The ComitÉs Des Recherches: Procedural Secrecy and the Origins of Revolutionary Surveillance

The ComitÉs Des Recherches: Procedural Secrecy and the Origins of Revolutionary Surveillance Abstract Though the years from 1789 to 1791 are considered the moderate phase of the French Revolution, they were a period of suspicion, rumour and fear. This article examines debates over the creation and operation of the national Comité des Recherches and its municipal counterpart, the Comité de Recherche, to highlight how suspicion of state secrecy and calls for vigilance over elected officials were tied to the emergence from 1789 of surveillance conducted in secret. The article reconstructs debates over whether these committees should be created, upon what grounds postal surveillance could be justified, and whether the committees’ methods were consistent with revolutionary ideals. By looking at the committees’ records, the article highlights how the revolutionary government first reintroduced secrecy in the act of surveillance and how this decision was contested and defended in ways that directly presaged the Terror. I In the spring of 1789, Jacques Pierre Brissot de Warville launched a newspaper dedicated to chronicling the meetings of the Estates General. He declared that ‘this precious publicity will be the only way to make known to the nation its defenders and to stop betrayal by its enemies’.1 Like many others that spring, Brissot was convinced that promoting publicity, or transparency, was essential to reforming a political system characterized by secrecy. A pervasive suspicion of state secrets fuelled popular calls for vigilance over elected deputies, which the National Assembly at least tacitly accepted by repeatedly proclaiming its commitment to work in public view. The kind of vigilance that journalists and political club members advocated over their representatives was, from the beginning, also applied to their neighbours. With denunciations pouring in to new government entities, deputies in the national and municipal governments were almost immediately confronted with the question of how far they were willing to take publicité in the new regime. To counter the danger of the lingering secrets of the ancien régime and its allies, it was not enough to now perform politics in public view; the revolutionary government itself began to employ tactics of unveiling to root out secrets that remained. Significantly, this activity itself began to be carried out in secret. The situation led Brissot, ardent advocate of publicité, to defend the utility of secrecy in government mere months after disavowing it.2 Understanding the genesis and justification of this paradoxical dynamic is the central task of this article. The national Comité des Recherches and its municipal counterpart, the Comité de Recherche, encapsulate a central paradox of the Revolution; born of a popular suspicion of secrets, the committees began to work in secret themselves, presaging the procedural characteristics of powerful committees during the Terror. This article examines legislative and pamphlet debates over whether these committees should be created in the first place, upon what grounds postal surveillance could be justified and whether the committees’ working methods—specifically working in secret—were consistent with revolutionary ideals. By looking at their administrative records, the article first unravels how their work was carried out in secret. It argues that the committees’ use of secrecy was both contested and defended in ways that foreshadowed how secret realms of government would be justified in 1793–4. Throughout, it underlines the ironic yet crucial link between calls for citizens to be wary of secrecy and the emergence of institutionalized surveillance, carried out in secret. In investigating the work and procedures of these committees, and debates about them, the article intervenes in three distinct strains of historiography. The first is on the committees themselves, political policing, and judicial reform during the early Revolution. What little work has been done in this area has tended to focus on particular sedition cases and the evolution of the legal category of lèse-nation.3 Charles Walton has analysed the committee records to highlight the malleability of this legal category and its application in regulating calumny.4 Other work on the committees has explored their relation to the larger criminal justice and policing system to argue, as David Andress does, that policing was either an extension of ancien régime practices and perceptions or, as Barry Shapiro does, that its more aggressive elements were calibrated by the persistence of moderate mechanisms.5 In his examination of political policing during the first year of the Revolution, Shapiro has suggested that early revolutionaries treated ‘political opponents’ with ‘a degree of restraint and indulgence that was remarkably consistent with the liberal and humanitarian ideals of the pre-revolutionary judicial reform movement’.6 While I concur with his assessment that much of the more harsh elements of policing, and of surveillance, were the result of popular pressure, I diverge from Shapiro’s conclusion that the institutions of the early Revolution were not precursors to those of the Terror. The second intervention is thus in regard to the relationship of the early Revolution to the emergence of the Terror, defined as the period from autumn 1793 to mid-1794. In a further turn away both from François Furet’s claim that the Terror’s origins lie in the ideology of popular sovereignty and from the explanatory focus on contingent circumstances of war, scholars have recently been analysing patterns and precedents from 1789. Timothy Tackett and Marisa Linton, for example, have both recently argued that fears generated in the early Revolution and an emerging pattern of denunciation laid the groundwork for the cycle of suspicion that characterized the Terror.7 This article builds upon these studies of the Terror’s origins in two senses. First, it shows how the institutional precursors to the Terror were developed from 1789, with the national Comité des Recherches and the Parisian Comité de Recherche, specifically with their cultivation of a secret realm in a new government otherwise characterized by transparency. Second, it identifies, in the debates over the way these committees worked, a clear rhetorical and ideological precedent for how such secrecy was justified during the Terror: as exceptional and a response to security threats, all while continuing to champion publicity and insisting that secrecy was safely circumscribed to only necessary realms. Lastly, the article refines our understanding of the broader revolutionary dynamic between publicity and secrecy. Although historians disagree on why it was the case and whether it was rooted in reality, they have long emphasized the centrality of conspiracy thinking to the Revolution. Concerned with why it was so rampant and how it affected politics, scholars have characterized conspiracy as either stemming from or spurring a revolutionary obsession with transparency.8 A dichotomy has thereby been established in the historiography between transparency and secrecy, what was to be open and what was feared hidden. Furet wrote that the plot was ‘secret, whereas the Revolution was public’, while Lynn Hunt emphasized that transparency was conceived as the defining principle of revolutionary politics in distinction from ‘secret machinations.’9 Secrets—in the sense of something intentionally concealed, whether by the state or by individuals—did indeed elicit suspicion and generate vigilance over the government and fellow citizens alike. Yet, by focusing on the perceived threat of secrecy and the remedies revolutionaries adopted—publicité, vigilance, and surveillance—I show that the lines drawn between visible and concealed, public and private, conspiratorial and legitimate become considerably blurred. There was an essential connection between the valorization of publicity, or transparency, in politics and the emergence of surveillance as a legitimately secret realm of government. The intimate link between pressure for publicité and secret surveillance amplifies Dena Goodman’s point that there was no established dichotomy or boundary between public and private in the eighteenth century and serves as a reminder to remember this when studying the Revolution.10 Surveillance was linked to the value of publicity, specifically as a way to guarantee authenticity, and it became a core component and value of revolutionary politics, as Susan Maslan has demonstrated.11 In making this point, Maslan suggested that surveillance during the Revolution was initially a positive activity in which citizens watched over their government, in contrast to Michel Foucault’s characterization of nineteenth-century surveillance as a mechanism of state power.12 Only later in the Revolution did the government turn its gaze on the people, she argued.13 While it is certainly true that the direction of the gaze definitively switched only later in the Revolution, the surveillance in which people engaged was immediately applied to community policing and proved foundational to incipient government surveillance. Moreover, Maslan and others have overlooked the significance of this surveillance being carried out in secret. Why did the committees constructed to uncover secrets come to work in secret; how was this justified and when was it contested? Placing decisions and debates about procedural uses of secrecy front and centre illuminates the complex and paradoxical interplay of surveillance, publicity and secrecy. II When the deputies sent to the Estates General convened at Versailles in the spring of 1789, thousands gathered alongside them and many more sought news of their activity in the press. ‘A national assembly in France, after an interruption of nearly two centuries, is such an unexpected event; the circumstances that made it necessary and that have led to it […] are exciting so much interest among us and curiosity abroad that already all of Europe has its eyes fixed on the memorable scene which has just opened’, the Abbé Ducros wrote in the prospectus for a proposed periodical that May.14 Having all eyes on it quickly became a crucial component of the representative function the Estates General was meant to fulfil. Periodicals popped up dedicated to chronicling political deliberations and electors in Paris refused to disband, declaring their intent to watch and instruct their representatives in Versailles.15 Amidst this prevalent attitude, facilitating the public’s gaze upon them would be a central component of the National Assembly’s claim to represent the French people. Defining themselves in opposition to a monarchy that clung to practices of concealed political decision-making in its last throes, the deputies proclaimed their adherence to publicity. Adhering to transparent decision-making was at the core of what was to make them legitimate representatives of the people.16 Members of the Estates General, which transformed into the National Assembly as it claimed sovereign legislative power in June 1789, established procedures guaranteeing open meeting chambers; designed systems to print, distribute and translate their decrees; maintained access for journalists and the ability for them to print records of legislative debates; and set up a process whereby petitioners could speak to them directly during meetings.17 As scholars such as Susan Maslan, Paul Friedland, Patrick Brasart, Jean-Claude Bonnet, Angelica Goodden and Pierre Frantz have noted, the open nature of its deliberations was critical to shaping political culture and rhetorical style under the National Assembly.18 Maslan has posited that popular surveillance was perceived as a way to legitimate representative government in place of directly democratic decision-making, a tension Friedland has also traced on the national level and Gary Kates has highlighted within the city of Paris.19 In the streets of Paris, this official emergence of politics into the public sphere was closely linked with an active effort to uncover monarchical secrets. The summer of 1789 was one of constant rumour and fear, driving a culture of dévoilement, or unveiling, that was constructed in the pages of periodicals and among the crowds in Parisians streets. The worry about hidden enemies, dissembling authorities, and traitorous politicians was profound.20 As Peter Campbell and David Andress have pointed out, this fear of conspiracy and desire to uncover the machinations of the monarchy were not new.21 Suspicions of court intrigue, and especially of ‘famine plots’ in times of dearth had a long history in Paris.22 The deputies of the National Assembly were not immune to these fears in 1789 and, as Timothy Tackett has argued, they were not misguided in having them.23 The Revolution was fragile; many noble families were already fleeing, troop movements were stoking a sense of impending royal reaction and the intentions of many deputies were far from clear. All this unfolded amidst constant news of mob violence in Paris, acute grain shortages, and uncertainty about the reactions of foreign powers to unfolding events. A common thread in the conditions creating this crisis was the sense that hidden forces, agents and intentions were secretly threatening the Revolution. Even after the storming of the Bastille—which was in many senses an attack on the secrecy of the royal administration, fuelled by suspicion that the king was furtively planning to crack down on Parisians—fear of lingering secrets remained.24 Masked enemies seemed to abound as fear engulfed the capital and countryside.25 In the capital, the desire for dévoilement grew as suspicion of ministerial plans to turn on the populace ran rampant. The editors of the Révolutions de Paris declared in their third issue on 1 August, that: ‘every moment attests new crimes and unveils a new aspect of this horrible plot of which we are to be victims’.26 Tensions had not eased with the fall of the Bastille. The following day, people showed up at the Hôtel de Ville, warning that Louis XVI’s actions were a trap designed to lull people into a false sense of security.27 For a brief moment in mid-July, the National Guard began to intercept ‘suspicious correspondence’ and the city’s electors—reluctantly, according to Barry Shapiro—decided to create a committee to sort it and read aloud letters that were deemed dangerous.28 In the following days, the Révolutions de Paris editors described efforts to intercept messages being sent between Paris and Versailles in an attempt to uncover traitors. This searching apparently led one messenger to ‘eat a letter he was carrying’ rather than give it up to vigilantes.29 III It was amidst this fervour for dévoilement that the deputies of the National Assembly began to consider the extent to which they were willing to commit to publicité to combat conspiracies. Parisians in the streets almost immediately extended their use of publicity from a tool to guarantee the legitimacy of their representatives to one that could be used to combat enemies among them, advocating vigilance not only over elected officials but over one another. Rudimentary forms of surveillance that developed haphazardly in the summer of 1789 quickly began to evolve as denunciation came to undergird the origins of government surveillance.30 As they extended the valorization of publicity to the success of the Revolution, elected officials at the national and municipal levels began insisting on the need to enforce it from behind closed doors, even as judicial reform efforts were emphasizing the need for more transparency. The development of both the national Comité des Recherches and municipal Comité de Recherche shed light on this paradoxical dynamic. Just days after the fall of the Bastille, a batch of letters was seized from the Baron de Castelnau—French ambassador to Geneva—as he was crossing the Pont-Royal, containing correspondence addressed to the king’s brother, the comte d’Artois.31 Three letters were passed from the municipal committee in Paris to the duc de Liancourt who was president of the National Assembly at the time. In reporting the letters to the assembly on 25 July, Liancourt explained that he ‘respected the inviolability of the secret de correspondance, that he did not permit himself to read any of them’ and then had returned them to the Parisian committee.32 Not all the deputies agreed that he had made the right decision by sending the letters back. The incident spurred a heated debate over whether and when letters could be seized and read for information, in effect bringing the activity Parisians were already engaging in up for question in the National Assembly. While some deputies noted a common desire expressed in the cahiers de