Genocide during the French Revolution

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Genocide during the French Revolution

Post by Pyrrho » Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:09 am

For consideration. I personally do not know. ... m-history/
On March 4 2011, the French historian Reynald Secher discovered documents in the National Archives in Paris confirming what he had known since the early 1980s: there had been a genocide during the French Revolution.1 Historians have always been aware of widespread resistance to the Revolution. But (with a few exceptions) they invariably characterize the rebellion in the Vendée (1793–95) as an abortive civil war rather than a genocide.
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Re: Genocide during the French Revolution

Post by Jeffk 1970 » Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:13 am

I’ve got something on this. I think D-H does as well. I have the book at work so I’ll have to get it tomorrow.
Also, Donald Trump is a clownfraud who only got involved in this for the attention.

Deadspin, 2014: ... 1613879544

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Re: Genocide during the French Revolution

Post by Jeffk 1970 » Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:14 am

Maybe Balsamo will have something.
Also, Donald Trump is a clownfraud who only got involved in this for the attention.

Deadspin, 2014: ... 1613879544

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Re: Genocide during the French Revolution

Post by Balsamo » Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:00 pm

Jeffk 1970 wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:14 am
Maybe Balsamo will have something.
Actually i do.
I don't know who is this Boparai who wrote this article, but it is not very good to say the least. Not only is it full of mistakes, partial views, but it starts with a lie when saying that studying the Vendee wars and/or qualify it as a genocide would hurt a career at the University. The violence of the repression has never been denied by anyone, although it is true there are sometimes ideological interference in the debate, not as strong as for the Vichy period though.
Secher got his PHD with his thesis on the "genocide"! And as far as i know, it was well received. So WTF!

I know the works of Secher and i just do not agree with his approach. Fact is, Secher is a profoundly catholic, is a Vendeen himself, and exaggerate the role of Religion in this revolt. He is just as biased as those supposedly biased republican historians he pretends to fight.

Now if, as i understand it, the question is whether those terrible crimes represent a Genocide or not, then the answer is : NO.
It is a very good illustration of why the subforum changed its name.

It is undeniable that the Mass violence that took place in the Vendee were of genocidal proportions, that many of the killings and repressive methods that were used by the Revolutionaries had genocidal characteristics - i am thinking of the "infernal columns" of General Turreau whose methods can be compared to the actions of the EG on the eastern front - and above all that, there are also points in common with genocides within the casual evolution that would lead to the mass murder there.

Considering the above, one can understand why some authors want those tragic events qualified as genocide.
Now, if i remember correctly, one of Secher arguments to support his accusation of genocide are the infamous laws of August and October 1793.
The law of August 1793 is actually a set of brutal measures in order to destroy the rebellion. It was actually an initiative of the "Comite de Salut Publique" which would become the main instrument of the "Terror", created at a time when the new republic was in a very dire situation.
It includes measures as confiscation of goods belonging to the insurgents, destruction and confiscation of harvest, execution of men caught with a weapon.

The law of october 1973 was passed after a series of defeats and features a declaration by the Convention stating:
Soldats de la liberté : Il faut que les brigands de la Vendée soient exterminés avant la fin du mois d'octobre ; le salut de la patrie l'exige, l'impatience du peuple français le commande, son courage doit l'accomplir. La reconnaissance nationale attend, à cette époque, tous ceux dont la valeur et le patriotisme auront affermi, sans retour, la liberté & la République
which translates:
" Soldier of Freedom, it is a necessity that the bandits of Vendee are to be exterminated before the end of October; the Salvation of the Nation requires it, the impatience of the French People commands it, its bravery must accomplish it. etc..."

So here you have it. The term "extermination" is used. Sounds familiar.
But given the context, to interpret it as a proof of genocide is quite dishonest given that the commanders of the republican army in the region are given 30 days to achieve this extermination. It clearly shows that the intend here was the destruction/extermination of the Insurgents, and not the whole province. The article 8 of the law of August 1793 clearly commands that "Women, children and elderly are to be lead at the rear and provided food and safety for the sake of humanity.", of course, this provision would often be ignored

Of course, Secher will point out the infamous speeches of the representative Bertrand Barere which was as violent as they could be, calling for the destruction of the Vendee, defined as a requisite for the salvation of the Republic.
Keep this name in mind.

I am not going to correct Boparai's assertions that the revolt was solely due to the legislation against the church, the topic is much more complex, and it would derail the thread too much. But basically it is pure BS.

What is true, though, and this is more important, is that the Revolutionary government saw this revolt not as it was, but as a "conspiracy initiated by the Nobles and the Church to reestablish the monarchy", a conspiracy that had links with the coalition of monarchies at war with the Republic...basically the whole Europe at that time: Austria, Prussia, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Spain and Portugal and of course the Prince of Conde's royalist army.
Actually, the insurrection in Western France was far from being the only one. Southern and Eastern France was revolting as well - especially France second biggest city of Lyon, but also the port of Toulon...revolts which were repressed with as much violence than in the Vendee, without anyone i know calling those criminal repressions "genocide", but that is another story.

