Ninety-three/3.1.7

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Ninety-three by Victor Hugo
La Vendée was the End of Brittany.

CHAPTER VII.

LA VENDÉE WAS THE END OF BRITTANY.

Brittany is an old rebel. Every time that it had revolted for two thousand years, it had been in the right; the last time it was in the wrong. Still, in reality, against the Revolution as against the monarchy, against the acting representatives as against the governing dukes and peers, against the assignats as against the subsidies, whoever the combatants might be, Nicolas Rapin, François de la Noue, Captain Pluviaut and Lady de la Garnache, or Stofflet, Coquereau, and Lechandelier de Pierreville, under Monsieur de Rohan against the king, and under Monsieur de La Rochejaquelein for the king, Brittany was always waging the same war,—the war of the local mind against the central mind.

These ancient provinces were like a pond: these sluggish waters were averse to running; the winds blowing over them did not give them life, it irritated them. France ended at Finisterre; the field given to man terminated there, and there the march of generations stopped. Halt! cried the ocean to the earth, and barbarism to civilization. Every time that the centre, Paris, gives an impulse, whether it comes from royalty or the Republic, whether it be in the direction of despotism or liberty, it is a novelty and Brittany bristles. Let us be in peace. What do they want of us? The Marais takes its pitchfork, the Bocage takes its carbine. All our attempts, our initiative in legislation and education, our encyclopaedias, our philosophies, our geniuses, our glories, have come to naught before the Houroux; the tocsin in Bazouges threatens the French revolution, the moor of Faou revolts against our stormy public squares, and the bell of Haut-des Prés declares war on the tower of the Louvre.

Terrible blunder.

The Vendéan insurrection was a dismal mistake.

A colossal skirmish, chicanery of Titans, boundless rebellion, destined to leave to history but a single word,—a word notorious and black; committing suicide for the absent, devoted to egoism, spending its time in offering great bravery to cowardice, without calculation, without stratagem, without tactics, without plan, without aim, without a chief, without responsibility; showing to what extent will can be powerless; chivalric and savage; absurdity in rut, building a parapet of shadows against the light; ignorance making a long, stupid, superb resistance to truth, justice, right, reason, and deliverance; the dismay of eight years, the ravage of fourteen departments, the devastation of fields, the destruction of crops, burning villages, ruining towns, pillaging houses, the massacre of women and children, a torch in the cottages, a sword in the hearts of the people, the terror of civilization, the hope of Pitt; such was this war,—an unconscious attempt at parricide.

Taken all in all, by demonstrating the necessity of penetrating in every way the old Breton shadow and of piercing that thicket with all the arrows of light at once, la Vendée has been of service to progress. Catastrophes have a gloomy way of settling matters.