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The Police des Cultes under the Directory

Joseph Harmon

Résumés

À l’époque du Directoire, les dirigeants politiques ont fait face au problème de maintenir une république constitutionnelle après une période de gouvernement révolutionnaire. Ils ont cherché à restaurer la paix civile dans le cadre des nouvelles libertés acquises par la Révolution. Un élément durable de ce projet était la question de la religion, la police des cultes du Directoire, l’un des plus grands obstacles à la paix civile étant en effet le schisme au sein de l’Église catholique en France. Cependant, les catégories de pensée, les vues philosophiques et des lois particulières héritées par la Directoire ont toutes servi à limiter les options du gouvernement et de ses agents.

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Notes de l’auteur

I would like to thank the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution at Florida State University for enabling my research for this article

Texte intégral

  • 1 In the words of Michel Poniatowski, the Directory had “a precise objective: to maintain in power a (...)

1The great object of the French Republic in the latter 1790s was to conclude the Revolution.1 In finally promulgating a constitution and then ensuring that they would hold a majority in the first legislature, the Conventionnels moved the nation from a revolutionary and provisional government under a constituent assembly to a constitutional government with a representative legislature and an independent, collegial executive body directing the central administration. France was finally to enjoy the benefits achieved through the revolutionary struggles. How did religion connect to this mission? For the leaders of the Directory-era government, both aspects of their fundamental mission touched upon religion: first, among the gains of the revolution to be conserved were the new liberté des cultes and the biens nationaux. Second, one of the chief tasks of political leaders in ending the revolution was to calm religious passions (often suspected to be at the root of the violence and brigandage afflicting the era), at the bottom of which lay a schism dividing the Catholic Church in France. The Directory would face these two issues throughout its existence; they also demonstrate a continuity stretching from the early Revolution into the Consulate and beyond.

  • 2 François Furet, Revolutionary France, 1770-1880, p. 196. On the continuing political importance of (...)
  • 3 Decrees from May 1795 and November 1796 regulated submissions and auctions of biens nationaux in an (...)
  • 4 Lecointre recommended selling off a category of church properties which had escaped earlier laws (t (...)

2The former biens ecclésiastiques remained of fundamental importance for every regime after 1789. This vast aggregate of lands, titles, and revenues formed the “inexhaustible capital of the Revolution.”2 They were the source of many fortunes and by now were integrated into many industries. Finance reports and schemes to extract yet more revenues out of the biens nationaux for the state remained a constant feature of the period.3 It was also the fact that being an acquéreur, like being a regicide, gave one a stake in the Revolution and in the republic. Whenever one spoke of the “gains of the Revolution,” the biens nationaux were always a part of these gains. In this matter too, the counter-revolution constituted a permanent threat for the supporters of the Directory, however moderate they might be in other ways, as a counter-revolution that included a restoration of despoiled properties would be catastrophic. In this vein, in February 1795, the Thermidorian Lecointre urged the Convention that the only way to make the Revolution’s gains permanent, to prevent any hope of such a restoration, was to finally sell off all remaining churches, rectories, and parish gardens.4 And, in June of 1799, in the final months of the Directory, the new law of hostages specifically protected acquéreurs of biens nationaux as well as priests who had sworn submission to the republic. Finally, into the period of the Consulate, securing the former biens ecclésiastiques from retrieval was an essential part of Bonaparte’s negotiations on a concordat with the Holy See.

  • 5 This was the argument made by Durand de Maillane, one of the architects of the original Civil Const (...)
  • 6 See the detailed discussion of the term “separation” made by Bernard Plongeron (particularly in con (...)
  • 7 Michel Vovelle, Religion et Révolution : la déchristianisation de l’an II, Paris, Hachette, 1976; M (...)

3In the second place, the schism which rent the Church in France likewise bound the Directory and their allies in the Councils, despite their intentions to keep the state separate from any culte, to religious and theological questions. Thanks to important steps taken at the end of the Convention, the Directory-era Republic not only was not a confessional state, but did not recognize the Catholic religion as dominant, nor did it publicly fund the Church. This neutrality on the part of the state, it was hoped, would soothe the causes of religious controversy.5 The “first separation” of the state from the Church (as it was remembered in the Third Republic)6 consisted of annulling the Civil Constitution of the Clergy; the former Constitutional Church attempted to survive as simply the Gallican Church. However, the theoretical indifference of the Republic was belied by several factors. Most importantly, far from being irenically drawn from the salons of the Lumières, it followed on the heels of the dechristianization measures and of the Terror, which had been a severe shock to the Catholic nation.7 The Thermidoreans may have attempted to pin all blame for the Terror upon Robespierre, but it was impossible to separate the Revolution from anticlericalism. And whereas both the refractory abbé Emery and the constitutional bishop Grégoire could see in separation a reprieve from persecution, for many anticlerical and anti-Catholic republicans, it was a victory on the road to a post-Christian society with “no more priests.”

  • 8 Edme Champion, La séparation de l’Église et de l’État en 1794 : Introduction à l’histoire religieus (...)
  • 9 “L’État était laïcisé”; “le régime de la Séparation s’imposa et devint sans difficulté le régime lé (...)
  • 10 Albert Mathiez, La Théophilanthropie et le culte décadaire, 1796-1802 : Essai sur l’histoire religi (...)
  • 11 Georges Lefebvre, Le Directoire, Armand Colin, 1946; republished with a new bibliography by Robert (...)
  • 12 “[O]n doit reconnaître que le Directoire n’avait pas eu de politique nette et surtout suivie”: Ibid (...)
  • 13 “En somme, il faudra tout un xixe siècle…pour que les élites se dotent d’un nouvel outillage mental (...)
  • 14 “La Révolution a également composé un premier répertoire de la pluralité dont la pièce maîtresse es (...)
  • 15 “[I]l n’y a jamais eu de véritable séparation de l’Église et de l’État pendant la Révolution”, Albe (...)

4This ambiguity is reflected in the historiography. The debates surrounding the law of 1901 on associations and that of 1905 concerning the separation of the Churches from the State drew the interest of historians back to the “first separation.” Edme Champion, whose views on the Catholic religion sound as if they were taken from a speech by Boissy d’Anglas, offered an interpretation to mirror the claims of the Directory.8 He believed separation was a real achievement only destroyed by Bonaparte. In a less eulogizing fashion, Alphonse Aulard traced the same evolution of the law toward separation. Using the terminology of the Third Republic, he concluded that, in practice, the State was “laicized” under the Convention and that in the Directory period “the regime of separation was imposed and became without difficulty the legal regime.”9 In contrast Albert Mathiez, whose thesis on La Théophilanthropie et le culte décadaire remains the most thorough study of the religious history of the Directory period, argued that, in reality, the liberté des cultes was impossible for republicans for whom “the problem of democracy” could only be solved by replacing historical revealed religions.10 Of the great historians of the mid-twentieth century who returned attention to the Directory, Lefebvre, Godechot, and Suratteau, it was especially the latter who most considered the importance of religion.11 Recognizing, upon the banks marked by the affirmation of the liberté des cultes, the ebb and flow of repressive measures according to political circumstance, Suratteau concluded that “one must recognize that the Directory did not have and above all did not follow a clear policy.”12 More recently, Bernard Plongeron and Rita Hermon-Belot, each in a different way, have pointed to the vital importance of the usage of terms as categories of thought. For Plongeron, the lack of clarity in the Directory-era policies resulted from a confusion between the constitutional principle of neutrality (i.e., of liberté) and the domain of police.13 Hermon-Belot cautions the reader from even taking the word culte for granted.14 In addition to agreeing with the judgment of Mathiez that “there never was a true separation of the Church from the State during the Revolution,” Plongeron and Hermon-Belot thus suggest different, not necessarily incompatible, explanations of that judgment: for one reason or the other, most actors of the Directory era found it difficult conceptually to accept a state in which religious pluralism existed and whose leaders had no office to guide the views of the people.15

  • 16 Thus it is to the Revolution that one must look to shed light “on the terms in which we pose oursel (...)
  • 17 This was recognized by both the juring and the refractory clergies (not to mention by the papacy in (...)

5To return to the factor identified above, that the Directory needed to quell religious passions in order to achieve its overall purpose of establishing a stable republic, we may reiterate that liberté des cultes was a stated principle, but one which did not translate into a “clear policy,” and that part of the reason for this lay in the available categories for perceiving how individuals, cultes, religion, and the state related to one another. At the risk of remaining at such an abstract level, I think Plongeron and Hermon-Belot do not go far enough: they both stress that meanings were generated by the revolutionary experience,16 but an important part of the meanings of categories mentioned by these historians—e.g., police des cultes and culte public—were taken from the pre-revolutionary context, that is, from the evolved relations of a particular kind of polity, a western kingdom-state, to a particular religious form, the Catholic Church. The revolutionaries attempting to establish a universal framework had to use specific terms. Most obviously pertinent, the schism within the Church, which was an ongoing source of tensions, could not well be resolved under the framework of liberté des cultes. The term “schism” itself is a Catholic theological category, a fact which indicates the nature of the problem facing the republican leaders during the Directory period: the healing of the two parties required a theological solution.17 This theological (and specifically ecclesiological) dispute was beyond the interest or competency of the Directory, but was no less related to their objective of re-establishing public tranquility. Even the government’s use of the universal term cultes, intended to be neutral, implicitly took sides in the theological quarrel.

6Almost despite itself, then, the Directory and its fate were closely bound to religion.

The Republic and Religion

7The approach of the government to religion during this period was shaped by several distinct influences. Naturally the influence of eighteenth-century philosophical literature was very great. Important figures of the period, such as La Révellière-Lépeaux (the Director most interested in questions of religion), acknowledged their debt to Rousseau, but even more generally the speeches and texts of the area are suffused with language evoking a liberation from the darkness of ignorance, fanaticism, and prejudice by means of reason, philosophy, and the sciences. In addition, this philosophical view of religion worked upon materials inherited from old regime jurisprudence, from classical models, and above all from the institutions and doctrines of the Catholic Church. Together these determined how legislators, Directors, ministers and administrators conceived of religion and of their roles towards it.

  • 18 Rita Hermon-Belot, Aux sources de l’idée laïque…, provides a thorough analysis of how the legislato (...)
  • 19 Marie-Hélène Cotoni. L’Exégèse du Nouveau Testament dans la philosophie française du dix-huitième s (...)
  • 20 See the discussion held in the session of April 13, 1790, Archives parlementaires (hereafter abbrev (...)
  • 21 Journal des débats et décrets no. 885, p. 107. On the changing meaning of “opinion” in late eightee (...)

