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OF 1871 



, 1896 

\ . , . > Digitized by Google 

BuTLSR & Tanner, 

Thb Sblwood Printing Works, 

Frome, and London. 



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'' '^AicA^ Titrcs is du/u^eet 

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List of Authorities .... 


Sunday, September 4th, 1870 . 
September 5th to i8th, 1870 . 

„ 19th to 31st October, 1870 

November ist to December 31st, 1870 
January ist to middle of February, 187 1 
From the middle of February to March 17th 


The 1 8th March, 1871 . 

Paris under the Comit^ Central, March 

to 27th, 187 1 . 
The Communal Elections — Results 

Paris under the Commune . 

The Eight Days of May:— 

First day, Sunday, May 21st, 1871 

Second „ 
Third „ 
Fourth „ 
Fifth „ 
Sixth „ 
Seventh „ 
Eighth „ 

Conclusion . 

Index . 








22nd, ,. 

23rd, „ 

24th, ,. 

2Sth, „ 

26th, „ 

27th, „ 

28th, „ 













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WHICH THE Author hereby acknowledges his In- 
debtedness—made USE of in the Compilation of 
THIS Work. 

Actes du Gouvernement de la Defense Nationale. J tomes. 

Le 1 8 Mars. Rapport fait a TAssembl^e Nationale, au nom de 
la Commission d'Enquete, par Martial Delpit. 

Macmahon, L'Arm6e de Versailles ; rapport officiel par le 
Mar^chal de Mac-Mahon. 

Rapport d'ensemble de M. le General Appert, sur les operations 
de la Justice militaire, present^ i TAssembl^e Nationale. 

Gazette des Tribunaux, for proceedings of the Conseils de 

Lefranqais. Etude sur le mouvement communaliste, par G. 

Du Camp, Les Convulsions de Paris, 4 tomes (tomes i, 3, et 
4, Edition 1889; tome 2, Edition 1878), par Maxime du 

Dalsime. Histoire des Conspirations sous la Commune, par 
A.-J. Dalsime. 

De la Brugire. Histoire de la Commune, par de la Brugere. 

La VMti sur la Commune, par un ancien proscrit. 

Daudet, L'Agonie de la Commune, par Ernest Daudet 

UEsboeufs, Le Coin du Voile, par V. D'Esbceufs. 

Rousse. Discours prononc6 par M. Rousse k I'ouverture de la 
Conference des avocats. 

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viii List of the Principal Authorities 

DelpiU Huit jours d'Histoire, par Albert Delpit. 

Fomi. Raoul Rigault, ^tude par Jules Forni. 

FaUlet Biographic de Varlin, par E. Faillet 

Mottu. Les Ddsastres de Paris, par John Mottu. 

Barges, Notre Dame des Victoires pendant la Commune, par 
J. J. L. Bargis. 

Un officier. Guerre des Communaux de Paris, par un officier 
sup^rieur de Tarm^e de Versailles. . 

Journal OfficieL Les 31 Stances officielles de la Commune de 
Paris (reproduced from the Official Journal of the Com- 

Laronsse, Articles in Larousse's Encyclopaedia on the Com- 
mune, Venddme Column, and numerous individuals. 

Etc., etc. 

References are made to the above under the U'ord or words italicised. 

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SELDOM is it that a popular movement of historical im- 
portance should take its rise, mature, and end within the 
brief space of a year, yet such a rarity is presented by the 
Paris Commune of 1871. The incidents of this movement, 
compact almost beyond precedent, are of thrilling interest, and 
rank among the most remarkable events of modem times. 
Notwithstanding the twenty-four years which have elapsed 
since 1871, the reminiscence of the Paris Commune is still 
an active influence in French affairs. To the Governments of 
every civilized country that Commune is an object-lesson 
which cannot, or at least should not, be lost sight of, for the 
human passions and aspirations which found expression then 
are still in existence, and may again, under different guises, 
make manifest their depth and power. 

To understand all the currents of thought which helped to 
sweep the Commune into being, some knowledge of the reign 
of the Emperor Napoleon III. is necessary, and therefore the 
rule of that monarch must first be briefly adverted to. It was 
on the loth December, 1848, that Louis Napoleon Buonaparte, 
nephew of the great Napoleon, was chosen President of France, 
under a republican form of government. Three years later, 
after prolonged friction between himself and the National 
Assembly, he forcibly dissolved the latter, and maintained the 
irr^^lar position thus created until it was confirmed by the 
French people, to whom he appealed by means of a plebiscite. 
A year later — December 2nd, 1852 — Buonaparte restored the 

» B 

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2 History of the Paris Commune of i%Ti 

imperial form of government, styling himself Napoleon HI- 
This act, also, was subsequently sanctioned by the nation. 

