In the late eighteenth century, Collioure was a small, bustling Catalan town, most of whose 2,300 inhabitants survived from wine-growing, fishing and the coastal trade — whether legal or clandestine — within the Mediterranean. Catalans, like the Flemish, Alsatians, Provençaux and Basques of other frontier regions, had directly felt the shattering impact of the Republic’s desperate struggle for survival. With the local French garrison, the people of Collioure had resisted a Spanish siege from May to December 1793 before succumbing and being occupied until Jacobin armies recaptured the town in May 1794. In January 1795, the mayor wrote to the Convention of the effects of occupation: ‘whether by our brave brothers in arms or by the slaves of the tyrant of Castille. The fury that the latter demonstrated against the poor inhabitants during their six months’ stay in the commune was carried to the limit, their countryside ruined, their crops torn out, their houses pillaged or destroyed.’1 His urgent plea captured the nationwide longing for a politics of reconstruction and, above all, for an end to the exactions of war; he hoped, too, for a resolution of the deadly schism in the Church (Collioure’s ten priests and monks had emigrated) and of the problem of the émigrés (84 Colliourencs had fled to Spain in May 1794), and perhaps also for the implementation of the Jacobin Constitution of 1793 which had been translated into Catalan and enthusiastically received during the siege.
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