The French Revolution— Volume 2

Author: Hippolyte Adolphe Taine


The Jacobins of Avignon.— How they obtain recruits. - -Their robberies in the Comtat. — The Avignon municipality in flight or in prison. — Murder of Lécuyer and the Glacière massacre. — Entry of the murderers, supported by their Marseilles allies. — Jacobin dictatorship in Vaucluse and the Buches-du-Rhône.

Nowhere else in France was there another nest of brigands like it: not that a great misery might have produced a more savage uprising; on the contrary, the Comtat, before the Revolution, was a land of plenty. There was no taxation by the Pope; the taxes were very light, and were expended on the spot. "For one or two pennies, one here could have meat, bread, and wine."[37] But, under the mild and corrupt administration of the Italian legates, the country had become "the safe asylum of all the rogues in France, Italy, and Genoa, who by means of a trifling sum paid to the Pope’s agents, obtained protection and immunity." Smugglers and receivers of stolen goods abounded here in order to break through the lines of the French customs. "Bands of robbers and assassins were formed, which the vigorous measures of the parliaments of Aix and Grenoble could not wholly extirpate. Idlers, libertines, professional gamblers,"[38] kept-cicisbeos, schemers, parasites, and adventurers, mingle with men with branded shoulders, the veterans "of vice and crime, "the scapegraces of the Toulon and Marseilles galleys." Ferocity here is hidden in debauchery, like a serpent hidden in its own slime, here all that is required is some chance event and this bad place will be transformed into a death trap.

The Jacobin leaders, Tournal, Rovère, the two Duprats, the two Mainvielles, and Lécuyer, readily obtain recruits in this sink. - They begin, aided by the rabble of the town and of its suburbs, peasants enemies of the octroi, vagabonds opposed to order of any kind, porters and watermen armed with scythes, turnspits and clubs, by exciting seven or eight riots. Then they drive off the legate, force the Councils to resign, hang the chiefs of the National Guard and of the conservative party,[39] and take possession of the municipal offices. —After this their band increases to the dimensions of an army, which, with license for its countersign and pillage for its pay, is the same as that of Tilly and Wallenstein, "a veritable roving Sodom, at which the ancient city would have stood aghast." Out of 3,000 men, only 200 belong in Avignon; the rest are composed of French deserters, smugglers, fugitives from justice, vagrant foreigners, marauders and criminals, who, scenting a prey, come from afar, and even from Paris;[40] along with them march the women belonging to them, still more base and bloodthirsty. In order to make it perfectly plain that with them murder and robbery are the order of the day, they massacred their first general, Patrix, guilty of having released a prisoner, and elected in his place an old highway tramp named Jourdan, condemned to death by the court at Valence, but who had escaped on the eve of his execution, and who bore the nickname of Coupe-tête, because he is said to have cut off the heads at Versailles of two of the King’s guards.[41] — Under such a commander the troop increases until it forms a body of five or six thousand men, which stops people in the streets and forcibly enrolls them; they are called Mandrins, which is severe for Mandrin,[42] because their war is not merely on public persons and property, as his was, but on the possessions, the proprieties, and the lives of private individuals. One detachment alone, at one time, extorts in Cavaillon 25,000 francs, in Baume 12,000, in Aubignon 15,000, in Pioline 4,800, while Caumont is taxed 2,000 francs a week. At Sarrians, where the mayor gives them the keys, they pillage houses from top to bottom, carry off their plunder in carts, set fire, violate and slay with all the refinements of torture of so many Hurons. An old lady of eighty, and a paralytic, is shot at arms length, and left weltering in her blood in the midst of the flames. A child five years of age is cut in two, its mother decapitated, and its sister mutilated; they cut off the ears of the curé, set them on his brow like a cockade, and then cut his throat, along with that of a pig, and tear out the two hearts and dance around them.[43] After this, for fifty days around Carpentras, to which they lay siege in vain, the unprovoked, cruel instincts of the chauffeurs manifested at a later date, the ancient cannibalistic desires which sometimes reappear in convicts, and the perverted and over-strained sensuality found in maniacs, have full play.

On beholding the monster it has nourished, Avignon, in alarm, utters cries of distress.[44] But the brute, which feels its strength, turns against its former abettors, shows its teeth, and exacts its daily food. Ruined or not, Avignon must furnish its quota. "In the electoral assembly, Mainvielle the younger, elected elector, although he is only twenty-two, draws two pistols from his belt and struts around with a threatening air."[45] Duprat, the president, the better to master his colleagues, proposes to them to leave Avignon and go to Sorgues, which they refuse to do; upon this he orders cannon to be brought, promises to pay those who will accompany him, drags along the timid, and denounces the rest before an upper national court, of which he himself has designated the members. Twenty of the electors thus denounced are condemned and proscribed; Duprat threatens to enter by force and have them executed on the spot, and, under his leadership, the army of Mandrins advances against Avignon. — Its progress is arrested, and, for two months, restrained by the two mediating commissioners for France; they reduce its numbers, and it is on the point of being disbanded, when the brute again boldly seizes its prey, about to make its escape. On the 21st of August, Jourdan, with his herd of miscreants, obtains possession of the palace. The municipal body is driven out, the mayor escapes in disguise, Tissot, the secretary, is cut down, four municipal officers and forty other persons are thrown into prison, while a number of houses belonging to the fugitives and to priests are pillaged, and thus supply the bandits with their first financial returns.[46] — Then begins the great fiscal operation which is going to fill their pockets. Five front men, chosen by Duprat and his associates, compose, with Lécuyer as secretary, a provisional municipal body, which, taxing the town 300,000 francs and suppressing the convents, offers the spoils of the churches for sale. The bells are taken down, and the hammers of the workmen engaged in breaking them to pieces are heard all day long. A strong-box full of plate, diamonds, and gold crosses, left with the director of the Mont-de-Piété, on deposit, is taken and carried off to the commune; a report is spread that the valuables pawned by the poor had been stolen by the municipality, and that those "robbers had already sent away eighteen trunks full of them." Upon this the women, exasperated at the bare walls of the churches, together with the laborers in want of work or bread, all the common class, become furious, assemble of their own accord in the church of the Cordeliers, summon Lécuyer to appear before them, drag him from the pulpit and massacre him.[47]

