Survival against the Odds? The French Bishops Elected to the Estates-General, 1789

by Nigel Aston
Survival against the Odds? The French Bishops Elected to the Estates-General, 1789
Nigel Aston
The Historical Journal
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The general view still prevails that the French bishops performed badly in the elections held to the estates-general in the spring of I 789.' The final figure of only 49 bishops going to Versailles amid a horde of cur& tends to be treated by historians as a clear demonstration of the new power of the lower clergy, confirming the view of the episcopal corps as aristocratic, out of touch, and unprepared for an electoral contest on a level of equality with the parish clergy. Prestigious casualties like Rohan-GuCmenCe at Cambrai, Montmorency-Lava1 at Metz, Marbeuf at Lyon, and Dillon at Narbonne have attracted much notice, but they are really the exceptions.' Closer examination indicates that the majority of prelates in fact put up a spirited performance, faced with Necker's electoral riglement of 24 January 1789-arrangements weighted deliberately in favour of the

The arrangement cut straight across the hierarchical structure of the Gallican church. From a situation where clerical representation in every organ of ecclesiastical government from the general assembly of the clergy downwards was effectively monopolized by the bishops and higher clergy, prelates were given no guarantee of a seat in the estates-general.4 That the

* I wish to thank Professor John McManners and Dr Colin Jones for their helpful comments

on this article. For a conventional account of conflicts among clergy in the electoral assemblies of 1789 see

M. Vovelle, translated Susan Burke, The fall of the French monarchy 1787-179' (Cambridge, I 984), pp. 97, 98. Cf. A. Goodwin, The French revolution (4th edn, London, 1966), p. 48; W. Doyle, The origins of the French revolution (Oxford, 1980), p. 15 I.

They prove to be readily explicable. Rohan-Gutmente seldom left Paris for his diocese, Cardinal Montmorency-Laval was notoriously stand-offish towards the cure's of Metz, ~Marbeuf disdained a journey to Lyon, taking his election for granted, and Dillon was a victim of personal bankruptcy and the popular campaign against the Languedoc estates. See N. R. Aston, 'The politics of the French episcopate, 17861791 ' (unpublished D.Phil. dissertation, University of Oxford, 1985), pp 23, 190, 178-9, 229-30, 238-40.

A. Brette, Recueil des documents relatifs h ha convocation des Etats Gheiaux de 1789 (4 vols., Paris, 1894-1915)) I, x ff; terms of the r2glement are in ibid. I, 6687, and Archives Parlementaires de 1789 a 1860, 1st str. (1789-gg), ed. J. Madival & E. Laurent (82 vols., Paris, 1867-1g13), 11, 544, 61 1. Its implications are discussed in Aston, 'The politics of the French episcopate', pp. 190-4, and

F. Furet, trans. Elborg Forster, Interpreting the French revolution (Cambridge, I g81), pp. 182-3.

See letter of the defeated bishop of Metz to Necker, 20 April I 789, claiming a prescriptive right to a place according to grants made by Henri I11 to the Cardinal of Lorraine, Brette, Recueil, I, Iv.

22 607 HIS 32

episcopate failed to press the case for a more traditional arrangement, was

itself a reflexion of the bishops' critical lack of influence with the king and

ministers during Necker's second ministry. The aggressive anti-government

reinontrances submitted by the general assembly of the clergy in the summer of

1788had turned the court away from reliance on episcopal loyalties. When

Necker formed his administration on Archbishop Brienne's dismissal in

August, there was no one apart from the minister for the feuille des be'n&ces,

Archbishop Marbeuf of Lyon, to put the views of senior prelates directly

before him;5 even outside government, Necker had few friends among the

bishops apart from Archbishop Champion de CicC of Bordeaux and Louis de

ConziC of Arras.

Three key provisions undermined higher clergy predominance: the total of clerical deputies was fixed at 250 which would require all 130 bishops to be elected if they were to have a majority in the first estate. This remote prospect was further reduced by article seventeen of the re'glernent. This limited the suffrage of multiple benefice holders to a single vote when they might have expected to participate in more than one constituency. Necker's objective here was to prevent the accumulation of votes by bishops and chapters, and then permit maximum leverage to the cure3 by article fourteen. This stipulated that whereas all beneficed parish priests and bishops could participate personally in the electoral assembly (provided a locum tenens was able to take services in their ab~ence),~the communities of religious could send only one representative, and the chapters one for every ten canons. The personal vote accorded the country cure's ensured there was a predominant rural element among the clerical electors, whereas unbeneficed priests in the towns were permitted only one representative for every 20 at the general assembly of their bailliage or se'ne'chausse'e. The town/country rivalry resulting from this enactment was to work to the electoral benefit of the bishops in more than one con~tituency.~

Electoral arrangements were complex and shifting;' most constituencies

were organized into the historic framework of se'ne'chausse'es and bailliages, which

took no account of diocesan bo~ndaries.~

Thus the bailliage of PCrigueux

Marbeuf had been criticized earlier for not forcefully representing the interests of senior bishops to the king and ministers. Journal de l'abbe' Veri (unpublished) 1785, quoted by

J. Hardman, 'Ministerial politics from the accession of Louis XVI to the assembly of Notables, 1774-1787' (unpublished D.Phil. dissertation, University of Oxford, 1972), pp. 85-6.

'J. Cadart, Le re'gime e'lectorale des Etats Gbhaux de 1789 et ses origines (130~1614) (Paris, 1g52), pp. 121-2; Brette, Recueil, I, 73-4. For Louis XVI's personal sympathies for 'les bans et utiles pasteurs', see preamble to the rlglement discussed in Cadart, Le re'gime dectorale, p. 125.

' As at Rouen. See J. Loth & Charles Verger (eds.), Meinoires de l'abbe' Baston, chanoine de Rouen

(3 vols., Paris, 1897), I, 308. Louis Delannoy, La Convocation des Etats-Ge'neiaux de 1789, (thlse, Paris, 'go,+), pp 98-'07, I I 7. Distinction between the two categories is discussed in Brette, Recueil, I, xxxiii-xxxix; A. Brette,

Les Limites et les divisions territoriales de la France en 1789 (Paris, 1907), pp. 115-20. There were 130 bishoprics as compared to 176 bailliages; fifty-seven diocesan seats of the 130 were not designated as the principal town of their bailliage. M. Peronnet, Les Eugques de l'ancienne France (2 vols., Paris, 1977)) 11, I 150, estimates that 'Le systtme Clectorale Climinait, mkcaniquement peut-on dire, une quinzaine d'tv&ques de la dtputation'.

included the see of Sarlat as well as PCrigueux itself, and the bailliage of Forcalquier included as many as four bishoprics: Apt, Riez, Sisteron, and ~i~ne.''The way the electoral map was drawn thus frequently worked against the structure of episcopal power in the dioceses and was to blame for many defeats.'' There were special dispensations for Alsace,12 and Brittany, where cur& were to vote in each of the nine sees of the province.'3 Barring Dauphin6 (where the political situation remained highly charged),14 BCarn,15 and Navarre,16 Necker rejected requests from the provincial estates for a place in the elections, and the clergy were to assemble along with the second and third estates in the principal town of their constituency to make their elections and establish the final version of their cahier.

These novel provisions made the result of the elections highly unpredictable. Publicly, the majority of bishops were obliged to welcome what Archbishop de Juign6 of Paris called the all-pervading 'sentiment de Patriotisme', and courted popular approval by displaying it themselves. The cautious archbishop collld even declare : '. . .'le salut du Peuple, voilh la loi suprtme', voila le premier principe et comme la fin dernikre de tout gouvernement juste'.17 Most bishops kept their misgivings to themselves or left criticism of ministerial patronage of the third estate and the cur& to their private corresp~ndence;'~ they had no wish to embarrass the king, or risk offending the all-powerful Necker.lg

lo Peronnet, Les Euiques, 11, I 150.

l1 Thus at Troyes, the curks later insisted that their bishop would have been elected had not their bailliage included priests from the adjacent dioceses of Sens, Langres and Auxerre. [Anon.], R@onse des curis du bailliage de Tro_yes (31 pp., 1789)) London, British Library (B.L.), F.R.123(13), pp. 15-18, 26. l2 Delannoy, La Convocation, p. 98; Brette, Recueil, I, 217-19.

l3 Delannoy, La Convocation, p. I I I ;Brette, ~ecueil,I, 259-62.

l4 Ibid. p. 107. The Dauphine rkglement was extended to Provence on 2 March. E. Lavaquery, Le Cardinal de Boisgelin, 173.~1804 Paris, 1920), I, 375.