doléances that the ‘secret de la poste’ be upheld and a longstanding belief that letters were private property, others cited the present circumstances to argue for a necessary exception to these norms.33 ‘In a state of war, it is permitted to unseal letters; and in these times of fermentation and storms, of calumny and intrigue, we can see ourselves as, and we are really, in a state of war’, argued Louis-Marthe de Gouy d’Arsy, Third Estate deputy from Saint-Domingue who would be active in the early Jacobin club and then in the Feuillants.34 ‘We must be authorized to intercept and open all packages, letters, addresses coming from suspect countries or persons, and we need to consider all fleeing persons as such,’ he continued.35 Gouy d’Arsy proposed that the assembly declare that in view of current events, ‘all papers relative to the circumstances should be deposed and communicated, when the case necessitated it, to the National Assembly’.36 The proposal incited an intense backlash from the comte de Mirabeau, who asked: ‘Can a people who wishes to become free borrow the maxims and procedures of tyranny?’37 But the discussion continued two and three days later when Liancourt announced that he had asked Paris Mayor Jean Sylvain Bailly to send the letters back after learning the assembly’s wishes. When some deputies again expressed the desire to not violate the secret de correspondance, the point that the circumstances demanded it was merely reinforced. Maximilien Robespierre asked whether the assembly would refuse ‘pieces denounced by public opinion, sent by the mayor of the capital as pieces of essential interest and necessary to clarify the most fatal conspiracy that had yet been attempted’.38 A deputy not identified in the Archives Parlementaires summed up the stakes of the debate as a choice between a principle and the need for security: ‘Although the unanimous desire of our cahiers was that the secret of the post remain inviolable, we cannot and should not believe that the intention of our constituents was that this inviolability be respected at the cost of their safety and liberty.’39 The stakes of this debate were similar in some ways to those over the regulation of the press, which Charles Walton has chronicled. Although they declared freedom of expression as part of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in August 1789, deputies regularly restricted the press, often as a response to local authorities pushing for them to do so.40 Yet unlike violations of the secret de correspondence, where deputies had to conjecture whether their constituents would grant exceptions, most of the cahiers demanding press freedom accompanied their demands with requests for limits.41 When the discussion of opening letters resumed the following day, 28 July, there were proposals to create committees that would deal with intercepted letters and denunciations so as not to take up the assembly’s time with such matters. In this discussion an emphasis was repeatedly placed on the dangers surrounding the assembly and the need to ‘place the greatest activity, that the eye of our surveillance be open on all sides’.42 For Parisian deputy Adrien Duport, a reform-minded noble, who called for this surveillance, the creation of a special committee was necessary to process letters denounced to the assembly.43 When writing about this episode, Shapiro suggested that the defeat of initial proposals for a surveillance committee that would be authorized to intercept mail indicated a rejection of the more intense calls for vigilance.44 In a history of French postal surveillance, Eugène Vaillé also cited this episode as evidence that the deputies were generally against violating the ‘inviolability of the secret des lettres’, which he noted had been widely requested in the cahiers de doléances.45 While it is true that an active surveillance mechanism was not established, the ensuing construction of the more passive research committee merits further scrutiny. This committee was, at first, to be composed of just four members and, at the suggestion of Gouy d’Arsy, ‘it would even be necessary that they were un-known; secrecy is important and necessary’.46 His assertion of the need for secrecy and anonymity in any committee that would oversee the inspection of mail and process denunciations foreshadows the decisions that would be made nearly four years later by the National Convention on the cusp of the Terror when setting up new committees. Nevertheless, in July 1789 there was a firm rejection of committee activities being conducted in secret. Boniface-Louis-André, comte de Castellane Novejean, a liberal noble deputy from Alençon, argued that the committee would not be inquisitorial if it was ‘a committee that informed publicly; publicity suits our approach and our character’.47 François-Henri, comte de Virieu, noble deputy from the Dauphiné who would emigrate after his time in the assembly, reacted similarly, saying that: ‘they are proposing to us to establish a type of secret inquisition for unveiling crimes’.48 If there were to be a commission, ‘it must be public’, he declared.49 Eventually, a committee of twelve members was created to supplement the committee of thirty that had been created earlier in the day to process regular correspondence and petitions. There was no mention of secrecy or anonymity with regard to either committee. Yet, by all appearances, the national Comité des Recherches did come to operate behind closed doors and collected a repertoire of explicitly secret records. The first year of the committee’s operations remains obscure due to a lack of procedural records, but documents in 1790 show a movement toward stricter secrecy as the Revolution evolved. Notes regarding the renewal of the committee on 27 April 1790—one of the first extant procedural records—remark that the new secretaries had received ‘the keys to the armoire in which the papers relative to the operation of the committee are kept’, which suggests the committee’s work was safeguarded.50 Moreover, four cartons in the Archives Nationales contain folders with ‘letters, notes, and information considered as secret pieces and deposed with the Comité des Recherches’ from August 1790 to the end of the Constituent Assembly’s existence in September 1791. These records also contain dispatches from informants, or people who wished to become informants, though the extent to which these relationships were formalized is unclear. Financial records of the committee suggest that authorizing payment to individuals tasked by the Parisian municipal government with following certain people, or travelling to certain places to investigate rumoured threats, did happen in 1790–91.51 In late 1790, the committee established more explicit measures to guarantee the secrecy of its work, responding to what members felt was a lack of control over the contents of incoming mail. A decree passed by the committee on 17 November 1790 specified that only the president, vice president and secretary of the committee were authorized to open letters and packages addressed to it. It also prohibited the secretary from communicating any pieces to anyone other than committee members, without express authorization. Two months later, in the face of criticism over these new procedures, the committee members explained that the ‘simple rule of order and interior police’ was put in place after they had discovered the previous ministry (which though he was not named, was likely headed by Jérôme Marie Champion de Cicé, minister of justice until November 1790) was often informed of incoming correspondence before they were.52 Their concern is a reminder that the royal administration still oversaw the judicial system, even after the national Haute Cour replaced the Châtelet courts in the spring of 1791.53 Furthermore, the monarchy was later revealed to have had a web of secret informants carrying out its own policing.54 The members noted that although all of them had ‘promised secrecy on their honour’, when every member was allowed to open any package at any time there could be leaks even if involuntary. This was the case especially when ‘a crowd of strangers came at all hours to the committee’.55 This explanation of the new procedures reveals that while outsiders may have come to the committee, and even possibly have been admitted into the room, members were required to take an oath of secrecy. The imposition of measures to work in secret was happening as judicial reform efforts being discussed in the National Assembly were emphasizing the need for more publicity in the process of criminal investigations, trials and convictions. In a report on a proposed criminal code given on 29 September 1789, noble deputy Bon-Albert Briois de Beaumetz acknowledged the importance of maintaining a degree of secrecy in the process of discovery leading to a formal accusation, but asked whether this meant that all aspects will remain ‘enveloped in shadows?’ Concluding that ‘it is especially the initial investigation, that which must precede and motivate the decree, which it would be most alarming to leave consumed in the night of procedural secrecy’, the new code proposed appointing citizens to observe this early part of an investigation in order to ‘keep watch, for the accused, over the regularity and impartiality of all the operations’.56 The reforms adopted by the assembly in October established this procedure of having appointed observers watch the pre-accusation portions of an investigation, in addition to guaranteeing that all evidence and depositions would be made publicly while the suspect was in custody, and that the trial and judgment would all be conducted in front of a public audience.57 In late December that year, responding to questions about these reforms, the Garde des Sceaux affirmed that ‘in two words, the publicity of criminal procedure is the only real safeguard of the interest of society and of the accused’.58 The incongruence of such reform efforts and the committee’s procedural commitment to secrecy highlights how the committee was at odds with a propensity for publicity not only in the procedures of the National Assembly, but in criminal law reform specifically. IV The question of what the committee was trying to keep secret merits consideration. Much of it was linked to postal surveillance, which did not end with the debate in July 1789 over whether to read the letters seized by a Parisian crowd. Over the following two years, the National Assembly would repeatedly decree the inviolability of the secret de correspondance, though their reassurances indicated that seizing letters was not infrequent.59 Already over the summer of 1790, a number of surveillance committees cropped up in municipalities across the country, which would stop and open mail.60 Though they were not the ones directly doing it, as the committees of the Terror would be, the deputies could not always control if others intercepted correspondence and sent it to them. The nascent surveillance activities of the municipal and national committees were spurred and sustained by an abundant amount of community patrolling, volunteered up to the deputies for further investigation. As Tackett recently put it, ‘the pervasiveness of fear and rumour, undergirded with the emerging accusatory culture of denunciations, had the potential for creating a kind of “everyday terror” where everyone spied on everyone else: a vicious circle of grassroots suspicion that, in some respects, preceded and prefigured the institutional Terror of 1793–1794’.61 Indeed, in his assessment that the more aggressive surveillance activities of these committees during the early Revolution were in response to popular pressure, Shapiro had an important point. There was no shortage of material making its way to the committee; in the Archives Nationales there are twenty-three cartons full of general appeals and petitions made to the national Comité des Recherches, in addition to thirteen cartons related to more specific incidents or cases. On top of these, there are four cartons of correspondence having to do directly with the investigation into the king’s failed flight in the summer of 1791, and another four cartons of correspondence between the committee and ministers as well as information labeled secret. One of the most significant sources of denunciations for the national and municipal committees were the many societies and clubs in the capital and across the country.62 Denunciation was central to the discourse of many clubs and newspapers launched during the early Revolution, which were in turn crucial in establishing it as a virtue.63 This discourse encompassed not only the denunciation of supposed masked enemies, but also the vigilance over elected representatives that these clubs and newspapers simultaneously advocated. Publicité was valorized as a central component of representative politics by club activists and journalists who urged ‘an indefatigable vigilance’ over elected officials.64 The same clubs that issued proclamations calling for vigilance over elected representatives and reminding them that ‘PUBLICITY IS THE SAFEGUARD OF THE PEOPLE’, also encouraged vigilance against secret counter-revolutionary plots.65 Suspicions of such plots were often reported to the national and municipal research committees, creating a potential loop whereby societies could be feeding their observations to those over whom they were urging the same scrutiny, which was in turn becoming more difficult as the committees increasingly committed to working in secret. Another main source of denunciations was the municipal Comité de Recherche in Paris, which sprang up in October 1789 along a model similar to that in the National Assembly. In some senses more powerful than the national committee, it functioned as a de-facto policing arm of the municipal government, receiving denunciations and also investigating them to decide whether to bring charges.66 Colin Lucas has argued that this committee vested denunciations with legal weight, essentially integrating the practice into the legal process, considering its purview to open investigations.67 After investigating, the committee would refer cases to the Châtelet courts (which officially retained primary policing authority until late 1790) to incarcerate and try suspects.68 Its work was apparently also largely conducted in secret. Numerous records of secret accounts, preserved in the records of the national Comité des Recherches, provide insight into the municipal government’s extensive policing activities, which included hiring spies to follow individuals in Paris and the provinces, as well as paying informants abroad. Dispatching spies in the capital to follow people ranging from suspected counterfeiters to ambassadors seems to have been part of a formalized apparatus, though funded in the dark through secret accounts.69 The municipal department of police, with which the committee was linked, built upon ancien régime policing practices, and exercised extensive regulation with the support of the National Guard.70 Shapiro has argued that the committee should not be considered an antecedent to those of the Terror because it was balanced by the more reserved Châtelet and because its membership makes it more nearly a precedent of the Girondin faction.71 But in its procedural use of secrecy, it does foreshadow how committees would work in 1793–4. V Though there was certainly no shortage of material flowing into these committees, they did not operate without criticism. Debates raged over whether they were merely reincarnations of unjust royal police practices, whether they were necessary, and whether they were compatible with revolutionary principles. Central to the debates about the validity of the research committees was the question of secrecy. Not only was there a question of whether it was justified to violate the secret de la poste, there was a vibrant debate over whether it was necessary or justified for the committees to conceal their work and accept denunciations outside the public eye. From autumn 1789 and continuing through much of 1791, pamphlets criticizing and defending the committees and their practices began to circulate and criticisms cropped up in the National Assembly. The way their reliance on secrecy was defended presaged how the need for the Committee of Public Safety to work behind closed doors would be justified in 1793. In a pamphlet published in autumn 1789, noble deputy Stanislas Marie Adelaide, comte de Clermont-Tonnerre lambasted Mirabeau for reporting the Secretary of State Francois-Emmanuel Guignard, comte de Saint-Priest to the Comité des Recherches on suspicion of having encouraged the women who took part in the march to Versailles on 5 and 6 October. Mirabeau had rested his accusation on something Saint-Priest had reportedly said to a crowd, the meaning of which was ambiguous.72 Clermont-Tonnerre—a prominent deputy who had recently resigned from the Constitutional Committee and was decidedly monarchien in his views—not only worried about the propriety of interpreting the meaning of a comment that he believed was unclear, he was concerned that the identity of the witness was being withheld from the public.73 ‘The Comité des Recherches, established for the tranquility of the citizens, will it not become their terror if, on the basis of an accusation that has not been better supported publicly, it will permit itself a secret information?’74 He warned that the committee was creating a culture of denunciation where the revealing of secrets was made a virtue and calumny was encouraged. According to Colin Lucas, Clermont-Tonnerre may have been right; Lucas cites the research committees as a first step to turning denunciation into a virtue under the revolutionary regime.75 ‘You invoked the dangers that environ us!’ Clermont-Tonnerre exclaimed.76 He concluded by clarifying that he was against secret denunciations but in favour of public accusations. That autumn, there was also debate within the assembly about whether to keep the committee, with those against its prolongation articulating a critique of its shadowy operations. Following an update in which committee member Guillaume-François-Charles Goupil-Préfelne reported that ‘the Comité des recherches does not yet have complete proof of all the threads and of all the plots of the enemies of the patrie’, two members called for an end to the body.77 Conservative Third Estate deputy Amable-Gilbert Dufraisse-Duchey exclaimed that ‘they speak constantly of conspiracies without giving us the least bit of proof’ and Pierre-Victor Malouet, a monarchien Third Estate deputy, lamented that ‘it is regrettable to be obliged to borrow the forms of despotism to annihilate its traces’.78 Goupil-Préfelne’s retort that ‘they want to force us to make known the channels by which certain facts reached us, but this would give the guilty the methods by which to stop further proof’ was a recurring justification for working in secret.79 The next time the committee’s existence was challenged, in March 1790, noble and conservative deputy Jean-Jacques Duval d’Eprémesnil cited the ‘large number of imprisoned citizens that we don’t even think to interrogate’ to request that ‘the comités des recherches be destroyed.’80 While true that the national committee did have the power to direct people to be arrested or interrogated, it was largely receptive, most action being carried out by local authorities. Shapiro has called it ‘toothless and lackadaisical’, suggesting it did more to deflect clamour for harsh punishment in high profile cases such as that against the Baron de Basenval, who was to take the blame for the events of 14 July.81 Yet it must be pointed out that since the National Assembly had the ability to accuse people of lèse-nation, the committee had power to recommend this, which would initiate a trial.82 Defending the national committee’s role in ‘stopping manoeuvres which could become fatal to liberty’, reform-minded Third Estate deputy Isaac-René-Guy Le Chapelier declared his conviction that the committee was ‘a sure way to spread a salutary terror among the ill-intentioned’.83 A need for publicity in the process of criminal accusation and subsequent investigation was a recurring theme in writings against both the municipal and national committees. In early 1790, the liberal noble writer Marie-François-Denis Thomas, Chevalier de Pange published a pamphlet pointing to the municipal committee to argue that the secrecy shrouding its investigations of such denunciations made it nothing but a reincarnation of the ancien régime police. Though it did not call its methods by the same terms used to describe previous practices, in reality the committee was engaging in the same tactics. Whereas under the monarchy a lettre de cachet could covertly send someone to prison, the same was possible under the revolutionary regime despite the disavowal of the old ways.84 The municipal committee in particular was often accused of being a revival of the ancien régime policing practices, a claim which warrants scrutiny. The Parisian police had been both ubiquitous—in the sense that informants and spies were widely dispersed—and notorious as the agency had become more imposing and less well integrated with the community over the course of the eighteenth century.85 One of the main activities of the police had been to gather ‘loose talk, comment and rumour’, which it did by employing a network of ‘mouches’ as spies.86 An anonymous pamphlet published in August 1790, highlighted the espionage conducted by the municipal Comité de Recherche to suggest that it was reviving these practices and encroaching upon the role of normal courts. A court sought to punish crimes based on actions of the accused, while the committee sought to prevent them by researching thoughts and ‘spying on our speech’.87 Though the committee did not pay spies directly, in contrast with ancien régime police practice (although records reveal that sometimes the municipal government actually did), the author alleged that it engaged in the far more insidious tactic of turning everyone into a spy by welcoming denunciations.88 Moreover, the committee did not uncover any serious plots with these tactics, though the populace would never know it because it hid its activities.89 Brissot, an ardent advocate in 1789 of the necessity of publicity to a representative government, was a member of the municipal Comité de Recherche and took on the task of defending the work and utility of both research committees on multiple occasions. His writings on this topic, though not representative of a trend in defences of the committees, do reveal some of the deep contradictions inherent in thinking about secrecy during the Revolution and echo reasoning by deputies in the National Assembly who defended the committees. Though he had written extensively about the need for publicity in the political process and had founded a newspaper with the avowed purpose of guaranteeing it, he wound up advocating for concealment of the committees’ work. Certainly, the imperative to defend uses of secrecy when it suited personal ends and denounce it when it was convenient cannot be underestimated. However, the way in which he wrote about the use of secrecy in the committees demonstrates more than self-interested hypocrisy. Brissot’s first move in defending the municipal or national committees was to establish how they were unquestionably different from the ancien régime police, due to a revolutionary commitment to publicité. In a rebuttal of Pange’s critique of the committees, published in April 1790, Brissot emphasized that while the old police always investigated in the shadows, ‘buried its victims in the secrecy of dungeons’, the research committees did not work ‘in the shadows; we do not condemn, like them, the guilty to be forgotten eternally.’90 Though he insisted that the two Comités des Recherches were committed to publicité, Brissot in fact went on to elaborate the necessity of secrecy to the process of criminal investigations. The use of secrecy was justified in the process of researching threats: ‘They [the committees] must research in secret, but then publish the results of their research’, he wrote in his response to Clermont-Tonnerre published in August 1790.91 In his refutation of Pange, Brissot emphasized that conducting investigations in secret was for the safety of citizens, in two senses. The first was that if a false accusation were made, keeping it under wraps would prevent the accused from having his honour unfairly besmirched. The second was that investigating behind closed doors secured public safety by ensuring that criminals were not tipped off regarding the government’s suspicion and thus able to escape.92 The distinction between process and result was crucial. It was not the process of investigation being secret that had made judicial practices under the ancien régime so odious; concealing judgments under a ‘constant veil of mystery’ led to the innocent being convicted. This argument echoed acknowledgements in the discussion of judicial reform that investigations required some degree of secrecy not necessary in the trial phase. Furthermore, as Robespierre would do three years later, Brissot never stopped vaunting publicity, he merely suggested the propriety of circumscribing it.93 Brissot asked whether Clermont-Tonnerre was so naïve as to think that the Revolution could be accomplished without confronting conspiratorial plots: since the early days of the Revolution, it was impossible that there would be no resistance, ‘at least in the form of a crowd of secret maneuvers to prevent the execution of decrees.’94 The ubiquity of the patrie’s enemies called for extraordinary precautions, chief among which was the use of secrecy in sniffing out plots. Does not the safety of the country demand that we create, within the National Assembly, within the capital, extraordinary committees which are less numerous, more active, and more secret than the general assemblies, which have the power to keep watch for conspiracies, and to prevent their effects, via prompt and vigorous measures?95 This defence of the need for nimble and secret committees to combat conspiracies harkened back to calls for the initial establishment of a Comité des Recherches in the National Assembly and directly foreshadowed the reasoning used for the Committee of Public Safety to meet behind closed doors. Proposing the creation of new committees in April 1793, Jean Paul Marat suggested ‘that the committees be authorized to deliberate à huis clos, until the arrest of traitors who are within the country, the agents of enemy powers, and of all suspect people’.96 The Committee of Public Safety quickly became a de facto executive arm of the government, and when its use of secrecy was questioned, committee member Jean Bon Saint André insisted that ‘the importance of the measures treated therein requires it’.97 The parallel between Brissot’s defence of secrecy and those of the CPS makes Brissot’s further claim that ‘this secrecy could never be dangerous, as it is under tyrants’ seem downright naïve.98 At the time, it was one with which not everyone agreed. An anonymous, undated pamphlet responded that Brissot ‘struggled pointlessly’ to find differences between the work of the old police and that of the committees. In reality ‘it is the same, it wants to employ the same agents, spies, informants, etc.’ To say that such mechanisms were bad under an arbitrary government but laudable ‘under the reign of liberty, is to add absurdity to the injustice’.99 Within the National Assembly there were also rumblings of discord over the secrecy being used by the national committee. Following an outbreak of violence in Nîmes in June 1790, the deputies again found themselves at odds over the national Comité des Recherches and how it was working. Reporting on the information the committee had received, Jean-Georges-Charles Voidel was interrupted by cries of ‘It is the shame of the National Assembly this Comité des Recherches!’ Voidel responded with an odd concession: ‘your committee does not hide that in the eyes of some people its existence is a social offence but be that as it may, it will fulfil its duty’.100 Two months later, Jean-Siffrein, Abbé Maury, who would later emigrate, called the committee ‘a spectre for all French people’.101 In the ensuing debate, Mirabeau emphasized the temporary nature of the committee: ‘detestable institution if it were to be permanent, if it were to enter into the social organization as a durable piece’, he avowed, ‘but an institution supremely necessary in the middle of a Revolution’.102 Like Brissot, Mirabeau pointed to the necessity of such a body in a revolution and, further, suggested that its temporary status made it safe—a presaging of the way exceptional measures like suspending the constitution in 1793 would later be discussed.103 In January 1791, Pierre-Nicolas de Haraneder, the vicomte de Macaye—a noble deputy from the Pays des Basques who appears to have leaned politically toward the monarchiens—publicly announced his resignation from the national Comité des Recherches.104 Citing the November 1790 decree that had attempted to bolster measures for secrecy, Macaye declared that he feared the committee’s ‘inquisitorial powers’ had grown to such an extent, and produced so much general displeasure, that it was no longer ‘profitable for the public good’.105 In a pamphlet published detailing the reasons he gave for his resignation, Macaye reportedly said the decree had given too much power to the president, vice-president and secretary of the committee, who were permitted to conduct deliberations on their own. When the president also stopped attending, the vice president and secretary were ‘the depositaries of secrets and all the power entrusted to the committee. There is not a citizen who should not tremble to see so unlimited and arbitrary a power concentrated among two individuals’, he declared.106 Responding to Macaye’s denunciation, the committee lambasted their colleague for having made public a fact which was better kept concealed: that the reason they had implemented the measures to ‘prohibit the furtive communication of pieces, often of great importance’ was due to concern that the previous ministry was regularly informed of new material, often before they were. The regulation was merely a ‘simple rule of order and interior police’, the committee members asserted. ‘We have not yet seen a single member of the National Assembly accuse its president of despotism because he alone opens the letters addressed to the constituent body’, they wrote, ‘only you have a problem with this.’107 Despite Malouet wondering how ‘a member of the National Assembly could be on this committee after the resignation of M. de Macaye’, for the moment at least, the committee members seemed to be right.108 Based on the volume of denunciations coming into the committees and few critiques of their work, more citizens seemed afraid of what was lurking in the shadows among them than of what might be unfolding behind closed doors in committee meetings in Paris. VI In the letter he left behind before his attempted flight in June 1791, Louis XVI wrote with vitriol of what he considered the many mistakes of the National Assembly, the emergence of a dangerous political club culture and an abominable wave of libel and offence he believed the press was propagating. He reserved venom for the national Comité des Recherches, ‘a veritable despotism, more barbarous and more insupportable than any other history has recorded’.109 This accusation held special significance in view of the ongoing debates over the committees, both national and municipal. Yet the committees’ roles were expanded in the wake of the king’s escape, the secret threats of the monarchy seemingly of more concern than a committee working in secret to uncover them. The Legislative Assembly, which began meeting in October 1791, faced the question of whether and how to continue the type of surveillance activities undertaken by the Comité des Recherches. Initially the committee was disbanded and denunciations were handled by the Committee of Legislation, which would make a decision about whether to forward cases to the newly created Haute Cour for investigation as crimes of lèse-nation. But in late November 1791, the assembly voted to create the Comité de Surveillance, despite the opposition of some deputies who feared the committee would over-reach as they believed the Comité des Recherches had done.110 Though the committee maintained a small number of employees—only three secretaries for twelve deputies—it met in secret and maintained the necessity of secrecy to securing the integrity of denunciations.111 A year into the Legislative Assembly’s tenure, after the overthrow of the king in August 1792, the committee’s size and authority would be enhanced and it would serve as the foundation for the Comité de sûreté générale, the surveillance arm of the National Convention.112 During the Terror, the government extended its vigilance over the population using increasingly sophisticated methods. Unveiling, unmasking and ferretting out secrets became one of the main activities of the Comité de sûreté générale and its partner in this endeavour, the Committee of Public Safety. Upon receiving a report of an intercepted letter from Limoges containing the ‘secret correspondence of émigrées’, the Committee of Public Safety declared that a bureau would be immediately established to open suspect letters coming from countries occupied by governments with which the republic was at war.113 By the end of April 1793, the committee had abruptly overcome all the concerns deputies of the