8The influence of eighteenth-century philosophy was felt above all in the values of religious toleration and of a state which was separate from any established church or national religion. The official commitment of the government to respect the liberté des cultes remained a fixed part of each regime after 1789, one of the “gains of the Revolution” leaders were so determined to safeguard.18 This element of political theory had deep roots in discourses of toleration from the preceding century. To a large extent, these discourses were generated by philosophes inheriting controversies of the post-Reformation era (as well as the intra-Catholic Jansenist controversy) and pushing their arguments to new levels.19 The option for toleration was driven by those controversies’ focus on doctrinal disputes, i.e., on particular claims about divine revelation, and a kind of epistemic humility about the human capacity to know these with certainty. For this reason, much of the discourse among legislators during the early Revolution was about “religious opinions.” The opinions of citizens were among those deeply private aspects of the human being which were beyond the reach of the state. This had also been the reasoning used by the Constituent Assembly to avoid declaring the Catholic religion to be the religion of the nation: the intervention which settled that debate was the baron de Menou’s formula, by which the Assembly declared that “it does not believe itself able to pronounce upon the question.”20 This conception of religion as a matter of individual speculation informed the guiding principles behind the religious regulations under the Directory. Introducing the law of separation in February 1795, Boissy d’Anglas gave an argument typical of the eighteenth-century’s cherishing of individual freedom of thought: “The empire of opinion is vast enough for each to inhabit it in peace, and the heart of man is a sacred asylum where the eye of the government must not descend.”21

9If the state is blind to the religious opinions of citizens, how does it come to have any religious policy at all? The answer lies in the technical term used by the laws, the regulation of the police des cultes. With this terminology, the Directory, like its revolutionary predecessors, was making use of a concept dear to the jurists of the old monarchy; it was laying claim to one of the rights of the sovereign power.

  • 22 Nicolas de La Mare, Traité de la police, 4 vols., Paris, 1705 ; Durand de Maillane, Les Libertez de (...)
  • 23 Albert Mathiez will say that the patriots of the 1790s “conçoivent la société comme un tout organiq (...)

10To begin with, the term “culte” moves beyond individual opinion: it refers to ceremonies of worship, almost always implying communal activity. On the other hand the term police indicates municipal law, the responsibility of the civil authority to maintain good order (analogous to police des marchés). The jurists of the Bourbon monarchy who produced classical treatises on public ecclesiastical law emphasized that the sovereign’s responsibilities over police respected (and enforced) the boundaries of the spiritual authority of the Church.22 The Church governed doctrines, the sovereign governed public order. The Church declared holy days; the sovereign regulated the requirements of their observance: days of rest, public processions, etc. The Church administered the sacraments of matrimony and baptism; the sovereign assured the civil transfers of property, inheritance, and civil status. By the end of the old regime, the police des cultes were a refined tool of the state restraining the autonomy of the clergy. In many ways arising out of Christianity’s own distinction between temporal and spiritual authority, the juridical category of police des cultes combined a specifically Christian understanding of religion with categories drawn from Roman law to support the imperial power of the sovereign. During the Directory period, the responsibility for enforcing this police rule was entrusted to the Ministry of the Interior, a continuity from the earlier regimes that would carry on into the twentieth century (with the temporary exception, under Bonaparte, of a dedicated Ministry of Cultes).23

  • 24 In the words of that edict: “La Religion Catholique […] jouira, seule dans notre Royaume, des droit (...)
  • 25 August 23, 1789, AP, t. 8, p. 477-480.

11The language of respecting the liberté des cultes and regulating their police, in signifying a communal act rather than individual belief, was also influenced by the laws of the old regime regarding Protestant worship. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes forbade Protestants from any exercise of their culte, public or private. The initial steps toward toleration taken in the old regime, such as the edict of November 1787, recognized the civil existence of Protestants but did not permit them to exercise their culte in public, and a great many of the doléances of the clergy expressed a desire to retain this exclusivity.24 In the National Assembly, the linchpin of Rabaut Saint-Etienne’s moving oration in August of 1789 was the distinction between toleration (of individual opinions) and liberty to exercise those beliefs corporately (i.e., to publicly exercise a culte).25 Since the Directory inherited the legal protection of this kind of group worship, so long as it was not corporate (in the legal sense of an activity carried out by a corporate body), it also inherited this additional justification for police oversight. French law had always assigned the temporal sovereign the duty (and right) to regulate the police extérieure of the cultes it authorized, and the principle of liberté des cultes gave the Directory the mandate to be very closely involved in how, when, and where citizens gathered for worship.

  • 26 Two older works which present sustained reflections of Rousseau’s defense of religion are Pierre Ma (...)
  • 27 Groethuysen especially concludes that this is what Rousseau’s contemporaries took away from his def (...)
  • 28 Carla Hesse has demonstrated how Rousseau’s works, both the political and the ostensibly sentimenta (...)

12If the liberté des cultes appeared to replace the post-Reformation notion of a single official culte public, yet here also the Lumières left a particular influence in the thought of the writer with which so many seemed to feel a personal enough connection to call “Jean-Jacques.” In the mid-eighteenth century, philosophy seemed to elevate the moral and educative aspects of religion while denigrating the supernatural claims, mythical stories, and absurd rituals which stained all historical religions. On this view, it might seem that it was the ceremonies of cultes which constituted this negative side of religion—lighting candles before statues, touching relics, long and mysterious liturgies carried out in a dead language. These surely were the foul growths of prejudices and absurdities which ought to be cut off and discarded, freeing the pure moral and philosophical aspects of humanity’s religious aspirations to the divine. Yet Rousseau had provocatively taken a stand to protect precisely these historical, external, mystical and irrational ceremonies.26 His vicaire Savoyard stayed at his post and continued to perform the sacred mysteries upon the ancient altar. The value in such traditional ceremonies was partly romantic, rustic, and anti-aristocratic; but even more importantly, it was by means of such outward, immersive communal activities that the sentiments were cultivated which drew individuals beyond the rational calculations of their private interest and tied them by bonds of affection to their neighbors, to their fatherland, and even to nature. As we shall see, this idea of religion’s role in providing pre-political lines of association, this idea of religion as a necessary foundation for social order—not invented by Rousseau but packaged for a republican audience27—was to remain of great importance in the Directory, and so manifested yet another element of continuity across the traditional rupture points.28

The Laws of the Police des Cultes

13Under the Directory, the government’s police des cultes was not only a matter of philosophical and conceptual categories; its policies were constrained by a number of distinct laws inherited from prior regimes, not all of which were congruent with each other.

  • 29 This constitution made fairly minimal references to religion. Article 352 confirmed that the law di (...)
  • 30 “[L]es lois […] ne statuent point sur ce qui n’est que du domaine de la pensée, sur les rapports de (...)

14The keynote of the government’s approach in this domain was the affirmation of the liberté des cultes. The Constitution of Year III and the Law of 7 Vendémiaire, Year IV, reaffirmed as a permanent gain of the Revolution this liberty which had been proclaimed in the Declaration of Rights from 1789. Article 354 of the Constitution stated: “None may be troubled for exercising the cult he has chosen; none may be forced to contribute to the expenses of a cult; the republic salaries none.”29 The preamble to the Law of 7 Vendémiaire used the framing of the police des cultes, declaring that “the laws make statute only upon that which is not of the domain of thought, upon the relations of man with the objects of his form of worship, and that they have not and cannot have any goal other than the surveillance restricted within measures of police and public security.”30 This framework, settled by the Thermidorians at the very end of the Convention, was a repudiation of the extremism of the Terror, but it also represented the culmination of a shift begun at the very beginning of the Convention. The liberté des cultes proclaimed by the Thermidorians signified neutrality, a means of distancing the government from the quarrel over the schism within the Catholic Church.

  • 31 Among many examples that could be selected, during the final ironing out of details of the Civil Co (...)

15Under the Constitution of 1791, while all citizens enjoyed liberté des cultes, the nation still had a quasi-“established church.” The Catholic clergy were public functionaries, paid by the government, and the Church’s organization and management were regulated by the state. Importantly, a key claim justifying the National Assembly’s apparent intrusion into the operations of the Catholic Church, just at the moment when that Church was denied its status as the religion of the state, was the assertion of the old sovereign right to regulate the police extérieure of religious activities.31 This “constitutional” Church was indeed one of the chief public institutions of the regenerated nation, a prominent bulwark of the government. The vast majority of the old hierarchy, many of the lower clergy, and the papacy denied the competency of the civil authorities to making these changes unilaterally; however, enough of the clergy (and, crucially, a few bishops including Talleyrand) accepted the legitimacy of the reforms to fill positions in the Constitutional Church. Here was the schism: two bodies of Catholic Christians existing side by side and holding different ecclesiological doctrines.

  • 32 This was in Durand’s contribution to the debates over what the new constitution ought to look like  (...)
  • 33 “One hears the most enlightened among them say that, for the Constitution and our laws, for the str (...)
  • 34 The debates on the new constitution raised a range of suggestions regarding how to deal with cultes (...)
  • 35 The departmental administration of the Seine-et-Oise and the Jacobin club of Versailles were promin (...)

16From the beginning of the Convention, therefore, many voices were raised demanding an end to this seemingly official national culte. The jurist Durand de Maillane, one of the architects of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, urged a reconfiguration in which the Catholic clergy would be considered not as public functionaries, but simply as recipients of compensation for their old property titles. Durand argued that “par la liberté des cultes, la nation n’a plus avoir à aucun d’eux”32 (and he did not fail to appeal to Rousseau in defending the value of religion for society33). In fact, the many proposals submitted during the discussions on the new constitution and on the new system of national education are illuminating of the attitudes toward religion held by members of the Convention.34 Some patriotic republicans felt that historic Catholic Christianity as such was incompatible with the new form of government, an animosity which flourished in the course of 1793.35

  • 36 Boissy, as reporter for the executive combined Committees of Public Safety, Legislation, and Genera (...)
  • 37 The law of 11 Prairial, Year III, Collection Baudouin, vol. 62 (Prairial, Year III), p. 76-77.
  • 38 “[S]emblables à la nature […] qui mûrit avec lenteur et persévérance […], vous préparerez constamme (...)
  • 39 And in the official instruction from the Commission des Administrations Civiles, Police et Tribunau (...)

17Therefore, when, after Thermidor, the Convention accepted the multi-part program laid out by Boissy d’Anglas and decreed the formal separation of the government from all cultes (the law of 4 Ventôse, Year III), it was also finally achieving a goal desired from the beginning of its existence.36 Despite the fact that Boissy’s program represented a reaction against the rule of Robespierre, this separation did not indicate a religious restoration. True, in not providing a salary to ministers, nor funding for church buildings or rectories, the government no longer took a side in the schism and, indeed, dissolved the legal existence of the Constitutional Church. In addition, in a follow-up law in May 1795, dissident Catholics were permitted to use those church buildings which remained (these were not to be reserved for the constitutional clergy alone).37 But this legal separation did not amount to amnesty for refractory priests. In his speech announcing the coming relaxation of repressive laws, Boissy did not dispute the extreme dechristianizers’ objective of extinguishing Christianity, only the method of terror. Through the combination of liberté des cultes and a national system of public instruction, he told his colleagues, “similar to Nature, which matures slowly and with perseverance, […] you will steadily prepare, by the wisdom of your laws, the reign of morality alone. […] Soon the religion of Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, and Cicero will be the religion of the world.”38 He did not in this sound much different from the view of Christianity voiced by Vergniaud or Danton, Barère or Robespierre.39 The liberté des cultes then could have a negative edge to it: the Catholic culte (constitutional or refractory) may be permitted in a quiet way, but it was tolerated as a necessary evil. The state had an interest in curbing their influence and, under the Directory, this attitude shaped enforcement of the law.

