Vengeur du Peuple/Avenger of the People

Vessel Type
Naval » Warship
Ship Dates
Date built: 1762
End date: 1794
Vessel Description

Vengeur du Peuple ("Avenger of the People") was a 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy. Funded by a don des vaisseaux donation from the chamber of commerce of Marseille, she was launched in 1762 as Marseillois.[Note 1]

She took part in the naval operations in the American Revolutionary War in Admiral d'Estaing's squadron, duelling Preston in a single-ship action on 11 August 1778, taking part in the Battle of the Chesapeake where she duelled HMS Intrepid, and supporting the flagship Ville de Paris at the Battle of the Saintes. She also took part in the Battle of Saint Kitts.

After the French Revolution, she was renamed Vengeur du Peuple[Note 2] and took part in the Glorious First of June. There, she was disabled after a furious duel with HMS Brunswick and surrendered after losing hope of being rescued by a French ship. After a few hours, as British ships were beginning rescue operations, she listed and foundered, taking almost half her crew with her.

The sinking of Vengeur du Peuple was used as propaganda by the National Convention and Bertrand Barère, who gave birth to the legend that the crew had gone down with the ship fighting, rather than surrender. The Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle repeated the tale in his The French Revolution: A History, yielding a rebuttal by Rear-Admiral John Griffiths, who had witnessed the events. Although discredited in naval history circles, the legend lived on as a folk tale, inspiring numerous representations and a fictional account by Jules Verne in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.
Related Artifact
Model (1995.0004.0001)