National Assembly had raised nearly four years prior with regard to the respect due to the secret de correspondance. The ‘secret de correspondance is a fatal method to lose the homeland’, the committee proclaimed. ‘No citizen in a danger so imminent can claim the privacy of his letters or of his correspondence, when the safety of the homeland demands the opening of communications.’114 Over the ensuing months, the committee, along with the Comité de sûreté générale, set up offices to systematically open and record the contents of intercepted mail. Charts were made to record the contents of mail coming from abroad and the analysts reporting to the Comité de Sûreté Générale would refer suspects to public prosecutor.115 Unlike processes earlier in the Revolution, surveillance was no longer being carried out from the ground up, it was exercised by the government.116 Yet procedural similarities remained. Both committees worked in secret and took precautions to keep documents from public exposure.117 The precedent for uncovering secrets from behind closed doors had been set in 1789 with the founding of the national Comité des Recherches and Parisian Comité de Recherche. Though there was debate at the time about the propriety of postal surveillance and of creating realms of government that worked in secret, the activity was defended by citing exceptional circumstances, temporary conditions and without conceding that publicity was being meaningfully limited. Disbanded under the Legislative Assembly, the research committees remained precursors of the type of surveillance activity that would begin again and be carried out behind closed doors under the National Convention. Examining the terms of the debate and the circumstances surrounding the creation and work of these early revolutionary committees suggests the malleability of revolutionary ideology and the uneasy relationship between the valorisation of publicité to the emergence of surveillance carried out in secret. The author wishes to thank David A. Bell for his guidance and comments through the writing process, as well as Philip Nord, Sophia Rosenfeld, and Linda Colley for their very helpful feedback. She would also like to thank her colleagues in the History Department at Princeton University, especially Nikhil Menon and attendees of the Modern Europe Workshop, for feedback on drafts of this work. Finally, she would like to thank Christopher Tozzi for a helpful comment on a very early iteration of what resulted in this article, presented at the Western Society for French History in 2015. She also wishes to thank the anonymous referees. Footnotes 1 J. P. Brissot de Warville, Le Patriote François: journal libre, impartial et national (Paris: Buisson, 6 May 1789), 1. B[ibliothèque] N[ationale] de F[rance] FRBNF32834106. 2 B. Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice in Paris, 1789–1790 (Cambridge, 1993), 12. 3 G. A. Kelly, ‘From lèse-majesté to lèse-nation: treason in eighteenth-century France’, Jl. Hist. Ideas, 42 (1981), 269–86. 4 C. Walton, Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution: The Culture of Calumny and the Problem of Free Speech (Oxford, 2009). 5 D. Andress, ‘Social prejudice and political fears in the policing of Paris, January–June 1791’, Fr. Hist., 9, (1995), 202–26; D. Andress, Massacre at the Champ de Mars: Popular Dissent and Political Culture in the French Revolution (Suffolk, 2000), 84; B. Shapiro, ‘Revolutionary justice in 1789–1790: “The Comité des Recherches, the Châtelet, and the Fayettist coalition”’, Fr. Hist. Stud., 17 (1992), 656–69. 6 Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice, xii. 7 T. Tackett, The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution (Cambridge, MA, 2015); M. Linton, Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution (Oxford, 2013). 8 P. Campbell, T. Kaiser and M. Linton, eds., Conspiracy in the French Revolution (Manchester, 2007). 9 F. Furet, Interpreting the French Revolution, trans. E. Forster (Cambridge, Paris, 1981), 54; L. Hunt, Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution (Berkeley, 1984), 43–4. 10 D. Goodman, ‘Public sphere and private life: toward a synthesis of current historiographical approaches to the Old Regime’, History and Theory, 31 (1992), 1–20. 11 S. Maslan, Revolutionary Acts: Theater, Democracy, and the French Revolution (Baltimore, 2005): C. Hesse, ‘La Preuve par la lettre: Pratiques juridiques au tribunal révolutionnaire de Paris (1793–1794)’, Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 3 (1996), 629–42, 639. 12 Maslan, Revolutionary Acts, 127–8; M. Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. A. Sheridan (New York, 1977). 13 Maslan, Revolutionary Acts, 169. 14 A[rchives] N[ationales] V/1/551, Prospectus included with a letter signed by the Abbé Ducros, addressed to the officials of the Librairie on 22 May 1789. 15 Brissot, Le Patriote François; Lettres du Comte de Mirabeau à ses commettans, pendant la tenue des Etats-Généreauc de 1789, et suivantes. BNF FRBNF32806045; Point du Jour, ou Résultat de ce qui s’est passé la veille à l’Assemblée Nationale. Firestone Library: 1509.178.728. On the Paris electors: G. Kates, The Cercle Social, the Girondins, and the French Revolution (Princeton, 1985), 23–4. 16 E.g.: Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII (Paris: Librairie administratif de Paul Dupont, 1862–), 55; Jean Silvain Bailly, Mémoires d’un témoin de la Révolution, ou Journal des faits qui se sont passés sous ses yeux et qui ont préparé et fixé la Constitution française, tome I (Paris, 1804), 225; Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 155; AN/C/31, doss. 260, undated letter signed by Joseph Ignace Guillotin. 17 A. Castaldo, Méthodes de Travail de la Constituante (Paris, 1989), 362; 298–9; 302. For text of the initial regulations passed on July 29, 1789: Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 300. On the resolution to translate decrees: D. Bell, The Cult of the Nation in France: Inventing Nationalism, 1600–1800 (Cambridge, MA, 2001), 173. 18 P. Friedland, Political Actors: Representative Bodies and Theatricality in the Age of the French Revolution (Ithaca, NY, 2002); Maslan, Revolutionary Acts; P. Brasart, Paroles de la Révolution: Les Assemblées parlementaires, 1789–1794 (Paris, 1988); J. C. Bonnet, ‘“ La sainte-masure”, sanctuaire de la parole fondatrice’, La Carmagnole des Muses: L’homme de lettres et l’artiste dans la Révolution, ed. A. Colin (Paris, 1988), 185–222; A. Goodden, ‘The dramatising of political theatricality and the Revolutionary assemblies’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 20 (1984), 193–212; P. Frantz, ‘Pas d’entracte pour la Révolution’, La Carmagnole des Muses, 381–99. 19 Maslan, Revolutionary Acts, 146; Friedland, Political Actors, 11; Kates, Cercle Social, 41. 20 G. Lefebvre, The Great Fear of 1789: Rural Panic in Revolutionary France, trans. J. White (New York, 1973); T. Tackett, ‘Conspiracy obsession in a time of Revolution: French Elites and the Origins of the Terror, 1789–1792’, American Historical Review, 105 (2000), 691–713; T. Tackett, ‘La Grande Peur et le complot aristocratique sous la Révolution française’, Annales historiques de la Révolution française, 325 (2004), 1–17. 21 P. Campbell, ‘Perceptions of conspiracy on the eve of the French Revolution’, Conspiracy in the French Revolution, 15–41; D. Andress, ‘Horrible plots and infernal treasons: conspiracy and the urban landscape of the early Revolution’, Conspiracy in the French Revolution, 85–105. 22 Campbell, ‘Perceptions of conspiracy’, 18, 32; Andress, ‘Horrible plots and infernal treasons’, 86–7; A. Farge Fragile Lives: Violence, Power and Solidarity in Eighteenth-Century Paris, trans. C. Shelton (Cambridge, MA, 1993); D. Garrioch, The Making of Revolutionary Paris (Berkeley, 2002), 120; S. Kaplan, Bread, Politics and Political Economy in the Reign of Louis XV (The Hague, 1976). 23 T. Tackett, Becoming a Revolutionary: The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture (Princeton, 1996), 207. 24 H. J. Lusebrink and R. Reichardt, The Bastille: A History of a Symbol of Despotism and Freedom (Durham, NC, 1997); Andress, ‘Horrible plots and infernal treasons’, 88. 25 Lefebvre, The Great Fear, 86. 26 Les Révolutions de Paris, no. 3 (Paris, 1789), 1. Firestone Library, 1509.178.998. 27 Lefebvre, The Great Fear, 61. 28 Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice, 47–9. 29 Les Révolutions de Paris, no. 1, 29. 30 C. Lucas, ‘The theory and practice of denunciation in the French Revolution,’ Jl. Mod. Hist., 68 (1996), 768–85. 31 Les Révolutions de Paris, no. 3, 3; Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 273. 32 Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 273. 33 Ibid., 274. 34 E. H. Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, 1789–1791, vol. I (Paris, 1991), 422–3; Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 274. 35 Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 274. 36 Ibid. 37 Ibid. 38 Ibid., 279. 39 Ibid. 40 Walton, Policing Public Opinion, 106, 116. 41 Ibid., 75. 42 Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 293. 43 Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. I, 317–18; Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 293. 44 Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice, 54. 45 E. Vaille, Le Cabinet Noir (Paris, 1950), 212–13. 46 Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 294. 47 Ibid., 295. 48 Ibid.; Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 2, 935–7. 49 Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 295. 50 AN D/XXIXbis/*/1. 51 AN D/XXIXbis/34, doss. 358. This folder contains receipts and requests for payment in return for services. It is labeled: ‘Containing different receipts allocated in the accounting of S. Richard, secretary of the Comité des Recherches, and passed in the secret expenditures of the committee.’ 52 AN D/XXIXbis/33, doss. 339. 53 Walton, Policing Public Opinion, 127, 162. 54 J. Hardman, ‘The real and imagined conspiracies of Louis XVI’, Conspiracy in the French Revolution, 61–84, 64. 55 AN D/XXIXbis/33, doss. 339. 56 Archives Parlementaires, Tome IX, 215. 57 Ibid., 395–6. 58 Archives Parlementaires, Tome XI, 3–4. 59 ‘Décret concernant les Sieurs de Blignières & de Baraudin, 5 Décembre 1789, Séance du soir’. Décrets et Lois 1789–1795: Collection Baudouin, vol. 1, 183–4, https://collection-baudouin.univ-paris1.fr; ‘Décret qui blâme la Municipalité de Saint-Aubin d’avoir décacheté des paquets adressés à différens Ministres, du 10 Août 1790’. Décrets et Lois 1789–1795: Collection Baudouin, vol. 5, 58, https://collection-baudouin.univ-paris1.fr; ‘Décret sur la direction & administration générale des Postes & Messageries, du 26 Août 1790. Séance du soir.’ Décrets et Lois 1789–1795: Collection Baudouin, vol. 5, 273, https://collection-baudouin.univ-paris1.fr; ‘Décret concernant le secret & l’inviolabilité des Lettres, du 10 Juillet 1791.’ Décrets et Lois 1789–1795: Collection Baudouin, vol. 16, 143, https://collection-baudouin.univ-paris1.fr. 60 Vaille, Le Cabinet Noir, 217. 61 Tackett, The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution, 135. 62 Vaille, Le Cabinet Noir, 219. 63 Tackett, The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution, 130–131; Lucas, ‘Theory and practice of denunciation’, 776. 64 E.g.: ‘Lettre du Club des Capucins aux représentants de la Commune contre le District des Cordeliers, suivi d’un arrêté de ce district, rédigé par M de Chenier, Mardi 11 mai, 1790’, Les Cordeliers dans la Révolution française: Textes et documents, ed. J. De Cock (Lyon), 543. 65 ‘Extrait du Registre des délibérations du District des Cordeliers, du mercredi 9 juin, 1790’, Ibid, 562, 567. 66 Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice, 16. 67 Lucas, ‘The theory and practice of denunciation’, 771. 68 Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice, 15, 25. 69 AN D/XXIXbis/34, doss. 357, doc.1; Andress, Massacre at the Champ de Mars, 76–7. 70 Andress, Massacre at the Champ de Mars, 63–4. 71 Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice, 15, 17. 72 ‘Lettre de M. Le comte de Saint-Priest, à M le président du comite des recherches a l’assemblée nationale’ (Paris, s.d.). BNF no. MFICHE- 4LB39-2440. Saint-Priest was reported to have said: ‘When you have a king, you will have bread; today, you have 1,200, go ask them for it.’ 73 Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 1, 220–2. 74 Stanislas Marie Adelaide, comte de Clermont-Tonnerre, Observations du Comte de Lally-Tolendal sur la lettre ecrite par M le Comte de Mirabeau au Comite des recherches, contre M le Comte de Saint-Priest, ministre d’Etat (Paris, 1789), 27. BNF no. MFICHE 8-LB39-2581. 75 Lucas, ‘The theory and practice of denunciation’, 770. 76 Clermont-Tonnerre, Observations du Comte de Lally-Tolendal, 45. 77 Archives Parlementaires, Tome X, 168. 78 Ibid.; Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 1, 306; Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 2, 628. 79 Archives Parlementaires, Tome X, 169. 80 Archives Parlementaires, Tome XII, 161; Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 1, 329. 81 Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice, 222, 80. 82 Walton, Policing Public Opinion, 121. 83 Archives Parlementaires, Tome XII, 161; Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 2, 562. 84 Marie-François-Denis Thomas, Chevalier de Pange, Réflexions sur la délation et sur le comite des recherches, par M. le chevalier de Pange (Paris, 1790), 16. BNF no. MFICHE 8-LB39-2850. 85 On ubiquity: Farge, Fragile Lives, 11–13; On changing roles: Garrioch, The Making of Revolutionary Paris, 132–3; A. Farge and J. Ravel, The Vanishing Children of Paris: Rumor and Politics before the French Revolution, trans. C. Miéville (Cambridge, MA, 1991). 86 Farge, Fragile Lives, 13. 87 Lettre à M de la Harpe, sur le comité de Recherches, 27 aout 1790 (Paris, 1790), 7. B[ibliothèque] H[istorique] de la V[ille] de P[aris] : 965579. 88 See also: Andress, ‘Social prejudice and political fears in the policing of Paris’, 216. 89 Lettre à M de la Harpe, 13. 90 Jacques Pierre Brissot de Warville, Lettre à M. Chevalier de de Pange, sur sa brochure intitule: Réflexions sur la délation et sur le Comite des recherches, par J.P. Brissot de Warville au Bureau du Patriote François (Paris 1790), 2. BNF MFICHE LB39-3200. 91 Jacques Pierre Brissot de Warville, J. P. Brissot, membre du comité de recherches de la municipalité, à Stanislas Clermont, membre de l’assemblée nationale, sur la diatribe de ce dernier contre les Comités de recherches (Paris, 28 August 1790), 43. BHVP: 961466. 92 Brissot, Lettre à M. Chevalier de de Pange, 28. 93 See for example: Maximilien Robespierre, ‘Lettres à ses commettants: Exposé des principes et but de cette publication’, Oeuvres, Tome V, ed. M. Bouloiseau, G. Lefebvre and A. Soboul (Paris, 1910–1967), 15. Yet he also called a proposal to make committees meet publicly dangerous and unnecessary in the summer of 1793: ‘Le Journal des Débats et correspondance’, Société des Jacobins, no. 435, Oeuvres, Tome IX: Discours, 572. 94 Brissot, J. P. Brissot, membre du comité de recherches, 9. 95 Ibid., 10. 96 Archives Parlementaires, Tome LXI, 128. 97 Archives Parlementaires, Tome LXVIII, 513. 98 Brissot, Lettre à M. Chevalier de de Pange, 28. 99 Lettre de Monsieur D***, a Monsieur C***, avocat au Parlement (Paris, n.d.), 10. BHVP: 956729. 100 Archives Parlementaires, Tome XVI, 231. 101 Archives Parlementaires, Tome XVIII, 234; Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 2, 645–8. 102 Ibid., 237. 103 D. Edelstein, ‘Do we want a Revolution without Revolution? Reflections on political authority’, Fr. Hist. Stud., 15 (2012). 104 Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 2, 618–19. 105 Le Comité des recherches demasqué par M le vicomte de Macaye, l’un des membres de ce comité (Paris, 1791), 1. BHVP: 8-BRO-601902. 106 Le Comité des recherches demasqué, 4. 107 AN D/XXIXbis/33, doss. 339. 108 Archives Parlementaires, Tome XXII, 545. 109 Archives Parlementaires, Tome XXVII, 381. 110 M. Eude, ‘Le Comité de Surveillance de l’Assemblée Législative (1791–1792)’, Annales Historiques de la Révolution française, 36 (1964), 129–48, 133–34. 111 Ibid., 137, 141. 112 Ibid., 143, 148. 113 AN AF/II*/45, Procès Verbal, 16 Apr. 1793. 114 AN AF/II*/45, Procès Verbal, 28 Apr. 1793. 115 Hesse, ‘La Preuve par la lettre’, 638; AN AF/II/53; AN AF/II/54. 116 Maslan, Revolutionary Acts, 169–170; Lucas, ‘The theory and practice of denunciation’, 783. 117 Archives Parlementaires, Tome LXI, 373; AN AF/II*/45, ‘Procés verbal, 7 avril 1793’; AN AF/II*/284. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of French History. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png French History Oxford University Press