(2 VO~S.,

l5 Ibid. I, 297-9. Bishop Not of Lescar was elected in May 1789 by the estates of BCarn, but he arrived only after the formation of the national assembly, which he refused to recognize. Ibid. I, 486; IV, 2 16; Christian Desplat, 'Les Etats de Btarn et la dtfinition de la souverainett btarnaise

I'tpoque moderne', Parliaments, estates and representation, 111 (1g83), 89-99, at 98.

l6 Ibid. I, 212-14; Delannoy, La Convocation, pp. 103-5. In Navarre, still nursing its traditions

of independency, there was a general reluctance to elect to such a 'French' institution as the

estates-general. Elections took place very late, and Bishop de Villevieille of Bayonne was chosen

one of four deputies by direct election from the local Estates. AbbC Hanistoy, Les Paroisses dupays

basque pendant la piriode rholutionnaire (2 vols., Pau, 1895-8), I, 42-3; V. Dubarat and J.B.

Daranatz, Recherches historiques sur la ville de Bayonne (3 vols., Bayonne, I~IW~O), 111,

I, 299-302, 135G7; Brette, Recueil, I, 486. " Mandement de Mgr I'Archevtque de Paris, qui ordonne des Prikres Publiques duns tout son Diockse pour les Etats-Gkniraux du Ro_yaume (20 pp., Paris, 1789), p. 5, B.L., F.62*(19).

Boisgelin could complain to the comtesse de Grammont of ministerial favour towards the

Tiers, ' ...I1 semble que le roi ait retirt sa protection des deux premiers ordres pour les livrer a la

mercy du peuple' (letter of 29 Jan. I 789, cited Lavaquery, Boisgelin, I, 364; see also letter of

19 Feb., in ed. A. Cans, 'Lettres de M. de Boisgelin, Archevtque d'Aix a la comtesse de Grammont

(177G178g)'), Revue Historique, LXXIX (1902), 316-23, at p. 306), but he could still assure Necker

of his best efforts to serve the government. Paris, Archives Nationales (A.N.), HI, 1240, 6 Feb.

lg A. Mathiez, Rome et le clerge'f7angais sous la Constituante (Paris, 191 I), pp. 103, 106. Cf. Bishop

of Riez, 26 Feb., A.N. AA, 62, '...l'esprit de vertige et d'erreur, d'anarchie et rtpublicain qui

semble se manifester partout ouvertement '.


The final results indicated that when the lower clergy might have swept the board, the bishops fought a sound defensive action and frequently won elections according to the rules of an unfamiliar game," forty-nine of 128 diocesan prelates21 were elected, though this bare figure explains little. It excludes the retired bishop of Beauvais of Senez serving as an assistant in the archidiocese of Paris, the coadjutor of Albi, and J.B. J.Gobel, bishop of Lydda in partibus injdelium from Lorraine, who brought the final number to fifty-two. Of a total of thirty-four bishops defeated in person, only nine of 130 were worsted in the ballot," most of the rest withdrawing from the contest before the vote was taken. Twenty-one prelates who did not attend their local electoral assembly in person were defeated candidates. Illness, pride, inertia, official duties, or apprehensions about humiliating defeat caused their non- appearance.23

The final total could easily have been higher. Three bishops -Arras, Le Puy, and Nevers -were actually elected, but the first two refused to take up their places, and the third died before he could reach Versailles. Old age made five popular veterans shy away from the prospect of regular attendance at the estates-general, and so further reduced the number of episcopal candidate^.'^ At Boulogne the seventy-seven-year-old Mgr Partz de Pressy was in his presidential place at the electoral assembly by 8 a.m. on I 7 March, despite fast failing health. He commanded respect throughout the diocese, but his age decided him against standing.25 Desnos, bishop of Verdun, at seventy-three, turned down a place his clergy implored him to accept. Other older prelates who preferred to remain in their dioceses were: Reboul de Lambert of Saint- Paul-Trois-Chate2ux -eighty-five; Hachette of Glandkves -seventy-eight; Estienne of Grasse -~event~-one.'~

Most bishops were prepared to compete for a seat at Versailles, but a minority did not. The nine Breton prelates in the province of Tours boycotted the elections in protest at the ban on direct elections from the province's estates,27 and another six bishops from other provinces were not candidates. The archbishop of Albi remained in Rome on official business, and the

20 Cf. Timothy Tackett, Religion, revolution and regional culture: the ecclesiastical oath of 1789 (Princeton, 1986),pp. 144-6.

Two sees -La Rochelle and Grenoble -were vacant in March 1789.

22 Avranches, Cambrai, Chilon-sur-SaBne, Mason, Mende, Metz, Noyon, Pamiers, Troyes.

23 Alet, Apt, Bayeux, Carcassonne, Evreux, Frijus, Lavaur, Lisieux, Lodeve, Meaux, Mirepoix, Lyon, Noyon, Sarlat, SCes, Sisteron, Soissons, Riez, Saint-Claude, Saint-DiC, Vence. Cf. Peronnet, Les ~vt~ues,

11, I 152-53.

24 Only three prelates over seventy were elected: Rouen, Vienne, and Bazas.

25 A. Deramecourt, Le clerge' des diocZses $Arras, Boulogne et Saint-Omer pendant la Rholution (178p180.2) (4 VOIS., Arras, 1884), I, 377, 386. 26 Cf. list in Peronnet, Les ~vt~ues,

11, 1153.

27 Only at St Pol-de-Lion were the Breton recteurs dissuaded from participating themselves in the elections. Aston, The politics of the French episcopate', pp. 265-6; L. Kerbiriou, J-F de la Marche, i'vtque-comte' de Li'on (QuimperIParis, 1924),p. 274; H. Pommeret, L'Esprit public duns le de'partement des Cttes-du-Nordpendant la rholution, r78p17gg (Saint-Brieuc, 192 I), pp. 55: E. Durtelle de Saint-Sauveur, Histoire de Bretagne (2 vols., ParisIRennes, 1957), 11, 319.

isolating the canons and monks.36 This was more an attempt at hierarchical realignment than outright subversion.

Most bishops could draw on reserves of and influence loyalty in the elections. Cur& in rural areas, grateful for their new political importance, still looked up to the leadership elite for advancement, especially in dioceses like Arras or Le Puy where a bishop had right of presentation to the majority of benefices3' and client-patron ties counted for much. Despite Necker's riglement the customary patterns of deference3' did not give way entirely, and the majority of cure's made no challenge to the right of the bishops to lead the Gallican church. Prelates undoubtedly relied heavily on the 'deference factor' and active campaigning was dismissed as either unnecessary or demeaning. Thus the opportunities for tactical preparations presented in the two months between the riglement and the start of the elections were infrequently seized.

The earliest results in Dauphin6 on 7 January ante-dated the riglement.39 Restricted cure' representation in the assembly of Romansg0 was one reason behind the election of higher clergy to all five places as deputies to the estates- general, but patriotic reputation was what really counted. It was a foregone conclusion that the delegation would be headed by Le Franc de Pompignan, archbishop of Viennegl president of the Romans assembly, and unofficially the saviour of Dauphin6 in I 788." The province was a hot-bed of cure' agitation, but the archbishop had won popularity by placing the Richerist leader, Reymond, at the head of a special commission for the union of benefices as provided for in legislation of I 786, and had begun to implement the increase in the portion ~on~rue.'~

However, a prestigious group of dissident canons, priors, prelates and their noble allies (headed by Archbishop Leyssin of Embrun, and eventually including the bishops of Gap, Die," and Valence), separated themselves from Le Franc de Pompignan, and openly attacked the new

36 Aston, 'The politics of the French episcopate', p. 35.

37 Ibid. pp. 24-15.

38 Here understood in the sense defined by Professor Pocock: 'the voluntary acceptance of a leadership elite by persons not belonging to that elite', J. G. A. Pocock, 'The classic theory of deference', American Historical Review, LXXXI (1970)) 516-23, at 517 See also F. O'Gorman, 'Electoral deference in "unreformed " England : I 760-1 832 ',Journal ofModern Histoy, LVI (I 984),

