surrender of Pope Pius VI, the armistice that his administration was forced to sign on 23 June bringing in a massive indemnity and giving the French the right to install garrisons in the border fortresses of Bologna and Ferrara.53 Whilst Napoleon had been absent in the south, Wurmser had arrived from Germany at the head of 20,000 reinforcements, and these troops were now thrown into a counteroffensive designed to secure the relief of Mantua. Unfortunately for the new arrivals, however, the Corsican general had returned to the northern front before the Austrian attack got underway in late July, and, whilst Wurmser himself managed to reach the beleaguered fortress, another Austrian column led by Quasdanovic was defeated in the first and second battles of Lonato.54 A gallant attempt on the part of Wurmser to rescue Quasdanovic leading to a defeat at Castiglione on 5 August, the Austrian commander fell back to the east, Napoleon then resuming the siege of Mantua. Traditionally, these operations have been seen as a further success for the French, but the various Austrian battlefield defeats masked an important fact, and that is that Wurmser had actually secured a considerable strategic triumph. To quote the military analyst, E.W. Sheppard, ‘Mantua had been relieved and reprovisioned; the French had lost their siege train, and their siegeworks had been levelled; and the fortress garrison had been placed in a position to resist for many months to come.’55 It should be noted, moreover, that Castiglione in particular was a hard fight, the Austrians repelling attack after attack and eventually retiring from the field in good order. ‘Never can there have been fatigue equal to that which I experienced in the course of that week of campaigning’, complained Auguste Viesse de Marmont, a young artillery officer who had become a protégé of Napoleon and particularly distinguished himself at Castiglione. ‘Constantly on horseback, riding from place to place, reconnoitring the enemy or in battle, I went, I believe, five days without sleep.’56 Following the battle of Castiglione, it briefly appeared that Napoleon might be prevented from obtaining further glories in Italy, for orders arrived from the Directory ordering him to march north through the Tyrol to succour Moreau. Very unwillingly, the French commander duly marched on Trent (Trento) and defeated an Austrian force at Rovereto, but at this point news arrived that Wurmser was marching on Mantua once again, thereby giving Napoleon the perfect pretext to abandon the invasion of the Tyrol. Rushing his forces south-east, indeed, he caught Wurmser at Bassano on 8 September and forced him to take shelter inside Mantua. Again, however, the Austrians could scarcely be accused of feebleness. As one infantryman remembered: The Austrians were waiting for us on a low hill, and we advanced to the attack in column. No sooner had we got in range, than they opened a most intense fire . . . We were shot to pieces: blasted from the trees, branches came flying through the air and struck us in the face, while balls cut muskets in two or struck men’s arms and legs. On seeing us lashed by fire in this manner, the general ordered the drummers to beat the charge, and we threw ourselves upon them. Their cavalry being unable to reach us on account of a sunken road that blocked the way, we took their cannon and captured many prisoners as well. Yet 230 of our men were reported as having been . . . killed or wounded.57 With Wurmser trapped inside Mantua, the command of the Austrian forces passed to a new commander in the person of Josef Alvinczy. With nearly 50,000 men at his disposal and

136  Exporting the Revolution Napoleon down to a mere 28,000, in November Alvinczy took the offensive, one Austrian column heading southwards under Davidovic down the Adige valley while Alvinczy himself advanced along the northern bank of the same river from the east. Over the next few days, no fewer than four attempts on the part of Masséna and Augereau to check the Austrian advance were thrown back – at Caldiero, indeed, the French suffered a heavy defeat – and in the end order was only restored by a decision on the part of Napoleon to take the risk of temporarily leaving Davidovic to his own devices while he threw every man he possessed against Alvinczy. The result was the three-day battle of Arcola (15–17 November). Crossing the Adige at various points to the east of Alvinczy’s positions, Napoleon attempted to cut his communications, but the Austrian forces in the area put up a heroic resistance and thereby bought the time needed for their commander to extricate himself from the French trap. Having held their own on the first day of the battle, the Austrians did equally well on the second, beating off every French attack, and it was not until Alvinczy was lured into launching a foolhardy counter-attack on the third day that Austrian resistance was broken. François Roguet was with the Thirty-Second Line: A strong column of Hungarian grenadiers . . . advanced from the bridgehead and made to attack us. For a moment we were thrown into confusion . . . At that moment General Gardanne appeared on the road, sword in hand. All on his own though he was, he raised his hat in the air and shouted, ‘En avant!’, only to fall gravely wounded. Nevertheless, the charge was beaten, and . . . we rushed the canons facing us . . . The head of the enemy column recoiled on the ranks behind in great disorder and we crossed the bridge mixed up with them pell-mell. At long last, meanwhile, Arcola fell into our hands.58 Dramatic though the French victory at Arcola may have been, the bulk of the Austrian forces had got away, and so the campaign of 1796 may be said to have ended in stalemate. Meanwhile, before the year had closed, French arms had received another check. We come here to the great expedition to Ireland that was the third prong of France’s strategy in 1796, and, with it, for the first time, the opportunity to discuss the war at sea. In 1789 France had possessed seventy-one ships of the line and sixty-four frigates and had therefore been second only to Britain in terms of naval power, but the Revolution had wrought havoc with her ability to mount a sustained challenge to the Royal Navy. Over the period 1789–92, then, such was the disruption in the dockyards and the want of finance that most naval construction and routine maintenance came to an end, while hundreds of the navy’s best officers emigrated in disgust. Even had this not been the case, meanwhile, there would still have been the issue of geography: France’s ships had of necessity to be split between two theatres of operations – the Atlantic and the Mediterranean – that could not reinforce one another without the greatest difficulty, while the simple fact that the prevailing winds blew from the west meant that the naval bases on the Atlantic and Channel coasts (Brest, La Rochelle and Cherbourg) were all extremely problematic as stations from which to conduct operations. When war came with Britain in 1793, then, the situation of the French navy was anything but ideal, whilst matters were immediately rendered still worse by the fact that the British government’s immediate imposition of a naval blockade meant that opportunities for sail-training became limited in the extreme.59 The consequences of all this are scarcely hard to foresee. In an action fought so far out in the Atlantic that it was labelled the Glorious First of June, the French admiral, Louis Villaret de Joyeuse, succeeded in frustrating an attempt on the part of Lord Howe to capture a vital grain convoy en route to France from the United States, but the cost had

Exporting the Revolution  137 been extremely heavy and the fighting little better than one-sided with no fewer than seven French ships lost as opposed to none at all for the British.60 Elsewhere, meanwhile, the British had been allowed effectively to rule the waves unchecked, sending large expeditions to the West Indies to capture the various islands that France possessed in that region and ferrying troops across the Channel without let or hindrance. Meanwhile, so great was the chaos that even minor offensive operations – the invasion of the Channel Islands, for example – had to be abandoned as being completely impracticable. And, of course, the terrible losses inflicted on the Mediterranean fleet in consequence of British intervention at Toulon were all but impossible to replace, yet more ships being lost (all of them to the elements rather than enemy action) in a desperate midwinter sortie from Brest designed to reinforce the naval forces in the Mediterranean and the West Indies. However, as sorry as this state of affairs was, it did not deter many politicians and even some generals – the most notable example is Lazare Hoche – from dreaming of invading England. Meanwhile, under the leadership of Jean-Bon Saint André, the Committee of Public Safety made strenuous efforts to get the French navy into some sort of order: it was, indeed, largely thanks to its efforts that Villaret de Joyeuse was able to put to sea to fight the battle of the Glorious First of June. Yet, despite grandiloquent proposals on the part of Carnot and others to get 100,000 men across the Channel, no such expedition was put together, and by the beginning of 1796 the idea had been replaced by more practical schemes of small-scale raids on the remote coasts of Cornwall. Just at this point, however, the idea of making use of naval power was given a fresh boost by the arrival of emissaries from Ireland promising that the island would rise in revolt if the French would but send an army to support the rebels. As what was going on in Ireland at this time will be examined elsewhere, all that is necessary to say here is that the Directory agreed to this plan and gave its execution to Hoche as commander of the French forces in western France. With immense difficulty, an expedition was eventually put together, but such was the delay that this involved that the invasion force did not put to sea until 15 December, by which time the Atlantic was in the grip of a particularly stormy winter. The result was catastrophe: no troops got ashore from the few vessels that made landfall, while thousands of lives were lost in the many ships that were shipwrecked. Whether success was ever a possibility is a moot point, but, as it was, the Republic had suffered a terrible defeat.61 With the collapse of Hoche’s expedition to Ireland, the focus on Italy could not but be redoubled. Here Alvinczy was proving himself to be just as willing to defy convention as any French commander, for on 10 January 1797 he launched yet another attempt to relieve Mantua, advancing on the city from the north with 28,000 men while a general of Italian origin named Provera menaced Napoleon’s troops from the east. Again the French were hard pushed, but they had the advantage of internal lines and by dint of hard marching were able to concentrate the bulk of their forces against Alvinczy before Provera had made enough progress to be a real threat. The Austrian commander having compounded his danger by separating his troops into five separate columns that could not support one another, on 14 January he was crushed at the battle of Rivoli, no fewer than 15,000 of his 28,000 men being killed or taken prisoner. Nor was this the end of the Austrians’ misfortunes, for the forces which had defeated Alvinczy now rushed back southwards and descended on Provera, the latter ending up being surrounded and forced to surrender. With all hope of rescue gone, meanwhile, on 2 February Wurmser surrendered Mantua to Sérurier. As Sheppard points out, however, the heroic efforts of the garrison had not been in vain:

138  Exporting the Revolution [Mantua] had effectively filled the true strategic role of a fortress, to economize time and forces for the benefit of the field armies operating elsewhere. It had detained Napoleon and his army in Italy and gained time for the Archduke Charles to win a decisive victory in Germany.62 In theory, the way was now open for Napoleon to invade Austria in line with the instructions he had received from the Directory the previous year, but, before doing so, he insisted on settling accounts with the Papal States, the latter having been engaging in a long series of delaying tactics aimed at putting off the signature of a definitive peace treaty. In acting in this fashion, the government of Pius VI had been hoping that Alvinczy would turn the tide of battle in the Po valley, and for this mistake it now paid a heavy price, a division of French troops invading its territory and inflicting such havoc that Pius’ representatives immediately sued for peace, the result being the exceptionally harsh treaty of Tolentino. In addition to agreeing to an increase in the indemnity agreed in the previous year from 21,000,000 livres to 36,000,000 livres, then, Pius had to ratify the French occupation of the papal enclaves of Avignon and the Venaissin (both of which had had been seized in 1790), surrender the northern province of the Romagna and, perhaps most humiliatingly of all, allow French commissioners to raid churches and papal palaces alike to strip them of whatever works of art they deemed suitable for display in the national gallery that had been established in the Louvre in 1793 as a means of throwing the collections of Louis XVI and his predecessors open to the public.63 By means of this last clause, official sanction was given to a policy that had already begun to be put in place elsewhere (in 1794, for example, the University of Louvain had been stripped of 5,000 precious manuscripts and numerous works belonging to the Flemish school removed from Brussels and other cities, whilst Napoleon had been ruthless in his treatment of Milan). In brief, France having in effect placed herself at the very forefront of human civilization by dint of the Revolution, it followed that she should become the custodian of the treasures of the past, whilst it was hoped, too, that exposing the populace to the works of Raphael, Titian and the rest would help to create the new France of culture and progress of which the more ardent Revolutionaries dreamed. It is, of course, just possible that some of the more idealistic figures in the political world believed such claims, but the reality, of course, was very different: in brief, occupied Europe was to be stripped of its glory to augment that of France in general, and, in the case of this particular instance, Napoleon Bonaparte.64 Rome humiliated, Napoleon at last turned north. Facing him was now the Archduke Charles, but, excellent as this commander was, he had too few troops, while he was prevented from adopting the only plan which made any sense in the circumstances – in brief, concentrating every man he could muster in the Tyrol with a view to either blocking a direct march on Vienna or striking south against Napoleon’s communications should the latter go for the longer but rather easier route via Venice and present-day Slovenia – by interference from Vienna, the emperor’s advisers rather favouring a cordon defence that sought to cover both angles of attack. As a result, Charles was left weak everywhere, the consequence being that Napoleon, who had now been heavily reinforced as well as relieved of the need to keep a large force of troops at Mantua, was able to mass superior numbers on both fronts. Whilst the French commander attacked Charles on the River Piave, then, in the Tyrol Barthélemy Joubert, yet another Volunteer of 1791 who had risen to high rank, pushed the Austrians back in a series of minor actions that quickly saw him occupy most of the southern part of the province. By the end of March, the Austrians were in full retreat and Napoleon himself across the Alps and pushing into the Austrian heartland. As for

Exporting the Revolution  139 the hapless Republic of Venice, meanwhile, it was occupied by French troops, subjected to heavy requisitioning and threatened with the loss of much of its territory, if not its very existence, most of the towns and cities of its mainland possessions being persuaded either to declare their independence or petition for liberation from the rule of the Doge.65 Anxious to bring the campaign to a close for fear that otherwise the Armies of the Sambre-and-Meuse and Rhine-and-Moselle, which had taken advantage of the absence of the Archduke Charles to cross the Rhine once more, would steal some of his glory, and aware, too, that he could only ask so much more of his men, Napoleon now offered terms. Bankrupt, exhausted and demoralised, the Austrians were only too willing to agree to this approach, the result being the so-called Preliminaries of Leoben, these being signed on 18 April 1797 (in testimony to the difficulties of his position, the terms offered the Austrians by Napoleon were remarkably lenient: in brief, the Austrians gave up Belgium and Lombardy and had to surrender their territories in the Rhineland, but were compensated by being allowed to take over the archbishopric of Salzburg and all the Italian territories of the Republic of Venice east of the River Adige, including the city of Venice itself, together with Istria and Dalmatia, all the rest of Venice’s territory being taken by France).66 Badly shaken at the collapse of Austrian resolve and in serious difficulties in the Mediterranean, from which they had been forced to withdraw their fleet at the end of 1796 on account of the occupation by the French of so many of the ports from which they drew their supplies, the British might well have followed the Austrian example, and all the more so, as some sort of compromise peace currently seemed a real possibility. Thus, the first elections to the new legislative established in accordance with the constitution of 1795 had produced a strong showing on the part of French royalism, whilst Carnot, especially, was eager for peace.67 However, acting with the support of Napoleon and a number of other generals, on 4 September 1797 in the so-called coup of 18 Fructidor, the intransigent faction in the Directory removed Carnot and his fellow moderate François Barthélemy from its ranks, purged the legislative of all those it considered suspect and shut down many newspapers with royalist sympathies, fifty-three of the men arrested being transported to the French colony of Guyana.68 Amongst those subjected to this last fate was General Pichegru, who had secured election to the lower chamber of the new assembly and then been chosen as its president, his rival Moreau having seized the opportunity provided by the coup to release documents that suggested that he had at least been in contact with the Royalists, if not actually in league with them.69 The sequel to the coup of Fructidor being a reversion to many aspects of Jacobinism, particularly persecution of the non-juring clergy and the imposition of new civic cults in place of Catholicism, the Pitt government lost all interest in a deal and withdrew from the secret talks which it had initiated with Paris.70 Signed on 18 October 1797 at the Italian village of Campo Formio, the peace with Austria that followed from the negotiations at Leoben did not mark the end of French expansion: still to come was the invasion of Rome, mainland Naples and Switzerland. As brief as they were one-sided, however, there is no need to discuss the military campaigns that produced these events, and all the more so as they shed no new light on the themes discussed in this chapter. In so far as these last are concerned, there is one simple question that must be answered. In brief, how was it that, almost entirely unaided by foreign allies or foreign revolutions, France was able to overcome the powerful coalition with which she was still faced at the end of 1793? In so far as this issue is concerned, of course, the first thing to say is that the First Coalition continued to be dogged by massive diplomatic problems. One thinks here, above all, of the Prussian obsession with eastern Europe, but also problematic was long-term Spanish rivalry with Britain, British reluctance to commit major forces to the

140  Exporting the Revolution European war when there were more attractive opportunities to be had in the West Indies and Russian ambitions in eastern Europe. To quote Paul Schroeder, then, ‘The Allied coalition . . . was wrecked more by internal divisions than French victories.’71 In exactly the same way as had been the case in 1793, then, the failure of the First Coalition between 1794 and 1797 was the product of disunity, muddled thinking and selfinterest at the strategic level. However, as even a cursory study of the campaigns suggests, what the French triumph did not rest on was the result of structural deficiencies in the armies of the ancien régime. That these were far from perfect cannot be denied, and yet they inflicted terrible damage on their French opponents and were quite capable of defeating them in battle. Nor, meanwhile, can their commanders all be tarred with the brush of age, incompetence or an inability to grasp the changes wrought by the new age: some of the generals who fought the French were of poor quality, certainly, but others, particularly the Archduke Charles, Wurmser and Alvinczy, showed an excellent grasp of strategy and at times put even Napoleon under enormous pressure. Does the answer, then, lie in advantages supposedly derived from the French Revolution? Here, too, however, we must be cautious. Let us begin with the issue of numbers. The French Revolution, we are constantly told, gave France mass armies that fought with tactics that were entirely new, but in fact it is clear that neither claim has much basis in reality. The levée en masse may have enabled the Republican forces to make head on many different fronts simultaneously (not that any of those fronts were much tested), but the size of field armies did not in fact grow very much. On the contrary, indeed, it actually seems to have fallen: in the Seven Years War the average number of combatants in the twelve battles fought by Frederick the Great was 92,000 men, whereas an analysis of twenty-six Revolutionary-War battles ranging from Valmy to Rivoli has suggested that the same figure was but 65,000. Meanwhile, if these same twenty-six battles are examined further, we discover that the French armies only had a small advantage in terms of numbers, averaging 35,000 men to their opponents’ 31,000, and that in ten of them they were actually outnumbered. If it is true that they won twelve of the sixteen battles in which they outnumbered the enemy, numbers, then were not everything, whilst it is striking, too, that their overall rate of success – sixteen battles out of twenty-six – is once again not what might have been expected. Greater numbers allowed the French to sustain war for longer, and, indeed, fight on more fronts, than their opponents could – if Spain and Austria made peace, it was in large part because their capacity to put men into the field was utterly exhausted, whilst Britain found herself in a situation in which she could either fight in Europe or the West Indies but not both – but they neither changed the face of battle nor guaranteed victory. Indeed, with the abandonment of conscription, numerical superiority quickly ceased to be an issue. As Bertaud remarks: By 1797 the army of the Thermidorian Convention and the Directory had lost its mass. Working on a hypothesis that it had 732,474 men present in August 1794, as Minister of War, Petiet presented a report to the Directory in which he claimed that in August 1795 the army had no more than 484,363 men . . . in August 1796 [it had] 396,019 and in August 1797 [only] 381,909.72 If the French did not overwhelm their opponents by force of numbers, there yet remain many other factors that are often connected with the Revolution to which their victories can be attributed. Yet here, too, it is necessary to make a number of qualifications. Amongst these factors, then, are new tactics (especially the introduction of columnar formations and the greater use of skirmishers), the divisional system and a reduction in the

Exporting the Revolution  141 supposedly traditional reliance on supplies transported with the armies in favour of living off the country, and yet the new tactics and the divisional system had both been inherited from the ancien régime, whilst, as we have already seen, for the simple fact that they could not hope to survive otherwise, armies had always lived off the country: always desirable in and of itself when the country concerned was that of the enemy, poor roads and a lack of anything other than animal traction meant that there was simply no other way they could survive. And if the British, the Spaniards, the Austrians and the Prussians lived off the country, at both the tactical and the operational level they showed themselves to be capable of making use of methods of war that were very similar: in their successive attempts to relieve Mantua, for example, Wurmser and Alvinczy repeatedly split their forces into commands of a divisional character so as to envelop the French.73 Was the advantage political, then? In the French armies, extravagant use was made of propaganda, whilst in the period 1793–4, in particular, the Revolution was given a social content designed to give the French populace, urban and rural alike, something to fight for, and much practical support and encouragement were offered to the rank and file. To quote Paul Schroeder, ‘France found its key to salvation and victory in revolutionary élan.’74 To a degree this worked – amongst the hundreds of thousands of men who fought for the Republic, there were beyond doubt large numbers of men who were genuinely engaged with the ideas of the Revolution, whilst the rule of the Montagnards saw a considerable fall in the rate of desertion from the levels seen in response to the levy of February 179375 – but enthusiasm for the Revolution was not sufficient to obviate the need for conscription, let alone to make every soldier a hero: on battlefield after battlefield, attacks in column that were poorly coordinated or denied adequate support collapsed in the face of the overwhelming fire to which they were subjected, whilst there were plenty of occasions when French troops on the defensive simply broke and ran. At the same time, the very fact that the army proved so ready to bend before the Thermidorian wind does not encourage excessive faith in the impact of propaganda on its ranks. To quote Alan Forrest, indeed, ‘If discipline won – and there is little doubt that it did – doubts must surely be cast on the effectiveness of the Jacobin campaign to raise the political consciousness of the soldiers.’76 Finally, even enthusiastic soldiers were by no means necessarily ideological crusaders. As one young cavalryman remembered, there were always other stimuli: I loved my job, I loved my men . . . and, constantly changing and full of improvisation as it was, I loved the life of a soldier on campaign. At the same time, as I galloped from one end of Europe to the other, I enjoyed observing the different peoples and their habits, costumes and cultures, not to mention all the different aspects of the regions which I traversed. It really was a thing of the utmost pleasure.77 Only in one area, then, can the Revolution truly be said to have made a difference. We come here to the issue of leadership. In 1792 the French armies had gone to war commanded by figures like Dumouriez and Custine, in other words generals of the Bourbon army who had rallied to the Revolution. However, within a year, such men had started to be replaced by men like Houchard – career officers who had been denied advancement under the Bourbons – or, alternatively, men like Hoche, Pichegru and Jourdan – men who had either been serving in the ranks in 1789 or not been in the army at all. Such men were often very far from being military geniuses, but they were also capable of engaging with the troops under their command in a manner in which their predecessors would rarely even have attempted. Meanwhile, driven by a lust for glory and advancement, they were ever

142  Exporting the Revolution willing to take risks, to lead from the front and to push their men to extremes. Nor was this advantage confined to the ranks of the generals alone. With promotion in the army now genuinely open to all men of talent, behind them came a wave of subordinate commanders imbued with precisely the same ideas – men like Soult, Ney, Masséna and Augereau who would go on to provide Napoleon with some of the greatest of his marshals – and behind them again a wave of captains intent on stepping into the shoes of the men ahead of them on the ladder. In all this, of course, there was much self-interest – denied the elevation they craved or otherwise snubbed by the regime, such men were entirely capable of turning their coats in the same fashion as Pichegru – but that self-interest created a powerful identification with the Revolution that lent wings to its soldiers’ feet and ensured that Republican instincts – anti-clericalism, for example – remained strong in the army throughout the 1790s and beyond. In the words of Bertaud, ‘Propounded by the more radical sans culottes, the cult of Reason took over the army.’78 Of course, the most obvious example of an officer plucked by the Revolution from obscurity who rose to the command of an army is Napoleon. Here we come to the factor in the Republic’s military success that is arguably the most important whilst yet being the one that is most commonly overlooked, namely sheer good fortune. In brief, whilst anything but the greatest commander of all time, the young Corsican general was not yet in a position in which his faults in this respect – above all, a grasp of strategy that was little short of appalling, a tendency always to overplay his hand and a failure to remember that generalship, like politics, is the art of the possible – had had much chance to reveal themselves, whilst, as commander of the Army of Italy, he was ideally placed to take advantage of his many gifts, whether these were his ability win the hearts of his soldiers or his mastery of the art of in-theatre manoeuvre. Thanks to these two skills, he took the Army of Italy to great things, no fewer than seven of the sixteen French victories included in the list of battles mentioned above being fought under his direct command. In short, take Napoleon out of the equation, and we suddenly discover a situation in which the honours of war are not unequal, a situation, perhaps, in which France would have gained the natural frontiers and, very probably, Holland, but would have been unable to advance very far into Germany and Italy. As Richard Bassett writes of the campaign in Italy: Napoleon’s generals, Masséna and Augereau, both experienced the tenacity of the Austrians and it is not clear that, had the French forces been left entirely to the command of these men, they would have won any of the battles that were fought.79 The Revolution, true, produced Napoleon, but it did not beget Napoleon, or save him from being killed at, say, the siege of Toulon, where he was, in fact, slightly wounded leading an assault on one of the city’s many forts. As a note on which to end this chapter, it is an arresting thought.

Notes 1 2 3 4

Griffith, Art of War in Revolutionary France, p. 283. S.J. Watson, Carnot (London, 1954), pp 46–8, 58–9. Blaufarb, French Army, pp. 115–17. The key institution in the military socialisation of the army was the squad or ordinaire; see Lynn, Bayonets of the Republic, pp. 164–9. Meanwhile, for Carnot’s labours with respect to the army, see M. Reinhard, Le grand Carnot (Paris, 1952), II, pp. 91–101; Watson, Carnot, pp. 85–90. 5 Blaufarb, French Army, pp. 129–32.

Exporting the Revolution  143 6 E.g. Phipps, Armies of the First French Republic, II, pp. 73–85. 7 Griffith, Art of War in the Age of Napoleon, pp. 80–2; Watson, Carnot, pp. 85–90; Reinhard, Le grand Carnot, II, pp. 102–17. 8 Cit. Ernouf, Souvenirs militaires, p. 10. 9 Cit. ibid., p. 12. 10 Griffith, Art of War of Revolutionary France, pp. 207–25; Lynn, Bayonets of the Republic, pp. 241–77; Rothenberg, Art of Warfare, pp. 115–16. 11 S.T. Ross, ‘The development of the combat division in eighteenth-century French armies’, French Historical Studies, 4, No. 1 (Spring, 1965), pp. 84–94. Mention of the French cavalry requires a few words on the subject. In brief, the mounted arm was by far the weakest component of the armies of the Revolution: the cavalry officers had suffered more from emigration than any other branch of the armed forces; the rank and file had followed their officers in considerable numbers; and it had proved all but impossible to raise new regiments. Griffith, Art of Warfare of Revolutionary France, pp. 225–8. 12 B. Nosworthy, With Musket, Cannon and Sword: Battle Tactics of Napoleon and his Enemies (New York, 1996), pp. 97–8. 13 For a recent biography, see R. Monnier, Un bourgeois sans-culotte: le general Santerre (Paris, 1989). 14 Griffith, Art of War of Revolutionary France, pp. 109–20. 15 Rothenberg, Art of Warfare, p. 131. 16 Phipps, Armies of the First French Republic, III, pp. 217–37. For Napoleon’s role in these operations, see Chandler, Campaigns of Napoleon, pp. 30–2. The French successes on the Italian frontier were slightly soured by the fact that in February a British expeditionary force had disembarked in Corsica. Extremely determined though they proved, by May the last of the defenders had been overcome, whereupon Corsica became a British satellite state whose head of state, like that of Hanover, was George III. For all this, see D. Gregory, The Ungovernable Rock: A History of the AngloCorsican Kingdom and its Role in the Revolutionary War, 1793–97 (Rutherford, New Jersey, 1985). 17 Bourgoing, Souvenirs militaires du Général Comte de Lorencez, pp. 16–20. 18 Phipps, Armies of the First French Republic, III, pp. 177–85. 19 Ibid., pp. 186–92. 20 Amongst the troops involved in this defeat was the Duke of York’s Anglo-Hanoverian contingent, and it is sometimes claimed that it was their indecisive manoeuvring that gave rise to the famous nursery rhyme. E.g. D. Winterbottom, The Grand Old Duke of York: A Life of Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, 1763–1827 (Barnsley, 2017), pp. 67–8. 21 Cit. Ernouf, Souvenirs militaires, pp. 34–7. 22 Chanonie, Mémoires politiques et militaires du Général Tercier, pp. 77–8. By this time, although they were still some 12,000 strong, Condé’s forces had lost all claim to be an independent army and were, in effect, functioning as an Austrian division. 23 For the experiences of the British forces in these operations, see R.N.W. Thomas, ‘Wellington in the Low Countries, 1794–5’, International History Review, 11, No. 1 (February, 1989), pp. 14–30. 24 Sydenham, First French Republic, pp. 23–8. 25 E.g. Stone, Reinterpreting the French Revolution, pp. 212–13, 218–20. 26 M.G. Lacour-Gayet (ed.), Mémoires du Vice-Amiral Baron Grivel: Révolution-Empire (Paris, 1914), p. 19. Phipps, Armies of the Third French Republic, III, pp. 195–9. 27 The decision to invade Holland in the depths of winter was as much the result of necessity as it was of abstract notions of total war. As one French soldier wrote of the pause in operations that preceded the new offensive, ‘The moment to go into cantonments had arrived . . . That said, such was the overcrowding produced by the huge numbers of men that had to be billeted in every town that none of the quarters in which the troops were placed were either comfortable or agreeable, whilst every article of first necessity was soon exhausted . . . and from all this it followed that the pause in operations could not last for very long. P.C. Duthilt, Mes campagnes et mes souvenirs, ed. A. Lévy (Paris, n.d.), p. 68. 28 Extremely complicated, the diplomatic situation at this point is best approached via Schroeder, Transformation of European Politics, pp. 138–50; in this respect, the behaviour of the Prussians was particularly self-centred, whilst their hand was strengthened still further by blundering British attempts to buy their loyalty by a particularly generous treaty of subsidy. For a detailed discussion of Godoy’s foreign policy with regard to France, see E. La Parra López, La alianza de Godoy con los revolucionarios: España y Francia a finales del siglo XVIII (Madrid, 1992), pp. 13–42. Meanwhile,

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30 31

32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

41 42 43 44 45 46

it should be noted that the Spanish army performed remarkably well in the last few months of the war: if the very last weeks of hostilities saw the Army of the Western Pyrenees sweep aside the outnumbered Spanish defenders and advance as far as the River Ebro, two separate attempts to break through the defensive position that had been established on the River Fluvia south of Figueras were defeated, while a flying column commanded by Gregorio García de la Cuesta, an officer later to be much reviled by the British in the course of the Peninsular War, managed to outflank the invaders and retake the town of Puigcerda. Phipps, Armies of the First French Republic, III, pp. 201–8. For a useful discussion of the strategic dilemma posed by the issue of the colonies, see P. Mackesy, ‘Strategic problems of the British war effort’, in H.T. Dickinson (ed.), Britain and the French Revolution (London, 1989), pp. 147–64. With the decision of Spain to change sides, meanwhile, it was also deemed necessary to evacuate Portugal. Sydenham, First French Republic, pp. 44–8. Whether Pichegru was actually guilty of treason at this point is unclear, though it is true, perhaps, that the general’s devotion to the Revolution was a lot less deep than his ambition. As one émigré officer later remarked, for example, ‘There is room to believe that [Pichegru] . . . would have attached himself to the good cause had not the other presented a vaster field of action.’ Anon., Life and Anecdotes of General Pichegru, Commander in Chief of the French Republican Army by M. de V., a French Emigrant Officer (London, n.d.), p. 11. Be that as it may, various agents of the émigrés had for some time been trying to win him over to the Royalist cause though it is difficult to establish whether he actually committed himself to anything. What is clear is that he was furious at the criticism to which he was subjected in the wake of the campaign, the consequence being that he eventually offered his resignation. Seemingly, he never expected this to be accepted, but the Directory had either become suspicious of his behaviour or were simply glad to rid themselves of a figure whom they regarded as being as temperamental as he was ambitious. For all this, see Phipps, Armies of the First French Republic, II, pp. 261–9; E. Daudet, La conjuration de Pichegru et les complots royalistes du midi et de l’est, 1795–97 (Paris, 1901); G. Caudriller, La trahison de Pichegru et les intrigues des royalistes dans l’est avant Fructidor (Paris, 1908). Phipps, Armies of the First French Republic, III, pp. 261–7. For the amalgame of 1796, see Bertaud, Révolution armée, p. 277. For the author’s own take on Napoleon’s early life, see Esdaile, Napoleon’s Wars, pp. 15–37. For two more detailed treatments, meanwhile, see P. Dwyer, Napoleon: The Path to Power, 1769–1799 (London, 2007), pp. 11–191, and M. Broers, Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny (London, 2014), pp. 15–112. F. Roguet, Mémoires militaires du Général Roguet, 1789–1812 (Paris, n.d.), p. 76. Ibid., pp. 80–1; Chandler, Campaigns of Napoleon, pp. 64–76. Butler, Memoirs of Baron Thiébault, I, p. 269. Chandler, Campaigns of Napoleon, pp. 77–84. Cit. F. Drake and J.H. Rose (eds.), ‘The dispatches of Sir Thomas Graham on the Italian campaign of 1796–97’, English Historical Review, 14, No. 53, p. 117. The importance of Napoleon’s conquests to the finances of the Directory cannot be overstated. To quote Phillip Dwyer, ‘’Wherever Napoleon went in Italy, he imposed enormous levies  .  .  .  2,000,000 francs from the Duchy of Parma, 10,000,000 francs from the Duke of Modena, 20,000,000 from Milan (five times the burden of the annual tax burden of the old regime.’ Dwyer, Napoleon, p. 225. The fact that Napoleon decided to besiege Mantua rather than somehow bypassing it and moving on is highly significant: even the greatest of commanders, it seems, could not entirely break with the patterns of eighteenth-century warfare. C. Bourachot (ed.), Général Louis Bro: mémoires d’un hussard, 1796–1844 (Paris, 2002), p. 2. Soult, Mémoires du Maréchal-Général Soult, I, pp. 290–1. Picard and Paulier, Mémoires et journaux du Général Decaen, I, p. 90. L. Buquet, ‘Journal historique de la cinquieme campagne commencé le 9 prairial l’an IV de la République Française’, Journal de la Sabretache, 17 (1908), pp. 351–2. Anon., Mémoires du Maréchal Ney, Duc d’Elchingen, Prince de la Moskowa (London, 1833), I, p. 170. In the midst of the fighting, two battalions of Ney’s troops were cut off and forced to make a fighting retreat in square. Cut to pieces by Austrian artillery after prolonged resistance, they were eventually ridden down by enemy cavalry, but the very fact that they were able to attempt such a manoeuvre is proof positive of the extent to which the French armies had come on in terms of their tactical prowess since the beginning of the war.

Exporting the Revolution  145 47 Soult, Mémoires du Maréchal-Général Soult, I, pp. 312–14. 48 Picard and Paulier, Mémoires et journaux du Général Decaen, I, pp. 131–2. 49 A further problem, of course, was pillage. Whilst some officers attempted to maintain order, the troops greatly resented such efforts, Godart, for example, describing how an attempt on his part to deal with one group of marauders led to a mutiny amongst his men and further claiming that on several occasions he narrowly escaped death when soldiers tired to shoot him in the back. Antoine, Mémoires du Général Baron Roch Godart, pp. 37–9. 50 Soult, Mémoires du Maréchal-Général Soult, I, p. 317. 51 Antoine, Mémoires du Général Baron Roch Godart, p. 48. 52 Pion de Loches, Mes campagnes, p. 61. 53 Chandler, Campaigns of Napoleon, pp. 89–92. 54 According to the British liaison officer Sir Thomas Graham, Wurmser inspired little confidence amongst his troops. As he wrote at the onset of the campaign, ‘Had the confidence of the army been gained by the choice of an able and efficient commander (the only means left to recover the broken spirit of the soldiers and the disgust of the officers), there would be more probability of great things being done. The zeal of this good old man is not enough, and there is nothing else. He is undecided, either from being perplexed by the contradictory opinions of those around him or from no-one choosing to take the lead and the responsibility attached to it. I believe the latter to be the case . . . Many of the officers comfort themselves with thinking that defeat must force peace.’ Cit. Drake and Rose, ‘Dispatches of Sir Thomas Graham’, p. 118. 55 E.W. Sheppard, ‘The Italian campaign of 1796 from the Austrian standpoint’, Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, 101, No. 602 (April, 1956), p. 260. 56 A. Viesse de Marmont, Mémoires du Maréchale Marmont, Duc de Raguse de 1792 à 1841 (Paris, 1857), I, p. 212. Given command of all the army’s horse batteries, in an action typical of the aggressive manner in which the French made use of their artillery, Marmont had rushed up his nineteen guns at the gallop at a critical moment in the fighting and wrought terrible damage on the Austrian forces facing him, thereby paving the way for a successful attack on the part of Sérurier’s division. 57 Gauthier-Villars, Mémoires d’un vétéran, pp. 44–5. If the Austrians were still capable of putting up a good fight, it is clear that their morale suffered terribly from the constant battering that they received at the hands of Napoleon. ‘It is not only an able and efficient head of the army that is wanted’, wrote Sir Thomas Graham, ‘but a stricter discipline. The generals don’t think it necessary to stay by their columns . . . in many regiments the officers are inattentive, and on every march, pursuit or retreat the men are scattered about in a most unsoldierlike manner.’ Cit. Drake and Rose, ‘Dispatches of Sir Thomas Graham’, pp. 121–2. 58 Roguet, Mémoires militaires, p. 101.For a good account of the battle, see Chandler, Campaigns of Napoleon, pp. 105–13. 59 By far the best source on the French navy in the early part of the Revolutionary period is W.S. Cormack, Revolution and Political Conflict in the French Navy, 1789–1794 (Cambridge, 1994). See also J.R. Dull, ‘Why did the French Revolutionary navy fail?’, Consortium on Revolutionary Europe Proceedings, 19 (1989), ii, pp. 121–37, and Griffith, Art of War of Revolutionary France, pp. 263–75. 60 For the Glorious First of June, see S. Willis, The Glorious First of June: Fleet Battle in the Reign of Terror (London, 2012). Whilst the battle might have been a strategic success for the French, it was the first of an unbroken run of tactical victories for the Royal Navy, the others being Cape Saint Vincent, Camperdown and, finally, Abukir. Why the British should have been so unbeatable at sea is not hard to divine. Thus, despite the legend of the press gang, service in the navy was popular among sailors as it offered conditions that were much better than in the merchant marine. Add to this a strong conviction of British superiority based on a long tradition of victory over the French and, with it, the near certainty of good prize money, and it can be seen that morale was invariably very high. British sailors, then, were not scared of fighting, while they were generally well led and commanded and also possessed of far more sea experience than their counterparts, most of whom stayed shut up in their ports for months on end due to the British blockade. Finally, better training also ensured that British broadsides were far more rapidly delivered than those of their opponents, while the fact that it was the habit of the British to fire at the hulls of enemy ships rather than the rigging (the French practice) meant that their broadsides were far more deadly. For all this, see P.M. Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of

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62 63 64 65 66

67 68 69 70

71 72 73

74 75

British Naval Mastery (London, 1976), pp. 126–8; D. Brunsman, ‘Men of war: British sailors and the impressment paradox’, Journal of Early Modern History, 14, No. 1 (March, 2010), pp. 9–44. For all this, see D.R. Come, ‘French threat to British shores, 1793–98’, Military Affairs, 16, No. 3 (Fall, 1952), pp. 174–88; J.A. Murphy (ed.), The French Are in the Bay! The Expedition to Bantry Bay, 1796 (Dublin, 1997). There was an ignominious quell to this affair. In brief, on 22 February 1797, the force that had been assembled to raid the British coast, a unit of foreign deserters known as the Légion Noire commanded by an American of Irish origin landed on the coast of Wales near Fishguard only to surrender without firing a shot at the first sign that it might meet serious resistance. Sheppard, ‘Italian campaign of 1796 from the Austrian standpoint’, p. 261. Dwyer, Napoleon, pp. 273–4. For an excellent discussion of the confiscations, see D. Quynn, ‘The art confiscations of the Napoleonic Wars’, American Historical Review, 50, No. 1 (October, 1944), pp. 437–60. See also, Dwyer, Napoleon, pp. 234–7. D. Laven, Venice and Venetia under the Habsburgs, 1815–1835 (Oxford, 2002), pp. 37–40. For Napoleon’s decision to offer peace, see Dwyer, Napoleon, pp. 283–5. Meanwhile, the plight in which Vienna found itself, is summarised by Michael Hochedlinger with brutal clarity: ‘The Habsburg monarchy was on its last legs. In 1794 seventy-five per cent of public revenue was consumed by military costs. Between 1793 and 1798 Vienna spent more than 500,000,000 florins on war against France. Even the issuing of paper money could no longer solve Austria’s financial problems, and Britain, though known as the paymaster of the First Coalition, showed unusual parsimony as far as subsidies for Vienna were concerned.’ Hochedlinger, Austria’s Wars of Emergence, p. 425. For the travails of the Royal Navy’s Mediterrean squadron, see N.A.M. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649–1815 (London, 2004), p. 436. Sydenham, First French Republic, pp. 134–43. With this move, if he was not there already, Pichegru was finally pushed into the opposition camp: having managed to escape from captivity the following year, he fled into exile in Britain and from then on gave himself over to involvement in a series of royalist conspiracies. Schroeder, Transformation of European Politics, pp. 163–4. For the coup of Fructidor and the socalled ‘Directorial Terror’ to which it gave rise, see G. Lefebvre, The Directory (London, 1965), pp. 87–109; D. Woronoff, The Thermidorian Régime and the Directory, 1794–1799 (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 168–74. Ibid., p. 138. Bertaud, Révolution armée, p. 271. This last is not the opinion of specialists such as David Chandler. For example, ‘In each of the four attempts to relieve Mantua, the Austrian high command divided their forces into unconnected parts routed along divergent lines of advance . . . hoping thereby to divert Bonaparte’s attention and cause the fragmentation of his forces. In the event, however, they only laid their own forces open to defeat in detail, throwing away the chance of commanding a decisive numerical superiority on the critical battlefield.’ Chandler, Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 129. Perhaps, but, had the Austrians won, as they very nearly did, the matter would have to be looked at in a rather different light. Schroeder, Transformation of European Politics, p. 136. For example: ‘We celebrated the feast of 14 July by means of a massed artillery salvo and a programme of noble and soldierlike music. Free and fiercesome alike, our brows inclined before the Supreme Being, whilst we offered Him our sincere homage and swore . . . to uphold the rights of man till our last breath.’ Anon., ‘Journal du Capitaine Sibelet’, p. 460. When written in private journals, as is the case here, such words cannot but suggest real devotion to the cause, while Bertaud points out that, having declined sharply over the second half of 1793, the rate of desertion had been halved by the time of the Robespierre’s downfall. Bertaud, Révolution armée, pp. 254–5. However, as Forrest points out, one should be cautious here: whilst greater politicisation certainly played its part, it is quite clear that its reach was limited and that there were many conscripts who remained very hostile, In his view, then, what counted was rather the better policing and administration that came with the advent of Montagnard rule. Forrest, Soldiers of the French Revolution, pp. 77–8.