The Emperor ruled with firmness and tact, and dazzled the 
sentimental turn of the French intellect by the elaborate 
splendour of his court. He engaged in various wars with more 
or less success, and by this and other means consolidated and 
established his government The development of socialistic 
and democratic ideas was restrained with a strong hand, though 
this feature of his regime did not prevent the Emperor doing 
what, to his mind, constituted liberal things for the working 
classes, to whom, therefore, little indulgences accrued from time 
to time. One instance of this politic trait occurred in 1862, 
when, by the aid of a subvention from the Imperial Govern- 
ment and the town of Paris, certain French workmen were 
sent to visit the great exhibition which was being held that 
year in London, in order to study the products and methods 
of English industry. Truly a benevolent and, one would think, 
harmless mission ; nevertheless, the intercourse of the French 
and English artisans gave rise to a project for founding an 
International Association of Workers for the furtherance of the 
workmen's interests in their respective countries, and such an 
outcome of the Emperor's liberality was totally unexpected and 
undesired by him. The idea took root slowly ; it was not put 
into concrete shape until two years afterwards, when the nucleus 
of the Association was formed. The Imperial Government of 
France tolerated no political associations, and therefore the 
newly born body was of necessity non-political, and it appa- 
rently was also voluntarily so, for it refused to permit any pro- 
minent politician to preside over its infancy and patronize its 
members. Its headquarters were at London, and branches were 
in Paris, Berlin, and other continental cities. One of the French 
workmen who were concerned in forming it was a book-binder, 
named Varlin,who, though only twenty-four years old,had already 
gained some renown by the earnestness and enthusiasm he 
had shown in promoting the welfare of the Parisian workmen. 
Varlin was employed by his uncle, and one day the latter 
suggested to him that he should marry one of his nieces, in 
which cas^ the book-binding business would be settled upon 
him. But, no ; Varlin would never enrich inniself by the labour 

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Introductory 3 

of working men, neither would he marry, for his family — the 
oppressed !— was ready to hand.^ 

The International Association speedily increased in numbers 
and influence. It was joined after some time by another inter- 
national body — of freethinkers, from the junction with which 
dates a deviation from its non-political character. Freethinkers 
(so called) are averse to priests and religions, and it is impossible 
to exclude politics from an atheistical propaganda. The new- 
comers, as well, perhaps, as a portion of the original body, 
considered that the miseries and injustices under which the 
working classes suffer could be radically alleviated or removed 
only by a violent revolution ; and it was in accordance with this 
impression that, at a congress held at Geneva in 1866, under 
the auspices of the International Association, certain French- 
men were invited to attend it because of the revolutionary 
speeches they had made a short while before at Liege. Among 
these were two persons named Tridon and Protot. Notwith- 
standing this, the revolutionary elements were in a minority at 
the congress. 

The International Association had by then ramifications all 

over Paris and France. There were hundreds of various trades' 

or co-operative societies affiliated to it, all of which received a 

general inspiration and support from the central office. Early 

in 1867 there came an opportunity to test its strength. Several 

large employers of bronze-workers in Paris became alarmed at 

the numbers of their workpeople that belonged to the trade 

unions, and gave them the option of ceasing so to do or of 

relinquishing work at their factories. The workmen at once 

chose the latter alternative and were joined by the non-unionists, 

so that a general strike ensued. The International Association 

supported the action of the strikers, sent to England for 

assistance — and obtained it; which two facts bore such fruit 

that the Paris employers receded from the position they had 

taken up, and the workmen returned to their labours triumphant. 

The International Association benefited largely by the prestige 

which this affair gave it. 

In the same year the Association held its annual congress at 


* Faillet, p. 12. 