391-429, eSP PP. 395-9. 39 The government gave no initial guidance on the precise number of deputies to be selected, until the figure of twenty-four was announced on 7 Jan. J. Egret, Les derniers Etats de Dauphine' (Grenoble/Paris, 1g42), pp. 152-3. 40 Egret, ibid, pp. 8-9, 15-16, 28-9; Tackett, Priest andpeople, p. 253. 41 Ibid. p. 254; Brette, Recueil, 11, 100, 120, 21 I, 300, 370-1, 537; U. Chevalier, Les Etats du Dauphine' (Grenoble, I 86g), p. 3 I. 42 F.Bouvier, Une carriire apologiste au 18e siicle: 3-GLe Franc de Pompignan, e'utque du Puy, archeutque de Vienne, 1715-90 (Lyon, 1go3), pp. 867; Egret, Les derniers Etats, pp. 4~50; Bernard Bligny, Histoire du Dauphine' (Toulouse, 1g73), p. 312. He was reported to have presided with 'une esprit de sagesse et de conciliation ', [Anon.] Fausse tentattue de la Discorde en Dauphine' (38 pp., I 789))

p. 21. 43 M. Bernard, 'Revendications et aspirations du bas clergt dauphinois a la veille de la

Rtvolution', Cahiers d'Histoire, I (1956), 327-47, at 338. 44 J. Chevalier, Essai historique sur l'e'glise de Die (3 vols., Die, 1888-~gog), III, 694,

principle of voting by head and the binding mandates imposed on deputies.45 Leyssin and the other dissidents left the estates to set up an illegal assembly but found that ministers took no notice of their protests.46

Le Franc de Pompignan was not the only senior prelate to gain a huge popular vote. A reputation for charity, high principles, and an essential simplicity of heart, carried the day for Cardinal La Rochefoucauld at R~uen.~~

Despite a gloomy opening speech,48 he accumulated no less than 783 of the 799 votes cast on 23 a tribute to his popularity with local clergy, gratified that national prominence (he would be president of the first estate at the estates-general) had never stopped him from regular diocesan visitation^.^^ In Paris Archbishop Le Clerc de Juignk won another straightforward victory. There were two electoral assemblies in the capital for the clergy : Paris-ville, and Paris-pre'vite' et vicomte'. In both the archbishop was proclaimed president, and on 28 April accepted unanimous election as first deputy by Paris-~ille,'~ where there was a predominant number of vicaires ge'ne'raux, deputies of chapters or female communities, and other dignitaries.52 As a man renowned for his piety, learning, and unshakeable orthodoxy, Archbishop Dulau of Arles was another elected to almost universal acclamation from his priests. He was at least as prominent in the affairs of the general assembly of the clergy as the archbishop of R~uen.~~

There were few names in the church more prestigious than Talleyrand- Pkrigord, or sees more symbolic of the first estate's central place in the nation's life than Reims. Dutiful, good-natured, moderately able, and a willing workhorse in the general assemblies of the clergy,54 the archbishop was elected first of the city's two clerical deputies on 28 March,55 though there had been much wrangling prior to the election, and it had taken the entire morning of

45 Egret, Les derniers Etats, pp. 157-62; the dissidents' letter to the king, Mar. 1789, is in A.N., Ba.73(3, 4). 46 Aston, 'The politics of the French episcopate', p. 197. 47 L. Soublin, Le Premier vote des Normands (1789)(Ftcamp, 1981), pp. 182-3. 48 Ibid. p. 167. 49 P. Langlois, Le Chapitre de Rouen (178p1802) (Rouen, 1856), p. 17; J. Loth, Histoire du cardinal de La Rochefoucauld et du diocise de Rouen pendant la Rivolutton (Evreux, 1893), p. 155. 50 Ibid. p. 75. 0.Delac, L'iglise de Paris pendant la Rivolution frangaise (3 vols., Paris, 1895-8), I, 76-80;

P. Pisani, ~'~~lise

de Paris et la Rivolution (4 vols., Paris, 1908-1 I), I, 45-6; Brette, Recueil, 111, 271. This colleague, bishop de Beauvais, late of Senez, was chosen third deputy on I May.

52 Pisani, Eglise de Paris, I, 42.

53 J.-M. Trichaud, Histoire de la Sainte Eglise 8Arles (4 vols., Paris, 1859-64), IV, 296, 298, 300. There was an awkward moment when Necker authorized representation for the city of Arles independently of the sinichaussb, but Dulau successfully insisted on the validity of his own nomination. C. Viguier, Les dibuts de la Rivolution en Provence (Paris, 18g4), pp. 20, 21, 24.

54 In 1780 the archbishop was chairman of the commission for the accounts of the clergy's loans, and in 1785 was chairman of the important commission on tithes. L. S. Greenbaum, Talltyrand, statesman priest (Washington, 1970)) p. 226.

55 G. Boussinesq and G. Laurent, Histoire de Reims (2 vols., Reims, 1g33), 11, 274; G. Laurent, Reims et la rigion Rimoise (Reims, 1g30), p. cccxxxvii. The proc2s-verbal does not give exact voting figures.

the 28th to complete the business. In some ways, Talleyrand-PCrigord might be considered fortunate. An enquiry of 1774~~reveals the rural cure's as disillusioned at the remoteness of their archbishop (then coadjutor), but when they finally had the opportunity of snubbing him, years of ingrained respect for the episcopate could not be overcome.

Boisgelin of Aix used the language of patriotism to good effect, and was easily elected on 6 April for that se'ne'chausse'e after an oratorical tour de force.57 He had both paid out ~oo,ooo livres of his own money during the recent dearth in Pr~vence,~' and had delighted reformers with his Lettre Circulaire au Clerge' regulier et seculier (20 March), which identified the true interests of the clergy as inseparable from the other two orders, and argued that the church should join in all public charges -after it had first been consulted.59 A reputation for charitable generosity during the harsh winter of I 788-9 undoubtedly enhanced electoral prospects. Bishop du Tillet of Orange was famed in every quarter of the church for his giving,60 and he personally persuaded his order to abandon its pecuniary privileges.61 The archbishop of Bordeaux too benefited from speaking out for fiscal equality6' -the climax to a campaign tailor-made to win over the most suspicious of the Guyenne curis. He had first received with good grace the decision not to hold the electoral assembly in his palace and for the three orders to verify their powers in common rather than separately. This conspicuous moderation irritated the nobility, made him popular with the lower clergy,63 and ensured that Champion de CicC was elected as the first of four clerical representatives on 30 March.64

Other liberals were no less successful. Bishop Lubersac of Chartres used the elections to bring himself again to public notice after years of royal disfavour. Not one to sulk at court disfavour, the bishop won the votes of his cure's for his sensitive but efficient diocesan government, and by consistently siding with them against the powerful chapter of chart re^.^^ The smooth Lubersac was well-suited to the role of deputy, going with his friend and Vicar-General, the

56 D.Julia, 'Le Clergt paroissial du diocese de Reims a la fin du 18e sikcle', Etudes Ardennaises, XLIX (1967), 19-35; LV (1968), 41-65.

" For the proceedings see Lavaquery, Boisgelin, I, 377-96; A.N., M.788(2), letters of 14, 15, 27 iMar., 6 Apr. 1789; R. Busquet, Histoire de Provence (Monaco, 1g54), p. 330. See also his letter of 7 April to the comtesse de Grammont complaining that Necker had all along wished to discredit him and exclude him from the estates-general. Lavaquery, Boisgelin, I, 399-400, 372.

'' Lavaquery, Boisgelin, I, 382-3.

" Ibid. I, 377-8.

60 Abbe Granget, Histoire du diockse 8Avignon (2 vols., Avignon, 1860), 11, 425.

61 Comte A. Pontbriant, Histoire de la Principaute' &Orange (Avignon, I 89 I), pp. 3 17-20,

62 P.-J. O'Reilly, Histoire complkte de Bordeaux (4 vols., Paris/Bordeaux, 1863), IV, 34-5;

Lhkritier, La Fin de l'ancien re'gime et lapre'paration des etats-ge'enhaux ci Bordeaux (Vol. I, 1787-89) (Paris,

1g42), pp. 237-8; Brette, Recueil, IV, 236-7.

63 Levy-Schneider, Champion de Cice', pp. 27, 28-9.

64 Ed. G. Pariset, Bordeaux au XVIIIe sikcle (Bordeaux, 1968), pp. 377-8.

65 Aston, 'The politics of the French episcopate', p. 259. In 1784 he had unsuccessfully proposed to annex I 2 of the go canonries of Chartres for relief of the cure's, especially aged ones.

