. 11
( 13)


itself, but which it had never actually been. From another perspective,
the revolution itself had created the mythical, exclusive nobility which it
claimed to be against.
For nobles, there were potentially vast cultural compensations in this
for the material losses which they had sustained as a consequence of the
other abolitions of 4 August. It would perhaps have been sound policy
to leave them with all their baubles and vanities, with the addition of
this solid and tangible gain, in order to attach them ¬rmly to all the other
things that the revolution was doing. In that light, the abolition of nobility
itself and all its outward symbols has often seemed a peculiarly gratuitous
act of triumphalism, stamping on a vanquished opponent, something
hardly explicable. The reality of noble power had gone: what was the use
of trying to obliterate even its remaining symbols?

20 Doyle, Venality, pp. 163“7; Guy Chaussinand-Nogaret, La noblesse au xviiie si`cle: de la
f´odalit´ aux lumi`res (Paris, 1976), pp. 48“9.
e e e
The French Revolution and nobility 297

This is the problem posed by the law of 19 June 1790. Why did it
happen at all? It seemed to come right out of the blue. Lambel, who
¬rst proposed it, was a member of no established group and had hardly
spoken before. He seemed to be acting on impulse. But why then did
Goupil de Pr´ felne just happen to have a draft decree for abolition in
his pocket? To try to explain it fully, we have to turn to the speci¬c
circumstances of the spring of 1790. First of all, if we comb through
the explosion of publicity that the revolution had unleashed, we ¬nd
that the idea of abolishing nobility had been in the air for some months.
Some pamphleteers had been arguing that a separate role of sorts might
still be found for the nobility, and in response radical journalists had
begun to warn that titles kept the memory, and perhaps the hopes, of
a vanished noble hegemony alive.21 It is clear that during that spring
many people thought ˜aristocrats™ had not given up the struggle.22 Quite
a few prominent nobles had emigrated by then, and were showing no
desire to come back. February 1790 saw the trial and execution of the
marquis de Favras, said to be the author of a plot to spirit the king out of
Paris.23 That he was hanged rather than beheaded vividly demonstrated
that yet another noble privilege was no more; but the whole episode
kept suspicion of nobles very much alive. The king himself felt obliged
implicitly to dissociate himself from any such machinations by coming to
the National Assembly on 4 February to declare himself fully in favour of

21 See, for example, the anonymous L™an´antissement total de la noblesse h´r´ditaire ou requˆte
e ee e
urgente a L™Assembl´e nationale (Paris, 1789), which seems to have been published some
` e
time after 14 July (B[ritish]L[ibrary] FR Tracts 127 (4)); anonymous too is Essais poli-
tiques et philosophiques sur ce qu™on appelle les trois ordres de la France (Paris, 1789), which
appears from internal evidence to be after 4 August (BL FR Tracts 14 (1)); attempts to
¬nd the nobility a role are exempli¬ed by Delacroix, genealogist of the Order of Malta,
Hommage a ma patrie: consid´rations sur la noblesse de France (Paris, 1790), dated 18 March
` e
(BL FR Tracts 90 (11)).
22 For much of the preceding century, the term ˜aristocracy™ had been used almost inter-
changeably with ˜oligarchy™. Only in the spring of 1789 did it come to be applied to
nobility more speci¬cally, as in (Nicolas Bergasse), Observations sur le pr´jug´ de la noblesse
h´r´ditaire (London, 1789), p. 48. The ¬rst use of the term ˜aristocrat™ appears to have
been in the Dutch pamphlet Aan het Volk van Nederland (Ostend, 1781) by the patriot
polemicist (and nobleman) Joan Derk van der Capellen Tot den Pol: Simon Schama,
Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands 1780“1813 (London, 1977), p. 66.
Thereafter it was in common usage to describe the partisans of the Prince of Orange who
triumphed with the help of the Prussian army in 1787. Meanwhile the pamphlet was
translated into French, German and English. In France in 1789“90 the word aristocrate
was mainly applied to conservative noblemen and their supporters, only to widen out
again after the abolition of nobility to take in any perceived enemies of equality, as in
Marat™s famous comment in L™ami du peuple, 30 June 1790: ˜What will we have gained
in destroying the aristocracy of nobles, if it is replaced by the aristocracy of the rich?™
23 See Barry M. Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice in Paris, 1789“1790 (Cambridge, 1993),
ch. 6.
298 William Doyle

all that the revolution had done and promise to put himself at the head of
it. On the other hand he urged caution in the future, and among a number
of other pleas he exhorted the deputies to protect and respect the titles
of what he called (implicitly accepting traditional noble self-de¬nition)
the ˜honoured race™ of nobility, ˜a distinction that nothing can destroy™.24
This was enough to awaken radical apprehensions, echoing all the royal
attempts since the previous June to stall attacks on noble prerogatives.
Other things at this time perhaps heightened awareness of past noble
iniquities. One was the ¬nalisation of legislation implementing the decrees
of the previous August to abolish ˜feudalism™. The debate went on spo-
radically in the Assembly throughout March, reminding all onlookers
of the bizarre range of powers, prerogatives and privileges that the hon-
oured race had once enjoyed. Then there was the publication in April of
the so-called Livre rouge, the hitherto secret list of pensions granted by
the crown since 1774. The vast majority of bene¬ciaries of these hand-
outs were shown to have been nobles. And although it is true that most
pensions were quite small, and granted to arguably deserving cases such
as retired or wounded army of¬cers, what caught the eye, or at least
the eye of radical journalists, were the bigger sums and sinecures paid
out to the courtiers of Versailles for no obvious service at all; people like
the queen™s favourites the Polignacs, who seemed to symbolise the greedy
and parasitic worthlessness of the old ruling class. For weeks on end lurid
revelations from the Livre rouge dominated the press.25
And fabricating a further attack on the nobility was perhaps seen by
some, in this new world of parliamentary politics, as a relatively cheap and
easy way of establishing radical and populist credentials, and outbidding
rivals. The spring of 1790 saw the emergence of some violent and personal
rivalries among leading deputies, and particularly noble ones. The power
of Alexandre de Lameth in the booming new Jacobin club soon came to
be resented by ambitious rivals like Lafayette and Mirabeau.26 No doubt
they were pleased by the embarrassing revelation in the Livre rouge that
the Lameths had been in receipt of royal pensions for no obvious services.
In any case, this rivalry culminated in the establishment of a rival club,
the Society of 1789, late in May. That grew, in turn, out of a series of
much less formal groups, or self-styled ˜committees™ led by liberal nobles.
And it was in one of these, which met in the lavish apartments of the duc

24 Archives parlementaires, XII.430.
25 For example, R´volutions de Paris, 39, 6“12 avril 1790; R´volutions de France et de Brabant,
e e
nos. 21, 22, 23.
26 Louis Gottschalk and Margaret Maddox, Lafayette in the French Revolution: From the
October Days through the Federation (Chicago, 1973), pp. 316“17; Tackett, Becoming a
Revolutionary, pp. 278“80.
The French Revolution and nobility 299

de La Rochefoucauld (the translator, in 1783, of the new American state
constitutions, several of which proscribed nobility), that a legislative plan
for abolishing nobility ¬rst seems to have been mooted.27 Quite what the
rationale was is uncertain. We only learn about it, in fact, from a letter of
Mirabeau, that same Mirabeau who had denounced nobility so roundly
in 1784 at the instance of Franklin, but who now was quite scornful
of the whole idea of abolishing it.28 Whether that was because he had
changed his mind about the nobility, or because he now thought the
issue supererogatory, or simply because this time the idea was not his,
is hard to tell. He certainly was not there at the session on 19 June; but
the way those other two deadly rivals, Lameth and Lafayette, leaped into
the debate as soon as the question had been unexpectedly raised suggests
that they were scrambling to jump on a bandwagon that both wished they
had launched themselves.
Were there other contributory factors? What happened afterwards cer-
tainly raises an intriguing possibility. Lots of nobles protested against the
decree, as we shall see.29 But so did the king™s leading minister, Necker,
who was unafraid to publish his opinion later.30 He was by this time well
aware that the huge popularity he had enjoyed the previous year was fast
melting away, and he had little to lose. What he did not reveal was that
he had urged the king in council to veto the 19 June decree. So had
other ministers. And so, it appears, although he was not a minister, had
Lafayette.31 It would seem, in fact, that some people backed the decree
because they thought the king would never accept it. So far in the rev-
olution he had never vetoed anything; and in fact he did not use this
power until the famous vetoes of 1791. But there seems to have been
a strong feeling among liberals and moderates, both inside and outside
the Assembly, that the king ought to be looking for an occasion to use
the veto, just to show that he could, to establish a precedent. So perhaps
some of those ostensibly in favour of this measure never really expected
it to take effect.
But if that was the rather tortuous plan, it evidently back¬red. The
king had no interest in vetoing anything. Apparently he believed that the
more extreme and absurd things he sanctioned, the more it would show

27 Gottschalk and Maddox, Lafayette in the French Revolution, p. 409.
28 Ad. de Bacourt (ed.), Correspondance entre le comte de Mirabeau et le comte de La Marck
pendant les ann´es 1789, 1790, et 1791 (3 vols., Paris, 1851), II.34. Mirabeau to La Marck,
4 juin 1790.
29 See below, n. 32.
30 Jean Egret, Necker, ministre de Louis XVI (Paris, 1975), pp. 420“6; Henri Grange, Les
id´es de Necker (Paris, 1974), pp. 128“30.
31 Egret, Necker, p. 422; Gottschalk and Maddox, Lafayette in the French Revolution,
pp. 426, 429.
300 William Doyle

he was a helpless prisoner, and perhaps win him sympathy and help. So
he did nothing to protect the ˜honoured race™. And meanwhile the tar-
gets of the decree were mostly outraged.32 They protested that it had
been sprung on them without warning, in an evening session when many
nobles were absent. Constitutional issues were supposed to be discussed
only in the morning. There was a nasty wrangle on the ¬‚oor of the Assem-
bly about whether this was a constitutional matter, but, not surprisingly,
the protesters lost. The only principled objection from the stunned noble-
men present came from the Alsatian count Landenberg-Wagenbourg. His
constituents, he declared,33 would never have authorised him to vote for
this. ˜They will know that they live with the blood they were born with,
and that nothing can prevent them from living and dying as gentlemen.™
And that was the central point, much emphasised in the protests that
poured in over the next few days from outraged noble deputies and others
beyond. As the marquis de Ferri` res, normally a coolly detached observer,
put it in a letter to a fellow nobleman:34
The renunciation of pecuniary privileges, the admission of all citizens to military
and civil employments, the abolition of seigniorial justice, parish lordships, noble
chapters, equal inheritance, had already destroyed the nobility in reality. No other
distinctions were left but that deriving from opinion, resulting from long-lived
habits of respect. It is, then, this opinion that the decree wishes to destroy, but
will not destroy, because opinion is beyond the power of the law; because it is
impossible for every man not to be his father™s son; because nobility will be passed
on, as before, by tradition, and the bond of identity will always exist between the
nobleman of today and his most distant posterity.