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4 History of the Paris Commune of \^t\ 

Lausanne. Whilst it did so, another congress, composed 
entirely of French republican politicians — headed by M. Jules 
Favre, the leader of the Opposition party in the Legislative 
Assembly — met at Geneva under the title of the League of 
Peace and Liberty, and made overtures to the democratic 
International — overtures which the latter reciprocated, but, in 
its own mind, attached too much importance to. A few months 
afterwards the Parisian Internationalists indulged in a novel 
enterprise ; to wit, an open-air political demonstration. After 
the interchange of compliments which had occurred in Switzer- 
land, the Internationalists not unnaturally expected the personal 
support of M. Jules Favre at their demonstration ; but this 
gentleman did not appear, and, in consequence, was written to 
and expostulated with. M. Favre, however, esteemed himself 
too considerable a personage to be connected intimately with 
workmen or with a manifestation that was sure to come under 
the aegis of Napoleonic law ; he curtly replied that there was 
no alliance betwixt them. The demonstration had more 
tangible result in attracting the attention of the police, as a 
result of which the executive commission of the International 
was by legal process dissolved, and its leaders fined lOO francs 

Undeterred, but rather confirmed and emboldened by this, 
the Internationalist chiefs formed a second executive, which 
issued a document advocating more advanced and com- 
munistical ideas than the Association had hitherto ventured to 
proclaim. A second process of law ensued, and this time the 
leaders were imprisoned. None the less, the International 
Association increased both in power and in the general adoption 
of extreme views. By the time of the next congress — held at 
Brussels in 1868 — these advanced opinions had so gained 
ground, that now it was the moderate party which constituted 
the lesser number. In this congress the revolutionary element 
abounded, and included among its representatives various 
newspaper writers, of whom the most prominent was one 
Blanqui, an elderly man of brilliant capacities but of rebellious 
and pusillanimous spirit, which on numberless occasions had 
procured for him imprisonments and condemnations. 

The principal measures advocated in these congresses were 

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Introductory 5 

as follow : denial of the right of a private individual to possess 
property ; abrogation of inheritance ; separation of Church from 
State, and confiscation of ecclesiastical properties ; equality of 
the sexes ; equality of men ; combination of the workmen of all 
countries against the employers, the necessary corollary of this 
being the abandonment of the principles of nationality and 
patriotism ; prohibition of religious teaching to children ; the 
establishment of communes which should be in fact what they 
were in name, places where all things should be possessed in 
common, where there should be neither privilege nor oppres- 
sion, poverty nor wealth, idleness nor overwork, and where in- 
justice should be swallowed up ip a new system of social order: 
such was the vast ideal which the members of the congresses 
set before them and laboured to accomplish. The practical diffi- 
culties in the way were ignored or unthought of; the wrongs 
that would necessarily follow the realization of their rights were 
also unperceived or contemptuously scouted. 

The men who held these opinions were not isolated enthusi- 
asts. They represented a very considerable public, composed 
chiefly of the working classes in Paris and other large towns of 
France, but including various persons of social position, and 
journalists of advanced views. This public had for generations 
been without any deep religious feeling ; it had now, for the 
most part, none. It was free to accept principles and believe 
theories which not any religion of civilization would approve ; 
with which intellectual liberty, however, there unfortunately was 
coupled, as frequently happens, a narrowness of mind which 
excluded the perception that the dogmas seized on with such 
avidity were in many cases only half true, and even when 
wholly true, that they were not to be selfishly appropriated by 
any particular class of society, but applied with equal force to 
the entire community. It was this particular portion of the 
French nation that once more was becoming inflated with the 
ideal beauty of universal suflrage ; it was talked and written to 
concerning the latent power it possessed ; the socialistic writings 
of Proudhon were elaborated in clubs, assemblies, and journals ; 
whilst the irksome discipline incurred under the firm and some- 
what arbitrary rule which swayed over France was held up to 
odium, and regarded only as the outcome of an antiquated and 

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6 History of the Paris Commune of \%T\ 

despotic form of government All these things sunk deeply into 
the mind of the urban artisans and labourers ; the inculcations 
were laid to heart, strengthened, at Paris, by the brilliancy of 
the Imperial Court, which contrasted so markedly with their own 
abject condition. To these people, and to their leaders, the end 
justified the means : the end was said to be universal happiness 
and justice ; the means were to be any and every — it was not a 
matter of solicitude. 