Exporting the Revolution  147 76 Forrest, Soldiers of the French Revolution, p. 124. In a later discussion of this issue based on his reading of unpublished letters sent by soldiers to their families, the same author points out that the response of the French troops probably differed over time, and in any case was by no means always based on political conviction. Thus, ‘[In 1794] many of the young soldiers desperately wanted to believe this propaganda, for, if true, it suggested that the war would soon be over and they would once again be able to return to their homes and their families. With the passage of time, of course, this desire for peace would become one of the dominant themes of their letters, a desire for peace that was often more urgently expressed than any desire for glory. By Year V, for instance, the signing of the peace was so ardently desired precisely because it was seen as leading to demobilisation.’ A. Forrest, Napoleon’s Men: The Soldiers of the French Revolution and Empire (London, 2002), p. 77. 77 Soulié, Carnets du Colonel Bial, pp. 101–2. 78 Bertaud, Révolution armée, p. 151. As late as 1804, for example, erstwhile Republican commanders such as Augereau are reputed to have been disgusted with Napoleon’s decision to become emperor of France. 79 Bassett, For God and Kaiser, p. 203.

6 Sympathy, admiration and collaboration

In 1793 the Brissotins had led France into a much wider war than the one which had broken out in 1792 in the apparent belief that the peoples of Europe would throw off their chains and rally to the support of the French armies. This did not occur, but, by dint of the force of arms, by the time the Preliminaries of Leoben produced a definitive peace settlement with Austria at Campo Formio in October 1798, the Directory nonetheless controlled broad swathes of territory in both northern and southern Europe: amongst the territories held by her armies were Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Savoy, Nice, Piedmont, Genoa, Lombardy and parts of the Rhineland, the Papal States and Venetia. To all intents and purposes, France had acquired the makings of an empire, and this chapter will therefore examine how that empire came about, worked and was governed. At the same time, meanwhile, the moment has come to examine one of the basic truths about Revolutionary Europe, namely the fact that, for all the power of the ideas of 1789, their ability to produce political change in and of themselves was extremely limited: in almost every case it took the arrival of French bayonets to put them into practice. ‘Bliss was it in that morn to be alive’, wrote William Wordsworth, but neither he nor the vast majority of the nobles, bourgeois and literati who welcomed the coming of the Revolution achieved anything approaching a revolution of their own or even, in many instances, made any real attempt to do so.1 To take such a line may seem odd given the fact that the period from 1789 to 1799 witnessed several political upheavals that at first sight seem to be closely linked to the French Revolution, indeed, even inspired by the Revolution. Of these the most important were the Belgian revolution of 1789, the Polish revolution of 1791–4 and the Irish revolt of 1798, and, in view of what has just been said, the first task of this chapter must be to show that their links with events in France were weaker than might have been expected. Let us begin with the Belgian revolution. At the time of the French Revolution, modern-day Belgium was split into two separate territories, namely the Austrian Netherlands and the Bishopric of Liège. In brief, trouble began in the former. Thus, the reforms of Joseph II had much the same impact on Belgian society as they did in the rest of the Habsburg Empire in that the nobility and the Catholic Church were outraged. Still worse, in the Austrian Netherlands the nine provinces into which the territory was divided still had much of their traditional power, the result being that the one side had more to defend and the other more to attack. By the late 1780s, then, the whole region was in turmoil whilst discontent had spread to the lower classes, the latter being much angered by Joseph’s attempts to purge popular Catholicism of many traditional practices, the result being a series of disturbances known as the ‘little revolution’ that were serious enough to force Joseph temporarily to back away from some of his more radical measures. However, this change of heart proved short-lived, and Vienna was soon once again seeking to impose its full programme on the province, the

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  149 result being that a number of figures particularly identified with the resistance, including, most notably, the leading advocate, Hendrik van der Noot, fled to the United Provinces and began to organise a resistance movement.2 A Belgian revolt was therefore becoming a distinct possibility well before revolution got under way in France, but there is no doubt that events in Paris accelerated events in Belgium, the spring of 1789 seeing the formation of a secret society called Pro Aris et Focis under the leadership of another lawyer named Jan-Frans Vonck. In August, meanwhile, spirits were raised still further when Liège rose in revolt and chased out its Prince-Bishop, César de Hoensbroeck, a particularly reactionary figure who had reversed a number of reforms associated with his more enlightened predecessor, François de Velbruck.3 Early autumn, then, saw the formation of a revolutionary committee, and on 24 October the tiny army that Van der Noot had managed to raise in Holland crossed the frontier and raised the flag of rebellion (to be precise, the same red, yellow and black tricolour that is used by Belgium to this day). Taken completely by surprise, the Austrians tried to fight back, but many of their men were either Flemings or Walloons and therefore promptly deserted, and by the end of the year they had been forced to withdraw to Luxembourg.4 With the collapse of Austrian resistance, the way was open for the construction of a new state. Liège had already set up its own republic, and in January 1790 the Austrian Netherlands emulated France by convoking its own long defunct estates general and producing a constitution modelled in part on mediaeval precedent and in part on that of the infant United States of America. The result was the proclamation of a new state in the form of the so-called United States of Belgium. Unfortunately, however, there were bitter differences in that one faction amongst the rebels – the so-called Statists – saw the aim of the revolution as having been no more than to restore the pre-Josephinian order, whilst another – known from their association with Vonck as the Vonckists – wanted a more representative system, a unitary state and even the adoption of certain elements of Joseph’s reforms. Able to whip up a crowd thanks to their economic power and ability to tap into popular resentments, the former triumphed, and the Vonckists were subjected to a fierce purge that saw many of them imprisoned or, as in the case of Vonck himself, forced to flee into exile in France.5 In acting in so exclusive a fashion, however, Van der Noot and his followers were tempting fate, for support for the rebellion had never been universal, while morale in what remained of the revolutionary camp had been badly undermined by the rapid suppression of the revolt in Liège by Prussian troops acting at the behest of the diet of the Holy Roman Empire. In short, the Statists were riding for a fall, and it is therefore hardly surprising that, when the Austrians launched the inevitable counter-attack in September, they encountered only the most minimal resistance.6 Within less than a year, then, the Belgian revolution was at an end, its only result having been to give Dumouriez and others the impression that Belgium was France’s for the taking. As for connections with the French Revolution, the fact that they existed is undeniable, but, quite clearly, it was not the fall of the Bastille that sparked off revolt. As in Belgium, meanwhile, so in Poland. In the middle of the eighteenth century, Poland had been one of the largest states in Europe. That said, however, she was also one of the weakest. Thus, the monarchy was elective rather than hereditary, whilst each new monarch had both to swear to observe a fundamental charter of rights known as Henrician articles and to agree to a set of specific demands negotiated at the time of his election, their freedom of action being further constricted by a stipulation that any piece of legislation submitted to the national parliament could be blocked by the opposition of a single deputy. As for the result of all this, it was, of course, to entrench the power to the nobility (the only group to whom political

150  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration rights were extended) and leave the monarch little more than a cipher. To make matters worse, these arrangements were very much to the benefit of Russia, whilst a complicated series of events in the reign of Peter the Great had allowed Saint Petersburg in effect to turn Poland into de facto protectorate. Meanwhile, with the monarchy denied adequate funds and the nobility deeply hostile to the notion of a professional army (they instead preferred to trust to the old traditions of the feudal levy), Poland became ever weaker in relation to its fellows, and this in turn made it ever more unlikely that it would be able to defend its position in the constantly warring Europe of the mid-eighteenth century. Desperate to redress the balance, in 1768 a confederation of reformist nobles rose in revolt against Russia, but after a four-year struggle the rebels were defeated, and the result was that in 1772 Poland lost substantial territories to Russia, Austria and Prussia (in brief, having defeated the Poles, Catherine the Great decided that she wanted territorial compensation, the result of this being that Maria Theresa and Frederick the Great demanded gains for themselves as well).7 By the 1780s, then, a strong feeling was growing among the bourgeoisie, small though it was, and even some sections of the nobility that something needed to be done, whilst the current monarch, Stanislas Augustus, was tired of acting as Russian puppet.8 The resultant reform movement being given its chance by Russia’s decision to go war with Turkey 1787, the so-called ‘Great Sejm’ of 1788–92 forced through a modern constitution on 3 May 1791.9 Europe’s first modern constitution, this document was seminal indeed. Thus, it proclaimed the sovereignty of the nation; granted legal equality and voting rights to burghers; disenfranchised the large numbers of landless nobility (hitherto pawns of great magnates); abolished the veto power of individual deputies; increased the size of the army to 100,000 men; created a strong central government and a hereditary monarchy; and placed the serfs – the vast majority of the populace – under the protection of the national government, this last being a phrase that seemed to open the way for their eventual emancipation. In all this, meanwhile, the influence of the French Revolution was at best limited. As in Belgium, the leaders of the reform movement were well versed in the literature of the Enlightenment, but, particularly with regard to the abolition of feudalism, the French model was consciously rejected, the most that can be said being that a small group of lawyers and men of letters led by Hugo Kollontaj began to style themselves Jacobins and press for a greater degree of social reform.10 As we have seen, it was fear for the future of the Constitution of 1791 that prompted Leopold II to develop the strategy that eventually plunged Austria into war with France. Nor was he wrong to be worried, for the crowning achievement of the ‘Great Sejm’ had represented a massive blow to the great magnates who had in effect controlled eighteenthcentury Poland. Thus, having first obtained Russian support, a number of them therefore banded together in the so-called Confederation of Targowica and rose in revolt in April 1792 under Stanislaw Potocki. Soon faced not just with the noble horse raised by the rebels but with large numbers of Russian troops, the loyalist forces fought bravely but were forced back on Warsaw, Stanislas Augustus eventually deciding to surrender in the hope of obtaining a compromise peace . However, Catherine proved unbending: the constitution was revoked, the army greatly reduced in size and Poland stripped of yet more territory, this last being the result of a particularly cynical intervention on the part of Prussia (in theory, an ally of Poland since 1790, Prussia had first refused to lift a finger to defend her against the Russians and then announced to Catherine that in exchange for her forbearance, she expected territorial gains). Still worse, meanwhile, the indefensible rump state that was all that was left of Poland was subjected to a treaty of alliance whose terms in effect rendered it one more province of the Russian empire.11

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  151 This, however, was not the end of the story. The capitulation of Stanislas Augustus had caused great dissatisfaction in the Polish military, the latter believing that it could have carried on the war and even ultimately forced the Russians to retreat. The savage terms of peace settlement therefore led to dramatic consequences. Having either fled into exile in Saxony or gone into hiding, the leaders of the constitutional movement set about planning a revolt and dispatched Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a hero of the war of 1792 who had served in the American War of Independence and was much lionised in France, to try to get help from the Convention.12 This was not forthcoming, but the rebels decided to go ahead anyway. Initially, it was hoped to confine the struggle that resulted to Russia only, but the efforts of the rebel leadership to conciliate the Prussians failed, and the Poles therefore found themselves fighting a two-front war. Meanwhile, the revolt of 1794 was considerably more radical than that of 1791, being accompanied by much violence against those associated with the Confederation of Targowica and also, particularly in Warsaw, a certain amount of political mobilisation, of which a particularly interesting feature was the fact that, despite high levels of anti-Semitism, considerable numbers of Jews came forward to enlist in the Patriot militias.13 Meanwhile, though Kosciuszko had been unimpressed with what he had observed of the French Revolution, he was quite prepared to draw upon its models, embarking on mass conscription and in April 1794 issuing the so-called Proclamation of Polaniec, this being a document that promised many improvements in the condition of the serfs. How far the appeal to the peasantry was effective is a moot point, however: whilst massed ranks of men in peasant costume armed with scythes became one of the most characteristic visual images of the revolt in after years, most scholars are now far more sceptical, not least because the proclamation was at best rarely implemented, if not widely ignored.14 Whatever the truth of all this, what certainly cannot be gainsaid is that Kosciuszko’s appeal to the populace did not save Poland. Following the uprising, the Russians counterattacked and were soon joined in this by Prussia. Ferocious fighting raged for six months, but Kosciuszko was defeated in battle and taken prisoner and the Poles eventually forced to surrender, though not before the eastern suburb of Warsaw known as Praga had been taken by storm and subjected to a massacre that may have cost as many as 20,000 lives. Reprisals were not as grim as might have been expected – though many of them were imprisoned in the short term, most of the rebel leaders were pardoned following the death of Catherine the Great in 1796 – but, even so, large numbers of nobles were dispossessed and their estates distributed either to Russian army officers or Polish magnates who had stayed loyal to the Russian connection, the remaining Polish territory meanwhile being shared between Austria, Russia and Prussia.15 As for the cause of resistance, if it was not quite dead – in all three of the zones into which Poland was now divided, there were conspiracies in the period 1797–8, some of which were far more influenced by French models than anything seen even in the revolt of 1794 – but these came to nothing, Poland not seeing a revival of its independence until the arrival of Napoleon’s forces in 1807.16 Last and most significant of the three revolts that we need to look at before moving on to other matters is the great insurrection that gripped various parts of Ireland in 1798. Here the influence of the French Revolution was at its strongest, but here, too, it is important to note that the events of 1789 did not call forth a rebel army in and of themselves, and, further, that the French Revolution cannot be said to have given birth to Irish nationalism. Thus, quasi-national feeling had been growing in Ireland throughout the eighteenth century: the Catholic majority obviously resented the penal laws and the manner in which they had been deprived of most of their land, but many Protestants were also unhappy, for the development of trade and industry was hit very hard by discrimination against

152  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration Irish shipping, whilst the Irish parliament’s powers were very limited, another issue for the substantial Presbyterian community being the fact that dissenters were subjected to almost as many restrictions as the Catholics. Many of the Protestant elements in this chorus of discontent being well-educated and articulate, the result was a growing reform movement led by Henry Grattan.17 By 1789, then, Ireland was already seething with political unrest of a strongly nationalist character. However, the French Revolution gave this a fresh boost, not least because it seemed to show that anything was possible, political debate being further stimulated by the publication of the first part of Tom Paine’s highly influential Rights of Man in March 1791. Under influence of this general political fervour, in September 1791 a young Church-ofIreland lawyer named Theobald Wolfe Tone published an immensely influential pamphlet calling for the emancipation of Catholics and Dissenters alike as a necessary precursor to a general programme of political reform.18 Tone being seized upon as a figurehead by a number of leading Ulster Presbyterians, the result was the formation of an overtly non-sectarian political club entitled the Society of United Irishmen, this going on to formulate a political programme featuring universal manhood suffrage, paid representatives and equal electoral districts. A key issue here, of course, is the extent to which Tone and his colleagues were influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution. To pretend that they were not aware of these last would be ridiculous, whilst they certainly followed events in France with great interest and sympathy. Yet, for all that the programme of the National Assembly offered a model that was infinitely preferable to the solidly Protestant Glorious Revolution, incorporating, as it did, all Frenchmen rather than just a privileged minority, far more important in their minds was the thinking of John Locke and, more immediately, the example of the American Revolution. In brief, 1789 excited them and encouraged them, but was not necessary to them. To quote Nancy Curtin, ‘The dominant ideological influence on the United-Irish leaders was the British radical Whig tradition.’19 In its origins, then, Irish nationalism was intended to bring together all Irishmen notwithstanding their religion. From the very beginning, however, this vision came under threat, the basic problem being that the visions of harmony indulged in by the movement’s founding fathers bore no relation to situation on the ground, especially in the countryside. Thus, the Catholic peasants, in particular, lived in desperate conditions marked by terrible rack-renting, a tradition having therefore grown up of terror attacks on local landlords that were undertaken by secret societies known by the generic name of ‘white boys’. In Ulster, meanwhile, the violence endemic in the countryside had spilled over into sectarian conflict thanks to the manner in which a number of legal and demographic changes had enabled Catholics to penetrate areas of the province that had hitherto been solidly Protestant as well as to establish themselves as a presence in the textile industry. Furious at what was going on, Presbyterian elements set up a secret society called the Peep O’Day Boys to keep the Catholics in their place, the response of the latter being to establish a rival secret society called the Defenders, not that they were able to prevent thousands of Ulster Catholics from being driven from their homes.20 The social backdrop to the formation of the United Irishmen was therefore very dark and all the more so given the manner in which the sectarian strife in Ulster was much inflamed by a number of economic problems resulting from the war, including, not least, a slump in the textile industry. Nevertheless, the movement mushroomed rapidly, making skilful use of propaganda, quickly establishing branches in most towns and cities and forging a loose alliance with the Defenders. Initially, the government responded with concessions, but the coming of war could not but change its position: the United Irishmen were

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  153 declared a prohibited organisation and many of its leaders prosecuted for sedition, whilst the Defenders were subjected to savage repression, the situation being polarised still further by a decision on the part of the government to extend conscription to the county militia to Ireland.21 In response to this switch in government policy, the United Irishmen became overtly republican and began to plan for a mass insurrection and, more than that, to seek help from France. Having previously sought refuge in the United States, then, Wolfe Tone travelled to Paris in 1796 and engaged in the negotiations with the Directory that led to the dispatch at the close of the year of the expedition of General Hoche.22 Had the French landed, all might have been very different, but, as it was, this episode could not have been more counter-productive. Thus, well aware of what was coming, the British authorities responded with an unprecedented programme of raids and arrests that wrought havoc with the United Irishmen’s organisational structures and ability to wage war, whilst at the same time strengthening their forces by the establishment of a purely Protestant part-time cavalry force known as the Yeomanry. All this, meanwhile, was accompanied by much brutality: martial law was imposed, many houses were burned down, imprisonment was common, and there were plenty of instances in which suspects were dragged from their homes by squadrons of the Yeomanry and subjected to dreadful tortures or even lynched. If the language of veterans of the uprising was bitter and frequently exaggerated, it nonetheless rested on solid foundations. For example: The army, now distributed through the country in free quarters, gave loose to all the excesses of which a licentious soldiery are capable . . . No property, no person, was secure. Numbers perished under the lash; many were strangled in the fruitless attempt of extorting confessions; and hundreds were shot at their peaceful avocations in the very bosoms of their families . . . Torture was resorted to, not only on the most trivial, but on groundless occasions: it was inflicted without mercy on every age and every condition.23 With the bulk of the violence directed against Catholics, the latter hit back in traditional style via the good offices of the Defenders. Yet the reprisals undertaken by the Defenders further alienated the Protestants, and the result was that the largely Protestant leadership of the United Irishmen became ever more isolated. Whilst the United Irishmen never entirely lost the support of the Presbyterian community – in the eastern parts of Ulster, in particular, the Catholics had not had the same success in penetrating the Protestant districts as they had in areas further north and west – or indeed lower- and middle-class Episcopalians, the reality was that the cause of insurrection was becoming ever more Catholic (something that was extremely ironic given the fact that Wolfe Tone was a freethinker who despised the Catholic Church). Meanwhile, the original rebel plan had been to organise a secret army and rise in revolt in event of a French invasion. However, in the autumn of 1797 the Dutch navy – in the wake of the damage wrought to Hoche’s ships the previous year, the only hope left to the French of convoying a substantial invasion force to Ireland – was defeated at the Battle of Camperdown (Kemperduin). With all chance of foreign support gone, the conspirators now had to go it alone. Such a course posed many risks, but eventually a series of British raids that picked up many of the chief United-Irish leaders forced the rebels’ hands: in effect, it was either revolt now or see the United Irishmen broken up completely. To quote the same observer as before, ‘Delay appeared pregnant with danger . . . and it was resolved at every hazard to try the fortunes of the field.’24 Hardly surprisingly in view of the arrest of so many leading militants, when the revolt came, it was extremely uncoordinated. Thus, separate risings took place between 23 May and

154  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration 7 June in Wexford, Meath and Down, but the rebels had nothing more than pikes, scythes and fowling pieces, while their forces were utterly deficient in training and discipline alike. In reality, then, their only hope was that the largely Catholic county militia would mutiny and join the rebellion. Given the riots that had accompanied the imposition of the militia system in 1793, this did not seem impossible, and yet the militia in most instances stood firm. In consequence, thanks in large part to the enclosed nature of the countryside, the only area where the revolt lasted more than a few days was Wexford. However, even here it did not last long: with the government forces soon closing in from all sides, the rebels gathered together at the prominent landmark of Vinegar Hill, only to be overwhelmed within a matter of minutes when they were attacked on 21 June. With revolt everywhere at an end, on 22 August a small French force commanded by Jean Humbert at last arrived on the west coast and gained considerable local support, but this was very much in the nature of a last hurrah: after defeating a British force at Castlebar, Humbert tried to march on Dublin, but was forced to surrender at Ballinamuck. Here and there, insurgent bands continued to wage war in the wilder parts of the areas affected by rebellion until well into the autumn, but the ‘Year of Liberty’, as it became known, was over, the cost being as many as 25,000 Irish dead, as well as Wolfe Tone, the latter being captured off the Irish coast on 12 October when yet another French expedition was intercepted by the Royal Navy.25 From all this, it is clear that none of these insurrections were directly precipitated by the French Revolution. To an extent they were encouraged by it, certainly, but in Belgium, Poland and Ireland alike the revolutionary movements emerged from situations that were particular to those societies and fed off discontents that would have existed even had the French Revolution never taken place. What is still more clear, meanwhile, is that even when they were backed by regular armies, as was the case in Poland, or were able to improvise more or less militarised volunteer forces, as was the case in Belgium and Ireland, their ability to withstand the forces that deployed against them was limited, superior as these were in numbers and, usually at least, quality. As for those groups who were genuinely enthused by French principles, these were even more helpless. In this respect, the revolt in Liège was very much an exception, the generality of the situation being that, if French ideas spread, they in no case produced revolution. Nor is this surprising. Across Continental Europe there had certainly been plenty of individuals who were enthused by the events of 1789, but it was not long before disillusionment had started to set in. Thus, widely reported, the September massacres and the uprising of 10 August 1792 caused widespread shock, while eager visitors to Paris were frequently shocked by the ambience, at least as they perceived it, of licence and corruption. To quote Georg Rebmann, for example, ‘I had thought that I was approaching the temple of liberty, but in fact I had entered a brothel.’26 As if this was not enough, meanwhile, the propertied classes only had to look around them to envisage the possibility of similar levels of popular violence in their own countries. Thus, such was the desperate nature of the economic situation that there was a massive wave of agrarian unrest that may or may not have been influenced by rumours of what was going on in France: in Italy alone, peasant uprisings took place in Venetia, Piedmont, Sardinia, Tuscany and Naples.27 In Continental Europe, at least, political organisation in favour of the Revolution was therefore limited, the one exception being Italy where, in part thanks to the encouragement of the so-called ‘first professional revolutionist’, Filippo Buonarroti – a Tuscan exile of strongly reformist views who had been sent by the Committee of Public Safety to administer a small enclave of Italian territory that had been occupied by French forces on the Ligurian coast centred on Oneglia – self-styled Jacobin secret societies emerged in many towns and cities.28 Meanwhile, a minority of reformist writers and officials, many of them

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  155 disillusioned by the collapse of Josephinianism, such as Pietro Verri, continued, if only privately, to express views sympathetic to the Revolution.29 In Spain, meanwhile, enthused by what little they could glean of what was going on in France (as we shall see, the Spanish government had introduced a variety of measures designed to keep Spain free of any knowledge of the Revolution whatsoever), many university students immersed themselves in a number of more or less subversive pamphlets satirising Bourbon Spain that appear to have emanated from the pen of a professor of the University of Salamanca named Ramón Salas, and to have even organised discussion groups for the interchange of information and ideas.30 However, talk was one thing and action quite another: in those few instances where there were attempts at revolt – the most well-known examples are the Vitaliani conspiracy in Naples, the Martinovic conspiracy in Austria and the Picornell conspiracy in Spain – these were either uncovered before they could be launched, or abject failures involving tiny handfuls of individuals who were often seriously at odds with one another (for example, while Martinovic favoured an independent Hungary, he envisaged a state in which the different ethnic groups would be accorded autonomy, whereas those involved in the conspiracy who were of Magyar origin rather wanted a unitary republic in which the Slovaks and the rest would be subjected to thorough-going Magyarisation).31 So much for the ability of French ideology to effect change on its own account in Continental Europe, but what about Britain and, specifically, England?32 Superficially, at least, this was the one country where sufficient interest in the Revolution emerged for there to be a real chance of overthrowing the old order. At the time of the French Revolution, thanks in part to political traditions dating back to the seventeenth century and in part to defeat in the American War of Independence, Britain was already in the grip of vigorous debates on the need for reform. Under the leadership of such figures as Edmund Burke and John Cartwright, a wealthy Lincolnshire landowner who founded a political club entitled the Society for Constitutional Information, demands surfaced for Catholic emancipation, a revision of the franchise, a greater control of the executive by Parliament, cleaner elections and a fairer distribution of seats in the House of Commons, this pressure being seconded by a parallel movement in Scotland headed by such groups as the Edinburgh Society of Friends of the People and the Dundee-based Friends of Liberty. As could hardly be the case otherwise, the outbreak of the Revolution had greatly intensified this debate. From the beginning, 1789 deepened divisions in Parliament in that the Whigs for the most part were inclined to look kindly on the Revolution, whereas the Tories were just as inclined to look upon it with suspicion.33 So much was to be expected, but the élites began to lose their grip on events. On the one hand, a pamphlet in praise of events in France written by one Richard Price attracted the ire of Edmund Burke who, alarmed by the move towards democracy – a concept which he regarded with a mixture of fear and loathing – abandoned his reformism in favour of producing his famous Reflections on the Revolution in France, this last then receiving a sharp reply in the form of counterblasts from both Tom Paine and the proto-feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft.34 And, on the other, the cause of reform began to reach out in the direction of a broader clientele, the result being the formation in 1792 of the so-called London Corresponding Society, an organisation headed by comparatively humble figures which agitated for universal manhood suffrage and at the same time tried hard to win mass support through the publication of a series of cheap pamphlets in which the case for reform was laid out in the most accessible of language, the facts that public meetings organised by the Society in London attracted enormous crowds, that branches of the Society appeared in a number of provincial cities, and, further, that many independent radical groups sprang up in small country towns that might have been thought to be far

156  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration removed from areas of political ferment, all suggesting that the tactic had much success.35 All this, meanwhile, was accompanied and, indeed, encouraged by vigorous attacks on the war against France in the radical and even not-so-radical press.36 The government of William Pitt responding with repression, as in Ireland the result was radicalisation and, with it, the formation of two secret societies known as the United Englishmen and the United Scotsmen dedicated to planning insurrection.37 In reality, however, what did all this amount to? A powerful tradition in the historiography of Britain in the Revolutionary period insists that this last either gave birth to British radicalism in the form that it took from 1800 onwards or that it both sharpened and gave fresh purpose and context to an existing discourse with roots going back to the seventeenth century. Meanwhile, whilst contributing to that debate, the Marxist historian, E.P. Thompson, went even further and claimed that the struggle with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France was ‘the making of the English working class’.38 All this is unexceptionable enough, but is it possible to go on from here to argue, as Thompson at least was inclined to do, that from these roots there emerged a genuine revolutionary movement that was prepared to use force to achieve its ends? Whilst there were certainly individual revolutionaries – the most well-known is Edward Despard, an erstwhile army officer and sometime member of the London Corresponding Society who was executed in February 1803 after being arrested in connection with a plot to assassinate George III39 – it cannot but be felt that this is a much more dubious proposition. Thanks to adverse weather – above all, the extremely harsh winter of 1794–5 – economic disruption, long-term structural changes in the economy, the enclosure movement and two successive substance crises, there was frequently terrible suffering in this period, and the result is that it is easy to produce a list of bread riots and other such expressions of economic distress, not to mention much evidence of an ever-growing war-weariness and desire for peace.40 Visible, too, are several attempts to assassinate George III, a growth in acts of intimidation and violence directed against clergymen and magistrates, a rise in trade unionism, a move away from the Anglican Church in favour of Methodism, the widespread penetration of English and Scottish radicalism by elements of the Irish revolutionary movement, and a variety of disturbances that had their roots not in traditional issues that had always played a role in sparking off violence, but rather in others that were directly linked to the war effort, the best example here, perhaps, being the Scottish militia riots of 1798 (like their earlier counterparts in Ireland, these were motivated by opposition to the extension of the militia ballot to areas hitherto exempt from it).41 As for fears of revolution, one has only to glance at the various repressive measures engaged in by the Pitt administration, not to mention the humiliating peace terms accepted by its successor at Amiens in 1802, to come to the conclusion that these were very real indeed.42 Thus is the case stated, but it cannot but be felt that there are many weaknesses in such arguments. For example, let us accept, as was undoubtedly the case, that many of those who enlisted in the many volunteer battalions that were formed for the purposes of home defence joined up for reasons that were pragmatic rather than ideological, but does this mean that they would not have fought had the French actually appeared or that they would not have stood firm against indigenous revolutionaries? Equally, patriotic demonstrations are tarred with suggestions that they had been manufactured by local élites, and yet it is accepted without question that radical ones were wholly genuine, just as shots fired at George III are always assumed to have been fired by men with a cause rather than men suffering from one of any number of mental illnesses. As for the presence of Irish emissaries, whilst their presence cannot be doubted, there is little recognition of their constant

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  157 complaints of the lack of appetite for serious action that they everywhere encountered amongst the radical circles in which they moved, just as no thought is given to the impact of the horrors that took place in Ireland on the radical movement: it is the opinion of at least one historian that the ‘Year of Liberty’ killed off all chance of such an event taking place in mainland Britain.43 Problematic, too, is the nature of the evidence that is presented, for, as Clive Emsley has pointed out, much of it consists of ‘the reports of government spies whose own loyalties to the Crown, to their personal financial situation or malice towards those they spied on, may have coloured what they reported’.44 And finally, we see the application of double standards, such as when it is on the one hand argued that, because there is no documentary evidence of the poor buying the penny tracts produced in large numbers to encourage ‘Church-and-King’ loyalism, it can be assumed that such campaigns were a failure, and, on the other, that invisibility is no reason for believing that hundreds of villages and hamlets housed, if not organised groups of radicals, then, at the very least, plenty of individuals committed to the cause of revolution. As for actual instances of revolutionary plots, these tend in many cases to be mentioned with a certain studied vagueness, it being clear that the only case where there is concrete evidence of any such phenomenon is the mutiny that broke out in the ships of the Channel Fleet at the naval anchorage of the Nore in 1797. This, certainly, was a serious affair, but even here the rank-and-file mutineers seem to have been moved to take action by the same bread-and-butter issues that motivated their counterparts in the much less radical affair that took place at the same time at Spithead rather than a British revolution.45 If some of those who have argued that there was no revolutionary threat have been too complacent, those who have opposed such views are therefore open to accusations of, at the very least, romanticism.46 Aside from the rather obvious fact that there was no British revolution, as inferred in the previous paragraph, one of the chief problems faced by those who wish to emphasise the extent to which the cause of radicalism enjoyed popular support is the issue of popular counter-revolution. Scarcely had the French Revolution begun to acquire serious populist tendencies than members of the élites began to attempt to mobilise both the middle classes and the crowd in support of the government. What is more, despite all the passionate argument to the contrary, they appear to have done at least as effectively as those who hoped to emulate events in France: at their disposal, after all, was not just a century of constant warfare with France but a tradition of fear of invasion, national exceptionalism and popular xenophobia dating as far back as the sixteenth century.47 Still more remarkable, meanwhile, is the wholesale mobilisation which met the growing threat of French invasion after 1794, and all the more so as the enormous numbers involved were raised entirely through voluntary enlistment, albeit in ways that were not entirely helpful to the war effort.48 Thus, service in the regular army being a miserable business with a reputation in the community that was extremely poor, alternative structures had to be created that went at least some way towards assuaging popular hostility.49 In addition to the army and the navy, both of which continued to be raised by voluntary enlistment encouraged by the payment of substantial bounties, and the militia, which adhered to the traditional ballot whilst yet being extended to cover Ireland and Scotland, there were three main types of unit, namely the Yeomanry – locally raised cavalry units dominated by the gentry and its numerous retainers that, like the Volunteers, served on a part-time basis in their own localities – the Fencibles – volunteer units of infantry and cavalry that could usually (there were a few exceptions) only be sent abroad with the consent of their officers and men and were not expected to serve for any longer than the duration of hostilities – and the Volunteers – units which, as the name suggests, had enlisted of their own free will, but could not be forced to serve

158  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration beyond the borders of their home counties.50 The numbers of such units were very great – Scotland alone produced fourteen regiments of Fencible cavalry, forty-four regiments of Fencible infantry and 228 units of Volunteers51 – but, despite the competition for recruits and the better terms of service offered by the home defence units (including, incidentally, the militia, whose rank and file were guaranteed a pension), this did not prevent a considerable increase in the size of the regular army, the years from 1793 to 1801 witnessing the organisation of at least fifteen new infantry regiments, even if some of them appear originally to have been Volunteer formations.52 In all this, of course, there is much that can be qualified, even much that can be challenged. Acquiring men for the regular army remained extremely difficult, so much so, indeed, that it had to continue employing foreign troops, including, two Swiss regiments inherited from the army of Condé; another Swiss regiment that had originally been raised for the forces of the East India Company; two small German units that had again served under Condé and were combined in the British service to form a new light-infantry battalion (the Fifth Battalion of the Sixtieth Foot); a regiment of erstwhile Austrian prisoners of war who had accepted an offer to enlist in the Spanish army only to fall into the hands of the British when the latter occupied Menorca in 1797 and who were taken into their service as the ‘Queen’s Germans’; a regiment of Corsicans; and a regiment of French deserters (one might also mention Irish Catholics here: as we have seen, officially admitted to the army in 1792, large numbers of them were soon abandoning the ‘wearing of the green’ in favour of a coat of a different colour, whilst there even appeared regiments such as the famous EightyEighth Foot, or Connaught Rangers, that were wholly composed of Catholics). Service in the militia remained so unpopular that almost anyone who could took advantage of the provision that allowed men who were unlucky in the ballot to purchase the services of a substitute. The impressive record of the Highlands in providing men for the Regulars and Fencibles alike can in part be explained by the fact that the lairds possessed massive incentives for forming regiments of their own, not least because such acts carried with them the rights to appoint the entire officer corps, and therefore had absolutely no hesitation in exploiting their absolute control of their tenants to force every family to send at least one son into the ranks. And, finally, the act of joining a Volunteer unit did not necessarily imply that the men concerned were fervent opponents of the Revolution: among the many other motives involved were the need to conciliate social superiors, the added éclat afforded by a colourful uniform, the need to supplement the family income by the small allowances paid to recruits and, finally the chance of securing a break from the tedium and back-breaking labour of daily routine, whilst there can also be no doubt that some recruits were obtained through various forms of intimidation or social pressure. Across most forms of enlistment other than the Volunteers, meanwhile, one sees a strong tendency for the vast majority of recruits to come from poor tenant farmers, the labouring poor and sections of the artisanate badly hit by wartime economic dislocation or longer-term structural change. Mere numbers of redcoats, then, do not constitute evidence of support for Church and King, but the fact that so many men were needed for the armed forces provided poverty with a safety-valve.53 Wherever one looks, then, the picture is the same. Notwithstanding the bloody scenes witnessed in Paris and elsewhere, numbers of men across Europe continued to regard the Revolution with sympathy and even to organise in its favour, but they could rarely mount a serious challenge to their rulers, and the translation of French ideas into concrete results therefore had to wait till the arrival of French bayonets. Needless to say, this event brought the friends of liberty rushing to greet the forces of liberation, but what then happened was that, all too often, they were shown to be as weak as they were irrelevant.

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  159 Let us begin with the numerous petty territories that made up the Rhineland. In so far as this area was concerned, the inhabitants ostensibly had much to complain of at the time of the French Revolution. Here, for example, is the writer Johann Riesbeck on the situation that he encountered in Mainz: The administration of this country is such that it is really disgusting to me to pick out specimens of it to lay before you. Everything that you have ever heard of the separate government of priests, mistresses, bastards, parvenus, projectors, eunuchs, bankrupts and the like exists in the Palatinate at one and the same time. I have spoken with several Ministers who made no secret of having bought their places. Indeed, there are more instances than one of places having been put up at public auction in the antechambers of the mistresses. One natural consequence of this is the flagrant oppressions of the customs-house officers who are so many Turkish pashas and are feared in their respective districts as the executioners of the vengeance of heaven . . . Almost every place on the high road has some particular custom payable in it, and all the goods which pass through it are likewise taxable . . . There is, indeed, no part of Germany in which adventurers of all sorts are so sure to make their fortunes.54 Even in respect of Mainz, however, this picture is exaggerated: if all was not well, it most certainly was not all ill either. In fact, the Rhenish rulers were for the most part extremely enlightened figures whose administrations, within their limits, were honest and competent as well as much given to inaugurating projects that were designed to improve the security, living standards and educational attainments of the populace. Also contributing to the relative prosperity that marked the area was the decline of feudalism to the level of an irritant only, a flourishing commercial agriculture that profited enormously from the possibilities offered by the Rhine and its tributaries and thereby enabled many peasants to escape the pressures generated by population growth by emigrating to America, and the beginnings of industrialisation in such towns as Creveld. In consequence of all this, of course, levels of literacy were very high while the propertied classes had access to some of the best universities in Germany as well as a lively cultural life. Particularly given the prevalence of Catholicism in the region, so high a level of educational and cultural activity might have been thought to make it a hotbed of advanced political views, but in practice the pressure was defused by a combination of paternalistic government, strong representative institutions, reforms to the structure of the Church designed to favour the parish clergy at the expense of the religious orders and, last but not least, a relaxed attitude on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities in respect of the circulation of works of critical thought.55 All this, of course, made the Rhineland a very poor prospect for the ideas of the French Revolution. Certainly, there were long-running issues among the peasantry that led to friction and even occasional disturbances, but all the evidence suggests that the sans culottes of Mainz and other cities were relatively content and that the propertied classes for the most part could see nothing of any relevance in the French example. Some alarm was caused by the decision of some of the rulers to welcome the émigrés and allow them to embark on the formation of military forces such as that of Condé, but what was operative here was far less sympathy for the Revolution than fear of retribution, whilst petitions of protest or other attempts to secure the redress of grievances were generally limited in their aims, couched in the most respectful of terms and tied not to the principles enunciated, say, in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, but traditional rights and privileges. At most, then, what one finds is a sense that a good opportunity was at hand

160  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration to demand the redress of long-standing grievances. If the period from 1789 to 1792 was marked by a wave of protest, then, it should not be thought that this reflected the spread of revolutionary ideology.56 None of this is to say that there was nobody in the region who was enthused by events across the French frontier. Chief amongst these figures was Georg Forster, a professor at the University of Mainz who can be regarded as a founding father of the study of natural history. Extremely well-travelled, he perhaps had a broader view of the ancien régime than most of his compatriots and was therefore more open to the ideas of the Revolution. When the French took Mainz in October 1792, then, he immediately joined a number of other like-minded observers – the most prominent were his fellow professors, Josef Hoffmann and Anton Dorsch; the journalist Friedrich Cotta; and the reformist clerics Felix Blau and Friedrich Pape – in the formation of a political club called the Society of the Friends of Liberty and Equality. Yet the number of men concerned was relatively small – even at its greatest extent the Jacobin Club, as it was more usually known, had no more than 500 members, at least some of whom were French officers or administrators – whilst, Forster excepted, few of those involved had much in the way of reputation or intellectual standing, the fact being that it cannot but be suspected that many of those concerned were motivated by nothing more than opportunism. Conscious of their isolation, the more committed members of the club sought frantically to convert propertied classes and populace alike to their cause, but it is all too clear that their best efforts fell far short of their goal, not least because the behaviour of the occupying forces cut the ground from under their feet. Still worse, they themselves fell prone to bitter divisions between those who were die-hard in their support of the French and others who resented their arrogance and rapacity, the disputes becoming so ferocious that in early March 1793 the French subjected the Club to a massive purge. In consequence, elections to a new city council on the basis of universal manhood suffrage attracted the participation of just 400 voters. As for those that were held to establish a Rhenish–German National Convention, these were just as poorly supported, many communities failing to send a single delegate. When the new assembly met on 17 March 1793 Forster and his remaining allies – by this time the vast majority of the Jacobin Club’s membership had fallen by the wayside – therefore gave up the unequal struggle: if on the one hand, they proclaimed a so-called ‘Cisrhenan Republic’, on the other they agreed to seek union with France.57 The collapse of the Republican movement in Mainz was not, of course, the end of the story of collaboration in the Rhineland, just as the fall of Mainz was not the end of French domination. After years of fighting which surged first in the favour of the one side and then in the favour of the other, the peace of Campo Formio enabled the French at last to occupy the whole of the region and move steadily in the direction of the French model though it was not, in fact, till 1802 that full annexation finally occurred.58 Meanwhile, even during the war years, there was a sustained attempt to win over the inhabitants. As Girault wrote of Mainz, for example: It was in that city that I first attended the civic festivals that had been established by the Republic. The first was that of Agriculture. On a cart drawn by eight magnificent oxen, there rode four of the oldest peasants to be found in the surrounding district . . . Following them there came a band of young girls dressed all in white and carrying baskets full of fruit of every sort garnished with flowers, and, behind these last, a number of young men carrying forks and hoes . . . In the evening there was a grand ball and the band of my regiment was brought in to provide the music.59

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  161 As everywhere else, the French looked to the local élites for co-operation in this process of acculturalisation, but, so long as the future of the region remained uncertain, the latter were for most part extremely unwilling to oblige. The corollary, of course, was that the French had to rely on officials sent in by Paris, but such men were all too often incompetents who had failed to make the grade or mere adventurers, while many of them had no German. Poorly paid, if, indeed, they were paid at all, they engaged in wholesale corruption whose general effect was in one way or another to increase the pressure on the inhabitants. In consequence, the public-spirited began to see that involvement in the régime might make sense, whilst in some cases the rulers themselves urged erstwhile officials to do what they could to ameliorate the burdens of occupation. So far as can be established, ideological sympathy remained non-existent, but, for all that, such were the dictates of pragmatism that the seeds were sown for the widespread collaboration seen in the region in the Napoleonic period.60 If ideological collaboration failed in the Rhineland, in Belgium it scarcely even existed. That this was so need not have been the case, for the Austrians had scarcely behaved towards the populace with much generosity in the wake of the suppression of the revolution of 1790. As Charles Este wrote of the reoccupation of Liège, for example, ‘That the townspeople might know when they were well . . . the Prince of Coburg made a levy on the town: the amount of the imposition was half a million!’61 Amongst their troops, meanwhile, were plenty of men who were at least as rapacious as any French soldier. ‘On the way to Brussels, we made camp in the forest of Soignies near Waterloo’, wrote Claude Tercier. ‘Nearby were some Transylvanian irregulars belonging to the legion of Michaellowitz. They were bad troops, mere pillagers . . . That very night I witnessed the execution of two of them.’62 When the French returned, then, they were initially welcomed as liberators. To quote Pierre Girardon’s account of events in Namur: The morning after the town was taken, our advanced guard marched in and passed through the streets in triumph to the accompaniment of cries of joy on the part of the people . . . The women threw their bonnets in the air and kissed our hands.63 In one or two places, meanwhile, expressions of popular support went even further. According to Bial, then, as the last Austrian troops fell back through the streets of Liège, so the populace pelted them with stones and poured pots of boiling water on them from the windows.64 Belgium, then, was not a lost cause: setting aside the brutality with which Vienna’s rule had been re-imposed, the peasants had obtained little from the revolt against Austria. However, all chance of obtaining a popular constituency in Belgium was soon squandered. In the wake of the battle of Fleurus, then, the troops behaved very badly and were but rarely exposed to the sting of military discipline: now a sous-lieutenant, Jean Vivien remembered the execution of twelve grenadiers as an event that was quite exceptional.65 For a particularly graphic account of the depredations that went on, we can cite a letter written by a corporal named Demonchy from the recently re-occupied town of Rousbrugge on 4 October 1793: ‘We are presently cantoned in enemy country . . . The town in which are camped out is completely ruined: as a result of the pillage to which it has been subjected, half of it has been reduced to ashes . . . Meanwhile, we keep making all sorts of discoveries in the area roundabout . . . Horses, chickens, cows, sheep, pigs, in short, animals of every sort. Having rounded the lot up, we then go into the houses of the peasants, knock them about a fair bit, and then have a good drink of their wine.’66 Nor was it just a matter of pillage, Duthilt,