For the ¬rst but not the last time, the Assembly had run up against
the limits of its power. It could not abolish beliefs, or the identities which
those beliefs expressed. Nobles could not be prevented from thinking
themselves noble, and behaving in ways that they thought being noble
demanded. The Assembly would make a similar, but even bigger, mis-
take later in the year when it interfered with religious beliefs, and as
a result split the entire nation. That was certainly the most profound
wound in¬‚icted on France by the overcon¬dence of the revolutionary
legislators. But we should not underestimate the fateful importance of
the earlier attempt to legislate for beliefs. If the abolition of venality had

32 Their protests were not printed in the Moniteur, but can be found in Archives parlemen-
taires, XVI.379“89. See also Tackett, Becoming a Revolutionary, pp. 294“5.
33 Archives parlementaires, XVI.374.
34 Henri Carr´ (ed.), Marquis de Ferri`res: correspondance in´dite, 1789, 1790, 1791 (Paris,
e e e
1932), p. 207. A Monsieur de Chac´ , 20 juin 1790. Habermasians might note that in
these invocations of public opinion it constitutes a curb on revolutionary power quite as
great as on that of the old monarchy.
The French Revolution and nobility 301

turned the nobility into a closed society, the abolition of titles, arms and
liveries made it into a sort of secret society, unable to show its face in
public. That made it even easier to believe in the ubiquity of plots and
conspiracies, which the revolutionaries were all too prone to fantasise
about in any case.35 And it must have made many a nobleman more
inclined than ever before to sympathise with such machinations, because
the evidence is overwhelming that most nobles were completely outraged
by the decree: 138 deputies, nearly half the order, and more than half of
the nobles still active in the Assembly, issued and printed a formal protest
during the next few days. Protests poured in from outside the Assembly,
too, and the press was full of them. A correspondent of Thomas Jefferson
wrote to the former ambassador that noblemen seemed more upset by
this than by all their previous material losses.36 But perhaps that is not
so surprising. The decree of 19 June deprived them of their last claim to
distinction, the identity they had grown up with. It appeared to be saying
there was no place for people who considered themselves noble in regen-
erated France, however much they might accept all that regeneration had
brought about. The jubilant way in which ordinary people over the next
few weeks insisted on the destruction or obliteration of coats of arms
showed them what their fellow-citizens thought of them, too. So this was
the moment when most nobles parted company with the French Revo-
lution. It was not even easy for them to take solace in continued loyalty
to the king, since he too had betrayed them by sanctioning the decree.
Many noble army of¬cers felt bound to him by the oath of loyalty they had
taken on appointment, and did not feel absolved from that until Louis
XVI attempted to escape and was brought back a captive a year later.
Then, huge numbers of them registered their disgust by emigrating.37
Their last link to the country of their birth had now gone.
And yet, as many of the noble protesters of June and July 1790 pre-
dicted, it proved impossible to abolish nobility. All that was possible was to
refuse to recognise it. That was radical enough in an eighteenth-century
context, where only a handful of years beforehand almost nobody had

35 A growing literature on this theme goes back to Geoffrey Cubitt, ˜Denouncing Conspir-
acy in the French Revolution™, Renaissance and Modern Studies 33 (1989), pp. 144“58.
Important recent additions are Timothy Tackett, ˜A Conspiracy Obsession in a Time
of Revolution: French Elites and the Origins of the Terror™, American Historical Review
105 (2000), pp. 691“713, and various contributions to Barry Coward and Julian Swann
(eds.), Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theory in Early Modern Europe: From the Waldensians
to the French Revolution (Aldershot, 2004).
36 Julian P. Boyd (ed.), The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton, 1950“ ), XVI.571. William
Short to Thomas Jefferson, 25 June 1790.
37 Donald Greer, The Incidence of the Emigration in the French Revolution (Cambridge, MA,
1951), pp. 24“6. See also Higonnet, Class, Ideology and the Rights of Nobles, pp. 286“95.
302 William Doyle

considered any such thing even theoretically possible. But the French
Revolution did demonstrate that in practical terms nobility was neither
invulnerable nor impregnable. Even if it could not be comprehensively
eliminated, it could be attacked, and seriously wounded. And one form
of it actually could be destroyed “ an open one. Even those nobles under
the old regime who had deplored the way newcomers could buy their
way in, had often been prepared to allow for entry on merit, as a reward
for services, or courageous, virtuous or otherwise bene¬cial actions.38 By
1789, very large numbers were of this opinion, perhaps even a majority.39
But the abolition of venality closed the buy-in option, and the withdrawal
of any public recognition for noble status made the public service argu-
ment redundant, since the public was no longer interested in regulating
a status it did not recognise.40 As the king had predicted in February, the
revolution could not destroy nobility. But it could, and inadvertently did,
create a new type of nobility, a closed one, a private body of individuals,
entirely self-regulating.41 It could almost be said that the French Revolu-
tion was a sort of emancipation for the nobility, setting it free from a state
tutelage which had moulded its entire development since the sixteenth
century. Henceforth, nobles alone would decide who was one of them
and who was not, de¬ning themselves solely on grounds of acceptable
ancestry.42 The only way into this caste now was by usurpation “ always
an important way for people to join a nobility, but never, by de¬nition, a
legitimate one.
Whether this unintentional recasting of the nobility, by revolutionaries
whose only hope was to destroy it, did nobles and their ideals much
good seems open to doubt. Ultimately it turned them into their own
caricature: sel¬sh, snobbish, inward-looking, ¬ercely reactionary. The
bitter experience of emigration only accentuated these trends. So that the
old order which they dreamed of restoring when the Bourbons came to
enjoy their own again after Napoleon™s overthrow was not in fact old at all,

38 See Smith, The Culture of Merit, passim; Rafe Blaufarb, The French Army 1750“1820:
Careers, Talent, Merit (Manchester, 2002), pp. 12“74.
39 The classic argument (which has not however gone uncontested) of Chaussinand-
Nogaret, La noblesse au xviiie si`cle, pp. 219“22.
40 When Napoleon decided, in 1808, to create a new service nobility of his own, it was
minutely regulated, precisely in order to eliminate what the noble-born Corsican saw as
the ¬‚aws of the ci-devant noblesse: their ignorance, their idleness, their indiscipline and
their tendency to impoverish themselves. See Jean Tulard, Napol´on et la noblesse d™Empire
(3rd edn, Paris, 2001).
41 Rather like, in fact, the American Society of the Cincinnati, who soon abandoned the
1784 renunciation of heredity, and who exist as a closed hereditary body to this day.
42 It was scarcely surprising that, despite the willingness of over 700 ci-devants to accept
titles from the Emperor Napoleon, most were content to bask in an older status beyond
his control.
The French Revolution and nobility 303

but a ¬gment of reordered memory, a monstrous distortion of what things
before 1789 had really been like. To that extent, however, the Restoration
nobility was even more repugnant to anyone who believed still in the
revolution and its legacy. If the revolutionaries failed in their attempt to
abolish the nobility in addition to their more successful abolition of its
power, at least they succeeded in making what survived look ridiculous,
and preoccupied with absurd dreams and ambitions. And that was enough
to ensure that the French nobility was never again likely to achieve the
power and hegemony that it had enjoyed in the carefree days before 1789,
when it had seemed blissfully impervious to criticism.
15 Foreign policy and political culture in later
eighteenth-century France

Gary Savage
Westminster School

Amidst the panoply of political-cultural studies of eighteenth-century
France published in the past two decades, foreign policy has been rela-
tively neglected.1 Given the importance of the states-system in furnish-
ing a comparative, competitive context for critical public discussion at
the time, this is perhaps surprising, until one recalls how unfashionable
foreign policy has been among historians during the past generation.2
It was never thus among the later eighteenth-century ˜public™.3 Readers
within this self-consciously important community tended to be urban,
literate and comfortably off, perhaps employed in one of the professions,
in trade, or as royal of¬cials. They were often members of literary salons
or reading clubs, whose purchase of legal titles (and promotion of illegal
ones) helped to create a ˜buzz™ “ that is to say, a ˜public opinion™ “ and

1 A good starting-point remains the in¬‚uential series The French Revolution and the Cre-
ation of Modern Political Culture, vol. I, ed. Keith M. Baker, The Political Culture of the
Old Regime (Oxford, 1987); vol. II, ed. Colin Lucas, The Political Culture of the French
Revolution (Oxford, 1988). For a current bibliography, and a fuller treatment of some of
the themes discussed here, see Gary Savage, ˜The French Revolution and the secret du roi:
Diplomatic Tradition, Foreign Policy and Political Culture in Later Eighteenth-Century
France (1756“1792)™, (Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge, 2005).
2 Blanning, for one, has emphasised the link, e.g. with regard to the formation of national
identities; see T. C. W. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime
Europe, 1660“1789 (Oxford, 2002), p. 24 and passim. He has also made a point of showing
how the revolution must once again be understood as contemporaries understood it; that
is to say, in its wider European context; Blanning, ˜The French Revolution and Europe™,
in Colin Lucas, ed., Rewriting the French Revolution: The Andrew Browning Lectures 1989
(Oxford, 1991), pp. 183“206.
3 See Mona Ozouf, ˜Public Opinion™, Journal of Modern History 60 supplement (1988),
pp. s1“s21; Roger Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution, trans. Lydia
Cochrane (Durham and London, 1991), esp. pp. 20“43; Dale Van Kley, ˜In Search
of Eighteenth-Century Parisian Public Opinion™, French Historical Studies 19 (1995),
pp. 215“26. On the ˜popular™ as opposed to ˜bourgeois™ public sphere, and its forma-
tive relationship with government, see Arlette Farge, Subversive Words: Public Opinion in
Eighteenth-Century France, trans. R. Morris (University Park, PA, 1995). Also useful are
Robert Darnton, The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France (London, 1996),
esp. ch. 10; and Hannah Barker and Simon Burrows, eds., Press, Politics and the Public
Sphere in Europe and North America, 1760“1820 (Cambridge, 2002).