M. Vovelle, Ville et campagne au 18e sikcle (Chartres et la Beauce) (Paris, 1980), p. 196.

abbC Sieye~~~

to Versailles. In the Rouergue, Bishop Colbert de Seignelay- Castlehill of Rodez had since I 781 built up a solid reputation as a reformist pre'lat administrateur from presiding over the provincial assembly of Haute- Guyenne. He appears to have had few problems in gaining election for the se'ne'chausse'e of Rodez and fending off the challenge of the abbC Malrieu, cure'of Leb~us.~~

Bishop/lower clergy relations were also sound in the diocese of Langres, governed by La Luzerne, Malesherbes' politically reformist nephew." Sessions here were characterized by remarkable inter-order harmony, and culminated in a general assembly on 26/27 March to discuss the cahier, written mainly by La Luzerne and quite acceptable to the third estate.69 The bishop's election against this propitious background was no surprise.70 There was a similar family atmosphere at Saint-Papoul, where the jovial ex-army officer7' Bishop de La Tour-Landry, was standing for election. Translated from Gap to the miniature diocese of Saint-Papoul in 1784, the bishop was known for 'une grande amCnitC de caractkre, un coeur bienfaisant et gCnCreux jusq'a l'e~cks'.~' He had dedicated himself to pastoral ministry73 in the fifty parishes of his diocese,74 and was a popular choice as local deputy,75 as was the veteran bishop of Bazas, the oldest bishop to be elected to Ver~ailles.~' A small diocese (like Bazas) could be a distinct electoral asset as Ruffo de Laric, bishop of Saint-Flour in the Auvergne, discovered. Administrative experience as president of the clergy in the provincial assembly of Clermont, and president of the assembly in the Election of Saint-Fl~ur~~

increased his prestige and made his easy election to the estates-general as the first of three deputies no ~urprise.~'

Recent arrival in a see was not necessarily a disadvantage, though nursing the electorate was essential, as Archbishop PuysCgur of Bourges (consecrated 6 April I 788) grasped. To dispose the cur& in his own favour, he held open house in his palace in June I 788. Local society appla~ded,~'

and remembered,

"He was elected by 302-22 votes on 19 March. Brette, Recueil, III, 436.
67 Precise voting figures do not survive. Eugtne de Barrau, 1789 en Rouergue (Rodez, 1873),

p. 375; Brette, Recueil, IV, 41. 68 He had most notably proposed toleration for non-catholics in the first assembly of notables.

Aston, 'The politics of the French episcopate', pp. 124-5.

69 Cahier, discussed in ibid., pp. 250-1. 70 Brette, Recueil, 111, 246-50.

71 Vicomte de Broc, Un Evique de l'ancien regime sous la Rkuolution: M. de Maille-La Tour-Landry

(Paris, 18941, PP 4-5. 72 H. J. P. Fisquet, La France Pontificale [Gallia Christiana] (22 vols., Paris, 1864-71) : Mttropole d'Aix, p. 150. 73 Broc, de Maille-La Tour-Landry, p. 58. 74 Jean Joseph Expilly, Dictionnaire gkographique, historique et politique des Gaulles et de la France (6 vols., Paris, 1762-70), IV, 65. 75 BTOC,de Maille-La Tour-Landry, p. 67. 76 Brette, Recueil, IV, 297, 301. 77 J.-B. Serres, Histoire de la Rkuolution en Auuergne (10vols., Paris, 1895-8), I, 55-6, 68. 78 Ibid. I, 175; Louis Bac, Saint-Flour dans le Passe' (Brioude, 1g77), pp 117-19; Brette, Recueil, 111, 665. 79 Vte. de Brimont, M. de Puyskgur et I'Eglise de Bourges pendant la Rkuolution, 1789-1802, p. 41n.

so that when the electoral assembly commenced the antagonism of the lower clergy was directed primarily at the chapter of Saint-Etienne and some arrogant grands ~icaires.'~ PuysCgur's speech advocating vote by order in the estates-general started murmurings, but the archbishop frightened the cure's with the old bogey of protestant equality, and secured unanimous election as the clergy's first choice.81 PuysCgur's immediate predecessor at Bourges, the much translated Fontanges of Toulo~se,~~

displayed similar restraint, and got results. He was careful to take personal possession of his new see and to keep upheavals in diocesan life to a minimum by bringing only one grand vicaire with him from Bourges in February I 78g.83 Talleyrand, who only took possession of his see on I 2 March I 78gE4 was no less successful in the bailliage of Autun, being chosen deputy on 2 April 'avec applaudissement gCnCral'.85 Talley- rand's charm, elegance, and accessibility were a welcome relief from his predecessor Marbeuf's chilly style, and he lost no opportunity to ingratiate himself in the fourteen days available before elections began.86 While the assembly of the bailliage deliberated, his chef softened the rigours of Lent and advanced the new bishop's popularity by creating delicious fish dishes for hungry priests at palace dinner parties. Souls as well as stomachs were satisfied by displays of piety when Talleyrand was spotted perusing the Breviary in the palace garden and worshipping regularly in Autun cathedral."

Two other younger prelates fresh to their dioceses with reputations unsullied were the bishops of Perpignan and Lombez. Bishop d'Esponchez personally took possession of Perpignan (the bishopric had been sited in the town since 1602 though it canonically preserved the title of Elne, and was distinct in organization from the clergy of France)" on I 3 March I 789'' in the middle of intense electoral agitation. Clergy elections in April were actually quite peaceful, a reflexion of the profoundly orthodox character of the Roussillonnais priests. D'Esponchez made a solid first impression on them, as

" Brette, Recueil, 111, 474; M. Bruneau, Les dibuts de la Rivolution duns les De'partements du Cher et de l'lndre (178pgr) (thke, Paris, 1902), pp. 13, 30. " Ibid. pp. 28-31 ; Procis-Verbal, A.N., Ba24; cf. the fate of bishop dlAgoult of Parniers, Aston, 'The politics of the Erench episcopate', p. 227. Bishop of Nancy I 783 ;archbishop of Bourges I 787 ; archbishop of Toulouse I 788.

83 Abbt Cayre, Histoire des dviques et des archeutques de Toulouse (Toulouse, 1873), p. 455; Abbt Salvan, Histoire geneiale de l'e'glise de Toulouse (4 vols., Toulouse, 185&61), IV, 478-9, cf. the insensitive behaviour of the minister for the feuille, Marbeuf, newly promoted archbishop of Lyon, Aston, 'The politics of the French episcopate', pp. 239-40.

84 Montarlot, Les de'putis de SaGne-et-Loire (Paris, 1go5), p. 16; B. de Lacornbe, Talleyrand, Euique d'Autun (Paris, rg03), p. go; P. Muguet, Recherches historiques sur la perse'cution religieuse dans le dlpartement de Satne-et-Loire pendant la Rivolution, vol. 2 : L'Arrondissement 8Autun (Chalon sur Sabne,

18971, P. 11. 85 Montarlot, Les de;bute's, p, 20; P. Montarlot, '~'~~isco~at

de Talleyrand', Mims. de la Sac. Eduenne, XXI (1g83), 83-156, at pp. 88-9.

86 Montarlot, Les de'pute's, p. I 7.

Lacornbe, Talleyrand, pp. go, 99, 102-5, 117; Montarlot, Les d+utds, pp. 17-20.

Ph. Torreilles, Histoire du clergd dans les Pyrine'es-Orientales (Perpignan, 1890), pp. xviii-xix.