To agitators and revolutionists opportunity is of the first 
importance, and it was only for a fitting occasion that the 
French Socialists waited and longed. They were mentally pre- 
pared for any event that might occur by which their propaganda 
might be realized. It was in siich expectant frame of mind that 
a naturalized American of French birth, named Cluseret, wrote 
from New York to Varlin in Paris early in 1870 : " That day we 
must be ready physically and morally. It shall be, that day, 
us or nothing. I say again, that day Paris will be ours, or Paris 
will no longer exist" 

Cluseret and Varlin had become acquainted with each other 
in the prison of Ste. Pelagic about two years previously, both 
of them having been imprisoned for political offences. Such 
imprisonments were very frequent during the years 1868, 1869, 
and the first half of 1870. The offences generally consisted of 
newspaper articles which attacked the Empire, seditious speeches 
at public meetings, manifestations against the existing authori- 
ties, and occasionally an open revolt It thus happened that 
most of the Internationalist chiefs and socialistic and revolution- 
ary writers in the Parisian press found themselves at one time or 
another in prison, often more than once. The natural result of 
such political intolerance was further to embitter the minds of 
the prisoners and their adherents against the Emperor and all the 
bureaucracy and officialism which he represented, and to confirm 
in their opinion the necessity for a new and better society. 

The docility with which for many years the Emperor's rule 
had been endured by the working classes in the large towns of 
France had now completely vanished, and opposition thereto was 
freely manifested. During the general elections which were held 
in 1869, this feeling was expressed with remarkable bitterness, 
and in January of the following year an incident occurred which. 

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Introductory 7 

for a time, threatened to inaugurate a revolution. The Emperor's 
cousin, Prince Pierre Buonaparte, had engaged in a newspaper 
conflict with a socialistic journalist named Paschal Grousset. 
Words not being weighed, personal offence was speedily perceived 
in the Prince's writings, and Grousset, with his friend and coad- 
jutor Rochefort (a marquis, but none the less a man of revolu- 
tionary ideas), decided upon bringing the Buonaparte to a duel 
Grousset sent to him two gentlemen, one of whom was named 
Victor Noir, to demand satisfaction. In the interview which 
took place between these three persons at the Paris house of the 
Prince, the latter angrily demanded if his visitors approved of 
what Grousset had written, and then, losing all self-control, drew 
forth a revolver and shot Victor Noir, who rushed out and fell 
dead in the street When this became known in the city, an 
indescribable fury took possession of the people ; they seethed 
with indignation and rage, which the arrest of the Prince failed 
to reduce, and, but for the overwhelming armed force maintained 
in the capital, an open outbreak would have ensued. The fer- 
ment lasted for weeks, and the Empire and all connected with it 
were denounced in unmeasured terms by socialistic writers and 
speakers. A special court was constituted to try Prince Pierre ; 
it acquitted him of the criminal charge, and merely fined him 
;^i,ooo as civil compensation to Noir's family. So flagrant a 
miscarriage of justice overwhelmed the Parisians with amaze- 
ment, and many of them gave free vent to their feelings of dis- 
gust, regardless of consequences. Among those who did so was 
Rochefort, whose outspoken words in his journal, La Marseil- 
laise^ speedily procured for him incarceration in Ste. P^lagie, 
notwithstanding that he was a member of the Chamber of 
Deputies, or Corps Legistatif. Paschal Grousset shortly after- 
wards shared the same fate. Gustave Flourens, another of 
Rochefort's friends and collaborators, only escaped imprisonment 
by fleeing to Belgium. Many other arrests were made in con- 
nection with the affair, by means of which further manifestation 
of disapprobation was stifled ; but it is indisputable that the 
failure to administer justice to the murderer of Victor Noir 
sensibly weakened throughout France, and more especially in its 
capital, the Imperial regime. 
Shortly after this, several prominent Socialists plotted to 

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8 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

overthrow the Imperialist dynasty by force, explosives being the 
medium of which choice was made. The police obtained 
knowledge of the plot, and at once arrested the ringleaders. 
Among them was the afore- mentioned Protot, a young 
barrister ; also Ferr6, a law student ; Cournet, a journalist ; 
Dereure, a shoemaker ; Tony Moilin, a doctor ; and one Mdgy. 
The arrest of the first-named was highly resented by the 
Parisian Bar, and it protested so energetically that Protot was 
released, and was thus able to act as counsel for the defence of 
Mdgy, when, in July, 1870, the trial came on before the High 
Court of Blois. This M^gy had gained additional notoriety 
from the fact of having killed the officer who was sent to arrest 
him, on the ground that the arrest was attempted to be made 
at an untimely hour, in contravention of the law. His very 
questionable action was warmly supported by the socialistic 
organs in Paris, notably by La Reveil^ a paper directed by 
Delescluze, who, like Blanqui, had spent his life in agitating for 
reforms. The prisoners in the " Complot of Bombs," as it was 
called, were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, of 
which the longest, M^y's, was for fifteen years. 