Foreign policy and political culture 305

a potential readership of thousands for all sorts of titles, including those on
political economy and diplomacy.4 The extant correspondence between
the premier commis at the foreign ministry, Rayneval, and the head of
the bureau de la librairie, Neville, con¬rms the interest of contemporary
writers and publishers, as well as readers, in questions of foreign policy.5
Though increasingly ¬‚exible in what they would sanction “ for reasons of
commerce as much as common sense “ the authorities naturally strived to
suppress anything which might be construed as prejudicial comment on
the interests or conduct of France and her allies.6 Literary ˜patriots™ were
convinced, on the other hand, that the critical exposition of affairs of state
was essential to the public good (and, at least in the case of entrepreneuri-
ally minded journalists like Simon Linguet, the private purse).7 The con-
sequence was a ferment of wide-ranging diplomatic debate which has yet
to be fully explored by historians.
Mercifully, though it remains something of a footnote in the more
canonical treatments, the interplay of foreign policy and political culture
in the old regime and revolutionary periods has begun to receive greater
scholarly attention in recent years.8 It is to be hoped that the trend away
from predominantly endogenous studies will continue in favour of an
approach which, if it does not accord primacy to foreign policy, at least
restores it to the heart of political discussion as contemporaries would
have expected and recognised. In the case of France, much can certainly
be learned from an examination of the way in which public debate, played

4 Michael Kwass, Privilege and the Politics of Taxation in Eighteenth-Century France:
Libert´, Egalit´, Fiscalit´ (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 216“17; Orville T. Murphy, The Diplo-
e e e
matic Retreat of France and Public Opinion on the Eve of the French Revolution, 1783“1789
(Washington, DC, 1998), pp. 137“8.
5 Archives du Minist` re des Affaires Etrang` res (AAE), M´ moires et Documents (MD)
e e e
France 582 (censure politique). Several of the works discussed and vetted were histories
of the Seven Years™ and American Wars. The foreign gazettes were also cited regularly in
the correspondence.
6 See e.g. Rayneval to Neville, 30 June 1782; AAE MD France 582, fo. 185; Neville? to
Rayneval, 1 May 1786; ibid., fo. 259.
7 See Darline Gay Levy, The Ideas and Careers of Simon-Nicolas-Henri Linguet: A Study in
Eighteenth-Century French Politics (Chicago, 1980). He and Vergennes shared a mutual
antipathy; but the foreign minister still read his best-selling journal, the Annales politiques,
as did the king, voraciously; ibid., p. 193.
8 See e.g. Thomas Kaiser, ˜Who™s Afraid of Marie-Antoinette? Diplomacy, Austrophobia
and the Queen™, French History 14:3 (2000), pp. 241“71; Kaiser, ˜From the Austrian
Committee to the Foreign Plot: Marie-Antoinette, Austrophobia and the Terror™, French
Historical Studies 26 (2003), pp. 579“617; Kaiser, ˜The Evil Empire? The Debate on
Turkish Despotism in Eighteenth-Century French Political Culture™, Journal of Modern
History 72 (2000), pp. 6“34. See also Michael Hochedlinger, “˜La cause de tous les
maux de la France”: die “Austrophobie” im revolution¨ ren Frankreich und der Sturz des
Konigtums 1789“92™, Francia 24 (1997), pp. 73“120; and Gary Savage, ˜Favier™s Heirs:
The French Revolution and the secret du roi™, Historical Journal 41:1 (1998), pp. 225“58.
306 Gary Savage

out in a range of media, informed, critiqued and ultimately derailed the
Bourbon monarchy™s half-hearted attempt to modernise its foreign pol-
icy in the interests of security and prosperity on one hand, and its own
legitimacy on the other. The monarchy™s failure to ¬nd a satisfactory or
lasting ¬t between the two “ in effect, between the national and the dynas-
tic interest “ produced a public reckoning against criteria established in
the public sphere; criteria which would in turn inform both the foreign
policy and wider political discourse of the revolutionary regime which
followed. In short, an examination of the later eighteenth-century debate
about France™s place and role in the world not only illuminates the politics
and political culture of the old regime, but of the French Revolution itself.
Published under the Consulate in 1801, the priest, sometime diplo-
mat and historian Jean-Louis Soulavie™s M´moires historiques et politiques
raises several issues germane to a discussion of foreign policy and politi-
cal culture in later eighteenth-century France. Tabulating foreign policy
since the sixteenth century in terms of a dialectic between ˜unnatural™
Austrian and ˜natural™ anti-Austrian systems, Soulavie argued that, since
the ¬rst Treaty of Versailles between France and Austria signed in May
1756 “ the linchpin of the so-called Diplomatic Revolution “ two foreign
policies had struggled simultaneously for supremacy at the French court.
By this reckoning, the invidious pro-Austrian policy of Mme de Pom-
padour, the duc de Choiseul, Marie Antoinette and Lom´ nie de Brienne
had been pitted against the patriotic policy of the old Dauphin, the ducs
de Richelieu and d™Aiguillon and the comte de Vergennes. There could
be no doubt where Soulavie™s own sympathies lay:
The Austrian opposition, organised in France against our territorial diplomacy,
has always been an arti¬cial construction of leagues, Frondes, conspiracies and
turbulent associations against the French government; while the opposition
against this ˜Austrianised™ government was always, by contrast, a national, natural
business, established on a deep science of diplomacy and eternal, invariable prin-
ciples which underpinned the conservation of the state [and] society established
in the space between the Rhine, the Ocean, the Pyrenees and the Alps, whether
the government is monarchical or republican.9

Nevertheless, only the appointment of the so-called Girondin ministry in
March 1792 ¬nally secured what Soulavie called an ˜anti-Austrian revo-
lution™ “ a revolution underpinned by the denunciations of patriotic writ-
ers like Claude-Charles de Peyssonnel and politicians like Jacques-Pierre

9 Jean-Louis Soulavie, ˜Tableau des relations politiques de la maison d™autriche, allemande
et espagnole, avec la maison de Bourbon, avant et pendant la revolution, pour servir
d™intelligence a l™Histoire de la lutte s´ cr` te, etablie dans l™int´ rieure de la cour de Louis
` ee ´ e
XVI entre le parti de la Reine et le parti oppos´ e™, in Soulavie, M´moires historiques et
e e
politiques du r`gne de Louis XVI, depuis son mariage jusqu™` sa mort (6 vols., Paris, 1801),
e a
Foreign policy and political culture 307

Brissot against Marie Antoinette™s putative Austrian Committee and its
ministerial lackeys.10
Although the historian is naturally suspicious of tidy typologies, there
is much to be said for Soulavie™s characterisation of French foreign policy
and the way it was debated in the last decades of the eighteenth century.
Those who saw the potential value of an alliance with Austria, chie¬‚y as
a means to enable France “ liberated from the grand illusion of ˜amphibi-
ous™ domination both on the continent and overseas11 “ to concentrate
upon the threat posed by British maritime power, encountered visceral
opposition from their more traditionally minded detractors, who would
rather bury the so-called modernisers than cast a shroud over the kind
of European primacy achieved by Louis XIV. For example, one of the
architects of the Austrian alliance, the foreign minister at the time, the
abb´ (and future cardinal) Bernis, insisted that it was entirely consonant
with diplomatic tradition because it would help France to maintain what
he called her ˜superior role™ in the states-system by reducing an over-
mighty Britain.12 By contrast, the ¬ercely anti-Austrian publicist Jean-
Louis Favier countered that the best means to cut Britain down to size
lay precisely in maintaining the historic continental alliances of France™s
traditional, that is to say broadly seventeenth-century, foreign policy.13
Favier™s ¬rst critique of the Austrian alliance was commissioned by the
d´vot (broadly conservative, traditionalist, ˜devout™) marquis d™Argenson;
but its chief themes were recapitulated when he later served as the comte
de Broglie™s apologist for Louis XV™s traditionally oriented secret diplo-
macy, the secret du roi.14 The original purpose of the secret “ other than to
elevate the prince de Conti to the Polish throne “ was to restrain Austria

10 Ibid., pp. 96“7; Augustin Challamel, ˜Le Comit´ autrichien™, an appendix to Challamel,
Les clubs contrer´volutionnaires (Paris, 1895), pp. 523“40.
11 Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia
and China (Cambridge, 1979), pp. 60“4.
12 ˜M´ moire pour servir d™instruction a M. le comte de Stainville, ambassadeur du Roi a
e ` `
Vienne, Compi` gne, 31 juillet 1757™, in Recueil des instructions donn´es aux ambassadeurs
e e
et ministres de France depuis les trait´s de Westphalie jusqu™` la R´volution fran¸aise, vol. 1:
e a e c
Autriche, ed. Albert Sorel (Paris, 1884), p. 356.
13 Jean-Louis Favier, Doutes et questions sur le trait´ de Versailles du 1er mai 1756 entre le Roi et
l™Imp´ratrice-Reine de Hongrie, printed in the invaluable Louis-Philippe, comte de S´ gur,
e e
ed., Politique de tous les cabinets de l™Europe pendant les r` gnes de Louis XV et de Louis XVI
(3 vols., Paris, 1801), III.251“366. On Favier™s life, see Jules Flammermont, ˜J.-L. Favier:
sa vie et ses ecrits™, La R´volution fran¸aise 36 (1899), pp. 161“84, 258“76, 314“35.
´ e c
14 J.-L Favier, ˜Conjectures raisonn´ es sur la situation actuelle de la France dans le systˆ me
e e
politique de l™Europe; et r´ ciproquement sur la position respective de l™Europe a l™´ gard
e `e
de la France; en¬n, sur les nouvelles combinaisons qui doivent ou peuvent r´ sulter dee
ces diff´ rens rapports, aussi dans le systˆ me politique de l™Europe (1773)™, in S´ gur, ed.,
e e e
Politique, I.211ff. See also Didier Ozanam and Michel Antoine, Correspondance secr`te e
du comte de Broglie avec Louis XV (1756“1774) (2 vols., Paris, 1956“61); and the duc
de Broglie, Le secret du roi: correspondance secr`te de Louis XV avec ses agents diplomatiques
1752“1774 (2 vols., Paris, 1878).
308 Gary Savage