Pierre Vidal, Histoire de la Rivolution frangaise dans les Pyrine'es-Orientales (3 vols., Perpignan, 1885-g), I, 16n.

a conciliator sensitive to current political turbulence. His election by a show of hands was confirmed by a unanimous secret vote." And Chauvigny de Blot, consecrated bishop of Lombez on 30 March 1788, lived down his reputation as a former grand vicaire of the unpopular ex-minister Brienne, and was easily elected to Ver~ailles.~~

An unworldly reputation or a lovable character accounted for some of the

. .

the episcopate's best results. The ascetic Bishop de Roykre of Castres was elected in the first ballot on 20 March in the sinichausse'e of Carcassonne, and his clergy would not hear his pleas of failing health: the coadjutor archbishop of Albi was named his official reserve if the bishop did fall ill." Bishop-curi relationships in the province of Albi were largely harmonious, thanks largely to the influence of the Jesuits and their successors in the colleges and seminaries of the Midi.93 Goodwill also prevailed in the Pays de Soule, where Brienne's nephew (and ex-vicar-general) was bishop of Oloron. The see was not especially wealthy, and the bishop's first priority was to ease conditions for the forty-seven curis on the portion congrue. His concern for his clergy obviated major electoral obstacles,94 though the prelate had to concede all demands of the

Aggressive blustering could bring results as, notoriously, for Lastic, bishop of Cou~erans.~~

With breathtaking hauteur, he scorned his clergy's request for a single cahier and a common vote with the other two orders in the elections at Saint-Girons, drew up the clerical cahier without consultation, and ignored curiprotests. Having seen that a 'free vote' was an impossibility, many of the most militant lower clergy went home before the ballot,97 and those who remained were frightened into choosing Lastic." At Amiens, Bishop Machault was narrowly elected as second deputy by 239 of 457 votes cast.99 Machault's apprehensions about the outcome of the elections were obvious when he delayed the opening until 2 April (thereby hoping to reduce curinumbers with the commencement of Easter), and then bluntly commanded the lower clergy to concern themselves only with religious affairs, '. . .les autres Ctant

Torreilles, Histoire du Clergi dans les Pyrhies-Orientales, pp. 8-15; Ph. Torreilles, Perpignan pendant la Riuolution (3 vols., Perpignan, 189&7), I, 121-2.

A. Beuaben, 'Lettres intdites du dernier tv&que de Lombez', Revue de Gascogne, v ,223-34, at 223.

92 Abbt Entraygues, Mgr de, iutque de Triguier, dernier iutque de Castres 1727-1802 (Paris, 19121, PP. 234-6.

L. de Lacger, 'L'tglise dans le Tarn; le janstnisme', Revue du Tam, 3rd ser. (1957), pp. 217-40, at p. 237. 94 Abbt V. Dubarat, Notice historiques sur les iutques de l'ancien diocise BOloron (Pau, 1888), pp. 51,

60, 62. 95 Archives priules, III, 29. 96 G. Arnaud, La Riuolution duns le dipartement de 2' (Toulouse, 1904), p. 44. " A.N., C.18, C.32, C.86aBa.43. 98 Brette, Recueil, I, 485; 11, 200. 99 E. Charavay, 'Les tlCctions aus ttats-gtntraux par le bailliage d'Amiensl, La Riu. fr., xx

(1891), 24652, at 250; Abbt Le Sueur, Le Clergi Picard et la Riuolution (2 vols., Amiens, 1904) 1, 164; E. Soyez, Les ~utques BAmiens (Amiens, 1876), p. 320.

dkshonorantes'. His subsequent announcement that he had personally named twelve commissioners for drawing up the cahier -only four of them parish priests,100 -triggered a flood of appeals to Barentin, the keeper of the seals, who forced episcopal capitulation on these iss~es.'~' Having made their point, cure's were ready to hear Machault's plea for the necessity of strong episcopal representation at Ver~ailles,'~~

especially as he had accepted that the church should contribute to the liquidation of the nation's debts and the relief of the poor.'03

Bishops who in attacking abuses struck at the clergy's vested interests could find themselves in difficulty at election time, as Bishop Malide discovered at Montpellier. Several recounts were necessary before his election could be confirmed.lo4 In the she'chaussek of Nimes and Beaucaire, the two episcopal candidates, Cortois de Balore of Nimes and de Bkthisy of Uzks only overcame opposition from a section of the lower clergy by an appeal for Catholic solidarity.lo5 It went somewhat against the grain, for both were essentially civilized, tolerant men, keen on moderate reform; indeed, the bishop of Nimes had personally proposed on 19 March the renunciation of the church's fiscal exemptions,'06 but this commitment proved to have far less electoral significance than local fears of protestant resurgence. The two bishops finished up by sharing the representation with two cure's.lo7

A determined episcopal stance (though stopping short of intimidation), appealing to loyalty and relying on ingrained habits of obedience could rout constituency opponents and win over waverers. At Chglons-sur-Marne, Clermont-Tonnerre broke up a faction opposed to his election headed by the surviving Jansenists in the town.lo8 He looked on himself as a patriotic bishop,'0s attentive to pastoral problems, and so, it proved, did the majority of his clergy. Pierre-Louis de La Rochefoucauld of Saintes likewise refused to be browbeaten.'1° Feeling ran initially against the bishop. There were

loo Brette, Recueil, 111, 72-3; Le Sueur, Le Clerge' Picard, I, 156-7, 162.

lo' Aston, 'The politics of the French episcopate', p. 247.

lo2 Brette, Recueil, I, 166.

lo3 Ibid. I, 151.

lo4 G. Cholvy, Histoire du diocZse de Montpellier (Toulouse, 1976), p. 173; J. Duval-Jouve,

Montpellier pendant la Rluolution (2 vols., Montpellier, 1879-81), I, 53n. lo5 F. Rouvikre, Histoire de la Rluolution frangaise duns le dipartement du Gard (Nimes, 1897), pp. 21 ff. lo6 Charles Dardier, 'Les cinq dernitres lettres de Paul Rabout (I 788-1 7g2), Bull. de la Sac. pour PHistoire du Protestantisme franpis, XL (18g1), 487-96, at p. 491.

lo' J. Viguier, 'La lutte Clectorale de I 789 en Languedoc', La Riuolution fiangaise, xx (I 89 I), 5-25, at 16; F. Beraud, Uzis; son diocZse, son histoire (Nimes, 1887), p. 298; C. Lautaud, Convocation de la Shichaussle de Nfmes aux Etats-Ghhaux de 1789 (thise pour le Doctorat politique et konomique, Paris,

1923)~P. 6'. lo' E. de Barthtlemy, Histoire de la uille de Chtlons-sur-Marne (2nd edn, ChPlons, 1883), p. 365. log See the bishop's address to the three orders at Chilons, 13 Mar. 1789, A. Kivanten, 'A-A-J de Clermont-Tonnerre, tv&que de ChPlons (1782-1801) ', Me'ms. de la Sac. d'Agriculture, Commerce, Sciences et Arts de la Marne, LXXXIX (1g74), 267-89, at p. 281. "O P.-D. Rainguet, Biographie Saintongeaise (Saintes, 1851), pp. 508-10.

clandestine meetings of aggrieved priests to concert tactics. They disliked his severity, the 'peu de raideur' in his character, and bitterly attacked his authority in the assembly.111 He was, however, able to win back sympathies on 18March when the assembly of the se'ne'chausse'e of Saintes gave permission for the burning of an abusive letter sent to the bishop signed by twenty-four

cure'^."^ La Rochefoucauld was eventually chosen as second deputy on the 24th, having collected nearly three-quarters of the votes cast.'13

Two other bishops -of Angouleme and Agen -provoked fury by wanting the electoral assembly of the clergy held inside their palaces, and were forced to bow to majority feeling. Albignac de Castelnau of AngoulCme was exasperated at this reverse,"* but recovered to be elected a deputy in the third ballot on 27 March.'15 The patriot commonplaces of his opening address had so softened the anger of the cure's that the bishop was invited to eat with them.'16 Usson de Bonnac at Agen had an altogether rougher fight on his hands after he had reluctantly moved to the church of the Capuchins. He faced an organised cure' party determined to fight the higher clergy on every point. They complained to the lieutenant-general of the se'ne'chausse'e the Chevalier de Lafitte, about the validity of the procurations held by the canons, prebendaries, and grand vicaires,'" and protested that the bishop was trying to exclude many cure's from the assembly on the pretext that parishes forty miles or more from Agen were not provided with substitute priests (desservants).The Chevalier upheld the cure's on both scores. This vindication lessened their aggression, Usson de Bonnac's nerve held, and he was, despite everything, chosen as one of the clergy's representatives for Agen.'l8

Tactical competence invariably brought results. Jean-Marie Champion de CicC began his campaign early, and built his campaign on his personal following in the town of A~xerre."~ His opponents -the country cure's and the Jansenists in his chapter -concentrated on attacking each other.''' The bishop stage-managed his part superbly. When the vote seemed in doubt, Champion de CicC walked over to a cure', embraced him, and before the

