French like to make themselves out as the home of liberty, fraternity and egality.
Alas, a short delve into their history indicates more totalitarianism, fratricide and genocide.
Let’s start with the Huguenots. At the wedding of the Huguenot King Henri Navarre (later Henri IV) with the sister of the French king Margaret Valois, the Huguenots were lured into Paris in August 1572. There the queen mother Catherine de Medici set the mob on them after the royal wedding. Several thousands murdered in the streets and drowned in the Seine within days. Twenty thousand protestants murdered in Paris, another fifty thousand in the rest of France within the next two months. Nice way to celebrate a marriage.
Subsequently the Protestantism were outlawed by King Louis XIII in the Edict of Fontaineblue in 1685. Persecution carried on until 1787, by which time there were only 200,000 from an original peak of 2 million Huguenots left in France. In fairness, they weren’t all murdered or forced to convert to Catholicism. Many Huguenots managed to escape into exile.
With hardly a chance to catch their breath, the Parisans organised the French Revolution which resulted in up to 40,000 deaths by guillotine alone. The number of innocents to perish in that number is likely in the range of 90%.
But they weren’t done yet. After the Revolution, the seaboard province of Vendée refused to give up Catholicism and to participate in conscription rose against the Revolution in 1793. (Ironically enough the cities of the Vendée like la Rochelle were Huguenot free cities and strongholds before the Huguenots were all starved and murdered in La Rochelle, a city of 27,000 reduced to 5,000 in 1627 by Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII.)
In the Vendée, the Republican French decided to raze the place. At Nantes, mass drownings took 4000 lives in 1793. Another 200,000 of a population of 800,000 were to die at the hands of the Republicans. General Westermann reported to the National Convention in 1794:
There is no more Vendée, my republican fellow citizens! It died beneath our sabers along with its women and children. I have just buried them in the swamps and woods of Savenay. According to your orders, the children were trampled to death beneath the hoofs of our horses; their women were slaughtered so that they couldn’t bring any more soldiers into the world. The streets are full of corpses; in many places they form entire pyramids. In Savenay we had to make use of massive firing squads because their troops are still surrendering. We take no prisoners. One has to give them the bread of freedom; however, mercy has nothing to do with the spirit of the revolution.
Curiously, the Israelis argue that the measures they are taking against the Palestinians are no different from the French did to one another and the British and Americans and Spanish to the Native Indians.
If the Israelis had gotten back to Jerusalem a hundred years earlier, they would have had a point. But apparently, Israel was created in response to save people from genocide not to advance its cause.
Surely we can do better now. Apartheid in South Africa was dissolved with a minimum of bloodshed.
The Romans were constantly murdering one another’s armies and razing the southern cities of Italy.
Civilisation seems to be another word for mass bloodshed.
It is a blessing to live in decades of relative peace, within secure countries and set borders. We should appreciate it more. It isn’t often this way. Bloody wars, civil and external, appear to make up about half of human history.