and Russia by means of alliances with Sweden, Poland, Prussia and the
Porte: the so-called barri`re de l™est.15 In the aftermath of the Seven Years™
War, it became anti-British and revanchist.16 It was also a rallying-point
for all those, often but not exclusively aligned with the parti d´vot at court,
who opposed Choiseul™s pragmatic belief that the pursuit of a maritime
policy necessitated some kind of withdrawal from France™s former con-
tinental commitments. Thinking within this developing tradition, Favier
rejected the choiseuliste persistence with the Austrian alliance, insisting
that global recovery vis-` -vis Britain could only be achieved by pursuing
the de facto domination of the continent through a network of alliances
with smaller powers against the kind of imperial aggression which might
distract France from the maritime theatre and undermine her interna-
tional reputation.17 In short, only with the security and prestige ensured
by a powerful military and with solid alliances like the old barri`re de l™est
could France hope to recover, ˜on sea as well as land, the dignity and
pre-eminence of the crown™.18
This argument between foreign policy ˜modernisers™ and ˜tradition-
alists™ was a ¬xture of later eighteenth-century diplomatic discourse. In
support of their particular positions, traditionalists lamented the partition
of Poland as a direct consequence of the abrogation of France™s European
responsibilities since forging an alliance with the Habsburgs; while mod-
ernisers celebrated the American War as evidence of the bene¬ts of that
alliance as a means to deny Britain a useful continental ally. The former
failed to appreciate Frederick the Great™s manifest unwillingness to play
the part they ascribed to him in their script for French revival; the latter
tended to ignore Russia™s aggrandisement in eastern Europe and the Lev-
ant as a by-product of France™s retreat from those theatres. Neither side
quite ¬ts the mould of Soulavie™s portrayal of a struggle between patri-
ots and traitors, as this debate was largely a question of genuine policy
differences over the best way to tackle British power. In essence, it pitted
those who were prepared to contemplate a reversal of alliances to keep
the continent quiet while France paddled in more global waters, against
those who continued to insist that the barri`re de l™est could shackle the

15 Paul W. Schroeder, The Transformation of European Politics 1763“1848 (Oxford, 1994),
pp. 5“6; H. M. Scott, ˜The Decline of France and the Transformation of the European
States System, 1756“1792™, in Peter Kruger and Paul W. Schroeder, eds., ˜The Transfor-
mation of European Politics, 1763“1848™: Episode or Model in Modern History? (Marburg,
2003), p. 106.
16 Lucien B´ ly, Les relations internationales en Europe (XVIIe“XVIIIe si`cles) (Paris, 1992),
e e
pp. 591“2.
17 Albert Sorel, Europe and the French Revolution, vol. I: The Political Traditions of the Old
Regime, trans./ed. Alfred Cobban and J. W. Hunt (London, 1969), pp. 339“40.
18 Favier, ˜Conjectures raisonn´ es™, in S´ gur, ed., Politique, II.195.
e e
Foreign policy and political culture 309

predatory imperial powers, Austria and Russia; maintain France™s Euro-
pean reputation; and on that basis facilitate her more global ambitions.
Factional rivalry helped to solidify these differences at court; but this was
nevertheless a technical debate among French policy-makers driven by
the consciousness of, and deep anxiety about, changing geostrategic real-
ities, notably the emergence of a ˜pentarchy™ of great powers, including
Russia and Prussia, after 1763.19 Both sides saw Britain as the major
threat; the debate was all about means.
That Soulavie could dramatise and simplify this debate into a
Manichaean con¬‚ict between the partisans of treacherous ˜Austrian™ and
patriotic ˜anti-Austrian™ systems perhaps says more about the mythologis-
ing power of the secret du roi and its advocates than about his qualities as an
historian. The truth about late old regime foreign policy was that most
commentators, both inside and outside the ministry, felt anxious and
ambivalent about the future. Typical of the ¬‚ailing nervousness of minis-
terial memoirs at the time was a survey of the possibilities open to France
in a world of competitive commerce by the baron de Waldner, which
was predicated on the (unlikely) fear of a Spanish“Russian alliance.20 To
offset this, Waldner wanted agreement with Holland, Venice and Por-
tugal, whose global possessions could be co-ordinated by France from
a power base conquered in Arabia which would also contain and offset
imperial and British as well as Spanish ambitions.21 Only if the imperial
powers conquered the Porte, he argued, should its partition be enter-
tained by France; but in that case, the acquisition of Egypt would clearly
reinforce her possessions in Arabia and thus her global in¬‚uence.22 The
comte de Saint-Priest, former ambassador at Constantinople and bitter
rival of the foreign minister, Vergennes, was a higher pro¬le convert to
the cause of a French-backed imperial partition of the Ottoman Empire.
So was the navy minister, the marquis de Castries, who saw Egypt as a
useful springboard for an attack on British India “ though he was more
hostile to Austria, and baulked at the prospect of an outright Ottoman
partition.23 Both were prot´ g´ s of Marie Antoinette; and views like theirs

19 H. M. Scott, The Emergence of the Eastern Powers, 1756“1775 (Cambridge, 2001).
20 Baron de Waldner, ˜Projet sur un trait´ d™union et de garantie territoriale en Asie et
en Afrique entre la France et la R´ publique d™Hollande, et trait´ de commerce avec la
e e
R´ publique de Venise pour la mer M´ diterran´ e, compromis avec la Porte Ottomane.
e e e
Partage au besoin des terres Ottomanes tant en Europe, en Asie qu™en Afrique (1783)™,
AAE MD Turquie 15, pi` ce 6, fos. 50“107.
21 22 Ibid., fos. 105“7.
Ibid., fo. 98.
23 It was for proposing such a policy that Saint-Priest had been recalled by Vergennes in
1784; see C. L. Lokke, France and the Colonial Question: A Study of Contemporary French
Opinion 1763“1801 (New York, 1932), p. 92.
310 Gary Savage

clearly had an impact on thinking at the highest level, both at Versailles
and at the Porte.24
However, for every minister or publicist prepared to sacri¬ce the Porte
on the altar of global mastery, there were others determined to maintain
France™s role as the guarantor of the European balance of power through
the defence “ supposedly sel¬‚ess but in truth rationally self-interested “
of its weakest members. Not least among these was Vergennes himself.
According to one of his ¬rst biographers, ˜[h]e knew that it was essential
to hate the English, preserve Spain, treat the Emperor with care, get on
well with Prussia, win over the Dutch, protect the Turks, defy Russia,
manage Sweden, hold Rome in respect, maintain the nascent America,
pay off the Swiss and keep an eye on the colonies™.25 Indeed Vergennes,
himself a former initiate of the secret du roi, was in some respects as anti-
Austrian and pro-Turk as Favier “ a fact not lost on the queen.26 But
in the public mind, at least, his subtle and pragmatic system was intrin-
sically bound up with the ˜unnatural™ Austrian alliance which he main-
tained, faute de mieux. This was partly because Vergennes was unwilling
or unable to handle the press effectively;27 but it was also because the
diplomatic vision of his opponents was more aggressively dynamic than
the circumspect foreign minister could comfortably entertain.28 With the
exception of the American War “ which only fuelled the public appetite
for success “ Vergennes failed to convince the public that moderation
and retrenchment were suf¬cient returns on their tax investment in the
national interest; and attempts to censor debate were no substitute for
positive news-management. In a polity where government and public
were increasingly antagonistic, and in which the monarchy had already
acknowledged the claims of the nation in trying to resolve the domestic
impasse,29 the presentation and justi¬cation of foreign policy, like any
other policy, was critical.
In the space left by the absence of a coherently articulated (or, indeed,
coherent) ministerial foreign policy, the d´vot-secret criticism of of¬cial
diplomacy, beginning at court, created a stick with which Favier™s suc-
cessors as the cheerleaders of French diplomatic tradition were able to
give a very public beating to the royal government. In this sense, if

24 Schroeder, Transformation, p. 23.
25 C.-C. de Rulhi` re, Le comte de Vergennes, premi`re cause des Etats-G´n´raux (Paris, 1789),
e e ee
in ’uvres, ed. P. R. Auguis (2 vols., Paris, 1819), p. 176. This was probably commis-
sioned by Rulhi` re™s patron, and Vergennes™s rival, the baron de Breteuil; see Munro
Price, Preserving the Monarchy: The Comte de Vergennes, 1774“1787 (Cambridge, 1995),
pp. 233“5.
26 27 Ibid., pp. 170“1.
Rulhi` re, Comte de Vergennes, pp. 151“2.
28 Franklin L. Ford, Europe 1780“1830 (London, 1970), p. 75.
29 Blanning, The Culture of Power, pp. 13, 425“6.
Foreign policy and political culture 311

Vergennes™s greatest failure was that he allowed his detractors to por-
tray him as being out of sympathy with French tradition, his tragedy
was perhaps that he was not; instead he bequeathed to his successor,
the comte de Montmorin, a tortuous foreign policy whose modernising
aspects “ recognition of the necessity of the Austrian alliance; tentative
moves towards a rapprochement with Britain (in pursuit of both European
stability and maritime advantage) “ were hamstrung by a continuing belief
that France could simultaneously continue to dominate the continent.
The bankruptcy of this notion was starkly exposed by France™s humili-
ating paralysis during the 1787 Dutch crisis.30 By raising (or failing to
quash) such ˜amphibious™ expectations, and then manifestly being unable
to ful¬l them, Vergennes ensured that Montmorin would have no answer
to the traditionalist critique of French foreign policy articulated by the
advocates of the secret du roi: that the 1756 alliance had empowered Aus-
tria at the expense of France and her erstwhile allies, betraying national
security, history and identity for the sake of corrupt, self-absorbed, even
despotic dynastic whim.
In what turned out to be the ¬nal years of the old regime, such was
the power of this critique and its capacity to establish ˜patriotic™ criteria
for France™s relations with other powers, and thus her sense of self, that
Soulavie™s portrayal of a struggle for France™s soul played out through its
foreign policy begins to look more convincing. After 1789, defenders of
the Austrian alliance among the new political class, like Mirabeau and
Barnave, saw it as a means to preserve international stability in order
to consolidate their vision of a constitutional monarchy; by contrast,
opponents of the alliance, like Brissot, sought war in order to radicalise
or destroy that vision. That their arguments ultimately prevailed owed
much to the power of the anti-Austrian myth of which Soulavie™s typol-
ogy is itself evidence, especially when that myth was recast in revolution-
ary terms, and the Austrian alliance made a trope for old regime moral
degradation and the pressing need to expunge it from the body politic.
Jean-Louis Carra, who openly lionised Favier, did this repeatedly in
the pages of the newspaper he came to dominate, the Annales patriotiques
et litt´raires.31 In October 1789 he wrote:

30 Simon Schama, Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands 1780“1813 (2nd edn,
London, 1992); Alfred Cobban, Ambassadors and Secret Agents: The Diplomacy of the First
Earl of Malmesbury at the Hague (London, 1954). For the perspective from Versailles,
see Price, Preserving the Monarchy, ch. 8 passim.
31 Stefan Lemny, Jean-Louis Carra, 1742“1793: parcours d™un r´volutionnaire (Paris, 2000),
pp. 175“6. Over 1,200 Jacobin clubs across France were subscribers to the journal by
1793; see Hugh Gough, The Newspaper Press in the French Revolution (London, 1988),
p. 198.
312 Gary Savage

Instead of seeking to misguide the true principles of society and the rights of
nations in premature and insidious questions on the heredity of the crown, should
there not have been an immediate examination of the 1756 alliance between
France and the Habsburgs? . . . Should not a decent minister of state put the
glory and security of his nation above all personal considerations? The love and
glory of my country lead me to denounce these treaties with the Habsburgs as
moral and political calamities which have af¬‚icted us for thirty-two years, and
from which the National Assembly must deliver us.32

But Carra was a dyed-in-the-wool radical from whom the accusatory
rhetoric of offended virtue might be expected. More striking is that seem-
ingly Establishment ¬gures like Peyssonnel also recast Favier™s arguments
in revolutionary terms. The author of sixteen treatises on foreign pol-
icy between 1765 and his death in 1790, this thoroughly old regime
operator “ former French consul in Smyrna and intimate of the foreign
ministry “ possessed a fashionably unsentimental appreciation of raison
d™´tat as the wellspring of international relations.33 He also assumed the
crucial role of history and tradition as the chief compasses for states in
pursuit of their natural interests. Responding to Volney™s celebrated pam-
phlet on the Russo-Turkish War (1788),34 Peyssonnel rejected the view
that, because the world was constantly changing, states should alter their
policies and alliances regularly. On the contrary, ˜[t]he European bal-
ance™, he declared in a naturalistic simile, ˜is like the population of a state;
deaths do not undermine it, because they are replaced by births™.35 Thus,
if the states-system was in a condition of permanent but self-adjusting
¬‚ux “ whereby, for example, Sweden had been replaced by Prussia, and
British America by the Russian Orient “ then good statecraft inhered not
in Volney™s short-termism but in the consistent application of sound max-
ims which alone can lead to a mastery of events.36 In this light, accidents
like Louis XVI™s marriage to the Austrian archduchess Marie Antoinette
were irrelevant, as ˜the consanguinity of sovereigns does not change the
natural interests of Empires™.37
The language of weights, measures and relative proportions of power “
which Peyssonnel argued made a ˜dinanom` tre™ more useful than a

32 Annales patriotiques et litt´raires de la France, 8, 10 October 1789, pp. 3“4. Carra recom-
mended both Favier™s Doutes et questions and Peyssonnel™s Situation politique (see n. 39,
below), advertising the booksellers of both; ibid., p. 3, n.
33 Sorel, Political Traditions, pp. 42“5.
34 C. F. C. Volney, ˜Consid´ rations sur la guerre actuelle des Turcs (1788)™, in ’uvres,
deuxi`me edition compl`te (8 vols., Paris, 1825“6), II.345“445.
e´ e
35 Claude-Charles de Peyssonnel, Examen du livre intitul´ Consid´ rations sur la guerre
e e
actuelle des Turcs par M. Volney (Amsterdam, 1788), p. 146.
36 37 Ibid., p. 135.
Ibid., p. 147.
Foreign policy and political culture 313

gazetteer in reading the states-system38 “ was typical of late old regime
commentators, as was his tendency to describe the interests of the ˜nation™
rather than the ˜crown™ “ though he was generally at pains to stress the
king™s exclusive control of, and sensitivity to, the nation™s foreign policy.39
However, as the revolution gathered pace, Peyssonnel™s tone grew bolder,
and he began to articulate Favier™s arguments in the more radical lan-
guage of Carra and Marat, helping to render the Habsburgs an ideal
enemy for revolutionaries seeking a scapegoat for their sense of vulner-
ability abroad and lack of unity at home: despotic, anti-national and
unnatural, an enemy of French interests but, more importantly, the inter-
ests of humanity. In a speech to the Paris Jacobins in March 1790, for
instance, Peyssonnel recommended that the National Assembly establish
a permanent committee to ensure the foreign ministry abandoned the
˜perverse [1756] system™; appoint only patriotic generals to defend
the frontiers; and purge the diplomatic corps of all those ˜infected with
the poison of the former regime™.40 As he wrote elsewhere, in terms redo-
lent of the elder Mirabeau™s physiocratic manifesto, L™ami des hommes
(1756“60),41 France could thereby pursue a foreign policy worthy of the
˜benefactress of humanity™ and the friend of all peoples struggling against
Peyssonnel™s personal radicalisation was also apparent in another
speech to the Jacobins, this time on France™s relationship with the Swiss
cantons.43 In this, he naturally celebrated a traditional alliance between
two states sharing a common (Habsburg) enemy, but also urged the
Assembly to take over foreign policy in order to prevent the ministry

38 Ibid., pp. 133“5.
39 For the fullest exposition of Peyssonnel™s views down to 1789, see Situation politique de
la France, et ses rapports actuels avec toutes les puissances de l™Europe; ouvrage dont l™objet
est de d´montrer, par les faits historiques et les principes de la saine politique, tous les maux
qu™a caus´s a la France l™alliance autrichienne, et toutes les fautes que le Minist`re fran¸ois a
e` e c
commises depuis l™´poque des Trait´s de Versailles, de 1756, 57 et 58, jusqu™` nos jours (2 vols.,
e e a
Neufchˆ tel and Paris, 1789).
40 Claude-Charles de Peyssonnel, Discours prononc´ a l™assembl´e de la soci´t´ des amis de la
e` e ee
constitution par M. Peyssonnel, le mercredi 10 mars 1790 (Paris, 1790), in F.-A. Aulard,
ed., La Soci´t´ des Jacobins: recueil de documents pour l™histoire du club des Jacobins de Paris
(6 vols., Paris, 1889“97), vol. I (1889), pp. 27“8.
41 Victor Riquetti, marquis de Mirabeau, L™ami des hommes, ou Trait´ de la population
(Avignon, 1757).
42 J.-A.-N. de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet, Biblioth`que de l™homme public; ou analyse
raisonn´e des principaux ouvrages fran¸ois et etrang`res, sur la politique en g´n´ral, la l´gislation,
e c ´ e ee e
les ¬nances, la police, l™agriculture, & le commerce en particuli`re, & sur le droit natural &
public. Par M. le marquis de Condorcet, M. de Peysonnel, M. le Chapelier, et autres gens de
letters (28 vols., Paris, 1790“2), vol. IV (1790), p. 195, n.
43 Claude-Charles de Peyssonnel, Discours sur l™alliance de la France avec les Suisses et les
Grisons, prononc´ a l™assembl´e des Amis de la constitution le 3 mai 1790 (Paris, 1790), in
e` e
Aulard, ed., Soci´t´ des Jacobins, I.79“98.
314 Gary Savage

undermining the relationship via old regime intrigue and corruption.44
By the same token, Peyssonnel insisted that a strong lead now would
ensure the ascendancy of the democratic cantons, undermine counter-
revolutionary sentiment in the Swiss regiments and silence the aristocracy
on both sides of the Alps.45 He now drew a clear distinction between the
monarch and the nation, favouring the abolition of the Swiss Guards on
the grounds that ˜nothing in the world seems less politic than to have two
armies in the same empire, that of the state and that of the prince™.46
Peyssonnel would probably have supported the Brissotin campaign for
war, but in the event he died just a few days later; an event the Chronique
de Paris attributed to a heart attack which had delivered the Austrian
Committee from its most courageous adversary.47 Marat thought that he
had been murdered.48 The obituaries in both newspapers suggest that
Peyssonnel™s views were both widely known and respected, albeit radi-
calised in his ¬nal months to articulate that unstable contemporary mix
of cosmopolitanism and nationalism which was inherited and intensi¬ed
during the revolution.49 The idealism of L™ami des hommes was thus fused
with Favier™s Realpolitik to create a discourse ideally suited to the revolu-
tion™s messianic, paranoid political culture “ and it focused squarely on
the Habsburgs.
The popular resonance of the traditionalist discourse, successfully
styled by its partisans as ˜national™ or ˜patriotic™, was partly rooted in
the perception that the modernisers had failed miserably to overcome
the relative decline of French ¬scal-military power since the Seven Years™
War. This was something which demanded domestic reform, but which
the aristocratic military landed establishment preferred to blame on the
emergence of a more maritime diplomacy and the consumerist culture it
re¬‚ected. Something of this was re¬‚ected in Odet-Julien Leboucher™s
unremarkable history of the American War, published in 1787.50 In
Leboucher™s view, France™s great mistake was the failure to prioritise mar-
itime considerations over more traditional European concerns, ensuring
a continental dimension to Anglo-French con¬‚icts which had allowed
Britain to ¬ght by proxy and build up her ¬‚eet unimpeded. By contrast,

44 45 Ibid., pp. 85“6. 46 Ibid., pp. 90ff.
Ibid., pp. 80“4.
47 Chronique de Paris, 14 May 1790, quoted in Aulard, ed., Soci´t´ des Jacobins, I.18, n.
48 Le Junius fran¸ais, 6, 9 June 1790, printed in ’uvres politiques 1789“1793, ed. Jacques
de Cock et Charlotte Go¨ tz (10 vols., Brussels, 1991), II.851.
49 The mix is abundantly apparent in the pages of the Encyclop´die m´thodique: economie
e e ´
politique et diplomatique (4 vols., Paris and Li` ge, 1784“8).
50 O.-J. Leboucher, Histoire de la derni`re guerre, entre la Grande-Bretagne, et les Etats-Unis de
l™Am´rique, la France, l™Espagne et la Hollande, depuis son commencement en 1775, jusqu™`
e a
sa ¬n en 1783 (Paris, 1787); Louis Gabriel Michaud, Biographie universelle ancienne et
moderne (45 vols., Paris, 1843“65), XXIII.476.
Foreign policy and political culture 315

while vital revenues had been poured into the army, the French navy had
been allowed to rot in the ports. Leboucher saw this as a consequence of
˜the national prejudice™ “ perhaps re¬‚ecting military preferences at court “
which had militated against the restoration of the navy.51 This was a crit-
icism which he could have read in the Histoire des deux Indes, which also
condemned the amount of money lavished on continental war rather
than maritime navigation. The causes of this neglect were, apparently,
the stupidity of ministers and the intrigues of the court: ˜Everything has
prevented the nation from becoming in maritime terms what it has been
on the continent, to reach at least an equivalence of power, if not a pre-
ponderance.™52 According to this view, the neglect of the nation™s marine
was a national scandal.
Subscribers to the theory of the utility of the Diplomatic Revolution,
like Choiseul, may well have agreed with that assertion; nevertheless,
hostility towards the Austrian alliance in France was widespread. It cer-
tainly infuriated the emperor, who saw it as unjust in terms of past bene¬t
and impolitic in terms of the present.53 The point was made even more
forcefully by the Austrian chancellor, Kaunitz, in a letter to the Austrian
ambassador in Paris, Mercy-Argenteau, on 3 November 1789:
I have read the wholly absurd work by M. Peyssonnel, and the only thing I can
say is that every one of its assertions relative to the alliance is manifestly false and,
on the contrary and incontestably, France would be done for if we were the allies
of Britain. It is only thanks to us that she has been able to recover as a maritime
power, and there is no one else in Europe with whom she could replace us on
all points. So, far from her current system being bad, it is impossible to imagine
what could replace it.54
This was an assessment which Montmorin would doubtless have accepted
as rational; but reason was in short supply in the polarised political
culture which obtained after the Flight to Varennes (21 June 1791).
In this climate, the avowedly anti-British ends of both sides in the old