11' L. Audiat, Les Etats provinciaux de Saintonge. Etudes et documents inidits (Paris/Niort, 1870), PP. 94, 117, 118. Ibid. p. I 18. The precise content of the letter is unknown, see A. Proust, Archives de l'ouest, (Nos. 1-5, Paris, 1867-g), I, 8. 113 Audiat, Les Etats provinciaux de Saintonge, p. 120; M. D. Massiou, Histoire politique, civile et religieuse de la Saintonge et de 1'Aunis (6 vols., Saintes, 1846), VI, 16. 114 [Dulaure], Vie Privie des Ecclisiastiques (3 parts, Paris, 1791), "1, 53 ; C. Chancel, L'Angoumois en l'annb 1789 (Angouleme, 1847), p. 538. 'I5 J.-P.-G. Blanchet, Le Clergi Charentais pendant la Rivolution (Angouleme, 1898), pp. 22. Chancel, L'Angoumois, pp. 539-43, 577. 11' A. de Mondenard, Nos Cahiers de 1789; cahiers de I'Agennois (Villeneuve-sur-Lot, 188g),

p. 251. Lafitte praised the cool nerve of the bishop faced with 'une insurrection terrible'. Mondenard, Nos Cahiers, p. 241. 'I9 Ed. C. Porte, Cahiers des curls et des communautis ecclisiastiques du bailliage 8Auxerre (Auxerre,

19271, P. 34. lZ0 Abbt Lebeuf, Me'moires concernant l'histoire 8Auxerrois (3 vols., Paris, 1854-5), I, 369.

astonished assembly, solemnly declared that he forgave him. Warm applause broke out for this opportune demonstrati~n.'~~

The bishop's secretary had meanwhile soothed the minds of the undecided, and his master finished on 7 April with I 17 votes to the I 13 of Marcellot, the independent cure's' candidate."' There was no more accomplished or entertaining performance by a bishop that spring.

Ingratiation apart, a sensitivity to the mood of the clergy was tactically invaluable, as the result of the contest in the Cotentin showed. Godart de Belbeuf of Avranches alighted from his berline in Coutances for the election to find people in the street kneeling for his ble~sing."~ Inside the assembly, however, priests rejected pomp and circumstance in favour of the low-profile approach of Bishop Talaru of Coutances, who on 20 March had urged generous clerical sacrifices in the national interest.lZ4 His conciliatory manner was just enough to give him the fourth and last place among the deputies.lZ5 Godart de Belbeuf was not returned.

There was a similar result in the bailliage of the Vermandois where two bishops were also candidates. The defeat of Grimaldi of Noyon was scarcely a surprise. An autocratic libertine, he was encumbered with debts, despite plundering the revenues of his wealthy diocese. Some cure's took his side as the best of two evils in his disputes with the canons of Noyon; others, who liked the chase or the bottle, were no doubt grateful for his inaction against them.lZ6 It was not enough to make his candidature serious, as his absence indicated. It was in total contrast to the impressive dignity of the bishop of Laon, second peer of France, grand almoner to the queen, and president of the electoral assembly. When he declared that the clergy should be anxious to satisfy the interests of the Tiers Etat, and abandon their privileges in taxation, his words carried sufficient weight to attract the votes of the curls, flattered that their grievances had apparently been taken up by Mgr de Breteuil.lZ7

Past notoriety, and the assurance of imminent celebrity assisted two prelates in eastern France to win election. In Alsace there was a remarkable comeback by the Cardinal de Rohan, bishop of Strasbourg, disgraced in the affaire du collier in 1785-6. He left his exile in Touraine in January 1789,'~' with the embarrassing intention (for the court) of standing for the estates-general. Then on 20 March he had the nerve to protest at the terms of the Alsace

lZ1 [Caraccioli], Anecdotes piquantes sur les Etats-Ghhaux (Paris, 178g), pp. 8-9.

lZ2 Lebeuf, Me'moires BAuxerre, I, 532; 11, 369.

lZ3 Eye-witness account reported in J.Bindet, L'EuBque constitutionnel de la Manche, Frangois Becherel (17321802) (Mortain, 1934), p. 26.

lZ4 A.N.,C. 18(62) ;J. Toussaint, Feuilles de'tache'es de l'histoire de Coutances (Vol. 4, Coutances pendant la Re'volution, Coutances, 1973), pp 30-3.

lZ5 M.Lecanu, Histoire des e'viques de Coutances (Coutances, 1839), pp 371-2.

12' [Dulaure], Viepriue'e, 11, 80, 83, 87; R. P. P. Piolin, Histoire de l'e'glise du Mans (6 vols., Paris,

1861-6), VI, 527.

127 c Bailliage du Vermandois, Clections aux Ctats-gintraux de 1789', Sac. Acad. de Laon (Laon,

'8721, PP 29, 47.
lZ8 0.Browning (ed.), Despatches from Paris, 1784-1790 (2 vols., London, I~IO),

11, 150, 29 Jan.

riglernent of 7 February for denying him a prescriptive right as prince-bishop to a seat in the estates-general. He was elected by the three orders of the bailliage of Haguenau and Wissembourg, where this protest was registered.lZ9 The prosperous Alsatian clergy were, as ever, respectful of episcopal superiority. Further north, in Nancy, Bishop De La Fare faced extensive cure' opposition masterminded by the abbC GrCgoire. Having initially been condemned for aloofness towards his clergy,130 the bishop's obvious piety and his charity in the winter of I 788-9 improved his standing.l3l In the electoral assembly, he championed provincial rights and the renunciation of clerical pecuniary privileges,132 but what did most to win round the crucial votes of the rural cure's, was the knowledge that their bishop had been honoured with the task of delivering the opening address to the estates-general. GrCgoire's supporters were thus narrowly thwarted and La Fare elected by 152 votes to


Lack of unity among their opponents let in several bishops. At Dijon, the administrative talents and the endearing simplicity and ease of Mgr de Merin~ille'~~

caused resentment among many of the established Burgundian higher clergy who were his principal rivals in the election. Marshalled by Luzines, abbC of Saint-Seine, they intrigued to win support from unbeneficed priests and so create an anti-episcopal ~reati0n.l~~

But the alliance was still- born, De Merinville defied his ill-assorted opponents, and was e1e~ted.l~~

The Rousseauian bishop of Viviers, La Font de Savine, relied on his popularity with the rural cure's (he visited each parish annually on confirmation tours)13' to offset his libertine reputation and win him a seat in the estates-general on the second ballot in the she'chausse'e of Villeneuve de Berg on 2 Apri1.13' The mutual rivalry of his two principal opponents, the abbCs Pascal and Malosse, worked to the bishop's advantage.13'

''13 Brette, Recueil, I, Iv. 130 Chatrian, Plan ou croquis d'une histoire du clerge'du Diocise de Nancypendant la Re'uolution (Nancy, '7971, P. '2. 131 C. Constantin, L'Evkhe' du de'partement de la Meurthe de 1791 2 1802 (vol. I, Nancy, 1935),

p. 10. 13' F. Bouvier, Les Vosges pendant la Re'volution 1789-1795-1800 (Paris, 188.51, p. 19; F. D. Matthieu, L'Ancien Rlgime en Lorraine et Barrois (3rd edn, Paris, 1go7), p. 442. 13' C. Constantin, 'La Carnpagne tlectorale du clergt dans le bailliage de Nancy', Annales historiques de la Revolution franpise, IV (1927), 254-66, at 262-6. 134 Abbt Voillery, 'La fin de I'ancien rtgime en Bourgogne', Meins. de la Soc. d'arch. de Beaune,

II (1905-71, 27.

135 Ibid. pp. 256-7.

136 Voillery, 'La fin etc.', pp. 256-60; Abbt Gutrin, 'Proces-Verbal de I'assemblte du clergt

du bailliage principal de Dijon', Bull. d'hist. et d'arch. religieuse du Diocise de Dijon, IV (1886), I 8 1-223 ; v (I 887), 43-68 ; E. Niolin, 'Correspondance de I'avocat Dijonnais, C.-B. Navier (1789-91); La Re'uolution en Ctte-$07, n.s., 6 (1930), pp 5-57, esp. pp. 25, 29, 35-6.