Also true is that the Insurgents turned and sometimes forced local elite to command them, which could have given the impression that the revolt was indeed part of a conspiracy, which it was not.

The article does a good job enumerating all the atrocities committed by the Republicans, which are not invented of course, but enumerated like they are, the author gives the impression that the atrocities were only on one side.
Actually, the revolt started at the worst possible time for the Republic, people from Vendee gathered, took over a city - like Machecoul - killed the Republican representatives along with the known "patriots" - 200 in Machecoul alone - and then disband, for a few weeks, only to regroup and attack another targets.

At first it was highly comparable to "Partisan warfare", ambushing the republican troops, disbanding, regrouping, in a vicious cycle.
As a matter of facts, the Republicans were not fighting a regular army, wearing a distinctive Uniforms, having a strategy and a plan, but fought formation of angry peasants who most returned home after having won a battle.
And it worked quite well. The first months of this unusual war was a succession of defeats for the French army, forcing the Republic to withdraw more and more troops from the others fronts which were fragile, in order to compensate the losses.
The insurrection clearly turned into a civil war.

This is the context in which the Barere's speech of October 93 was spoken.
This is also the context that would influence how this war was lead, in a very criminal manner - this is undeniable - or to use the term, that would lead to "Massive Political Violence" which would include all the atrocities mentioned in this article.

To sum up a bit, here are the reasons why i defend the idea that those political violence were not a part of a Genocidal policy.

- The target group - here the insurgents turned into the "Royal and Catholic Army" - was not targeted because of what it was. It was targetted because of an insurrection they initiated at the worst possible time for the republic, just like the insurgents in other parts of France.
- The massacres and atrocities that have been committed were not the result of a centralized plan and/or office. The Convention sent delegates, and it was those delegates who chose to recourse to atrocities in order to fulfill their "vague mission" (that is to end the revolts).
If one takes the example of the "infernal columns" i mentioned above, it is clear that each columns did not behave the same way. Some killed everyone and destroyed everything, other just did not. General Turreau who commanded the first group was a war criminal, General Haxo who commanded the second group was not and refused to comply. This would have been unthinkable if the order came directly from Paris.
And the very same Barere who made all those hatred speeches would be among those who would denounce a "barbaric and exaggerated execution of the Convention's decrees". As a result, general Turreau would be ordered to cease his criminal activities. Nevertheless, the crimes would continue thanks to the local support of some delegates who had been given the authority.

The criminal abuses of some of these columns have nothing to envy to the crimes committed by the EG during WW2 and it is true, and supported by documents, that those perpetrators had a genocidal perspective...and adopted genocidal methods to achieve a genocidal objective...the replacement of those traitors by patriots from other parts of France.
Actually, in this case, the proper definition would be a "deadly ethnic cleansing" of gigantic proportion - given the means at disposal and the few men involved - but which was not the result of a central decision and order.

The case of Jean-Baptiste Carrier is also illustrative. His murderous decision were his own initiatives, and he went so far that even local revolutionary would complain to Paris. Carrier would later be sentenced to death for..."war crimes".

What i want to show - gosh the topic is so huge - is that most atrocities were "local initiatives" made by "local actors" which did not behave the same under a single instruction from Paris which was to "end the insurrection". Various revolutionary courts were put in place all over the province, and the analysis of the sentences pronounced also shows how differently those actors behaved. Some sentenced everyone to death - including women and children - some others released the majority of the suspects.
It all depended of their individual affinity to the various movements inside the Revolutionaries, their personal fanaticism.

Carrier was not, as it is often claimed, a supporter of Robespierre, but was closed to Hebert who was even more brutal than him. Hebert will be sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Tribunal.
Carrier is today remembered as the incarnation of the "Terror", although he killed less people than personalities like Fouche in Lyon (accent on the "e"), who would survived the revolution and become minister of the Police under Napoleon and become a .... imperial DUKE, le duc d'Otrante!

Which leads to the last counter arguments that comes to my mind right now(there are much more), which is that this repression was also to be found in other parts of France, which shows that it was not a "people" which was targeted, but "political trouble" in the context of very "uncertain times" for the young Republic. The atrocities committed were not influenced by who the victims were - as it is the case in a Genocide - so i agree with those who attacked Secher when he compared the atrocities in Vendee with the Holocaust, and his methodology more and more influenced by personal ideology. And by pursuing his fight to such extreme, Secher kind of lost his reputation as an historian.

All the above should of course not be understood as a minimization of the crimes and atrocities that were committed. Some political mass violence can be as murderous as a genocide, the methods used can be very similar, some actors involved in those political atrocities could have found their place in a genocidal policy without difficulty.
I do not place the crime of genocide above all other crimes, but i do care about clear definition and consider that well defined concepts are essential to analyze such tragic events efficiently.
And as some of you might remember, i do favor comparative analysis of atrocities and criminal long as basic rules are respected.