51 Leboucher, Histoire de la derni`re guerre, pp. x“xi.
52 Guillaume-Thomas Raynal, Histoire philosophique et politique des etablissemens et du com-
merce des Europ´ens dans les deux Indes (10 vols., Geneva, 1781), VIII.212. This ˜national
prejudice™ is discussed in Edmond Dziembowski, Un nouveau patriotisme fran¸ais, 1750“
1770: la France face a la puissance anglaise a l™´poque de la guerre de Sept Ans (Oxford,
` `e
1998), pp. 492“3.
53 Joseph II to Mercy (3 November 1789), in Alfred d™Arneth and Jules Flammermont,
eds., Correspondance secr`te du comte de Mercy-Argenteau avec l™Empereur Joseph II et le
prince de Kaunitz (2 vols., Paris, 1889“91), II.273“4.
54 Kaunitz to Mercy (3 November 1789), in ibid., p. 281. Mercy acknowledged the
in¬‚uence of ˜pitiful writings™ like Peyssonnel™s, ˜who is besides generally regarded as
a braggart of the ¬rst order™; and reported that the ministry, ˜most pained by this shame-
ful [anti-Austrian] delirium™, would repress it if only it had the means; Mercy to Kaunitz
(18 November 1789), in ibid., p. 287.
316 Gary Savage

regime debate about foreign policy, modernising and traditionalist, were
eclipsed. Instead, the Brissotins were able to transform Favier™s depic-
tion of the strategic need to abandon Austria into the leitmotiv of a much
deeper mission to guide the universal con¬‚ict between slaves and tyrants
(and get themselves into power); a con¬‚ict so right that it could even
turn a paci¬st like Condorcet into an apologist for a patriotic war against
the despotic fount of its destructive principle: ˜It is in detesting war™, he
piously explained, ˜that I have voted to declare it.™55
The Brissotin campaign for war was anchored in the emotive power
of national traditions like Austrophobia and Prussophilia which, trans-
planted into the demotic demi-monde and intensi¬ed by the seeming
threat of domestic and foreign counter-revolution (the internal and exter-
nal Coblenzes), wreaked havoc on the lingering commercial and mar-
itime priorities, and Anglophobe instincts, of the Constituent Assembly.
However, the Brissotins should not be regarded as slavish followers of
Favier, nor their strategy as a simple implementation of his system. Just
as Peyssonnel, after 1789, articulated that system with a utopianism which
Favier would have found bizarre, so the Brissotins apostrophised it as part
of a strategy to make France a republic, perhaps in alliance with Britain,
which he would have found shocking. What the Brissotins basically took
from Favier was the conviction that the reversal of alliances was a crime
against nature and the nation. His posthumous reputation, the work of
devotees like Carra and Peyssonnel, and the activities of the emigr´s and
´ e
the emperor made this a seductive combination. But the (early) revolu-
tionary sense of political af¬nity with Britain initially de¬‚ated its status
as a national enemy compared with the more immediate threat posed by
Austria; and Habsburg iniquity was itself portrayed in ideological as well
as, if not more than, power-political terms. Shifts like these ensured that
Brissotin rhetoric and policy were certainly not examples of continuity
tout court.
Something of this is conveyed by the reports which the soldier, adven-
turer and sometime Brissotin Charles Fran¸ ois Dumouriez wrote about
his June 1790 visit to Belgium, undertaken to investigate the recent revo-
lution against Habsburg rule.56 Indignant about France™s exclusion from
the great power conference at Reichenbach (July 1790), and from another
planned to discuss the Belgian problem speci¬cally, Dumouriez told the
Assembly that the recent arming of forty-¬ve ships of the line in support

55 Quoted in Janine Bouissounouse, ˜Condorcet: un paci¬ste se jette dans la guerre™, Guerres
et paix 2 (1966), p. 38.
56 S.-A. Berville and J. F. Barri` re, La vie et les m´moires du g´n´ral Dumouriez (4 vols.,
e e ee
1822), II.85.
Foreign policy and political culture 317

of Spain against Britain over the Nootka Sound crisis should be matched
by the reinvigoration of the army and the frontiers; as ˜if France was
engaged in a maritime war there would necessarily result a land war™.57
In truth, the Assembly™s largely symbolic support for Spain, secured
after months of agonised debate, came far too late to effect any genuine
leverage over Britain, which soon prevailed in the crisis.58 Nevertheless,
his awareness of France™s ˜amphibious™ geography was one reason why
Dumouriez was determined that France should nurture Belgian inde-
pendence. Another was more ideological:
[The Assembly] would commit an unpardonable political error, and a moral
crime against the principles of the constitution, if it let itself be in¬‚uenced by the
Austrian ambassador to the point of authorising the executive power to permit
the passage of [the emperor™s] troops on French soil in order to take the brave
Belgians a dos, who should regard our frontiers as an inviolable barrier.59

To allow this would be to violate the rights of man, betray a free peo-
ple, invigorate Austria and endanger France, as ˜Brussels would soon
become the lair of our emigr´s, the hearth of our aristocrats, with fatal
´ e
results for our own constitution.™ Dumouriez clearly linked the fate of
the new regime, and its (universal) ideology, with the inviolability of the
frontiers; and, although Britain was still identi¬ed as a threat, greater by
far in this respect were the Austrians, despotic and devious, seeking to
destroy the Belgians by a typically craven old regime manoeuvre a dos.60
Similar notions were to characterise Dumouriez™s stint as (Brissotin) for-
eign minister, at the time of France™s declaration of war against the King
of Bohemia and Hungary in April 1792.
The ideological dimension to revolutionary Austrophobia, and the ends
to which the Brissotins sought to exploit traditional diplomatic ideas,
serve to qualify Albert Sorel™s assertion that the aims of French for-
eign policy were immutable. Similarly questionable was what he saw
as France™s eternal desire to expand to the ˜natural frontiers™ cited by

57 (Charles-Fran¸ ois Dumouriez), ˜R´ ¬‚exions sur les affaires Belgiques™, Archives
c e
Nationales (AN) F7 4689, plaq. 2, pi` ce 22, fos. 1“5. A later, different hand dated
this 1791, but the content clearly indicates 1790.
58 See Recueil des instructions donn´es aux ambassadeurs et ministres de France, 12 bis: Espagne,
ed. A. Morel-Fatio and H. L´ onardon (Paris, 1899), p. 389; Albert Sorel, L™Europe et la
R´volution fran¸aise (8 vols., Paris, 1885“1904), II.94“5.
e c
59 (Charles-Fran¸ ois Dumouriez), ˜Situation politique et militaire de la Conf´ d´ ration
c ee
Belgique™, AN F7 4691, plaq. 6, pi` ce 10.
60 Ibid. By contrast, Dumouriez™s memoirs “ which tended to emphasise his commitment
to the (constitutional) monarchy “ give the impression that he was sympathetic to the
Belgian people, but unimpressed by the ˜chaos™ of the revolt, from which therefore he felt
France could derive little immediate advantage; see Berville and Barri` re, Vie et m´moires
e e
de Dumouriez, II.85“91.
318 Gary Savage

Soulavie “ a doctrine which Gaston Zeller insisted emerged only after
1792.61 In Zeller™s defence, the pre-revolutionary Encyclop´die m´thodique
e e
articulated what Peter Sahlins has alleged was an eighteenth-century
reconception of ˜natural frontiers™ as ˜natural boundaries™, intended not
as staging-posts for conquest but to delimit and rationalise the state™s
borders.62 According to the physiocrat Guillaume Grivel, this was linked
to diplomatic moderation, so ˜we shall henceforward have nature and
everyone™s interest as allies, and the true balance politique will be ours™.63
Similarly, Brissot claimed to see the natural boundaries as a means to
defend a satiated people rather than as a platform for expansion.64 So
did Grivel™s editor, D´ meunier; but he also described the Low Coun-
tries as a legitimate target in war, hinting perhaps at unful¬lled ambitions
towards the Rhine.65 Peyssonnel told the Jacobins that the Rhine was a
˜frontier indicated by nature™ which France should aspire to if Germany
were partitioned.66 In this light, the expansion to the Rhine ˜from Geneva
to the sea™ articulated by Dumouriez, Brissot and Danton in 1792“367
was not the turning-point imagined by Zeller any more than it was the
straightforward continuity asserted by Sorel; it re¬‚ected the revolutionary
transformation of an existing idea.68 Just as the Brissotins turned Favier™s
Austrophobia into an anti-despotic trope to persuade the people to start
a war, so they made the ˜natural frontiers™ a patriotic trope to persuade
them to continue it. As Schroeder has argued, at root French policy was
less concerned with the natural frontiers (an ambiguous slogan designed
to conceal the divergence of French aims) than with security via hege-
mony in western Europe, an eternal aim which put France back on a
collision course with Britain.69
The resumption of anti-British policies was predictable given France™s
political geography, the deep roots of Anglophobia, the logic of the