162  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration for example, describing how he came across two French soldiers raping a teenage girl in the village of Moorsele.67 Rapine, looting and living off the country were common features of eighteenth-century warfare. Yet few past occupations had been quite so ferocious in the way in which they set about exploiting Belgium’s resources. In July 1794, then, the French formalised the ruthless behaviour that had already been the hallmark of many of their generals and représentatives en mission through the establishment in Belgium of a so-called ‘Agency of Trade and Extraction’. This policy was not confined to Belgium – similar bodies were set up in the Rhineland, Savoy and Catalonia – and there is no suggestion that she was treated any more harshly than her companions in misfortune, but the results were still grim enough, it being the task of these bodies to supervise the sequestration of a long list of items or products that were deemed to be essential to the French war effort, as well the collection of the enormous war contributions that had already been imposed on Belgium’s towns and cities by the French army, contributions, moreover, that had to be paid in coin, whereas all payments made by the invaders had rather to be accepted in assignats that were never worth more than a third of their face value and often much less. For the population as a whole, then, French rule represented at best impoverishment and, at worst, death by cold or starvation.68 As for the Belgian élites, that part of them that might have been won over to the French cause – essentially, the more radical elements of the Vonckists, some of whom had turned Jacobin or even enlisted in the Army of the North, which by the end of 1792 could therefore boast of at least six battalions of Belgian volunteers – found that they had been betrayed. At first, the arrival of the French had been greeted with much excitement that spanned the political spectrum – indeed, even Van der Noot sent a message of congratulations to Dumouriez. However, the resultant ‘honeymoon period’ proved short-lived. In the first place, the political initiative was seized by the tiny handful of erstwhile Vonckists who had turned Jacobin. Returning to Brussels in the wake of the arrival of Dumouriez, then, they immediately established a Jacobin club – the so-called ‘Society of the Friends of Liberty and Equality’ – and seized control of the elections the general had called to produce a provisional national assembly. Needless to say, the eighty-four men elected were either Jacobins or Vonckists whom the former hoped could be won over to their cause, and the result was that very soon Belgium was on its way to acquiring a political settlement that seemed likely to be a republican version of the one achieved in France in 1789, the Jacobin Club in the meantime acting as a species of ginger-group which, on the one hand, strove to do all it could to win over public opinion and, on the other, kept the provisional assembly under constant pressure to move in the direction of radical change. However, apart from the continued insistence on the part of all concerned that Belgium should become an independent state, little of this was to the liking of the Statists, and Van der Noot and his confederates therefore began to protest about what was going on and, in particular, to seek the aid of an increasingly worried Dumouriez. If this had been the extent of the problem, the Jacobins and their allies would have had little to worry about, but across the border in France there was also growing concern. Although 19 November had seen the passage of the decree offering all peoples who wanted their liberty, underlying this was the assumption that this meant liberty on France’s terms, terms which in this instance were doubly challenged: not only was there strong support in Paris for the annexation of Belgium, but it was by no means clear that the new state would remain under the control of forces friendly to the Revolution – on 27–28 November, indeed, Brussels witnessed serious disturbances that were clearly the work of Statist agitators.69 Alarmed at the growing clamour, the Brussels Jacobins responded by demanding an allout offensive against the Church and the nobility. With the substantial forces in Belgium

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  163 beginning to experience serious supply difficulties – supply difficulties that were, of course, blamed on local resistance rather than simple shortage of food and transport – and many observers in Paris convinced that Catholic Belgium was simply too backward to embrace the new order, on 15 December the Convention therefore took drastic action, its representatives in Belgium being ordered to move to the election of a new assembly that would, or so it could be inferred, do France’s will without question and embark on a programme of reform that took as its model not 1789–90 but 1792.70 The result was chaos. Not only did the provisional assembly protest fiercely to the Convention, but the local assemblies that were held to choose the delegates to the planned Belgian Convention over and over again returned men associated with the Statists and passed resolutions swearing their loyalty to the traditional (i.e. pre-Josephinian) order. Hardly surprisingly, the elections were promptly annulled, and the provisional assembly sidelined, the resulting vacuum being filled by the Society of the Friends of Liberty and Equality, tiny rump though this had now become. Yet the French had no intention of trusting this body, not least because most of the handful of men who continued to attend its sessions were lacking in both reputation and experience.71 Lacking in reliable local partners, they therefore had little option but to proceed to direct rule: not only did a series of decrees promise that Paris would step in to undertake the role that might have been played by a Convention, but the country was flooded with a horde of commissioners charged with the task of issuing proclamations extolling political reform with one hand while they stripped the country of everything they could get with the other. In the meantime, the way was paved for annexation by the organisation of a referendum which duly produced an overwhelming majority of favour of ‘reunification’, as the project was termed. This, of course, was not much justification, but it was all the justification that the French needed. In the event, changes in the military situation on the ground and the vicissitudes of political life in Paris delayed implementation for two years, but annexation was now inevitable.72 Jacobinism, then, did not spread to Belgium in any meaningful way. Yet the absence of ideological collaboration did not mean that there was no collaboration whatsoever. On the contrary, such were the horrors that the French occupation unleashed that, by the first months of 1793, the number of those who had taken to brigandage to survive had become so great that all normal trade and communications were breaking down. In consequence, the feeling grew that the only hope was annexation by France, not least because only then would the propertied classes be enabled to protect their interests through the organisation of National-Guard units, and thus it was that, when the Convention gave the Austrian Netherlands and Liège a new administrative structure based on a central executive council and six de facto departments, sufficient local support was obtained to ensure that at both levels of government Belgians outnumbered French appointees, significant minority though the latter remained. At the municipal level there was far less in the way of success, the local notables to whom the French turned when they set about setting up new town councils understandably feeling particularly vulnerable to popular retribution, but, even so, to say that there was no collaboration is therefore untrue: more than that, indeed, when annexation was finally formally announced on 1 October 1795, Belgium’s new status even received a guarded welcome.73 Even if it was not settled straight away, such was the significance of the natural frontiers in the French political mind that the fate of Belgium and the Rhineland was never hard to divine. Yet, thanks to Georg Forster and his confederates, an alternative model had been revealed to which the French could turn. We come here to the concept of the satellite republic, a state that, while ostensibly free and self-governing, was in practice firmly

164  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration subject to France’s control and responsive to her every need, as well as being much cheaper to administer. As Blanning has observed, so far as the French were concerned, this was a wonderful invention. However, it was not until the French occupied the United Provinces in the winter of 1795–6, that the policy was put into effect. Even then, meanwhile, it was not so much an act of policy as a result of events developing a momentum of their own. Thus, for some years, considerable elements among the Dutch had been seething with discontent: as we have seen, indeed, in 1787 there had even been a short-lived revolution in consequence of the desire of the current hereditary head of state or stadtholder (always the head of the House of Orange), William V, to become the king he was in everything but name in the face of the determination of the seven provinces which constituted the state over which he ruled to defend their traditional prerogatives and resist what they saw as the onset of absolutism. Restored by Prussian troops, William had in fact refrained from imposing major changes, but even so progressive opinion was left furious and embittered, large numbers of refugees therefore fleeing into exile, particularly in France. Rallying to the Revolution almost to a man, they looked forward to the day when they could return to their homeland with great anticipation, and in 1792 organised a so-called ‘Batavian legion’ under the command of a general named Hermann Daendels who had played a major role in the fighting in 1787.74 However, it was not the Dutch exiles that took the lead in the United Provinces. Far from it: French victory in Belgium having encouraged the many supporters of the revolution left in the country to prepare for a fresh revolt, as the French armies marched ever further northwards, in town after town power was seized by local élites anxious at one and the same time to maintain order and advance the reformist agendas that had been overwhelmed in 1787.75 Nor was there the slightest resistance: setting aside the fact that no Dutch city was more than a few days’ march from thousands of French troops, the behaviour of the increasingly desperate Allied soldiery had become so terrible that there was little love lost for the First Coalition: on the contrary, indeed, the arrival of Pichegru’s forces was greeted with celebrations and festivities of every kind. Thus far, thus good, but it was not long before the Dutch revolution ran into serious problems. In the first place, there was the question of the peace treaty that was immediately imposed upon it. Much though the new authorities trumpeted their friendship with France, the Convention was not disposed to show much in the way of mercy, not least because of the failure of the Patriots to seize power until the French armies had crossed the Rhine. Nor did it help that there was a strong belief that the United Provinces were a species of Aladdin’s cave possessed of unlimited wealth. Notwithstanding desperate Dutch attempts to soften the blow, then, the terms put forward by the Convention can only be described as crushing: although a few concessions were obtained by the Dutch negotiators, the resultant Treaty of the Hague stripped the country of various territories on its southern frontiers, imposed both a levy of 100,000,000 florins and a forced loan of the same amount, and committed the United Provinces (now renamed the Batavian Republic) to not only a defensive alliance with France but the upkeep of a French garrison of 25,000 men.76 These terms came as a bitter blow, for the Dutch had been hoping that their revolution would at the very least have earned the good will of France, and, with it, the right to remain neutral. As it was, the new state was from the very beginning saddled with burdens which it could barely sustain. To quote Pfeil, ‘At a stroke the Batavian Republic was saddled with a poisoned legacy: a debt whose interest amounted to more than half the annual revenues of the state.’77 War, meanwhile, also meant economic disaster: the British imposed a naval blockade, seized many Dutch merchant ships and set about eliminating the Dutch presence

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  165 in the wider world. However, serious as the effects of the treaty were, they were not the most immediate of the problems faced by the Dutch. Delighted though they were with the fall of the House of Orange, the future was marred by the fact that there was no agreement whatsoever as to the form that the new state should take. On the one hand, one group – the Federalists – wanted to restore the traditional political arrangements based on a loose association of self-governing provinces, whilst, on the other, a second – the Democrats – looked rather to the establishment of a unitary republic, the old constitution having in their eyes made for an administration that was cumbersome and inefficient, an economy that was held back on many fronts and a country which was clearly dangerously susceptible to foreign invasion. Logical though this position was, however, the smaller provinces rightly feared that a unitary state would be dominated by Holland, and, more particularly, that consolidating the national debt and introducing a unified system of taxation would greatly increase the financial burdens laid upon them.78 Extremely deeply seated, the confrontation between these two tendencies immediately dominated the political situation. Not until March 1796 did a new constituent assembly meet, and, when it did, there followed two years of chaos. The Directory not yet being at the point it reached a year later of having to justify its legitimacy by support for revolution abroad, the French were initially happy to leave the Dutch to their own devices in so far as domestic politics were concerned, but it soon became apparent that resolving the dispute was completely beyond the reach of the two sides: after much argument and debate, the deputies succeeded in producing a compromise, but, when this was put to the electorate in a referendum in August 1797, it was thrown out, seemingly because supporters of the Federalists and supporters of the Democrats both believed that too much had been given away to their opponents. In the wake of this disaster, fresh elections were convened, but the stalemate continued, whilst matters were rendered still more complex by the fact that radical elements in the Democrats’ ranks began to agitate for a greater degree of provincial and municipal autonomy than the initial advocates of a unitary state had been prepared to concede. The result was the French government lost patience and ordered its ambassador, Charles Delacroix, to settle matters once and for all. September 1797 had, of course, seen the coup of Fructidor with its attendant shift to the left, and it would be tempting to argue that the new Directory wanted to see the establishment of a régime of a similarly radical complexion in the Batavian Republic, but the reality was rather different: whilst a unitary solution was ideologically preferable, it was felt that it would be much better for the Dutch to resolve their own problems; if 22 January 1798 saw a coup in which Delacroix plumped for the unitary option, it was essentially because he genuinely believed that the Democrats were in the ascendant.79 Bloodless though the coup was, it nevertheless produced decisive change in that more than twenty of the most vocal Federalists were expelled from the assembly and a new constitution introduced that satisfied most of the Democrats’ aspirations and established a Directory on the French model. Moreover, this was approved of by a plebiscite which delivered a vote of more than 90 per cent in its favour.80 Yet this was not the end of the story. Whilst there was little desire to quarrel with the constitution as such, the radicals who had been behind the coup proceeded to overplay their hand, insisting that two-thirds of the members of the new assembly should come from the one that had passed the constitution, whilst at the same time arresting numbers of individuals who were not Federalists in the slightest, packing the administration with their friends and attempting to purge the electorate. Faced by this behaviour, men of property and education who distrusted the artisans and petty entrepreneurs who formed the backbone of the Democrat movement, the moderates

166  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration sidelined by the coup hit back. Still in control of the Directory in spite of the strength of the radicals, they therefore began to take steps to curb the influence of the clubs and at the same time set about planning a comeback that would in their eyes strengthen the social order and put their opponents in their place. With the Directory in Paris now having switched direction yet again in the wake of the so-called coup of Floréal (an operation designed to curb the excessive influence which the Jacobins had secured through the coup of Fructidor), these plans were by no means unwelcome to the French authorities, whilst the need to take action was further reinforced by the fact that the cavalier actions of the radicals were pushing many elements that had previously supported a unitary constitution into the arms of Federalism or even Orangism. On 12 June 1798, then, Amsterdam woke up to a second coup headed by Daendels which produced the dissolution of the assembly and the arrest of the leading radicals, government thereafter being in the hands of men such as the successful banker Isaac Gogel, none of whom had any interest in pursuing a genuinely democratic agenda.81 Only now, then, did the Batavian Republic at last secure a degree of stability though in fact there was to be yet one more coup in 1801 that saw the French garrison overthrow the constitution of 1798 in favour of one that mirrored the arrangements that had been put in place in France following the events of 18 Brumaire: no more than anywhere else in the French sphere of influence, then, can it be said that the Dutch were allowed to go their own way. That said, alone of the satellite states of which it was the first example, the Batavian Republic did at least survive to enjoy a flourishing political life throughout, involvement in the régime being widespread amongst the educated classes, just as support for it was common amongst many sections of the populace. Political strife there was aplenty, certainly, but this at no time touched the issue of the state itself: if the Dutch disagreed as to the form which their republic should take, hardly any of them wished to live in a monarchy. To quote Kossmann: Public opinion in the monarchy had certainly not become anti-French. The landing of British [and Russian] troops in North Holland in August 1799 . . . was, to the great disappointment of the coalition and the House of Orange, not greeted by a rising of the Dutch people.82 Elsewhere, however, the picture was very different. We come here, first of all, to Italy. In so far as this is concerned, the story begins with the campaign of 1796. As we have seen, this was launched with little in the way of either sense of mission or hope of aggrandisement: commander of the smallest of the French field armies, all that Napoleon was expected to do was to tie down the Austrian troops in Italy and, if possible, cause Vienna to weaken its forces in Germany. Within the Directory, meanwhile, general agreement that Belgium and the Rhineland should be annexed to France was not matched in the case of Italy. Thus, whilst Carnot wanted any territorial acquisitions that might result simply to be held (and, of course, ruthlessly exploited) until such time as they could be used as bargaining counters in peace negotiations, his colleagues, Reubell and Révellière-Lepeaux, were eager to see Italy revolutionised, not least because they had been led to believe by Buonarroti and others that there was solid support for the Revolution beyond the Alps.83 How this difference might have been resolved had it been left to itself is unclear, but in the event factors on the ground took over and handed victory to the revolutionists. We come here, of course, to Napoleon. Suddenly precipitated by his victories to heights of eminence all but unimaginable a few months before, he quickly found himself in a position in which he was able to

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  167 defy the Directory more or less at will, so much money being remitted to Paris in the course of the campaign that by the end of 1796 he was to all intents and purposes untouchable. To quote Alan Forrest: There were few indications of defeats or set-backs with the result that it was difficult . . .  not to associate the Italian campaign with an unbroken series of French advances or to identify its young general with victory and military glory . . . He was being recreated as a providential figure, the image at the heart of the myth of the saviour of later years.84 If Napoleon had become a power in the land – indeed, in some respects the only power in the land – there remained the question of what he should do with his newfound authority. By all accounts, from early in the campaign he was thinking of seizing power in France, but, more immediately, there was the issue of the territories that had been occupied by the French armies. In so far as these were concerned, it was not long before he was thinking of adopting an idea that stemmed directly from the position of Reubell and La Révellière, namely the transformation of at least some of France’s Italian gains into a satellite republic.85 In this, of course, there was considerable vanity – when Napoleon had made his entrance into Milan on 15 May, he had been greeted by a cheering crowd that, in large part anything but spontaneous though it was (it appears to have been recruited by local Jacobin sympathisers bent on impressing the French with the strength of the population’s enthusiasm for the Revolution), completely turned his head. In short, Napoleon was entertaining dreams of playing the liberator. Yet it was not just vainglory that pushed him in this direction: with much of the countryside in a state of revolt (see Chapter 8) and the Army of Italy committed in the long-run to invading Austria, it made sense to win over the local Jacobins. And, last but not least, Napoleon should not be denied a certain sincerity: whilst he was certainly deeply ambitious, in Italy he found a real cause, namely the overthrow and complete remodelling of a society he loathed for its deep-seated Catholicism.86 The first steps in the new policy came in the last months of 1796 with the creation on the basis of the Duchy of Modena and the Papal territories of Bologna and Ferrara of a statelet entitled the Cispadane Republic.87 This, however, was but the beginning: in June 1797 Napoleon suddenly announced the creation of a much bigger state based on the Duchy of Milan (i.e. Lombardy), the lands of the Republic of Venice west of the river Adige and the Cispadane Republic, this last simply being incorporated into the new territorial units by fiat without the slightest attempt at consultation (in brief, distrusting the radicalism displayed by many of its adherents, Napoleon appears to have judged that the best way of keeping this in check was to submerge the Cispadane Republic in a larger political unit).88 Known as the Cisalpine Republic and divided into eleven French-style departments, the new state, whose capital, naturally enough, was Milan, was presented with a constitution based on the current French model (i.e. that of 1795) and we therefore see universal suffrage, a bicameral assembly with very limited power and a Directory, though in the first instance the trappings of democracy were not accompanied by the reality, all the members of the assembly and the Directory alike being selected by Napoleon himself.89 In so far as collaborators were concerned, Napoleon certainly had plenty to choose from. There were erstwhile officials of the ancien régime eager to return to the policies of enlightened absolutism; men of letters influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment – one thinks here of the professor of surgery Pietro Moscati, the mathematician Giovanni Paradisi and the scientist Alessandro Volta – ardent giacobini eager to unleash a revolution that would sweep

168  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration aside the Church and the nobility like the ex-priest Melchiorre Gioia; proto-nationalists motivated by dreams that the Cisalpine Republic would be the cradle of a united Italy; opportunists who saw the new régime as a chance to make their fortunes or, at the very least, better their position, and even a handful of clergy convinced, as Alan Reinemann has put it, that ‘the new ideals were in their nature Christian’ and, further that, if only the Church would foster them, ‘freed from the golden chains of wealth and political influence, strong only in its moral authority and popular devotion, [it] would revive the simplicity, equality, and fervour of its first centuries’.90 Amongst the substantial Jewish community, too, there was a certain degree of enthusiasm. To quote Vivien’s experiences of Ferrara, for example: While the Jews were tolerated in Italy . . . they had to inhabit particular districts . . .  known as ghettos from which they could only emerge at sunrise . . . Having freed them from this species of confinement and put them in possession of precisely the same civil rights as Roman Catholics, during the occupation the French therefore found numerous partisans among the Israelites of Italy and that, excepting in matters of interest, they were keen to do us all sorts of little favours.91 Milan, then, soon became a place of pilgrimage and gathering for Italians of many different origins just as the pseudo-court which Napoleon established at the palace of Mombello was soon thronged by enthusiasts anxious to meet the young general and press their views upon him. At the same time, the Cisalpine government pushed through a series of dramatic reforms that recalled those of 1789: we see, then, the abolition of feudalism, the dissolution of the religious orders and the expropriation and sale of the lands of the Church. Yet promising though this was, all was far from well. From the beginning, the new state was burdened with a treaty of alliance which committed it to maintaining a French army of 25,000 men as well as 35,000 troops of its own and this represented a crushing load on territories that had already been fought over for a full year. At the same time, attempts on the part of the more radical elements in Milan to give a Jacobin twist to its policies, by, for example, introducing price controls and helping the rural populace acquire a share in the lands of the Church were defeated by more moderate elements concerned to protect the interests of the landed élite, though not without a coup organised by French ambassador in June 1798 that brought down the original administration, introduced changes in the constitution and marginalised the giacobini, a group whom the French were everywhere inclined to distrust, the basic problem being that their patron, Buonarroti, had had close links with the proto-communist conspirator, Babeuf. As a result (or, at least, so it could be argued: the matter is at the very least open to doubt), popular support was not forthcoming, the life of the Republic rather being disrupted by numerous peasant uprisings. Nor was this an end to the problem: as a unitary state, the Cisalpine Republic could not but be dominated by Milan, this being a situation that was certain to be resented by cities such as Modena, Reggio, Ferrara and Bologna. If the government fled in the face of the oncoming Allied armies in 1799, it was therefore hardly surprising: without the French army to sustain the cause of revolution, it was, quite clearly, nothing.92 To return to a wider picture of events, the Cisalpine Republic was but the first in a series of similar creations. In so far as this is concerned, the story begins in Rome. As a result of the treaty of Tolentino, the Papal States had been forced to accept a French ambassador in the person of none other than Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s elder brother. At first, all went well in that the ever-personable Joseph was able to establish friendly relations with a Vatican administration anxious to insure itself against yet more demands on the part of

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  169 Napoleon. However, the commander of the Army of Italy regarded his brother as being too soft and sent a small military mission headed by a general named Duphot to oversee his activities. Perhaps inevitably, the presence of Duphot and his fellow officers led to some excitement and the result was that on 27 December a small crowd of giacobini gathered outside the French embassy and mounted a demonstration in favour of Rome becoming a republic. At this, a detachment of Papal troops arrived with orders to clear the street, and in the resultant skirmish Duphot was accidentally killed. With Napoleon and the Directory already strongly in favour of taking over the Papal States, this was all the pretext that was needed and in late January 1798 a large force of French troops commanded by Napoleon’s future chief-of-staff, Alexandre Berthier, duly set off for Rome. Resistance was non-existent and on 10 February Berthier marched into the capital and proclaimed the Papal States to be a republic, Pius VI being placed under arrest and conducted into exile.93 In theory, what followed was metamorphosis: the people were declared to be sovereign; a constitution introduced along the lines of the current French model; the country divided into eight departments; feudalism and all restrictions on trade and occupation abolished; the Jews emancipated; and the old Papal flag replaced by a red, white and black tricolour. In practice, however, what had occurred was just one more act of conquest. An early arrival was Paul Thiébault: When the French troops first reached Rome . . . the military governor . . . [i.e. Berthier] allowed diamonds, pictures, statues, works of art . . . to be carried off without schedules or receipts; he gave up to pillage the property of those whom he had arrested or driven away; he held the fifty richest families in Rome to ransom and levied heavy contributions on all in the name of the Republic, to the profit, if not of the right parties, at least to those who had the might.94 Nor was it just a question of rapacity, the French commissioners sent to the city constantly intervening in political discussion and thereby undermining such attempts as were made to solve the new state’s many problems, not the least of which was a serious economic crisis. Whether this lack of independence made much difference is a moot point, however: most of the measures introduced by the government, such as the sale of the lands of the Church and the imposition of punitive taxes on the wealthier inhabitants serving only to make matters worse in one respect or another. Meanwhile, the particularly intense manner in which Catholicism was embedded in the life of the city of Rome could not but make for a background of constant friction that ensured that popular support for the republic remained limited even amongst its most natural constituency. Against all this, the cultural awakening brought by the departure of the Pope counted for nothing: many pro-republican newspapers appeared, certainly, but their message went unregarded, just as the various political clubs that came into being in effect did nothing but to preach to the converted. Nor did it help, meanwhile, that such local leaders as emerged, such as the leading physician Liborio Angelucci, proved all too vulnerable to the temptations of office. Whilst brave attempts have been made to argue that the Roman Republic marked an important landmark in the history of the risorgimento, what we rather observe is a tawdry sham that in the end exercised little in the way of authority beyond the walls of the Holy City itself, most of the countryside, as we shall see, soon sinking into a state of wholesale revolt.95 At this point in our narrative, we have temporarily to move away from Italy, for next to fall to the wave of republicanisation was Switzerland. With the French firmly established in northern Italy, control of the passes across the Alps became a matter of some military

170  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration importance: indeed, in late 1797 concern for the Cisalpine Republic had already led to a slice of frontier territory – the Valtelline – being stripped away and handed over to Milan. In early 1798, then, French forces marched across the frontier and took control of all the main towns and cities. As in Rome, this was a simple act of conquest brought about in this instance by strategic necessity, but, as in Rome again, it was essential to drape it in a cloak of liberation. A conference was therefore convened of representatives from all of the existing confederation’s constituent cantons, and on 12 April Switzerland was duly reborn as the Helvetic Republic. As everywhere else, the constitution that was adopted was essentially that of Directorial France, but in the Swiss context this model was even harder to apply, for the cantons had a long tradition of self-government and had also evolved in very different ways. This is not to say that there was no support for reform in Switzerland. On the contrary, government was far too often in the hands of a few patrician families; full citizenship limited to a very narrow sector of the population; and many parts of the country denied cantonal status but rather ruled as dependencies of Zurich, Bern or other cities. Added to all this, meanwhile, was all the inconvenience represented by internal customs barriers and separate codes of law. As early as the 1770s, then, voices began to be raised in favour of a reconceptualisation of the state that gave greater prominence to the nation, while there were always elements that admired the Revolution, as witness, for example, the formation in 1790 of a club for Swiss exiles in Paris, not to mention disaffected individuals – such as Frédéric La Harpe, a member of a prominent family from the area of Vaud who had acted as tutor to the future Alexander I of Russia – who saw French intervention as a means of advancing their personal interests. In consequence of all this, the advance of the French armies precipitated a wave of revolt that saw the existing authorities brought down in many places. Much encouraged, the French commander, General Brune, immediately imposed a unitary constitution and rebaptised Switzerland as the Helvetic Republic, and that without the slightest attempt at consultation, but he had taken no account of the fact that discontent with the old order did not necessarily equate to support for changes of so radical a nature: hence the state of civil war into which the new state was almost immediately to fall and the consequent inefficacy of many of the reforms introduced within its borders.96 From Switzerland we return to Italy. Last of the satellite states to come into being was the so-called Parthenopean Republic, this equating to the mainland part of the Kingdom of Naples. In brief, this owed its origins to the War of the Second Coalition. On 1 July 1798, as we shall see, Napoleon had invaded Egypt, and the result was that a new constellation of opponents began to take shape in the form of Austria, Russia, the Ottoman Empire and Naples, as well, of course, as Britain. However, seemingly fearing that a French attack was imminent, the Neapolitans invaded the Roman Republic. The French garrison having fallen back without a fight, the government promptly took to its heels, and on 29 November Ferdinand IV entered the capital at the head of his army, much to the delight of the inhabitants, who had risen in revolt in the last days of occupation, killed many French sympathisers and engaged in wholesale pillage. Success, however, was short-lived in that the French counter-attacked and routed Ferdinand’s troops, the latter fleeing in complete disorder. As we shall, see, the response of the king and queen was to take ship for Sicily, and, a desperate attempt on the part of the populace to defend the city having come to nought amidst great bloodshed, on 21 January the French commander, Championnet, proclaimed the mainland to constitute the Parthenopean Republic. As we shall see, the life of the new state was to be brief in the extreme, whilst it was from the beginning torn apart by a seemingly endless series of revolts. In the meantime, however, whether in terms of its political arrangements or its personnel, it was little different from its counterparts elsewhere. Thus, the government

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  171 drew upon the usual mix of giacobini, erstwhile functionaries of the previous régime, nobles eager to hit back against the creeping tide of absolutism and men of letters (indeed, in this case, even women of letters). There were, then, Giuseppe Abbonimonte, Matteo Galdi, Saverio Massa and Francesco-Saverio Salfi, all of whom were disciples of Buonarroti who had acquired positions in the service of the Cisalpine Republic only to be purged on account of their radical views; Francesco Caracciolo, a senior officer of the Neapolitan navy deeply disillusioned by the person of Ferdinand IV; Francesco Pagano, a professor of the University of Naples who had been forced to flee into exile on account of his consistent attempts to press for reform of the judicial system; Domenico Cirillo, a leading botanist with a Chair in Natural Medicine; Ettore Caraffa, an army officer from a prominent family of the Neapolitan aristocracy; and, finally, Leonora Fonseca Pimentel, a well-known essayist who became editor of the official gazette.97 From the beginning, however, the Parthenopean Republic was a disaster. A provisional government was immediately established under the leadership of Carlo Lauberg, an army officer who had established a name for himself as a chemist whilst serving on the staff of the army’s engineering academy, while Fonseca Pimentel and the Jacobin clubs tried frantically to win the confidence of the masses and devise ingenious ways by which the Republic could get its message across to them.98 Such good intentions counted for very little, however. Prior to the French entrance into Naples, the Neapolitan commander had negotiated an armistice whose conditions included an indemnity of 17,500,000 ducats, and this was in itself quite sufficient to kill all chance of reaching out to the populace even had many French troops not continued to behave very badly. Meanwhile, the provisional government and the legislative committee (an ad hoc national assembly set up by Championnet to draft a new constitution) were deeply divided between outright giacobini, erstwhile adherents of Bourbon reformism and nobles out to build an aristocratic republic that would restore the privileged orders to the status they had enjoyed fifty years before. Very soon, too, the Republic lost its patron. In brief, Championnet had had no authorisation to establish a satellite régime in Naples, but had decided to go ahead anyway, not least because he was bitterly jealous of Napoleon and also upset that most of such glory as there was in the defeat of the Neapolitans had accrued not to him but to one of his divisional commanders, namely a native of Sedan of Scottish ancestry named Etienne Macdonald. In establishing a Republic, he was therefore clearly hoping to emulate the example of Napoleon in Milan, but he had neither the record of victory nor the same presence in the press as that general and therefore immediately came to grief. Attached to his army was a latter-day réprésentant en mission in the person of Guillaume Faipoult, a Thermidorian who had served from 1794 to 1796 as Minister of Finance. Outraged by the general’s actions and increasingly perturbed by his support of the local Jacobins, he therefore took him to task, only to be arrested and threatened with execution. In acting thus, however, Championnet had finally gone too far, and the Directory promptly stripped him of his command and replaced him with Macdonald, a figure who was far less sympathetic to the radicals’ cause.99 In the circumstances, more was achieved than might have been expected – Robertson, indeed, argues that ‘the speed and vigour of their measures was remarkable’100 – but, in the end, progress was insufficient for there to be any hope of checking the wave of revolt that was soon gripping the new state, and that for much the same reasons as one sees everywhere else. As for ability to defend itself, the Parthenopean Republic was no more able to stand the test than its counterparts elsewhere, and in some respects even less so: if Milan and Rome at least fell to regular armies, Naples, as we shall see, went down to a mere horde of peasants. However much they represent the judgement of an émigré hostile to all things revolutionary, in the end,

172  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration the words of Roger de Damas cannot be gainsaid. Thus: ‘It was absurd to call the changes in Naples a revolution . . . This was simply an invasion which was dignified with the semblance of a revolution in order to strengthen it.’101 However one looks at it, then, the story of the export of the French Revolution is not one that is particularly flattering. In 1789, certainly, the fall of the Bastille was greeted with great excitement, but it was not long before that excitement had started to turn to disillusionment. Some of the Revolution’s admirers stayed loyal to their first impressions, true, but in almost no instance were they able to move from mere conspiracy to revolt, the upheavals that we see in Belgium, Poland and Ireland all having their roots in situations that had no connection with France whatsoever. In practice, then, the Revolution was exported by French bayonets, the satellite régimes that came into being from the northern tip of Holland to the southern tip of Italy all being established by dint of conquest, just as Belgium, Savoy and the Rhineland would never have fallen within the French orbit had it not been for the victories of the French armies. This does not mean, of course, that it was only the representatives of France that set the agenda in her conquests. On the contrary, wherever the French went, they found at the very least groups of individuals who were ready to collaborate with them, some for reasons that were genuinely ideological, some for reasons that were rather more pragmatic and some for reasons that were wholly opportunistic. The groups concerned, however, were rarely homogeneous, ranging, as they did, from hardline Jacobins through representatives of ancien-régime officialdom to nobles intent on turning back the pages of past, whilst they were all too often marked by naïvety, incompetence, inexperience and, on occasion, want of probity. Often mistrusted by their French masters, they also enjoyed little autonomy, whilst, in the one case that they were genuinely left to their own devices – that of the Batavian Republic – they proved incapable of developing a coherent political agenda. The Dutch example aside – an exceptional case on account of the old United Provinces’ highly developed levels of literacy and political participation alike – they also proved quite incapable of securing a hold on the loyalties of the populace, the fact being that, along with the territories that the French simply took over, they were forever dogged by the spectre of rebellion and other forms of popular resistance. Nor is this surprising: in the French view, having been liberated by the force of French arms rather than their own efforts, the people of Belgium, Holland and the rest could expect to pay for their good fortune. If the annexed territories and the satellite republics did not quite originate as tools of exploitation, they therefore soon became so. The result was inevitable: no sooner was French military support withdrawn than they collapsed in ignominy and confusion.

Notes 1 This is not to deny, of course, that the Revolution caused an immense stir in intellectual circles. Across Europe large numbers of men of letters were deeply perturbed about the state of society and convinced that fundamental change was essential. Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, pp. 159–61. 2 Material on eighteenth-century Belgium is scarcely superabundant. However, for a useful discussion see P.J. Illing, ‘Reform, revolution and royalism in Brussels, 1780–1790’, University of Cambridge PhD thesis, 2007. See also W.W. Davis, Joseph II: An Imperial Reformer for the Austrian Netherlands (The Hague, 1974); Beales, Joseph II, II, pp. 484–6. 3 Though almost unknown, the revolt in Liège was in many respects more interesting than its successor in the Austrian Netherlands. Thus, whereas in the latter to object was opposition to enlightened reform, in the former the issue was the absence of that self-same reform, and the ideas of the rebel leaders very much those current in France. At the heart of this difference

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  173 was the fact that whereas Brabant and Flanders were in large part economic backwaters, Liège was experiencing the early stages of industrial revolution and, with it, the emergence of a modern class structure, the prominence of the Church therefore striking an especially jarring note. Travellers, then, noted it as a place where deference was under threat in a way not to be seen in most other parts of the Continent. E.g. C.L. Este, A Journey in the Year 1793 through Flanders, Brabant and Germany to Switzerland (London, 1795), pp. 118–19. 4 The only serious fighting of the campaign took place at Turnhout on 27 October 1789 when 2,000 Belgians barricaded themselves in the town, and beat off an attack on the part of 2,500 Austrians. Total casualties were a mere 300 men, but, as the news spread so it grew in the telling and inspired many towns and cities that had at first stayed neutral to join the revolution. In France, meanwhile, news of events across the frontier caused much excitement. E.g. B. Coppens (ed.), Chronique des revolutions belgique et liègoise, 1789–1790: l’integrale des articles du Moniteur Universel sur les evènements survenus dans les provinces belgiques et le pays de Liège entre le 24 novembre 1789 et le 18 janvier 1791 précédés d’articles extraits de la presse française du 8 aôut au 23 novembre 1789 (Beauvechain, n.d.), p. 29. For a detailed account of the insurrection from an Austrian point of view, see Beales, Joseph II, II, pp. 610–22. 5 For all this, see J. Polasky, ‘Traditionalists, democrats and Jacobins in Revolutionary Brussels’, Journal of Modern History, 56, No. 2 (June, 1984), pp. 227–62. 6 J. Polasky, Revolution in Brussels, 1787–1793 (Brussels, 1987), pp. 181–2. 7 For the history of Poland prior to 1770, see W. Reddaway et al. (eds.), The Cambridge History of Poland: From Augustus II to Pilsudski, 1697–1935 (Cambridge, 1951), pp. 49–71; Davies, God’s Playground, I, pp. 492–510. 8 Reddaway et  al., Cambridge History of Poland, pp. 124–32. Inherent in this reform movement was, of course, the growth of Polish nationalism. For two discussions of this subject, see A. Walicki, The Enlightenment and the Birth of Modern Nationhood: Polish Political Thought from Noble Republicanism to Tadeusz Kosciuszko (Notre Dame, IL, 1989); J. Lukowski, ‘Political ideas among the Polish nobility in the eighteenth century (to 1788)’, Slavonic and East European Review, 82, No. 1 (January, 1984), pp. 1–26. Meanwhile, for Stanislaw August, see A. Zamoyski, The Last King of Poland (London, 1997) and R. Butterwick, Poland’s Last King and English Culture; Stanislaw August Poniatowski, 1732–1798 (Oxford, 1998). 9 R. Frost, ‘Poland’s May days, 1791’, History Today, 41, No. 5 (May, 1991), pp. 11–17. 10 For the debates underpinning the reform movement, see R. Butterwick, ‘Political discourses of the Polish revolution, 1788–1792’, English Historical Review, 120, No. 487 (June, 2005), pp. 695–731. 11 R. Nisbet Bain, ‘The second partition of Poland (1793)’, English Historical Review, 6, No. 22 (April, 1891), pp. 331–40; Lukowski, Partitions of Poland, pp. 128–58; Reddaway et al., Cambridge History of Poland, pp. 137–53. 12 For a relatively recent biography of Kosciuszko, see J.M. Tula, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, the Purest Son of Liberty (New York, 1998). 13 See A.M. Rosner, ‘Jewish participation in the Kosciuszko uprising’, Polish Review, 59, no. 3 (July, 2014), pp. 57–71. 14 E.g. M. Müller, ‘Poland’ in O. Dann and J. Dinwiddy (eds.), Nationalism in the Age of the French Revolution (London, 1987), p. 124. For a full account of the military struggle, see Reddaway et al., Cambridge History of Poland, pp. 88–111. 15 For all this, see R. Lord, ‘The third partition of Poland’, Slavonic Review, 3, No. 9 (March, 1925), pp. 481–98. 16 P.S. Wandycz, The Lands of Partitioned Poland, 1795–1918 (Seattle, WA, 1974), pp. 26–8. 17 For two useful introductions to the eighteenth-century background, see E.M. Johnston, Ireland in the Eighteenth Century (Dublin, 1974) and I. McBride, Eighteenth Century Ireland: The Isle of Slaves (Dublin, 2009). See also D. Mansergh, Grattan’s Failure: Parliamentary Reform and the People of Ireland, 1779–1800 (Dublin, 2005). 18 The standard text on Tone is M. Elliott, Wolfe Tone, Prophet of Irish Independence (London, 1989). 19 N.J. Curtin, The United Irishmen: Popular Politics in Belfast and Dublin, 1791–98 (Oxford, 1998), p. 13. Also useful on the ideological background is S. Small, Political Thought in Ireland, 1776–1798: Republicanism, Patriotism and Radicalism (Oxford, 2002). 20 For all this, see J. Smyth, ‘The men of “No popery”: the origins of the Orange Order’, History Ireland, 3, No. 3 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 48–53; D.W. Miller, ‘The Armagh troubles, 1784–1795’ in S. Clark

174  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration and J.S. Donnelly (eds.), Irish Peasants, Violence and Political Unrest, 1780–1914 (Madison, WI, 1983), pp. 155–91, and D.W. Miller and L.M. Cullen, ‘Politicisation in Revolutionary Ireland: the case of the Armagh troubles’, Irish Economic and Social History, 23 (1996), pp. 1–23. 21 For the disturbances that arose from this decision, see I.F. Nelson, ‘“The first chapter of 1798.” Restoring a military perspective to the Irish militia riots of 1793’, Irish Historical Studies, 33, No. 132 (November, 2003), pp. 369–86, and T. Bartlett, ‘An end to moral economy: the Irish militia disturbances of 1793’, Past and Present, 99, No. 1 (May, 1983), pp. 41–64. 22 For these negotiations see M. Elliott, Partners in Revolution: The United Irishmen and France (London, 1982). Rather wider in focus is S. Kleinma, ‘Initiating insurgencies abroad: French plans to “chouannise” Britain and Ireland, 1793–1798’, Small Wars and Insurgencies, 25, No. 4 (August, 2014), pp. 784–99. 23 C.H. Teeling, Personal Narrative of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 (London, 1828), pp. 133–4. On the Yeomanry, see A. Blackstock, An Ascendancy Army: The Irish Yeomanry, 1796–1834 (Dublin, 1998), and, more particularly, A. Blackstock, ‘“A dangerous species of ally”: Orangism and the Irish Yeomanry’, Irish Historical Studies, 30, No. 119 (May, 1997), pp. 393–405. 24 Teeling, Personal Narrative, pp. 145–6. 25 The literature on the revolt of 1798 is superabundant. Most accessible as a starting point is probably T. Pakenham, The Year of Liberty: The History of the Great Irish Rebellion of 1798 (London, 1969). However, there are many more recent treatments such as C. Póitéir (ed.), The Great Irish Rebellion of 1798 (Dublin, 1998) and T. Bartlett et  al. (eds.), 1798: A Bicentennial Perspective (Dublin, 2003). To general histories, meanwhile can be added many county surveys, good examples including R. O’Donnell, The Rebellion in Wicklow, 1798 (Dublin, 1998); D. Gahan, The People’s Rising: Wexford, 1798 (Dublin, 1995); C. Dickson, Revolt in the North: Antrim and Down in 1798 (Dublin, 1960); C. Dickson, The Wexford Rising in 1798: Its Causes and its Course (Dublin, 1955); and A.T.Q. Stewart, The Summer Soldiers: The 1798 Rebellion in Antrim and Down (Belfast, 1995), As for the French invasion, this is covered by T. Pakenham, ‘Humbert’s raid on Ireland, 1798’, History Today, 19, No. 10 (October, 1969), pp. 685–95. Finally, on the vital question of the militia, see I.F. Nelson, Ireland’s Forgotten Army: The Irish Militia, 1793–1802 (Dublin, 2007). 26 Cit. T.C.W. Blanning, The French Revolution in Germany: Occupation and Resistance in the Rhineland, 1792–1802 (Oxford, 1983), p. 277. For a survey of the abandonment on the part of German intellectual opinion of its initial support for the Revolution, see G.P. Gooch, ‘Germany and the French Revolution’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 10 (1916), pp. 51–76. Also helpful, meanwhile, is G. Kurz, The Great Drama: Germany and the French Revolution (Bonn, 1989), pp. 24–32 and T.C.W. Blanning, ‘France during the French Revolution through German eyes’, in H.T. Mason and W. Doyle (eds.), The Impact of the French Revolution on European Consciousness (Gloucester, 1989), pp.133–45. In Germany, then, far from the ideas of the French Revolution spreading, they rather contracted. 27 S. Woolf, A History of Italy, 1700–1860: The Social Constraints of Political Change (London, 1979), p. 159. 28 For a biography of Buonarroti, see E. Eisenstein, The First Professional Revolutionist: Filippo Michele Buonarroti (Cambridge, MA, 1959). 29 For the case of Verri, see C. Capra, ‘The rise of liberal constitutionalism in Italy: Pietro Verri and the French Revolution’, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 17, No. 5 (December, 2012), pp. 516–26. Why Italy should have been as exceptional as it was in its response to the French Revolution is by no means clear. However, theories include shared memories of a glorious past that there was a general desire to recreate, a strong awareness of the concept of republicanism, a highly developed political and juridical life that gave rise to a large official class, the exclusive nature of politics in many Italian states, a highly developed system of higher education, and the survival of many fora for debate and discussion. See, for example, R. Grew, ‘Finding social capital: the French Revolution in Italy’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 29, No. 3 (Winter, 1999), pp. 407–33; A.M. Rao, ‘Republicanism in Italy from the eighteenth century to the early risorgimento’, Jornal of Modern Italian Studies, 17, No. 2 (March, 2012), pp.149–67. Also very important, doubtless was the fact that the Italian states witnessed a much sharper abandonment of the policies of enlightened absolutism than was the case elsewhere: in Piedmont, Tuscany, Rome and Naples alike, worried administrations to a greater or lesser extent imposed tight controls on the press, backed away from progressive policies, permitted the ecclesiastical authorities to clamp down on

