When the French Revolution arrived, the best plots of vineyard, which until then had been the property of the clergy, were put up for sale as national assets and became accessible to all vignerons.
The Maligny Sedition
The Revolution came to Maligny with an event which, though it did not involve bloodshed, nonetheless came very close. It grew out of the discontent among the largest and poorest part of the population.
To understand how the events came about, it is important to consider how local society was structured at that time. The populace comprised: 1° functionaries, magistrates and lawyers, tradesmen; 2° peasants, in two categories: farmers and ploughmen, working fields planted mainly with cereal crops, and who owned livestock, carts, stables, barns, and so forth, who together made up the notables; then came the vignerons and the ordinary labourers, owning no more than a few ares of vines, whose yields varied from year to year but were invariably very modest, along with one or two rooms to live in with perhaps a small cellar, and occasionally a stable for the donkey. These people worked the vines of the larger landowners. They were the poorest class in local society, and the most embittered by heavy taxes and the spectacle of lordly extravagance. It was these unfortunate folk who revolted. At the first cry of "liberté!", they were endowed with a belief that the time had come forthem to break the bonds of serfdom.
In 1789, rumours of the rising in the French capital quickly spread across the country, and just after mass on Sunday 13th September, around sixty revolutionary firebrands gathered at Les Halles to put their claims to the syndic, a local elected official somewhere between a mayor and a town clerk. Led by brothers Nicolas and Simon Tremblay, followed by a number of assistants, almost five hundred people marched on the castle, and invaded it by force arms.
They beat the Régisseur or estate manager, Isaac-Michel Rabé, and the threatened to run him through with a sword. One the ringleaders of the revolt, Chevillot, seized the Régisseur by the throat and told him: "You shall know my name is Ravillac!". With these words, he struck him a blow on the chest with his rusty sabre, leaving him with a severe bruise. Then, pushing him violently away, he tore off his shirt and rent it into strips. The rebels demanded to be given their debts and various seigneurial documents, along with a barrel of wine, which was drunk there and then. Rabé was forced to drink with them.
Before nightfall, the rebels had achieved their principal aim, which was to expunge their debts to the lord. But then, drunk on wine and intoxicated by their easy victory, they began indulging in the kind of excesses, personal vengeances and settling of old scores that often follow in the wake of popular risings.
For three days, they remained mesters of the castle and of Maligny, pillaging and drinking. They burned the castle's archives and other papers.
Inebriated bands roamed the local area all night long, shouting, breaking into the homes of the notables and manorial officials, burning debt records, demanding drink, and so on. During the day, the rebels took ropes to their creditors' homes, brandishing them as lethal weapons and shouting: "Give me back my debt, or here's what you'll get!" (criminals faced hanging in those days). many a substancial debt was expunged in this way. One was for some 7000 Francs in a single day, an extraordinary amount for the time. At night, they rampaged through the streets with lit candles at the ends of their muskets. On the Tuesday, market day, they taxed grain and inspected bushels.