The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook

By Philip G. Dwyer; Peter McPhee | Go to book overview

12

REVOLT IN THE VENDÉE

The revolt breaks out, 5 March 1793

At the beginning of March 1793, riots broke out in the west of France. It was the beginning of a revolt that soon gained six departments, including the Vendée, the name by which the revolt is usually referred to. In the following extract from the memoirs of Jeanne Ambroise de Sapinaud (1736-1820), the widow of a local noble whose family was closely involved in the revolt, we clearly see not only some of the reasons for the uprising, but also the tendency of peasants in revolt to seek out nobles to 'lead' them. Note also the manner in which the rebels obtained weapons at the beginning of their struggle.

The war in the Vendée commenced on 5 March 1793. Peasants rose in revolt near Buffelière [we do not know which village she is referring to]; they then scattered into the neighbouring parishes and came to find M. Sapinaud de Bois-Huguet, better known by the name la Verrie. 'We take you', they told him, 'as our general, and you will march at our head.' Sapinaud tried to make them understand the misfortunes that they were going to bring down on themselves and the Vendée. 'My friends', he said, 'you will meet more than your match. What can we do? Only one department against ninety-two! We shall be crushed. I do not speak for myself; I hate life since I was witness to all the crimes and the barbarities which our unfortunate patrie has accumulated, and I would rather die at your head, fighting for my God and my king, than be dragged to some prison as they have done to all my peers. Believe me, go home, and do not destroy yourselves uselessly.' Those brave peasants, far from yielding to his reason, showed him that they could never submit to a government that had taken their priests away, and had imprisoned their king. 'They have deceived us', they said; 'why do they send us constitutional priests? They are not the priests who attended our fathers on their death beds, and we do not want them to bless our children.' My brother-in-law did not know what side

-97-

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The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • A Note on the Revolutionary Calendar xv
  • Chronology xvi
  • 1 - The Ancien RÉgime Challenged 1
  • 2 - Revolutionary Action 16
  • 3 - Creating a Regenerated France 24
  • 4 - Exclusions and Inclusions 35
  • 5 - The Church and the Revolutionary State 43
  • 6 - Monarchy and Revolution 51
  • 7 - The Revolution at War 60
  • 8 - The End of the Monarchy 68
  • 9 - The Peasantry and the Rural Environment 80
  • 10 - A New Civic Culture 84
  • 11 - The Republic at War 90
  • 12 - Revolt in the VendÉe 97
  • 13 - The Terror at Work 103
  • 14 - The Thermidorian Reaction 115
  • 15 - The Directory 121
  • 16 - Bonaparte 128
  • 17 - Law and Order 140
  • 18 - Rule by Plebiscite 149
  • 19 - Governing the Empire 155
  • 20 - Resistance and Repression 169
  • 21 - The Russian Catastrophe 175
  • 22 - Collapse 187
  • 23 - The Hundred Days 193
  • 24 - French Men and Women Reflect 202
  • Index 209
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