The Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften: EventsThursday, 16 November 2023, 11:00
Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften, Am Wingertsberg 4, 61348 Bad Homburg
Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften of Goethe University
Kelly Summers (MacEwan University)
»Émigré Soldiers on Trial: Revolutionary Justice from Quiberon to the Calais Affair«
In November 1795, just a few months after a provocative Anglo-émigré incursion into Brittany, several ships diverged from a British convoy and sank near Calais. Try as they might to conceal the fact, many of the survivors plucked from the waves were discovered to be French. Their nationality, combined with the ships’ foreign provenance and military cargo, betrayed their status as émigré soldiers. It did not help matters that their commander, the former Duc de Choiseul-Stainville, had been one of the architects of Louis XVI’s flight to Varennes—history’s most consequential failed emigration. French authorities quickly exchanged the regiment’s foreign members as prisoners of war and released civilian survivors, including women and children, in accordance with traditional shipwreck protocol. In the wake of the abortive Quiberon landing, however, Merlin de Douai, the Revolution’s leading jurist and enforcer of émigré policy, was determined to make an example of Choiseul and his men—including two teenaged buglers and several soldiers who claimed to be republican prisoners pressed into British service—by trying them under the Thermidorian Émigré Code’s capital provisions. Cut and dried as Merlin imagined the case to be, it would be passed between civilian and military authorities for nearly five years as the fate of the shipwrecked émigrés morphed into a partisan litmus test and international cause célèbre, defying a republican resolution and triggering interventions from such prominent figures as Edmund Burke and Napoleon Bonaparte. Involving as it did both armed counter-revolutionaries and hapless refugees caught up in the migration crisis spawned by the French Revolutionary wars, the Calais Affair dramatically illuminates the origins and effects of the First Republic’s one-size-fits-all émigré policy. Drawing on trial transcripts, newspaper coverage, diplomatic correspondence, enlistment contracts, and a doctored regimental capitulation, my presentation will explore how the Affair’s twists and turns illuminate the political and logistical challenges raised by the problem of return after the Terror.
Events | FKH