This time there seems to be an end of the brigand party, for the entire town, the populace and the better class, are against them, while the peasants in the country shoot them down wherever they come across them. — Terror, however, supplies the place of numbers, and, with the 350 hired killers bravos still left to them, the extreme Jacobins undertake to overcome a city of 30,000 souls. Mainvielle the elder, dragging along two cannon, arrives with a patrol, fires at random into the already semi-abandoned church, and kills two men. Duprat assembles about thirty of the towns-people, imprisoned by him on the 31st of August, and, in addition to these, about forty artisans belonging to the Catholic brotherhoods, porters, bakers, coopers, and day-laborers, two peasants, a beggar, a few women seized haphazard and on vague denunciations, one of them, "because she spoke ill of Madame Mainvielle." Jourdan supplies the executioners; the apothecary Mende, brother-in-law of Duprat, plies them with liquor, while a clerk of Tournal, the newsman, bids them "kill all, so that there shall be no witnesses left." Whereupon, at the reiterated orders of Mainvielle, Tournal, Duprat, and Jourdan, with a complications of hilarious lewdness,[48] the massacre develops itself on the 16th of October and following days, during sixty-six hours, the victims being a couple of priests, three children, an old man of eighty, thirteen women, two of whom are pregnant, in all, sixty-one persons, with their throats slit or knocked out and then cast one on top of each other into the Glacière hole, a mother on the body of her infant, a son on the body of his father, all finished off with rocks, the hole being filled up with stones and covered over with quicklime on account of the smell.[49] In the meantime about a hundred more, killed in the streets, are pitched into the Sorgues canal; five hundred families make their escape. The ousted bandits return in a body, while the assassins who are at the head of them, enthroned by murder, organize for the benefit of their new band a legal system of brigandage, against which nobody defends himself.[50]

These are the friends of the Jacobins of Arles and Marseilles, the respectable men whom M. d’Antonelle has come to address in the cathedral at Avignon.[51] These are the pure patriots, who, with their hands in the till and their feet in gore, caught in the act by a French army, the mask torn off through a scrupulous investigation, universally condemned by the emancipated electors, also by the deliberate verdict of the new mediating commissioners,[52] are included in the amnesty proclaimed by the Legislative Assembly a month before their last crime. - But the sovereigns of the Bouches-du-Rhône do not regard the release of their friends and allies as a pardon: something more than pardon and forgetfulness must be awarded to the murderers of the Glacière. On the 29th of April, 1792, Rebecqui and Bertin, the vanquishers of Arles, enter Avignon[53] along with a cortége, at the head of which are from thirty to forty of the principal murderers whom the Legislative Assembly itself had ordered to be recommitted to prison, Duprat, Mainvielle, Toumal, Mende, then Jourdan in the uniform of a commanding general crowned with laurel and seated on a white horse, and, lastly, the dames Duprat, Mainvielle and Tournal, in dashing style, standing on a sort of triumphal chariot; during the procession the cry is heard, "The Glacière will be full this time! " — On their approach the public functionaries fly; twelve hundred persons abandon the town. Forthwith each terrorist, under the protection of the Marseilles bayonets, resumes his office, like a man at the head of his household. Raphel, the former judge, along with his clerk, both with warrants of arrest against them, publicly officiate, while the relatives of the poor victims slain on the 16th of October, and the witnesses that appeared on the trial, are threatened in the streets; one of them is killed, and Jourdan, king of the department for an entire year, begins over again on a grand scale, at the head of the National Guard, and afterwards of the police body, the same performance which, on a small scale, he pursued under the ancient régime, when, with a dozen "armed and mounted" brigands, he traversed the highways, forced open lonely houses at night, and, in one château alone, stole 24,000 francs.


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Chicago: Hippolyte Adolphe Taine, "IV.," The French Revolution— Volume 2, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Ingram, J. H. (James Henry) in The French Revolution—Volume 2 (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed April 20, 2019,

MLA: Taine, Hippolyte Adolphe. "IV." The French Revolution— Volume 2, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Ingram, J. H. (James Henry), in The French Revolution—Volume 2, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 20 Apr. 2019.

Harvard: Taine, HA, 'IV.' in The French Revolution— Volume 2, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, The French Revolution—Volume 2, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 20 April 2019, from