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  175 the reformist element of the clergy known as Jansenists, suppressed freemasonry and threw critics of the system into prison, See Woolf, History of Italy, p. 158. 30 R. Herr, The Eighteenth-Century Revolution in Spain (Princeton, NJ, 1958), pp. 327–9. 31 For the Martinovic conspiracy, see P. Adler, ‘The Martinovic conspiracy: revolution and the Habsburg Slavs’, Consortium on Revolutionary Europe Proceedings, 19 (1989), i, pp. 472–85; W. Langsam, ‘Emperor Francis II and the Austrian “Jacobins”, 1792–1796’, American Historical Review, 50, No. 1 (October, 1944), pp. 471–90; C. Mueller, ‘Jacobins in Styria’, Consortium on Revolutionary Europe Proceedings, 19 (1989), i, pp. 501–12; E. Wangermann, From Joseph II to the Jacobin Trials: Government Policy and Public Opinion in the Hapsburg Dominions in the Period of the French Revolution (Oxford, 1969); K. Benda, ‘Hungary’, in Dann and Dinwiddie, Nationalism in the Age of the French Revolution, pp. 132–4. Material on the Picornell conspiracy (sometimes known as the ‘conspiracy of San Blas’) and the Vitaliani conspiracy is more limited, but see M.J. Aguirrezábal and J.L. Comellas, ‘La conspiración de Picornell (1795) en el contexto de la prerrevolución liberal española’, Revista de historia contemporánea, 1 (1982), pp. 7–38; A. Elorza, La ideología liberal en la ilustración española (Madrid, 1970), pp. 304–49; A.M. Rao, ‘Conspiration et constitution: Andrea Vitaliani et la République Napolitaine de 1799’, Annales historiques de la Révolution Française, 313, No. 3 (July, 1998), pp. 546–7; and P. Tommaso, Massoni e giacobini nel Regno di Napoli. Emanuele de Deo e la congiura del 1794 (Naples, 1986). 32 The literature on the British response to the French Revolution is overwhelming, and it is therefore recognised that the paragraphs which follow cannot do more than highlight a few of the debates which it covers. However, for an extremely lucid introduction to the historiography, see E. Vincent Macleod, ‘British responses to the French Revolution’, Historical Journal, 50, No. 3 (September, 2007), pp. 689–709, while the best general primers are C. Emsley, Britain and the French Revolution (Harlow, 2000) and C. Emsley, British Society and the French Wars, 1793–1815 (London, 1979). 33 For the response of the Whigs, see F. O’Gorman, The Whig Party and the French Revolution (London, 1967) and J. Derry, ‘The opposition and the Whigs and the French Revolution, 1789–1815’, in Dickinson, Britain and the French Revolution, pp. 39–60. Also helpful is J.E. Cookson, The Friends of Peace: Anti-War Liberalism in England, 1793–1815 (Cambridge, 1982). 34 Burke, Paine and Wollstonecraft are all three the subject of a substantial literature. Useful starting points include S.E. Ayling, Edmund Burke: His Life and Opinions (London, 1988); J. Fruchtman, Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom (New York, 1994); J. Keane, Tom Paine: A Political Life (London, 1995); T. Griffiths, ‘These are the times’: A life of Thomas Paine (London, 2004); and J. Todd, Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life (London, 2000). 35 For a case study on the penetration of one provincial city by radical ideas, see J. Stevenson, Artisans and Democrats: Sheffield and the French Revolution, 1789–1797 (Sheffield, 1989). 36 For this critique of the war, see S. Andrews, The British Periodical Press and the French Revolution, 1789–1799 (Houndmills, 2000), pp. 42–6. 37 A. Booth, ‘The United Englishmen and radical politics in the industrial north-west of England, 1795–1803’, International Journal of Social History, 31, No. 3 (December, 1986), pp. 271–97; T.A. Brotherstone, ‘From reformers to Jacobins: the Scottish Association of the Friends of the People’, in T.M. Devine (ed.), Conflict and Stability in Scottish Society, 1700–1850 (Edinburgh, 1990), pp. 31–50. Meanwhile, for the Pittite reaction, see F. O’Gorman, ‘Pitt and the “Tory” reaction to the French Revolution, 1789–1815’, in Dickinson, Britain and the French Revolution, pp. 21–38. 38 For a discussion of Thompson’s views on the role of the French Revolution in the English historical process, see D. Eastwood, ‘E.P. Thompson, Britain and the French Revolution’, History Workshop Journal, 39 (Spring, 1995), pp. 79–88. 39 M. Jay, The Unfortunate Colonel Despard (London, 2004) is a recent biography. 40 Food riots are discussed in A. Randall, Riotous Assemblies: Popular Protest in Georgian England (Oxford, 2006), pp. 209–39, J. Stevenson, ‘Food riots in England, 1792–1818’ in J. Stevenson and R. Quinault (eds.), Popular Protest and Public Order: Six Studies in British History, 1790–1820 (London, 1974), pp. 33–74 and J. Bohstedt, ‘Women in English riots, 1790–1810’, Past and Present, 120 (August, 1988), pp. 88–122. Meanwhile, for the miseries to which the populace was subjected, see R. Wells, Wretched Faces: Famine in Wartime England, 1793–1801 (Gloucester, 1988). Finally also helpful here is C. Emsley, ‘The social impact of the French Wars’ in Dickinson, Britain and the French Revolution, pp. 211–28.

176  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration 41 For the troubles in Scotland, see K.J. Logue, ‘The Tranent militia riot of 1797’, Transactions of the East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists’ Society, 14 (1974), pp. 376–61. That members of the United Scotsmen were involved in these disturbances, there is little doubt, but it is far from clear that they played a dominant role and absolutely certain that they failed in turning riot into insurrection. 42 For a staunch presentation of the case for the reality of the revolutionary threat, see R. Wells, ‘English society and revolutionary politics in the 1790s: the case for insurrection’, in M. Philp (ed.), The French Revolution and British Popular Politics (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 188–226, and R. Wells, Insurrection: The British Experience, 1795–1803 (Gloucester, 1983). 43 See D. Andress, The Savage Storm: Britain on the Brink in the Age of Napoleon (London, 2002), p. 51. For the role the United Irishmen played in the fomentation of revolutionary feeling in mainland Britain, meanwhile, see A.W. Smith, ‘Irish rebels and English radicals, 1798–1820’, Past and Present, 7 (April, 1955), pp. 78–85. 44 Emsley, British Society and the French Wars, p. 69. 45 Recent treatments of the mutinies of 1797 include K. Keith, ‘The “floating republics”: political leadership in the Spithead and Nore mutinies’, in K. Grint, The Art of Leadership (Oxford, 2001), pp. 73–104; F. Mabee, ‘The Spithead mutiny and urban radicalism in the 1790s’, Romanticism, 13, No. 2 (November, 2007), pp. 133–44; A.G. Brown, ‘The Nore mutiny: sedition or ship’s biscuits? A reappraisal’, Mariners’ Mirror, 92, No. 1 (February, 2006), pp. 60–74. 46 One work that can certainly be criticised for being overly complacent in its treatment of the revolutionary threat is I.R. Christie, Stress and Stability in Late Eighteenth-Century Britain: Reflections on the British Avoidance of Revolution (Oxford, 1984). Yet the barrage of criticism that has been directed at those who would argue that contrary case is telling, and all the more so as much of it comes from scholars who are specialists in revolutionary politics. To quote Marianne Elliott, for example, in the work of Roger Wells, there is ‘a determined channelling of information to fit a preconceived notion’, while Thomas Bartlett is even more damning. Thus: ‘Even prodigies of research will avail little without judgement and a proper critical spirit and it must be said that these are qualities that Dr Wells signally lacks.’ For these remarks and much more in the same vein, see Irish Economic and Social History, 11, No. 1 (January, 1984), pp. 153–4; Irish Historical Studies, 24, No. 94 (November, 1984), pp. 285–87. Also very telling in its demolition of Wells’ arguments is J. Beckett, ‘Responses to war: Nottingham in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1793–1815’, Midland History, 22, No. 1 (January, 1997), pp. 71–84. For more moderate discussions, see J. Stevenson, ‘Popular radicalism and popular protest, 1789–1815’, in Dickinson, Britain and the French Revolution, pp. 61–82, and H.T. Dickinson, British Radicalism and French Revolution (Oxford, 1985). 47 For the attempt to mobilise popular feeling against the Revolution, see H.T. Dickinson, ‘Popular conservatism and militant loyalism, 1789–1815’, in Dickinson, Britain and the French Revolution, pp.103–26; R.R. Dozier, For King, Constitution and Country: The English Loyalists and the French Revolution (Lexington, 1983); M. Duffy, ‘William Pitt and the origins of the loyalist association movement of 1792’, Historical Journal, 39 (1996), pp. 943–62. For a case study in Church-andKing violence, see A. Booth, ‘Popular loyalism and public violence in the north-west of England, 1790–1800’, Social History, 8, No. 3 (October, 1983), pp. 295–313. 48 Setting aside the militia, something of a special case in which conscription was in practice replaced by voluntary enlistment, the one exception here was the Royal Navy which famously employed so-called ‘press gangs’ in order to keep its crews up to strength. Yet, whilst the figures are hard to untangle, it is clear that voluntary enlistment was, if not quite the norm, then certainly very strong, and that the proportion of men taken by force was relatively small – possibly as few as 20 per cent and certainly no more than twice that figure. Nor was this surprising: discipline in the navy was not nearly so savage as the popular view has tended to suggest whilst conditions were generally better than on merchant ships and the rewards considerable. For all this, see J.R. Dancy, The Myth of the Press Gang: Volunteers, Impressment and the Naval Manpower Problem in the Late Eighteenth Century (Woodbridge, 2015), and, more impressively, N. Rogers, The Press Gang: Naval Impressment and its Opponents in Georgian Britain (New York, 2008). 49 For a discussion of the problems involved in obtaining men for the regular army, see T. McGuffie, ‘Recruiting the ranks of the regular British army during the French Wars’, Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 34, No. 138 (June, 1956), pp. 50–8, and No. 139 (September, 1956), pp. 123–32.

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  177 50 The standard source on mobilisation as a whole is J.E. Cookson, The British Armed Nation, 1793–1815 (Oxford, 1997). On the militia, see I. Beckett, ‘The militia and the king’s enemies, 1793–1815’ in A. Guy (ed.), The Road to Waterloo: The British Army and the Struggle against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France (London, 1990), pp. 32–9; M. McCormack, Embodying the Militia in Georgian England (Oxford, 2015). On the Volunteers, see J.R. Western, ‘The volunteer movement as an anti-revolutionary force, 1793–1801’, English Historical Review, 71, No. 281 (October, 1956), pp. 603–14, and J.E. Cookson, ‘The English volunteer movement of the French Revolutionary Wars, 1793–1815: some contexts’, Historical Journal, 32 , No. 4 (December, 1989), pp. 867–91. 51 A. Leask, Sword of Scotland: Jocks at War (Barnsley, 1996), pp. 106–7. 52 P. Haythornthwaite, The Armies of Wellington (London, 1996), pp.273–4. It is interesting to note that, of these fifteen regiments, seven were Scottish and three Irish. 53 Of course, with so many men under arms, the resources of the state had become so mighty as to render all chance of a successful revolution impossible. See E. Royle, Revolutionary Britannia? Reflections on the Threat of Revolution in Britain, 1789–1848 (Manchester, 2000), p. 10. Meanwhile, for the social composition of the rank and file of the regular army and militia, see Haythornthwaite, Armies of Wellington, pp. 43–58; Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, pp. 50–85; Holmes, Redcoat, pp. 135–56. 54 Riesbeck, Travels through Germany, III, pp. 147–8. 55 Blanning, French Revolution in Germany, pp. 18–58 passim. 56 For an extended discussion of these issues, see T.C.W. Blanning, Reform and Revolution in Mainz, 1743–1803 (Cambridge, 1974), pp. 303–22. 57 For all this, see Blanning, French Revolution in Germany, pp. 277–300 passim. Also useful are the essays by Gonthier Fink and Thomas Saine in E. Bahr and T. Saine (eds.), The Internalised Revolutions: German Reactions to the French Revolution, 1789–1989 (London, 1992). Unlike Belgium, however, the Rhineland was not immediately annexed to France, not least because right up until the peace of Campo Formio, the Austrians continued to hold a large pocket of territory in the centre of the region. 58 The position of the Rhineland in the wake of Campo Formio was extremely complex. In brief, to the fury of the Directory, Napoleon made no attempt to secure the whole of the region but only those portions of it which owed direct allegiance to the head of the house of Habsburg and could therefore be called Austrian as opposed to simply being constituent parts of the Holy Roman Empire. The other territories, it was stated, would be taken at a later date but only after their owners (for example, Bavaria), were compensated with territories elsewhere in Germany, to which end a conference of all the states involved was organised in the town of Rastatt. In the event this ended without any result – it was suspended on the outbreak of renewed hostilities with Austria in March 1799 – but, as Napoleon well understood, the very fact of its convocation sounded the death knell of all the ecclesiastical territories and petty principalities of the Empire as it would be these that would be drawn upon to make up for losses of Bavaria and the rest. As to what Napoleon was after, it was essentially the destruction of Austria’s authority over the empire: increasingly dependent on the support of precisely the territories that were most likely to go under, she would therefore be stripped of her most loyal allies. For all this, see J.G. Gagliardo, Reich and Nation. The Holy Roman Empire as Idea and Reality, 1763–1806 (Bloomington, Indiana, 1980), pp. 188–91. 59 Girault, Mes campagnes, pp. 71–2. 60 Blanning, French Revolution in Germany, pp. 168–206, 255–85 passim. M. Rowe, ‘Resistance, collaboration or third way? Responses to Napoleonic rule in Germany’, in C.J. Esdaile (ed.), Popular Resistance in the French Wars: Patriots, Partisans and Land-Pirates (Houndmills, 2005), pp. 67–90. 61 Este, Journey in the Year 1793, pp. 119–20. 62 Chanonie, Mémoires politiques et militaires du Général Tercier, p. 79. 63 Morin, Lettres de Pierre Girardon, p. 26. 64 Soulié, Carnets du Colonel Bial, p. 63. 65 Vivien, Souvenirs, pp. 45–9. 66 Cit. Picard, Au service de la nation, pp. 141–2. 67 See Duthilt, Campagnes et souvenirs, pp. 38–9. 68 For all this, see M. Rapport, ‘Belgium under French occupation: between collaboration and resistance, July 1794-October 1795’, French History, 15, No. 1 (March, 2002), pp. 63–4.

178  Sympathy, admiration and collaboration 69 Polasky, Revolution in Brussels, pp. 118–28. 70 Ibid., pp. 233–8. For an account of events in Brussels in the wake of the first French occupation, see P. Chaussard, Mémoires historiques et politiques sur la révolution de la Belgique et du pays de Liège en 1793, etc. (Paris, 1793). 71 Polasky, Revolution in Brussels, pp. 250–2. 72 Ibid., pp. 254–9. 73 Rapport, ‘Belgium under French occupation’, pp. 64–82. 74 S. Schama, Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands, 1780–1813 (London, 1992), pp. 143–63. For the long-term origins of the revolution of 1795, see I.L. Leeb, The Ideological Origins of the Batavian Revolution: History and Politics in the Dutch Republic, 1747–1800 (The Hague, 1973). 75 R.R. Palmer, ‘Much in little: the Dutch revolution of 1795’, Journal of Modern History, 26, No. 1, (March, 1954), pp. 19–20. 76 Schama, Patriots and Liberators, pp. 206–7. 77 T. Pfeil, ‘L’hantise de la banqueroute: les finances publiques dans la période franco-batave, 1795–1810’, Annales historiques de la Révolution Française, 336 (October, 2001), p. 55. 78 For a summary of the positions of the Federalists and the Democrats, see Kossmann, Low Countries, pp. 87–90; Palmer, ‘Much in little’, pp. 24–6. One issue that also needs to be considered here is the question of the social base of the two sides in which respect the Federalists had the support of all those associated with the old order and, more broadly, the landed classes, whereas the Democrats were backed by wealthy merchants who felt that the old system had been prejudicial to their interests, together with the sans culottes of Amsterdam and other cities. 79 For all this, see Schama, Patriots and Liberators, pp. 271–310. Meanwhile, the tensions in the ranks of the Democrats are discussed in P. Brandon and K. Fatah-Black, ‘“The supreme power of the people”: local autonomy and radical democracy in the Batavian revolution, 1795–1798’, Atlantic Studies, 13, No. 3 (September, 2013), pp. 370–88. 80 Kossmann, Low Countries, p. 91. 81 See Schama, Patriots and Liberators, pp. 311–53. 82 Kossmann, Low Countries, p. 93. 83 Woronoff, The Thermidorian Régime and the Directory, pp.62–5. Over the previous year or more, Buonarroti had fashioned a scheme for a revolutionary rising in Piedmont that would be launched at the same time as a French invasion. However, at the same time, the Italian propagandist had become involved with the proto-socialist François (or, more commonly, Gracchus) Babeuf. The latter being arrested and guillotined in May 1796 for preparing a rising, the net result was that Carnot was able to carry the day amongst his colleagues with respect to the question of whether Italy should be revolutionised. See Woolf, History of Italy, p. 162. 84 A. Forrest, Napoleon (London, 2011), pp. 86–8; Dwyer, Napoleon: The Path to Power, pp. 217–68 passim. 85 Something that should be firmly dismissed here is the idea that Napoleon embarked on the Italian campaign with a view to unifying Italy or even of republicanising the existing states. As Dwyer has shown, he very much shared in the common French view that the Italians were inferior, or even degenerate, and therefore gave no support whatsoever to a small group of Piedmontese conspirators who briefly declared a republic at the town of Alba in response to the campaign of Montenotte and Dego. At the most, all one sees is a certain pragmatism, a desire, perhaps, at least to convince the giacobini that the French favoured their cause. Dwyer, Napoleon: The Path to Power, pp. 278–80. 86 Ibid., pp. 277–81; Broers, Napoleon, pp. 135–6. With regard to Napoleon’s overall position, the best summary is probably that of Stuart Woolf. Thus: ‘Napoleon saw the freedom of . . . northern Italy as a means of military defence which would reduce the number of France’s enemies and protect his flank . . . [However,] to describe Napoleon’s actions in Italy as purely dependent on his military strategy would be misleading. He had far greater sympathy with the Italian Patriots than the Directory.’ Woolf, History of Italy, p. 164. 87 A word should probably be put in here in respect of the Ligurian Republic. This, however, was not a creation of the French so much as a pre-existing state – the Republic of Genoa – that was remodelled by reformist elements in the wake of French occupation in 1796 and, more particularly, Napoleon’s overthrow of the existing administration in June 1797. See L. Macaluso, ‘Leadership and the transformation of the Ligurian Republic’, Consortium on Revolutionary Europe Proceedings, 20 (1990), pp. 120–8.

Sympathy, admiration and collaboration  179 88 The fate of the territories of the Republic of Venice that were taken over by France is instructive: though the lands on the Italian mainland went to the Cisalpine Republic, the Ionian Islands and Venetian Albania were all retained by Napoleon who was, it seems, already dreaming of adventures in the east. 89 Also a feature of the new state was its national flag, a red, white and green tricolour similar to the modern-day Italian national flag apart from the fact that it was square rather than rectangular. 90 A. Reinemann, review of V. Giuntella, La religione amica della democrazia i cattolici democratici del triennio rivoluzionario, 1796–1799 (Rome, 1990), The Catholic Historical Review, 77, No. 4 (October, 1991), p. 702. 91 Vivien, Souvenirs, pp. 59–60. 92 Woolf, History of Italy, pp. 178–82 93 For the events of Joseph Bonaparte’s embassy, see M. Ross, The Reluctant King: Joseph Bonaparte, King of the Two Sicilies and Spain (London, 1976), pp. 59–67. 94 Thiébault, Memoirs, I, p. 357. 95 For all this, see M. Formica, ‘The protagonists and principal phases of the Roman Republic of 1798–1799’ in D. Burton et al. (eds.), Tosca’s Prism: Three Moments in Western Cultural History (Boston, 2004), pp. 67–84. However, it is evident from the account of French soldiers who took part in the occupation that their presence in the city undoubtedly challenged many social norms. Here, for example, is Thiébault, ‘I soon got introductions to the best houses. My acquaintance multiplied and became every day more agreeable including such ladies as the Princess Borghese, Princess Chigi, Duchess Ceva [and] Countess Ottoboni. It was a delightful life and the days passed quickly. We devoted our mornings to calling on one or other of the charming ladies, whom in the evening we [found] all together walking in the gardens of the most celebrated villas.’ Thiébault, Memoirs, I, p. 360. 96 On the Helvetic Republic, see M. Lerner, ‘The Helvetic Republic: an ambivalent reception of French Revolutionary liberty’, French History, 18, No. 1 (March, 2004), pp. 50–75; O. Zimmer, ‘Nation, nationalism and power in Switzerland, 1760–1900’, in L. Scales and O. Zimmer (eds.), Power and the Nation in European History (Cambridge, 2005), pp. 333–53, and W. Oeschli, History of Switzerland, 1499–1914 (Cambridge, 1922), pp. 302–320. 97 For the formation of the Parthenopean Republic, see J. Davis, Naples and Napoleon: Southern Italy and the European Revolutions, 1780–1860 (Oxford, 2006), pp. 78–83. 98 E. Noether, ‘Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel and the Neapolitan Revolution of 1799’, Consortium on Revolutionary Europe 1750–1850: Proceedings 1989, I, pp. 76–88; A.M. Rao, ‘Popular societies in the Neapolitan republic of 1799’, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 4, No. 3 (July, 1999), pp. 358–69. 99 For the fall of Championnet, see Sydenham, Third French Republic, p. 190. 100 J. Robertson, ‘Enlightenment and revolution: Naples, 1799’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 10 (2000), p. 18. 101 Rambaud, Memoirs of Count Roger de Damas, pp. 274–5.

7 Resistance and revolt (1) France

In mental images of the French Revolution, the people are constant protagonists. Over and over again we think of the crowd, whether it is storming the Bastille in July 1789, dragging Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette back to Paris in October 1789, massacring the Swiss Guards on the steps of the Tuileries palace in August 1792 or massing to watch the execution of the king in January 1793. Equally, the merest mention of the French army is enough to conjure up thoughts of massed ranks of blue-clad soldiers rushing eagerly to overwhelm their enemies to the strains of the Marseillaise, of ‘people power’, indeed, at its most imposing. All this, meanwhile, is buttressed by a series of comfortable assumptions in which in one way or another the Revolution made things better for the common people, whether it was by abolishing feudalism, giving all men the vote, enabling the rural populace to buy the lands of the Church and the nobility, bringing in a fairer system of taxation, guaranteeing the poor cheap bread or introducing the right to free health care and universal primary education. In the past thirty years or more, the notion of the Revolution as a participatory phenomenon has been further reinforced by a growing interest in how the events of 1789 popularised politics in another sense by reaching out to women and engaging their interest and energies. To throw out this picture would clearly be completely wrong, and yet there was always a different France. Move northwards, westwards or southwards from Paris, and it will become clear that in area after area the lower ranks of society came to hate the Revolution. With hatred, meanwhile, came something far more serious: in a great crescent stretching from Normandy to Languedoc, the countryside was gripped by resistance, some of it so fierce as to burst forth in open insurrection. From whence did these rebellions stem? Historically, those who sympathise with the Revolution have always been keen to blame the forces of domestic and foreign counterrevolution, and it is perfectly true both that elements of the British government, in particular, came to favour a strategy attacking the Revolution from within and that from an early date dissident nobles were engaged in attempts to organise revolts, but the story of resistance to the Revolution begins not with conclaves of foreign statesmen or gatherings of disgruntled émigrés, but rather the failure of the French Revolution to satisfy considerable parts of its domestic constituency, and, above all, the rural populace. In so far as this last was concerned, the impact of the Revolution varied enormously according to the area of France that it lived in and the precise situation which it occupied (in this respect, it should be remembered that the group habitually referred to as the peasantry ranged from relatively comfortable tenant farmers down to desperate landless labourers). In some regions, then, 1789, and, more particularly, the subsequent sales of the lands of the Church and the émigrés, brought a massive improvement in the situation of considerable elements of the lower classes. Not only were enormous acreages put on the market,

Resistance and revolt (1): France  181 but peasant buyers were fairly successful – indeed, on occasion, very successful – in gaining access to them. In the department of Côte d’Or, some places saw peasants acquire 73 per cent of what was on offer, while in certain areas of Nièvre the figure was as much as 62 per cent; equally, municipalities as widely separated as Strasbourg, Laon, Pontfarcy, Epinal and Tarascon saw the peasants get between 40 and 60 per cent of sales. Yet these heartening tales of redistribution in themselves mean very little, for much depended on how much land was actually transferred: in the department of the Nord, peasants got 52 per cent of the land, and yet at the end of the process their share of the department’s acreage as a whole had risen only from 32 per cent to 42 per cent. Worse than, that, meanwhile, for every area where the peasantry did well, there was another where they did badly, with various places – amongst them, Toulouse, Mantes and, ironically enough, Versailles – scoring as low as 14 or15 per cent.1 Worth pointing out, too, is the fact that nothing whatsoever was done to help the landless – no money, no purchase – and, further, that it often took the mass intimidation of would-be bourgeois bidders to secure anything at all for the common people.2 In many, many areas, then, the victors were not the actual tillers of the soil at all, but the same rich and powerful members of the bourgeoisie who had been buying their way into the feudal nobility before 1789. Typical enough was Chemillé where, of some 59,475 livres expended on national properties, only 4,275 cannot be tied to nobles or members of the bourgeoisie, the vast majority of them men from that some locality.3 Nor were things any different in La Rochelle where fourteen of the eighteen most important purchasers of Church lands were rich merchants.4 Socially divisive as this situation was, it was also unfortunate in another sense. Prior to the Revolution there had been a growing sense of division between town and countryside in many areas, and this was now strengthened still further and with it the growing sense of the seigneurs as a group who were not just privileged but also wholly alien.5 Significantly, meanwhile, the impact was particularly severe in the west of France, an area in which it can be argued that the peasant revolution of 1789 ended up being frustrated at every turn by the very groups against whom it was primarily directed.6 If the sale of the national properties only benefited the rural populace to a limited extent, much the same was true of the abolition of feudalism and the other reforms for which they had clamoured in the cahiers des doléances. One can, of course, dicker about the extent to which the ancien régime really weighed upon the populace, but what one cannot dicker about is that the populace looked to the Revolution to bring it some relief, and that in short order: it is, for example, arguable that the grande peur was in part the product of the newly constituted National Assembly’s dilatory handling of the abolition of feudalism. Yet at almost every turn, constitutional monarchy proved a sad disappointment. Feudalism was abolished, certainly, but the seigneurs were only dispossessed if they joined the ranks of the émigrés whilst most of the feudal dues were deemed to be rents and therefore left in place, yet another bone of contention being that the tithes were not swept away but rather incorporated into the income of the owners of the lands on which they had been levied.7 At the same time a new system of taxation was introduced that made far more use of direct imposts than before and therefore hit producers – the countryside – at the expense of consumers – the towns – the net result being that the rural populace in no instance experienced a fall in what they had to pay: in most cases, indeed, quite the reverse was the case, and that despite the fact that one measure that did unquestionably benefit the countryside was the disappearance of the much-loathed salt tax. And, last but not least, the new system of local government based on communes and departments that was introduced in the wake of the Revolution did not only presage an assault on rural autonomy, but the Constitution of 1791 also handed a monopoly on power to the propertied classes (in fairness, the electorate was quite substantial, but deputies

182  Resistance and revolt (1): France were unpaid and elections indirect, whilst it was also stipulated that the former had to have an income of at least 50,000 livres).8 To add insult to injury, all this took place at a time of immense economic distress, the dire situation which had in part produced the Revolution having not been alleviated in the slightest by the events of 1789. On the contrary, the despair of much of the populace was augmented by a slump in foreign trade that led to massive unemployment in the ports of the Atlantic coast and with this a widespread recession in the numerous industries that depended on the colonial trade and luxury market, most of which were carried on not in factories but in thousands of rural households. Also hit were every variety of artisan – the economic recession and, increasingly, emigration, combining to deprive them of much of their market – and the huge numbers of domestic servants, many of whom were turned out on to the streets by families that were struggling to cut costs or had headed for the greater security of foreign parts. Accelerating the downturn in the prospects of the artisan and servant classes, meanwhile, was the rampant inflation caused by the new régime’s everincreasing resort to paper money in the form of assignats, these having depreciated by as much as 40 per cent of their value by the time that war broke out in 1792.9 On all sides, then, poverty threatened to become indigence and indigence famine, but this was a situation that the Revolution found itself singularly ill-equipped to tackle. Even before 1789 the means that existed to succour the poor had been utterly insufficient, but one of the results of the assault on the lands of the Church was that charity and social care alike suffered very heavily: whilst the various religious orders, both male and female, that dedicated themselves to the care of the old, the poor and the sick were allowed to survive the decree that dissolved the bulk of their fellows in November 1790, their revenues were nonetheless badly disrupted and their ranks thinned by emigration. Nor did it help that the numerous secular hospitals and institutions of charity were financed by income derived from feudal dues, income which, once lost, could not be made good by a state whose ability to realise the tax revenues it was owed was increasingly limited and whose efforts to sustain the system with grants of public money were in any case undermined by the galloping inflation.10 The consequences of all this are not difficult to imagine. In towns and cities across France, hit very badly by the rise in bread prices and the collapse in the luxury market, the sans culottes flocked to political clubs and began to press for a radicalisation of the Revolution: a good example is Lyons where, deeply at odds with the merchants who bought and marketed their wares, the silk weavers flocked to the support of Jacobinism, whilst at Etampes (Seineet-Oise) the winter of 1791–2 witnessed pro-Jacobin riots.11 And, in the countryside the growing mood of anger produced what has come to be called the ‘anti-revolution’. From one end of the country to the other, desperate villagers hit out in an attempt to remedy their situation. In Flanders, for example, there was a concerted attempt to ensure that the commons were divided up amongst peasants and landless labourers in small lots rather than being allowed to fall into the hands of wealthy proprietors.12 More generally, perhaps, the populace took to violence and intimidation, marching on chateaux to demand that their owners should surrender their rights to feudal dues that had been converted into rents, attacking erstwhile seigneurs and their agents, invading hunting parks to slaughter game, burning crops and laying waste to barns and biers, such developments even being seen in areas that were later to be much affected by resistance to the Revolution: in the period from 1793 onwards, the area round Rennes was to be a stronghold of the chouans (see below), and yet in the winter of 1790 it witnessed a veritable jacquerie.13 Such was the anger, indeed, that it was even shared by men who were ostensibly fiercely loyal to the Revolution. Typical enough were the views expressed by a senior non-commissioned officer in a battalion of

Resistance and revolt (1): France  183 Volunteers of 1792 in a letter to the municipality of his home town, the issue that caught his eye in particular being the manner in which the common lands had been distributed amongst the inhabitants: the authorities had, he claimed, been handing these out only to the propertied classes and, still worse, ‘cowards who have been cutting a fine figure around the village’, whilst neglecting ‘families who had given sons to fight for the Fatherland’.14 To reiterate, however, whilst all this amounted to a desire for a different sort of revolution, it did not amount to counter-revolution. What translated the former into the latter was the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Except in Montauban, the capital of the southern department of Tarn-et-Garonne, where fears that the local Protestant community were going to seize control of the electoral process to the constituent assembly provoked a serious riot on 14 May 1790, outraged Catholicism as such had initially played little part in the constant disturbances: whilst areas that were deeply devout certainly participated in them, so did areas where anti-clericalism had been strong. Not quite two months later, however, all this changed. Thus, passed on 12 July by the National Assembly, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy threw relations between loyal Catholics and the Revolution into turmoil. On one level, the document was logical enough: given that the state had agreed to pay the clergy, the latter were now civil servants, and from this it followed that the state had a right, first, to some means of ensuring the loyalty of its members; second, to a voice in who got to be ordained and appointed to benefices (the intention was that this last should be done by election by all male members of each parish of voting age); and, third, to a considerable say in the organisation of the French Church (the most famous provision of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy was the oath of loyalty that it expected from all ecclesiastics, but it also greatly reduced the number of dioceses, bringing them down from 135 to just 83 – the same number as there were departments). Had the clergy gone along with this, then all might have been well, but nothing of the sort transpired. Quite the reverse: whilst there were some priests and even a handful of bishops who, whether out of personal ambition, a feeling that resistance was futile or an honest belief that the new dispensation would allow the attainment of long-held dreams of reform, were prepared to take the oath, at least as many as half as many again were not, and thereby immediately put themselves at risk of arrest.15 Determined to deal with the problem, the state went into action against them, only to find that in this instance action and reaction were equal and opposite. Furious at attempts to enforce the law (some of them very heavy-handed indeed: in the town of Nîmes, over 200 Catholic demonstrators were killed in cold blood by a force of Protestant National Guards that had been sent in to restore order), large numbers of devout Catholics essayed resistance. In many places the disturbances were peaceful – torchlight processions, for example, were commonplace – or quite small-scale – mere riots indeed16 – but elsewhere armed gangs temporarily took over entire villages and were only driven out after some sharp fighting (significantly enough, some of the worst of these disturbances took place in the area that was soon to be immortalised as the Vendée), whilst in the Gard Catholic elements of the National Guard in effect organised themselves into a rebel army with a view to avenging the Montauban massacre and, reinforced by large numbers of recruits garnered in remote villages of the Cevennes by royalist agents, in July 1792 briefly rose in revolt under the leadership of an émigré officer named the Count of Saillans, only almost immediately to be dispersed by the prompt dispatch of a small column of regular troops and volunteers. Nor was the resistance, peaceful or otherwise, limited to public acts of defiance: many communicants boycotted constitutional services, harassed parish priests who had gone along with the reforms to such an extent that they were forced to flee, and gave food and shelter to the many non-juring priests like André Fournier – a parish priest from Vienne who was

184  Resistance and revolt (1): France later canonised for the courage he showed in defying the Republican authorities – who stayed in their communities and sought to carry on their mission via secret masses and prayer services.17 Particularly at the lowest level, resistance to the Revolutionary religious settlement was to continue throughout the 1790s and beyond, and all the more so when the Committee of Public Safety and the Convention began to move in the direction of outright dechristianisation. However, with excitement in the Catholic community at its height – there were numerous reports, for example, of apparitions of Our Lady – in February 1793 the country was struck by a development whose impact eclipsed everything that had gone before it. This was, of course, the levy of 300,000. Enough has already been said about the nature of this move, not to mention the long-term low-level resistance to which it gave rise, to render further discussion of such matters superfluous. What we need to concentrate on here is rather the more active forms by which an outraged countryside attempted to defend itself against a measure that was almost universally regarded as not just unwelcome but unjust. In brief, then, the country was swept by a positive tidal wave of rioting and other disturbances, the areas affected including Brittany, Normandy, Maine, Anjou, Poitou, Limousin and Auvergne. In most of the areas affected, the trouble proved short-lived or at least subsided into the localised small-scale violence represented by the chouannerie of Brittany and Normandy on the one hand and the royalist brigandage of large parts of the south and south-west on the other, but in the area immediately south of the River Loire the situation was very different: within a matter of days of the arrival of the news of the levy, the entire area – in brief, western parts of Poitou and the southern-most parts of Anjou and Brittany – had flown to arms and to all intents and purposes eliminated the presence of the Revolution from its midst, albeit not without shocking scenes of violence that are important to bear in mind in view of what happened subsequently. Perhaps the worst atrocity took place at the village of Machecoul, a small market town in the present-day department of Loire-Atlantique. In brief, guarded by a party of around a hundred National Guards, the mayor, the parish priest (a ‘juror’ who had been brought in some time previously) and the local magistrate set about the task of drawing lots to decide which of the inhabitants should be drafted into the army, only for the crowd, which had been swelled by large numbers of people who had come in from the surrounding countryside, to start chanting ‘Pas de milice! Pas de milice!’ Terrified out of his wits, one of the guardsman fired a shot, whereupon the entire party was set upon and around twenty people hacked to death on the spot. Dragged away to imprisonment in the town’s mediaeval castle, as well as a nearby convent, the survivors were put to death in batches over the next few weeks together with a number of other inhabitants known to be sympathetic to the Revolution. In all, the number of dead was probably no more than 150, but the figure was wildly inflated by survivors who had managed to escape and was very soon being reported in Paris and elsewhere as anything up to 800. Compared with such hysterics, the Republican officer who led the first troops to enter the town after the killings was positively moderate, but even so his words were chilling enough. Thus, ‘It is said . . . that nearly 400 Patriots . . . were slaughtered at Machecoul . . . When the [surviving] inhabitants saw our brothers in arms, their words of greeting were mixed with the bitterest tears that we had not come sooner.’18 From the very start, then, the seeds were being sown of a bloody retribution. Why, though, was the Vendée (the term that, in line with general usage, we shall use hereafter, even though, strictly speaking, it applies only to the department that was the heartland of the uprising) affected by revolt in a manner that was so much more extensive than any other region?19 Largely composed of ill-equipped and semi-trained National Guards, the garrison

Resistance and revolt (1): France  185 was weak, but, with France in the grip of war with virtually the whole of Europe, so it was in most other places. Judging from the cahiers des doléances, village opinion was certainly no more satisfied with its status under the ancien régime than it was in many other regions: on the contrary, indeed, many aspects of the feudal system had been bitterly criticised and attempts to mute that criticism by elements in the pocket of local seigneurs blocked or at the very least circumvented, whilst, still more interestingly, subsequent attempts by the émigré leadership to secure direct control of the revolts by sending in military commanders such as Joseph Puisaye, a lieutenant in the regular army who had initially rallied to the Revolution only to turn his coat following the overthrow of Brissot, were extremely unpopular.20 Banditry had been common in the area prior to 1789, but banditry had also been common throughout south-central, central and western France. Though marked, its religiosity was no greater than that of other areas where the Church did not hold great estates and for the most part recruited its personnel from the local area. And, finally, if its terrain – a mixture of marshes, heath, woods and bocage – offered excellent protection, so did that of Brittany and Normandy, whilst the Auvergne, Alsace and the lands bordering on Spain, Switzerland and Italy came equipped with mountains as well. Social conflict was intense – writing half a century ago or more, Charles Tilly argued that the origins of armed counter-revolution lay in a series of increasingly bitter conflicts between a pro-revolutionary local élite composed of merchants, professionals, rentiers and prosperous tenant famers and an increasingly dissatisfied mass of poor tenant farmers and landless labourers that sprang in turn from pre-revolutionary tensions between town and countryside, tensions that were beyond doubt strengthened by what Tackett has identified as a tendency on the part of the urban élites to immerse themselves in the culture of the Enlightenment21 – but precisely the same sort of pattern can be argued to have pertained elsewhere, just as the fact that it was, above all, the bourgeoisie and the most prosperous members of the peasantry who did well from the Revolution in terms of gaining access to the national properties and monopolising control of local government was hardly something out of the ordinary. There is something to be said, perhaps, for the belief that, already very poor to start with, the region had been particularly badly affected by the economic collapse that accompanied the Revolution, but, if so, why did many weavers and other textile workers – the group perhaps most affected by the disaster – stay loyal to the Republic? The issue is something of a puzzle, and one is therefore inclined to sympathise with the revisionist French historians who have cut the Gordian knot by claiming that the initial disturbances of March 1793 were deliberately fanned into a major revolt by the authorities in Paris so as to give them an excuse to pulverise an area that had come to be seen as a bastion of clerical intransigence.22 All this means that we must look for other reasons why disorder turned into disaster, why riot turned into revolt. Here the first factor that comes to mind is the influence of the sea. Navigable for a considerable way inland, the Loire ensured that even communities buried deep in the bocage enjoyed a link with the Atlantic Ocean, while the plethora of minor ports along the coast provided ready landing points for the British troops who, at the very moment that the revolt broke out, suddenly hove into view as potential allies and, indeed, saviours. Meanwhile, whether one is speaking of men who had sprung from the ranks of the commonalty such as the carter Jacques Cathelineau and the gamekeeper Jean Stofflet or the local noblemen François de Charrette and the Marquis of La Rochejacquelin, also on hand were a clutch of charismatic leaders of a sort that were simply not available elsewhere and could in many instances draw upon a considerable amount of service in the Bourbon army: though much lionised by the many chroniclers who from 1793 onwards have sought to romanticise the war in the Vendée, it cannot be denied that, unlike the incompetent and