Notwithstanding the frequency of the arrests of journalists, 
the suppression of newspapers, the existence of various prohibi- 
tions which limited the right of public expression of opinion, 
and the gross miscarriage of justice in the Victor Noir case, 
the Empire held a very strong position in France, which all 
the efforts of writers and orators seemed powerless seriously 
to undermine. The Emperor was not blind to the political 
currents of the age, and he caused the existing constitution to 
be amended in order that the people might be more actively 
and evidently represented in the work of legislation. His 
policy was submitted to a plebiscite in May, 1870, with the 
result that seven and a half millions of votes were recorded in 
its favour, and only one and a half millions against it ; a note- 
worthy fact being that the adherents to the Emperor's policy 
were found chiefly in the rural districts, whilst its opponents 
predominated in the large towns. 

After the record of the plebiscite was known, affairs, both 
domestic and foreign, in France gradually sunk to the lowest 
ebb of depression, and for some weeks there was not the 

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Introductory 9 

slightest ruffle upon the surface of events to indicate or presage 
important occurrences. The sinister murraurings of trouble 
with Prussia, which during four years had kept Frenchmen 
alert, had at last died away ; the internal symptoms of disorder 
had lost their outward activity and by most people were 
forgotten : France was at peace with itself and with the world. 

Such homely concord could not long exist in the midst of 
an excitable and proud people. In the early days of July, a 
German Prince was offered and accepted the vacant throne of 
Spain. France fancied by this that she would be placed 
between two enemies, and that her position would be imperilled. 
The Emperor objected to the arrangement, and desired the 
King of Prussia to persuade the young Prince to forego the 
proffered honour. The King, however, would not do this, but 
left the Prince to decide for himself; that decision was in 
accordance with the French desires. Not content with the 
renunciation thus obtained, France demanded of Prussia a 
guarantee for the future. This the King of Prussia refused to 
give, and sent his intimation to that effect to the French am- 
bassador by an aide-de-camp, whereas the ambassador had 
expected to receive the reply personally from the King. The 
latter also sent word that he had no further need to receive the 
ambassador in connection with this subject. These messages, 
unpleasant though they were in substance, were courteously sent 
to and accepted by the ambassador ; no affront was given or 

Far otherwise was it with the French nation, which gained its 
knowledge of the incident from unofficial and imaginative news- 
papers, whose accounts represented that the King of Prussia 
had offensively declined to receive the ambassador of France. 
The honour and dignity of the French people were wounded ; 
Paris went mad with indignation at the alleged insult, and 
clamoured for war; the provinces followed its lead, and re- 
echoed the cry. It might have been the over-exacting demands 
of the Emperor which precipitated this crisis, but it was all 
France — Republican as well as Imperial — that took it up. 

War was declared, and before long hundreds of thousands of 

' Actes^ tome i. p. 14 ; tome v. p. 47. 

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lo History of the Paris Commune of i^ji 

soldiers were on their way to the German frontier, determined 
to cross it and chastise their insolent neighbour. The Emperor 
headed his army in person, and chief commands were given to 
two of his ablest generals, Marshals Macmahon and Bazaine. 
The utmost enthusiasm prevailed, and jubilant hopes of winning 
great and speedy victories filled every breast. 

The Germans were not behindhand. They arrived at the 
frontier as quickly as the French, and, on August 2nd, the war 
commenced in earnest by a French attack upon Saarbruck, a 
town just within Prussian territory. This place the French 
succeeded in occupying, and therefore the first engagement of 
any consequence was in their favour. Reverses were, however, 
at hand. Within the next few days the French were defeated 
at Weissenburg, at Worth, and on the Spicheren heights, the 
last two being of a serious character. 

The news of these defeats alarmed and infuriated Paris. It 
cast about for an explanation of so unexpected a contingency, 
and its searches led only to one man, the Emperor. It was 
rumoured that he had opposed the military tactics recommended 
by his generals ; that desire for his personal safety hampered 
the army he was with, and it was now freely stated that he had 
plunged into a great war before the troops had been efficiently 
trained and equipped — " the Emperor " was the scapegoat 

Some practical measures were, however, taken. The city was 
declared in a state of siege ; fresh troops were raised ; the Gardes 
Mobiles — a body of reserves — called out ; volunteer free-shooters 
requisitioned, and, in order to despatch as many of the regular 
soldiers as possible to the seat of war, sixty battalions of 
National Guards were enrolled, composed of capable citizens, 
whose duty it would be to defend the capital. The city, sur- 
rounded by an immense fortified wall, and, a mile beyond that, 
protected by various fortresses of great strength, was considered 
invulnerable. Nevertheless, more guns were mounted on the 
ramparts and in the forts, quantities of ammunition were stored 
up, the roads leading out of the city were excavated at the 
boundaries and drawbridges laid down. Finally, in anticipation 
of an actual siege, immense herds of cattle and sheep and 
prodigious supplies of provisions were gathered together. 