The ComitÉs Des Recherches: Procedural Secrecy and the Origins of Revolutionary Surveillance

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Abstract

Abstract Though the years from 1789 to 1791 are considered the moderate phase of the French Revolution, they were a period of suspicion, rumour and fear. This article examines debates over the creation and operation of the national Comité des Recherches and its municipal counterpart, the Comité de Recherche, to highlight how suspicion of state secrecy and calls for vigilance over elected officials were tied to the emergence from 1789 of surveillance conducted in secret. The article reconstructs debates over whether these committees should be created, upon what grounds postal surveillance could be justified, and whether the committees’ methods were consistent with revolutionary ideals. By looking at the committees’ records, the article highlights how the revolutionary government first reintroduced secrecy in the act of surveillance and how this decision was contested and defended in ways that directly presaged the Terror. I In the spring of 1789, Jacques Pierre Brissot de Warville launched a newspaper dedicated to chronicling the meetings of the Estates General. He declared that ‘this precious publicity will be the only way to make known to the nation its defenders and to stop betrayal by its enemies’.1 Like many others that spring, Brissot was convinced that promoting publicity, or transparency, was essential to reforming a political system characterized by secrecy. A pervasive suspicion of state secrets fuelled popular calls for vigilance over elected deputies, which the National Assembly at least tacitly accepted by repeatedly proclaiming its commitment to work in public view. The kind of vigilance that journalists and political club members advocated over their representatives was, from the beginning, also applied to their neighbours. With denunciations pouring in to new government entities, deputies in the national and municipal governments were almost immediately confronted with the question of how far they were willing to take publicité in the new regime. To counter the danger of the lingering secrets of the ancien régime and its allies, it was not enough to now perform politics in public view; the revolutionary government itself began to employ tactics of unveiling to root out secrets that remained. Significantly, this activity itself began to be carried out in secret. The situation led Brissot, ardent advocate of publicité, to defend the utility of secrecy in government mere months after disavowing it.2 Understanding the genesis and justification of this paradoxical dynamic is the central task of this article. The national Comité des Recherches and its municipal counterpart, the Comité de Recherche, encapsulate a central paradox of the Revolution; born of a popular suspicion of secrets, the committees began to work in secret themselves, presaging the procedural characteristics of powerful committees during the Terror. This article examines legislative and pamphlet debates over whether these committees should be created in the first place, upon what grounds postal surveillance could be justified and whether the committees’ working methods—specifically working in secret—were consistent with revolutionary ideals. By looking at their administrative records, the article first unravels how their work was carried out in secret. It argues that the committees’ use of secrecy was both contested and defended in ways that foreshadowed how secret realms of government would be justified in 1793–4. Throughout, it underlines the ironic yet crucial link between calls for citizens to be wary of secrecy and the emergence of institutionalized surveillance, carried out in secret. In investigating the work and procedures of these committees, and debates about them, the article intervenes in three distinct strains of historiography. The first is on the committees themselves, political policing, and judicial reform during the early Revolution. What little work has been done in this area has tended to focus on particular sedition cases and the evolution of the legal category of lèse-nation.3 Charles Walton has analysed the committee records to highlight the malleability of this legal category and its application in regulating calumny.4 Other work on the committees has explored their relation to the larger criminal justice and policing system to argue, as David Andress does, that policing was either an extension of ancien régime practices and perceptions or, as Barry Shapiro does, that its more aggressive elements were calibrated by the persistence of moderate mechanisms.5 In his examination of political policing during the first year of the Revolution, Shapiro has suggested that early revolutionaries treated ‘political opponents’ with ‘a degree of restraint and indulgence that was remarkably consistent with the liberal and humanitarian ideals of the pre-revolutionary judicial reform movement’.6 While I concur with his assessment that much of the more harsh elements of policing, and of surveillance, were the result of popular pressure, I diverge from Shapiro’s conclusion that the institutions of the early Revolution were not precursors to those of the Terror. The second intervention is thus in regard to the relationship of the early Revolution to the emergence of the Terror, defined as the period from autumn 1793 to mid-1794. In a further turn away both from François Furet’s claim that the Terror’s origins lie in the ideology of popular sovereignty and from the explanatory focus on contingent circumstances of war, scholars have recently been analysing patterns and precedents from 1789. Timothy Tackett and Marisa Linton, for example, have both recently argued that fears generated in the early Revolution and an emerging pattern of denunciation laid the groundwork for the cycle of suspicion that characterized the Terror.7 This article builds upon these studies of the Terror’s origins in two senses. First, it shows how the institutional precursors to the Terror were developed from 1789, with the national Comité des Recherches and the Parisian Comité de Recherche, specifically with their cultivation of a secret realm in a new government otherwise characterized by transparency. Second, it identifies, in the debates over the way these committees worked, a clear rhetorical and ideological precedent for how such secrecy was justified during the Terror: as exceptional and a response to security threats, all while continuing to champion publicity and insisting that secrecy was safely circumscribed to only necessary realms. Lastly, the article refines our understanding of the broader revolutionary dynamic between publicity and secrecy. Although historians disagree on why it was the case and whether it was rooted in reality, they have long emphasized the centrality of conspiracy thinking to the Revolution. Concerned with why it was so rampant and how it affected politics, scholars have characterized conspiracy as either stemming from or spurring a revolutionary obsession with transparency.8 A dichotomy has thereby been established in the historiography between transparency and secrecy, what was to be open and what was feared hidden. Furet wrote that the plot was ‘secret, whereas the Revolution was public’, while Lynn Hunt emphasized that transparency was conceived as the defining principle of revolutionary politics in distinction from ‘secret machinations.’9 Secrets—in the sense of something intentionally concealed, whether by the state or by individuals—did indeed elicit suspicion and generate vigilance over the government and fellow citizens alike. Yet, by focusing on the perceived threat of secrecy and the remedies revolutionaries adopted—publicité, vigilance, and surveillance—I show that the lines drawn between visible and concealed, public and private, conspiratorial and legitimate become considerably blurred. There was an essential connection between the valorization of publicity, or transparency, in politics and the emergence of surveillance as a legitimately secret realm of government. The intimate link between pressure for publicité and secret surveillance amplifies Dena Goodman’s point that there was no established dichotomy or boundary between public and private in the eighteenth century and serves as a reminder to remember this when studying the Revolution.10 Surveillance was linked to the value of publicity, specifically as a way to guarantee authenticity, and it became a core component and value of revolutionary politics, as Susan Maslan has demonstrated.11 In making this point, Maslan suggested that surveillance during the Revolution was initially a positive activity in which citizens watched over their government, in contrast to Michel Foucault’s characterization of nineteenth-century surveillance as a mechanism of state power.12 Only later in the Revolution did the government turn its gaze on the people, she argued.13 While it is certainly true that the direction of the gaze definitively switched only later in the Revolution, the surveillance in which people engaged was immediately applied to community policing and proved foundational to incipient government surveillance. Moreover, Maslan and others have overlooked the significance of this surveillance being carried out in secret. Why did the committees constructed to uncover secrets come to work in secret; how was this justified and when was it contested? Placing decisions and debates about procedural uses of secrecy front and centre illuminates the complex and paradoxical interplay of surveillance, publicity and secrecy. II When the deputies sent to the Estates General convened at Versailles in the spring of 1789, thousands gathered alongside them and many more sought news of their activity in the press. ‘A national assembly in France, after an interruption of nearly two centuries, is such an unexpected event; the circumstances that made it necessary and that have led to it […] are exciting so much interest among us and curiosity abroad that already all of Europe has its eyes fixed on the memorable scene which has just opened’, the Abbé Ducros wrote in the prospectus for a proposed periodical that May.14 Having all eyes on it quickly became a crucial component of the representative function the Estates General was meant to fulfil. Periodicals popped up dedicated to chronicling political deliberations and electors in Paris refused to disband, declaring their intent to watch and instruct their representatives in Versailles.15 Amidst this prevalent attitude, facilitating the public’s gaze upon them would be a central component of the National Assembly’s claim to represent the French people. Defining themselves in opposition to a monarchy that clung to practices of concealed political decision-making in its last throes, the deputies proclaimed their adherence to publicity. Adhering to transparent decision-making was at the core of what was to make them legitimate representatives of the people.16 Members of the Estates General, which transformed into the National Assembly as it claimed sovereign legislative power in June 1789, established procedures guaranteeing open meeting chambers; designed systems to print, distribute and translate their decrees; maintained access for journalists and the ability for them to print records of legislative debates; and set up a process whereby petitioners could speak to them directly during meetings.17 As scholars such as Susan Maslan, Paul Friedland, Patrick Brasart, Jean-Claude Bonnet, Angelica Goodden and Pierre Frantz have noted, the open nature of its deliberations was critical to shaping political culture and rhetorical style under the National Assembly.18 Maslan has posited that popular surveillance was perceived as a way to legitimate representative government in place of directly democratic decision-making, a tension Friedland has also traced on the national level and Gary Kates has highlighted within the city of Paris.19 In the streets of Paris, this official emergence of politics into the public sphere was closely linked with an active effort to uncover monarchical secrets. The summer of 1789 was one of constant rumour and fear, driving a culture of dévoilement, or unveiling, that was constructed in the pages of periodicals and among the crowds in Parisians streets. The worry about hidden enemies, dissembling authorities, and traitorous politicians was profound.20 As Peter Campbell and David Andress have pointed out, this fear of conspiracy and desire to uncover the machinations of the monarchy were not new.21 Suspicions of court intrigue, and especially of ‘famine plots’ in times of dearth had a long history in Paris.22 The deputies of the National Assembly were not immune to these fears in 1789 and, as Timothy Tackett has argued, they were not misguided in having them.23 The Revolution was fragile; many noble families were already fleeing, troop movements were stoking a sense of impending royal reaction and the intentions of many deputies were far from clear. All this unfolded amidst constant news of mob violence in Paris, acute grain shortages, and uncertainty about the reactions of foreign powers to unfolding events. A common thread in the conditions creating this crisis was the sense that hidden forces, agents and intentions were secretly threatening the Revolution. Even after the storming of the Bastille—which was in many senses an attack on the secrecy of the royal administration, fuelled by suspicion that the king was furtively planning to crack down on Parisians—fear of lingering secrets remained.24 Masked enemies seemed to abound as fear engulfed the capital and countryside.25 In the capital, the desire for dévoilement grew as suspicion of ministerial plans to turn on the populace ran rampant. The editors of the Révolutions de Paris declared in their third issue on 1 August, that: ‘every moment attests new crimes and unveils a new aspect of this horrible plot of which we are to be victims’.26 Tensions had not eased with the fall of the Bastille. The following day, people showed up at the Hôtel de Ville, warning that Louis XVI’s actions were a trap designed to lull people into a false sense of security.27 For a brief moment in mid-July, the National Guard began to intercept ‘suspicious correspondence’ and the city’s electors—reluctantly, according to Barry Shapiro—decided to create a committee to sort it and read aloud letters that were deemed dangerous.28 In the following days, the Révolutions de Paris editors described efforts to intercept messages being sent between Paris and Versailles in an attempt to uncover traitors. This searching apparently led one messenger to ‘eat a letter he was carrying’ rather than give it up to vigilantes.29 III It was amidst this fervour for dévoilement that the deputies of the National Assembly began to consider the extent to which they were willing to commit to publicité to combat conspiracies. Parisians in the streets almost immediately extended their use of publicity from a tool to guarantee the legitimacy of their representatives to one that could be used to combat enemies among them, advocating vigilance not only over elected officials but over one another. Rudimentary forms of surveillance that developed haphazardly in the summer of 1789 quickly began to evolve as denunciation came to undergird the origins of government surveillance.30 As they extended the valorization of publicity to the success of the Revolution, elected officials at the national and municipal levels began insisting on the need to enforce it from behind closed doors, even as judicial reform efforts were emphasizing the need for more transparency. The development of both the national Comité des Recherches and municipal Comité de Recherche shed light on this paradoxical dynamic. Just days after the fall of the Bastille, a batch of letters was seized from the Baron de Castelnau—French ambassador to Geneva—as he was crossing the Pont-Royal, containing correspondence addressed to the king’s brother, the comte d’Artois.31 Three letters were passed from the municipal committee in Paris to the duc de Liancourt who was president of the National Assembly at the time. In reporting the letters to the assembly on 25 July, Liancourt explained that he ‘respected the inviolability of the secret de correspondance, that he did not permit himself to read any of them’ and then had returned them to the Parisian committee.32 Not all the deputies agreed that he had made the right decision by sending the letters back. The incident spurred a heated debate over whether and when letters could be seized and read for information, in effect bringing the activity Parisians were already engaging in up for question in the National Assembly. While some deputies noted a common desire expressed in the cahiers de doléances that the ‘secret de la poste’ be upheld and a