186  Resistance and revolt (1): France pusillanimous Puisaye, the Vendéen commanders generally led from the front as much as any general of the Revolution, and in many instances – for example, Cathelineau, Bonchamps and Lescure – fell in battle at the head of their men; at the same time, too, they were also for the most part very young – in March 1793 La Rochejacquelin was just twenty, Lescure twenty-six, the Prince of Talmont twenty-eight, Charette twenty-nine, Sapinaud de la Rairie and Bonchamps thirty-two, Cathelineau thirty-four.23 Some of the stories told about these men may have been exaggerated while they were often divided by bitter personal hostility. All that said, however, they possessed a credibility that their opponents could not begin to match, and fifty years on and more were still being commemorated in song. ‘Monsieur de Charette has told the men of Ancenis that the king is bringing back the fleur de lys’, ran one ditty dating from 1853. ‘Get your musket, Grégoire; get a gourd to drink from; get your medal of the Virgin: our gentlemen are off to hunt the partridges.’24 Whatever the reason why this was the case, very soon an area perhaps measuring 100 miles from east to west and 50 miles from north to south was in the grip of full-scale war.25 In village after village, bands of men came together under the leadership of such figures who came to hand or emerged from the chaos and marched on the local towns, the garrisons of which were quickly overwhelmed and in many instances put to the sword, along with anyone perceived as having benefited from the Revolution (in this respect, Machecoul was only one incident among many, though the fact that the killings there were prolonged over a period of some weeks rather than being confined to a few hours of mayhem in the wake of the defeat of the local bleus makes it particularly unpleasant).26 On occasion, the Vendéen leaders appear to have attempted to restrain their followers, but it is clear that many of the latter were bent on little more than pillage or out to satisfy personal vendettas, whilst in any case much went on beyond the reach of the commanders.27 Here, for example, is the rebel Marquise de la Rochejacquelin’s account of the aftermath of the battle of Chatillon: The fury of the battle increased as the battle proceeded, and when the victory was won [the attackers] refused to give quarter to the enemy. Their chiefs called out to the Republicans, ‘Surrender! We shall not harm you!’ However, that was a vain hope: the soldiers took no prisoners. When our men reached the town, the slaughter became more fearful still . . . M. de Lescure, who commanded the vanguard, had swept through Chatillon in pursuit of the flying enemy and he had ordered that several hundred of these should be locked up in the prison. The peasants . . . instead of obeying his orders, started to cut their throats. M. d’Elbée, and others who had tried to stop them, had muskets aimed at them.28 That said, if there is much reason to doubt idealised pictures of simple peasants marching off to do battle for Church and King and none whatsoever not to accept the idea that the region was deeply divided in respect of the insurrection – it is at least possible that some of the men who took the field were just as much conscripts as many of their opponents29 – the rebel forces clearly enjoyed a wide measure of popular support and were at least as much of a people’s army as anything fielded by the Republic. What is more, they had soon acquired a record of considerable military success: not only had the heartland of the revolt very quickly been cleared of representatives of the enemy, but a succession of punitive expeditions that were sent against them were either ambushed and overwhelmed or simply forced to retreat. Typical enough in this respect were the scenes witnessed at Saint Pierre de Chemillé on 11 April 1793. In brief, a division of 4,000 men heading into the heart of the Vendée commanded by a General Berruyer was confronted by a substantial force of rebels

Resistance and revolt (1): France  187 who had dug themselves in at that village supported by a number of cannon. Splitting into two columns, the Republicans attacked the village, but the veteran soldiers who headed the assault, amongst them a number of erstwhile Swiss Guards who had sought safety in rallying to the Revolution, were not supported by the conscript units following behind and were eventually forced to flee. A second assault was more successful, but the insurgents continued to control the church and a number of other buildings, and with night falling Berruyer decided that discretion was the better part of valour and fell back to his starting point of Saint Lambert.30 If Berruyer’s men had come out of this action with their honour intact, two months later, the same troops experienced a much greater reverse at Montreuil in that they were attacked on the march and completely routed with the loss of over a hundred men (eager to save face, their commanders claimed that they had been attacked by 40,000 men, but such stories were counter-productive, elevating, as they did, the insurgents into a threat that bore no resemblance to the reality).31 Most of these punitive expeditions being composed of scratch forces of National Guards, detachments of the newly created National Gendarmerie and such formations as the already-noted German Legion , not to mention commanded by generals who were as over-confident as they were lacking in ability, this was hardly surprising whilst the rebels also proved both skilled guerrilla fighters and frightening opponents on the battlefield.32 With bitter disputes breaking out in the Republican ranks – now a battalion commander, the veteran of the storming of the Bastille and radical Jacobin Jean Rossignol got himself arrested when he not only led a protest movement against the commander of the Army of the Coast of La Rochelle, General Biron, but for good measure accused the equally Jacobin head of the so-called Legion of the North, François Westermann, of corruption33 – within a very few weeks, there had appeared a veritable ‘liberated area’ ruled by a makeshift provisional government.34 Dramatic though these developments were, the threat to the Republic was by no means as serious as at first appeared. Whilst it did not help that the rebel leadership was split by numerous disputes and petty rivalries, the Royal and Catholic Army, as their troops became known, simply did not have the logistical services to allow it to take the field for very long, and therefore had to be dismissed to its homes after every battle: never organised in anything more sophisticated than parish companies, it was therefore at best but a home-guard that stood to its arms at the sound of the tocsin. Meanwhile, even had there been sufficient rations, it is doubtful whether a daily issue of bread and meat would have been enough to keep the men with the colours: too many of them were interested in plunder as much as they were in defending their parish priests or resisting conscription. After every battle, then, the lanes were thick with men returning to their home villages in order to squirrel away the money and other valuables that had come their way. According to Joseph Clemenceau, a Republican magistrate from Beaupréau, for example: In order to place their booty in security, the pillagers deserted to the depths of the country, with the result that the army was reduced to half the number it had been at Thouars [a significant Vendéen victory gained on 5 May 1793].35 What all this meant, of course, was that training was in short supply, while many of the men in any case had no better arms than scythes and pitchforks. Though some material was captured from the forces they so frequently defeated, to solve this conundrum, Cathelineau, La Rochejacquelin and the rest had somehow to capture a port, but the most accessible – Nantes and Les Sables d’Olonne – were strongly held against them, while the way to others such as La Rochelle was blocked by other Republican bastions such as Luçon and

188  Resistance and revolt (1): France Fontenay-le-Comte. These, of course, were duly attacked, but peasants who thought of the war in terms of little more than defending their home villages from attack could only be persuaded to come out of their fastnesses in the bocage in reduced numbers, and, when they did, could make no progress against entrenched artillery, all that the Vendéen commanders’ repeated assaults served to do being to deprive them of some of their best fighters, including, not least, the carter Jacques Cathelineau, who fell before the walls of Nantes on 29 June. Almost lost to history in some accounts of the Revolution, the Vendéen defeat on this occasion was a second Valmy. To quote William Doyle, ‘The worst moment in the Montagnards’ struggle to keep control of France had passed.’36 In short, the best that the revolt could achieve was stalemate, and even that not for very long. With not just one but two major rebellions to occupy them, together with military campaigns on virtually the entire length of their frontiers, neither the Brissotins nor their Montagnard successors had sufficient troops to do very much with regard to the Vendée, but by the autumn the crisis had passed, while the repatriation to France of the garrison of Mainz provided the Committee of Public Safety with a substantial force of regular troops that it could deploy against the Vendéens and other rebels (according to the terms of the city’s surrender, they could not serve against the enemies of the Republic for a year, but this restriction was deemed not to apply in respect of domestic rebellion). The unity of command that had hitherto been lacking having been remedied by the establishment of a single Army of the West under the hard-line Rossignol whose admirers in Paris had proved sufficiently powerful to save him from the consequences of his earlier politicking, very soon large forces, many of them veterans commanded by the tough and highly experienced JeanBaptiste Kléber, were marching into the Vendée from Nantes devastating all in their path: as one veteran of the siege of Mainz later remarked, ‘The Vendéens called us the Army of the Devil’.37 One place to feel the wrath of republican vengeance was the town of Montaigu. As Kléber remembered: Hardly had the troops arrived than the town was being subjected to the most horrible sack . . . The most austere of men could not have suppressed a smile at the sight of the different costumes in which the soldiers decked themselves, the most popular items in their masquerades being soutanes, surplices and chasubles.38 The Vendéens fought back bravely – on 19 September Kléber was even defeated at Torfou – but on 17 October this Republican push led to the biggest battle of the war. Having defeated a Vendéen force at La Tremblaye on 15 October, 26,000 Republican troops, many of them veterans, occupied the key town of Cholet, thereby threatening to trap the largest rebel army against the Loire. After bitter argument, the divided Vendéen generals opted to launch a counter-attack, and, early in the afternoon of 17 October, 40,000 rebel troops advanced in serried columns on the Republican positions on the heights north of the town. The result was a disaster. Terrified by the onrushing masses of men bristling with scythes, pikes and pitchforks, some of the defenders broke and ran, but, as senior Republican commander on the field, Kléber kept his head and sent some of his reserves to take the Vendéens in flank. Having already suffered heavy losses in their gallant efforts to advance, the rebels then fell to pieces and fled in disorder, leaving behind them at least 5,000 killed and wounded and every single one of their cannon, including a much-loved seventeenth-century culverin that had been adopted by the peasant fighters as something of a mascot; still worse, amongst the wounded, both of them mortally hurt, were Bonchamps and D’Elbée, two of the best of the surviving rebel leaders. In a particularly

Resistance and revolt (1): France  189 appalling atrocity, meanwhile, according to no less an authority than Kléber, 400 wounded Vendéens who were captured in a hospital at nearby Beaupréau were burned alive in the buildings that housed them in reprisal for a roughly similar number of Republican wounded who had been slaughtered when the wagons carrying them to safety had been over-run after an earlier battle at Clisson. Yet it had been no walk-over. As Kléber wrote in his account of the battle: Never had [the rebels] put up such stiff resistance or been so well commanded  .  .  .  They fought like tigers . . . Beaupuy had two horses shot from under him . . . Targe was hit by a ball that went through his arm and lodged in his breast . . . SaintSauveur . . . got a ball in his thigh, and the adjutant-general, Dubreton, one in his arm . . . Patris . . . lost his life; the four light-infantry commanders were all either killed or wounded, and the many other senior officers who fell included Ageron, a commander of a grenadier battalion of forty-one years service.39 Known as the grande virée de la galerne (roughly, ‘the great turning of the wind’), what followed was perhaps the worst tragedy of the whole of the Revolutionary Wars. Hungry, exhausted and demoralised, the survivors of the Royal and Catholic Army fell back to the town of Saint Florent le Vieil on the banks of the River Loire. Watching them was Marin Boutillier de Saint André, the thirteen-year-old son of a sometime Republican official who had two brothers fighting in the Republican army: About four o’clock in the morning the Vendéen commanders took the decision to fall back . . . A large number of women and children, old men and priests followed them. How dreadful a sight it was to see an entire population . . . fleeing their homes in terror never to see them again and trailing in the wake of an army that had no means to help them and which they only served to slow down and impede.40 Fortunately for the fleeing rebels, in testimony, perhaps, to the heavy losses that themselves suffered at Cholet, the Republicans did not pursue them and the whole assembly, perhaps as many as 80,000 men, women and children, were ferried across the river. Striking out northwards while the going was good, the generals still with the army – La Rochejacquelin, Stofflet and the Prince of Talmont – at first planned to head for Brittany, but en route a message reached them from the Count of Artois promising that the British would send ships to rescue them if they could only reach the sea. Some 12 miles long, having beaten off a Republican attack at Entrammes, the Vendéen column therefore made for the port of Granville, only, as so often before, to find themselves unable to overcome troops entrenched behind fortifications. With no British ships in sight and no means of feeding so many mouths in one place for more than a very short time, after two days’ desperate fighting, the rebels retired and decided to head back to the Loire in the hope of reaching the Vendée once more. Losing ever larger numbers to desertion, hunger and disease along the way, the army managed to win yet another battle at Dol and made it to Angers, and, with it, its vital bridge across the river, but yet again the need to take a fortified town frustrated them, and, fearing the arrival of fresh Republican troops, they turned north again after just one day’s fighting. This time, however, there was no escape: on 12 December, now reduced to no more than 10,000 combatants and perhaps three times as many stragglers and unarmed civilians, the Vendéens were attacked by 20,000 Republicans at Le Mans. A desperate attempt to drive off the enemy having failed, the following day the town was stormed amidst scenes of rape

190  Resistance and revolt (1): France and massacre that dwarfed anything seen in the campaign thus far. To quote the report written in the aftermath of the battle by Bertrand Barère: The only obstacle which the enemy could oppose to the advance of our troops was mountains of corpses. The streets . . . the squares, the highways, all of them are strewn with bodies, and after fifteen hours the massacre was still going on.41 Le Mans was truly a terrible affair, less than half the surviving rebels eventually managing to escape to the west. All that was left now was to make one last effort to reach the sea, and on 22 December the last fragments of the Royal and Catholic Army reached the town of Savenay some miles to the north of the port of Saint Nazaire. Here, however, horror was heaped on horror. Attacked by 18,000 Republican troops under Kléber and Westermann, the few thousand men still in a state to fight held out bravely and even temporarily drove back some of their assailants – according to the account of Kléber’s chief of staff, Louis Buquet, in several instances officers who attempted to persuade parties of stragglers who had taken refuge in isolated buildings to surrender were shot at and in some instance killed42 – but they were soon overwhelmed and very often massacred where they stood. ‘There is no more Vendée’, boasted Westermann. ‘I have just buried it in the marshes and mud of Savenay . . . I have crushed children under the feet of horses, massacred women who . . . at least will engender no more brigands. I have no prisoners with which to reproach myself.’43 If Kléber was rather more restrained, the picture that he draws is no less grim: ‘The carnage was horrible: on all sides, there was nothing to be seen but piles of corpses . . . We subjected them to a rolling fire, and they all perished.’44 What followed was if anything still worse. Roped together in long chains, the survivors were marched to Nantes where many of them were put to death by being loaded on to barges which were then sunk in the middle of the river: to their misfortune, the chief figure in the city was Jean-Baptiste Carrier, a fanatical follower of Robespierre who had been sent to Nantes as répresentant en mission proclaiming that he would turn France into a cemetery rather than see the Montagnards fail to regenerate her in the fashion that they favoured. Counting those guillotined or shot by firing squads as well as those drowned, the number of victims who perished in the terreur nantaise may have risen to as many as 16,000.45 Meanwhile, in an added twist, among the auxiliaries employed by Carrier was a group of freed slaves. Styled the ‘American Company’, for obvious reasons this set about its work with particular relish.46 ‘Forty thousand brigands have drawn their last breath’, wrote one Boissé. ‘If some of these cowardly wretches thought they might save their lives by declaring themselves to be prisoners, they soon realised their mistake, for, as soon as they fell into our hands, they were dead and buried.’47 In the course of the grande virée de galerne a minimum of 60,000 men, women and children had died in battle, succumbed to starvation, exposure or disease, or been massacred in cold blood, and the true figure may well be many more. Meanwhile, south of the River Loire, events had scarcely been behind-hand. On the contrary, with the main Vendéen army driven across the river, the Republican forces had been free to concentrate on the heartland of resistance. Their numbers much reduced, those insurgents who had not crossed the river after the battle of Cholet kept up a guerrilla struggle under such leaders as Charette, but they were incapable of preventing so-called ‘infernal columns’ from crisscrossing the region, burning down large numbers of villages, rounding up more prisoners for execution at Nantes, Angers and elsewhere and engaging in numerous atrocities. Thanks to such scholars as Reynald Secher, the activities of these forces have been subjected to a

Resistance and revolt (1): France  191 merciless critique and there can be no doubt that the atmosphere was one of great savagery: there was the fear provoked by the need to operate in the claustrophobic conditions of the bocage; the fury occasioned by Vendéen atrocities, sadly not all of them exaggerated, still less invented; the belief that opposition to the Revolution constituted a betrayal of reason, that of its very nature quite literally de-humanised those guilty of it; and, finally, the general ‘othering’ of a population perceived as backward and ignorant. However, whilst many hundreds of inhabitants – indeed, possibly many thousands – died in the repression, to talk in terms of genocide is a claim too far: setting aside the fact that the Vendéens cannot be regarded as an ethnic group, there is no evidence of a settled plan for the elimination of the inhabitants per se.48 That said, there is no doubt that the Republican forces were determined to punish the region and at the same time end guerrilla resistance by striking at the civilian population and devastating the region to such an extent that it would no longer be able to support war.49 In all this there was no space for mercy. One participant in the work of the colonnes infernales was the volunteer François-Xavier Joliclerc, a soldier who was so self-righteous a crusader for the Republic that even when writing to his mother he saw no need to draw a veil over what was taking place. Thus: Fourteen columns are about to set out to ravage the departments of Deux-Sèvres and the Vendée. We are setting out . . . with muskets in one hand and torches in the other. Men and women, one and all will perish by the sword. Apart from the smallest children, it is necessary that each and every one of them should die. These departments must serve as an example to others that might have notions of rising in revolt. We have already devastated around seven square leagues of country. Everything being up for grabs, a number of soldiers have already made a fortune, but thus far I haven’t picked up so much as a clean shirt: this is a state of affairs that won’t be long in the changing.’50 In all, a minimum of 100,000 and a maximum of 250,000 men, women and children appear to have perished in the course of the period March 1793–April 1794, and, even if one assumes that a greater or lesser proportion of that number either fell to Vendéen atrocities or died in battle fighting the rebels, one is still left with a very dark picture. Still worse, the use of wholesale terror proved counter-productive, all that it did being to drive more and more of the inhabitants into the woods and marshes and thereby augment the guerrilla war: on 27 April 1794 we find the same Joliclerc who had boasted to his mother of the vengeance he and his comrades were inflicting on the Vendée telling her that his battalion had just lost fifty-two dead, ‘all of them with their heads smashed in or their bodies pierced by bayonets’, in an ambush near Cholet.51 With the end of the Terror, then, the generals responsible for the savagery of the winter of 1793–4 were recalled and the command given to the highly talented Lazare Hoche, the latter proceeding to embark on a policy of pacification whose culmination was a peace treaty – the convention of La Jaunaye – whereby the rebel leaders secured extraordinarily generous peace terms including freedom of worship, exemption from conscription, a general amnesty and even the promise of an indemnity.52 Die-hard monarchists as they were, a few of the rebel leaders, including Stofflet and Charette, took up arms again in the autumn of 1795 at the instigation of the émigré princes, but they had misjudged the mood of a population that had never been either wholly at war with the Revolution per se nor, still less, united in support of the rebellion, and now wanted only to rebuild their shattered communities: fighting was small-scale and both Stofflet and Charette, who in any case hated one another and were quite incapable of acting in concert, were taken prisoner and shot in the first months of 1796.53

192  Resistance and revolt (1): France This was by no means the end of the story of resistance in the Vendée, but, for the time being we must turn to other topics, and, in particular, the low-level violence known as the chouannerie that affected much of Brittany and also western parts of Maine and Normandy from about the same time as the outbreak of the revolt of the Vendée right through to the early years of the Consulate, and has been described as ‘the most extensive, persistent and durable peasant movement of the Revolution’.54 Like its cousin south of the Loire, the result of three years of disillusionment at the manner in which the countryside was first systematically robbed of the benefits it might have expected from the Revolution and then confronted by the threat of conscription, it was yet a very different style of revolt.55 In Brittany, then, we do not see hordes of angry peasants, artisans and landless labourers overwhelming the local garrisons, establishing liberated areas and forming an insurrectionary army. On the contrary, organisation remained very local, if, indeed, it ever got beyond the level of the gang, the chouans for the most part remaining in their own homes and sallying out in small groups to undertake a raid here, an ambush there or a robbery somewhere else. As such, the insurgents came much closer than the Vendéens ever did to meriting the title ‘brigands’, and in some cases that is exactly what they were, or, at the very least, became, whilst they were much more insidious as a foe, not least because they rarely presented the Republican authorities with the sort of target afforded by the Royal and Catholic Army. That said, particularly as time went on, they were not quite as amorphous a mass as has sometimes been assumed.56 On the contrary, the areas affected by the revolt were organised into divisions, each of which was headed by a military commander appointed by the émigré high command in England: in the case of the division of Dinant, then, it consisted of no fewer than thirty-four parishes and possessed as its military commander an erstwhile army officer named Victor Collas de la Baronnais.57 As for the rank and file, these were drawn from much the same stock as the Vendéen rebels: men of military age from the poorer sections of society, one list of 296 individuals from the Avranches area containing 133 peasants, 16 day labourers, 23 servants, 19 textile workers, 92 artisans and 13 shopkeepers.58 For an interesting assessment of a typical band we can cite the words of a British naval officer named John Wright. Thus: Their division is better disciplined, and, I think, capable of more rapid advancement toward the degree of military excellence that would enable them to meet the ‘blues’ [i.e. the Republican forces] with equal numbers in the open field. Their tactics are at present confined to hedge work where they lay in ambush near the public roads and intercept convoys of grain, forage, etc., etc., destined for the Republican troops. The activity of this small body in arms is, however, so extraordinary as to keep the Republicans on the qui vive, and give an impression of numbers far above what they really are . . . The peasantry are in that part of the country determined royalists with the exception of very few, and those few diminish daily by retiring into towns through fear of falling sacrifices to their erroneous principles, for the chasseurs du roi spare none whom they despair of converting . . . Denunciateurs are shot without the least mercy or hesitation, and the vigilance and numbers of the royalist spies render it nearly impossible for the Republican informers to escape death.59 There was therefore both enthusiasm and commitment in Brittany and the regions adjacent to it, but the chouans could no more hope to win their war against the Republic than the Vendéens. Once again what counted was outside help, and in the summer of 1795 it at last seemed that that hope might be about to materialise. After spending the second

Resistance and revolt (1): France  193 half of 1793 fighting with a band of chouans in western Normandy, in 1794 the Joseph de Puisaye already mentioned had fled to England where he persuaded the British government to fund an invasion of Brittany. On 27 June 1795, then, several thousand hastily recruited émigré troops – many of them erstwhile prisoners of war who had only enlisted to escape the horrors of confinement on the hulks used as improvised prisons – were duly landed on the Quiberon peninsula under the command of Puisaye himself. Here they were joined by substantial numbers of chouans, but bitter disputes between the royalist commanders as to the strategy that should now be adopted cost the expedition valuable time and allowed Hoche to rush forces to the area. Far too late, the invaders tried to advance along the peninsula to the mainland, but were driven back after fierce fighting, whilst efforts to break the Republican stronghold by landing troops further along the coast and attacking Hoche’s men in the rear also failed. Finally, after three weeks of stalemate, on the night of 20 July, the French commander launched an assault of his own. For a time, the action was hard-fought, but most of the men recruited from the hulks quickly went over to the oncoming enemy, Puisaye’s forces then dissolving in panic. As for Puisaye himself, abandoning his command to its fate, he was one of the first to take ship. Fleeing southwards along the peninsula, over 2,000 men, women and children were picked up by rowing boats sent from the British ships that were still moored off shore, but the rest of the army was forced to surrender the next day, at least 750 of the 6,332 prisoners later being court-martialled and shot.60 Amongst those who escaped the disaster was Puisaye, who returned to England, and, astonishingly enough, was given 800 more émigré troops who were landed on the Ile de Ré accompanied by not just Puisaye but the Count of Artois.61 Yet, if less bloody than the landing at Quiberon, this fresh disembarkation proved no more successful: both the prince and his men were evacuated by the British after just a few weeks. Once again, then, the chouans were on their own, and all the more so once the insurrection of Stofflet and Charette had been put down in the Vendée. Still worse, the fact that peace had been declared between France and Spain in July meant that there were plenty of Republican troops available to march on Brittany, the efficacy of the French response being increased still further by the fact that all the troops deployed against the chouans were united under Hoche in a single Army of the West. From the Ile de Ré, Puisaye had travelled on to Brittany, but, in the wake of Quiberon, he had considerable difficulty imposing his authority, and other figures therefore took the helm including, most notably, Georges Cadoudal and Louis de Frotté. At the same time, disillusionment and exhaustion were setting in, the resistance being further sapped by the seemingly more moderate tone that had been set in Paris by the establishment of the Directory. Sporadic fighting continued for months, but by June 1796 order had for the most part been restored, Puisaye, Cadoudal and Frotté all having to seek refuge in England.62 This is not the end of the story, however. The basic problems that had given rise to the resistance had not been resolved in the slightest, and, if the situation was reasonably quiet, it was in large part only because conscription was no longer in operation (the Thermidorian reaction and the Directory alike having seen no reason to continue the experiment). Reasonably quiet was not completely quiet, however. Across large parts of the south and the west in particular, brigandage remained a serious problem. Given the economic situation, this was only to be expected, but many of the gangs concerned were not just criminals. On the contrary, many of the leaders were open in their declarations of allegiance to the ancien régime, and in some cases could be regarded as stemming from its ranks, good examples here including the non-juring priest Jean Solier and Jean Berard, a noble who had prior to 1789 had a position in the gendarmerie known as the maréchaussée. At the same time, too,

194  Resistance and revolt (1): France they were frequently in touch with other counter-revolutionary elements inside France, not to mention agents of the émigrés, of which the latter made great efforts to encourage the formation of fresh bands as well to bring existing ones under their sway.63 Too diffuse and disorganised to achieve anything like the impact of the chouannerie, they yet kept the cause of resistance alive by tying down large numbers of troops and engaging in a campaign of robbery, murder and intimidation that on occasion hit the beneficiaries of the Revolution very hard and provided a frequently sullen and unreconciled populace with a whole pantheon of folk heroes and, indeed, martyrs.64 In this situation, it only needed a spark to set off a fresh explosion, that spark being provided by the Loi Jourdan of September 1798 (see Chapter 11). Tensions had already been increased by the aftermath of the coup of 18 Fructidor with its reconstitution of the political left, annulment of pro-royalist election results and renewed assault on the Church, but the prospect of a return to conscription set off a chain reaction. Nor did it help, meanwhile, that such fervour for the popular Revolution as had been generated under the rule of the Brissotins and the Committee of Public Safety had increasingly fallen by the wayside: Much as ever, odes were recited and all sorts of matters subjected to the most earnest debate, whilst an attempt was even made to change people’s beliefs and establish a new cult, but, ever disputatious, the French mocked the new sectaries and the whole project slid into ridicule. As for such things as festivals and banquests, if people continued to attend them, it was because in doing so they could get to have some fun.65 Across la France réfractaire, then, hundreds of young men ran headlong for the ready-made refuge of the brigands, while others less swift on their feet who drew an unlucky number in the ballot deserted from their units and made for the self-same haven at the first possible opportunity.66 Mobilised with thirty-nine other young men of his home town of Loches in the department of Indre-et-Loire as, initially at least, part of an anti-chouan patrol armed with nothing more than shot-guns and fowling pieces, for example, twenty-year-old Elie Picard took part in a mass break-out, only to be forced to surrender when he and his comrades found their way blocked by a battery of artillery that had been drawn up at a crucial bridge.67 If all this was not quite insurrection, meanwhile, in Brittany and the Vendée revolt flared up in exactly the same style as before (though in the Vendée there were no mass armies, merely bands of armed peasants usually no more than a few hundred strong: the biggest force to take the field was the 8,000 men fielded by Autichamps at the battle of Aubiers in October 1799).68 Meanwhile, in the valley of the Garonne, the arrival of the news of the widespread defeats suffered by the French armies in Italy and Switzerland inspired royalist agents to launch an insurrection which for a brief time could field a force of perhaps 10,000 peasants, artisans and landless labourers, only to be smashed in a terrible defeat at Montréjeau in which the rebels lost 1,500 dead.69 It was not 1793, perhaps, but it was yet a sign of the extent to which broad swathes of rural France still required to be brought to heel, this being a task which both opened the way to the coup of 18 Brumaire and provided Napoleon with a task that was to occupy him until well into the Consulate. As late as the summer of 1800, for example, a soldier of the Thirty-First Demi-Brigade posted to the Vendéen town of Fontenay-le-Comte could write gloomily, ‘The countryside . . . is cut up in all directions by hedges and stone walls: it is a fine place for the chouans by whom we are completely surrounded.’70 Equally, travelling to Aix-en-Provence at about the same time to join his regiment after a period of leave, Jean Vivien found himself unable to proceed any further than Avignon ‘on account of the gangs – supposedly Royalist – that infest Provence

Resistance and revolt (1): France  195 and the Comtât in all directions, disarming the feeble patrols that are sent out to escort travellers, laying their hands on the funds raised by the fiscal authorities and levying contributions on this, that or the other family on the pretext of their political opinions.’71 And, finally, when the forces defeated in Italy in the campaign of 1799 retreated into Provence in the summer of 1799, they were met with widespread abuse, matters becoming so bad that the village of Muy saw a serious brawl that left dozens injured.72 In the end, all this was resolved by Napoleon. However, if this was the case, it should not be thought that the answer to the problem was political. Thus, it is often said that what ended resistance to the Revolution on the home front was, on the one hand, the resolution of the religious question by the concordat of 1801, and, on the other, the amnesty that was proferred to the émigrés. These measures obviously had their place, and, to the extent that they decapitated popular rebellion, they could even be said to have been of great importance. Yet to assume that the measures concerned had but to be enacted for all concerned to put up their swords and rally behind the re-made Republic is to assume that popular resistance was, above all, a matter of ideology. Quite simply, this was not the case. For hundreds upon thousands of Frenchmen, the hopes of 1789 had been defrauded by a régime that offered them very little and, still worse, often acted in a manner inclined to worsen their position. What resolved the situation, then, was rather, first, the application of military force and, second, the transformation of the ramshackle gendarmerie inherited from the Revolution into an efficient police force. Moreover, if rebellion and brigandage became a thing of the past, passive resistance continued, above all in the area of religion, whilst displays of war-weariness, at least, were many and varied. At best, then, the war between much of the French people and the Revolution settled into an uneasy truce, a truce that, as has been described elsewhere, the campaigns of Napoleon placed under ever greater stress.73

Notes 1 For these figures, see Jones, Longman Companion to the French Revolution, p. 283. It should be remembered that they represent the full ten-year period from 1789 to 1799, and that much of the gains that the more socially disadvantaged end of the spectrum managed to make came in the brief period of Montagnard rule in 1793–4 when, as we have seen, a variety of measures were introduced to benefit such elements. Prior to the advent of Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety, the situation was much worse: whilst the initial regulations for the sale of national property offered some hope to humbler purchasers by speaking in terms of the subdivision of large properties into smaller lots, modifications to the system introduced as early as 3 November 1790 not only took the opposite line with respect to subdivision but reduced the number of years available for repayment from twelve to four and a half. Ibid., pp. 291–2. 2 For evidence of this collective action from southern parts of the department of the Nord, see D. Hunt, ‘Peasant politics in the French Revolution’, Social History, 9, No. 3 (October, 1994), p. 281, whilst a more general discussion is afforded by P.M. Jones, ‘The “Agrarian Law”: schemes for land redistribution during the French Revolution’, Past and Present, 133 (November, 1991), pp. 101–2. 3 C. Tilly, ‘Local conflicts in the Vendée before the rebellion of 1793’, French Historical Studies, 2, No. 2 (Autumn, 1962), p. 219. 4 Forrest, Revolution in Provincial France, p. 260. 5 Sutherland, French Revolution and Empire, p. 86. 6 T. le Goff and D.M.G. Sutherland, ‘The social origins of counter-revolution in western France’, Past and Present, 99 (May, 1983), pp. 65–87. 7 Mackrell, Attack on Feudalism in Eighteenth-Century France, p. 175. 8 Sutherland, French Revolution and Empire, pp. 81–5, 96–8. 9 F. Aftalion, The French Revolution: An Economic Interpretation (Cambridge, 1990), p. 109. For a detailed regional study, see H.C. Johnson, The Midi in Revolution: A Study in Regional Political Diversity, 1789–1793 (Princeton, NJ, 1986), pp. 18–55. One point that comes through very strongly

196  Resistance and revolt (1): France from this last source is the patchy nature of the crisis with some departments suffering terribly and others merely stagnating; not surprisingly, meanwhile, it is shown that the incidence of outbreaks of collective violence corresponds very closely with the extent of the crisis. 10 A. Forrest, The French Revolution and the Poor (Oxford, 1981), pp. 39–41. 11 See D. Longfellow, ‘Silk weavers and the social struggle in Lyon during the French Revolution, 1789–94’, French Historical Studies, 12, No. 1 (January, 1991), pp. 1–40; D. Hunt, ‘The people and Pierre d’Olivier: popular uprisings in the Seine-et-Oise department, 1791–92’, French Historical Studies, 11, No. 2 (Autumn, 1979), pp. 184–214. 12 Hunt, ‘Peasant politics in the French Revolution’, p. 282. One area particularly hit by the unrest was the department of the Gard, though in this particular instance the disturbances seem in large part to have been the work of Protestant peasants who were determined above all to avenge themselves on the aristocratic Catholic élite who had ruled the roost prior to 1789. For all this, see Johnson, Midi in Revolution, pp. 168–70; V. Sottocasa, ‘Protestants et catholiques faces à la Révolution dans les montagnes de Languedoc’, Annales Historiques de la Révolution Française, 355 (March, 2009), pp. 114–15. 13 R. Dupuy, La Bretagne sous la Révolution et l’Empire, 1789–1815 (Rennes, 2004), pp. 47–9. 14 Cit. P. Bironneau (ed.), ‘Lettres de J.C. Jannin, sergant-major vaguemestre au 1er Bataillon du Haute Saône, 1793’, Carnets de la Sabretache, VII (1899), p. 413. 15 For the ‘juring’ section of the Church, see J.F. Byrnes, Priests of the French Revolution: Saints and Renegades in a New Political Era (University Park, Pennsylvania, 2014). With regard to the issue of resistance, we again see the influence of regional particularity: in much of the centre and east of France – the areas where juring was at its strongest – the priests tended to be the only habitants of their presbyteries and surrounded by a flock that had in many instances already turned against them, whereas in the west the parish clergy generally enjoyed the support of a community of colleagues and work-mates and, in addition, knew that they could count on the backing of many of their parishioners. Yet another issue, meanwhile, was that, in the west, priests still tended to originate from the peasantry, whereas in the centre and east they were increasingly urban in origin, and not just that, but the scions of families of some property and education. See Tackett, ‘West in 1789’, pp. 723–5. 16 A good example of such a clash that took place in Perpignan is recorded in the memoirs of Antoine Noguès. Thus, one night in April 1793 Noguès and a group of fellow volunteers happened upon a procession of flagellants and ‘gave voice to our horror and disapproval’, only to be promptly set upon and forced to run for their lives. Maricourt, Mémoires du Général Noguès, p. 59. 17 T. Tackett, Religion, Revolution and Regional Culture in Eighteenth-Century France: The Ecclesiastical Oath of 1791 (Princeton, NJ, 1986), pp. 159–204. For the clashes between Catholics and Protestants in the south, see Scott, ‘Problems of law and order during 1790’, pp. 871–6 and J. Hood, ‘Protestant-Catholic relations and the roots of the first popular counter-revolutionary movement in France’, Journal of Modern History, 43, No. 2 (June, 1971), pp. 245–75. As for the situation in Brittany and the Vendée, it is discussed in R. Dupuy, Les chouans (Paris, 1997), pp. 20–23. Interestingly, if the women of the Paris faubourgs took a leading role in the street action that year by year advanced the cause of radicalism, in the countryside women were just as prominent in the defence of Catholic tradition. C. Ford, Divided Houses: Religion and Gender in Modern France (Ithaca: NY, 2005), pp. 24–6. For the troubles in the Gard, see Sottocasa, ‘Protestants et catholiques’, pp. 109–11, 117–18, and F. de Jouvenel, ‘Les camps de Jales: episodes contre-révolutionaires?’, Annales Historiques de la Révolution Française, No. 337 (September, 2004), pp. 1–20. Meanwhile, one of the soldiers who repressed the revolt of February 1792 was the future general, François Roguet: ‘The rebels had taken up a position at L’Argentière, a place near Vans and Saint Ambroix. Put to flight, they lost a flag and suffered a number of dead, whilst the village of Saint André de Crusières, one of their refuges, was burned and Dusaillant [sic] taken and shot. As for the troupes nationales, they did not suffer a single casualty.’ F. Roguet, Mémoires militaires du Lieutenant-Général Comte Roguet: colonel en second de Grenadiers à Pied de la Vieille Garde, Pair de France, 1789–1812 (Paris, n.d.), p. 23. 18 Cit. Anon., Guerres des vendéens et des chouans contre la République Française ou annales des départments de l’ouest pendant ces guerres (Paris, 1824), I, p. 106. 19 It was not just the ‘Vendée militaire’, as the wider area affected by the revolt is known, that experienced serious armed resistance: also prominent, as we shall see, were the guerrilla bands known as the chouans that appeared in Brittany. That said, however, there is no denying that there

Resistance and revolt (1): France  197







26 27

was an extraordinary degree of particularity in the situation. To quote Timothy Tackett, ‘There were, to be sure, other areas of the country in which significant counter-revolutionary movements occurred, and the west itself was by no means monolithic in its attitudes. Nevertheless, in no other sector of France did the rural opposition movement begin in earnest so early, spread so widely and attain such a degree of violence, intensity and organization.’ Tackett, ‘The West in France in 1789’, p. 715. For a general discussion, see Dupuy, Les chouans, pp. 7–17. E.g. Dupuy, Bretagne sous la Révolution et l’Empire, pp. 26–31. A reference to this resentment may be found in the memoirs of Claude Tercier, an émigré officer who served under Puisaye at Quiberon. Thus: ‘It was intended that the cadres raised in England should be used to form the insurgents of the western provinces into a regular army. No sooner was this plan understood by the Vendéens and the chouans than it was rejected by them out of hand: they wanted, they said, no other officers than the ones under whom they had gone to war and were continuing it now. Chanonie, Mémoires politiques et militaires du Général Tercier , pp. 100–1. For a brief statement of Tilly’s views, see Tilly, ‘Local conflicts in the Vendée before the rebellion of 1793’. Meanwhile, the stress on cultural dissonance comes from Tackett who points to various factors, notably literacy and the incidence of vocations to the priesthood, as being suggestive of an urban culture that, not least in the marked anti-clericalism visible in the cahiers des doléances that emanated from not just Nantes – in relative terms at least, a substantial city – but also smaller places such as Saumur, Thouars and Fontenay-le-Comte, was at odds with that of the surrounding campagne and at the very least predisposed to rally to the Revolution. See Tackett, ‘The West in France in 1789’, pp. 730–4. For an excellent discussion, of the origins of the war in the Vendée, see H. Mitchell, ‘The Vendée and counter-revolution: a review essay’, French Historical Studies, 5, No. 4 (Autumn, 1968), pp. 405–29. Meanwhile, C. Petitfrère, Blancs et bleus d’Anjou (Paris, 1979) is a detailed sociological survey of the war in the Vendée based on the records of some 7,000 veterans of the fighting that very much tends to paint what occurred in terms of a struggle of country versus town. See also J.C. Martin, La Vendée et la France (Paris, 1987), pp. 54–79. For an attractive visual presentation of the main Vendéen leaders together with thumbnail biographical sketches, see J.C. Martin, Blancs et bleus dans la Vendée déchirées (Paris, 1986), pp. 56–63. The presence of so many of the local nobility on their estates is in itself very interesting, testifying as it does to a situation in which the seigneurs felt little fear of their less fortunate neighbours. For a recent biography of one of the most determined Vendéen leaders, see F. Kermina, Monsieur de Charette (Paris, 1993). It should be noted, however, that the cult of youth did not rule unchallenged: the insurrection’s commander-in-chief was the sixty-two-year-old Charles de Royrand, whilst Stofflet was forty and D’Elbée forty-three. Lyrics accessed at , 24 March 2017. At first mystifying, the mention of partridges is explained by the fact that in the French of the period, perdrix had a derogatory meaning encompassing inexperience, youth and foolishness alike: a contemporary rendition might therefore be ‘turkey’. Interestingly, the term survives as a legacy of the slavers of the eighteenth century in the patois of the Côte d’Ivoire. The account of the grande guerre that follows is in large part taken from M. Ross, Banners of the King (London, 1975). For two more recent works in English, see A. Forrest, ‘The insurgency of the Vendée’, Small Wars and Insurgencies, 25, No. 4 (August, 2014), pp. 800–13, and A. Brandt, ‘1793: lessons of the Vendée’, Quarterly Journal of Military History, 27, No. 3 (Spring, 2015), pp. 47–53. A recent French collection of essays, albeit one of the most mixed quality, is H. Couteau-Bagarie and C. Doré-Fraslin (eds.), Histoire militaire des guerres de Vendée (Paris, 2010), whilst A. Darmaing, L’ouest dans la tormente: la guerre civile française, 1793–1815 (Paris, 1979) is a straight-forward military history that covers events in both the Vendée and Brittany. To stay with the example of Loire-Atlantique, it was not just Machecoul that witnessed mass killings, other towns that were similarly affected being Savenay, Clisson and La Roche-Bernard. Martin, Loire-Atlantique dans la tourmente révolutionnaire, p. 64. How many Republican soldiers and inhabitants of the west of France fell victim to the peasant rebels of the Vendée and elsewhere is unclear, but one figure that has been suggested is 200,000. See H. Gough, ‘Genocide and the bicentenary: the French Revolution and the revenge of the Vendée’, Historical Journal, 30, No. 4 (December, 1987), p. 987. According to figures given by a dictionary of Revolutionary and Napoleonic battles published in 1998, the number of Republican troops killed or wounded in action in the grande guerre may have been as many as 50,000.

