Spies in France, 1793-1808

Maurice Hutt offers a study of the secret operations conducted from Jersey by which the British Government kept in touch with the royalist Chouans and spied on French designs.

Many patriotes suffered, in the French Revolution, from “spy-fever.”1 Counter-revolutionaries, paid by Pitt, sent from Coblentz, were supposed to be everywhere, smelling out where the Republic was weakest and might therefore be attacked, or plotting the overthrow of the government of the day by corruption or assassination.

“Agents de l'étranger,” “perfides manoeuvres de Cobourg,” “conspiration de l'étranger”—this was why patriotes had to be continually vigilant, and why Arthur Young’s unfortunate escort to the springs near Clermont was arrested by the National Guard and reprimanded for having consented to act as a guide to a foreigner.

Of course, these fears were exaggerated; but they were not baseless. Plots did exist—plots to assassinate Robespierre, to kidnap Bonaparte or blow him up, plots involving corrupted Republican generals like Pichegru and, in all probability, Moreau; grandiose plans for concerted risings all over France which, coincident with invasion by the forces of the coalition, would restore the Bourbons to their throne.

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