18It is an interesting historical irony that the distinction between internal doctrine and exterior police, employed by Catholic jurists of the Constituent Assembly to reform the Church, was now to serve the Directory as a tool to control the ex-constitutional Gallican Church as well as all other religious assemblies.

19A second constraint inherited from earlier laws and not strictly rooted in the liberté des cultes was formed by the laws targeting refractory priests. The oaths decreed from 1790 to 1793 for various categories of priests were vestiges of the earlier legal regime when priests were considered to be public functionaries. The reason for those laws had been enforcement of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy; that Constitutional Church, in turn, was the trade-off made by the National Constituent Assembly in order to gain access to the biens ecclésiastiques. Those biens belonged to the Nation, it was argued, since the ministers of the Catholic culte were public servants.

20After the decree of separation, that logic no longer applied, but in the meantime the refusal of those oaths had become highly symbolic. The name refractory meant counterrevolution, royalism, civil war, and brigandage. The Thermidorians did relax certain measures; for example, the restrictive law of 5e Complémentaire, Year III (September 21, 1795), which made nonjuring ministers ineligible for administrative, municipal, and judicial functions, implicitly revoked earlier penalties against nonjurors. The most important sign of the conciliation Boissy had urged was the fact that the law of 7 Vendémiaire required a “declaration” rather than an oath. A priest wishing to exercise his ministry had to declare, “I recognize that the universality of French citizens is the sovereign, and I promise submission and obedience to the laws of the republic.” However, this leniency mainly benefitted the former constitutional clergy. Of the priests who sided with the pope in considering the constitutional church to be schismatic, only those who had not been public functionaries and thus had not been subject to the earlier oaths were free to make the new declaration. All those who had been serving as curés or vicaires and had refused their oaths remained under the legal judgements rendered against them. Instead of receiving amnesty, for these priests to return from deportation was to add another crime to their record. Throughout the period of the Directory, the government earnestly desired an end to the religious quarrels, but the old oath-laws made this peace difficult to achieve and kept up a barrier to the Directory’s ability to admit the theological causes of the schism.

  • 40 Mona Ozouf, La Fête révolutionnaire (1976), Festivals and the French Revolution, trans. Alan Sherid (...)
  • 41  “[V]os fêtes nationales, vos institutions républicaines sauront embellir et mettre en action les p (...)

21Finally, the Directory’s police des cultes inherited the republican calendar. Since the Festival of the Federation in 1790, supporters of the Revolution celebrated their patriotism in ceremonies forming a new national culte, which became formalized under the Convention with the adoption of the new republican calendar.40 The Directory continued to count its years from the establishment of the republic, a potent symbol also of the removal of Catholic Christianity from public affairs. In his speech on cultes, Boissy invoked this religion of the fatherland as the necessary counterpart to the liberté des cultes: “your national holy days, your republican institutions will know how to embellish and put into action the sacred precepts of that morality which you want to engrave upon the human heart.”41 This “political religion” put into practice some of the old ideas of Rousseau and of classical antiquity regarding the role of religion in society.

  • 42 Report for the Committee on Public Instruction, November 24, 1793 (4 Frimaire, Year II), AP, t. 80, (...)

22The significance for the government’s police des cultes was that the republican calendar formed an additional channel by which the neutral framework of the liberté des cultes was dragged into substantive conflict with the Catholic culte. When the mathematician Romme originally presented the republican calendar to the Convention, he argued that it would help bring citizens together, standing above private religious beliefs which were not shared by all.42 In practice of course, the coexistence of two calendars created the possibilities for innumerable points of conflict, something the Directory inherited and occasionally aggravated.

23Thus, from the beginning, the Directory was operating within a framework settled by the Thermidorians, which grew out of the continuity from the Convention. It upheld the liberté des cultes and the principles of separation, but it was also constrained by the punitive measures against refractory priests and a national culte which was, for at least some republicans, in half-open rivalry with Christianity.

Application

  • 43 Archives départementales de la Meurthe (Lunéville), 5 P 4, letters dated 8, 12, 16, and 21 Pluviôse (...)
  • 44 AN F 19 1012 (part of a series 1005-1017 on refractory priests in years IV-V), pcs 338-351.

24As may be expected, enforcement of these laws depended upon the energy of local authorities, both those sent out from the center and those elected from below. Correspondence from the Commissaires du Directoire exécutif—the Directory-era title for the agents of the central government carrying forward aspects of the old intendancy and anticipating those of the prefecture—to the Ministries and to the locally elected departmental or municipal administrations gives evidence both of republican zeal and the perennial difficulties of enforcing policy. For example, the Commissioner in the department of the Meurthe was particularly energetic, sending letter after letter to the local officials of Lunéville to investigate a single priest who was alleged to have retracted his oath and to ensure that fanatics did not attempt to use the law of 7 Vendémiaire as cover to ring their church bells or put up crosses in cemeteries.43 The Ministry of General Police passed along a packet of letters from the eastern departments which tell an interesting story of threats from above and confusion below. In that case a général de brigade stationed in the Vosges led the charge, complaining to the ministries of negligence on the part of the authorities; the Commissioner defended himself from the charge by explaining how he had put pressure on the Cantonal Commissioners to execute the laws against priests. However these refractory priests seemed somehow able to continue to practice openly owing to the negligence or complicity of the locally elected authorities. The officer even attempted a night-time raid on Easter to surprise one priest at the midnight Mass he was going to celebrate, but the operation failed (the general suspected his local guide of purposefully leading him off the scent).44

  • 45 Archives départementales de la Haute-Vienne, L 352 2. Part of this text reads: “Il est temps, Citoy (...)
  • 46 Archives départementales de la Meurthe (Limoges), 5 P 3-4.
  • 47 “[L]a loi ne reconnaissait plus de cultes”, Bibliothèque de Port-Royal, letters from Barail to Grég (...)

25Some local administrations did not need to be threatened. In March of 1796, the departmental administration of the Haute-Vienne strongly called on the municipalities to enforce the law of 3 Brumaire, Year IV.45 The following month, the same administrators issued another directive regarding the Law of 7 Vendémiaire. This one at least resulted in some action on the part of the municipal administrators in their own city of Limoges, who issued their own directive and opened a register to record the newly required declarations.46 In Nancy, the municipal officers went beyond any article of the laws in their bullying of the Catholics there, both constitutional and refractory. A local ex-constitutional priest complained that, during Carnival, the municipality brought out sacred ornaments originally from the churches for the mockery of the revelers. “I complained about it to the two commissioners,” he wrote, but they decided to ignore the actions “because the law no longer recognizes religious worship.” In addition, petitions from the citizens to reopen churches went unanswered by the municipality. And yet, on the other hand, while anti-clericals could mock symbols of the Catholic culte, refractory priests were able to hold in-door processions for the feasts of Corpus Christi and the Assumption.47 The theory and intentions behind the law and policies from the central government were thus filtered through local officials—in Nancy, at least, the survival of a dechristianizing attitude on the part of the municipal administration meant that liberté des cultes justified the public ridicule of people’s religious beliefs, as well as (perhaps inadvertently) giving advantage to the “Roman” clergy over the more loyal “Gallican” (formerly constitutional) clergy.

  • 48 “[E]n leur enlevant leur église cette liberté est absolument anéantie”. AN, F 19 1018, in the dossi (...)

26In other areas, many people looked past the letter of the laws of 7 Vendémiaire and 3 Brumaire and expected a more general relaxation (as Boissy d’Anglas had vaguely indicated), even for priests who had not taken any oath, who had emigrated, or who had been deported. In the summer of 1796, the Ministry of the Interior received petitions and remonstrances from communes asking authorization to this effect. One petition arrived from the village of Mesves, in the department of the Nièvre, whose sole church the department had designated to be sold as a national property. The villagers invoked the liberté des cultes guaranteed by the constitution—“in removing their church that liberty is absolutely annihilated”—, but they also appealed to the right of property and made their request “au nom de la Patrie.”48 Many more simply began to exercise their religion without authorization, more or less openly as conditions allowed.

  • 49 For the relations between the Directory and the Papal States, see Philippe Boutry, “La tentative fr (...)
  • 50 “Le prétendu schisme…n’a été que l’effet d’une erreur”. AN F 19 311, dossier 1, Letter dated 14 The (...)
  • 51 Philippe Boutry, “La tentative française de destruction du Saint-Siège”, p. 87-92. See also Patrice (...)

27Under such circumstances, the Directory and its ministries continued to appeal to the authorities to enforce the laws and considered what options might be available to prevent disturbances. One interesting conversation occurred in August 1796 between Pierre Bénézech, the Minister of the Interior, and Charles-François Delacroix, the Minister of Foreign Relations. Bénézech had taken the pulse of a number of department administrations and he recognized that a large portion of the divisions in the country rested upon the rift between the priests. Many looked for hope in the fact that the war in Italy required negotiating with the papal states.49 Would it not be possible, Bénézech asked his colleague, to compel the pope to make a declaration recognizing the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and declaring that “the so-called schism […] was only the effect of an error,” 50that nothing the Constituent Assembly had done was contrary to the faith and those who held this view were the “véritables hérétiques.” This suggestion, in the form expressed by Bénézech, is so striking for ignoring completely the substance of the refractory argument and therefore the causes of the schism. It is not that a solution of some kind was impossible, but Bénézech’s version lacked any comprehension of the theological concerns of one side of the schism. In any case, the Directory’s attitude toward the papacy apparently fluctuated with the fortunes of their armies. With the successes of French arms in the peninsula, they saw less reason to make any concessions at all to the papacy.51 The Directors Barras, Rewbell, and La Révellière-Lépeaux soon wrote to General Bonaparte:

  • 52 Quoted in Michel Poniatowski, Talleyrand et le Directoire, op. cit., p. 106.

La religion romaine sera toujours l’ennemi irréconciliable de la République. …. Il est sans doute des moyens à employer dans l’intérieur pour anéantir insensiblement son influence []. Mais il est un point non moins essentiel peut-être pour parvenir à ce but désiré, c’est de détruire, s’il est possible, le centre d’unité de l’Église romaine []. Le Directoire vous invite donc à faire tout ce qui vous paraîtra possible […] pour détruire le gouvernement papal.52

  • 53 Published as Réflexions sur le culte, sur les cérémonies civiles et sur les fêtes nationales, Paris (...)
  • 54 See Albert Mathiez, La Théophilanthropie et le culte décadaire, 1796-1802, op. cit. The “conquest o (...)
  • 55 Albert Mathiez makes the interesting point that Theophilanthropy, being a non-State project, respon (...)

