1793 Official Order to Suppress the French Navy During the Reign of Terror

1793 Official Order to Suppress the French Navy During the Reign of Terror

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On offer is offer is a superb copy of the order that purged the French Navy of its officer corps in the days of the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution.

This document is the order given to suppress the Navy. An excerpt of the document follows:

Qui supprime le Corps et la denomination de l'administration civile de le Marine Le corps et la denomination de l'administration civile de la marine, ainsi que des differens grades qui y etoient precedemment etablis, font ey demeurent supprimes.

[Translation: Which abolishes the Body and the designation of the civil administration of the Navy The body and the designation of the civil administration of the navy, as well as the different ranks which were previously established there, are and remain suppressed.]

...Les dispositions ci-dessus sont communes aux ingenieurs constucteurs.: ils cesseront egalement de saire corps. Ils auront le meme uniforme que les employes aux bureaux civile de la marine, avec la seule difference que les paremens de l'habit seront en velours noir, mais il ne seront sous les ordres d'aucun des employes…

[Translation:...The above provisions are common to the construction engineers: they will also cease to be a body. They will have the same uniform as the employees of the civil offices of the navy, with the only difference that the clothing will be in black velvet, but they will not be under the orders of any of the employees…]

The document was inspected by a man named Blaux and also bears a printed signature of Robespierre. The order also bears the printed signatures of Dabarade and Gohier. Dalbarade was Jean Dalbarade, the Minister of the Navy and Colonies, Gohier was Louis-Jerome Gohier, the Minister of Justice and of course Robespierre was Maximilian Robespierre who became the embodiment of the Reign of Terror which saw an orgy of public executions numbering between 15 and 20 thousand citizens.

Information on the history that informed the document follows:

The French navy has always been affectionately known as La Royale (The Royal), in part because of its close relationship with the monarchy. Under Louis XVI, the French Navy was rebuilt into a powerful fighting force capable of fighting and defeating the British Royal Navy. The French Navy played a decisive role in the American Revolution, defeating the Royal Navy in the Battle of Chesapeake Bay.

However, the French Revolution was to be a disaster for the French Navy. In 1793, sailors in the Brest Squadron mutinied in a series of mutinies that became known as the Quiberon Mutinies. This occurred at the height of the Reign of Terror. Regardless of the underlying cause(s), this gave the hardline revolutionaries the justification needed to purge the officer corps of the Navy. The French Navy’s officer corp was comprised of many members of the old aristocracy and was viewed with deep suspicion.

The purge resulted in dozens of ship’s captains being driven out of the navy along with some admirals. Many were imprisoned and some sent to the guillotine. The Naval Gunnery School was also disbanded with catastrophic consequences when they had to face the Royal Navy. Since 1745, the Royal Navy required all ships to run gunnery drills daily and in action, a Royal Navy ship could fire a broadside every 90 seconds which was unmatched by any other navy.

For a historian, this is a superb document that speaks to the heart not only of the Reign of Terror but also to the debilitating purges of the French navy at a time when they were so needed.

This 4-page, printed manuscript measures 8.25 inches by 7.0 inches The document is 100% complete. The paper is in very good condition. There is some slight staining on the inside right page but it does not in any way interfere with the legibility of the contents. The document is signed and countersigned with printed signature and also bears a handwritten signature confirming it is a certified copy of the original legislation.

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