To pacify the Republican party in the Legislative Chamber, 

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Introductory 1 1 

which loudly proclaimed its dissatisfaction with the existing 
government, the Empress Eugenie, who, in the Emperor's 
absence, was Regent of France, dismissed her ministers and 
appointed others more energetic for the purpose of making 
efficient preparations for carrying on the war. Count Palikao 
was the head of this new ministry. Subsequently, by direct 
warrant from the Emperor, General Trochu was appointed 
governor of Paris and commander-in-chief of all the forces 
assembled therein. 

Some of the Socialists in Paris endeavoured to make capital 
out of their country's misfortunes by instigating a rebellious 
agitation, from which, at such a juncture, great results were 
hoped. Blanqui, the revolutionary journalist, was the prime 
mover in the affair, and a hundred men were engaged, at a cost 
of 18,000 francs,^ to put the project into execution. It took the 
shape of an attack, headed by a shorthand writer and former 
chemist's assistant, named Emile Eudes, upon some inoffensive 
firemen at La Villette, in the north end of Paris. Two of the 
firemen were killed, one of them by Eudes' hand, and a little 
boy was killed inadvertently. The plan was a crude and foolish 
one : the attack was instantly quelled, and Eudes and others 
arrested. For his participation in this affray, Eudes was con- 
demned to death ; but, on the urgent requests of his friends, a 
delay was granted ere the sentence should be carried out 

Further news from the seat of war came into Paris by 
driblets. It was forbidden to publish any information other 
than that issuing from the Government, and this was usually 
of a meagre and unsatisfactory nature. The Parisians learnt 
seriatim and by degrees that the Emperor had divested himself 
of the office of commander-in-chief, and had invested Marshal 
Bazaine therewith ; that, the latter was at Metz with a total force 
of about 120,000 men ; that the Germans were besieging Stras- 
burg ; that their foe had also attacked Bazaine at a place east of 
Metz, had defeated him, forced him back upon Metz, and were 
there surrounding him so as to cut off his retreat upon Paris ; 
that Marshal Macmahon, at the head of 200.000 men, was 
manoeuvring in the vicinity of Metz, waiting only to choose his 

* Actes^ tome i. p. 180. , 

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12 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSyi 

own time and place to strike a blow at the German forces and 
relieve Bazaine. The Emperor's whereabouts became a matter 
of conjecture, so little did the people of Paris know the actual 
state of events. Rumours of victories alternated with rumours 
of defeats, and men knew not which to trust. Poor people for 
miles around the capital flocked in great numbers into the city 
for the better protection its walls would afford them in case 
the enemy came so far ; on the other hand, multitudes of the 
wealthier classes and the entire colony of German residents 
fled from the place and from France. 

In and beyond Paris all was warlike activity: raising of 
troops, manufacture of arms, warehousing provisions, drilling 
recruits, erecting defence works — the war was not only upper- 
most, but undermost also, through every thought of the French 
mind. Amusements, such as there were, were diverted into the 
same channel : one of them was somewhat noteworthy. A 
patriotic cafi chantant was held on September 1st, at which an 
old barrister and politician, a M. Crdmieux, appeared. Fifty 
years before, when Louis XVIII. reigned over France, this 
Crdmieux, then a young man of four-and-twenty, had defended 
some prisoners who were charged with singing the Marseillaise 
— an offence, to English ideas, devoid of criminality, but to 
French Royalists, and even to Napoleonic Imperialists, poigfnant 
with insult, terror, and revolutionary menace. M. Crdmieux on 
that occasion had shown great audacity by reading in open 
court the words of the famous song, delivering them with such 
vigour that his personal acquiescence in them could not be 
doubted. His boldness carried the day ; the prisoners were 
acquitted, and Crdmieux* reputation as an advocate was at once 
established. Now, after the lapse of half a century, with the 
throne of France occupied by a Buonaparte who also had 
prohibited, until the outbreak of the war, the same song, the 
old barrister reproduces in full that notable pleading, and is 
enthusiastically applauded. It forms the event x)f the evening, 
and the theme of conversation throughout Paris the following 