28It was during this period that La Révellière-Lépeaux delivered his speech “sur le culte, sur les cérémonies civiles, et sur les fêtes nationales” to a crowded lecture hall of the Institut de France, the shining summit of the Directory’s national system of education.53 The speech is evidence of the Directory’s support for the new movement known as Theophilanthropy—a self-conscious attempt to repurpose the forms of Christian worship (drawn from Catholic and Protestant liturgies)—as yet another means of separating the people from their traditional cultes.54 But La Révellière-Lépeaux’s lecture is less important as any sort of official policy in the way Boissy d’Anglas’s speech to the Convention two years earlier, and the translation from the legislator’s chamber to the lecture hall is more significant.55 What this lecture demonstrate is how the larger goal of a peaceful and stable republic not only entailed a reflection on the general relations between religious practices and a political community but also specific areas of conflict with the Catholic religion.

29Elected to the Institut as a member of its section devoted to the Moral and Political Sciences (elected, it is true, by a group of founding notables he himself had selected), La Révellière-Lépeaux presented his ideas on the place of religion in a republic of free citizens on May 1, 1797. Speaking before an audience of educated, urbane men and women, the Director imitated his model, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in arguing for the social value of religion:

  • 56 Louis-Marie de La Révellière-Lépeaux, Réflexions sur le culte…, p. 10. See the reactions to these i (...)

L’existence d’un Dieu rémunérateur de la vertu et vengeur du crime, l’immortalité de l’âme, conséquence, pour ainsi dire, naturelle de cette première proposition; voilà les fondemens d’un culte utile à un peuple; sans eux tout l’édifice de votre morale s’écroulera…56

  • 57 “Rendez l’homme aimant, vous le rendrez bon”. Ibid., p. 21-22.

30According to La Révellière-Lépeaux, the sentiments were more essential than reason in fostering virtue and tying people together into society (another Rousseauean maxim: “Render man loving, you will make him good”).57 This was a simple set of beliefs, and La Révellière-Lépeaux shared the anti-clericalism of many republicans. What was distinctive was his argument that, in becoming enlightened, a people will not advance to a state of having no culte at all. Instead, something else would rise up in its place. Destroy a wicked culte, and one must replace it; no matter how “absurd” and “anti-social” it may be, its destruction leaves behind a religious vacuum that a new culte will automatically fill. The bad must be replaced by a good culte. Enlightenment and reason were insufficient to lead people in the way of virtue.

  • 58 “Point de cérémonies, point de discours, point de chants, point d’emblème, point de réunion de deux (...)
  • 59 June 19, 1792, AP, t. 45, p. 379-392.

31One aspect of La Révellière’s speech is striking for its continuity with another of the Revolution’s gains, the secularization of the civil status of citizens. The Revolution had succeeded in extracting the registration of civil status from the clutches of the Catholic Church, but this republican felt how pale and ill-favored the new bureaucratic registration was by comparison with the solemnity and joy surrounding the Catholic sacraments. He felt “real pain,” for example, in the absence of godparents in the registration of births. And he shared his jading experience of attending a civil marriage, perfectly unromantic in a hall crowded with couples presenting themselves one after the other to the clerk to be registered: “No ceremonies, no speeches, no songs, no emblems, no gathering of the two families and friends.”58 More than once he spoke of the need to give these civil events a “sacred” character. In this, he very closely echoed some of the recommendations in the original legislative debates on the mode of registering civil status. Louis-Jérôme Gohier, for example, had urged the Legislative Assembly in 1792 not merely to create “simple judiciary formalities” but a set of ceremonies marking the life stages of each citizen, to be performed at the altars “of our civic culte” in the center of each commune.59 The fact that La Révellière-Lépeaux brought up the same example of secularization and seized on exactly the same aspect of it, affective or sentimental impoverishment, is revealing: the putative neutrality of the new institutions could obscure how they actually were in conflict with the old religious practices. A complex of ideas entangled together—the idea that the liberté des cultes constituted the recovery of a basic natural right; the more particular idea that this recovery liberated people from an anti-human religion; and the idea that republican society required some kind of patriotic culte of the nation—contributed to a police des cultes which was in rivalry with existing historic cultes, especially with that of the Catholic Church, rather than presiding disinterestedly over them.

  • 60 In addition to Mathiez’s classic study, see Jonathan Douglas Deverse, “Theophilanthropy: Civil Reli (...)
  • 61 “… dans la position particulière de notre république”, La Révellière-Lépeaux, Réflexions sur le cul (...)

32La Révellière-Lépeaux was remarkable for advocating a new culte, distinct from the observances of the republican calendar with its décadis and other national holidays.60 Theophilanthropy, as he envisioned, it was not a new state-enforced “established church” (not possible “in the particular position of our republic”).61 Rather, it was one private culte among many, which would provide an attractive alternative for citizens as they became enlightened, and prevent a dangerous religious vacuum from forming. But his framing assumptions also speak to the antipathy toward Christianity, and especially the Catholic Church, existing within and behind the republican commitment to liberté des cultes. The aspects that made the Catholic religion distinctive—the ministerial priesthood and the sacraments, its self-understanding as a society with a divinely established hierarchy—, these La Révellière-Lépeaux condemned as contrary to human nature. His liberté des cultes required a definition of culte which the Catholic Church could not meet. It would be difficult under those conditions to find a lasting modus vivendi.

  • 62 Most of the bishops in exile pressured their priests within the country; the agents of Louis XVIII (...)
  • 63 Moniteur, no. 345, Quintidi 15 Fructidor, Year IV (September 1, 1796), édition Plon, vol. 28, p. 41 (...)
  • 64 Rapport fait par P.J.J. Dubruel, Député de l’Aveyron, au nom d’une commission spéciale, sur les prê (...)
  • 65 “[L]a République ne peut exister avec cette religion”, Rapport fait par P.J.J. Dubruel … Séance du  (...)
  • 66 “[L]es acquéreurs de biens nationaux sont principalement les objets de leur haine”. Le moniteur uni (...)

33Neither La Révellière-Lépeaux’s speech nor the missives of the commissaires du Directoire occurred in a vacuum of political theory. In the elections of 1795 and then again in those of 1797, more and more deputies entered the legislative Councils who prized the goal of ending the Revolution more than that of preserving its gains. Conservatives or even royalists, they disagreed as well on which were the gains and which were dangerous excesses subversive of social order. Both out of sincere belief and, for monarchists, out of a strategy of undermining the republic, the new majority in the Councils worked to enable the return of all exiled or deported clergy.62 The conservative jurist Jean-Étienne-Marie Portalis (whom Bonaparte would later choose to craft his own police des cultes) presented discourses in the Council of Elders criticizing the legality of oaths and penalties for priests.63 In the summer of 1797, the Councils created a special commission to review all of the laws carrying penalties against priests, and to present a piece of legislation “sur la police des cultes.” In a pair of discourses ornamented with wisdom from Cicero, Polybius, and Montesquieu, the commission reporter Pierre-Jean-Joseph Dubruel offered a typical defense of the value of religion as the force needed to inspire love of country, to extend beyond the reach of the legislator and touch the heart.64 Dubruel turned around the rhetorical tactic of anticlerical republicans and made out that the claim that “the Republic cannot exist with this [Catholic] religion” was a tactic of foreign enemies trying to sow division in France.65 To combat this trend, the Directory warned deputies of the dangers posed by returning deported priests. For example, on July 4 (16 Messidor), the Directory sent a message to the Councils calling their attention to acts of brigandage and murder around Lyon, noting that “the principle objects of their hatred are purchasers of biens nationaux.”66 Despite these efforts, it appeared that this conservative trend would lead to a Catholic restoration, when the triumvirate of Barras, Rewbell, and La Révellière-Lépeaux successfully carried out their coup at the beginning of September 1797.

  • 67 AN, F 19 311, dossier 1, letter of 28 Messidor, Year V (July 16, 1797). The archives did not preser (...)
  • 68 “Notre ennemi le plus redoutable, c’est l’administration départementale qui machine ouvertement la (...)

34It is thus not that surprising that the conditions leading up to the coup of 18 Fructidor were heavily colored by religious markers. Over the months leading up to Fructidor, the pro-Directory newspaper L’Ami de la Patrie published accounts of harmful or scandalous activities by refractory priests and their congregations, and its editor Charles Coesnon-Pellerin helpfully sent some of these along to the Ministry of the Interior to encourage the government to take action.67 The deputy François-Jérôme Riffard Saint-Martin, veteran of the Estates-General and the Convention and an old friend of Boissy d’Anglas (both hailed from the Ardèche), privately recorded his dismay at how the Directory and other republican leaders refused to take a firm hand against counterrevolution, which for him was almost interchangeable with refractory religion. Riffard was frustrated at how government leaders made reassuring noises while locally elected authorities refused to enforce the law. Kept up to date on events in his home department by his brother-in-law, who was the Directory Commissioner to the Ardèche, he lamented, “Our most fearsome enemy is the departmental administration, which openly machinates the destruction of the friends of the government.”68 With Louis XVIII looking for his opportunity to return and with the electorate moving rightwards, the defenders of the regime felt that the gains of the Revolution were ever more vulnerable.

  • 69 “[L]’épurement des autorités qui sans doute sera un des heureux résultats de la journée du 18 fruct (...)

35When the conspirators succeeded in seizing control of the government on 18 Fructidor, Year V (September 4, 1797), their new policies underscored the symbolism of the religious schism for the future of the republic. The very next day, the purged legislature reestablished the laws on deporting priests and even authorized the Directors to make such judgments directly in individual cases. The simple declaration of submission to the laws required by the law of 7 Vendémiaire, Year IV, was replaced by another serment, this time of hatred of royalty and anarchy. L’Ami de la Patrie celebrated the new revolution, and Riffard Saint-Martin, though he felt some misgivings about the exile of his friend Boissy, looked forward to “the purging of the authorities which will doubtless be one of the happy results of the journée of 18 Fructidor. ”69 Later in the month, another decree confirmed the ban on religious costumes. In addition, also in September 1797, the Councils passed a new finance law, ruling that the state’s creditors would be paid in bonds exchangeable for biens nationaux. While motivated by financial concerns, this latest act in the drama of the biens nationaux reaffirmed how the old ecclesiastical revenues remained an anchor for the Revolution, ensuring resistance on the part of the government, creditors, and many proprietors against any restoration. It is interesting to compare their significance in 1789 and in 1797: in 1789, the biens ecclésiastiques led to the creation of the Constitutional Church, because it was necessary to concede that the ecclesiastical offices were public offices in order to claim that the biens belonged to the nation. This concession is what had led to the oaths and the punitive measures against refractories. In 1797, priests and bishops were no longer considered public functionaries, so it was theoretically possible, under the principle of liberté des cultes, that priests, as private citizens, would not be singled out for particular oaths. This time however, the need to secure the biens nationaux led the regime to continue to treat priests as public functionaries susceptible to these types of oath.

  • 70 On the ministry of Sotin, see Isser Wolloch, The Jacobin Legacy: The Democratic Movement under the (...)

