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About this book

The most violent aspects of the Revolution, the most costly in life, were the result of the conflict between Revolution and Counter-Revolution. A large part of the French people felt betrayed by a Revolution which did nothing for them and which represented an attack on their way of life. The rebellions which this provoked, and their savage repression, marked the political map of France for over a century. At the same time the doctrines of Counter-Revolution, which offered a positive alternative to the Revolution, were being developed in exile by royal and aristocratic migrs. This book brings together the latest work on a subject which is central to an understanding not just of the French Revolution but of much French political controversy over the past two centuries.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
The French Revolution never had the unified support of the whole French people. From its origins it stirred up formidable enemies, and each stage added yet another layer to the range of opponents. The conflict of Revolution and Counter-Revolution was to be one of the enduring legacies of the period, helping to shape French politics for another century or more, determining the attitudes of regions and classes, as well as historical interpretations. Distortion and misunderstanding were built into revolutionary conflict from the beginning. Who was, or was not, a friend of the Revolution lay very much in the eye of the beholder so that at some stage or other almost everybody could find themselves denounced as a counter-revolutionary agent. Such a charge came easily to Revolutionary governments, who tended to see their opponents, at least during the more intense phases of the Revolution, in fairly simple terms: the peasantry must have been led astray by aristocrats and priests; the émigrés were traitorous relics of a tyrannical past. That neat solution came naturally to politicians for whom the Revolution was a stage in the advance of humanity towards a more enlightened and just world and therefore anyone who resisted this was more than a traitor, he was also wicked. At a simpler level it also fitted into the thinking of a still credulous age, where conspirators lurked in the most unlikely places, and where disaster was always blamed on human misdeeds.
James Roberts

1. The Politics of the Emigration

Abstract
On 17 July 1789 a few small groups of Court nobility left France and went into exile. The most prominent figure among them was the king’s youngest brother, the comte d’Artois. The others included the prince de Condé and his son the duc de Bourbon, and Artois’ sons the ducs de Berry and d’Angoulême. They left in part because their schemes and policies had collapsed with the fall of the Bastille and the subsequent recall of Necker, but also because a temporary withdrawal for their own safety was thought advisable. It was a fairly light-hearted, even fashionable, departure to allow the political temperature to cool. ‘We’ll be back in three months’, Artois told Esterhazy at the frontier. ‘We expected to spend three months at Tournay and then to return to find everything as it was’, remembered the marquise de Falaizeau. In fact, most of those who left at this time were not to return, if at all, for the next twenty-five years.
James Roberts

2. The Popular Counter-Revolution

Abstract
The encouragement of rebellions within France was not only essential if the allies were to take the émigrés seriously, as well as being a condition of any British support, it also made military and political sense. In the end it was the policy which was to succeed, although in considerably changed circumstances. The émigrés were anyway convinced that the French people had been led astray in their search for novelties by a handful of wicked men. Once these were suitably punished then a volatile nation would return gratefully to the traditional order for which they really hankered. This illusion was not to be dented even by the hostile reception given to the émigrés by the peasantry during the brief invasion of 1792. It was not, however, just their usual infinite capacity for self-delusion which was responsible for this. The princes for the most part were deeply ignorant of provincial France. They had to rely for information on spy networks such as the Paris Agency which passed on its observations to d’Antraigues. Not only was it often pure fiction to start with, it was selected by d’Antraigues to reinforce his own opinions. In addition, the princes received information from various disaffected individuals who found their way to their Court from rebellious areas. They always had a particular case to present and always gave a highly optimistic view of their chances of success.
James Roberts

3. The Emigration and the Allies

Abstract
The entry of Britain into the war against the French in February 1793 shifted the whole focus of the exterior Counter-Revolution’s efforts to secure allies. Britain became the mainstay of the alliances against revolutionary and Napoleonic France, and the paymaster of the continental war. The princes were therefore increasingly obliged to look to Britain for help and to give way, reluctantly, to the principles on which its policies were based.
James Roberts

4. The Defeat of the Interior Counter-Revolution

Abstract
Both the émigré leadership and the revolutionary governments made assumptions about popular royalism which clouded their judgement either in trying to suppress it or take advantage of it. Both made the same error in failing to recognise its genuine popular roots. It was an autonomous movement, with its own leadership, its own aspirations and grievances. Revolutionary governments readily fell back on a conspiracy theory, or a peasantry corrupted by superstition, priesthood and aristocracy. This seemed the only explanation of such blindness to the benefits of Revolution. The answer to this, as it appeared to the often desperate authorities, was the wholesale slaughter or removal of the population, just as Fréron and Barras had advised in 1793 in the case of the people of Marseilles, an equally inexplicable and intractable problem. The lessons had to be painfully learned before the right combination of military force and political concession brought the risings in the West to an end. The Midi was to remain, even more than the West, a focal point of active popular royalism well into the restoration period although, since Counter-Revolution did not become an expression of its cultural identity and it was a more divided region, it was not marked to the same enduring extent by the revolutionary upheavals.
James Roberts

5. The Bourbons Restored

Abstract
As the allied armies slowly advanced into France early in 1814, every step contested by Napoleon, it was by no means clear what regime should succeed the Empire. The triumph of the Counter-Revolution was not at all assured. The comte de Vitrolles, a Provençal nobleman who in 1814 took it on himself to plead the cause of the Bourbons among the allies, found that neither they nor the parts of eastern France he travelled through had much enthusiasm for the exiles. The allies, in fact, had no fixed or agreed views on the issue. The British, from the time of their entry into the war in 1793, had consistently maintained the principle that whatever regime was established in France must have the consent of the majority of the people, be stable and peaceful. In practice this had come to mean a constitutional monarchy, although as Vitrolles realised, this was dependent on a British parliament and public opinion which was not particularly sympathetic to the former monarchy. In the absence of any clear indication of support inside France the British were unwilling to commit themselves. The allies took a similar line. ‘Let France declare itself’, was the core of Metternich’s reply. Vitrolles was shocked to find that the Tsar was even talking of a Republic. There was little evidence in the allied camp in 1814 of that later emphasis on ‘legitimacy’ which was to underpin the actions of the Holy Alliance.
James Roberts

6. Charles X

Abstract
The reign of Charles X lasted for just six years. It is easy to see it as a downhill slide into inevitable revolution. Nothing could be further from the truth. There was little that was inevitable about the fall of the Bourbon monarchy — the opponents of Charles’ policies were a long way from being revolutionaries and until almost the last moment some compromise was possible. Charles came to the throne in an atmosphere of general goodwill, an overwhelmingly royalist Chamber, and an opposition to the dynasty which undoubtedly existed but which was unorganised, unfocused and small.
James Roberts

Conclusion

Abstract
Lefebvre considered that the Revolution was not decisively won until 1830. Up to that point its achievements were uncertain and insecure. Much depends on what is understood by the Revolution. Lefebvre’s interpretation was the victory of the ‘notables’ by which he meant principally the upper bourgeoisie. The Restoration excluded them from full participation in government but under the July Monarchy, which ‘brought to power a prince who accepted the Revolution’s principles’ they now enjoyed its political fruits. Those who did so remained, of course, almost as restricted in numbers as under the Bourbon Restoration. There was a slight widening of the channels of advancement and, as a result, the social composition of court circles, and the upper reaches of administration, and politics. The notable class, in the sense not just of the upper bourgeoisie but of the rich and influential elements of French society, now established that dominance they were to enjoy for much of the century.
James Roberts
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