There was, however, very little show of enthusiasm or of 
excitement The city as a whole was sad ; it had serious work 
on hand, and did it ; there was no inclination for gaiety, and too 

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Introductory 1 3 

much depression to permit even of the exhibition of the pas- 
sion for revenge which inwardly consumed it Laughter was 
heard not ; for two weeks an unprecedented calmness of de- 
meanour had characterized the Parisians. A Frenchman loves 
his country, and it was impossible to be light-hearted when it 
was threatened. No reliable news from the seat of war had 
arrived for some time, but the rumours of victory were seized 
upon with a quiet hopefulness. On the second day in September 
this feeling seemed to receive confirmation by the singular 
convolutions of a cloud, which attracted general attention. 
The cloud took first the shape of the letter Z, then that of a 
horse, finally that of the letter V, and the Parisians, despite their 
religious unbelief, were impregnated — like us all ! — with supersti- 
tion, and interpreted these signs as a heavenly token that the 
end of the war was near, and that victory would be theirs.^ 

* Times Paris letter, Sept. 6th, 1870. 

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" IV/TACMAHON defeated at Sedan; his army and the 
IVx Emperor taken prisoners ; Bazaine unrelieved." Such 
was the terrible news that at last broke upon Paris and roused 
it from its lethargy. The battle of Sedan occurred on the 
1st September, but the ministers had withheld all information 
until the afternoon of the 3rd, when Palikao only declared half 
the truth, whilst again, after midnight, he forbore to speak the 
whole. Yet enough was declared to render it beyond doubt 
that a colossal disaster had befallen France, the responsibility 
for which it was natural, whether just or not, to place upon the 
shoulders of the Government Immediately, therefore, in the 
Corps Legislatif, measures were proposed for the transference 
into other hands of the ruling power, the actual decision being 
postponed until the next morning. The ill news spread rapidly ; 
the journalists and the Internationalist chiefs both learnt it 
during the Saturday evening, and held meetings, separately and 
in conjunction, to consider the situation. Excited crowds formed 
in the streets late at night, and waylaid the leaders of the 
Parliamentary opposition, crying out to them, " Save us ! " and 
" Deposition ! " — the latter referring to the Emperor. The early 
hours of Sunday were reached ere these manifestants withdrew 
to their dwellings. 

When the daylight of Sunday had fully arrived, the dread 
tidings were disseminated far and wide, veritably bare of 
subterfuge; all Parisians knew that a tremendous conquer- 
ing foe was within their territory, that half of their im- 
mense army was captured, and the other half shut up in 
Metz. At first the streets in the capital were unusually quiet ; 
the shopkeepers opened not their shops, and church-goers ne- 


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Sunday, September ^th, 1870 15 

glected their sanctuaries. But there was a movement on the 
wing. It appeared earliest in the workmen's quarters of Mont- 
martre and Belleville, which were always in the van of political 
demonstrations ; then in the east, south, and even respectable 
west : in all districts, at about eleven o'clock, workmen and 
citizens began to leave their houses and workshops, and to 
wend their way towards the centre of the city. The men 
were unarmed ; women and children accompanied them. After 
these, battalions of National Guards formed in their respective 
localities, headed by their officers and bands, and, with their 
bayonets glittering in the bright sunshine, proceeded, in march- 
ing array, also towards the centre. The armed processions 
become augmented on every side by numbers of people of all 
ranks and conditions ; the main boulevards and streets leading 
inwards are soon full of animated and enthusiastic citizens, who, 
as they go, shout, "La Dech^anse" (Deposition), or sing the 
Marseillaise and other patriotic airs. The Place de la Concorde 
and the Corps Legislatif are the points to which these various 
crowds tend ; by midday, these places and all their precincts 
and issues are thronged with an immense multitude. That 
electric emotion which is ever manifested in huge concourses of 
people in whom a common idea predominates, sways and unites 
this mass of hundreds of thousands of souls, and their one 
thought shall possess an irresistible impulse. It is not a part 
of Paris nor a class only that is here represented, but every part 
and every class which the city comprises. The gay costumes 
of women and children, the uniforms of soldiers, the coloured 
blouses of workmen, and the paraphernalia of military display, 
combined with incessant motion, ceaseless music, singing and 
shouting from half a million throats, make up a scene of human 
grandeur which is unparalleled and matchless. 