13' S. Brugal, Le Schisme constitutionnel duns l'Ard2che; Lafont-Savine, Eutque- Jureur de Viuiers (2nd edn, Toulouse, 1g77), p. 12. 13' J. MessiC, 'Autour de Charles de La Font de Savine, tv&que de Viviers (I 778-1 793) ', Revue de Viuarais, LXIII (195g), 77-102, I 17-40, at pp. 81-2. 13' H. Vaschalde, Le Viuarais aux Etats-Ge'nneiaux de 1789 (Paris, 18891, p. 35.

Proven pastoral competence was electorally vital for the bishops in attracting the votes of parish priests from the countryside. The esteem it usually brought plus the preponderance of well-off clergy (including 'les curCs bien porti~nCs')'~~

sabotaged the plans of the three brothers Guy de Vernon in the Haut-Limousin to exclude Bishop Duplessis d'ArgentrC (valued helpmate of Turgot when the latter was the Intendant of Limousin)141 from the nomination.14' Their behaviour smacked of ingratitude when the bishop had helped all three to find good benefices.143 It was commonly the better-off beneficed priests like the Guy de Vernon brothers who were the main enemies of episcopal candidates that spring.

Not all cure's were as yielding as those in Limoges. In the Touraine, Archbishop de ConziC faced a cohesive alliance of regular clergy and curis set on excluding all higher clergy from their delegation. Then, on 28 March, the leaders of the coalition relented and voted de ConziC into last place as a deputy. The proud archbishop refused initially to take up his place and pleaded indifferent health. Only when the whole assembly had begged him to change his mind, was tarnished honour restored and de ConziC able to accept.14"n Poitou and Mans prelates were elected only on suffrance.14' In Poitou both Sainte-Aulaire of Poitiers and Mercy of Lu~on were candidates; fortunately for them, there were seven deputies to be chosen and a limited number of qualified candidates. The princely and pretentious Mercy,14' desperate to control the contents of the clerical cahier, had himself elected president of the committee working on the final document, and there was uproar in the full assembly that the articles adopted bore minimal resemblance to the observations in the cahiers partic~liers;'~~

Jallet, cure' of CherignC, complained that the bishop had avoided the principal points dear to the reformers ' comme des charbons ardentes'.14' Episcopal insensitivity was rather ill-advised when the Poitevin curh were in direct contact with Necker.14' At the opening,

140 Brette, Recueil, 111, 565.

141 J. Nouaillat, Hzstoire du Limousin et de la Marche (Paris, 1g31), p. 243.

14' L. Ptrouas, 'L'activitt pastorale des tvOques de Limoges', Bull, de la Soc. Arch. et Hist. du Limousin, xcvrI1 (1g71), 207-22, at p. 221. For accounts of the opposition to the bishop see R. Limouzin-Lamothe, Le diocdse de Limoges du 16esidcle h nosjours (Paris, 1g53), p. 156; Lton Jouhaud, La Re'uolutionfrangaise en Limousin: pages d'histoire ukue 178~92 (Limoges, 1947), p. 12.

143 A. Artaud, 'Guy-Vernon, tvOque Constitutionnel et dtputt de la Haute-Vienne (1748- 1822)', La Rivolutionfrangaise, xxvrr (1894), 314-34, 447-67, 502-31, at pp. 315, 316. 144 H. Faye, Le Clergi et le culte en Touraine pendant la Riuolution (178~1801)(Angers, 1908), PP. 8-9. 145 Cf. the perceptive comments of the abbe Baston: 'On semble, en plusieurs endroits, ne les tlire que par pitit, ou que pour se donner l'orgueilleux plaisir de les mettre ?ila suite de trois ou


quatre prOtres de campagne nommts avant eux'. Mimoires, p. 310. 146 Abbt du Tressay, Histoire des Moines et des iutques de Lugon (Paris, 1869), pp. 3067; A. D. de la Fontenelle de Vaudore, Histoire du monastire el des iutques de Lugon (Fontenay-le-Comte/Paris,

18471, PP 835-6, 90.

14'Aston, 'The politics of the French episcopate', pp. 247-8.

14' Letter of 8 April, A.N., Ba 64(4) ; Archive's privies, v, 299. Other priests too were quick to complain to Necker and the Cahier was eventually withdrawn for remodelling, A. Proust, Archives de l'Ouest, I, 64-6; Marquis de Roux, La Rivolution h Poitiers et duns la Vienne (Paris, ~gm), p. 161. 14' Ibid. pp, 157-60.

Sainte-Aulaire, seething at the equality of the riglement, was so irritated at not having a chair of honour set apart for him that he sulked in a corner and read.l5' After such scenes, Sainte-Aulaire was lucky to be the fourth choice of the Poitou clergy, and Mercy the sixth.151

At Le Mans the prosperous lower clergy of the country parishes, tired of Jouffroy de Gonsans' habitual condescension, determined to exclude him from their deputation. The bishop was insulted to his face, and a personal plea from the current agent-general of the clergy, the abbC de Montesquiou, for the bishop, the chapters, and the religious orders, was spurned.15' Four cure's were elected, and had it not been for an appeal from the fourth, Bourdet, cure'of Bouere, pointing out the inconveniences which could result from not choosing Jouffroy de Gonsans, and a message from the second estate that they were ready to name the prelate as a deputy for their order, it was improbable that the bishop would have secured the fifth and last ~1ace.l~~

Two bishops also stood at Cahors: Le Tonnelier of Montauban and Nicolaf-Sabran of Cahors (the latter not present in person),154 and found what was literally a pitched battle between higher and lower clergy on their hands, with punches being thrown!155 Le Tonnelier, who acted as president, was more accustomed to elegant company around his dinner table,156 and succumbed to dyspepsia in the first session. He was passed over in the elections,15' but Nicolal-Sabran inadvertently scored an immense tactical success by being an absentee. He survived the rancour, won votes from both parties for his piety and friendliness, and was elected nem. con. as second deputy on 25 March.158

Bishops doubtful of their electoral prospects and desperate to win a seat in the estates-general could always insure themselves by standing in two constituencies. Thus Archbishop Champion de CicC put forward his name for Libourne as well as Bordeaux, and Le Tonnelier of Montauban, unambigu- ously beaten in his first-choice constituency, was elected for the adjacent and more tractable Pays et Jugerie of Rivikre-Verdun in Armagnac.15' The authoritarian d'Anteroches, snubbed by his own clergy at Condom,160 found refuge at the other end of his diocese in the se'ne'chausse'e of Albret at Nerac.lG1

J.-J.Bretht (ed.), Journal ine'dit de Jallet (Fontenay-le-Comte, 1871), p. 8; see also H. and

P. Beauchet-Filleau, Clergi du Poitou en 1789 (Fontenay-le-Comte, 1890).

C. L. Chassin, Les Cahiers des cure's (Paris, 1882), pp. 248-50. Mercy received vital votes from

the regulars. Roux, La Riuolution h Poitiers, pp. 162-3. Aston, 'The politics of the French episcopate', pp. 221-2. Piolin, L'Eglise du Mans, VI, 576-7.

E. Sol, La Riuolution en Query (2 vols., Paris, 1926), I, 148.

15' A. D. Haute-Garonne, E.26, cited in Gaston-Martin, 'Les Eltctions aux Etats-Gtntraux dans le Sud-Ouest', La Riuolutionfran~aise, LXXXI,232-5, at p. 234.

D. Ligou, Montauban h lafin de l'ancien re'gime et aux dibbuts de la Reiiolution, 1787-94 (Paris, 1958), p. 54; C. Daux, Histoire de l'iglise de Montauban (2 vols., Paris, 1881-z), 11, 234. '"Sol, La Riuolution en Query, I, 18, 28. lS8 Ibid. I, 151-2. Brette, Recueil, IV, 426; Sol, La Riuolution en Quercy, I, 193; Ligou, Montauban, p. 200.

160 A.N.,G8, 628; Archives priuies, 111, 33-6; Chassin, Cahier des cur& p. 220; L. Mazaret, Chroniques de l'iglise de Condom (Condom, 1gz7), p. 401 ff. Admittedly he had not personally attended the elections, Brette, Recueil, IV, 305.

16' Ibid. IV, 276-7; Archives priue'es, 111, 503-6.