36In the months after Fructidor, the new Minister of Police-Général Pierre Sotin (nominated by La Révellière-Lépeaux) sent out instructions and clarifications explaining the intentions of the government in its religious laws.70 “La journée du 18 fructidor […] a sauvé la République,” he declared in a circular to the department administrations and the Commissionnaires, and “la loi du 19, suite de cette mémorable journée, a eu pour objet d’assurer le nouveau triomphe de la liberté.” He cast nonjuring clergy as the group most responsible for the interior troubles, civil war, and bloodshed since the Revolution began. He urged a concerted effort; this time all authorities must actually enforce the laws. At the same time, the Directors did not intend to open the floodgates for general persecution of non-conforming Catholics. The judgments from the era of the Terror, based only on denunciations or accusations of incivisme, remained repealed. In early January, Minister Sotin sternly corrected administrators in the Haute-Vienne for straying into persecutory behavior:

  • 71 Letter dated 18 Nivôse, Year VI (January 7, 1798), Archives départementales de la Haute Vienne, L 3 (...)

Il est douloureux pour moi, Citoyens, d’être obligé de vous rappeler à l’exécution ponctuelle de ce principe sacré. À quoi servent ces rigueurs déplacés qu’on se permet en certains lieux, envers ceux que la Loi a cru devoir frapper ? Elles servent de prétexte à nos ennemis, pour calomnier le Gouvernement. Quand le Gouvernement vous dit, arrêtez et faitez déporter les prêtres insoumis, il ne vous dit pas de les accabler de véxations; de leur faire des outrages, d’être, en un mot, plus sévère que la Loi même. Je vous déclare que s’il me parvient encore des plaintes de l’espèce [] j’en rendrai sur le champ compte au Directoire, dont l’intention ferme et irrévocable est bien certainement de sévir contre ceux qui en seront l’objet.71

  • 72 On the new persecutions of the late Directory, see Albert Mathiez, La Théophilanthropie et le culte (...)
  • 73 Rita Hermon-Belot, L’abbé Grégoire, la politique et la vérité, Paris, Le Seuil, 2000. See also Rodn (...)

37Such were the stated intentions of the government. In fact, this more measured repression still resulted in a new wave of arrests and in numerous closures of churches and other acts of suppression of Catholic worship (and was particularly severe in the conquered states, Belgium, especially, which had not already experienced the disruptions of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy).72 It fell upon the ex-constitutional Gallican Church as well—Grégoire described the period as a new persecution.73

38Once again, the concept of police extérieure des cultes continued to determine the way government leaders thought about religion, as it had done in the old regime and would continue to under the consulate and empire. In the correspondence related to enforcing the laws regarding cultes, the concern with refractory priests demonstrates a conviction that, apart from certain malicious priests (those unwilling to submit to the civil laws of their state), there could be and ought to be a peaceful coexistence among all cultes within the republic. True, in the eyes of anti-clerical republicans such as La Révellière-Lépeaux, those seditious priests were made prone to manipulate the people precisely by the domineering spirit of the Catholic religion. But implied in the zeal to enforce the regulations and in the discipline to not go beyond them was a vision of how cultes ought to be exercised in the republic. Priests ought to live as ordinary citizens, only donning the symbols of their spiritual office behind the doors of an authorized location. There, they would preach love of neighbor, respect for property, and obedience to the laws. Importantly, the minister ought not to consider himself to be an agent of a hierarchy reaching up beyond his department, beyond his nation, and finally under the authority of a foreign power. To enforce this subdued existence was expected to be the police des cultes of the republic going into the nineteenth century.

The end of the Directory

  • 74 Riffard Saint-Martin, Journal, p. 156-158.
  • 75 Steven Englund, Napoleon: a Political Life, NY, Scribner, 2004, p. 166. See also Jean-René Surattea (...)
  • 76 Circular dated 19 Frimaire, Year VIII, to the central and municipal administrations and to the Comm (...)
  • 77 “It cannot be too strongly emphasized,” writes Patrice Gueniffey, “how much audacity the first cons (...)

39The coup of 18 Brumaire, Year VIII, was not at first felt as a rupture by some republicans. In his journal, Riffard Saint-Martin welcomed Bonaparte much as he had welcomed the coup of Fructidor. In both cases, he felt that the republic, beset by enemies, needed a stronger central executive power.74 Especially since the army was the sole remaining fully republican institution, the new sharing of power between Sieyes and Bonaparte could even be seen as a coup “against the right wing, on behalf of the Revolution.”75 In the early months of the Consulate, the Directory’s religious laws were still in force, and the former constitutional priests were still considered allies of the republic and had some reason to expect favorable treatment under the new regime. An initial arrêté from the Consuls made on November 29 relieved certain categories of priest from deportation, but not the refractory priests. Minister of Police-Général Joseph Fouché, named late in the Directory, kept his post in the new regime. In his instructions dated December 10 regarding the new regulations, he continued the same directives as his predecessors, urging strict enforcement of the laws.76 But behind all this, the First Consul shocked republicans by negotiating a concordat with the papacy!77

40This was a true rupture, and its very strangeness—papal Catholic restoration arriving not with the return of the Bourbons, but with the Jacobin scourge of the Vendémiaireans—highlights by contrast the continuity which otherwise would have carried on in the government’s police des cultes, and how difficult were the religious problems facing the Directory. For what Bonaparte did was virtually outside of the possibilities available to the Directory. Above all, he made peace with the Catholic Church as it then existed in fact—with its papacy, its transnational hierarchy, etc. For reasons both of ideology and of the persistent shadow cast by the refractories’ initial acts of disobedience to the law and rejection of national authority, the Directory-era leaders could never do this. For them, peace required that the Catholic Church first change its form.

  • 78 On Grégoire’s initial hopes for the Concordat, and his gradual disillusionment, see Rita Hermon-Bel (...)
  • 79 Claude Langlois, “« Philosophe sans impiété et religieux sans fanatisme » : Portalis et l’idéologie (...)
  • 80 “Les hommes, en s’éclairant, deviennent-ils des anges ? […] L’intérêt des gouvernements humains est (...)
  • 81 Portalis wrote his own extended reflections on philosophy, religion, and modern history during his (...)

41On the other hand, despite the rupture of the Concordat (to the former constitutional clergy such as Grégoire, the return to a concordat was a painful loss of one of the most important gains of the Revolution),78 there were many aspects of continuity in that treaty and in the Organic Articles which updated the police regulations. Bonaparte did secure the biens nationaux, he did secure the gains of the acquéreurs. The Organic Articles also maintained the separation of civil status from Catholic sacraments, and the separation of the state from any official religion. Like the republic before it, the Consulate and then Empire authorized several cultes, and claimed responsibility to regulate the police extérieure of all cultes. In addition, there are more subtle continuities in the fact that the jurist selected by Bonaparte to draft the Organic Articles, Jean-Étienne-Marie Portalis, shared the view of La Révellière-Lépeaux of the affective and associative bonds religion alone could provide.79 Portalis believed that people need to be tied by bonds of sentiment and affection to their co-citizens and their fatherland, and that these bonds simply do not come from philosophy alone. “Do men become angels when they are enlightened?” he asked. “Human governments have an interest […] in protecting religious institutions, because it is by them […] that morality and the great truths which serve to sanction it [can] become the object of public belief.” And again, “the fatherland would not be any more perceptible for each individual, if we were not attached to it by objects capable of making it present to our mind, to our imagination, to our senses, to our affections.”80 Unlike La Révellière-Lépeaux, however, Portalis considered the traditional Catholic religion to be perfectly compatible with the dictates of reason and the advances in the sciences.81

Conclusion

  • 82 Corinne Gomez-Le Chevanton and Françoise Brunel, “ La Convention nationale au miroir des Archives P (...)
  • 83 In a letter to the Conseil d'État written in May 1802, Bonaparte declared his objective of raising (...)
  • 84 Jean Tulard, Le Directoire et le Consulat, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 1991; Id., Les (...)

42Over the past several decades, historians have insisted upon the “construction” of Thermidor in 1795 and upon the “black legend” of Brumaire established by the servants of the regime of Bonaparte. By the former, the post-Thermidor Convention was contrasted with the revolutionary government of the Robespierrian Convention, with its political and economic terror, its bloodsucking agents, and social anarchy.82 By the black legend, the Directory’s speculations and dithering were contrasted with the sober yet glorious institution-building of the Consulate, what Bonaparte called the “blocks of granite.”83 Against this granite, the age of the Directory was depicted as so much shifting sands, unserious, besotted, corrupted. Most significantly, the republic under the Directory was doomed to failure and was only saved by Bonaparte’s intervention.84 The period of the Directory is thus sandwiched between two narratives.

  • 85 François FuretLa Révolution : de Turgot à Jules Ferry 1770-1880 (1988), Revolutionary France, 177 (...)
  • 86 Some of the republican antipathy toward papal authority had deep roots in French intra-Catholic pol (...)

43Both of these have implications for interpreting the religious history of the period and, while at least some recent historians have made the republic the author of its own demise by its assaults on democratic principles and practices85, it really does appear that, in the domain of religion, the Directory was facing an insurmountable obstacle beyond its capacities. The schism within the Catholic Church in France produced ongoing turmoil. The kinds of solutions entertained by the leaders of the regime were disconnected from the reality of historic Catholic structures and beliefs. Destroying the papacy would do the opposite of soothing religious passions (not to mention alienate the constitutional clergy who firmly believed in the papal office as the center of Catholic unity).86 The strategy of getting the pope to retroactively approve the Civil Constitution of the Clergy failed to recognize any of the theological objections made by the non-conformist Church. For republicans like La Révellière-Lépeaux, the distinctive transnational hierarchy and the nature of Catholic dogmas and rituals made it virtually incompatible with republican government, reason, and morality.

  • 87 This particular holiday was to have an echo during the Second Empire. See Sudhir Hazareesingh, The (...)
  • 88 Later, of course, as emperor Bonaparte clashed with the pope and even imprisoned him. But Boutry no (...)

44The swift resolution of that schism under Bonaparte’s rule shows the impossibility of that path for the leaders of the Directorial republic. For Bonaparte, the Catholic Church could be a pillar of the regime and serve to give him glory (as the co-incidence of his birthday with the ancient solemnity of the Assumption would illustrate annually during his reign).87 He accepted the Catholic Church as it was, rather than as the republicans wanted it to be. For him, this acceptance was a surer path to pacification and the consolidation of power.88 But it also finally permitted a theological end to a theological schism.

45One might almost say that the Directory’s police des cultes was designed against ending the schism. But one must also remember that the government was in a state of war and in a state of vulnerability to the threat of counter-revolution. It was difficult to see a way out of that when the non-conformist Catholic culte served by refractory priests seemed to symbolize those perils.