61 Gaston Zeller, ˜Histoire d™une id´ e fausse™, in Aspects de la politique fran¸aise sous l™Ancien
e c
R´gime (Paris, 1964), pp. 101“8.
62 On the distinction between natural frontiers and boundaries and its effect on the develop-
ment of French diplomacy and identity, see Peter Sahlins, ˜Natural Frontiers Revisited:
France™s Boundaries since the Seventeenth Century™, American Historical Review 95
(1990), pp. 1423“51.
63 Encyclop´die m´thodique: economie politique et diplomatique, vol. I (1784), p. 284.
e e ´
64 J.-P Brissot, Discours de J. P. Brissot, d´put´ de Paris, sur la n´cessit´ d™exiger une satisfaction
ee e e
de l™Empereur, et de rompre le Trait´ du premier mai 1756 (Paris, 1792), pp. 18“19.
65 Encyclop´die m´thodique: economie politique et diplomatique, vol. II (1786), p. 482.
e e ´
66 Peyssonnel, Discours pronounc´ le 10 mars 1790, in Aulard, ed., Soci´t´ des Jacobins,
e ee
vol. I, p. 27.
67 T. C. W. Blanning, The Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars (London, 1986), p. 137;
Blanning, The French Revolutionary Wars (London, 1996), p. 91.
68 Sahlins, ˜Natural Frontiers Revisited™, p. 1443.
69 Schroeder, Transformation, pp. 115“17.
Foreign policy and political culture 319

National Convention™s Decree of Fraternity (November 1792) and the
irresistible vulnerability of the Low Countries. Prior to his abortive mis-
sion to London in 1792, the bishop-turned-diplomat Talleyrand was told
by Dumouriez to threaten Britain if it should refuse to ally or remain
neutral in the impending war, as ˜in two or three years™, having secured
the Low Countries as a guarantee, ˜we will restore our ¬‚eets and take
back the possessions that [Britain] will have usurped™.70 But the dilu-
tion of Anglophobia after 1789, albeit shallow, was important, as it pro-
vided reassurance for the war against Austria demanded by the Brissotins
in the Legislative Assembly which replaced the Constituent in October
1791. That this reassurance was fundamentally misplaced was revealed
when the maritime con¬‚ict was resumed in 1793, and France duly con-
fronted another Grand Alliance “ precisely what choiseuliste modernisers
had sought to avoid via the ˜necessary evil™ of the Austrian alliance.
Traditionalists, with their faith in Frederick the Great and the barri`re
de l™est, had always assumed France could manage such a con¬‚ict. In
May 1761, for instance, as part of a damning indictment of Rousseau™s
reappraisal of Saint-Pierre™s celebrated peace plan, the Grimms™ Corre-
spondance litt´raire had published a trenchant critique of the Diplomatic
Revolution and celebration of Henri IV and Sully, whose own conception
of perpetual peace was rooted in the establishment of a lasting balance of
power guaranteed by French justice and moderation, which would make
the King of France ˜the equivalent of a universal monarch™.71 In truth,
as S´ gur pointed out in his critical commentary on Favier™s writings,
belief that France could ¬ght simultaneously in two theatres before 1789
was completely misconceived; but afterwards, as S´ gur himself acknowl-
edged, the rules of the game were different, thanks to the revolution™s
astonishing capacity to mobilise the nation™s resources.72
Nevertheless, the revolutionary priority was not, pace Bailey Stone, to
revive French greatness in a competitive states-system,73 but the regen-
eration of the individual, the nation and, ultimately, mankind. By this
reckoning, international in¬‚uence “ whether of a kind envisaged by the
elder Mirabeau or Louis XIV “ would follow the revolutionary process
rather than drive it. That is partly why the likes of Peyssonnel and Carra
were so quick to exhort the new political class to recast France™s alliance
system immediately, rather than relying on moral regeneration as a means

70 (C.-F. Dumouriez), ˜R´ ¬‚exions pour la n´ gociation d™Angleterre en cas de guerre, du
e e
30 mars 1792™, AN F7 4688, plaq. 3, fo. 40.
71 Correspondance litt´raire, philosophique et critique par Grimm, Diderot, Raynal, Meister, etc.,
ed. Maurice Tourneux (16 vols., Paris, 1877“82), vol. IV (1761), pp. 394“8.
72 S´ gur, Politique, III.221.
73 Bailey Stone, Reinterpreting the French Revolution (Cambridge, 2002), p. 267.
320 Gary Savage

to international recovery “ which was their instinct and preference. But
if the neo-traditionalists were initially impeded by the fact that revolu-
tionary discourse tended to reject the claims of historical precedent and
privilege and argue from rational, universal ideas predicated on natural
law,74 the rupture was to prove less decisive in practice, particularly in
terms of foreign policy.
Brissot™s pro-war speeches demonstrate how the old regime™s legacy
was transformed rather than obliterated, invoking history (to show Aus-
tria™s per¬dy before and since 1756) and international law (the Habsburgs
had reneged on the terms of the treaty and its spirit) as well as univer-
sals (such a treaty was incompatible with a free people seeking universal
fraternity not particular advantage) to condemn the Austrian alliance as
an insult to humanity and to the nation.75 The latter, especially when
sancti¬ed by the former, was particularly important in a political cul-
ture in which national interest, honour and glory remained vital. Indeed,
one of the reasons why Brissot took Favier™s critique as a starting-point
for his campaign was its integration into the discursive landscape of the
later eighteenth century, which, as David Bell has shown, witnessed an
eruption of national tropes, referents and practices in opposition to (min-
isterial) despotism and the degeneration of France at home and abroad.76
Moreover, the focus of anti-Austrian publicists on the role of women
like Pompadour and Marie Antoinette in causing France™s diplomatic
nullity also chimed with the republicanism of the revolutionary era in
terms of its sense of gender difference between public men and private
women, and the damaging effects on the polity which resulted if that
boundary were crossed or corrupted.77 In this light, the Diplomatic Rev-
olution could be construed as effeminate, and anxieties about France™s
alliance system understood as the diplomatic parallel to moral concerns
about the degeneracy of the French character.78 In both cases, the solu-
tion was the same: a return to a putative natural order, not one imposed by
the whims of women and despots.79 The Austrian Committee allegedly
made those whims concrete; it remained a popular trope on Grub Street,

74 Colin Jones, The Great Nation: France from Louis XIV to Napoleon (London, 2002),
pp. 401, 424; Michael P. Fitzsimmons, The remaking of France: the National Assembly and
the Constitution of 1791 (Cambridge, 1994), p. 251.
75 See e.g. Brissot™s crucial speech in the Legislative Assembly on 20 October 1791; printed
in Archives parlementaires de 1787 a 1860: recueil complet des d´bats l´gislatifs et politiques
` e e
des chambres fran¸aises (AP), ed. M. J. Mavidal and M. E. Laurent (127 vols., Paris,
1879“1913), premi` re s´ rie (1787 a 1799), XXXIV.309“17.
e e `
76 David A. Bell, The Cult of the Nation in France: Inventing Nationalism, 1680“1800 (Cam-
bridge, MA and London, 2001).
77 78 Ibid., pp. 150“1.
Ibid., pp. 127“8.
79 Lynn Hunt, The Family Romance of the French Revolution (London, 1992).
Foreign policy and political culture 321

perhaps because it afforded a means to combine the reliably bankable
salaciousness of the old regime with the kind of virtuous expos´ of anti-
national conspiracy seemingly demanded by the new. One pamphlet
accused a corrupt and venal Marie Antoinette of plotting with Joseph to
despoil and dismember the kingdom and co-ordinating the emigr´s and
´ e
˜the hordes of Germany™. Needless to say, it also denounced the 1756
treaty with Austria, characterised as the product of Pompadour and the
imbecile Louis XV, ˜because the goal of his Council was to submit us to
a foreign despotism in order to overcome his own™.81 Hence the frequent
calls for the removal of foreign policy from exclusively executive control,
and indeed for the complete regeneration of the diplomatic corps and
culture of the old regime.82
In this light, it was ironic that the secret du roi furnished the revolu-
tion with a foreign policy, given that revolutionary political culture so
despised secrecy as the handmaiden of the complot aristocratique.83 Nev-
ertheless, operating within a doctrine of publicity which physiocrats like
the elder Mirabeau had asserted against endemic old regime secrecy,84
Favier™s successors had subjected the state™s foreign policy to critical
scrutiny and championed, paradoxically, the maxims of the secret; not
because they were secret, but because they were consonant with France™s
national traditions and thus appropriate to a polity in which the nation was
now sovereign. This perhaps made the Austrian alliance and its emblem,
Marie Antoinette, all the more unbearable in a way which commercial
competition with Britain was not. Rivalry between two sovereign nations
was virile and manly; the subversion of one nation secretly and basely by
a dynastic despot was its opposite. In short, that the revolution eventually
went to war against Britain was primarily a consequence of Dumouriez™s
drive into the Low Countries;85 that it went to war against Austria was
dictated by irresponsible Brissotin politicians operating within (and per-
haps deluded by) a political culture which took one aspect of the old

80 P. Bardin, D´sespoir de Louis XVI, et du comit´ autrichien des Thuilleries (Paris, 1792).
e e
81 (Louise-F´ licit´ Guinement de Keralio Robert), Les crimes des reines de France (Paris,
e e
1791), pp. 433, 443“4, 446, 457“8.
82 C.-F. Dumouriez, M´moire sur le minist`re des affaires etrang`res, par M. Dumouriez,
e e ´ e
mar´chal-de-camp de la douzi`me division de l™arm´e (Paris, 1791); F. Lobjoy, Opinion de F
e e e .
Lobjoy, ancien Maire de Colligis, d´put´ de l™Aisne, sur la n´cessit´ d™organiser le d´partement
ee e e e
des affaires etrang`res dans le sens de la constitution (Paris, 1792).
´ e
83 Fran¸ ois Furet, Interpreting the French Revolution, trans. Elborg Forster (Cambridge,
1981), pp. 53“6; Lynn Hunt, Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution (Berkeley,
1984), pp. 38“44.
84 Robin J. Ives, ˜Political Publicity and Political Economy in Eighteenth-Century France™,
French History 17 (2003), p. 13.
85 Blanning, Origins, pp. 158“9.
322 Gary Savage