Francis-Joseph de La Rochefoucauld Maumont, having given staunch pastoral leadership in the Beauvais diocese, found that the presidency of the order had been offered to the dean of Beauvais on account of the latter's great age,1" and he took it as a personal insult. Eventually, the first estate declared themselves prepared to elect him, but he could afford to turn down their tardy offer, having received a warmer welcome from the electors of the adjacent constituency of Clermont-en-Beau~aisis.'~~

Bishop Bonal of Clermont was a candidate for the neighbouring seize'chausse'e of Riom and Clermont itself. He was unavoidably caught up in their traditional rivalry. In Riom (the Jansenist centre in the Auvergne), many clergy were loath to elect anyone from Clermont, particularly Bonal, well-known for his autocratic tendencies16* and his aversion to Jansenism. Bonal was, in the end, chosen fourth deputy on 26 March,'" but he refused the mandate and surprised everyone with the announcement that Clermont had elected him the day before.166 The clergy of the diocese's mother town were solidly 'Bonaliste' as an expression of orthodoxy in religion, and of defiance towards Riom.16'

One bishop died before reaching Versailles. Seguiran of Nevers was elected first deputy for the bailliage of Nivernois and Donziois on 26 March,168 but expired on 3 April, before he could appear at Ver~ailles.'~%e had caught a chill in hurrying over to preside at the election of clergy in the neighbouring bailliage of Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier, and the dual presidency had worn him out.170 TOO aware of his fatal illness, the bishop resisted appeals for him to accept election and instead graciously expressed his regrets that a cure'had not been chosen first -'.. . a moin qu'ils ne veuillent bien me regarder comme l'un d'eux, ce que je dCsire fort'."'

Ttvo other bishops who were elected chose not to take up their seats -Louis de ConziC of Arras and Galard de Terraube of Le Puy -both able men and politically experienced. De ConziC early lost his natural allies when the representatives of the chapters and the communities boycotted the elections in

'" Abbt Delettre, Histoire du diocise de Beauuais (3 vols., Beauvais, 1842-3), 111, 547, 548. lfi3Victor Lhuillier, 'Beauvais en 178g', Me'ms. de la Soc. Acad. de l'Oise, xrv (1889)) 337-427, at pp. 419-24; Brette, Recueil, 111, 160.

'" See R. Cregut, Le de Clermont pendant la Re'colutiotr (Clermont, 1g14j, pp. I 1-12, The strength of local reformist feelings was evident in such a document as the Catkhisme des cure's auuergnats amis de leur roi et de leursfrires (131 pp., Clermont, I 7881, which speaks of 'l'itlstitution divine des cures'.

'" A. Poitrineau (ed.), Le diocdse de Clermont (Paris, 1979)~ p. 188.

'" Y.-G.Paillard, 'Fanatiques et patriotes dans le puy-de-~orne, Annales historique de la Revolution franqaise, xLrr (rg70), 294-328, at p. 297; Cregut, Le dioc2se de Clermont, p. 25. 16' Paillard, 'Fanatiques et patriotes', 295; Poitrineau, Le diocdse de Clermont, p. 188. lfi8A. Labot, Conuocation des Mats-ghe'raux et le'gislatiun dectorale de 1789 (Nevers/Paris, 1866),

pp. 319-20: Jules Charrier, Histoire religieuse du de'partement de la NiNiiure (2 vols., Paris, 19261, I,

37. For the death of Seguiran see Abbt Crosnier, Bull. de la Socie'ti Niuernaise des Sciences et Arts, I (r854), 56-8.

"O Labot, Convocation des Etats-Gbne'raux, p. 3 17 ; Charrier, Histoire religieure de la ~Viiure, I, 40. 17' Ibid. I? 39.

protest at the ri,glement.172 Seeing his most trusted advisers scorned and his own wishes ignored,173 de ConziC was roused to such a fury that he refused to serve as diputi suppliant for his order.174 It was in fact a testimony to the bishop's pastoral reputation that the lower clergy of Artois, allowed the free expression of their preference for the first time, should have chosen him. In Velay, the bishop of Le Puy had been absent from the opening of the three orders on 3 I March,175 and was fortunate that the cure's were badly organi~ed"~

and that the assembly was astutely handled by the dean of the cathedral, de Pina, who managed to secure the bishop's eventual election. As it was, Galard de Terraube refused to take up the mandate, insisting that insulting remarks made it incompatible with his hono~r."~

While the presence of Galard de Terraube and Louis de ConziC would undoubtedly have enhanced the quality of episcopal representation at Versailles, the final total of bishop-deputies included some extremely

. .

distinguished figures who would play, in their individual ways, a critical role in the proceedings of the estates-general and, subsequently, the national assembly: among them Boisgelin, Champion de CicC, Le Franc de Pompignan, Talleyrand. All forty-nine deputies were representative of the varied talents of the episcopal 'generation of 1789': liberal prelates like Champion de CicC, politiques such as Boisgelin, the charitable like the bishop of Orange, the pious like de Royere of Castres. Many had great experience of public affairs; eleven had been members of the 1788 general assembly of the clergy, and ten had been notables in the first assembly of 1787.'~' Men of saintly reputations had not done too badly, while the disciplinarians and spartan reformers had often had a hard time of it.

Given the terms of the riglement of 24 January I 789, Necker's scarcely veiled preference for the lower clergy, the challenge from groups of militant cure's, and the nature of constituency boundaries, the final tally of bishops sent on to the estates-general was respectably high, particularly if one includes the three non-diocesan bishops: Beauvais, de Bernis, and G0be1.~'~ It was the first contest the French episcopate had experienced in which victory was not guaranteed to it: in the spring of 1789 clergy had the chance to judge the bishops on their pastoral record, their personalities, their attitudes to reforms, and countless matters of local importance, and a surprising number of them had not been found wanting. An overall assessment suggests that the pessimists

17' J.-A. Paris, La Jeunesse de Robespierre et la convocation des e'tats-ge'niraux en Artois (Arras, 1870),

p. 363; A. Deramecourt, Le Clerge' du diockse #Arras, etc. I, 391-5. 173 Ibid. I, 398; see I, 388-9 for the brochures written against de ConziC. 174 Brette, Recueil, 11, 380. 175 E. Gonnet, L'Histoire du diocise du Puy-en-Velay (1j8~1802) (Paris, 1go7), p. 57.

176 vi guier, 'La lutte Clectorale de 1789', pp. ISI~.

177 Gonnet, Diockse du Puy, pp. 45, 63; Andrt Mathieu, La Convocation des e'tats-ghei-aux de 1789

en Languedoc (Montpellier, 191 7), p. 133.

Aston, 'The politics of the French episcopate', p. 268 and note 2.

Cf. Tackett, Religion, revolution, and regional culture, p. 145. There is a full discussion of the results

in Aston, 'The politics of the French episcopate', pp. 266-8.

had been confounded, and that the episcopate had regained the initiative which it had seemed to lose in the winter of I 788-9. Deference to the hierarchy had not been a casualty of the elections, while the voting figures for a prelate of the stature of Cardinal La Rochefoucauld indicate a genuinely 'popular' poll.

On the basis of the election results, a slim majority of the bishops retained the confidence of the cur&. A survey of ecclesiastical provinces reveals that with the exception of Aix, Besan~on, Cambrai, and Embrun, every province returned at least two bishops: Bordeaux did exceptionally well, with seven out of ten, which stands in sharp contrast to Narbonne -only three out of twelve -where the campaign against the Languedoc estates was in full swing. Nine of the eighteen archbishops had been elected as deputies (nearly 60 per cent success rate as opposed to the average of 50 per cent for the episcopate as a whole).lsO Intimidation was more unusual than historians have tended to claim,1s1 with thirty-six of the forty-nine bishops being elected on the first ballot. Indeed, in most constituencies, prelates had not needed to suborn clergy into voting for them, and external pressures on cure's to cast their suffrage for an episcopal candidate were the exception not the rule. 'Patriotism', that vogue word of the elections, was not, as the results revealed, exclusive to cure's; bishops too were judged to have the nation's good at heart rather than the exclusive interests and 'privileges' of the first estate. Doubts about the willingness of episcopal-deputies to give substance to the concessions discussed during the elections resurfaced only in the weeks after the three orders met at Versailles in May-June 1789. Episcopal hesitations indicated profound uncertainty about sacrifices in the 'national interest' when it was at the cost of a political pre-eminence the elections themselves had left largely intact.


Aix ; Arles ; Bordeaux ; Bourges ; Paris ; Reims ; Rouen ; Toulouse ; Tours ; Vienne


AS Tackett, Religion, reuolution, and regional culture, p. 144.

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