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28 29

30 31 32

33 34


36 37

See D. Smith, The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book: Actions and Losses in Personnel, Colours, Standards and Artillery, 1792–1815 (London, 1998), pp. 37–66 passim. Cit. G. Pernoud and S. Flaissier (eds.), The French Revolution (London, 1960), pp. 301–2. ‘It must not be thought’, wrote Jean-Baptiste Kléber, ‘that the entire population of the departments affected were in arms: many citizens had taken refuge in the larger towns; others stayed peaceably in their homes, seeking an accommodation with whoever happened to be strongest in their localities and waiting on events; and still others sought out the Republican forces and even fought in their ranks.’ R. Nougaret (ed.), Kléber: mémoires politiques et militaires, Vendée 1793–1794 (Paris, 1989), p. 51. For a detailed account of this action, see Anon. (ed.), ‘Le général Rossignol en Vendée: nouveaux chapitres de ses mémoires’, Journal de la Sabretache, 3, 1895, pp. 363–5. Ibid., pp. 373–4. Here, for example, is General Westermann: ‘The rebels . . . employ their own peculiar tactics which are admirably adapted to their own position and to local circumstances. Assured of the advantages derived from their method of attack, they never allow themselves to be surprised: they only fight when and where they wish . . . When they attack, their onslaught is terrible, sudden and almost always unforeseen owing to the difficulty in the Vendée of reconnoitring the ground and protecting oneself against surprises. Their order of battle is in the form of a crescent with the wings – the spearheads of their attack – manned by their best marksmen . . . Before you have time to know what has hit you, you find yourself overwhelmed by a rain of fire . . . They do not wait for the word of command before firing, and have nothing like volley-firing by battalions, ranks or squads. Nevertheless, the fire to which they subject their enemy is as heavy, as well sustained and certainly more deadly than ours. If you can stand up to the violence of their attack, they will seldom dispute the victory with you, but this will profit you but little because they retreat so swiftly that it is very difficult to catch them up as the terrain is almost unsuited to the use of cavalry. Their forces disperse, and they escape through fields, woods and thickets: they know all the paths, by-ways, gullies and ravines, and all the obstacles capable of impeding their flight and how to avoid them. Meantime, if you are obliged to give way before their attack, you will find it as difficult to carry out your own retreat as they find it easy to elude you when you are beaten: when they are winning, they surround you and cut into your troops everywhere . . . continue firing all the time . . . [and] load their muskets as they march or even at the double, and their constant movement does not detract from the briskness and accuracy of their fire.’ Cit. Pernoud and Flaissier, French Revolution, pp. 298–9. Kléber, by contrast, is both more succinct and more candid. Thus: ‘On the one hand the crassest ineptitude, the most unpardonnable negligence, and, perhaps, [the most base] cowardice, and, on the other, the most violent fanaticism, together with the presence of commanders as skilful as they were audacious, had produced a sort of equality between the two parties, albeit one that tended to give the rebels considerable superiority.’ Nougaret, Kléber: memoires politiques et militaires, pp. 50–1. Anon., ‘Le general Rossignol en Vendée’, pp. 417–25. S. Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution (New York, 1989), p. 704 (Sapinaud de Verrie was the uncle of the Sapinaud de la Rairie mentioned above). The effectiveness of the rebel administration, however, is wide open to challenge. As Jean-Clément Martin has written, for example, ‘Separated from the main forces of the Vendée, sitting in a zone that could easily be invaded by the Republicans, and composed for the most part of priests and other individuals who had played no part in the fighting, [the Conseil Superieur] played a limited role. On the ground, it was the military commanders who reigned supreme.’ Martin, Blanc et bleus, pp. 66–7. Cit. Ross, Banners of the King, p. 123; Clemenceau was the grandfather of the French leader of the First World War, a figure whose pronounced anti-clericalism owed much to family memories of 1793. For the internal situation and organisation of la Vendée blanche, meanwhile, see Martin, La Vendée et la France, pp. 92–131. Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, p. 243. Gauthier-Villars, Mémoires d’un vétéran, p. 30. The mayennais, as they were known, had been traumatised by their experiences during the siege and had therefore arrived back on French soil with a deep hatred of counter-revolution. Accorded the privilege of being transported from the area of the frontier to the Vendée by wagon on account of their terrible privations, they had also become averse to all discipline. ‘Every day’, complained Decaen, ‘such was the confusion . . . that our march resembled that of a broken army.’ Picard and Paulier, Mémoires et journaux du Général Decaen, I, p. 64.

Resistance and revolt (1): France  199 38 Nougaret, Kléber: memoires politiques et militaires, p. 94. 39 Ibid., pp. 147–9. 40 M. Boutillier de Saint André, Mémoires d’un pere à ses enfants: une famille vendéenne pendant la Grande Guerre, ed. E. Bossard (Paris, 1896), pp. 191–2. 41 Cit. Martin, Blancs et bleus, pp. 169. Something of the reality of what occurred at Le Mans was revealed by the discovery in 2009 of series of mass graves: of 159 bodies, at least 61 were women and children, almost all of whom had been killed by sabres and bayonets. See , accessed 1 May 2018. So brutal were the scenes that took place that even some Republican officers were horrified and moved to acts of pity: for example, Louis Buquet, a Volunteer of 1791 who had quickly risen through the ranks to become chief of staff to General Kléber during the siege of Metz, later claimed to have saved the life of a fifteen-year-old boy by promising to bring him up as his son and thereby, or so one presumes, republicanise him. See L. Buquet ‘Journal historique de la cinquieme campagne commencée le 9 prairial l’an IV de la République Française’, Journal de la Sabretache, 17 (1908), p. 194. 42 Ibid., p. 195. 43 Cit. Schama, Citizens, p. 788. 44 Nougaret, Kléber: memoires politiques et militaires, p. 229. 45 Amongst those who witnessed the so-called noyades de Nantes at first hand was the erstwhile Volunteer of 1792 Vaxelaire. See Gauthier-Villas, Mémoires d’un vétéran, p. 30. 46 For the events that took place in Nantes under the aegis of Carrier, see Martin, Loire-Atlantique dans la tourmente révolutionnaire, pp. 86–9. 47 Cit. A. Forrest, Napoleon’s Men: The Soldiers of Revolution and Empire (London, 2002), p. 129. 48 For Secher’s views, see R. Secher, A French Genocide: The Vendée (Notre Dame, IN, 2003). Secher’s work has been bitterly criticised and rightly so. The product of a school of right-wing thought hostile to the Revolution itself, it ignores the social explanations for the revolt, makes numerous unfounded assertions, repeats the wildest atrocity stories in the most uncritical of fashions and, in particular, ignores the contribution of the rebels to the demographic havoc suffered by the area affected by revolt. For two examples of the general tenor of the criticism, see the reviews by Howard Brown and Donald Sutherland in Journal of Modern History, 77, No. 3 (January, 2005), pp. 806–7, and The English Historical Review, 119, No. 480 (February, 2004), pp. 236–7. Moreover, not all Republicans were as single-minded in their treatment of the Vendée as such figures at Turreau: in the wake of the battle of Le Mans, for example, General Marceau is reputed to have saved the lives of a number of prisoners. Martin, Blanc et bleus, p. 81. 49 Very helpful as a means of understanding the cast of mind that underpinned the repression is A. Forrest, ‘The ubiquitous brigand: the politics and language of repression’, in C.J. Esdaile (ed.), Popular Resistance in the French Wars: Patriots, Partisans and Land Pirates (Houndmills, 2004), pp. 25–44. 50 Cit. Jolicler, Joliclerc, p. 155. 51 Cit. ibid., p. 159. 52 For Hoche’s activities, see J. North, ‘General Hoche and counter-insurgency’, Journal of Modern History, 67, No. 2 (April, 2003), pp. 529–40. 53 Darmaing, L’ouest dans le tormente, pp. 215–32 passim. 54 Sutherland, French Revolution and Empire, p. 244; for a very brief introduction, see R. Dupuy, La chouannerie (Rennes, 1981). The name chouannerie is traditionally supposed to have been derived from the local name for the screech-owl or chou, this being bestowed on the revolt on account of the insurgents’ use of imitations of its call as a means of signalling to one another; more recently, however, Dupuy has argued that ‘Chouan’ was rather a nom de guerre that had been adopted by a family of noted smugglers named Cottereau. Dupuy, Bretagne sous la Révolution et l’Empire, pp. 156–7. Whilst the form that the revolt took was on the whole very different from what was seen in the Vendée, elsewhere Dupuy is absolutely insistent that the roots of the trouble were one and the same. For example: ‘Above all, the chouannerie cannot be thought of as being separate from . . . the Vendée. The civil war involved the whole of the west of France, a region that formed a single geographical and cultural entity, a single societé bocagiste.’ Dupuy, Les chouans, p. 259. 55 For a detailed discussion of the origins of chouannerie, see D.M.G. Sutherland, The Chouans: The Social Origins of Popular Counter-Revolution in Upper Brittany, 1770–1796 (Oxford, 1992). On the link with Breton feeling, see A. Forrest, ‘Regionalism and counter-revolution in France’, in C. Lucas (ed.), Re-Thinking the French Revolution (Oxford, 1991), pp. 151–82.

200  Resistance and revolt (1): France 56 Dupuy argues that there were at least three separate phases in the chouannerie: an initial period of spontaneity; a middle period in which émigré agents from outside the region attempted to impose regular forms of military organisation on the insurgents; and, finally, a third period in which the deficiencies of the local leaders and growing war-weariness among the populace produced a slide into brigandage. Dupuy, Les chouans, pp. 81–142. 57 D.K. Broster et al., ‘An English sailor among the chouans’, English Historical Review, 25, No. 97 (January, 1910), p. 130. 58 J. Pouessel, ‘Chouans et chouannerie dans la Manche, 1797–1801’, Annales de la Normandie, 36, No. 3 (July, 1986), pp. 235–52. Working from alternative sources relating to Mayenne, Dupuy suggests that 83 per cent of the insurgents were of rural origin and only 13 per cent urban. Dupuy, Les Chouans, pp. 188–96. In discussions of armed resistance, it is inevitable that men will form the chief focus of attention. However, just as women played an important role in driving forward the Revolution in Paris and elsewhere, women also played an important role in the chouannerie, supplying the bands with food and shelter, harbouring escaped prisoners and passing information of all sorts to the rebel commanders. They were, said the émigré commander, Claude Tercier, ‘our confidants and our agents’. Chanonie, Mémoires politiques et militaires du Général Tercier, p. 180. 59 Cit. Broster, ‘An English sailor among the chouans’, pp. 135–6. 60 Darmaing, L’ouest dans le tormente, pp. 203–12; M. Hutt, Chouannerie and Counter-Revolution: Puisaye, the Princes and the British Government in the 1790s (Cambridge, 1983), II, pp. 269–323. For a first-hand account of the disaster, see Chanonie, Mémoires politiques et militaires du Général Tercier, pp. 99–118. 61 In the wake of the Quiberon disaster, Puisaye was widely, and with considerable justice, held responsible for what had occurred by his fellow émigrés. One of the few royalist senior officers who survived being taken captive, for example, lambasted his ‘ignorance and ineptitude’ and referred to him scornfully as ‘a man of ambition who was full of schemes’. Chanonie, Mémoires politiques et militaires du Génral Tercier, p. 99. 62 For all this, see Hutt, Chouannerie and Counter-Revolution, II, 357–60. 63 For an excellent discussion, see J. Devlin, ‘The army, politics and public order in Directorial Provence, 1795–1800’ The Historical Journal, 22, No. 1 (March 1989), pp. 87–106. 64 Sutherland, French Revolution and Empire, pp. 271–5. 65 Soulié, Carnets de Colonel Bial, p. 108. 66 For a wide-ranging discussion of one region in particular that both reviews the situation prior to 1798 and looks at the consequences of the Loi Jourdan, see G. Lewis, ‘Political brigandage and popular disaffection in the south-east of France, 1795–1804’, in G. Lewis and C. Lucas (eds.), Beyond the Terror: Essays in French Regional and Social History, 1794–1815 (Cambridge, 2010), pp. 195–231. 67 P. Dubrisay and P. Binet (eds.), Elie Picard (1779–1859): memorial d’un grognard (Chambourg sur Indre 2017), p. 14. 68 Martin, La Vendée et la France, pp. 333–5; Darmaing, L’ouest dans la tourmente, pp. 237–9. 69 Doyle, Oxford History of the French Revolution, p. 373; M. Broers, Napoleon’s Other War: Bandits, Rebels and their Pursuers in the Age of Revolutions (Witney, 2010), pp. 47–8. 70 M.A. Depréaux (ed.), ‘Carnet d’étapes et souvenirs de guerre et de captivité du Sergent-Major Phillippe Beaudoin de la 31e Demi-Brigade de Ligne’, Carnets de la Sabretache, 7 (1908), p. 715. 71 Vivien, Souvenirs, p. 111. 72 See Ernouf, Mémoires d’un jeune abbaye, pp. 126–7. 73 For the breakdown of Napoleon’s pacification of France, see C.J. Esdaile, Napoleon, France and Waterloo: The Eagle Rejected (Barnsley, 2015), pp. 80–190 passim.

8 Resistance and revolt (2) The French imperium

As we have seen, the French Revolution awoke deep-rooted fears on the part of Europe’s élites. The mood which it encompassed, said Edmund Burke, was a contagion that could not but infect the entire continent and bring law, order, property and liberty alike crashing to the ground. Much the same fears can be found in the plays and other writings of Goethe, who, though he recognised that the Revolution was the product of persistent misgovernment and injustice in France, clearly believed the Revolutionary leaders to be charlatans bent only on their own advancement who would seduce the ignorant masses into a lemming-like flight to the front.1 In this, Burke and Goethe alike were proved wrong, of course – to the extent that French ideas spread at all, they were almost invariably spread by French bayonets. At the same time, except in Britain and the United Provinces, the collaborators were limited to a relatively narrow social group that represented a very small minority. However, it was not just that the people remained indifferent. On the contrary, the peasants, artisans and labourers of Europe in many instances ignored the demagoguery so much feared by Burke, a very short experience of Revolutionary rule generally being enough to convince them that one tyranny had simply been replaced another and, what is more, that the tyranny of the ancien régime was frequently preferable to the tyranny which replaced it. Over and over again, freedom was for the most part found to mean little more than the propertied classes finding new means of flexing their muscles at the expense of the populace, whilst the latter endured the worst ravages of occupation at the hands of an army convinced of its cultural superiority over all it beheld, the only saving grace in the situation being that conscription was at this stage rarely introduced beyond the frontiers of the France of 1793 (one of the few exceptions, as we shall see, was Belgium, and so violent was the reaction there that the French could probably count themselves lucky that they did not attempt such a policy on a general basis).2 Throughout the French sphere of influence, then, popular resistance to the Revolution was commonplace, even, indeed, the norm. Here and there were pockets where the imposition of the new order was accompanied by less friction, but in no region was resentment, and, with it, at the very least passive resistance, entirely absent from the situation That said, if popular resistance was very common, it was by no means always armed. Risings certainly took place – in Lombardy in 1797; in Belgium and Switzerland in 1798; and in Tuscany, Calabria and many other parts of Italy in 1799 – whilst in certain areas – the Pyrenees, Piedmont and the Tyrol – French troops found themselves opposed at different times by a variety of peasant militias. Equally, in the Rhineland, Luxembourg and south-central Germany there were sustained outbreaks of guerrilla warfare.3 That said, clashes between armed civilians and French soldiers were not something seen everywhere in Revolutionary Europe. Nor is this surprising: for men to take up arms against regular troops, they had to have some hope of survival, whether this was centred on inaccessible

202  Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium terrain, local traditions of bearing arms, or the hope of foreign aid. Far more common, then, was passive resistance, this being something that might take many forms ranging from draft evasion and the non-payment of taxes, through refusal to participate in Republican ceremonies, to the spreading of rumours and the generation of counter-revolutionary propaganda. To this, meanwhile, should be added the traditional forms of dissidence constituted by, in the first place, the town or village riot and, in the second, brigandage, though the extent to which the latter, in particular, can be seen as a political phenomenon is open to question, for, as Alan Forrest has written, ‘Brigandage . . . was a complex construction which blended both the anti-revolutionary and the anti-social.’4 Before looking at such questions as guerrilla warfare and armed revolt, let us first look at the question of non-violent resistance. As just stated, this could take many different forms, whilst it should also be noted that it was by no means exclusive of taking up arms. Billeted in Liège on a family of an official of the erstwhile bishopric, for example, Jean-Pierre Bial found himself being lectured non-stop on the evils of the French cause by the lady of the house, whilst the same city saw a man named Rotoricat seek to cram the twenty gunners he was being forced to accommodate into a tiny room that was not only damp and stinking but also far too small for them.5 In Belgium, too, attempts by the French to stamp out traditional religion were consistently defied by the populace, the latter in many instances making considerable efforts to preserve traditional religious practices or to hide the chalices and pattens needed by the clergy to say mass, whilst in the Cisalpine Republic such was the reluctance to join the armed forces that its rulers had no option but to take into their service the Polish ‘legion’ formed from Galician prisoners of war by the leader of Poland’s struggle for independence, Jan Dabrowski.6 Also from the Cisalpine Republic come stories of inventive local authorities finding all sorts of ways of harassing French troops while yet staying within the letter of what was expected of them. As Cognet wrote of a particularly miserable sojourn at Milan in January 1799, for example, We slept on straw, crowded together in ancient buildings which were barely roofed, let alone proof against the elements: if we were short of space, we were very well off for fresh air. Thus it was that we were treated by our good friends, the cisalpins, from the very first moments that we were in their territory.7 In the German-speaking left bank of the Rhine, meanwhile, the populace engaged in a campaign of wholesale non-co-operation, displaying flags in the red, yellow and black already associated with Germany; boycotting the frequent ceremonies run to emphasise the supposedly widespread nature of support for the new order; refusing to sign the petitions got up in favour, first, of the creation of a Cisrhenan Republic and then of union with France; denying the authorities the slightest assistance in respect of the apprehension of the numerous local bandits; being as obstructive as possible with regard to such matters as billeting; harassing mayors and other officials seen as collaborating with the French; defacing or ripping down French decrees and proclamations; and, finally, engaging in numerous protests and acts of mass intimidation.8 And in the Batavian Republic there were mutinies in the militia and, literate society that it was, a widespread resort to petitioning in an effort to block this or that aspect of government policy, whilst 1798 witnessed community-wide refusals to pay taxes in the eastern areas of Drenthe and Gelderland, not to mention the boycott of many banquests and other social events.9 At a loftier level, meanwhile, priests and religious and members of the old administration left in place after the tide of French conquest had forced a change of control, if

Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium  203 not sovereignty, struggled hard to keep old loyalties alive and frustrate the dictates of the invaders. Of the latter group, typical enough were the local magistrates and other officials of the numerous petty statelets and other territories of the left bank of the Rhine. Encouraged to remain in place by both the invaders (on the grounds that they needed local experts to govern their new acquisitions) and their erstwhile masters (on the rather different grounds that only thus could the local population be afforded any protection and unsuitable – overly pro-French – elements excluded from power), they frequently acted as de facto spies, did whatever they could to frustrate French commands and spread a variety of disinformation, whilst a considerable number of them resigned from their positions when the Rhineland was finally formally annexed to France in 1802.10 Meanwhile, if the survival of pre-occupation administrative systems proved one way forward, the creation of new political structures proved another: in the Batavian Republic, politicians loyal to the federative model of the old United Provinces struggled hard to recast it in a new guise and, when that did not work, opposed the moves that turned the Republic into a hereditary monarchy in 1806.11 On the other hand, difficult though they sometimes were, at least the educated classes in Holland were generally prepared to engage with the sort of roles which it was hoped they would fulfil. In Belgium, by contrast, the situation was very different. Thus, Belgian participation in the plebiscite that confirmed the outcome of the coup of 18 Brumaire, was pitifully low, while enthusiasm for public office was nonexistent.12 Turning now to armed resistance, in some cases this began the very moment that the French forces set foot on foreign soil. Here pride of place must go to Spain. In the areas adjoining the French frontier – the Basque provinces, Navarre and Catalonia – there was a long tradition of popular mobilisation in times of invasion which by the late eighteenth century had, at least on paper, been given regular form in the shape of local homeguards called out in time of war. Organised in parish companies under the command of local worthies, it was the task of these forces to engage in guerrilla warfare. Let us here begin with the western sector of the front. In the Basque provinces and Navarre, bands of armed civilians certainly turned out against the French when they raided the Pyrenean valleys of the Baztán and the Roncal in 1793, whilst Clonard talks of a general mobilisation that produced as many as 60,000 combatants.13 This, however, is almost certainly an exaggeration, such details as we have suggesting that the total amounted to no more 25,000.14 As yet, little research has been conducted into the extent of popular resistance in the western Pyrenees. Much better documented, by contrast, are the somatenes of Catalonia (the name, incidentally, comes from the Catalan phrase som atent which means ‘to be alert’; a translation familiar to American readers would therefore be ‘minutemen’). In so far as the war of 1793–5 was concerned, the regulations which matter are those contained in an order of the day dated 6 May 1794, issued in the wake of the Spanish evacuation of Roussillon. In brief, this laid down the principle of universal military service for all men aged between fifteen and sixty, but proceeded to alleviate the immense burden which this would have supposed by a series of complicated arrangements which rendered the likelihood of being called up dependent, first, on age and, second, on the proximity of a man’s place of residence to the French frontier, whilst also permitting the purchase of substitutes. In theory, then, any invasion of Catalonia would be faced by a very considerable force of irregular combatants: in 1794 the present-day province of Gerona alone should have provided some 16,000 men. Nor was this an end to it, for Catalonia also had a long tradition of forming regular-style units for the purposes of home-defence. We come here to the so-called migueletes. Named after the followers of a sixteenth-century Catalan soldier of fortune named Miquel de Prats, these were not conscripts but rather men who volunteered in exchange for promises that they would serve

204  Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium in special units that were raised in Catalonia alone, officered entirely by Catalans and never employed outside Catalonia, whilst being guaranteed their freedom at the close of hostilities.15 By the end of 1794, then, on paper at least, Catalonia was certainly in a position to mount a people’s war. That said, there were serious limitations on the extent to which this potential could be transformed into reality. The much vaunted migueletes never recruited more than 14,500 men instead of the 30,000 which the authorities hoped for when they issued the requisite call for volunteers late in 1794, whilst they proved so prone to mutiny, desertion and pillage that in May 1795 a special code of discipline had to be drawn up to combat their excesses..16 Also interesting here are the details that we have of the frontier town of Berga. This produced 245 volunteers for the migueletes, but, of these, something more than 200 were residents of settlements on the French side of the Pyrenees who had fled conscription and sought refuge in Spain and now found themselves with no means of support.17 Nor were the somatenes much better: as well as being extremely ill-disciplined, they were also notoriously disaffected.18 As to why all this should have been the case, folk memories were still strong of the terrible events of the War of the Spanish Succession of 1701–14 (in brief, this had seen the Catalan commercial and ecclesiastical élite organise a rebellion against rule from Madrid and go down to defeat after Barcelona had endured a devastating thirteen-month siege, the result of this being the suppression of most of Catalonia’s many special privileges). That the French were aware of this history, there is no doubt, and Catalonia therefore saw a sustained effort to win their hearts and minds: there was much talk of the establishment of a Catalan Republic, collaborators amongst the local notables were welcomed with open arms and the tithes and feudal dues were abolished.19 All this availed them absolutely nothing, however: with convoys of food from France both insufficient and few and far between, the invaders had no option but to live off the country, the result being that the populace was driven to take up arms on its own account.20 In the face of the constant menace which the resultant partisan bands represented, the invaders were forced to garrison every place they took and at the same time expend much energy in punitive operations that rarely gained them more than a few days’ peace. Typical enough were the activities of the commander of the garrison of Puigcerda, Etienne Charlet. Thus, hearing of a large assembly of insurgents at the Tosas pass some miles south-east of the town, on 23 October 1794 he set off to attack them at the head of a strike force of grenadiers and chasseurs. Unfortunately for him, however, warning of what was afoot reached the men concerned, and the majority slipped away to the nearby village of Castellar de Nuch. Setting off in hot pursuit, Charlet promptly assaulted the village, which was then sacked and put to the torch, but once again the insurgents got away, the result being that the garrison of Puigcerda was harassed as much as ever. Much tried, on 18 February Charlet struck west into the valley that housed the headwaters of the River Segre and attacked a number of villages around Pont de Bar, only to be driven off and forced to withdraw to his base. All the while, meanwhile, his troops had been increasingly suffering from hunger, and eventually their morale collapsed, so many men deserting that in the first three months of 1795 his command had dwindled from over 5,800 men to a mere 3,200.21 According to French reports, at least, meanwhile, this popular resistance was accompanied by the utmost cruelty. For example, Charlet’s predecessor as commander of the French garrison of Puigcerda was François Doppet: In proof of the cruelty of . . . the somatenes, I have only to place before the eyes of the reader various reports . . . that were sent at this time to the Committee of Public Safety . . . In the first, Citizen Combette, a sergeant major in the . . . First Battalion

Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium  205 of La Montagne, reports that the enemy have burned three men alive; in the second, Citizen Pontet, an interpreter, certifies that he had come across a man who had been roasted over a fire between Campredón and Prats de Mollo; in the third, Citizen Brunel, an officer of engineers, writes that he had seen a soldier who had been mutilated by the removal of his genitals.22 At the same time that all this was happening in Catalonia, trouble of a rather similar sort was occurring at the other end of France’s Mediterranean coast line. We come here to the Maritime Alps. Rugged uplands with little in the way of habitation, cloaked in thick scrub and pinewood, throughout the eighteenth century these mountains had been hot-beds of banditry and smuggling, the result being that in few households can there not have been at least one man who was accustomed to the use of knife, musket or blunderbuss. As for the arrival of the French, this did not change matters, the many bands that roamed the region simply continuing to ply their trade as before, the one difference being that the victims now included many French soldiers. Limited though the threat posed by these barbetti, as these brigands were known, was, the French responded with unwonted ferocity, and this led to savage reprisals in which angry villagers, already driven to the brink by the rapacity of the invaders, murdered isolated Frenchmen and swept down on likely looking mule trains, the ever-worsening economic situation in the meantime conjuring up fresh insurgents by the day. The result was inevitable: a bitter low-level conflict interspersed with occasional flare-ups that raged unchecked until well into the years of the Consulate when it was finally resolved by the application of more effective methods of policing.23 Still another instance of what may be termed primary resistance to the Revolution comes from the Tyrol. A highly privileged part of the Habsburgs’ domains, the Tyrol had of late had an extremely troubled relationship with Vienna, but with the death of Joseph II the situation had become more tranquil. That said, the peasant population had been but little attracted by such news as they had received of the Revolution, whilst their suspicions had been reinforced by vigorous efforts on the part of the local clergy. Meanwhile, with the French invasion of Lombardy on the one hand and Bavaria on the other, 1796 saw the populace regaled with all sorts of horror stories brought across the frontier by travellers and refugees.24 That being the case, there was little opposition when it was decided to mobilise the local home-guard known as the Schützen which the province was supposed to maintain in exchange for freedom from conscription, and so, when the French finally invaded in March 1797, approximately 10,000 militiamen were ready to do battle. In the event, their services were not much required, for the French division sent across the frontier limited itself to chasing out the Austrian troops in the area before turning east to cooperate with Napoleon’s drive on Vienna. Nevertheless, we are assured that ‘the enthusiasm was such that old men, children and even women demanded arms and were willing to die in defence of their habitations.’25 Of such clashes that actually took place we know little, but after the war a grateful Francis II conferred a special medal on all those who had taken part in the fighting, while there are stories that a young servant-girl named Catherina Lanz helped to defend a strategically placed churchyard armed only with a pitchfork.26 To return to matters Italian, enthusiasts for the Revolution, and, indeed, its later apologists, could dismiss the barbetti as mere brigands, but this term was much harder with respect to the periodic outbreaks of violence that punctuated the French occupation of Italy. Of these, the earliest example is the revolt that took place in the Lombard city of Pavia on 23 May 1796. Like every other place through which the French passed, Pavia had been exposed to all the rigours of occupation, and the last straw came when an ancient statue

206  Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium in the main square was torn down by the local Jacobins, a number of the invaders and their sympathisers promptly being hunted down and butchered in response. Eager to avenge themselves on the French and, at the same time to pillage their more fortunate neighbours, meanwhile, hundreds of peasants came in from the surrounding districts. Having taken over the city, however, the insurgents discovered that it was one thing to rise against the French but quite another to turn a rising into military reality. Through the night and much of the next day, excited crowds thronged the streets, drinking large quantities of wine and seizing whatever they felt like from the houses of the wealthy, but leadership and organisation came there none, and, when a vengeful column of French troops arrived the next day under Napoleon himself, retribution was not long in coming: ignoring ecclesiastical efforts to negotiate a peaceful surrender, the invaders first subjected the city to a prolonged bombardment, and then sacked it without mercy, later engaging in a series of executions, the town council also being fined the substantial sum of 1,000,000 livres.27 The brutal treatment meted out to Pavia solved nothing, the next month seeing risings in such places as Bologna, Ferrara, Forli and Rimini.28 As the French armies pressed on to fresh conquests, meanwhile, so the problem moved with them: on 17 April 1797 the populace of Verona rioted and besieged the garrison – a force which had made itself thoroughly hated on account of its violent anti-clericalism and general arrogance29 – in the castle, having first massacred a number of French soldiers and civilians unlucky enough to be caught in the streets of the city.30 Even when overt rebellion was not an issue, violence remained widespread. To quote a veteran of the campaigns in the Rhineland who had been transferred to the Army of Italy: All the time we were pursuing the Austrians through the gorges of the Tyrol, the Italians were killing stragglers making their way along the highways . . . It was even said that a number of bakers had been throwing them into the ovens they used to make bread.31 Nor is the spread of such mayhem surprising. Here is a contemporary assessment of the situation that, if deeply critical of Napoleon, is nonetheless perfectly fair: If Bonaparte has been so great as a general, he has been far from showing himself to be so great as a conqueror or as a man . . . The outrages and pillages which he sanctioned by impunity, as well as by his own example, have tarnished the splendour of his victories, and left him no other claims to the admiration of posterity. The despotism which he exercised over the countries conquered by his arms, and the extreme rigour with which he enforced the measures ordered by the French government, have fortunately weakened the great effect of opinion which his victories might have produced in Italy. Notwithstanding the formation of the Cispadane and Transpadane Republics [two statelets which were united to form the Cisalpine Republic], and although they furnished many thousands of auxiliaries to the army of Bonaparte, one cannot doubt the aversion which the majority of the inhabitants . . . have for the French and for their political principles. The violent insurrections which broke out whenever the latter . . . experienced any check afford an unequivocal proof of the sentiments of hatred and vengeance with which they had inspired them as well as of all the evils which they had occasioned.32 The fact is that only one thing could have checked the spread of popular resistance, and that was an occupation policy based on the maintenance of the highest standards of discipline,

Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium  207 the strictest respect for the Catholic Church and the minimisation of the burdens imposed on the populace. Yet these were aspirations which no French general could deliver, let alone a general as bent on his own advancement as Napoleon Bonaparte. Lip service was paid to the need to refrain from looting – indeed, a series of more or less ferocious edicts were issued against the practice, edicts, of course, that looked splendid from the point of view of propaganda33 – but the Directory could not sustain its armies from the public purse. Typical enough of the plight of its soldiers was the situation described by François-Xavier Joliclerc in a desperate plea for financial assistance which he penned to his mother on 10 February 1796: Impossible though it is to tell you everything, let me give you some idea of how things stand. From Easter Day until 15 Thermidor [i.e. 2 August] . . . last year, the only pay we got was two sols, whilst since the latter date until today all we have received is the same amount again . . . As far as supplies are concerned, all last summer we were fed each day, but all we got was a pound of bread of such poor quality that even dogs wouldn’t eat it, together with a quart of peas and a half-pound of meat that was but fit for carrion. At the moment, the quality is a little better, but often six days can pass without us seeing anything at all . . . And, with regard to our clothing, most of us are semi-naked and forced to go barefoot: nothing of any sort has been issued in this respect for five months, and nobody has the faintest idea when fresh supplies will arrive.34 To return to Napoleon, meanwhile, the future ruler of France knew full well that the loyalty of the Army of Italy could not be guaranteed unless it was allowed to fill its knapsacks with loot and indulge its physical needs at the expense of the women of Lombardy: if straggling was too great, the odd example could be made, but that was all.35 Even if this was not the case, to move towards a more moderate position required a greater degree of self-reflection than the Revolution’s adherents could be expected to muster. To a man, the French armies were heroes who waged war not on the people but on their rulers, liberators whose every advance spread the benefits of liberty, equality and fraternity, members of a grande nation whose recent history alone was sufficient to emphasise its superiority over all others. ‘Calm yourselves’, said Jean-Pierre Dellard (or so he later claimed) to a terrified group of Belgian villagers he came across who had fled their homes in the face of the advancing French army and now offered him all the money they had in the world if he would only spare their lives. ‘Keep your money. The only people we rob are Austrians, not peaceable country-folk. You should never have left your homes: go back to your villages, and do not put yourselves at such risk again.’36 Stories of rape and pillage, then, being just that – mere stories – it followed that, as in the Vendée, resistance was the fruit not of genuine grievance, let alone despair, but rather, first, the base machinations of a Church desperate to defend its privileges and, second, of a populace motivated by nothing more altruistic than greed and criminality.37 Underpinning these views, meanwhile, was the same ‘othering’ as was applied to those elements of the French population as had opposed the Revolution. Thus, taken prisoner by the Austrians and held captive for nearly two years at a fortress in Hungary, Dellard remarked that it was a country filled with ‘nothing but wretched villages inhabited by a populace that is as lazy as it is dirty; born for nothing other than slavery and devoid of industry’.38 Hungary, perhaps, was at the more exotic end of the French experience, but in Italy, especially, the French armies found themselves in regions that also seemed primitive in the extreme. Here, for example, is Boulart on the Abruzzi:

208  Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium The soil . . . appears stony and infertile, while the mountains are very high and are covered with snow for five months of the year: devoid of vegetation and seamed with crevasses, their summits . . . are very jagged. Meanwhile, the general aspect of the country is very savage, whilst the rocks which are its chief characteristic give everything a greyish tint. As for villages, they are rare indeed.39 In defence of Napoleon, it has to be said that he was no different from most other French generals in that, in just the same way as he did, they either condoned pillage or failed to keep it in check. Much the same behaviour as that witnessed in the Italian campaign was on show in the Rhineland. Here French troops first crossed the frontier in September 1792, and at this early moment in hostilities there was still room for the maintenance of a generous attitude to the civilian population, the assumption here, however naïve, being that the inhabitants were essentially Frenchmen who happened to speak the wrong language and would be swept off their feet by the benefits of liberation. Soon, however, the invaders were disabused, discovering, indeed, that, far from being seen as liberators, they were thoroughly hated. At the same time, the troops found that feeding themselves by fair means was an impossibility. A volunteer from Courcuire, for example, Jean-Claude Jannin was a sergeant major who had been given the job of baggage-master in the First Battalion of Haute Saône: You keep telling me that everything is very expensive back home, but do you think that we eat here for nothing? We have it far worse, I tell you . . . Bread is ten sols the pound . . . wine four livres the bottle . . . meat twenty sols the pound: in short, everything is going at outrageous prices.40 The response was inevitable. ‘On 26 [July]’, wrote the same Jannin, ‘we forced all the villages we occupied to offer up a contribution, and came away with oxen, horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, barley, hay . . . in short, anything that can be eaten or consumed. What terrible devastation this means for the inhabitants of this country!’41 From foraging, meanwhile, it was but a short step to outright plunder. ‘We are currently camped out on a mountain top’, wrote François-Xavier Joliclerc. ‘The view is the loveliest imaginable, but we have neither tents, nor cooking pots nor anything to eat. In the village down below . . . there is a bigger winecellar than the ones in Gy and Arbois. Pillage was the order of the day. In fact, having broken down the doors and . . . stove in the casks, we drank the lot: we were literally up to our armpits in wine!’42 Temporarily forced to evacuate their conquests in the summer of 1793, the troops embarked on what amounted to a scorched-earth policy. To quote a letter which Joliclerc wrote to his mother in the wake of the French withdrawal: The very day I last wrote to you, we were forced to embark on a fighting retreat . . . As we went, so we took away the country’s every flock and herd, not to mention its every store of grain. Anything that we could not carry away, we put to the torch. As for the inhabitants we have left them nothing more than the eyes they need to cry with.43 Much the same sort of idea, meanwhile, may be found in the letters of Pierre Girardon, a lieutenant in the battalion of Volunteers of the Aube: I am at this moment stationed in a village close to the Rhine. There is not a bite to eat for man or beast: the whole country is in ruins . . . Wheat, oats, hay, sugar, coffee, hides, wine, brandy, oil . . . everything has been carried off.44

Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium  209 Looking back on the situation many years later, the response of one participant in the looting was simply to shrug his shoulders. As he remarked: If I was to be asked to judge our conduct today, I would say it was reprehensible. At the time, however, it was entirely legitimate. We were in enemy country, and believed that, however abominable and even monstrous it might be, the laws of war made over to us everything that it contained.45 Even when French soldiers were not engaged in acts of outright violence, they could be extraordinarily arrogant, if not provocative. Like many of their British counterparts, French officers were much fascinated by the institution of the convent, and were forever fantasising about nuns, a group who were seen as being collectively aflame with ruthlessly suppressed sexual desire, but few went as far as Jean-Perre Bial who actually secured entrance to the most intimate depths of a convent in Liège on the totally specious grounds that he had been instructed to subject it to a tour of inspection.46 However, it was not just nuns, most French officers being just as happy with more normal forms of female companionship: to ingratiate himself with the families of Liège, then, Bial learned both the flute and the violin while, stationed in the Rhineland, Boulart set about studying German so that he could get to know at least some of the local young women.47 Such behaviour, perhaps, was relatively innocuous, but, as Michael Hughes has shown, the culture of the French army was marked by an all-pervasive masculinity that persuaded French officers, on the one hand, that they had only to cross Rhine, Alps or Pyrenees for the women of Europe to fall at their feet and, on the other, that the conquest of the women of Europe was all but a war aim in itself.48 With such attitudes entrenched in the forces of the Republic, it is hardly surprising to find the cause of armed insurrection raising its head in other parts of Europe, the year 1798 seeing major episodes of resistance in both Belgium and Switzerland. Trouble had been brewing in Belgium for some considerable time. Setting aside the misbehaviour of the French troops in the course of the campaign of 1794, accompanied as it was by a contribution de guerre of 60,000,000 francs, a sum roughly six times the annual tax bill that had been imposed by Austria, liberation had proved disastrous, many merchants being ruined by the wholesale requisitioning of their goods, not to mention the forced introduction of the assignats and the imposition of a variety of trade restrictions that brought commerce and industry to a complete standstill, yet another problem being that so many horses and carts had been seized in the course of the fighting that there was no way of transporting goods to market: by September 1795, for example, ten of the Namur area’s fifty-nine manufactories had been forced to close altogether, whilst the nineteen still in operation for which details are available were only employing 713 people of the 4,484 to whom they had given employment prior to the arrival of the French; still more graphically, the number of those seeking poor relief soared, reaching perhaps half the population of Brussels and as much as 60 per cent of that of smaller places such as Huy and Verviers (while many people sought alms, others turned to banditry, the more wooded, marshy or hilly areas of the country soon coming to swarm with brigands, foot-pads and highwaymen). To indigence, meanwhile, particularly in the wake of the poor harvest of 1794, was added serious food shortages, requisitioning having been so ferocious that even men who had thrown in their lot with the French had been driven to protest. However, the invaders proved deaf to reason, and the result was a wave of serious disturbances in which angry crowds pillaged markets and stormed the magazines housing the grain and other foodstuffs that had been gathered in for the use of the army: at least fifty different riots are recorded as having taken place, some of them so severe that troops had to

210  Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium be called in to restore order; town councils found themselves besieged by menacing crowds attempting to obtain such concessions as the imposition of price controls and the expropriation of traders deemed to be guilty of profiteering; food convoys were seized by organised gangs; and fields of potatoes and other crops stripped bare by bands of desperate women intent on feeding their families by any means available.49 In the end, the trouble died down, not least because the bitter cold of the winter of 1794–5 reduced the populace to a state of near-total inanition. At the same time, the coming of the Directory seemed to suggest that a more moderate régime might be in the making in Paris.50 As a result, the announcement that Belgium was to be annexed to France passed off without too much of a stir, it also being widely recognised, as we have seen, that such a course, if not actually desirable in itself, offered many advantages. Yet for many of the Belgian lower classes, the situation remained extremely bleak, not least because so many of their social superiors chose to emigrate, a process which among other things saw large numbers of servants turned adrift without the slightest means of support.51 Then came the coup of 18 Fructidor, the impact of which on Belgium could not have been more severe. First to feel the pinch were the moderate figures elected in the elections which had caused so much alarm to Barras and his allies: within a matter of months every single one of Belgium’s deputies had been replaced by the Jacobins they had supplanted, while Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, Mons, Tournai, Charleroi and many other places had been stripped of their town councils and given others more to the liking of the leaders of the coup, the purge also reaching out to many senior administrators at the level of the department and commune alike (also hit was the press, the Belgian publications that were shut down including L’impartial européen, L’impartial belge, Le journal de débâts and Le belge français). Next to suffer was the Church, this being an institution that continued to enjoy much loyalty amongst the peasantry. Determined to prove their political credentials and genuinely scared of counter-revolution, the renascent radicals launched an attack on not just the clergy but religious practice that was so ferocious as to presage the extermination of Catholicism altogether. First step on the road here was a decree calling for all priests to swear an oath of loyalty to the Republic, thereby forcing the clergy into a situation in which its only choices were compliance or treason, all those who chose the path of non-jurance – in Belgium a group which represented the vast majority – being ruthlessly hunted down and either imprisoned or sent to the so-called ‘dry guillotine’ of Guyana. As for the limited concessions that had been made to freedom of worship in the wake of the fall of Robespierre, these were revoked, and many churches shut or turned into so-called ‘temples of theophilanthropy’, this last creed being pushed as hard as possible by many representatives of the régime from Révellière-Lepeaux down. Also quick to come under attack were religious institutions which had hitherto been allowed to survive by the Revolution: all the seminaries were now shut down, then, whilst even those religious orders whose chief role had been to minister to the sick were dissolved and their members effectively thrown on the streets. Finally, as if all this was not objectionable enough, great efforts were also made to tear down or destroy all symbols of religion in public places; to ensure that the populace submitted to the Republican calendar and, with it, the loss of Sundays and all other religious festivals; and to suppress the pilgrimages, processions, field blessings, exorcisms and other popular traditions that formed a central part of popular culture. Resistance, meanwhile, was met with uncompromising brutality: at Meerbeek, then, seven villagers were imprisoned for taking part in a way of the cross, whilst two women from Tervueren shared their fate after being unwise enough to be caught visiting a shrine at Montaigu.52 De-Christianisation, meanwhile, was not accompanied by any improvement in the economic situation or the living standards of the populace. Left unpaid and in many

Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium  211 instances unfed, the many French troops in the country resorted to outright pillage, whilst such supplies as they received from the authorities were only obtained by dint of heavy requisitioning. Rather than buying up the lands and other possessions of the Church, many rural communities impoverished themselves by buying such objects as pattens and chalices in an attempt to preserve the wherewithal of religious practice, whilst those peasants who did attempt to buy land found themselves in competition with figures whom they could rarely hope to outbid: according to Kossmann, the bourgeoisie obtained between half and three-quarters of the land on offer, and the peasantry none at all.53 Public services, meanwhile, declined dramatically: roads, bridges, quays, dykes and drainage schemes all went unattended whilst those hospitals which survived were starved of funds and personnel. Yet poor relief, especially, was much needed: the economy remained as stagnant as ever, the roads being described as being absolutely bare of commerce and the larger towns ever emptier on account of the large numbers of inhabitants who had fled into the countryside or across the frontier. In a few places, the establishment of modern factories by such entrepreneurs as Bauwens and Cockerill created pockets of employment, but the continued confiscation of English goods ruined many potential investors, whilst others were paralysed by the fact that their funds were deposited in Vienna and therefore inaccessible, yet another problem being the British blockade: not only did this reduce Antwerp and other coastal ports to a state of complete indigence, but it prevented the import of colonial raw materials and in consequence led to the ruin of such enterprises as Nivelles’ tobacco factory.54 Tyrannised and impoverished, the inhabitants of Belgium responded with a resurgence of the resistance seen in 1794–5. From the beginning, a key focal point of this movement was the defence of Catholicism. As we have seen, villagers banded together to save something from the wreck of their churches, whilst they persisted in such devotions as the angelus and the rosary, gave much aid and succour to fugitive priests, attended secret masses in large numbers and on numerous occasions took collective action to protect parish churches threatened with closure. That said, it was not just in the area of religion that the battle was waged. From every part of the country came complaints of a tenacious refusal to cooperate with the invaders, who therefore found themselves forced to rely on French administrators who were unlikely to be anything other than avid fructidoriens and all too frequently behaved like the worst type of petty tyrants, the National Guard also remaining in most instances little more than a dead letter, if indeed it existed at all. Attempts to enforce the celebration of the Décadi – in effect, the Republican Sunday – proved a fiasco: few inhabitants turned up at the pompous official ceremonies, while those that did openly treated the proceedings as a joke or deliberately engaged in loud conversations with friends and neighbours.55 Equally, when theatres were ordered to include certain Revolutionary songs and anthems, managers responded by refusing to comply – an act of defiance which led to the closure of more than one establishment.56 Finally, participation in the elections of April 1798 was laughable: in Brussels just 916 electors voted out of the 14,000 who could potentially have done so, while there were places where so few showed up that it proved impossible to proceed with the elections at all.57 With the situation further inflamed by a harsh winter, by the beginning of 1798 much of Belgium was therefore experiencing a state of deep unrest. More than that, indeed, as many French soldiers and officials kept warning Paris, there appeared a serious danger of insurrection, the autumn of 1797 having witnessed the outbreaks of numerous outbursts of rioting, several of which had only been suppressed at the cost of shedding blood. Nor did the new year bring a change of mood. On the contrary, as winter was followed by spring and spring by summer, so many places in Brabant in particular experienced outbreaks of violence, the

212  Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium tension being fuelled still further by rumours that a British invasion was imminent. Finally, in the last week of September came the shattering news that, along with the rest of France, Belgium was to be subjected to conscription. ‘Young citizens’, announced a proclamation issued by the collaborationist city council that had been put in place at Antwerp. ‘Let emulation take possession of your souls; let the idea of numbering yourselves among the defenders of the Fatherland become a bone of contention amongst you; let the people of France see that you are worthy of sharing in their destinies, and that, loving liberty as much as they do, you wish to defend it just as fiercely.’58 The response was not long in coming: on 16 October the standard of revolt was raised at the Flemish village of Overmeer.59 Familiar as we are with the events of the war in the Vendée, there is no need to spend too long discussing the campaign that followed. In village after village, the trees of liberty erected by the French were torn down and the representatives of the invaders chased out and sometimes killed, angry bands of insurgents then proceeding to loot their homes. Commanded by a range of local leaders, such men then came together to form parish companies which proceeded to do battle with the small forces of gendarmes and regular troops who were sent against them or otherwise caught up in the insurrection. Arms were in short supply, but the revolt was quite extensive: whilst the area most affected stretched from the environs of Ghent across the northern reaches of the country as far as the River Meuse, there was also trouble in Flanders, the area south of Brussels and the Ardennes. Yet all was not well: the insurgents proved resistant to any attempt to drill them, instead spending all their time drinking, bullying the more reluctant inhabitants into taking up arms, hunting down collaborators, emptying the jails, burning such documents as tax registers, and pillaging town halls and other official buildings (in this respect, it did not help that in at least some instances the ranks of the rebels had been swelled by bandit gangs intent on little more than exploiting the situation for their personal gain). Nor, meanwhile, was there any leadership except at the most local of levels: names that one encounters here include Emanuel Van Gansen, a prosperous tenant farmer from Westerlo; Albert Meulemans, a surveyor from Tongerlo; Pieter Corbeels, a printer from Louvain who in 1789 had published many pamphlets in support of the Belgian Revolution; Jan Elen, a medical student from Schepenheuvel; Louis Heylen, a lawyer from Herentals; Emanuel Rollier, a merchant from Willebroek who had prior to the uprising seemingly been in contact with the British; Jean-Baptiste Caeymax, a notary from Berlaar; and Theo Van Dyck, a clerk from Westmeerbeek; lamentably enough, meanwhile, none of these obscure figures had any military experience other than the little which it had been possible for them to gain from the brief campaigns of 1789–90.60 In these circumstances, success was unlikely. At best, groups of combatants set out here or there to attack neighbouring towns that were still held by the French, but they rarely won the day, the usual outcome being that the attackers were either driven off immediately or chased away by the arrival of French reinforcements, sometimes with heavy casualties: an insurgent column that attacked Courtrai, for example, was taken by surprise at Ingelmunster and routed with the loss of at least 250 men. And, of course, even had there been more in the way of leadership and a greater will to embrace the demands of a war effort, there was no organised commissariat and therefore no way of subsisting large assemblies of insurgents for anything other than a few days. In these circumstances, it was only a question of time, and all the more so as many of the insurgents quickly began to drift away to their homes. Taken by surprise by the ferocity of the movement and possessed of no more than 8,000 men in the whole of Belgium, the French took some days to organise a response, but very soon they were closing in in strength. By the end of October,

Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium  213 indeed, a further series of skirmishes had sufficed to put an end to the revolt in Flanders. Here and there, there was some sharp fighting, but the French advance was inexorable. At length all that was left was the heavily wooded region north of Brussels called the campine anversoise. Here a small force of perhaps 4,000 men had been got together by Van Gansen and other leaders under the title of the ‘Catholic Army of Brabant’, and, despite a heavy defeat at Herentals that cost it at least 500 casualties, this kept the field against the French for over a month, even gaining a number of small successes such as its repulse of French columns at Meerhout and Diest on 12 and 13 November. However, with the odds against the insurgents mounting ever more dramatically, their commanders decided to abandon the struggle in the campine in favour of a desperate bid to reach the fortress of Maastricht on the strength of messages that had been received from sympathisers within its walls suggesting that it was ripe for insurrection. In truth, this plan was never more than a faint hope, but in fact the rebel column got no further than Hasselt before it was cornered by French troops. Adopting the same tactics that had won the day at Meerhout and Diest, Van Gansen and his men manned the town’s mediaeval walls and put up a fierce fight, but they were eventually forced to abandon their positions by the French artillery, whilst an attempt to evacuate the town turned into a rout when the fleeing rebels were attacked by French cavalry. Though sporadic disturbances continued for some weeks, to all intents and purposes, the ‘peasants’ war’, as the Belgians came to refer to it, was over.61 The political climate having moved on a little from the dark days of the Terror, French retribution was not as savage as it might have been a few years earlier: if 280 rebels, amongst them Corbeels and Meulemans, were condemned to death by military tribunals, fully twothirds of the 1,800 men put on trial were acquitted.62 Nevertheless, the dead amounted to at least 5,000, while the course of the uprising could be traced via a swathe of towns and villages devastated by French reprisals and saddled with enormous indemnities. Though Belgium was to offer little more in the way of trouble, what slight chance there remained of assimilation with France was lost. Some elements of the urban population had already thrown in their lot with the Revolution, whilst the advent of Napoleon won over a part of the élite – hence the fact that by 1814 there were at least twenty-five Belgian generals in the French army – but rural society for the most part remained sullen and apathetic, not to mention as hostile to conscription as ever: with regard to the Loi Jourdan, only half the initial quota of 22,000 men was actually obtained, and, of these, at least 4,000 deserted before they even got to their regiments.63 If the Belgian revolt was a grim affair, the one which took place in Switzerland was in some respects still worse as it was not just a revolt against foreign occupation but a civil war in which the Catholic minority came increasingly to confront their Protestant neighbours over the issue of religious freedom. As we have seen, Switzerland had been occupied by the French in the face of minimal opposition in the spring of 1798 and a unitary Helvetic Republic imposed in place of the old confederation of cantons and, with it, religious toleration. In the Catholic parts of Switzerland, in particular, however, feelings against the Revolution were already running high as a result of years of denunciation on the part of the clergy, and, not just that, but the fact that all of the Swiss Guards massacred on 10 August 1792 had been Catholics. Nor did it help that, in a particularly foolish move, a crossbow exhibited at Zurich as the very weapon with which William Tell had supposedly shot the apple from his son’s head was removed by the French and, or so it was rumoured, destroyed. As spring wore on into summer, then, the largely Catholic cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden all rose in revolt under the command of Alois von Reding, a professional soldier who had recently returned to Switzerland after many years’ service in the Swiss regiments

214  Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium of the Spanish army. After several weeks’ fighting which saw engagements at Wollerau, Feusisberg and Rothenthurm, the insurgents were forced to lay down their arms and accept a political settlement which saw the three cantons concerned united into a single entity called Waldstetten, this move being designed greatly to reduce their voting weight in the national assembly.64 Yet the cause of resistance was far from dead, and further rebellions followed in Nidwalden in September 1798, these being put down amidst scenes of far greater brutality than those which had characterised the earlier fighting. What happened at the town of Stanz, for example, is described in graphic detail by Jean Curély of the Seventh Regiment of Hussars: The town was surrounded by a sort of earthen rampart garnished with a few guns, behind which the Swiss had placed all their troops, together with the latter’s women and children, these last being determined to contribute to the defence of the town in whatever manner they could. Despite the fire of the cannon and muskets, our soldiers forced the gates . . . without a moment’s hesitation, and there then followed the most dreadful scenes of carnage: anyone who was caught on the walls or in the streets was bayoneted on the spot . . . I have never seen such atrocities: the ramparts, the streets, the alleyways, the churches, the houses, everywhere was strewn with dead of every age and sex.65 Fierce though this response was, it did nothing to stabilise the Republic, while the latter was further disrupted when Switzerland suddenly became the scene of major military operations in 1799, much of the country being devastated and reduced to near-starvation. The summer of 1802 witnessing a fresh insurrection known as the ‘war of the cudgels’, Napoleon – by now, of course, ruler of France – was therefore moved to intervene and set up the far more decentralised Helvetic Confederation.66 Significant though events in Belgium and Switzerland were, they are eclipsed by those which took place in Italy. Here the period 1797–8 had scarcely been quiet, the arrival of the French in Rome having produced a series of rebellions in the more mountainous parts of the erstwhile Papal States. Amongst the French soldiers caught up in the fighting that resulted was Paul Thiébault: The insurrection of Lake Trasimene was due to the same causes as those which had preceded it: the composition of the new authorities; the choice of persons with very bad reputations as agents; the forced contributions levied on the villages for the so-called patriotic festivals . . . the tyranny and extortion of the collectors; the billeting of soldiers upon private families . . . and the law which forbade members of religious orders to beg and priests to give alms. Things happened pretty much as they did everywhere. On 22 April, about five in the evening, when the inhabitants of several villages were assembled in the church of Castel Rigone, a certain Guerriero Guerrieri turned up with a decree relating to the expenses of a new civic festival . . . One Egidio Vicente then read out the decree, but in such terms and with such comments as were well adapted to make it food for revolution . . . All present armed themselves, and Vicente . . . dispatched orders to all parish clergy to replace the trees of liberty with crosses, to send in all men fit to fight, to sound the alarm bell, and to have the country scoured by friars and laymen preaching the revolt. At first only the peasants responded to the appeal, but the numbers were soon swelled by . . . all the vagabonds with whom Italy swarms . . . There was no difficulty about arms: anything that would kill was acceptable, and most of the old

Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium  215 castles contained armouries . . . Their organisation . . . meeting with no resistance, the insurgent leaders . . . grew enterprising and went about with bands of 400 to 800 men . . . [cutting] down all the trees of liberty still standing, [tearing] the tricolour cockades off all whom they caught still wearing them and [making] forced levies of men and money to the cry of ‘For Christ, the Pope and the emperor!’67 Like all the other risings that best the Roman Republic, the revolt described by Thiébault was in the end put down with the usual severity. However, if this was the case, 1799 saw the isolation of the republican experiment revealed beyond all doubt. So exercised were the population of the city of Naples by the prospect of the arrival of French troops, for example, that they did not even wait for their appearance before giving voice to their opinion and that in the most violent of fashions. In November 1798, as we shall see in Chapter 11, the Neapolitan government had after much hesitation decided to join the Second Coalition and sent an army northwards to fight the army of General Championnet, only for the campaign to end in disaster and humiliation. Terrified out of its wits, the royal family fled to the safety of Palermo, while the viceroy they had left behind in the person of the Marquis of Strongoli was left to sign an armistice with the oncoming French. Amongst the eyewitnesses to the situation was a Horatio Nelson fresh from his famous conquest of Lady Hamilton. Having based himself at Naples in the wake of the Battle of the Nile, the British admiral had been a leading voice in the war party that had led the Neapolitan government to join the Second Coalition, and now he could only watch in astonishment and dismay. As he wrote to the British commander in Menorca, Sir John Stewart: Although I could not think the Neapolitans to be a nation of warriors, yet it was not possible to believe that a kingdom with 50,000 troops and good-looking young men could have been over-run by 12,000 men without anything which could be called a battle . . . I do not flatter myself that all that remains are good men and true . . . The nobles . . . are endeavouring to negotiate . . . peace with the French, and [have] offered . . . to form a republic under French protection . . . How it will end, God only knows!68 Almost immediately, however, there took place a dramatic transformation in the situation. Hitherto, the war had been deeply unpopular with the Neapolitan people: already suffering from the effects of years of economic disruption, not to mention the régime’s ruthless search for the finance needed to confront France, an outraged populace had suddenly been confronted with demands for sufficient conscripts to raise the army to a strength of 60,000 men, and, not just this, but the wholesale mobilisation of the home-guard known as the masse.69 Nor, meanwhile, were the Bourbons remotely popular with the common people: when Calabria was struck by a devastating earthquake in 1783, for example, the government had responded by suppressing a number of major monasteries, but the stated aim of redistributing their lands amongst the poor had gone unfulfilled, the estates concerned rather being bought up by members of the propertied classes who, to make matters worse, then proceeded to drive many of the peasants who had actually farmed the properties concerned from their smallholdings, whilst the negligence displayed by the authorities during the terrible famine of 1767 in which at least 200,000 people had starved to death was still a bitter memory.70 At the same time, in Naples as much as Spain, the populace had found itself confronted by a régime that was seemingly bent on the destruction of popular culture. Ironically enough, the very considerable reform efforts associated with the

216  Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium Bourbon administration in the period from 1770 were aimed at helping the poor rather than oppressing them still further – indeed, its policies were in many respects astonishingly enlightened – but progress was slow, with the result that all the populace were aware of was the loss of traditional sources of charity inherent in attacks on the religious orders, the elimination of many popular religious practices as so much superstition and the everstricter policing of society in an effort to suppress banditry and inculcate a new work ethic amongst a populace that was supposedly incorrigibly lazy and thoroughly given over to vice (in this respect it was all too symptomatic that the great new poorhouse that was planned for Naples in the wake of the famine known as the Royal Hospice for the Poor had still not been completed by the time that the French arrived in 1799).71 In the circumstances, then, marches on Rome or anywhere else could not but prove deeply unpopular: in the town of Teramo, a local chronicler recorded that the call-up occasioned a mood of widespread despair, while in Chieti the magistrates were reduced to trying to fill the ranks by drafting criminals who were currently held in their jails, a move that the men concerned immediately seized upon as a wonderful opportunity to take to their heels.72 Now, however, the situation was different: in brief, it was one thing to have the French in Rome, quite another to surrender the kingdom to their control; still worse, the crowd felt abandoned. To quote Roger de Damas: Prince Pignatelli [i.e. the Marquess of Strongoli] was appointed lieutenant-general of the kingdom. But the death of order always means the death of authority: he had no control over the people. A very brief time sufficed to decide the fate of Naples.73 In this process, meanwhile, the French played a major role, their soldiers behaving with such abandon that even Marc Jullien, the erstwhile journalist and sometime editor of the Bonapartist publicity sheet entitled the Courier de l’Armée d’Italie, whom Championnet appointed to be the secretary-general of the provisional government of the Parthenopean Republic, could not conceal his dismay. Thus: Although the officer corps and rank and file of the French army is . . . worthy of admiration for its heroic exploits . . . its general staffs and administrative bodies are rotten and gangrened . . . In enemy country and occupied territory alike, it is believed that anything goes. Robbery takes place on all sides in the most shameless fashion and with the most scandalous impunity. The unfortunate inhabitants are oppressed, insulted, outraged and stripped of their possessions at the very same time that we assume the ostentatious title of their liberators. Can we really call what we are bringing them liberty if we inflict upon them nothing but turmoil, brigandage and crime of every sort?74 Hardly had the armistice been signed on 12 January 1799, then, than the lower classes of the capital rose in revolt, though even now devotion to the Bourbons was scarcely visible. As an early historian of the events that followed wrote, the crowd ‘ran to provide themselves with arms from the castles and the arsenals, and came back in order of battle, vociferating that they were defending their nation and their religion, but hardly one among all the multitude was heard even to name the king.’75 For some ten days there followed scenes of the utmost chaos as bands of lazzaroni raged through the streets, pillaging the houses of the rich and killing noblemen and other leading inhabitants suspected of supporting the armistice (an important point to note here is that, notwithstanding French assumptions that the Church was behind all resistance to the Revolution, the ecclesiastical authorities used every device

Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium  217 in their power to calm the situation, whilst at least one monastery was sacked and put to the torch). So furious was the populace at what they perceived as their betrayal by the monarchy, meanwhile, that they even sacked the royal palace. Not until Championnet actually marched into the city on 22 January was order restored, and even then it was not without sharp fighting.76 Nor was resistance solely confined to Naples. As the French marched southwards, so the masse suddenly discovered something to fight for and started harassing their columns and picking off stragglers and foraging parties. Here and there, meanwhile, including, not least Teramo, the same town where the mobilisation of the masse had caused such panic, there were insurrections against the committees of sympathisers, whether committed or simply calculating, whom the French had set up to govern the areas they had occupied, these being suppressed at the cost of considerable bloodshed. With the fall of the capital, meanwhile, the situation grew still worse. In brief, around the country, the news of the proclamation of a republic led to wholesale popular unrest which the local authorities in many towns had felt no option but to take control of through the establishment of pro-Bourbon juntas. Meanwhile, other towns that had initially declared for the Republic changed sides when the new régime’s radical nature became clear. As for the military situation, Championnet and the government of the Parthenopean Republic scarcely controlled more than the ground their forces occupied, not least because the masse had been reinforced by a variety of armed men including a young soldier named Michele Pezza who had been forcibly enlisted in the army after being convicted of murder but now emerged as an irregular leader of considerable daring as well as a folk-hero whose feats of daring-do, whether real or imaginary, became a further spur to resistance.77 One French soldier who found himself caught up in the violence was the future General Boulart. Sent to take command of the garrison of the small mountain town of Aquila, he encountered a situation that was deeply polarised. Thus: The population of the town, even down to the clergy, was not hostile to us. The upper classes and all those who possessed any degree of education, indeed, shared our principles: amongst them I found good will, enlightenment and a warm welcome. However, the spirit of the inhabitants of the countryside was completely different. Poor, superstitious, inclined to robbery and brigandage . . . they hunted the French like wild beasts and behaved towards them with the most unheard of cruelty.78 Utterly overawed, Boulart and his men eventually abandoned all pretence of patrolling the countryside and shut themselves up in the town and for a little while were left in peace. One morning in March, however, large numbers of insurgents burst in, drove the French into the castle that acted as their headquarters, and laid siege to the garrison, Boulart only being saved from catastrophe by the fortuitous arrival of a relief column.79 As always, however, it would be naïve to imagine that this wave of revolt was purely ideological or even ideological at all. Throughout, the Church remained ambivalent, if not deeply divided, while, driven by economic necessity and loathing of the privileged orders as much as they were by hatred of the French, the rank and file were, as their opponents always alleged, little short of brigands. As for the various local élites who had seized control of the revolts, while some were genuinely horrified by the prospect of Jacobin revolution, others were rather motivated by long-standing communal, familial or personal rivalries. Thus, a republican administration had only to be established in Montesano under the leadership of a prominent local notable named Nicola Cestari for the latter’s long-term enemy, one Emerico Gerbasio, to start plotting insurrection, whilst Bari, Monteleone, Cosenza

218  Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium and Catanzaro found that their declarations of loyalty to the new order simply served as a pretext for the satellite villages that were subject to their authority to throw off their rule on account of a devotion to the throne that was wholly new; equally, in the Abruzzi, growing friction between arable and pastoral farming led peasant communities to plump for one side for no better reason than the neighbouring shepherd village had plumped for the other. In the extreme south and south-east, meanwhile, the mix was complicated still further by ethnic tension in that Italian villages turned upon neighbouring representatives of the numerous Albanian communities that had dotted the coastal regions ever since the arrival of wave after wave of refugees desperate to escape the horrors of the Ottoman conquest of their homelands in the sixteenth century (and, alas, vice versa). This is not to say, however, that the Albanian villages were all on the same side: far from it – whilst there appears to have been a strong tendency amongst them to support the Republic (a reflection, perhaps, of their circumstances, which tended to be particularly poverty-stricken), a minority favoured the monarchy. As John Davis writes, then, ‘The counter-revolution of 1799 was never quite what the later myths described.’80 True though all this was, to expect the French to understand such nuances is completely unrealistic. For Championnet and his subordinate commanders, the local committees were counter-revolutionaries through and through and the insurgents mere bandits. Spurred on by horrific tales of violence that were beyond doubt exaggerated and yet at the same time possessed of all too much in the way of foundation – in village after village one hears of men who had made the mistake of declaring their support for the Republic (and sometimes their wives and children as well) being decapitated, beaten to death or hacked to pieces – they hit back with the utmost ruthlessness. In Naples, the Republican pamphleteer Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel wrote article after article arguing that the mass of the rebels were simple men who were at worst misguided and could yet be won over to the cause of liberty, but her words were everywhere ignored. Far more typical of the attitude of the régime was the description penned of the insurgents by the hero of the Neapolitan revolution of 1820, Guglielmo Pepe: The . . . provinces were infested by a set of ruffians, the residue of the galleys who had previously sought a refuge in Sicily and by others sprung from the very dregs of the populace. These wretches, more or less loaded with crimes, and signalised by their brutal ferocity, caused themselves to be acknowledged as the chiefs of numerous bands, the first knot of which was formed by the baronial men-at-arms, and by the Dalmatian troops who had been dismissed from the army where they served until it was disbanded, and had since then wandered about in desperate gangs, living upon the produce of the alms which they demanded. The others were composed of the numerous criminals delivered from the prisons.81 Now commanded not by the showy and vainglorious Championnet but rather the highly competent Etienne Macdonald, the occupying forces set about the task of repression with great vigour. ‘Today, at dawn’, a resident of Barletta named Camillo Elefante confided to his journal, ‘the French took Andria by assault . . . It was put to the sack and the people massacred and the town burnt . . . The French troops . . . committed the most vile atrocities . . . not sparing the honour of the nuns, not even the oldest ones. Then they sold on a lot of their loot in Corato, Terlizzi, Bisceglie and surrounding areas.’82 Yet fire and the sword could only achieve so much. As he admitted in his memoirs, then, Macdonald faced an uphill fight. Thus:

Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium  219 Our successes against the insurgents were universal, but no sooner was the insurrection crushed at one point than it broke out at another. Communication with Rome had been frequently interrupted. Large escorts, and even cannon, were necessary . . . to ensure a safe journey . . . but sometimes impatient travellers would start alone or with slender escorts, and then fall victim to the banditti and brigands, who inflicted upon them the most abominable cruelties.83 Given time, Macdonald might have won his war: after all, the fresh revolt that broke out in Calabria in 1806 was eventually suppressed, albeit at the cost of four years of bitter fighting. Unfortunately for the future marshal, however, time was not on his side. With the coming of spring, the Austrians and Russians, as we shall see, launched a great offensive in the north of Italy, the French forces immediately being recalled to defend the far more vital theatre of the Po valley. All that was left to defend the Republic was the newly formed National Guard, but this force existed more on paper than in reality, whilst the countryside was as much up in arms as ever: when Boulart and his men finally pulled out of Aquila, they found that their march was harassed virtually every step of the way.84 To make matters worse, meanwhile, in February 1799 a new element had entered the fray in the person of Cardinal Fabrizzio Ruffo. Born in 1744 to an impoverished family of the Calabrian gentry, Ruffo had entered the service of the Papal States and risen to an important role in their governance, eventually becoming de facto Minister of War. Dismissed from his post in 1791 on account of having incurred the hostility of the Roman aristocracy in consequence of his opposition to feudalism, he was yet rewarded with the title ‘cardinal’ (a position that has never entailed any necessity of being ordained a priest). Thus recommended, he offered his services to his native Naples and became steward of the estates attached to the royal palace at Caserta. Having fled to Sicily along with the royal family, in February 1799 he was appointed Vicar-General – in effect, viceroy – of the mainland provinces and sent back across the Straits of Messina with orders to take charge of the resistance. At first progress was slow: unable to obtain more than a handful of recruits for what he termed the ‘Army of the Holy Faith’, Ruffo at first had to content himself with securing the remote province of Calabria.85 However, the retreat of the French transformed the situation and, with his ranks stiffened by the disembarkation of detachments of Russian and Turkish troops, in May 1799 Ruffo set off for the capital. Completely unopposed as he was, in less than a month he was at the gates of the capital, but to think either that the cardinal deserved much credit for liberating Naples, let alone that the Army of the Holy Faith was to the last man composed of ardent religious crusaders is to stretch credulity to the utmost. ‘When . . . the gazettes reported that Cardinal Ruffo had reconquered the kingdom with the Calabrian masses’, wrote a sceptical Roger de Damas, ‘no sensible person, surely, accepted the story as anything but a newspaper tale. He began his expedition at a time when there was no enemy to oppose him . . . Two poor villages accused a rich one of Jacobinism, whereupon the cardinal promised that the two should combine to pillage the third. Without seeing a single Frenchman he advanced from province to province . . . till he reached Naples . . . [and] handed over the capital to be devastated by his acolytes.’86 For a personal account of what happened when the sanfedisti came to town, meanwhile, we have only to turn to Camillo Elefante: Some 150 Calabrian soldiers passed through, having caused much disturbance to the country around, causing all kinds of harm and taking reprisals, with the usual excuse that the people were Jacobins or supported the Jacobins. And today they were thieving and plundering and punishing and despoiling even whilst they were calling themselves [soldiers] of the Holy Faith. Well, they are an army of the Holy Faith in name only.87

220  Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium If it is from the activities of such men that the English language gained the word ‘ruffian’, it should be pointed out that neither devastation nor murder were part of Ruffo’s plan. On the contrary, throughout his campaign the cardinal sought to spare the lives of his opponents and avoid popular reprisals. This, however, was easier said than done. As it marched north, the Army of the Holy Faith was joined by Michele Pezza and various other irregular leaders, and these were not disposed to curb the blood-lust of followers habituated to violence and rapine by dozens of brutal village massacres.88 That being the case, completely unopposed though it was, the occupation of the capital on 14 June was accompanied by large numbers of killings as well as wholesale pillage, the number of those who perished being estimated at around 1,000.89 Helpless to prevent what was going on, the unfortunate Ruffo could do no more than set up a special tribunal which he hoped might at least save a few prisoners by sentencing them to terms of imprisonment. That said, the fact that the fortress of Sant’Elmo and two minor forts were still holding out meant that there was a chance of saving at least the many Jacobins who had taken refuge within their walls, and so he opened negotiations in the hope that he could persuade the garrisons to surrender in exchange for a promise of evacuation to Toulon. In this, however, he was frustrated. Such a convention was indeed signed, but, hardly had the defenders and their civilian allies been embarked on the flotilla of vessels that Ruffo had prepared for them, than Lord Nelson appeared off the city at the head of a powerful British squadron. A man possessed by an all-consuming hatred of the French Revolution, Nelson anulled the terms of the surrender document and declared the evacuees to be his prisoners, whilst for good measure having Francesco Caracciolo, the commander of such few vessels as had been left to the Parthenopean Republic and had just been conveyed to him by a Ruffo apparently convinced that the best way of saving the admiral’s life was to place him in British custody, immediately court-martialled and hung from the yard-arm. Nor was this an end to it, the tribunal set up by Ruffo betraying his hopes of moderation and embarking on a thorough purge of all those associated with the Republic, the names of the hundred or more which it sentenced to death including the jurist Francesco Conforti, the Hellenist Pasquale Baffi, the doctor Domenico Cirillo and the pamphleteer Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel, as well as Luisa de San Felice, a young woman whose only crime had been inadvertently to betray an early royalist conspiracy to the government.90 The tide of rebellion did not reach its high watermark at Naples. On the contrary, the combination of news that an Austro-Russian army was pouring into Lombardy, together, in many instances, with a sudden absence of French troops, was causing chaos in the rest of Italy, revolts breaking out in almost every region occupied by the French, the specific places involved including many towns and villages that had hitherto seen no trouble whatsoever. Insurrection, then, was widespread, but in this chapter we shall concentrate on the events that took place in Tuscany. A grand duchy ruled by a Hapsburg ruler – at this moment Ferdinand III – Tuscany had initially escaped occupation when the French armies had embarked on their invasion of central and southern Italy in 1798, not least because to attack it would have assuredly provoked an Austria yet to commit herself to the Second Coalition to go to war. However, once Vienna chose the path of renewed war, the fate of Ferdinand III was sealed: on 24 March, French forces crossed the frontier from several directions, the grand duke proceeding to abdicate and go into exile. No sooner had he done so than a quasi-republican administration took power formed, in part, by bureaucrats who had played an important role in the reformist ministries of the preceding decades and, in part, by the usual sympathisers with the ideals of Jacobinism, the chief role in all this being played by the French ambassador, Charles Reinhard. Meanwhile, in the streets and squares (many of them now renamed) liberty trees sprang up on all sides whilst, in

Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium  221 churches, palaces and libraries, works of art, rare manuscripts and precious items of all sorts were snatched up with equal speed by a host of French commissioners. In the countryside, perhaps, all this had little relevance, but the French troops behaved with their usual obstreperousness, whilst granaries were emptied and fields stripped of cattle, sheep and horses, the new government also being told that it was going to have to honour the agreement negotiated by the régime of Ferdinand III to pay over a forced loan of 800,000 scudi. With prices high and food short, the result was inevitable, the French having been in the country for scarcely a month before news of the Austro-Russian advances in the Po valley sparked off a series of village risings which within a matter of days coalesced to become a single wave of insurrection known from the battle-cry of the insurgents as the ‘Viva Maria!’ rebellion. Initially, the French governor Paul Gaultier succeeded in hanging on to the main towns, but the end of the first week of June saw almost all his 6,000 men pulled out to join the fight against the Austrians and Russians. Like their collaborators in the Parthenopean Republic before them, then, the collaborators were on their own, and on 28 June the rebels marched into Siena, where they engaged in numerous atrocities. Protected by a handful of national guards, Florence held out a little longer, but no sooner had a column of Austrian troops turned up than it hastened to surrender. In less than two months, then, the cause of counter-revolution had triumphed.91 To conclude, what is to be learned from this catalogue of resistance to the French beyond the frontiers of the France of 1789? In the first place, that, while passive resistance could flourish everywhere and was an urban phenomenon as much as it was a rural one, armed resistance was a different matter and one governed by social, geographical and political circumstance. Overwhelmingly rural, it required a widespread habituation to arms; countryside of a sort that negated French military superiority; the assistance, either direct or indirect, of regular armies; and French garrisons that were smaller rather than larger. Where these conditions were not fully present as in Piedmont and Belgium, rebellion was crushed, while where they were not present at all, as in Holland, there was hardly a single uprising or episode of guerrilla warfare to be seen; worth adding here, of course, is the codicil that in the end armed popular resistance was shown to be a flimsy weapon that was only likely to be successful in the absence of substantial forces of French troops. Meanwhile, as in France, resistance was rarely truly counter-revolutionary in an ideological sense: the rebels may have objected to the French and their sympathisers, but that did not mean that they necessarily supported the previous state of affairs in either its social or its political aspects, while they were viewed by the Church with considerable ambivalence, if not open hostility. In short, when the French and their supporters referred to the peasant bands of the Pyrenees, Piedmont, Brabant, Calabria and Tuscany as ‘brigands’, they were probably not far short of the truth if brigandage is understood as a form of social protest, what motivated the insurgents and home guards of Catalonia, Belgium, the Rhineland, Switzerland and Italy being a poverty and despair that France’s ‘armed missionaries’ did nothing to assuage and, in many cases, made a great deal worse.

Notes 1 See H. Reiss, ‘Goethe and the French Revolution’, in Mason and Doyle, Impact of the French Revolution on European Consciousness, pp. 146–59. 2 The economic impact of French occupation was bad enough, but insult was added to injury by incidents typified by one remembered by Paul Thiébault as having taken place in Rome in 1798: ‘I remember . . . a farewell dinner . . . at which I happened to be present. In the course of it the glasses, decanters, bottles, plates and dishes were thrown out of the window or smashed

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7 8



where they were . . . On hearing of this destruction the landlord came up., and . . . begged that [the guests] would at least spare . . . some pile of plates handsomer than the rest. His pitiful air, however, did but hasten what he feared . . . One of the guests proved to him, with the utmost seriousness, that what he asked was impossible, and then, talking to him all the while, took up some plates . . . and broke half-a-dozen of them over his head as he gesticulated with them.’ Thiébault, Memoirs, I, pp. 360–1. Even in areas that were generally quiet, there could still lurk an undercurrent of violence in that tavern brawls or particular acts of provocation could easily result in the death of French soldiers. Herewith, for example, is an account of an incident that took place near Nijmegan in May: ‘Two grenadiers of the first battalion went off to have themselves some fun at a village near Grave. Whilst they were there, they encountered some peasants, who killed one of them . . . Without doubt it was the adoption of a military manner (a term that I employ to avoid using the word ‘insolent’, though it is in fact one and the same thing) that brought the latter to blows with our men.’ Cit. Anon. ‘Lettres de campagne du Sergent-Major Dumey’, p. 658. A. Forrest, ‘The ubiquitous brigand: the politics and language of repression’ in Esdaile, Popular Resistance in the French Wars: Patriots, Partisans and Land-Pirates, p. 31. Archetypal example of the complication referred to by Forrest is the much-renowned Rhineland bandit, Johannes Bückler. Better known by his nickname of Schinderhannes, Bückler was in reality nothing more than a petty criminal who made his living from theft and extortion, some of it accompanied by considerable violence. Had he been born ten years earlier or ten years later, the chances are that he would still have followed exactly the same career path – his family background was desperately poor, not to say wholly marginalised – but, as it happened, he came of age in the midst of the French occupation, so the circumstances were anything but normal and afforded him particular opportunities which he was not slow to make use of. Thus, to have simply ravaged his own community would have been to expose him to instant denunciation to the authorities, if not violent retribution at the hands of some village posse. That being the case, in so far as possible, he therefore directed his life of crime against those who had few friends in the village communities in which he operated, namely the French and the Jews (a group who were numerous, highly visible, traditionally regarded with much loathing and perceived to be both allies of the occupying forces and enemies of the occupation). In consequence, if not actively engaged in resistance himself, he quickly became a symbol of that same resistance, and went to his execution at the hands of the French in 1802 as a folk-hero. Blanning, French Revolution and Germany, pp. 292–300. Soulié, Carnets du Colonel Bial, p. 55; Bricard and Bricard, Journal du cannonier Bricard. According to his own account, Bial responded to this domestic assault with such charm that the woman, a Madame Lenne, was won over to the extent that he was able to make the acquaintance of a number of city’s leading families through her good offices and even to engage in a flirtation (or possibly even more) with a Mademoiselle de Clermond. Soulié, Carnets du Colonel Bial, pp. 56–7. The problem of finding indigenous volunteers was not just confined to Italy: for example, an attempt to raise a 5,600-strong ‘North Frankish Legion’ in the Rhineland in 1798 obtained no more than 2,000 recruits, and many even of them were desperate fugitives from the Belgian revolt of the previous year who had no other means of keeping body and soul together. Rowe, From Reich to State, pp. 163–5. Ernouf, Souvenirs militaires d’un jeune abbé, p. 79. Blanning, French Revolution in Germany, pp. 300–13; for a long account of a skirmish that took place in respect of a small group of soldiers who were billeted on a householder in Coblenz, see F. Dumey to his mother, 16 November 1798, ‘Lettres de campagne du Sergent-Major Dumey’, pp. 661–7. Schama, Patriots and Liberators, pp. 281, 289, 336; Soulié, Carnets du Colonel Bial, p. 114. Such incidents were limited in their significance, it being worth noting that, despite growing poverty and economic disruption, the Dutch populace never turned its back on the Batavian Republic. Thus, when the British and the Russians invaded the country in 1799, contrary to British expectations, the Dutch troops who always composed the majority of the defending forces stood firm, while an attempt at an Orangist rising near Arnhem proved a fiasco. Here and there, there were demonstrations of loyalty to the old order, and a certain baroness was even shot for conspiracy, but the survival of pre-1795 arrangements for poor relief and a far greater sense of participation and ownership ensured that the wholesale rebellion seen in Italy in 1799 was avoided. Ibid., pp. 391–8. See M. Rowe, ‘Divided loyalties: sovereignty, politics and public service in the Rhineland under French occupation, 1792–1801’, European Review of History, 5, No. 2 (May, 1998), pp. 151–68.

Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium  223 11 See M. van der Burg, ‘Transforming the Dutch Republic into the Kingdom of Holland: the Netherlands between republicanism and monarchy, 1795’, European Review of History, 17, No. 2 (May, 2010), pp. 151–70. 12 E.H. Kossmann, The Low Countries, 1780–1940 (Oxford, 1978), p. 77. 13 Conde de Clonard, Historia orgánica de las armas de infantería y caballería españolas (Madrid, 1851–62), V, p. 405. 14 J.R. Aymes, La guerra de España contra la Revolución Francesa, 1793–95 (Alicante, 1991), pp. 310–42 passim. 15 For all these details, cf. J. Fabregas Roig, La guerra gran, 1793–1795: el protagonisme de Girona i la mobilització dels miquelets (Lérida, 2000), pp. 78–85. 16 Ibid., pp. 94–105 passim. 17 P. Sahlins, Boundaries: The Making of France and Spain in the Pyrenees (Berkeley, CA, 1989), p. 180. 18 Aymes, Guerra de España contra la Revolución Francesa, 1793–95, pp. 362–4. 19 See W.B. Kennedy, ‘Revolutionary France and royalist Spain at war in the Pyrenees, 1793–95’, Consortium on Revolutionary Europe Proceedings, 20 (1990), pp, 571–8; Doppet, Mémoires politiques et militaires, p. 264. 20 E.g. Doppet, Mémoires politiques et militaires, p. 278. 21 J.N. Fervel, Campagnes de la Révolution Française dans les Pyrénées orientales, 1793–1794–1795 (Paris, 1851), I, pp. 316–19. 22 Doppet, Mémoires politiques et militaires, pp. 316–17. It is just possible that the Citizen Brunel referred to here was a connection of the famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the latter’s father, Marc Brunel, being a French naval officer who fled to Britain in 1794. 23 M. Boycott-Brown, ‘Guerrilla warfare avant la lettre: northern Italy, 1792–1797’, in Esdaile, Popular Resistance in the French Wars, pp. 46–51. It is worth noting that the months after the Piedmontese withdrawal from the War of the First Coalition in May 1796 were marked by a series of peasant risings occasioned by the impoverishment and economic disruption caused by the war. That being the case, to assume that the barbetti were motivated by devotion to the ancien régime pure and simple is clearly naïve. See M. Broers, ‘Revolution as vendetta: patriotism in Piedmont, 1794–1824’, Historical Journal, 33, No. 3 (September, 1990), pp. 583–84. 24 L. Cole, ‘Nation, anti-enlightenment and religious revival in Austria: Tyrol in the 1790s’, Historical Journal, 44, No. 2 (June, 2000), pp. 482–8. 25 Anon., The History of the Campaigns of 1796, 1797, 1798 and 1799 in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, etc. (London, 1812), I, pp. 372–3. 26 For a romantic rendition of this story, see E. Wayne, The Maid of Spinges: A Tale of Napoleon’s Invasion of the Tyrol (London, 1913). 27 For discussions of the revolt of Pavia, see Boycott-Brown, ‘Guerrilla warfare avant la lettre’, pp. 56–8; Dwyer, Napoleon: The Path to Power, pp. 230–2. 28 Boycott-Brown, ‘Guerrilla warfare avant la lettre’, p. 59. 29 The misdeeds of the invaders are recorded in ironic vein in the diary of a taverner named Valentino Alberti. Day after day, then, we read of parties of French soldiers descending on his establishment and eating and drinking their fill, only to wish him a cheerful goodbye and leave without paying (and that if he was lucky: on other occasions, he did not get even the cheerful goodbye). See R. Scattolini, ‘Verona, 1796–97: a case of popular rejection through the pages of Valentino Alberti’, , accessed 5 April 2017. 30 Known as the ‘Veronese Easter’ as it broke out on Easter Sunday, this rising was an extremely complex affair. A city belonging to the Venetian Republic, Verona had been occupied by troops of the Army of Italy the previous autumn as they followed up the retreating Austrians, but Venice itself was neutral and its government desperate to keep out of trouble. Unbeknown to the Doge and his advisers, however, Napoleon was bent on seizing much of the Republic and therefore launched a series of revolutions in towns such as Brescia and Bergamo in an attempt to show popular support for a French take-over. Incensed at this development, the local populace took up arms against the new administrations that resulted from the so-called revolutions, and the result was a bitter civil war in which French troops quickly intervened to support their heavily outnumbered partisans. Verona, however, remained quiet, but this did not suit the invaders, and they therefore deliberately provoked a revolt so as to give themselves a pretext to install a Jacobin city council. At this point, however, they got more than they had bargained for, the rioters who turned out to oppose them gaining the support not just of the Venetian troops stationed in the city but large numbers

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31 32 33



36 37

38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45

of Austrian prisoners of war whom they freed from the city’s jails. For a modern account, see F. Bonafini, Verona 1797: il furore de una citta (Verona, 1997). Gauthier-Villars, Mémoires d’un veteran, p. 46. Anon., History of the Campaigns of 1796, 1797, 1798 and 1799, I, pp. 372–3. For a good example, one might cite that issued by General Kléber prior to his invasion of Germany in May 1797. Thus: ‘The French soldier treats as brothers all those who do not take up arms against him . . . By such conduct, my comrades, you will inspire the greatest confidence amongst the inhabitants . . . whereas, if you instil terror in anyone other than the enemy army, you will find yourself in a desert devoid of resources and thereby exposed to all the horrors of famine. Your own interests, then, make observing the most exact discipline your duty. If I have to proceed against anyone who ignores this fact, I . . . swear that I shall do so without restraint.’ Cit. Buquet, ‘Journal Historique’, part 1, p. 206. Cit. Jolicler, Joliclerc, pp. 241–3. A particular problem was the ever-increasing depreciation of the assignats. ‘The assignats have absolutely no value in this country’, complained an infantryman stationed in Spire in 1795. ‘We offer thirty livres for a three-pound loaf, but there are no takers. A louis d’or goes for 500 livres and an écu worth six livres, 100 in assignats. Our situation could not be more unfortunate: we have no bread and have been waiting for some to turn up for the past two days.’ Cit. Picard, Au service de la nation, p. 83. One problem that many units faced as the wars dragged on was shortage of officers, and, with this, a tendency for power to fall into the hands of tough and brutal non-commissioned officers who were disposed to exploit their positions for all they were worth. For example, returning to his unit from a spell in hospital, one sergeant major discovered that, in the absence, for various reasons, of all its senior officers, it had been taken over by ‘a rogue by the name of Rémy, a sometime sutler who has become a sergeant’ and had ‘seized the moment to suborn the company by letting it go a-pillaging . . . at will’. Cit. Bironneau, ‘Lettres de J.C. Jannin’, p. 468. Dellard, Mémoires militaires, p. 15. For an important discussion of French perceptions of brigandage and the threat that it posed, see Forrest, ‘The ubiquitous brigand’. For a typical view of the behaviour of the clergy, we might cite Jean-Pierre Bial: ‘The region of Liège was certainly one of the areas of Europe where advances in civilization had done most to prepare public opinion for the régime of liberty. The only group that appeared to hesitate was the clergy, inspired, as they were, by fear for their influence and their interests. The suppression of the religious orders, then, threw every last one of them into confusion. What increased their fear still further was the large number of émigrés who had sought refuge at Liège. It is simply impossible to obtain a good idea of the lies and other absurdities which this element spread in respect of what was happening in France. Never had there been so many martyrs at any one time, whilst every last one of them had only escaped a similar fate by the greatest good fortune.’ Soulié, Carnets du Colonel Bial, p. 63. Dellard, Mémoires militaires, p. 62. Boulart, Mémoires militaires, p. 42. Cit. Bironneau (ed.), ‘Lettres de J.C. Jannin’, Carnets de la Sabretache, 7 (1899), p. 412. Cit. ibid., p. 453. F.X. Joliclerc to M.P. Defrasne, 23 July 1793, cit. Jolicler, Joliclerc, pp. 104–5. F.X. Joliclerc to M.P. Defrasne, 17 August 1793, cit. Jolicler, Joliclerc, p. 111. P. Girardon to C. Girardon, 19 January 1794, cit. Morin, Lettres de Pierre Girardon, p. 41. Boulart, Mémoires militaires, p. 11. An important issue in the Rhineland was the fact that the populace included many elements that soldiers from the depths of la France profonde found it hard to cope with. As a sergeant major of a volunteer battalion from the Puy-de-Dôme named Eloy Leclerc complained to his brother in a letter written from Strasbourg on 10 June 1794, ‘The air of the Departments of Upper and Lower Rhine is infected by the presence of persons of different sects such as Jews, Lutherans, Protestants and others. People of this sort have yet to do anything to earn their liberty, and particularly not the Jews. Not revolutionary in the slightest, these last are guided by nothing other their appetite for gain and thirst for gold . . . Vile speculators who live only for scrimping and other such pettinesses and put their . . . personal interests before the public good, the well-being of the Fatherland demands that they should all be deported to places at least twenty leagues from the frontier and placed under the appropriate surveillance.’ Cit. Picard, Au service de la nation, p. 48.

Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium  225 46 Soulié, Les carnets du Colonel Bial, pp. 61–2; Boulart, Mémoires militaires, pp. 12–13. 47 Ibid., p. 59; Boulart, Mémoires militaires, pp. 12–13. 48 M.J. Hughes, Forging Napoleon’s Grande Armée: Motivation, Military Culture and Masculinity in the French Army, 1800–1808 (New York University Press, 2012), pp. 108–36. 49 P. Verhaegen, La Belgique sous la domination française, 1792–1814 (Brussels, 1922), II, pp. 481–537 passim, and A. Thys, Les conscrits belges en 1798 et 1799 (Antwerp, 1885), pp. 7–11. It did not help, meanwhile, that two years of bitter fighting had reduced many towns and villages to ruins. In the words of Charles Este, ‘Had all the amateurs of war been present, there was enough of the sublime . . . to have satisfied the most sanguine of them all . . . Through many a long mile there was the cry of havoc still . . . Almost every house was pierced through and through: in each poor clay wall there remained the hideous stigma of . . . cannon shot. Of many houses, battered and burned, there was no one stone left upon another . . . Every face was in sadness; every heart seemed faint.’ Este, Journey in the Year 1793, p. 106. 50 In one respect at least the Directory was completely unbending. Thus, from the very beginning it set out to eradicate the Flemish language, the use of this last being prohibited in schools, law courts and official correspondence alike. See H. Hasquin (ed.), La Belgique française, 1792–1815 (Brussels, 1993), pp. 424–8. 51 Verhaegen, La Belgique sous la domination française, II, p. 523. 52 Ibid., III, pp. 205–29 passim. 53 Kossmann, Low Countries, p. 78. 54 Verhaegen, La Belgique sous la domination française, III, p. 79–93. 55 Ibid., pp. 146–65. 56 Ibid., p. 171. 57 Ibid., p. 186. 58 Cit. Thys, Conscrits belges, p. 19. 59 Ibid., pp. 335–49. The issue of the extent to which the revolt was pre-planned has been much debated. Unwilling to recognise the deficiencies of liberation, sympathisers with the Revolution have been very much inclined to allege that it was the work of British agents, but there is little evidence that this was actually the case. That said, it is clear that, in part founded on links dating from the revolution of 1789, by the summer of 1798 a veritable network of conspiratorial groups had emerged that were increasingly dedicated to the organisation of an uprising. Ibid., pp. 325–7. 60 Ibid., pp. 346–64; For details of the rebel leadership, see J. Goris (ed.), La Guerre des Paysans, 1798: catalogue de l’exposition au Musée Royale de l’Armée et d’Histoire Militaire du 19 de novembre 1998 au 15 janvier 1999 (Brussels, 1998), p. 6. As for the rank and file, the majority were the usual mix of peasants and artisans. The fact that support for the insurrection was particularly strong in Flanders and Brabant has led to some suggestion that the movement was above all a Flemish one. This, however, is to go too far: if revolt was stronger in the north of the country than it was in the south, it may simply be because the proximity of the coast conjured up hopes of British aid. 61 For a good introduction to the events of the uprising, see Hasquin, La Belgique française, pp. 152–64. 62 H.G. Brown, ‘The origins of the Napoleonic system of repression’, in M. Broers et al. (eds.), The Napoleonic Empire and the New European Political Culture (Houndmills, 2012), p. 43. 63 Verhaegen, Belgique sous la domination française, III, pp. 518–82 passim. Meanwhile, for a detailed study of the difficulties which the authorities encountered in imposing conscription, see Thys, Conscrits belges, pp. 234–48. Finally, a revealing insight into the depth of popular alienation may be found in B. Wilkin and R. Wilkin (eds.), Fighting for Napoleon: French Soldiers’ Letters, 1799–1815 (Barnsley, 2015), a work based on various collections of correspondence housed in the archives of Liège, the men it focuses on therefore being wholly Belgian, and, what is more, both French-speaking and representative of a region where admiration for the Revolution had initially been very strong.. 64 Oeschli, History of Switzerland, pp. 320–3. For the incident concerning William Tell’s crossbow, see J. Sansom, Travels from Paris through Switzerland and Italy in 1801 and 1802 with Sketches of the Manners and Characters of the Respective Inhabitants (London, 1808), p. 12. 65 Thoumas, Le général Curély, pp. 124–5. 66 Oeschli, History of Switzerland, pp. 343–9. 67 Thiébault, Memoirs, I, pp. 368–70.

226  Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium 68 H. Nelson to J. Stuart, 7 January 1799, cit. N. Harris (ed.), The Dispatches and Letters of Admiral Lord Nelson, (London, 1845), III, pp. 227–8. 69 Amongst the rank and file of the masse, there was much anger at the offensive nature of the war. To quote an anonymous pamphlet written at the time of the revolution of 1820, ‘Offensive war and conquest were attempted with troops into whom [the régime] had already infused the principle . . . that they should not be called upon to fight except in defence of their homes. When, therefore, they were required to pass the frontiers, they replied to their officers, “Did you not tell us that the king was not at war with the French?”’. Anon., ‘An account of the Revolution of Naples during the years 1798 [and] 1799’, New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, 1 (January 1821), p. 41. 70 Davis, Naples and Napoleon, pp. 61–2; C.F. Black, Early Modern Italy: A Social History (London, 2001), pp. 211–12. 71 M.S. Anderson, ‘The Italian reformers’ in H.M. Scott (ed.), Enlightened Absolutism: Reform and Reformers in Later Eighteenth-Century Europe (Houndmills, 1990), p. 71. 72 Davis, Naples and Napoleon, p. 109. 73 Rambaud, Memoirs of the Comte Roger de Damas, p. 272. 74 M. Jullien, ‘Rapport sur la foundation de la République Napolitain’, 15 ventôse, an VII, cit. A.R.C. de Saint-Albin, Championnet, général des armées de la République Française ou les campagnes d’Hollande, de Rome et de Naples (Paris, 1861), p. 348. 75 Anon., ‘Account of the Revolution of Naples’, p. 47. 76 Rambaud, Memoirs of the Comte Roger de Damas, pp. 272–4; Davis, Naples and Napoleon, pp. 79–80. 77 C.D. Giglioli, Naples in 1799: An Account of the Revolution of 1799 and of the Rise and Fall of the Parthenopean Republic (London, 1903), p. 134; Davis, Naples and Napoleon, pp. 88–9; Broers, Napoleon’s Other War, pp. 67–8. At the time, Pezza was generally referred to by his childhood nickname of Fra Diavolo or ‘Brother Devil’. 78 Boulart, Mémoires militaires, p. 42. 79 Ibid., pp. 44–50. 80 Davis, Naples and Napoleon, p. 107; Giglioli, Naples in 1799, pp. 148–9. 81 G. Pepe, Memoirs of General Pepe, 1783–1815 (London, 1846), p. 40. 82 J. North (ed.), ‘Camillo Elefante’s diary detailing events in Barletta in 1799’, , accessed 10 February 2017. 83 Rousset, Recollections of Marshal Macdonald, I, pp. 216–17. 84 Boulart, Mémoires militaires, p. 51. Established by a law of 17 February 1799, the National Guard supposedly consisted of a sedentary home-guard in which every male citizen was enrolled and a twelve-regiment strong field force composed entirely of volunteers. However, very few recruits were obtained for the latter, whilst such men as came forward quickly proved to be highly prone to desertion. See E. Acerbi, ‘The 1799 Campaign in Italy: Macdonald’s wars in central Italy and what he left behind April-June 1799’, , accessed 10 February 2017. 85 Davis, Naples and Napoleon, p, 117. 86 Rambaud, Memoirs of the Comte Roger de Damas, pp. 400–1. 87 North (ed.), ‘Camillo Elefante’s diary detailing events in Barletta in 1799’. 88 Of the various capi, as they were known, perhaps the worst was Gaetano Mammone. Some of the stories told of him are difficult to take at face value, but it is entirely probable that such men enforced their authority by surrounding themselves with a mystique of violence, whilst the specific accusation that he and his followers were personally responsible for the murder of some 700 men, women and children rings all too true. For all this see G. Orlov, Mémoires historiques, politiques et literaires sur le royaume de Naples (Paris, 1819), pp. 374–5. 89 Giglioli, Naples in 1799, pp. 252–74. 90 The role of Lord Nelson in the repression has for obvious reasons been bitterly debated. All that will be said here on the matter is that the arguments of his defenders are far from convincing. See

Resistance and revolt (2): the French imperium  227 A. Lambert, Nelson: Britannia’s God of War (London, 2004), pp. 156–9; E. Vincent, Nelson: Love and War (Newhaven, CT, 2003), pp. 327–34. That said, the ferocity with which the rebels were treated has been much exaggerated: the vast majority of those put on trial were acquitted, while stories that the lazzaroni and their liberators queued up to eat the livers and other body parts of those executed say more about the prejudices of the propertied classes than they do about the behaviour of the crowd. 9 1 R. Long, ‘The French in Tuscany, 1799: the origins of the “Viva Maria”’, Consortium on Revolutionary Europe Proceedings, 12 (1992), pp. 589–603; for details of the equally fierce revolt that broke out in equally occupied Piedmont, see Broers, ‘Revolution as vendetta’, pp. 586–9.

9 The reaction of the ancien régime

Contrary to what still seems a common impression, the French Revolution burst upon a Europe that was anything but a mediaeval fossil. On the contrary, from one end of the continent to the other, rulers of states large and small had been engaged in a more or less bitter struggle with the privileged corporations inherited from the Middle Ages – the Church, the nobility, the provinces, the cities, the universities, the guilds – to construct a new order based on the concept of the unitary state subject to a single code of law and governed by a professional bureaucracy, whilst at the same time struggling by every means available to foment trade and industry, promote scientific enquiry, improve education, tackle the problem of poverty and civilise the mass of the people, the end result being known as the age of enlightened absolutism. According to many older accounts, the outbreak of revolution in France put paid to this earlier period of reform, as monarch after monarch reined in the reformist bureaucrats with whom they had one and all surrounded themselves for fear that the antipathy which the latter’s activities were already promoting among the privileged orders might produce a French-style ‘revolt of the aristocracy’, and thence a wholesale disintegration of society on the lines of that seen in France. According to this model, then, revolution in Paris killed enlightened reform in every other European capital, the ancien régime thereby sliding ever deeper into a bottomless pit of reaction that could not but intensify its opposition to political change. As we shall see, at least in domestic terms, there is some truth in this notion, but it is not one that should be pushed too far. On the contrary, whilst social and political reform were often abandoned, the demands of the war against France meant that military reform remained very much part of the agenda for a number of European states, this being something that in more than one case forced them into perpetuating the wider policies of absolutism. Progress was not always very great and resistance often fierce, but to claim that enlightened absolutism was dead would clearly be an exaggeration. Indeed, at the onset of the French Revolutionary Wars, there were even those who believed that war would give an added impetus to reform. As the future Prussian chief minister, Heinrich vom Stein, wrote to a friend, fighting France would ‘quench many a prejudice . . . hasten many a good thing . . . restore activity and courage, [and] give a new charm to activity’.1 In the event, these hopes were to be disappointed, but let us begin with the issue of reaction. To deny that the French Revolution gave pause to the practitioners of enlightened reform would be foolish, and there is no intention of pushing such an agenda here. On the contrary, in a number of countries, the events of 1789 led to periods of repression that at the very least induced a mood of caution, if they did not put an end to reform altogether. That said, it is possible to push the idea too hard. In this respect, the place to start is the Russia of Catherine the Great. Catherine, beyond doubt, was genuinely horrified by the establishment of a national assembly in France, let alone the developments that followed.2 With the great

The reaction of the ancien régime  229 Pugachev revolt only a few years in the past, she could not look upon the fall of the Bastille without suppressing a shudder, whilst her concerns could not but be inflamed by the heavy demands that the current wars against Sweden and Turkey were placing on Russian society: for the third successive year, it had been necessary to conscript one man in every 100 instead of the more customary one man in every 500.3 As this last shows, Catherine was far from incapable of reflection, and it is quite clear that she blamed much of the trouble on the failures of Louis XVI. In consequence, she initially made no attempt to stop Russia’s tiny handful of newspapers from publishing news of the Revolution, but, as the months went by, so her concerns grew every greater, the publication of a travelogue describing a journey from Saint Petersburg to Moscow that effectively constituted a wholesale denunciation of Russian society leading to the author, a young court-educated nobleman named Alexander Radischev, being banished to Siberia for ten years.4 Meanwhile, Catherine being convinced that Radischev had been in league with the French ambassador, Edmond Genet, the latter was barred from court and all French citizens placed under surveillance.5 It was not just the French who Catherine was scared of, however. On the contrary, at least as important in her eyes were the freemasons. Introduced into Russia in the 1750s by foreign travellers, in line with the situation elsewhere, masonry had quickly become popular among the educated classes.6 Friend of the Enlightenment though she was, Catherine was no fan of this development, regarding freemasonry’s secret nature as little short of an invitation to conspiracy. As if this was not enough, there was also the question of the link with Nikita Panin. An erstwhile confidant of the empress and enthusiastic mason, Panin had fallen from favour in 1781 and died two years later, but he had gathered a sizeable clientele around himself, and Catherine feared that the men concerned might be out for revenge. To complicate matters, Panin had been in charge of the upbringing of Catherine’s son, Paul, and the empress therefore became convinced that a conspiracy was afoot to launch a coup similar to the one that had brought Catherine to power in 1762. In the circumstances, then, it seemed advisable to make a point, and in April 1792 the prominent mason and man of letters Nikolai Novikov was arrested on trumped-up charges of sedition, subjected to a brutal interrogation and sentenced to fifteen years’ fortress imprisonment, three of his leading associates being banished to the provinces.7 Over the next four years – as things turned out, the last of Catherine’s reign – there followed further periodic clamp-downs and occasional trials, as in 1794, when an émigré serving in the naval squadron stationed in the Black Sea was banished to Siberia after being accused of being a French agent. Yet there was no general persecution, whilst the elimination of the Polish problem in 1794 appears significantly to have lightened the atmosphere. As in Russia, meanwhile, so in Spain. When 1789 dawned, the Bourbon régime was in the midst of a severe subsistence crisis that had produced serious riots in Barcelona. Given the clear links between popular distress and political unrest in France, the chief minister, the Count of Floridablanca, responded by imposing a strict ban on any mention of events beyond the Pyrenees in the only two newspapers authorised to cover foreign news. There remained, however, the problem of pamphlets and newspapers published in France, and it was not long before these started making their way across the frontier. In September 1789, then, a prohibition was issued in respect of all such material and the Inquisition mobilised to root it out, Floridablanca’s worries being intensified by a major peasant rising in Galicia in the winter of 1790. In consequence, it was not long before troops were being deployed to form a cordon sanitaire along the frontier, dire threats issued to the effect that anyone caught with seditious material would be tried for treason, the circulation of French works banned unless they had first been approved by

230  The reaction of the ancien régime the authorities, and the substantial French community in Spain made to choose between naturalisation (a process that automatically stripped those concerned of any protection conferred by the status of being a foreign national) and expulsion. However, unbending though this response to the Revolution was, it did not last very long – not least because of concerns that his rigour was jeopardising the security of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, in April 1792 Floridablanca was dismissed and replaced by the equally reformist Count of Aranda – whilst it only extended to the cultural world in general rather patchily, the most that can be said being that, by the closing months of Floridablanca’s rule, the limits within which debate could be conducted had temporarily been significantly constricted.8 Finally, there is the case of Britain. Once it had become clear that 1789 was not 1688 reprised, alarm spread rapidly across much of the political and social élite. Even before war had broken out, 1792 saw the issue of two royal proclamations against ‘seditious writings and publications’, whilst from 1793 onwards a series of Acts of Parliament and other pieces of legislation bit deeply into Britain’s traditional liberties. Thus, in 1794 there came the suspension of habeas corpus; in 1795 the infamous ‘two Acts’ rendered the organisation of political meetings dependent on obtaining the sanction of a magistrate and defined treason in terms so loose that it could be applied to even the mildest opposition to the government or criticism of the political system; in 1797 the Illegal Oaths Act sharply curtailed the principle of freedom of association; and, finally, in 1799 the Combination Act in theory struck a heavy blow against the organisation of trade unions. All this was serious enough, but only in Ireland did the situation deteriorate into a wholesale onslaught: in metropolitan Britain the business of Parliament continued as normal; elections were held at the usual intervals; organisations such as the London Corresponding Society were harassed and kept under surveillance but not shut down; prosecutions for sedition were limited to around 200; and the Combination Act was not only amended in a number of ways favourable to the workers in 1800 but very rarely used, let alone used with any success. Nor, meanwhile, was the cause of reform completely abandoned, the Catholic Relief Acts of 1791 and 1793 marking a major advance in respect of the principle of religious toleration. To quote Eric Evans, then, ‘Pitt’s government can hardly be convicted of instituting a régime of terror – certainly nothing to compare with the activities of the revolutionary régime in France in the years 1792–4.’9 From one end of Europe to the other the picture was the same. Thus, particular cases of real or suspected conspiracy were dealt with harshly, surveillance stepped up and armed rebellion put down without mercy, but there was little here that had not been seen earlier in the century – the treatment meted out to Ireland in 1798 had been foreshadowed by the treatment meted out to the Highlands of Scotland in 1746, whilst the fate suffered by the leading members of the highly aristocratic Tavora family – in brief, torture and public execution – when they were accused of instigating an attempt to assassinate Joseph I of Portugal in September 1758, was as least as bad as that suffered by Martinovic and his fellow conspirators in Austria.10 In Spain, 1775 brought the case of Pablo de Olavide, a leading writer and administrator who was tried by the Inquisition and thrown in prison after clashing with the Church over his opposition to the establishment of a new monastery in a town in his jurisdiction.11 In Bavaria, 1785 had seen the complete suppression of the secret society known as the Illuminati, a sect with strong links to German freemasonry that believed that society should be placed under the rule of scientists, philosophers and men of letters.12 And, finally, even in Prussia, otherwise a bastion of the Enlightenment, although the issues involved are rather more complex than the bare facts of the case might suggest, July 1788 had seen the promulgation of an edict that in effect placed the teaching of religion, whether via sermons or catechesis, in a very tight straitjacket that was seemingly designed to eliminate free-thinking of any sort.13

The reaction of the ancien régime  231 In short, the French Revolution did not in and of itself produce a dramatic change in the intensity of political repression, and from this it follows that it is difficult to argue that it also foreshortened the space for innovation and debate.14 Much more important here, in fact, is a theme which is deeply entangled with the history of enlightened absolutism. Across eighteenth-century Europe, one of the aspirations of its rulers had been to break the power of the nobility by stripping it of its manorial jurisdiction, ending its numerous corporate privileges, tapping its resources for the benefit of the state, breaking the link between title and territory and abolishing feudalism. In achieving these objectives, the ‘military revolution’ of the seventeenth century had been a valuable ally in that it had effectively given the crown a monopoly of armed force while at the same time making the price of military service, which remained the pre-eminent hall-mark of the nobleman, incorporation into an institution that overtly asserted the primacy of the monarch. The extent to which this programme was pushed varied from state to state, but in most of Europe it was a source of great tension, many nobles being ever more unhappy with what was widely known as ‘ministerial despotism’: if the Tavora family was not guilty of attempted regicide, they were certainly guilty of opposing the influence of Joseph I’s chief minister, the Marqués de Pombal. By 1789, such recalcitrance, and, with it, its power to derail ministerial reform, was widely recognised, not least because of the role played by the so-called ‘revolt of the aristocracy’ in the convocation of the Estates General, but in 1792 the monarchs of Europe received a fresh object lesson in the lengths to which noble ire could go. We come here to the murder of Gustavus III of Sweden. A typical enlightened absolutist, since coming to power in 1772, Gustavus had patronised the arts, greatly interested himself in the development of trade and industry, introduced a degree of religious liberty, reformed the code of criminal justice and, perhaps above all, abolished most of the privileges of the nobility. This last, however, had been greatly resented by the nobles, and the net result was the assassination of the king by a guards officer on 29 March 1792.15 If the fate of Gustavus III was a salutary lesson in the fate of monarchs who pushed the nobility too far, the events that took place in the domains of Joseph II of Austria were equally worrying. Particularly with respect to modern-day Belgium, these have already been touched upon, but in brief, Joseph II aspired not just to social and economic modernisation, but also the reconstruction of the Habsburg monarchy as a centralised German-speaking state administered by a professional bureaucracy recruited entirely on merit and financed by a common system of taxation.16 In pushing these policies, he could not but run into furious opposition and in 1789 this exploded into life, not just in the Austrian Netherlands but also in the Tyrol and Hungary, Joseph’s position being further undermined by a brusque, not to say arrogant, disposition that led him to eschew all calls for moderation and alienate even those who wanted to collaborate with his reforms.17 Setting aside Belgium, the chief focus of the unrest was Hungary, whose separate status Joseph had very publicly refused to recognise by declining to be crowned as her king, saw riots in which many government decrees were ritually burned by the local hangman, together with a de facto tax strike, not to mention loud demands for the convocation of the diet and even a plot to break away from Austrian rule altogether.18 As one English traveller recalled: National hatred of the Germans, with patriotism, arose more violent than ever. Everything German was despised and [Germans] were liable to be insulted if not protected by . . . Hungarian dress . . . The more violent were for carrying things with so high a hand as to consider, as Joseph never was crowned, the Austrian succession to be at an end. Many called for a new . . . bill of rights, and it is certain one was really drawn up in which the

232  The reaction of the ancien régime sovereign was to be deprived of the right of nominating to the public offices and all the charges . . . were to be given to the nobility: the sovereign was not even to appoint the officers of the army or to fix their pay; he was to be compelled to reside in Hungary and the government of the kingdom was to be entirely separate from [that of] the other part of the Austrian dominions; he was to have no veto in the legislation and the states [i.e. estates] were to have the privilege of assembling without his order. Taxing the land was not even to be thought of; the estates were to be allowed to form treaties of commerce without the consent of the king; and coining was not to be the prerogative of the Crown. Peace and war were not to depend on the king, nor was he to form treaties without the consent of the states . . . But the moderates were content that affairs should be put in the state in which they were in on the Emperor Joseph’s accession to the throne, and these, fortunately both for sovereign and people, prevailed.19 So much for Hungary. If events in the highly privileged Tyrol did not go nearly as far, there was sufficient discontent for the governor of the region, Wenzel von Sauer, to warn Vienna that, although by no means an imminent prospect, revolt was very likely unless the régime moderated its position.20 The result was one of the most humiliating episodes in the history of European monarchy in the eighteenth century: exhausted and ill, Joseph capitulated on every front and most of his reforms were either frozen or put into reverse. By then, however, the damage had been done. As another visitor to Austria noted, the ability of the state to engage in reform of any sort was deeply compromised, whilst Hungary, especially, remained very disaffected. Thus: It was a favourite plan of the Emperor Joseph II to blend all the subjects of his hereditary dominions into one indiscriminate mass and to govern them by a uniform system of laws . . . The mutual antipathy of the Hungarians towards the Austrians has certainly not been diminished by the . . . failure of this scheme. It was evident that the views of Joseph were relinquished, not from the conviction of error, but from the hopelessness of success.21 Absolutism, then, had its limits, and this was something of which no European monarch could be unaware. Meanwhile, in the circumstances of the moment, to risk doing anything that threatened the stability of government and society alike seemed doubly unwise, and, where possible, states were therefore inclined to forego reforms that might otherwise have been regarded as being highly desirable. This was particularly the case with Prussia. Thanks to its limited participation in the fighting, the Prussian army had not been much tested as a fighting force and had therefore emerged from the war with its reputation intact, while it could in any case feel that such reforms as the introduction of fusilier battalions in 1787 had gone a long way towards enhancing its fighting capacities in the areas where reform could be deemed to be necessary. As Carl von Clausewitz complained of one General von Rüchel, then, he ‘was convinced that . . . determined Prussian troops, employing Frederician tactics, could overrun everything that had emerged from the unsoldierly French Revolution’.22 On the home front, too, all could be deemed to be well, the promulgation of a new code of law entitled the Allgemeines Staatsrecht in 1794 having brought, if not equality before the law, then at the very least a considerable advance in the administration of justice, whilst Frederick William had in a variety of ways reduced the tax burden on the populace; even under Frederick the Great, meanwhile, Prussia had enjoyed de facto freedom of speech and seen legal reforms that limited manorial jurisdiction to civil cases only, forced the nobility

The reaction of the ancien régime  233 to staff their tribunals with qualified judges and gave the peasantry a right of appeal to the royal courts.23 But, above all, diplomacy had provided a useful substitute for reform: by withdrawing into a neutrality that was seemingly guaranteed by France, Prussia was able to avoid internal conflicts that would have proved all but impossible to contain. To quote Christopher Clark, then, ‘There was more . . . to neutrality than simply the avoidance of war with France.’24 In all this, the complacency of Frederick William II, a ruler who prided himself on his enlightened views, played a considerable role, but even the accession to the throne of the wellmeaning and thoroughly humanitarian Frederick William III in 1797 brought little change to the situation: extremely cautious, not to say timid, the new monarch made some effort to ameliorate the position of the serfs by, for example, allowing them to substitute cash payments for the labour services required of them by their masters, but further than that he would not go. As Napoleon later remarked, As a private citizen, the King of Prussia is a loyal, good and honest man, but in his political capacity, he is a man by nature governed by necessity who is at the mercy of anyone who is possessed of force and is prepared to raise his hand.25 This does not mean that there was no interest in reform whatsoever. On the contrary, enlightened officials such as Heinrich vom Stein became ever more concerned at the form taken by the governance of the state. In this respect, Prussia was particularly backward. Executive power was in the hands of the eight ministers who made up the General Directory of War and Domain, but the tasks of these men were apportioned in a most confusing fashion with some dealing with all matters of state as they affected individual provinces and others dealing with one particular matter as it affected the whole kingdom. For historical reasons, meanwhile, the important province of Silesia had its own administration, whilst the army was almost entirely independent (although the latter was theoretically covered by a department of the General Directory, in practice, this last had almost no power, responsibility for matters pertaining to the military being shared by the entirely separate supreme council of war, and the king’s own military advisers).26 At the head of the whole edifice was the king and his personal suite, the kabinett, the ministers who made up the General Directory having no authority of their own. As the state council that was supposed to draw all the threads of the system together rarely met, all this made for immense confusion, and all the more so as Frederick William combined a refusal to delegate authority with inordinate procrastination – as even his semi-official hagiographer, the court chaplain, Rulemann Eylert, had to admit, ‘It is not to be denied that his diffidence and reserve made him appear distrustful of himself and his tender scruples . . . anxious and uneasy.’27 In fairness to the Prussian élites, there were plenty of observers who were increasingly concerned that, should a clash with France come – something of whose inevitability they were completely convinced – Prussia would find herself to be completely outclassed. In the civilian world, one such was Heinrich vom Stein. Appointed Minister of Trade in 1804, he was deeply critical of what he found, remarking that ‘a necessary consequence of the incompleteness of the arrangement and the choice of persons is the dissatisfaction of the inhabitants of this country with the government, the decline of the sovereign’s reputation in public opinion and the necessity of an alteration’.28 In the army, too, there was much concern that all was not well, the leading voice here being an officer in the Hanoverian army named Gerhard von Scharnhorst, who had become convinced of the importance of the principle of the nation-in-arms. Transferring to Prussian service in 1801, Scharnhorst

234  The reaction of the ancien régime immediately submitted a sheaf of proposals for reform to Frederick William and helped form the so-called ‘Military Society’, a group of like-minded officers who met on a weekly basis to discuss new currents in military affairs. Aside from Scharnhorst, those involved included Carl von Clausewitz, Ludwig von Boyen, August von Gneisenau and Carl von Grolman, all four of whom were to go on to play a prominent part in Prussia’s eventual war of liberation against Napoleon. Needless to say, the general theme was the subjection of the army to scathing criticism, much emphasis being placed on the need for more flexible tactics and a greater proportion of light infantry – indeed, preferably, a ‘universal’ infantry whose every unit could fight as skirmishers or in close order as required – the logical corollary of such demands being better treatment of the common soldier and, indeed, the creation of a soldiery imbued with patriotic enthusiasm. From here, of course, it was but a short step to rallying behind the standard of the nation-in-arms, the reformers also putting forward plans for universal conscription and the formation of a citizen’s militia, Scharnhorst, in particular, arguing that only thus could Prussia ensure her security. However, this was not an end to it, for, if the population as a whole was going to be expected to fight, it followed that it would have to be given something to fight for. Implicit in such ideas was therefore a wholesale programme of political and social reform encompassing compulsory primary education, religious emancipation, political representation, the abolition of serfdom, the opening of the officer corps – hitherto almost entirely a preserve of the junker – to all classes of society and an end to all restrictions on occupation and the ownership of property.29 Progress, however, was extremely limited. Still a junior figure and something of an outsider – like Scharnhorst, he was not a native of Prussia – Stein was unable to obtain a hearing at all, while in the military world things were not much better. At best, the Military Society never had more than 200 members, while many officers reacted to the ideas of the reformers with alarm and hostility. As for Frederick William, whilst not unaware of the need for change, he was suspicious of anything that might subvert the social order or undermine the state. As a result, little was done, whilst even that little – the decision to train the third rank of each infantry battalion as skirmishers, the formation of a militia composed of time-expired soldiers, the creation of both permanent divisions and an embryonic general staff – was not undertaken until the very eve of the clash with France which Stein, Scharnhorst and the other reformers had always been convinced would come. In Prussia, then, temporarily at least, diplomacy produced the luxury of inaction. Other states, by contrast were in a very different position, but, even then, the extent to which they were prepared to engage with reform varied according to circumstance. In Austria, too, then, little progress was achieved. Here consideration must first be given to the character of Francis II. No tyrant, genuinely humane, by no means unintelligent, simple in his personal tastes and style, assiduous in his attention to his duties, sympathetic to many of the aims of Joseph II, deeply paternalistic and very much concerned to give his subjects good governance, the upheavals of the period 1788–90 and the coming of the French Revolutionary Wars had yet left him in no doubt of the need to preserve internal stability. Meanwhile, he was infinitely more cautious than Joseph, being much inclined to put off difficult decisions and to listen to men who were themselves circumspect in their disposition, a prime example being his erstwhile tutor, Prince Colloredo, who was until 1805 secretary of his personal kabinett. Distrusting the consequences even of Josephinianism, he was therefore hardly the man to preside over a fundamental recasting of the institutions of the Habsburg state.30 Under Francis II, therefore, political and social development was extremely inhibited, if not actually frozen. With regard to Hungary, the compromise worked out under Leopold II in 1791 was respected, whilst further concessions were made when Francis was

The reaction of the ancien régime  235 crowned King of Hungary in 1792. And with regard to the rest of the Habsburg domains, the provincial diets were reinstated and the administrative changes made by Joseph II set aside. More generally, if the law granting toleration to the Protestants and Jews was left in place, the nobility’s position in the state was recognised, the threat to their privileges lifted, their economic interests conciliated – they were, for example, allowed to augment the amount of labour service demanded of the peasantry – and their claim to give the law to their estates left untouched. As for the intellectual atmosphere, the empire became marked by rigid censorship, police surveillance and clerical indoctrination. With many men of letters themselves hastily backing away from support for reform, there thus perished the vibrant intellectual movement that had underpinned Viennese absolutism before 1792 and might now have been crucial in pushing through further reform. As one princess lamented, ‘It is as if everyone has been struck dumb.’31 Yet, for all that, it was not long before it had become clear that abandoning Josephinianism could not be reconciled with Austria’s needs as a great power. In this respect, three problems presented themselves. First of all, Vienna did not possess the finances necessary to sustain a major conflict. In 1790 the national debt already amounted to 399,000,000 guilders, and yet the land tax that was the chief source of revenue did not draw adequately upon the resources of the nobility, especially in Hungary. In consequence, Vienna had no option but to rely on a mixture of foreign and domestic loans, of which the latter involved the issue of large quantities of paper money or bankozettel. The result was all too predictable. Despite a slightly less intransigent attitude on the part of Hungary and appeals for voluntary donations, between 1792 and 1801 the national debt rose by 57 per cent, matters being made still worse by galloping inflation (by 1803 prices in Vienna were 300–400 per cent higher than their 1790 level). As a result of these factors, misery was widespread and the Habsburg forces reduced to a most pitiable state.32 The second issue was manpower. Volunteers were accepted for all branches of the army, and units recruited in areas which were exempted from conscription altogether (i.e. the Tyrol and Lombardy) relied on them completely.33 However, in Galicia and most of the hereditary Austrian lands – the recruiting areas of the so-called ‘German’ regiments – all males were theoretically subject to conscription by ballot, though in fact there were the usual exemptions on the grounds of status and occupation. Meanwhile, in Hungary, men were drafted in accordance with a generally very limited figure agreed by the diet; in the Military Frontier every male inhabitant was liable to serve in the so-called Croat units – light-infantry regiments only called out in time of war; and, last but not least, in time of invasion, the Tyrol was expected to mobilise its traditional home guard. Yet in practice none of this was sufficient. Because service was for life, the army could never gain sufficient volunteers, whilst conscription was hated by rich and poor alike. Joseph II had struggled to tighten up the system in the German lands, end the exemption of such areas as the Tyrol and force the Hungarians at the very least to increase the size of their contribution, but to no avail, having been forced to back down by massive resistance. Meanwhile, the demands of the Military Frontier had been stirring up ever deeper resentment among its inhabitants, only 13,000 men out of a theoretical total of 57,000 appearing for service in 1792.34 Much reliance therefore had to be placed on attracting recruits in the minor states of the Holy Roman Empire, at least one-half of the manpower of the ‘German’ units coming from this source. Even with this assistance, the army had been badly understrength in 1792, mustering only 225,000 men out of a theoretical total of 300,000.35 As the wars went on, matters grew still more difficult. Popular resistance to conscription increased sharply with at least 27,000 conscripts fleeing their homes to avoid being drafted, and recruitment fell away in

236  The reaction of the ancien régime Germany. Casualties, too, were enormous: taking the Italian campaign of 1796 alone, this cost a minimum of 50,000 in terms of dead, wounded and prisoners of war, to which must be added the heavy toll imposed by disease. In the face of this situation, minor increases in the Hungarian quota and the formation in Vienna of a few battalions of patriotic volunteers when the city was threatened with attack in 1797 made little difference, the army never succeeding in attaining its theoretical peace-time strength, let alone building up the sort of numbers which it really required. So difficult was the situation facing the Austrians by 1799 that the special envoy who had been dispatched to Vienna, Lord Minto, came to the conclusion that the want of aggression that the Austrians had shown in Switzerland after the first battle of Zurich was the direct result of want of manpower. As he wrote to William Wickham on 14 September: I will freely confess what I believe to have been the real and operating motive in Thugut’s mind for the calamitous . . . fault he committed in arresting the progress of the Archduke since the first occupation of Zurich. The reason he gives appears to me so bad that I think he would not avow it so distinctly as he does if it were not true. His grand policy . . . is to spare his army . . . He argues very openly on that point and tells you of the difficulties he had to encounter in forming [it], of the 80,000 recruits he must now provide . . . of this being Austria’s seventh campaign of the war . . . This is, I am persuaded, the real account of the matter.36 Added to the issues of money and manpower, there was also that of the empire’s extremely cumbersome system of governance. At the top of the system was the purely advisory or council of state. Immediately below this, as the only three bodies other than the council of state whose writ ran to every territory of the monarchy, were the Court and State Chancellery, which dealt with foreign policy; the Commerce Directory, which regulated foreign trade; and the Hofkriegsrat, or Palace War Council, which managed the army, presided over the system of military justice, and administered the Military Frontier. Below these again were the Bohemian-and-Austrian Court Chancellery, which presided over the administration of Galicia, the Czech lands – Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia – modern-day Slovenia (then divided between the Duchy of Carniola and the counties of Istria and Gorizia) and the various archduchies, duchies and counties that (with the exception of Salzburg, then an independent bishopric), constitute modern-day Austria, namely Inner Austria, Carinthia, Styria, the Tyrol and Vorarlberg; the separate Chancelleries of Hungary and Transylvania; and the Hofkammer, or Palace Treasury, which collected the revenue from all the crown lands of the empire. At a lower level, each province had a council of administration known as a gubernium, and a diet, with one or two exceptions, recruited entirely from the nobility, which had no legislative power as such but could petition the throne for the redress of grievances and also had the right to sanction taxation and recruitment to the army.37 On the surface, this system does not seem so inappropriate – most areas of the empire, after all, were subject to, first, a chancellery and then a gubernium – but, in practice, it did not function effectively, not the least of the problems being the fact that, as the various chancelleries handled every aspect of government business other than foreign affairs, defence and finance, they became desperately overburdened. Nor was the matter ended even then, for all decisions had to be referred to Francis II for his personal endorsement, this being a matter that was of some concern given the emperor’s habits of spending several days a week doing nothing but receiving an endless string of petitioners. As can be imagined, the result was constant delay: when the Archduke Charles became War Minister in 1801

The reaction of the ancien régime  237 (see below), he discovered that there were 187,000 documents awaiting attention in the Hofkriegsrat alone, not to mention another 2,000 that required signature by Francis II. Indeed, the whole system was weighed down by paperwork, Leopold II complaining bitterly of its ‘many useless, superfluous and burdensome reports, returns and accounts’ and Thugut that it was ‘overburdened with details and military pedantries’.38 Compared with these problems, the various deficiencies of the army itself –inadequate military education, noble predominance in the officer corps, ageing commanders and outdated field guns – were relatively insignificant: after all, the Austrians won repeated victories in Germany and all but defeated Napoleon himself at Marengo in 1800. Yet, although they were hardly the heart of the matter, it was at first only in such terms that reform was discussed. In the mid-1790s, for example, we therefore find such officers as Baron Mack and the Archduke Charles advocating more flexible tactics (though even then continuing to stress the pre-eminence of the line) and the adoption of a corps system. However, no thought was given to the wider aspects of reform, Austria’s defeats customarily being attributed to the failings of the various generals involved. The idea that the army should be composed of anything but a force of long-term professional soldiers attracted particular hostility. In the words of the Archduke Charles, for example, ‘Popular risings, arming the people, rapidly gathering volunteers and such, can never provide reliable troops.’39 When Francis established a special reform commission in 1798, then, the only result was the formation of a few new regiments.40 Yet, as witness the crushing defeats of 1800, this was not enough, Francis in consequence appointing the Archduke Charles president of the Hofkriegsrat and ordering him to formulate a detailed and comprehensive plan of reform. In taking on this task, however, Charles was immediately confronted by an insoluble impasse in that raising the extra men and money that Austria needed necessarily implied a return to the very Josephinianism that had caused such chaos scarcely ten years before. Such a move being unacceptable even to himself, let alone his elder brother – in March 1804 he told Joseph that Frenchstyle universal conscription would ‘ruin industry and prosperity and disrupt the established order’41 – in so far as the army was concerned, he therefore contented himself with minor measures designed to alleviate the pressing need for more men and more money. On the one hand, then, the Hungarian diet was approached with a request that it increase the number of men it maintained in the ranks from 56,000 to 64,000 men, introduce conscription and vote through an immediate one-off cash contribution of 2,000,000 guilders. And, on the other, in order to encourage voluntary