Report by the Jacobin Society of Besançon on Refractory Priests


Report by the Jacobin Society of Besançon on Refractory Priests


A Jacobin club in Besançon in the Franche–Comté on the eastern borders of France sent this report to the Jacobin Club of Paris on 8 January 1792. The club sees the continuing presence of those who did not take the clerical oath to the new regime ["nonjurors"] as a destabilizing factor and is concerned that their agitation will turn to open resistance. This worry would become more and more widespread in 1793, particularly in the west, but the roots of the problem can be seen here.


P. Robinet, Le Mouvement religieux à Paris pendant la Révolution, vol. 2 (Paris: 1896–1898), 141–43. Translated by Exploring the French Revolution project staff from original documents in French found in J.M. Roberts, French Revolution Documents, vol. 1 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1966), 387–88.


January 8, 1792





The nonjuring priests have sown division within almost all of the cantons of our department. Armed with the flame they took from the altar, they want to scorch the earth. The fatherly house is no longer the school of virtues. The father has taken up arms against the son, and respect and filial piety have disappeared. The mother is fleeing the temples . . . friendship seems to have abandoned the earth, which, in turn, wants to devour its inhabitants. Such are the problems that the priests have created. They penetrate every house, upset people's consciences, and seduce the weak. A few months ago, the bishop representing the eastern cities sent an administrator to be the parish priest of Grand-Sancey, in the district of Beaune [in Burgundy], where the local priest had not taken the oath. The administrator went to his post and then visited the county's public prosecutor to take the necessary steps in order to proceed with his installation. But the priest he was to replace soon learned about it. . . . All of a sudden, a deafening noise echoed throughout the parish that the inhabitants were going to lose their priest, and that he was to be replaced by a heretic. At the same moment, men, women, old folks, all hurried to the home of the public prosecutor and haughtily demanded, "Where is this heretical priest who comes to chase away our priest?" The administrator, named Vernier, tried in vain to escape. He was grabbed by the frenzied crowd and dragged from his house. They took him to the river to push him in. By some sort of miracle, he managed to escape, but not until he had endured a rain of insults and had to make a million promises.

In Besançon itself, where they [refractory priests] are watched, they say that "a new Saint Bartholomew's day massacre is needed to bring back the old religion and reestablish peace in the city.". . .

Fanaticism has spread throughout the department. Everywhere, the nonjurers have organized. . . .

In the region of Pontarlier, made up of over seventy small towns, there are not ten constitutional priests. And, for lack of substitutes, the rest have not been replaced. Twelve nonjuring priests remain in Montliver, a large town in the same region, and keep themselves busy by tormenting those who had the courage to take charge of the parish . . . [other examples follow.]

And Louis XVI grants the protection of his veto to these brigands!


“Report by the Jacobin Society of Besançon on Refractory Priests,” LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY: EXPLORING THE FRENCH REVOUTION, accessed July 17, 2024,