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Notes

1 In the words of Michel Poniatowski, the Directory had “a precise objective: to maintain in power a moderate bourgeoisie which had drawn all the possible advantages from the Revolution and now intended to enjoy them in peace”: Michel Poniatowski, Talleyrand et le Directoire, 1796-1800, Paris, Librairie Académique Perrin, 1982, p. 44. One finds this judgment from numerous historians of the period, even where they disagree on the interpretive question of whether the Directorial regime was doomed to failure. Two works that consider the problems as conceptualized by the revolutionaries during this period are Bronislaw Baczko, Comment sortir de la Terreur ? Thermidor et la Révolution (1989), Ending the Terror: the French Revolution after Robespierre, trans. Michel Petheram (Maison des Sciences de l’Homme and Cambridge University Press, 1994), and Andrew Jainchill, Reimagining Politics After the Terror: The Republican Origins of French Liberalism, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2008. François Furet characterized the leaders of this period as being bound by interest to keep what they had won: François Furet, La Révolution : de Turgot à Jules Ferry 1770-1880 (1988), Revolutionary France, 1770-1880, trans. Antonia Nevill, Oxford (UK) and Cambridge (MA), Blackwell, 1992. Editing a volume which revisited the question, Howard Brown argued for revising a periodization marked by two ruptures in 9 Thermidor and 18 Brumaire, in favor of seeing the period 1794-1804 as “a decade in which France struggled to move beyond the Revolution.” See Howard G. Brown, “The Search for Stability,” in Howard G. Brown and Judith A. Miller, eds., Taking Liberties: Problems of a New Order from the French Revolution to Napoleon, Manchester University Press, 2002, p. 20-50. Finally, a work which insists on the social dimension in which the “gains of the Revolution” were defined under the Directory so as to remove political power and voice from the materially dispossessed, Marc Belissa and Yannick Bosc, Le Directoire : La République sans la démocratie, Paris, La Fabrique éditions, 2018.

2 François Furet, Revolutionary France, 1770-1880, p. 196. On the continuing political importance of the assignats and other notes tied to the biens nationaux, see Judith A. Miller, “The aftermath of the assignat: plaintiffs in the age of property, 1794-1804,” in Howard G. Brown and Judith A. Miller, eds., Taking Liberties…, op. cit., p. 70-91.

3 Decrees from May 1795 and November 1796 regulated submissions and auctions of biens nationaux in an effort to gain at least partial payments immediately. By a decree of September 30, 1797, the government could repay creditors with, in place of money, bonds which could be used to purchase biens nationaux.

4 Lecointre recommended selling off a category of church properties which had escaped earlier laws (those owned by communes rather than through ecclesiastical benefices). His motion, presented in the session of 14 Pluviôse, Year III (February 2, 1795), is printed in the Journal des débats et décrets, no. 861, p. 172-175.

5 This was the argument made by Durand de Maillane, one of the architects of the original Civil Constitution of the Clergy, who, during the Thermidorean period, published his Discours de Durand Maillane sur les fêtes decadaires ; et la liberté des cultes, Paris, 1795.

6 See the detailed discussion of the term “separation” made by Bernard Plongeron (particularly in conversation with Albert Mathiez): Bernard Plongeron, “La première séparation de l’Église et de l’État, sous la Révolution, a-t-elle eu lieu ?”, Revue d’histoire de l’Église de France, t. 91 (2005), p. 239-263.

7 Michel Vovelle, Religion et Révolution : la déchristianisation de l’an II, Paris, Hachette, 1976; Michel Vovelle, La Révolution contre l’Église : De la Raison à l’Être suprême, Bruxelles, Complexe, 1988; Bernard Cousin, Monique Cubells, René Moulinas, La Pique et la Croix. Histoire religieuse de la Révolution française, Paris, Le Centurion, 1989; and Xavier Maréchaux, Noces révolutionnaires : Le mariage des prêtres en France, 1789-1815, Paris, Vendémiaire, 2017.

8 Edme Champion, La séparation de l’Église et de l’État en 1794 : Introduction à l’histoire religieuse de la Révolution française, Paris, Armand Colin, 1903. Champion predicted that “Le catholicisme disparaîtra peu à peu, par la force des choses, plus que par le progrès de la raison. Il disparaîtra…comme le mammouth et l’ichtyosaure”, p. XII.

9 “L’État était laïcisé”; “le régime de la Séparation s’imposa et devint sans difficulté le régime légal”: Alphonse Aulard, “Les origines de la séparation des Églises et de l’État : la Convention nationale”, in Études et Leçons sur la Révolution française, 5th Series, Paris, Félix Alcan, 1907, p. 199-214.

10 Albert Mathiez, La Théophilanthropie et le culte décadaire, 1796-1802 : Essai sur l’histoire religieuse de la Révolution, Paris, Alcan, 1903. See also Albert Mathiez, La Révolution et l’Église : études critiques et documentaires, Paris, Armand Colin, 1910. More recently, Bernard Plongeron revisited the question and arrived at the same interpretation as Mathiez: Bernard Plongeron, “La première séparation de l’Église et de l’État…”, op. cit.

11 Georges Lefebvre, Le Directoire, Armand Colin, 1946; republished with a new bibliography by Robert Laurent, Armand Colin, 1971; Jacques Godechot, Les institutions de la France sous la Révolution et l’Empire, Paris, 1951; Jean-René Suratteau, “Le Directoire avait-il une politique religieuse ?”, Annales historiques de la Révolution française, no. 283, 1990, p. 79-92.

12 “[O]n doit reconnaître que le Directoire n’avait pas eu de politique nette et surtout suivie”: Ibid., p. 92.

13 “En somme, il faudra tout un xixe siècle…pour que les élites se dotent d’un nouvel outillage mental d’où sortent nos concepts, beaucoup moins anciens qu’on le croit, de « séparation » ou de « laïcité »”: Bernard Plongeron, “La première séparation de l’Église et de l’État…”, art. cit., p. 263.

14 “La Révolution a également composé un premier répertoire de la pluralité dont la pièce maîtresse est cette catégorie des « cultes » dont l’État fait ses interlocuteurs en matière de religion”: Rita Hermon-Belot, Aux sources de l’idée laïque : Révolution et pluralité religieuse, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2015, p. 223.

15 “[I]l n’y a jamais eu de véritable séparation de l’Église et de l’État pendant la Révolution”, Albert Mathiez, La Révolution et l’Église, études critiques et documentaires, Paris, Armand Colin, 1910, p. 157, quoted in Rita Hermon-Belot, Aux sources de l’idée laïque, op. cit., p. 217. See also Bernard Plongeron, “La première séparation de l’Église et de l’État…”, art. cit., in particular the conclusion, p. 261-263.

16 Thus it is to the Revolution that one must look to shed light “on the terms in which we pose ourselves the questions which preoccupy us today” regarding laïcité and plurality (Rita Hermon-Belot, Aux sources de l’idée laïque, op. cit., p. 16 : “…sur les termes dans lesquels nous nous posons nous-mêmes les questions qui nous soucient aujourd’hui”); and Plongeron links the framework of police des cultes to the laws of 1793 allowing for the denunciation of priests: “Ainsi naît un corpus archivistique de la « police des cultes »” (Bernard Plongeron, “La première séparation de l’Église et de l’État…”, art. cit., p. 248).

17 This was recognized by both the juring and the refractory clergies (not to mention by the papacy in Rome). An example of the ongoing argument over the schism (which exhibits the arguments of both sides) is found in Bernard Lambert, O.P., Lettre à l’auteur de deux ouvrages intitulés, l’un : Avis aux Fidéles, sur le schisme dont l’église de France est menacée ; et l’autre : Supplément à l’Avis aux Fidèles, etc. ; dans laquelle on réfute ces deux ouvrages, et particulièrement le Supplément, Paris, n.p., 1796. On the very interesting Lambert, a Dominican who held Jansenist leanings but opposed the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, see Marie-Dominique Chenu, “Lambert (Bernard),” in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, t. VII.2, col. 2470; and Céline Pauvros, “Apocalypse contre constellations. La réfutation de l’Origine de tous les cultes de Dupuis par le Père Lambert,” Revue d’histoire de l’Église de France, t. XCIV, no. 233, p. 325-350. See also Rodney Dean, L’Église constitutionnelle, Napoléon et le concordat de 1801, Paris, Picard, 2004.

18 Rita Hermon-Belot, Aux sources de l’idée laïque…, provides a thorough analysis of how the legislators ironed out the terminology of their religious decrees, both in the Declaration of Rights and in the Constitution.

19 Marie-Hélène Cotoni. L’Exégèse du Nouveau Testament dans la philosophie française du dix-huitième siècle, Oxford, The Voltaire Foundation, 1984.

20 See the discussion held in the session of April 13, 1790, Archives parlementaires (hereafter abbreviated as AP), vol. 12, p. 714-719.

21 Journal des débats et décrets no. 885, p. 107. On the changing meaning of “opinion” in late eighteenth-century France, see Keith Michael Baker, Inventing the French Revolution: Essays on French Political Culture in the Eighteenth Century, NY, Cambridge University Press, 1990. See also Claude Langlois, “Religion, Culte Ou Opinion Religieuse : La Politique Des Révolutionnaires,” Revue Française de Sociologie, no. XXX-3/4 (1989), p. 471-496 (doi :10.2307/3321591).

22 Nicolas de La Mare, Traité de la police, 4 vols., Paris, 1705 ; Durand de Maillane, Les Libertez de l’Église gallicane : prouvées et commentées suivant l’ordre et la disposition des articles dressés par M. Pierre Phitou et sur les recueils de M. Pierre Dupuy, 5 vols., Lyon, 1771. See Jotham Parsons, The Church in the Republic: Gallicanism and Political Ideology in Renaissance France, Washington, DC, The Catholic University of America Press, 2004.

23 Albert Mathiez will say that the patriots of the 1790s “conçoivent la société comme un tout organique et harmonieux. Pour eux, l’État a charge d’âmes, car l’État a pour mission essentielle et pour raison d’être de préparer le bonheur de ses membres”: Albert Mathiez, La théophilanthropie et le culte décadaire…, op. cit., p. 21.

24 In the words of that edict: “La Religion Catholique […] jouira, seule dans notre Royaume, des droits et des honneurs du culte public…”, Édit du Roy concernant ceux qui ne font pas profession de la Religion Catholique. Registré en Parlement le 29 janvier 1788, Paris, Nyon, 1788 (archive: Bnf, department of Droit, économie, politique, F-47017 [9]).

25 August 23, 1789, AP, t. 8, p. 477-480.

26 Two older works which present sustained reflections of Rousseau’s defense of religion are Pierre Maurice Masson, La religion de Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 3 vols., Paris, Hachette, 1916; and Bernard Groethuysen, J.-J. Rousseau, Paris, Gallimard, 1949.

27 Groethuysen especially concludes that this is what Rousseau’s contemporaries took away from his defense of religion.

28 Carla Hesse has demonstrated how Rousseau’s works, both the political and the ostensibly sentimental, remained in great demand across the Thermidorean rupture: Carla Hesse, “Les Rousseau de la Révolution française”, in Eleina de Freitas Dutra and Jean-Yves Mollier (eds.), L’imprimé dans la construction de la vie politique : Brésil, Europe et Amériques (xviiie-xxe siècle), Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2016, p. 221-229. See also Roger Barny, Rousseau dans la Révolution : le personnage de Jean-Jacques et les débuts du culte révolutionnaire (1787-1791), Oxford, Voltaire Foundation, 1986.