regime™s diplomatic discourse and transformed it into an anti-despotic
national crusade undertaken, apparently, on behalf of humanity.
Sorel™s metanarrative insisted that the ˜downfall of Europe™ heralded
by the old regime™s partition diplomacy, wars of succession and the cyn-
ical pursuit of raison d™´tat was not arrested by the revolutionaries; trag-
ically, they could only imitate it.86 In truth, if the foreign policy of the
old regime was not abandoned by the revolution, it was still transformed
by it. According to Hauterive™s L™´tat de la France a la ¬n de l™an VIII
e `
(1800), the law of nations “ which had ceased to exist in 1789 “ had
been restored thanks to France, now back to her natural place at the cen-
tre of Europe and guarding its peace and security against aggressors like
per¬dious Albion. This vision combined old dreams of hegemony and
universal monarchy with the philosophe critique of old regime practices
and enthusiasm for the kind of ideal single state apparently emerging in
America, creating a speci¬cally Napoleonic sense of France™s place and
role in the world.87 A crucial way station in the emergence of this kind
of rhetoric was Favier™s version of the secret du roi, given a revolutionary
make-over by Carra and Peyssonnel “ who made it the diplomatic hand-
maiden to the discourse of domestic regeneration “ and then deployed
by the Brissotins to provoke a ˜just™ war.
The revolutionary debt to the secret was acknowledged by Edmund
Burke, who, like Soulavie, perceived two camps contesting foreign pol-
icy in eighteenth-century France, both seeking national aggrandisement,
but differing over methods. In the astonishingly perceptive Letters on the
Regicide Peace (1796), he stated that the ¬rst wished to prioritise the
maritime struggle against Britain, without whose interventions the con-
tinental powers would soon succumb to French in¬‚uence. The second,
˜more numerous, though not the most outwardly prevalent at court, con-
sidered this plan for France as contrary to her genius, her situation and
her natural means. They agreed as to the ultimate object, the reduction
of the British power . . . but they considered an ascendancy on the Con-
tinent as a necessary preliminary to that undertaking.™88 According to
Burke, the traditionalists saw the failure of the maritime approach as evi-
dence of the dangers of leaving national, natural interests to individual

86 Sorel, Political Traditions, pp. 67, 115“18.
87 F. H. Hinsley, Power and the Pursuit of Peace: Theory and Practice in the History of Relations
between States (Cambridge, 1963), pp. 186“90. A similar vision of France as an anti-
British ami des hommes, satis¬ed with its natural limits (sic) and devoted to the public
peace, was outlined by S´ gur in Politique, III.374“5, 382“3.
88 Edmund Burke, Letters on the Proposals for Peace with the Regicide Directory of France
(1796), esp. letter II: ˜On the genius and character of the French Revolution as it regards
other nations™, in Burke, Works and Correspondence (8 vols., London, 1852), vol. V, p. 334.
Foreign policy and political culture 323

whim, unfavourably comparing ˜the systematic proceedings of a Roman
senate with the ¬‚uctuations of a monarchy™.89 Their critique thus helped
to undermine the monarchy, and bequeathed a war against civilisation by
˜a new power of a new species™.90
The suggestion that the partisans of diplomatic tradition came to see
the best cure for France™s international decline in the shape of a repub-
lic perhaps re¬‚ected Burke™s prejudices “ which he was no more able to
escape than Soulavie “ more than historical reality. But ˜republican™ values
of patriotic virtue and the sense of enduring natural interests articulated
by the likes of Gabriel Bonnot de Mably91 “ neither of which were neces-
sarily incompatible with monarchy “ certainly in¬‚uenced Favier™s version
of the secret du roi; and genuine republicans like Brissot were attracted to
it as a means to their particular ends. Once war was declared, however,
the revolutionaries had to navigate the realities of war rather than the
rhetorical shadow-boxing of 1789“92. This led to some further ¬‚ights of
fancy, and some compromises. After the triumph of Jemappes (November
1792) the Convention declared that Austrians were to be pursued wher-
ever they ¬‚ed; yet the foreign minister Lebrun™s response to a Neapolitan
call for Austro-French negotiations was that an Austro-Prussian breach
must precede it, and that the emperor could then seek compensation for
the Netherlands by conquering Silesia!92
Realpolitik like this “ foreshadowing the cynical rapacity of the Treaty
of Campo Formio (October 1797)93 “ serves to underline the unique
qualities of the period 1789“92, when the political class in France was
momentarily unshackled from the exigencies of old regime power poli-
tics, and was not yet bound by those of revolutionary war. In that peculiar
bubble, though the revolutionaries were always conscious of the world
without, their terms of reference were almost completely internal “ not
so much regarding France as part of the states-system, as regarding the
states-system in terms of the revolution and its ideology. Hence the esca-
lation of old regime Austrophobia into a revolutionary crusade and the
popular delusions about Prussia and Britain. Such fantasies did not last
long: Prussia fought alongside Austria; and from February 1793 France
was at war with Britain and Spain into the bargain. Favier would have

89 Ibid., pp. 335“6.
90 Ibid., p. 331. Burke cited Favier™s Conjectures raisonn´es, which he had read in S´ gur;
e e
ibid., p. 335, n.
91 Norman Hampson, ˜Mably and the Montagnards™, French History 16 (2002), pp. 402“
92 Jeremy Black, From Louis XIV to Napoleon: The Fate of a Great Power (London, 1999),
p. 167.
93 Blanning, Origins, pp. 174“5.
324 Gary Savage

appreciated Jacobin attitudes towards Britain, Austria, Poland, the Porte
and the empire; but war with Prussia and Spain would have appalled him,
and the millenarian rhetoric and recklessness of the revolutionaries would
have baf¬‚ed him. After 1795, the familiarity of alliance with Spain versus
Britain and Austria (and eventually Russia) would have been offset, in
Favier™s view, by Napoleonic contempt towards both the Ottoman and
Holy Roman Empires. In short, despite some obvious similarities and
the undoubted revival of French power once unshackled, as he would see
it, from Austrian domination, Favier™s system, and the world in which it
had been constructed, was a shadow, not the substance, of international
relations in the later 1790s. It was the revolution which had enabled the
revival and unprecedented projection of French power; and it was the
delusory impact of its ideology on assessments of how best to manage
that power “ what Blanning has called the ˜Coppelia Effect™94 “ which
occasioned war, and sustained it for a generation.
In France, the Austrian alliance and the debate attending it were a
crucial part of this process of revolutionary transformation, a critical fault
line between the desire to start afresh and the stubborn heritage of the
old regime. The leitmotiv of a well-publicised old regime critique of royal
policy since the Seven Years™ War, this essentially Austrophobe discourse
gradually established a notional ˜national™ standard against which the
crown™s running of French foreign policy along more global, maritime
lines was said to be found wanting. Before 1789, few doubted that British
power had to be confronted as the chief threat to French interests; the
question was by what means, and at what price. Once the revolution had
erupted, the anti-British stake at the heart of both sides of the debate was,
for a time, subsumed by the anti-Austrian animus of the traditionalists,
now articulated more ferociously than ever in press, club and pamphlet.
Colliding with Enlightenment ideas and counter-revolutionary anxieties
in the crucible of a new political culture, it effected “ through the agency of
the Brissotins “ the reassertion and nationalisation of French diplomatic
tradition against the more maritime trajectory of later eighteenth-century
foreign policy, the transformation of revolutionary foreign policy, and
thus of the regime itself.

94 Ibid., p. 73.
16 Power and patronage in Mozart™s
La clemenza di Tito and Die Zauber¬‚¨ te

Mark Berry1
Peterhouse, Cambridge

Giovanni De Gamerra, playwright and librettist, wrote in his 1790 Osser-
vazioni sullo spettacolo:

Theatrical spectacle, established on the basis of wise laws and of careful reform,
can be regarded as a means always available to the sovereign power to inculcate
in his subjects the most useful and important beliefs . . . Has our century not
seen an emperor at a performance of La clemenza di Tito listening to the voices of
humanity and forgiveness?2

These words do not actually refer to Mozart™s La clemenza di Tito, whose
music would be composed the following year, but to an earlier setting of
Pietro Metastasio™s text. The Metastasian tradition of court performance,
old-fashioned but not obsolete, presented the monarch with the ideal of
a benevolent, moral ruler, which, identi¬ed with himself, he would then
re-present to the audience.
De Gamerra™s ¬rst libretto, amended by Metastasio, was that to
Mozart™s “ and subsequently Johann Christian Bach™s “ Lucio Silla. It
achieved the near-impossible task of redeeming Plutarch™s tyrannical
Lucius Sulla, transforming him into an agent of Stoic clemency. ˜Theatri-
cal spectacle™ was remote both from mere entertainment and from l™art
pour l™art; it was a compulsory class in a school for ruler and ruled. Culture
and power were inextricably intertwined in eighteenth-century opera, in
terms of commission, composition, characterisation, performance and
reception. These different aspects of the ˜work™ need not always work
together; claims are contested as well as reconciled in the operatic arena.

1 I should like to thank the participants in the Cultures of Power conference, Cambridge,
2005, for their papers and discussion, and especially Derek Beales for his subsequent
advice and criticism.
2 Quoted in J. A. Rice, La clemenza di Tito (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991),
p. 11.

326 Mark Berry

The perceived power of opera is illustrated by Leopold II™s denun-
ciation of the proposed appointment of De Gamerra as librettist to La
Scala. Leopold warned his brother Ferdinand, governor of Lombardy, of
De Gamerra™s revolutionary inclinations: ˜fanatic to excess, hot-headed,
imprudent concerning . . . liberty, very dangerous™.3 A public platform
for a ˜fanatic™ might imperil the House of Habsburg “ until, that is, De
Gamerra prudently modi¬ed his behaviour and the Habsburgs graciously
revised their opinion, resulting in reappointment in 1794 as court libret-
tist in Vienna and renewed collaboration with Salieri. De Gamerra™s skill
and even Mozart™s genius would come to naught without commission or
performance. Artists must deal with authority, and it with them.
Both parties must also contend with the audience. De Gamerra™s words
indicate how Mozart™s work would shortly be received, or rather its
intended reception; the eighteenth-century public was far from a pas-
sive, uncritical receptacle. Indeed, as Tim Blanning has written, ˜both
the musician and the society are involved in the creative process™. Thus,
˜whether Mozart was performing in palaces or public rooms, the audi-
ence consisted mainly of nobles . . . if it would be pushing the argument
too far to classify Mozart™s work as “aristocratic”, it would certainly make
more sense than to call it “bourgeois”™.4 The word ˜aristocratic™ might
seem more appropriate to Tito, an opera seria (an Italian opera based
upon a time-honoured tragic or heroic subject), than to Die Zauber¬‚¨ te, a
˜popular™ Singspiel. Such a work might seem to have less obvious connec-
tion with issues of culture and power, at least as introduced above, but
such a conclusion would be misleading. These issues and some of their
implications are the concern of this essay.

Mozart™s operas were written with a variety of patrons and audiences
in mind “ which is not to claim that they were only written with them in


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