The French Revolution— Volume 2

Author: Hippolyte Adolphe Taine


The Constitutionalists of Arles. — The Marseilles expedition against Arles. — Excesses committed by them in the town and its vicinity. — Invasion of "Apt," the club and its volunteers.

No city, indeed, is more odious to them. — For two years, led or pushed on by its mayor, M. d’Antonelle, it has marched along with them or been dragged along in their wake. D’Antonelle, an ultrarevolutionary, repeatedly visited and personally encouraged the bandits of Avignon. To supply them with cannon and ammunition he stripped the Tour St. Louis of its artillery, at the risk of abandoning the mouths of the Rhone to the Barbary pirates.[21] In concert with his allies of the Comtat, the Marseilles club, and his henchmen from the neighboring boroughs, he rules in Arles "by terror." Three hundred men recruited in the vicinity of the Mint, artisans or sailors with strong arms and rough hands, serve him as satellites. On the 6th of June 1791, they drive away, on their own authority, the unsworn priests, who had taken refuge in the town.[22] — At this, however, the "property-owners and decent people," much more numerous and for a long time highly indignant, raise their heads; twelve hundred of them assemble in the church of Saint-Honorat, swore to maintain the constitution and public order,"[23] and then moved to the (Jacobin) club, where, in their quality of national guards and active citizens and in conformity with its by-laws, they were admitted en masse. At the same time, acting in concert with the municipality, they reorganize the National Guard and form new companies, the effect of which is to put an end to the Mint gang, thus depriving the faction of all its strength. Thenceforth, without violence or illegal acts, the majority of the club, as well as of the National Guard, consists of constitutional monarchists, the elections of November, 1791, giving to the partisans of order nearly all the administrative offices of the commune and of the district. M. Loys, a physician and a man of energy, is elected mayor in the place of M. d’Antonelle; he is known as able to suppress a riot, "holding martial law in one hand, and his saber in the other." — This is too much; so Marseilles feel compelled to bring Arles under control "to atone for the disgrace of having founded it."[24] In this land of ancient cities political hostility is embittered with old municipal grudges, similar to those of Thebes against Platœe, of Rome against Veii, of Florence against Pisa. The Guelphs of Marseilles brooded over the one idea of crushing the Ghibellins of Arles. — Already, in the electoral assembly of November, 1791, M. d’Antonelle, the president, had invited the communes of the department to take up arms against this anti-jacobin city.[25] Six hundred Marseilles volunteers set out on the instant, install themselves at Salon, seize the syndic-attorney of the hostile district, and refuse to give him up, this being an advance-guard of 4,000 men promised by the forty or fifty clubs of the party.[26] To arrest their operations requires the orders of the three commissioners, resolutions passed by the Directory still intact, royal proclamations, a decree of the Constituent Assembly, the firmness of the still loyal troops and the firmer stand taken by the Arlesians who, putting down an insurrection of the Mint band, had repaired their ramparts, cut away their bridges and mounted guard with their guns loaded.[27] But it is only a postponement. Now that the commissioners have gone, and the king’s authority a phantom, now that the last loyal regiment is disarmed, the terrified Directory recast and obeying like a servant, with the Legislative Assembly allowing everywhere the oppression of the Constitutionalists by the Jacobins, a fresh Jacobin expedition may be started against the Constitutionalists with impunity. Accordingly, on the 23rd of March, 1792, the Marseilles army of 4,500 men sets out on its march with nineteen pieces of cannon.

In vain the commissioners of the neighboring departments, sent by the Minister, represent to them that Arles submits, that she has laid down her arms, and that the town is now garrisoned with troops of the line; — the Marseilles army requires the withdrawal of this garrison. — In vain the garrison departs. Rebecqui and his acolytes reply that "nothing will divert them from their enterprise; they cannot defer to anybody’s decision but their own in relation to any precaution tending to ensure the safety of the southern departments." — In vain the Minister renews his injunctions and counter-orders. The Directory replies with a flagrant falsehood, stating that it is ignorant of the affair and refuses to give the government any assistance. — In vain M. de Wittgenstein, commander-in-chief in the south, offers his services to the Directory to repel the invaders. The Directory forbids him to take his troops into the territory of the department.[28] — Meanwhile, on the 29th of March, the Marseilles army effects a breach with its cannon in the walls of defenseless Arles; its fortifications are demolished and a tax of 1,400,000 francs is levied on the owners of property. In contempt of the National Assembly’s decree the Mint bandits, the longshoremen, the whole of the lowest class again take up their arms and lord it over the disarmed population. Although "the King’s commissioner and most of the judges have fled, jury examinations are instituted against absentees," the juries consisting of the members of the Mint band.[29] The conquerors imprison, smite and slaughter as they please. Countless peaceable individuals are struck down and mauled, dragged to prison and many of them are mortally wounded. An old soldier, eighty years of age, retired to his country home three months earlier, dies after twenty days’ confinement in a dungeon, from a blow received in the stomach by a rifle butt; women are flogged. "All citizens that with an interest in law and order," nearly five thousand families, have emigrated; their houses in town and in the country are pillaged, while in the surrounding boroughs, along the road leading from Arles to Marseilles, the villains forming the hard core of the Marseilles army, rove about and gorge themselves as in a vanquished country.[30]

