Print News and Panic during the 1799 Insurrection in the Midi Toulousain
McMillan Summons, Charles
Leiden University (2019)
Newspapers reveal much more than the facts reported within them. They illustrate revolutionary culture and the climate of ideas which faced readers. Understanding this is crucial to imagining how people experienced the daily reality of living through such times. Newspapers during the Directory period have seldom been studied. This is a particular lacuna given the crisis and unexpected chaos of the summer of 1799. By mid-1799, multiple military fronts as well as internal unrest backgrounded the beginning of the royalist rebellion in the Haute-Garonne. The way in which the press characterised this royalist threat and communicated the crisis discloses much about what editors, and in turn their readership, were afraid of happening. Editors relied on collective memories of the horrors of the Terror to characterise opposing political factions thereby demonstrating fears of repeating the recent past. Contrasting this dire rhetoric and the extreme demonisation of the rebels with actual indifferent government attitude to the insurrection illustrates that this was merely a form of propaganda employed for political ends by the Jacobin, royalist, and republican political movements. In the same vein, the post-rebellion manipulation of the depiction of peasant rebels once again establishes that these words were more motivated by political needs than by reality. This reveals an underlying anxiety from a Directory whose control over France was steadily eroding.