Gendarmes and the State in Nineteenth-Century Europe

By Clive Emsley | Go to book overview

5
'ONE OF THE MOST SURE GUARANTEES OF ORDER': THE GENDARMERIE AND THE RESTORATION

During, and partly as a direct result of the quarter of a century of revolutionary upheavals, wars, and the massive administrative change in France between 1789 and 1815, the Gendarmerie had been increased more than fourfold. On Napoleon's fall it provided the French state with a much greater penetration into the provinces and, by its greater presence in the towns and villages and its patrols along the roads, it gave the French people a greater awareness of the state, particularly the state's demands and its claims to impose and to maintain its definition of order. The restored Bourbons changed little of the legal and administrative structures which had developed in their absence; the Gendarmerie survived along with everything else. Of course, the restored regime could point to the long tradition of its ancien régime progenitor, the maréchaussée. In the summer of 1815 there were discussions on whether or not to revive the old name, but the decision was taken to keep the new.

As for the occasional wrongdoings that can be attributed to the Gendarmerie, these were principally attributable also to the old maréchaussée which was the basis of the forces of public order in the very worst of times. The Gendarmerie that currently exists, as a result of the pains taken over its composition and the care given to its morale, can be regarded as one of the most sure guarantees of order and internal tranquillity.1

The Gendarmerie's role had developed considerably from that of its predecessor. Le Blanc's reform one hundred years before appears to have been sparked by anxieties about the numbers of vagrants. The

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1
AG MR 1957, Liasse 'Gendarmerie, 1814 à 1830', Rapport sur la dénomination de Maréchaussée à substituer à celle de Gendarmerie (no date).

-81-

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