longstanding belief that letters were private property, others cited the present circumstances to argue for a necessary exception to these norms.33 ‘In a state of war, it is permitted to unseal letters; and in these times of fermentation and storms, of calumny and intrigue, we can see ourselves as, and we are really, in a state of war’, argued Louis-Marthe de Gouy d’Arsy, Third Estate deputy from Saint-Domingue who would be active in the early Jacobin club and then in the Feuillants.34 ‘We must be authorized to intercept and open all packages, letters, addresses coming from suspect countries or persons, and we need to consider all fleeing persons as such,’ he continued.35 Gouy d’Arsy proposed that the assembly declare that in view of current events, ‘all papers relative to the circumstances should be deposed and communicated, when the case necessitated it, to the National Assembly’.36 The proposal incited an intense backlash from the comte de Mirabeau, who asked: ‘Can a people who wishes to become free borrow the maxims and procedures of tyranny?’37 But the discussion continued two and three days later when Liancourt announced that he had asked Paris Mayor Jean Sylvain Bailly to send the letters back after learning the assembly’s wishes. When some deputies again expressed the desire to not violate the secret de correspondance, the point that the circumstances demanded it was merely reinforced. Maximilien Robespierre asked whether the assembly would refuse ‘pieces denounced by public opinion, sent by the mayor of the capital as pieces of essential interest and necessary to clarify the most fatal conspiracy that had yet been attempted’.38 A deputy not identified in the Archives Parlementaires summed up the stakes of the debate as a choice between a principle and the need for security: ‘Although the unanimous desire of our cahiers was that the secret of the post remain inviolable, we cannot and should not believe that the intention of our constituents was that this inviolability be respected at the cost of their safety and liberty.’39 The stakes of this debate were similar in some ways to those over the regulation of the press, which Charles Walton has chronicled. Although they declared freedom of expression as part of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in August 1789, deputies regularly restricted the press, often as a response to local authorities pushing for them to do so.40 Yet unlike violations of the secret de correspondence, where deputies had to conjecture whether their constituents would grant exceptions, most of the cahiers demanding press freedom accompanied their demands with requests for limits.41 When the discussion of opening letters resumed the following day, 28 July, there were proposals to create committees that would deal with intercepted letters and denunciations so as not to take up the assembly’s time with such matters. In this discussion an emphasis was repeatedly placed on the dangers surrounding the assembly and the need to ‘place the greatest activity, that the eye of our surveillance be open on all sides’.42 For Parisian deputy Adrien Duport, a reform-minded noble, who called for this surveillance, the creation of a special committee was necessary to process letters denounced to the assembly.43 When writing about this episode, Shapiro suggested that the defeat of initial proposals for a surveillance committee that would be authorized to intercept mail indicated a rejection of the more intense calls for vigilance.44 In a history of French postal surveillance, Eugène Vaillé also cited this episode as evidence that the deputies were generally against violating the ‘inviolability of the secret des lettres’, which he noted had been widely requested in the cahiers de doléances.45 While it is true that an active surveillance mechanism was not established, the ensuing construction of the more passive research committee merits further scrutiny. This committee was, at first, to be composed of just four members and, at the suggestion of Gouy d’Arsy, ‘it would even be necessary that they were un-known; secrecy is important and necessary’.46 His assertion of the need for secrecy and anonymity in any committee that would oversee the inspection of mail and process denunciations foreshadows the decisions that would be made nearly four years later by the National Convention on the cusp of the Terror when setting up new committees. Nevertheless, in July 1789 there was a firm rejection of committee activities being conducted in secret. Boniface-Louis-André, comte de Castellane Novejean, a liberal noble deputy from Alençon, argued that the committee would not be inquisitorial if it was ‘a committee that informed publicly; publicity suits our approach and our character’.47 François-Henri, comte de Virieu, noble deputy from the Dauphiné who would emigrate after his time in the assembly, reacted similarly, saying that: ‘they are proposing to us to establish a type of secret inquisition for unveiling crimes’.48 If there were to be a commission, ‘it must be public’, he declared.49 Eventually, a committee of twelve members was created to supplement the committee of thirty that had been created earlier in the day to process regular correspondence and petitions. There was no mention of secrecy or anonymity with regard to either committee. Yet, by all appearances, the national Comité des Recherches did come to operate behind closed doors and collected a repertoire of explicitly secret records. The first year of the committee’s operations remains obscure due to a lack of procedural records, but documents in 1790 show a movement toward stricter secrecy as the Revolution evolved. Notes regarding the renewal of the committee on 27 April 1790—one of the first extant procedural records—remark that the new secretaries had received ‘the keys to the armoire in which the papers relative to the operation of the committee are kept’, which suggests the committee’s work was safeguarded.50 Moreover, four cartons in the Archives Nationales contain folders with ‘letters, notes, and information considered as secret pieces and deposed with the Comité des Recherches’ from August 1790 to the end of the Constituent Assembly’s existence in September 1791. These records also contain dispatches from informants, or people who wished to become informants, though the extent to which these relationships were formalized is unclear. Financial records of the committee suggest that authorizing payment to individuals tasked by the Parisian municipal government with following certain people, or travelling to certain places to investigate rumoured threats, did happen in 1790–91.51 In late 1790, the committee established more explicit measures to guarantee the secrecy of its work, responding to what members felt was a lack of control over the contents of incoming mail. A decree passed by the committee on 17 November 1790 specified that only the president, vice president and secretary of the committee were authorized to open letters and packages addressed to it. It also prohibited the secretary from communicating any pieces to anyone other than committee members, without express authorization. Two months later, in the face of criticism over these new procedures, the committee members explained that the ‘simple rule of order and interior police’ was put in place after they had discovered the previous ministry (which though he was not named, was likely headed by Jérôme Marie Champion de Cicé, minister of justice until November 1790) was often informed of incoming correspondence before they were.52 Their concern is a reminder that the royal administration still oversaw the judicial system, even after the national Haute Cour replaced the Châtelet courts in the spring of 1791.53 Furthermore, the monarchy was later revealed to have had a web of secret informants carrying out its own policing.54 The members noted that although all of them had ‘promised secrecy on their honour’, when every member was allowed to open any package at any time there could be leaks even if involuntary. This was the case especially when ‘a crowd of strangers came at all hours to the committee’.55 This explanation of the new procedures reveals that while outsiders may have come to the committee, and even possibly have been admitted into the room, members were required to take an oath of secrecy. The imposition of measures to work in secret was happening as judicial reform efforts being discussed in the National Assembly were emphasizing the need for more publicity in the process of criminal investigations, trials and convictions. In a report on a proposed criminal code given on 29 September 1789, noble deputy Bon-Albert Briois de Beaumetz acknowledged the importance of maintaining a degree of secrecy in the process of discovery leading to a formal accusation, but asked whether this meant that all aspects will remain ‘enveloped in shadows?’ Concluding that ‘it is especially the initial investigation, that which must precede and motivate the decree, which it would be most alarming to leave consumed in the night of procedural secrecy’, the new code proposed appointing citizens to observe this early part of an investigation in order to ‘keep watch, for the accused, over the regularity and impartiality of all the operations’.56 The reforms adopted by the assembly in October established this procedure of having appointed observers watch the pre-accusation portions of an investigation, in addition to guaranteeing that all evidence and depositions would be made publicly while the suspect was in custody, and that the trial and judgment would all be conducted in front of a public audience.57 In late December that year, responding to questions about these reforms, the Garde des Sceaux affirmed that ‘in two words, the publicity of criminal procedure is the only real safeguard of the interest of society and of the accused’.58 The incongruence of such reform efforts and the committee’s procedural commitment to secrecy highlights how the committee was at odds with a propensity for publicity not only in the procedures of the National Assembly, but in criminal law reform specifically. IV The question of what the committee was trying to keep secret merits consideration. Much of it was linked to postal surveillance, which did not end with the debate in July 1789 over whether to read the letters seized by a Parisian crowd. Over the following two years, the National Assembly would repeatedly decree the inviolability of the secret de correspondance, though their reassurances indicated that seizing letters was not infrequent.59 Already over the summer of 1790, a number of surveillance committees cropped up in municipalities across the country, which would stop and open mail.60 Though they were not the ones directly doing it, as the committees of the Terror would be, the deputies could not always control if others intercepted correspondence and sent it to them. The nascent surveillance activities of the municipal and national committees were spurred and sustained by an abundant amount of community patrolling, volunteered up to the deputies for further investigation. As Tackett recently put it, ‘the pervasiveness of fear and rumour, undergirded with the emerging accusatory culture of denunciations, had the potential for creating a kind of “everyday terror” where everyone spied on everyone else: a vicious circle of grassroots suspicion that, in some respects, preceded and prefigured the institutional Terror of 1793–1794’.61 Indeed, in his assessment that the more aggressive surveillance activities of these committees during the early Revolution were in response to popular pressure, Shapiro had an important point. There was no shortage of material making its way to the committee; in the Archives Nationales there are twenty-three cartons full of general appeals and petitions made to the national Comité des Recherches, in addition to thirteen cartons related to more specific incidents or cases. On top of these, there are four cartons of correspondence having to do directly with the investigation into the king’s failed flight in the summer of 1791, and another four cartons of correspondence between the committee and ministers as well as information labeled secret. One of the most significant sources of denunciations for the national and municipal committees were the many societies and clubs in the capital and across the country.62 Denunciation was central to the discourse of many clubs and newspapers launched during the early Revolution, which were in turn crucial in establishing it as a virtue.63 This discourse encompassed not only the denunciation of supposed masked enemies, but also the vigilance over elected representatives that these clubs and newspapers simultaneously advocated. Publicité was valorized as a central component of representative politics by club activists and journalists who urged ‘an indefatigable vigilance’ over elected officials.64 The same clubs that issued proclamations calling for vigilance over elected representatives and reminding them that ‘PUBLICITY IS THE SAFEGUARD OF THE PEOPLE’, also encouraged vigilance against secret counter-revolutionary plots.65 Suspicions of such plots were often reported to the national and municipal research committees, creating a potential loop whereby societies could be feeding their observations to those over whom they were urging the same scrutiny, which was in turn becoming more difficult as the committees increasingly committed to working in secret. Another main source of denunciations was the municipal Comité de Recherche in Paris, which sprang up in October 1789 along a model similar to that in the National Assembly. In some senses more powerful than the national committee, it functioned as a de-facto policing arm of the municipal government, receiving denunciations and also investigating them to decide whether to bring charges.66 Colin Lucas has argued that this committee vested denunciations with legal weight, essentially integrating the practice into the legal process, considering its purview to open investigations.67 After investigating, the committee would refer cases to the Châtelet courts (which officially retained primary policing authority until late 1790) to incarcerate and try suspects.68 Its work was apparently also largely conducted in secret. Numerous records of secret accounts, preserved in the records of the national Comité des Recherches, provide insight into the municipal government’s extensive policing activities, which included hiring spies to follow individuals in Paris and the provinces, as well as paying informants abroad. Dispatching spies in the capital to follow people ranging from suspected counterfeiters to ambassadors seems to have been part of a formalized apparatus, though funded in the dark through secret accounts.69 The municipal department of police, with which the committee was linked, built upon ancien régime policing practices, and exercised extensive regulation with the support of the National Guard.70 Shapiro has argued that the committee should not be considered an antecedent to those of the Terror because it was balanced by the more reserved Châtelet and because its membership makes it more nearly a precedent of the Girondin faction.71 But in its procedural use of secrecy, it does foreshadow how committees would work in 1793–4. V Though there was certainly no shortage of material flowing into these committees, they did not operate without criticism. Debates raged over whether they were merely reincarnations of unjust royal police practices, whether they were necessary, and whether they were compatible with revolutionary principles. Central to the debates about the validity of the research committees was the question of secrecy. Not only was there a question of whether it was justified to violate the secret de la poste, there was a vibrant debate over whether it was necessary or justified for the committees to conceal their work and accept denunciations outside the public eye. From autumn 1789 and continuing through much of 1791, pamphlets criticizing and defending the committees and their practices began to circulate and criticisms cropped up in the National Assembly. The way their reliance on secrecy was defended presaged how the need for the Committee of Public Safety to work behind closed doors would be justified in 1793. In a pamphlet published in autumn 1789, noble deputy Stanislas Marie Adelaide, comte de Clermont-Tonnerre lambasted Mirabeau for reporting the Secretary of State Francois-Emmanuel Guignard, comte de Saint-Priest to the Comité des Recherches on suspicion of having encouraged the women who took part in the march to Versailles on 5 and 6 October. Mirabeau had rested his accusation on something Saint-Priest had reportedly said to a crowd, the meaning of which was ambiguous.72 Clermont-Tonnerre—a prominent deputy who had recently resigned from the Constitutional Committee and was decidedly monarchien in his views—not only worried about the propriety of interpreting the meaning of a comment that he believed was unclear, he was concerned that the identity of the witness was being withheld from the public.73 ‘The Comité des Recherches, established for the tranquility of the citizens, will it not become their terror if, on the basis of an accusation that has not been better supported publicly, it will permit itself a secret information?’74 He warned that the committee was creating a culture of denunciation where the revealing of secrets was made a virtue and calumny was encouraged. According to Colin Lucas, Clermont-Tonnerre may have been right; Lucas cites the research committees as a first step to turning denunciation into a virtue under the revolutionary regime.75 ‘You invoked the dangers that environ us!’ Clermont-Tonnerre exclaimed.76 He concluded by clarifying that he was against secret denunciations but in favour of public accusations. That autumn, there was also debate within the assembly about whether to keep the committee, with those against its prolongation articulating a critique of its shadowy operations. Following an update in which committee member Guillaume-François-Charles Goupil-Préfelne reported that ‘the Comité des recherches does not yet have complete proof of all the threads and of all the plots of the enemies of the patrie’, two members called for an end to the body.77 Conservative Third Estate deputy Amable-Gilbert Dufraisse-Duchey exclaimed that ‘they speak constantly of conspiracies without giving us the least bit of proof’ and Pierre-Victor Malouet, a monarchien Third Estate deputy, lamented that ‘it is regrettable to be obliged to borrow the forms of despotism to annihilate its traces’.78 Goupil-Préfelne’s retort that ‘they want to force us to make known the channels by which certain facts reached us, but this would give the guilty the methods by which to stop further proof’ was a recurring justification for working in secret.79 The next time the committee’s existence was challenged, in March 1790, noble and conservative deputy Jean-Jacques Duval d’Eprémesnil cited the ‘large number of imprisoned citizens that we don’t even think to interrogate’ to request that ‘the comités des recherches be destroyed.’80 While true that the national committee did have the power to direct people to be arrested or interrogated, it was largely receptive, most action being carried out by local authorities. Shapiro has called it ‘toothless and lackadaisical’, suggesting it did more to deflect clamour for harsh punishment in high profile cases such as that against the Baron de Basenval, who was to take the blame for the events of 14 July.81 Yet it must be pointed out that since the National Assembly had the ability to accuse people of lèse-nation, the committee had power to recommend this, which would initiate a trial.82 Defending the national committee’s role in ‘stopping manoeuvres which could become fatal to liberty’, reform-minded Third Estate deputy Isaac-René-Guy Le Chapelier declared his conviction that the committee was ‘a sure way to spread a salutary terror among the ill-intentioned’.83 A need for publicity in the process of criminal accusation and subsequent investigation was a recurring theme in writings against both the municipal and national committees. In early 1790, the liberal noble writer Marie-François-Denis Thomas, Chevalier de Pange published a pamphlet pointing to the municipal committee to argue that the secrecy shrouding its investigations of such denunciations made it nothing but a reincarnation of the ancien régime police. Though it did not call its methods by the same terms used to describe previous practices, in reality the committee was engaging in the same tactics. Whereas under the monarchy a lettre de cachet could covertly send someone to prison, the same was possible under the revolutionary regime despite the disavowal of the old ways.84 The municipal committee in particular was often accused of being a revival of the ancien régime policing practices, a claim which warrants scrutiny. The Parisian police had been both ubiquitous—in the sense that informants and spies were widely dispersed—and notorious as the agency had become more imposing and less well integrated with the community over the course of the eighteenth century.85 One of the main activities of the police had been to gather ‘loose talk, comment and rumour’, which it did by employing a network of ‘mouches’ as spies.86 An anonymous pamphlet published in August 1790, highlighted the espionage conducted by the municipal Comité de Recherche to suggest that it was reviving these practices and encroaching upon the role of normal courts. A court sought to punish crimes based on actions of the accused, while the committee sought to prevent them by researching thoughts and ‘spying on our speech’.87 Though the committee did not pay spies directly, in contrast with ancien régime police practice (although records reveal that sometimes the municipal government actually did), the author alleged that it engaged in the far more insidious tactic of turning everyone into a spy by welcoming denunciations.88 Moreover, the committee did not uncover any serious plots with these tactics, though the populace would never know it because it hid its activities.89 Brissot, an ardent advocate in 1789 of the necessity of publicity to a representative government, was a member of the municipal Comité de Recherche and took on the task of defending the work and utility of both research committees on multiple occasions. His writings on this topic, though not representative of a trend in defences of the committees, do reveal some of the deep contradictions inherent in thinking about secrecy during the Revolution and echo reasoning by deputies in the National Assembly who defended the committees. Though he had written extensively about the need for publicity in the political process and had founded a newspaper with the avowed purpose of guaranteeing it, he wound up advocating for concealment of the committees’ work. Certainly, the imperative to defend uses of secrecy when it suited personal ends and denounce it when it was convenient cannot be underestimated. However, the way in which he wrote about the use of secrecy in the committees demonstrates more than self-interested hypocrisy. Brissot’s first move in defending the municipal or national committees was to establish how they were unquestionably different from the ancien régime police, due to a revolutionary commitment to publicité. In a rebuttal of Pange’s critique of the committees, published in April 1790, Brissot emphasized that while the old police always investigated in the shadows, ‘buried its victims in the secrecy of dungeons’, the research committees did not work ‘in the shadows; we do not condemn, like them, the guilty to be forgotten eternally.’90 Though he insisted that the two Comités des Recherches were committed to publicité, Brissot in fact went on to elaborate the necessity of secrecy to the process of criminal investigations. The use of secrecy was justified in the process of researching threats: ‘They [the committees] must research in secret, but then publish the results of their research’, he wrote in his response to Clermont-Tonnerre published in August 1790.91 In his refutation of Pange, Brissot emphasized that conducting investigations in secret was for the safety of citizens, in two senses. The first was that if a false accusation were made, keeping it under wraps would prevent the accused from having his honour unfairly besmirched. The second was that investigating behind closed doors secured public safety by ensuring that criminals were not tipped off regarding the government’s suspicion and thus able to escape.92 The distinction between process and result was crucial. It was not the process of investigation being secret that had made judicial practices under the ancien régime so odious; concealing judgments under a ‘constant veil of mystery’ led to the innocent being convicted. This argument echoed acknowledgements in the discussion of judicial reform that investigations required some degree of secrecy not necessary in the trial phase. Furthermore, as Robespierre would do three years later, Brissot never stopped vaunting publicity, he merely suggested the propriety of circumscribing it.93 Brissot asked whether Clermont-Tonnerre was so naïve as to think that the Revolution could be accomplished without confronting conspiratorial plots: since the early days of the Revolution, it was impossible that there would be no resistance, ‘at least in the form of a crowd of secret maneuvers to prevent the execution of decrees.’94 The ubiquity of the patrie’s enemies called for extraordinary precautions, chief among which was the use of secrecy in sniffing out plots. Does not the safety of the country demand that we create, within the National Assembly, within the capital, extraordinary committees which are less numerous, more active, and more secret than the general assemblies, which have the power to keep watch for conspiracies, and to prevent their effects, via prompt and vigorous measures?95 This defence of the need for nimble and secret committees to combat conspiracies harkened back to calls for the initial establishment of a Comité des Recherches in the National Assembly and directly foreshadowed the reasoning used for the Committee of Public Safety to meet behind closed doors. Proposing the creation of new committees in April 1793, Jean Paul Marat suggested ‘that the committees be authorized to deliberate à huis clos, until the arrest of traitors who are within the country, the agents of enemy powers, and of all suspect people’.96 The Committee of Public Safety quickly became a de facto executive arm of the government, and when its use of secrecy was questioned, committee member Jean Bon Saint André insisted that ‘the importance of the measures treated therein requires it’.97 The parallel between Brissot’s defence of secrecy and those of the CPS makes Brissot’s further claim that ‘this secrecy could never be dangerous, as it is under tyrants’ seem downright naïve.98 At the time, it was one with which not everyone agreed. An anonymous, undated pamphlet responded that Brissot ‘struggled pointlessly’ to find differences between the work of the old police and that of the committees. In reality ‘it is the same, it wants to employ the same agents, spies, informants, etc.’ To say that such mechanisms were bad under an arbitrary government but laudable ‘under the reign of liberty, is to add absurdity to the injustice’.99 Within the National Assembly there were also rumblings of discord over the secrecy being used by the national committee. Following an outbreak of violence in Nîmes in June 1790, the deputies again found themselves at odds over the national Comité des Recherches and how it was working. Reporting on the information the committee had received, Jean-Georges-Charles Voidel was interrupted by cries of ‘It is the shame of the National Assembly this Comité des Recherches!’ Voidel responded with an odd concession: ‘your committee does not hide that in the eyes of some people its existence is a social offence but be that as it may, it will fulfil its duty’.100 Two months later, Jean-Siffrein, Abbé Maury, who would later emigrate, called the committee ‘a spectre for all French people’.101 In the ensuing debate, Mirabeau emphasized the temporary nature of the committee: ‘detestable institution if it were to be permanent, if it were to enter into the social organization as a durable piece’, he avowed, ‘but an institution supremely necessary in the middle of a Revolution’.102 Like Brissot, Mirabeau pointed to the necessity of such a body in a revolution and, further, suggested that its temporary status made it safe—a presaging of the way exceptional measures like suspending the constitution in 1793 would later be discussed.103 In January 1791, Pierre-Nicolas de Haraneder, the vicomte de Macaye—a noble deputy from the Pays des Basques who appears to have leaned politically toward the monarchiens—publicly announced his resignation from the national Comité des Recherches.104 Citing the November 1790 decree that had attempted to bolster measures for secrecy, Macaye declared that he feared the committee’s ‘inquisitorial powers’ had grown to such an extent, and produced so much general displeasure, that it was no longer ‘profitable for the public good’.105 In a pamphlet published detailing the reasons he gave for his resignation, Macaye reportedly said the decree had given too much power to the president, vice-president and secretary of the committee, who were permitted to conduct deliberations on their own. When the president also stopped attending, the vice president and secretary were ‘the depositaries of secrets and all the power entrusted to the committee. There is not a citizen who should not tremble to see so unlimited and arbitrary a power concentrated among two individuals’, he declared.106 Responding to Macaye’s denunciation, the committee lambasted their colleague for having made public a fact which was better kept concealed: that the reason they had implemented the measures to ‘prohibit the furtive communication of pieces, often of great importance’ was due to concern that the previous ministry was regularly informed of new material, often before they were. The regulation was merely a ‘simple rule of order and interior police’, the committee members asserted. ‘We have not yet seen a single member of the National Assembly accuse its president of despotism because he alone opens the letters addressed to the constituent body’, they wrote, ‘only you have a problem with this.’107 Despite Malouet wondering how ‘a member of the National Assembly could be on this committee after the resignation of M. de Macaye’, for the moment at least, the committee members seemed to be right.108 Based on the volume of denunciations coming into the committees and few critiques of their work, more citizens seemed afraid of what was lurking in the shadows among them than of what might be unfolding behind closed doors in committee meetings in Paris. VI In the letter he left behind before his attempted flight in June 1791, Louis XVI wrote with vitriol of what he considered the many mistakes of the National Assembly, the emergence of a dangerous political club culture and an abominable wave of libel and offence he believed the press was propagating. He reserved venom for the national Comité des Recherches, ‘a veritable despotism, more barbarous and more insupportable than any other history has recorded’.109 This accusation held special significance in view of the ongoing debates over the committees, both national and municipal. Yet the committees’ roles were expanded in the wake of the king’s escape, the secret threats of the monarchy seemingly of more concern than a committee working in secret to uncover them. The Legislative Assembly, which began meeting in October 1791, faced the question of whether and how to continue the type of surveillance activities undertaken by the Comité des Recherches. Initially the committee was disbanded and denunciations were handled by the Committee of Legislation, which would make a decision about whether to forward cases to the newly created Haute Cour for investigation as crimes of lèse-nation. But in late November 1791, the assembly voted to create the Comité de Surveillance, despite the opposition of some deputies who feared the committee would over-reach as they believed the Comité des Recherches had done.110 Though the committee maintained a small number of employees—only three secretaries for twelve deputies—it met in secret and maintained the necessity of secrecy to securing the integrity of denunciations.111 A year into the Legislative Assembly’s tenure, after the overthrow of the king in August 1792, the committee’s size and authority would be enhanced and it would serve as the foundation for the Comité de sûreté générale, the surveillance arm of the National Convention.112 During the Terror, the government extended its vigilance over the population using increasingly sophisticated methods. Unveiling, unmasking and ferretting out secrets became one of the main activities of the Comité de sûreté générale and its partner in this endeavour, the Committee of Public Safety. Upon receiving a report of an intercepted letter from Limoges containing the ‘secret correspondence of émigrées’, the Committee of Public Safety declared that a bureau would be immediately established to open suspect letters coming from countries occupied by governments with which the republic was at war.113 By the end of April 1793, the committee had abruptly overcome all the concerns deputies of the National Assembly had raised nearly four years prior with regard