29 This constitution made fairly minimal references to religion. Article 352 confirmed that the law did not recognize religious vows, and article 301 ordained a cycle of national holidays.

30 “[L]es lois […] ne statuent point sur ce qui n’est que du domaine de la pensée, sur les rapports de l’homme avec les objets de son culte, et qu’elles n’ont et ne peuvent avoir pour but qu’une surveillance renfermée dans des mesures de police et de sûreté publique.”

31 Among many examples that could be selected, during the final ironing out of details of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy in June of 1790, the question arose of whether to retain the hierarchy among bishops (with the ranks of metropolitans or archbishops). The committee reporter Louis-Simon Martineau thought that these titles were an apostolic institution, so that making changes to them reached into fundamental Catholic doctrines. He reminded the Assembly that “le travail du comité a pour objet la police ecclésiastique purement extérieure.” The more radical Jean-Baptiste Treilhard told his colleagues they needed not worry about violating intruding upon the Catholic religion: “Il s’agit de savoir si vous conserverez la juridiction métropolitaine : elle est de pure police.” See the sessions of June 1 and 2, 1790 (AP, t. 16 , p. 35 and 46).

32 This was in Durand’s contribution to the debates over what the new constitution ought to look like : AP, vol. 62, p. 374-411. The quotation is found on p. 405.

33 “One hears the most enlightened among them say that, for the Constitution and our laws, for the strengthening of our Republic, we need only the light of reason…. And you, legislators…, listen when [reason itself] tells you, by all examples and by Rousseau himself: it needs gods to give laws to men” (Ibid., p. 408).

34 The debates on the new constitution raised a range of suggestions regarding how to deal with cultes in the law. Many reaffirmed the article from the Declaration of 1789, some argued for a complete separation between the state and all cultes, but numerous proposals included various kinds of restrictions on Catholic Christianity. Especially interesting are those who argued in favor of a single national culte public, which would unify all citizens in common devotion to the fatherland and backed by the assurance of a supreme being who rewards the good and punishes the wicked. Many of the proposals are printed as annexes in AP, t. 62. Educational proposals frequently arrived at the desk of the Convention, such as that submitted by Michel Petit (October 1, 1793, AP , t. 75 , p. 405-417). Petit urged the deputies: “Établissez donc une religion vraie comme Dieu même, simple comme la nature ; que cette religion soit éminemment celle de la République.”

35 The departmental administration of the Seine-et-Oise and the Jacobin club of Versailles were prominent in this regard, repeatedly requesting that the government separate itself from the Christian religion or to stop replacing constitutional clergy, letting the old religion die out. See the petition of September 24, 1793 (AP, t. 75, p. 166) and the deputation of November 6 after the death of the constitutional bishop of the department (AP, t. 78, p. 467).

36 Boissy, as reporter for the executive combined Committees of Public Safety, Legislation, and General Security, gave a series of three important speeches from December 1794 to February 1795, on public credit, foreign relations, and religion. Together they added up to a new course for the republic, away from the Terror, away from price controls, away from persecutions, towards commerce, peace, and religious toleration. For his speech of December 28 on public credit, see the Moniteur nos. 124, 125, and 126 (January 23-25, 1795 | 4-6 Pluviôse, Year 3). For the speech of January 30 on foreign relations, see the Journal des débats et décrets, no. 858 (vol. Jan. 20-Feb. 18, 1795 | 1-30 Pluviôse, Year 3), p. 122-130. For the speech on cultes, given on February 21, 1795, see the Journal des débats et decrets no. 885 (8 Ventôse, Year III), p. 101-110. The decree of 4 Ventôse, Year III, followed an earlier decision to pay the juring clergy under the title of pensioners rather than as salaried public functionaries. Thus Boissy’s speech was providing an articulation and a vision for a path down which the Convention had already taken its first steps. Of Cambon’s motion, Aulard declared, “ce fut un acte de décès plutôt qu’une sentence de mort”: Alphonse Aulard, “Les origines de la séparation des Églises et de l’État…”, art. cit., p. 264.

37 The law of 11 Prairial, Year III, Collection Baudouin, vol. 62 (Prairial, Year III), p. 76-77.

38 “[S]emblables à la nature […] qui mûrit avec lenteur et persévérance […], vous préparerez constamment, et par la sagesse de vos lois, le seul règne de la philosophie, le seul empire de la morale […]. Bientôt la religion de Socrate, de Marc-Aurèle et de Cicéron sera la religion du monde”, Journal des débats et décrets no. 885, p. 109-110. Boissy had contributed to the constitutional debates of 1793: his declaration of rights listed worship among civil and political rights (following the natural ones), in the context of freedom of expression and thought: “The right to not be constrained to accept any religion whatsoever, nor to be troubled in the exercise of any worship one has chosen,” (AP, t. 62, p. 290). On Boissy’s early experiences of religious intolerance as a member of a Protestant family and his family connections with that of Rabaut Saint-Etienne, see Christine Le Bozec, Boissy d’Anglas, un grand notable liberal, Fédération des Œuvres Laïques de l’Ardèche,1995.

39 And in the official instruction from the Commission des Administrations Civiles, Police et Tribunaux (the Convention’s replacement for the Interior Ministry), issued just prior to the decree of 7 Vendémiaire, refractory priests were described as “guided to the faith by hatred, by vengeance and by self-interest”, and as society’s “greatest enemies.” Archives nationales (hereafter abbreviated as AN), F 1a 57, dossier “Cultes,”, instruction dated 3e Complémentaire, Year III (September 19, 1795).

40 Mona Ozouf, La Fête révolutionnaire (1976), Festivals and the French Revolution, trans. Alan Sheridan, Cambridge (MA), Harvard University Press, 1988.

41  “[V]os fêtes nationales, vos institutions républicaines sauront embellir et mettre en action les préceptes sacrés de cette morale que vous voulez graver dans le cœur des hommes”, Journal des débats et décrets, no. 885, p. 110.

42 Report for the Committee on Public Instruction, November 24, 1793 (4 Frimaire, Year II), AP, t. 80, p. 6-31.

43 Archives départementales de la Meurthe (Lunéville), 5 P 4, letters dated 8, 12, 16, and 21 Pluviôse, Year IV ; AN F 19 451, letter to the Minister of the Interior, 21 Pluviôse, Year IV (February 10, 1796).

44 AN F 19 1012 (part of a series 1005-1017 on refractory priests in years IV-V), pcs 338-351.

45 Archives départementales de la Haute-Vienne, L 352 2. Part of this text reads: “Il est temps, Citoyens, qu’une apathie aussi condamnable soit réparée, ou que toute la responsabilité prononcée par la Loi du 3 Brumaire, s’appésantisse sur les Fonctionnaires qui auroient ainsi négligé une des plus importantes de leurs obligations.”

46 Archives départementales de la Meurthe (Limoges), 5 P 3-4.

47 “[L]a loi ne reconnaissait plus de cultes”, Bibliothèque de Port-Royal, letters from Barail to Grégoire, GR3793 (April 18, 1797), GR3804 (n.d.), and GR3801 (n.d.). Of the indoor procession, which occurred “apres les vespres, heure a laquelle elle se faisoit avant la revolution par ordre du roi,” the long-suffering former constitutional priest complained, “de semblables ceremonies en dissent plus au peuple que tous les discours possible contre la revolution.”

48 “[E]n leur enlevant leur église cette liberté est absolument anéantie”. AN, F 19 1018, in the dossier for the Nièvre department. This carton also contains a petition from Henri Grégoire’s old parish of Embermesnil. In that case, there was no mention of religion. The appeal was to the Declaration of the Rights of Man, art. 5, the right to the fruit of one’s labor. The townspeople did not want to not lose all the money they had put into constructing and repairing the church in the years before the Revolution, and to have it available for municipal needs (such as a lodging for a schoolteacher).

49 For the relations between the Directory and the Papal States, see Philippe Boutry, “La tentative française de destruction du Saint-Siège (1789-1814)”, dans “Rome, l’unique objet de mon ressentiment”. Regards critiques sur la Papauté, sous la direction de Philippe Levillain, Rome, Collection de l’École française de Rome, no. 453, 2011, p. 79-100.

50 “Le prétendu schisme…n’a été que l’effet d’une erreur”. AN F 19 311, dossier 1, Letter dated 14 Thermidor, Year IV (August 1, 1796).

51 Philippe Boutry, “La tentative française de destruction du Saint-Siège”, p. 87-92. See also Patrice Gueniffey, Bonaparte : 1769-1802 (2013), Bonaparte 1769-1802, trans. Steven Rendall, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2015, 298-303. See also André Latreille, L’Église catholique et la révolution française, Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1970, 425-430.

52 Quoted in Michel Poniatowski, Talleyrand et le Directoire, op. cit., p. 106.

53 Published as Réflexions sur le culte, sur les cérémonies civiles et sur les fêtes nationales, Paris, H.J. Jansen, 1797.

54 See Albert Mathiez, La Théophilanthropie et le culte décadaire, 1796-1802, op. cit. The “conquest of the churches” of Paris by Theophilanthropists, to the humiliation of the ex-Constitutional clergy, is another good example of how liberté des cultes could be used in such a way that harmed a particular culte on specific matters—in this case, violating what the Catholics regarded as the holiness of the sanctuary in order to ensure the Theophilanthropists equal usage of these national venues; see especially p. 225-227.

55 Albert Mathiez makes the interesting point that Theophilanthropy, being a non-State project, responded to a certain loss of faith in the power of public institutions to form moral citizens, and to a fear that the destruction of Catholic religion would also destroy the people’s morals. The new culte was, according to Mathiez, an effort to build up the domestic institution, the pères de famille and mothers as moral educators: Albert mathiez, La Théophilanthropie et le culte décadaire, 1796-1802, op. cit., in particular the essay on Institutions that serves as the Introduction, p. 15-39. Rita Hermon-Belot notes an identical development in the career and thinking of Henri Grégoire, the constitutional bishop and member of the Convention. See Rita Hermon-Belot, L’Abbé Grégoire : la politique et la vérité, Paris, Le Seuil, 2000, p. 382-383. See also Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, The Abbé Grégoire And The French Revolution: The Making Of Modern Universalism, Berkeley, University Of California Press, 2005.

56 Louis-Marie de La Révellière-Lépeaux, Réflexions sur le culte…, p. 10. See the reactions to these ideas on religion in La Décade philosophique, littéraire, et politique, the journal of the more atheist- or rationalist-tending Ideologues. The volume for the Trimester of Germinal, Floréal, and Prairial, Year V, contains La Révellière’s speech as well as an account of a Theophilanthropist service (“Lettre de Polyscope sur une Religion nouvelle,” p. 342-350).

57 “Rendez l’homme aimant, vous le rendrez bon”. Ibid., p. 21-22.