They eat and drink voraciously, force the closets, carry off linen and food, steal horses and valuables, smash the furniture, tear up books, and burn papers.[31] All this is only the appropriate punishment of the aristocrats. Moreover, it is no more than right that patriots should be indemnified for their toil, and a few blows too many are not out of place in securing the rule of the right party. — For example, on the false report of order being disturbed at Château-Renard, Bertin and Rebecqui send off a detachment of men, while the municipal body in uniform, followed by the National Guard, with music and flags, comes forth to meet and salute it. Without uttering a word of warning, the Marseilles troop falls upon the cortège, strikes down the flags, disarms the National Guard, tears the epaulettes off the officers’ shoulders, drags the mayor to the ground by his scarf, pursues the counselors, sword in hand, puts the mayor and syndic-attorney in arrest, and, during the night, sacks four dwellings, the whole under the direction of three Jacobins of the place under indictment for recent crimes or misdemeanors. Henceforth at Château-Renard they will look twice before subjecting patriots to indictment.[32] — At Vélaux "the country house of the late seignior is sacked, and everything is carried away, even to the tiles and window-glass." A troop of two hundred men "overrun the village, levy contributions, and put all citizens who are well-off under bonds for considerable sums." Camoïn, the Marseille chief, one of the new department administrators, who is in the neighborhood, lays his hand on everything that is fit to be taken, and, a few days after this, 30,000 francs are found in his carpet-bag.-Taught by the example others follow and the commotion spreads. In every borough or petty town the club profits by these acts to satiate its ambition its greed, and its hatred. That of Apt appeals to its neighbors, whereupon 1,500 National Guards of Gordes, St. Saturnin, Gouls and Lacoste, with a thousand women and children armed with clubs and scythes, arrive one morning before the town. On being asked by whose orders they come in this fashion, they reply, "by the orders which their patriotism has given them." — "The fanatics," or partisans of the sworn priests, "are the cause of their journey": they therefore "want lodgings at the expense of the fanatics only." The three day’s occupation results for the latter and for the town in a cost of 20,000 livres.[33] They begin by breaking everything in the church of the Récollets, and wall up its doors. They then expel unsworn ecclesiastics from the town, and disarm their partisans. The club of Apt, which is the sole authority, remains in session three days: "the municipal bodies in the vicinity appear before it, apologize for themselves, protest their civism, and ask as a favor that no detachment be sent to their places. Individuals are sent for to be interrogated"; several are proscribed, among whom are administrators, members of the court, and the syndic-attorney. A number of citizens have fled; — the town is purged, while the same purging is pursued in numbers of places in and out of the district.[34] It is, indeed, attractive business. It empties the purses of the ill-disposed, and fills the stomachs of patriots; it is agreeable to be well entertained, and especially at the expense of one’s adversaries; the Jacobin is quite content to save the country through a round of feastings. Moreover, he has the satisfaction of playing king among his neighbors, and not only do they feed him for doing them this service, but, again, they pay him for it.[35] - All this is enlivening, and the expedition, which is a "sabbath," ends in a carnival. Of the two Marseilles divisions, one, led back to Aix, sets down to "a grand patriotic feast," and then dances fandangoes, of which "the principal one is led off by the mayor and commandant";[36] the other makes its entry into Avignon the same day, with still greater pomp and jollity.


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Chicago: Hippolyte Adolphe Taine, "III.," 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 July 20, 2024,

MLA: Taine, Hippolyte Adolphe. "III." 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 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Taine, HA, 'III.' 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 July 2024, from