to the respect due to the secret de correspondance. The ‘secret de correspondance is a fatal method to lose the homeland’, the committee proclaimed. ‘No citizen in a danger so imminent can claim the privacy of his letters or of his correspondence, when the safety of the homeland demands the opening of communications.’114 Over the ensuing months, the committee, along with the Comité de sûreté générale, set up offices to systematically open and record the contents of intercepted mail. Charts were made to record the contents of mail coming from abroad and the analysts reporting to the Comité de Sûreté Générale would refer suspects to public prosecutor.115 Unlike processes earlier in the Revolution, surveillance was no longer being carried out from the ground up, it was exercised by the government.116 Yet procedural similarities remained. Both committees worked in secret and took precautions to keep documents from public exposure.117 The precedent for uncovering secrets from behind closed doors had been set in 1789 with the founding of the national Comité des Recherches and Parisian Comité de Recherche. Though there was debate at the time about the propriety of postal surveillance and of creating realms of government that worked in secret, the activity was defended by citing exceptional circumstances, temporary conditions and without conceding that publicity was being meaningfully limited. Disbanded under the Legislative Assembly, the research committees remained precursors of the type of surveillance activity that would begin again and be carried out behind closed doors under the National Convention. Examining the terms of the debate and the circumstances surrounding the creation and work of these early revolutionary committees suggests the malleability of revolutionary ideology and the uneasy relationship between the valorisation of publicité to the emergence of surveillance carried out in secret. The author wishes to thank David A. Bell for his guidance and comments through the writing process, as well as Philip Nord, Sophia Rosenfeld, and Linda Colley for their very helpful feedback. She would also like to thank her colleagues in the History Department at Princeton University, especially Nikhil Menon and attendees of the Modern Europe Workshop, for feedback on drafts of this work. Finally, she would like to thank Christopher Tozzi for a helpful comment on a very early iteration of what resulted in this article, presented at the Western Society for French History in 2015. She also wishes to thank the anonymous referees. Footnotes 1 J. P. Brissot de Warville, Le Patriote François: journal libre, impartial et national (Paris: Buisson, 6 May 1789), 1. B[ibliothèque] N[ationale] de F[rance] FRBNF32834106. 2 B. Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice in Paris, 1789–1790 (Cambridge, 1993), 12. 3 G. A. Kelly, ‘From lèse-majesté to lèse-nation: treason in eighteenth-century France’, Jl. Hist. Ideas, 42 (1981), 269–86. 4 C. Walton, Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution: The Culture of Calumny and the Problem of Free Speech (Oxford, 2009). 5 D. Andress, ‘Social prejudice and political fears in the policing of Paris, January–June 1791’, Fr. Hist., 9, (1995), 202–26; D. Andress, Massacre at the Champ de Mars: Popular Dissent and Political Culture in the French Revolution (Suffolk, 2000), 84; B. Shapiro, ‘Revolutionary justice in 1789–1790: “The Comité des Recherches, the Châtelet, and the Fayettist coalition”’, Fr. Hist. Stud., 17 (1992), 656–69. 6 Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice, xii. 7 T. Tackett, The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution (Cambridge, MA, 2015); M. Linton, Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution (Oxford, 2013). 8 P. Campbell, T. Kaiser and M. Linton, eds., Conspiracy in the French Revolution (Manchester, 2007). 9 F. Furet, Interpreting the French Revolution, trans. E. Forster (Cambridge, Paris, 1981), 54; L. Hunt, Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution (Berkeley, 1984), 43–4. 10 D. Goodman, ‘Public sphere and private life: toward a synthesis of current historiographical approaches to the Old Regime’, History and Theory, 31 (1992), 1–20. 11 S. Maslan, Revolutionary Acts: Theater, Democracy, and the French Revolution (Baltimore, 2005): C. Hesse, ‘La Preuve par la lettre: Pratiques juridiques au tribunal révolutionnaire de Paris (1793–1794)’, Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 3 (1996), 629–42, 639. 12 Maslan, Revolutionary Acts, 127–8; M. Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. A. Sheridan (New York, 1977). 13 Maslan, Revolutionary Acts, 169. 14 A[rchives] N[ationales] V/1/551, Prospectus included with a letter signed by the Abbé Ducros, addressed to the officials of the Librairie on 22 May 1789. 15 Brissot, Le Patriote François; Lettres du Comte de Mirabeau à ses commettans, pendant la tenue des Etats-Généreauc de 1789, et suivantes. BNF FRBNF32806045; Point du Jour, ou Résultat de ce qui s’est passé la veille à l’Assemblée Nationale. Firestone Library: 1509.178.728. On the Paris electors: G. Kates, The Cercle Social, the Girondins, and the French Revolution (Princeton, 1985), 23–4. 16 E.g.: Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII (Paris: Librairie administratif de Paul Dupont, 1862–), 55; Jean Silvain Bailly, Mémoires d’un témoin de la Révolution, ou Journal des faits qui se sont passés sous ses yeux et qui ont préparé et fixé la Constitution française, tome I (Paris, 1804), 225; Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 155; AN/C/31, doss. 260, undated letter signed by Joseph Ignace Guillotin. 17 A. Castaldo, Méthodes de Travail de la Constituante (Paris, 1989), 362; 298–9; 302. For text of the initial regulations passed on July 29, 1789: Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 300. On the resolution to translate decrees: D. Bell, The Cult of the Nation in France: Inventing Nationalism, 1600–1800 (Cambridge, MA, 2001), 173. 18 P. Friedland, Political Actors: Representative Bodies and Theatricality in the Age of the French Revolution (Ithaca, NY, 2002); Maslan, Revolutionary Acts; P. Brasart, Paroles de la Révolution: Les Assemblées parlementaires, 1789–1794 (Paris, 1988); J. C. Bonnet, ‘“ La sainte-masure”, sanctuaire de la parole fondatrice’, La Carmagnole des Muses: L’homme de lettres et l’artiste dans la Révolution, ed. A. Colin (Paris, 1988), 185–222; A. Goodden, ‘The dramatising of political theatricality and the Revolutionary assemblies’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 20 (1984), 193–212; P. Frantz, ‘Pas d’entracte pour la Révolution’, La Carmagnole des Muses, 381–99. 19 Maslan, Revolutionary Acts, 146; Friedland, Political Actors, 11; Kates, Cercle Social, 41. 20 G. Lefebvre, The Great Fear of 1789: Rural Panic in Revolutionary France, trans. J. White (New York, 1973); T. Tackett, ‘Conspiracy obsession in a time of Revolution: French Elites and the Origins of the Terror, 1789–1792’, American Historical Review, 105 (2000), 691–713; T. Tackett, ‘La Grande Peur et le complot aristocratique sous la Révolution française’, Annales historiques de la Révolution française, 325 (2004), 1–17. 21 P. Campbell, ‘Perceptions of conspiracy on the eve of the French Revolution’, Conspiracy in the French Revolution, 15–41; D. Andress, ‘Horrible plots and infernal treasons: conspiracy and the urban landscape of the early Revolution’, Conspiracy in the French Revolution, 85–105. 22 Campbell, ‘Perceptions of conspiracy’, 18, 32; Andress, ‘Horrible plots and infernal treasons’, 86–7; A. Farge Fragile Lives: Violence, Power and Solidarity in Eighteenth-Century Paris, trans. C. Shelton (Cambridge, MA, 1993); D. Garrioch, The Making of Revolutionary Paris (Berkeley, 2002), 120; S. Kaplan, Bread, Politics and Political Economy in the Reign of Louis XV (The Hague, 1976). 23 T. Tackett, Becoming a Revolutionary: The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture (Princeton, 1996), 207. 24 H. J. Lusebrink and R. Reichardt, The Bastille: A History of a Symbol of Despotism and Freedom (Durham, NC, 1997); Andress, ‘Horrible plots and infernal treasons’, 88. 25 Lefebvre, The Great Fear, 86. 26 Les Révolutions de Paris, no. 3 (Paris, 1789), 1. Firestone Library, 1509.178.998. 27 Lefebvre, The Great Fear, 61. 28 Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice, 47–9. 29 Les Révolutions de Paris, no. 1, 29. 30 C. Lucas, ‘The theory and practice of denunciation in the French Revolution,’ Jl. Mod. Hist., 68 (1996), 768–85. 31 Les Révolutions de Paris, no. 3, 3; Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 273. 32 Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 273. 33 Ibid., 274. 34 E. H. Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, 1789–1791, vol. I (Paris, 1991), 422–3; Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 274. 35 Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 274. 36 Ibid. 37 Ibid. 38 Ibid., 279. 39 Ibid. 40 Walton, Policing Public Opinion, 106, 116. 41 Ibid., 75. 42 Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 293. 43 Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. I, 317–18; Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 293. 44 Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice, 54. 45 E. Vaille, Le Cabinet Noir (Paris, 1950), 212–13. 46 Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 294. 47 Ibid., 295. 48 Ibid.; Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 2, 935–7. 49 Archives Parlementaires, Tome VIII, 295. 50 AN D/XXIXbis/*/1. 51 AN D/XXIXbis/34, doss. 358. This folder contains receipts and requests for payment in return for services. It is labeled: ‘Containing different receipts allocated in the accounting of S. Richard, secretary of the Comité des Recherches, and passed in the secret expenditures of the committee.’ 52 AN D/XXIXbis/33, doss. 339. 53 Walton, Policing Public Opinion, 127, 162. 54 J. Hardman, ‘The real and imagined conspiracies of Louis XVI’, Conspiracy in the French Revolution, 61–84, 64. 55 AN D/XXIXbis/33, doss. 339. 56 Archives Parlementaires, Tome IX, 215. 57 Ibid., 395–6. 58 Archives Parlementaires, Tome XI, 3–4. 59 ‘Décret concernant les Sieurs de Blignières & de Baraudin, 5 Décembre 1789, Séance du soir’. Décrets et Lois 1789–1795: Collection Baudouin, vol. 1, 183–4, https://collection-baudouin.univ-paris1.fr; ‘Décret qui blâme la Municipalité de Saint-Aubin d’avoir décacheté des paquets adressés à différens Ministres, du 10 Août 1790’. Décrets et Lois 1789–1795: Collection Baudouin, vol. 5, 58, https://collection-baudouin.univ-paris1.fr; ‘Décret sur la direction & administration générale des Postes & Messageries, du 26 Août 1790. Séance du soir.’ Décrets et Lois 1789–1795: Collection Baudouin, vol. 5, 273, https://collection-baudouin.univ-paris1.fr; ‘Décret concernant le secret & l’inviolabilité des Lettres, du 10 Juillet 1791.’ Décrets et Lois 1789–1795: Collection Baudouin, vol. 16, 143, https://collection-baudouin.univ-paris1.fr. 60 Vaille, Le Cabinet Noir, 217. 61 Tackett, The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution, 135. 62 Vaille, Le Cabinet Noir, 219. 63 Tackett, The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution, 130–131; Lucas, ‘Theory and practice of denunciation’, 776. 64 E.g.: ‘Lettre du Club des Capucins aux représentants de la Commune contre le District des Cordeliers, suivi d’un arrêté de ce district, rédigé par M de Chenier, Mardi 11 mai, 1790’, Les Cordeliers dans la Révolution française: Textes et documents, ed. J. De Cock (Lyon), 543. 65 ‘Extrait du Registre des délibérations du District des Cordeliers, du mercredi 9 juin, 1790’, Ibid, 562, 567. 66 Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice, 16. 67 Lucas, ‘The theory and practice of denunciation’, 771. 68 Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice, 15, 25. 69 AN D/XXIXbis/34, doss. 357, doc.1; Andress, Massacre at the Champ de Mars, 76–7. 70 Andress, Massacre at the Champ de Mars, 63–4. 71 Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice, 15, 17. 72 ‘Lettre de M. Le comte de Saint-Priest, à M le président du comite des recherches a l’assemblée nationale’ (Paris, s.d.). BNF no. MFICHE- 4LB39-2440. Saint-Priest was reported to have said: ‘When you have a king, you will have bread; today, you have 1,200, go ask them for it.’ 73 Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 1, 220–2. 74 Stanislas Marie Adelaide, comte de Clermont-Tonnerre, Observations du Comte de Lally-Tolendal sur la lettre ecrite par M le Comte de Mirabeau au Comite des recherches, contre M le Comte de Saint-Priest, ministre d’Etat (Paris, 1789), 27. BNF no. MFICHE 8-LB39-2581. 75 Lucas, ‘The theory and practice of denunciation’, 770. 76 Clermont-Tonnerre, Observations du Comte de Lally-Tolendal, 45. 77 Archives Parlementaires, Tome X, 168. 78 Ibid.; Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 1, 306; Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 2, 628. 79 Archives Parlementaires, Tome X, 169. 80 Archives Parlementaires, Tome XII, 161; Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 1, 329. 81 Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice, 222, 80. 82 Walton, Policing Public Opinion, 121. 83 Archives Parlementaires, Tome XII, 161; Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 2, 562. 84 Marie-François-Denis Thomas, Chevalier de Pange, Réflexions sur la délation et sur le comite des recherches, par M. le chevalier de Pange (Paris, 1790), 16. BNF no. MFICHE 8-LB39-2850. 85 On ubiquity: Farge, Fragile Lives, 11–13; On changing roles: Garrioch, The Making of Revolutionary Paris, 132–3; A. Farge and J. Ravel, The Vanishing Children of Paris: Rumor and Politics before the French Revolution, trans. C. Miéville (Cambridge, MA, 1991). 86 Farge, Fragile Lives, 13. 87 Lettre à M de la Harpe, sur le comité de Recherches, 27 aout 1790 (Paris, 1790), 7. B[ibliothèque] H[istorique] de la V[ille] de P[aris] : 965579. 88 See also: Andress, ‘Social prejudice and political fears in the policing of Paris’, 216. 89 Lettre à M de la Harpe, 13. 90 Jacques Pierre Brissot de Warville, Lettre à M. Chevalier de de Pange, sur sa brochure intitule: Réflexions sur la délation et sur le Comite des recherches, par J.P. Brissot de Warville au Bureau du Patriote François (Paris 1790), 2. BNF MFICHE LB39-3200. 91 Jacques Pierre Brissot de Warville, J. P. Brissot, membre du comité de recherches de la municipalité, à Stanislas Clermont, membre de l’assemblée nationale, sur la diatribe de ce dernier contre les Comités de recherches (Paris, 28 August 1790), 43. BHVP: 961466. 92 Brissot, Lettre à M. Chevalier de de Pange, 28. 93 See for example: Maximilien Robespierre, ‘Lettres à ses commettants: Exposé des principes et but de cette publication’, Oeuvres, Tome V, ed. M. Bouloiseau, G. Lefebvre and A. Soboul (Paris, 1910–1967), 15. Yet he also called a proposal to make committees meet publicly dangerous and unnecessary in the summer of 1793: ‘Le Journal des Débats et correspondance’, Société des Jacobins, no. 435, Oeuvres, Tome IX: Discours, 572. 94 Brissot, J. P. Brissot, membre du comité de recherches, 9. 95 Ibid., 10. 96 Archives Parlementaires, Tome LXI, 128. 97 Archives Parlementaires, Tome LXVIII, 513. 98 Brissot, Lettre à M. Chevalier de de Pange, 28. 99 Lettre de Monsieur D***, a Monsieur C***, avocat au Parlement (Paris, n.d.), 10. BHVP: 956729. 100 Archives Parlementaires, Tome XVI, 231. 101 Archives Parlementaires, Tome XVIII, 234; Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 2, 645–8. 102 Ibid., 237. 103 D. Edelstein, ‘Do we want a Revolution without Revolution? Reflections on political authority’, Fr. Hist. Stud., 15 (2012). 104 Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, vol. 2, 618–19. 105 Le Comité des recherches demasqué par M le vicomte de Macaye, l’un des membres de ce comité (Paris, 1791), 1. BHVP: 8-BRO-601902. 106 Le Comité des recherches demasqué, 4. 107 AN D/XXIXbis/33, doss. 339. 108 Archives Parlementaires, Tome XXII, 545. 109 Archives Parlementaires, Tome XXVII, 381. 110 M. Eude, ‘Le Comité de Surveillance de l’Assemblée Législative (1791–1792)’, Annales Historiques de la Révolution française, 36 (1964), 129–48, 133–34. 111 Ibid., 137, 141. 112 Ibid., 143, 148. 113 AN AF/II*/45, Procès Verbal, 16 Apr. 1793. 114 AN AF/II*/45, Procès Verbal, 28 Apr. 1793. 115 Hesse, ‘La Preuve par la lettre’, 638; AN AF/II/53; AN AF/II/54. 116 Maslan, Revolutionary Acts, 169–170; Lucas, ‘The theory and practice of denunciation’, 783. 117 Archives Parlementaires, Tome LXI, 373; AN AF/II*/45, ‘Procés verbal, 7 avril 1793’; AN AF/II*/284. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of French History. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com

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French HistoryOxford University Press

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