58 “Point de cérémonies, point de discours, point de chants, point d’emblème, point de réunion de deux familles et des amis”, Ibid., p. 27.

59 June 19, 1792, AP, t. 45, p. 379-392.

60 In addition to Mathiez’s classic study, see Jonathan Douglas Deverse, “Theophilanthropy: Civil Religion And Secularization In The French Revolution”, PhD dissertation, Florida State University, 2015, https://diginole.lib.fsu.edu/islandora/object/fsu:291356

61 “… dans la position particulière de notre république”, La Révellière-Lépeaux, Réflexions sur le culte, op. cit., p. 13.

62 Most of the bishops in exile pressured their priests within the country; the agents of Louis XVIII made the same appeal. On the conservative ascendancy of 1796-1797, see André Latreille, L’Église catholique et la Révolution française, op. cit., p. 439-453.

63 Moniteur, no. 345, Quintidi 15 Fructidor, Year IV (September 1, 1796), édition Plon, vol. 28, p. 413 ; Jean-Luc Chartier, Portalis : père du Code civil, Fayard, 2004, p. 74-79.

64 Rapport fait par P.J.J. Dubruel, Député de l’Aveyron, au nom d’une commission spéciale, sur les prêtres insermentés, Séance du 30 Pluviôse an 5, Paris, Imprimérie nationale, 1797; Rapport fait par P.J.J. Dubruel, Député de l’Aveyron, au nom d’une commission spéciale, sur les lois pénales, rendues contre les prêtres insermentés, Séance du 8 Messidor an 5, Paris, Imprimerie nationale, 1797.

65 “[L]a République ne peut exister avec cette religion”, Rapport fait par P.J.J. Dubruel … Séance du 30 Pluviôse an 5, p. 2.

66 “[L]es acquéreurs de biens nationaux sont principalement les objets de leur haine”. Le moniteur universel, no. 287, 17 Messidor, Year V (July 5, 1797).

67 AN, F 19 311, dossier 1, letter of 28 Messidor, Year V (July 16, 1797). The archives did not preserve the particular articles enclosed with the letter, but two extant issues from the period (April 15 and June 3) report on the Holy Week activities of a haven of monarchism and refractory religion which had formed in a convent-turned-school, and on the offensive ravings of an intransigent and intolerant refractory priest who refused to allow his church to be “soiled” by a republican baby whose parents brought him to be baptized. Existing issues of this paper are digitized at https://www.retronews.fr/journal/lami-de-la-patrie/

68 “Notre ennemi le plus redoutable, c’est l’administration départementale qui machine ouvertement la perte des amis du gouvernement”: Riffard Saint-Martin, Journal 1744-1814, ed. Jacques-Olivier Boudon, Paris, Éditions SPM, 2013, p. 135.

69 “[L]’épurement des autorités qui sans doute sera un des heureux résultats de la journée du 18 fructidor”: Ibid.

70 On the ministry of Sotin, see Isser Wolloch, The Jacobin Legacy: The Democratic Movement under the Directory, Princeton University Press, 1970, p. 218-237. See also Jean Tulard, Joseph Fouché, Paris, Fayard, 1998, p. 93-105.

71 Letter dated 18 Nivôse, Year VI (January 7, 1798), Archives départementales de la Haute Vienne, L 352, dossier 5.

72 On the new persecutions of the late Directory, see Albert Mathiez, La Théophilanthropie et le culte décadaire, op. cit., p. 453-457; Maurice Barbotin, Conemana, camp de la mort en Guyane pour les prêtres et les religieux en 1798, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1995; and Victor Pierre, La Terreur sous le Directoire. Histoire de la persécution politique et religieuse après le coup d’état du 18 fructidor (4 septembre 1797), Paris, Retaux-Bray, 1887.

73 Rita Hermon-Belot, L’abbé Grégoire, la politique et la vérité, Paris, Le Seuil, 2000. See also Rodney Dean, L’Abbé Grégoire et l’Église constitutionnelle après la Terreur, 1794-1797, Paris, Picard, 2008.

74 Riffard Saint-Martin, Journal, p. 156-158.

75 Steven Englund, Napoleon: a Political Life, NY, Scribner, 2004, p. 166. See also Jean-René Suratteau and Alain Bischoff, Jean-François Reubell : l’Alsacien de la Révolution française, Éditions du Rhin, 1995, p. 244.

76 Circular dated 19 Frimaire, Year VIII, to the central and municipal administrations and to the Commissaires, Archives départementales de la Haute Vienne, L 352, dossier 5. Jean Tulard writes, “Arrêter la Révolution, contenir les royalistes à droite, paralyser les jacobins à gauche, tel est le programme de Fouché”: Jean Tulard, Joseph Fouché, op. cit., p. 110.

77 “It cannot be too strongly emphasized,” writes Patrice Gueniffey, “how much audacity the first consul showed by pursuing, almost alone,” the path toward the Concordat. “Of all the achievements of the consular government, the concordat is undoubtedly the most notable.” Patrice Gueniffey, Bonaparte 1769-1802, op. cit., p. 741.

78 On Grégoire’s initial hopes for the Concordat, and his gradual disillusionment, see Rita Hermon-Belot, L’abbé Grégoire, la politique et la vérité, Paris, Le Seuil, 2000, p. 382-418.

79 Claude Langlois, “« Philosophe sans impiété et religieux sans fanatisme » : Portalis et l’idéologie du système concordataire,” Ricerche di storia sociale e religiosa, no. 15-16, 1979, p. 37-57. Langlois notes that what struck nineteenth-century Catholic readers as offensive in Portalis’s arguments was his seeming religious indifferentism: “Peut-être perçoit-on mieux ici la logique d’un Portalis, refusant d’invoquer la vérité des dogmes catholiques pour faire approuver le rétablissement du Culte – ce qui choquait si fort Molé et Lamennais – comme il refuse à l’État le droit d’intervenir dans ce qui constitue, selon lui, l’essence du Christianisme, les croyances” (p. 47). In the context of the prior religious policies of the 1790s, however, the refusal to touch upon croyances by the conceptual demarcation of police extérieure was not particular to Portalis.

80 “Les hommes, en s’éclairant, deviennent-ils des anges ? […] L’intérêt des gouvernements humains est […] de protéger les institutions religieuses, puisque c’est par elles […] que la morale et les grandes vérités qui lui servent de sanction [peuvent] devenir l’objet de la croyance publique. […] La patrie ne serait pas plus sensible pour chaque individu que ne peut l’être le monde, si on ne nous attachait à elle par des objets capables de la rendre présente à notre esprit, à notre imagination, à nos sens, à nos affections”: “Discours de présentation sur l’organisation des Cultes, prononcé par J.-É.-M. Portalis devant le Conseil d’État, 15 germinal X,” La Constitution Civile du Clergé ; le Discours prononcé par M. Portalis en présentant le Concordat de 1801 au Corps-Législatif ; Le Concordat ; La Loi Organique, et le Commentaire du même M. Portalis, ed. M. ***, Douai, Adam d’Aubers, 1848, p. 27 and 78.

81 Portalis wrote his own extended reflections on philosophy, religion, and modern history during his years in exile. His son published them after his death : Jean-Étienne-Marie Portalis, De l’Usage et de l’abus de l’esprit philosophique durant le xviiie siècle, 2 tomes, Paris, Moutardier, 1827.

82 Corinne Gomez-Le Chevanton and Françoise Brunel, “ La Convention nationale au miroir des Archives Parlementaires,” Annales historiques de la Révolution française, no. 381, 2015, p. 11-29. See also Jean-Clément Martin, “La Terreur dans la loi : à propos de la Collection Baudouin,” Annales historiques de la Révolution française, no. 378, 2014, p. 97-109; and Bronisław Baczcko, Comment sortir de la Terreur ?, Paris, Gallimard, 1989, especially chapter 2.

83 In a letter to the Conseil d'État written in May 1802, Bonaparte declared his objective of raising up “a few great granite blocks on the sands of France”: quoted in Steven Englund, Napoleon: a Political Life, op. cit., p. 178.

84 Jean Tulard, Le Directoire et le Consulat, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 1991; Id., Les Thermidorians, Paris, Fayard, 2005; Howard G. Brown and Judith A. Miller (eds.), Taking Liberties: Problems of a New Order from the French Revolution to Napoleon, Manchester University Press, 2002. In his biography of Talleyrand, Michel Poniatowski argues that Talleyrand himself helped to create the caricature of the Directory period: Michel Poniatowski, Talleyrand et le Directoire, 1796-1800, Paris, Librairie Académique Perrin, 1982.

85 François FuretLa Révolution : de Turgot à Jules Ferry 1770-1880 (1988), Revolutionary France, 1770-1880, trans. Antonia Nevill, Oxford (UK) and Cambridge (MA), Blackwell, 1992. Furet judged that, with the law of Two Thirds, “the entire history of the Directory had already been cast: all that was missing was the victorious general who would, as if by chance, make his appearance in the political crisis instigated by the cynical decision of the Perpetuals” (p. 166). Laura Mason writes, “The Directory’s assault on revolutionary promises of liberty, equality, and fraternity and its fatal attack on representative government [provide] a precocious example of how a republic destroys itself from within.” Laura Mason, The Last Revolutionaries: The Conspiracy Trial of Gracchus Babeuf and the Equals, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2022, p. 5-6. André Latreille concurs: “Congénitalement, si l’on ose dire, le régime issu de la Constitution de l’an III est débile”: André Latreille, L’Église catholique et la révolution française, op. cit., p. 381.

86 Some of the republican antipathy toward papal authority had deep roots in French intra-Catholic polemics. See Dale Van Kley, Reform Catholicism and the International Suppression of the Jesuits in Enlightenment Europe, 1554-1791, New Haven (CT), Yale University Press, 2018.

87 This particular holiday was to have an echo during the Second Empire. See Sudhir Hazareesingh, The Saint Napoleon: Celebrations of Sovereignty in Nineteenth-Century France, Cambridge (MA), Harvard University Press, 2004, translated into French by Guillaume Villeneuve: La Saint-Napoléon. Quand le 14 juillet se fêtait le 15 août, Paris, Tallandier, 2005.

88 Later, of course, as emperor Bonaparte clashed with the pope and even imprisoned him. But Boutry notes that what might appear like a medieval investiture crisis between the emperor and the pope (Pius VII) which escalated from 1808 to 1814 into an annihilation of the Papal States, also showed continuity from the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, for Napoleon’s attempt to decentralize certain papal rights “retrouve en ce sens l’une des inspirations de la Constitution civile du clergé en termes de quasi-indépendance de l’Église de France”: Philippe Boutry, “La tentative française de destruction du Saint-Siège (1789-1814)”, art. cit., p. 92.

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Joseph Harmon, « The Police des Cultes under the Directory »La Révolution française [En ligne], 26 | 2024, mis en ligne le 22 mai 2024, consulté le 16 juin 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/lrf/8320 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/11ph1

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Joseph Harmon

Florida State University

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