Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Vendée - 217 Years Later
An interesting article in Le Figaro describes the work of the archeologists and historians of INRAP (National Institute of Preventive Archeological Research) as they unearth the graves of the victims of the 1793 battle of Le Mans, in the department of Sarthe. The remains were found on the site that is to become the future Jacobin cultural center:
(...) It is the first time that excavations have been done of the mass graves of the Vendean War, as if there was a fear of arousing the ghosts of the past. There has always been a lot of reticence in our country regarding this episode in which the soldiers of the Republic confronted the insurgents of Western France, better known as the "Vendéens" (Vendeans or people of Vendée). For a longtime, history text books and the "national story" have erased or disguised this civil war that was every bit as ferocious as those that are tearing apart some countries even today.
On December 12 and 13, 1793, the battle of Le Mans was a veritable massacre. The republican army, having made a surprise appearance in order to finish once and for all with the insurrection, took no prisoners. Starving and sick, the bulk of the Vendean population, half of which consisted of women, old people and children, had taken refuge in Le Mans in the hope of finding food and medical supplies. According to estimates between 2000 and 5000 persons were killed.
Six of the nine uncovered grave sites have been thoroughly examined. They only represent some of the victims, since they contain in all two hundred skeletons. The others are buried outside of the limits of the dig. A number of individuals bear the traces of very severe wounds on the skull, arm bones or lower members, inflicted by weapons other than firearms. "Some of the wounds show signs of great violence, of unrelenting fury," declares Elodie Cabot, an anthropologist at INRAP. Women and boys aged 12-13 (child-soldiers) were among the victims, as was a three-year-old child. Several people had been executed by bullets. (...)
French readers might want to consult the INRAP article linked at Le Figaro.
Catholic writer Bernard Antony weighs in on this recent archeological effort, and views it in the context of the need to repair the damage done to the French nation by the government's 200-year silence and by the constant antagonism this has created among Frenchmen in conflict with one another. He cites Russia as an example to follow:
So 217 years had to pass before the first excavations at Le Mans of the mass graves from the Vendean War were undertaken.
This, it seems, will allow us to see lifted, oh so timidly, a small corner of the immense and heavy veil of amnesia that, for over two centuries, has been covering and hiding the truth about what the French Revolution was. But this veil must not be lowered again. It must be lifted entirely for the honor of France, her memory, her continuity and for civil peace among Frenchmen.
For it is the congenital flaw of our republican system to have been founded on the assassination of the King of France and his family and on an exterminating civil war. In addition, the French Revolution, by organizing the all-powerful State around a dialectic between the State and the individual, thus dissolving away all other social bonds, served as the ideological model of the two totalitarian monsters of the 20th century - Communism and Nazism.
Both Lenin and Hitler praised their Jacobin filiation. From the Jacobin sans-culottes came the Red Guard and the SS. The red and black ideologies of extermination justified their genocides with arguments similar to those used by the Convention to justify the genocide in Vendée. And the Jacobin ideology continues to inspire the subversion of the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity into a totalitarian individualism that destroys the natural communities, beginning with the family, and that confiscates the fundamental freedom of education of children by their parents.
Less than twenty years after the end of the USSR, the Russian State, even though in some ways a continuation of the Soviet system, honored itself by repenting for the assassination of the Tsar and his family, and by replacing Russia in its historical and religious continuity.
France is in need of a similar symbolic gesture. The State, by repenting for the original crimes of our republic would liberate our national memory, and accomplish a far-reaching act of French Friendship.
And it would be the end of that most fatal of dialectic traditions that constantly pits Frenchman against Frenchman.
The recognition of crimes perpetrated through the ages, by one faction or another, is the surest way of destroying the Manicheanism that is destroying our national unity. This ought to be a major concern of the State in the service of the Common Good of France and of the French people.
The cartoon below shows the Revolutionaries extolling Marat and the Jacobins. The French Left has been reenacting scenes like this ever since. Probably May 1968 was the most disastrous in its consequences. (From Suite101.)
Update: July 20, 2010 - A reader has pointed out a "glaring mistake" in the above introduction, with regard to geography. The city of Le Mans is not located in the department of Vendée, but in the department of Sarthe. Furthermore, the department we call Vendée was not created until 1790, after the Revolution was over. It was not part of the original royal provinces but was cobbled together from segments of several different provinces, in particular Bas-Poitou.
The error has been corrected in the text above. Apologies to anyone who might have been misled by the error. The reader also sent a link to this English-language article on the Vendean Wars.