And the one idea of this mighty asssemblage is to depose the 
Emperor. How to do it is not very evident, but circumstances 
are propitious, and popular movements are not troubled by 
manners and customs — they override them. The soldiers on 
whom the Emperor might have relied to defend his dynasty are ' 
afar off, on the fields of battles, past or to come. Before now, ' 
a Paris populace, less influential than this, has invaded a queen's 
royal apartments and has gained its will : to-day it is but an 

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1 6 History of the Paris Commune of \%T\ 

inferior parliament house which is in view ; // shall be invaded, 
and the people, who have made and unmade kings and 
emperors, shall settle accounts with this useless debating 
society, which upholds, or at least has upheld, an Emperor 
whom fate and infatuation have brought to ignominy and 

Around the Legislative Chamber the crowd surges and 
presses. Its most energetic members push past the Imperial 
Guards placed at the entrances, and obtain access to the build- 
ing. Others are passed through in small batches by friendly 
deputies ^ who are not averse to the threatened spoliation of the 
Chamber of which they form a part, in the hope that the 
Napoleonic idea will be also irretrievably mangled. This 
process of admitting the crowd soon results in the building 
being thronged in all its parts, even into the hall where the 
deputies hold their sittings. 

At the moment the legislative body was adjourned, but it 
presently returned to resume its labours, only to find its council 
room invaded by a mob which respected neither places nor 
persons, but shouted, sung, and careered as if it had been in 
some drinking den. This motley and excited people demanded, 
in a confusion of tongues, the abdication of the Emperor — a 
demand which the Republican deputies had already, in a more 
dignified manner, placed before the Chamber, and to which the 
powerless assent of the latter had been given. But the deputies, 
for the most part, wished to effect the transference of power 
and change of government in the formal and stilted fashion of 
constitutional procedure, and they resented the forcible and 
disorderly entrance of the people into their place of assembly. 
Even the Republican leaders, who were otherwise in accord 
with the invaders, protested against the latter's conduct ; but it 
was all in vain ; the people were there, and were sovereign : 
constitutional procedure was once again tossed adrift on the 
ocean of popular clamour. L6on Gambetta, one of the 
Republican deputies, brought forth from the chaos a practical 
issue by declaring the Napoleonic dynasty at an end, and stating 
that he, Jules Favre, and coadjutors, were going to the H6tel 

* Actes^ tome i. p. i8i. 

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Sunday^ September ^th, 1870 17 

de ViUe, there to proclaim the Republic and to form a new 

The H6tel de Ville ! Seat of all revolutionary governments 
in France ; headquarters of the municipality of Paris, and a 
visible emblem of the people's past and present power ! Away, 
then, to the Hdtel de Ville, through the living masses which 
throng the quays on both sides of the river ! Gambetta and 
another Republican leader, Picard, are escorted thither, and half 
carried by an enthusiastic crowd ; Favre, full of emotion, 
proceeds independently. At the first bridge, en route^ Favre 
encounters the military governor, General Trochu, on horse- 
back, and tells him that the Legislative Chamber is invaded, 
and that he is on the way to the H6tel de Ville to prevent the 
demagogues seizing the reins of power : an event, in his opinion, 
which would only add to the ruin and disasters of the nation. 
In the accomplishment of this purpose, Favre foresees that 
Trochu's military assistance may become necessary, and, in 
fact, invaluable; therefore he requests the general to return 
to the Louvre — from whence he had come — and there await 
some message from him.* Trochu, Royalist, Imperialist, any- 
thing but Republican, sworn to defend the Emperor, tacitly 
throws over, at a stroke, oath and allegiance, and assents to the 
course suggested by Favre, though he makes a formal reser- 
vation of his liberty of action in order to satisfy the punctilious- 
ness of a hesitating mind. 

Meanwhile, the news of the declaration of the Emperor's 
deposition has been carried to the Empress, who, from the 
windows of the Tuileries Palace, has witnessed the immense 
throng of people with alarm. The demonstration is fraught 
with danger, not only to the Imperial dynasty, but, alas ! to the 
persons who form it, though, happily, the Empress has thus far 
been forgotten by the populace. She is, however^ besought 
by faithful attendants to quit France at once ; ere the after- 
noon is gone, she is safely taken out of Paris, and, in the course 
of a few hours, conveyed to England. 

Jules Favre, after parting from Trochu, pursued his way to 
the H6tel de Ville, which edifice had already been taken 

* AcUs^ t. i. p. 183. » Ibid,^ t. i. p. 185. 


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1 8 History of the Paris Commune of i^^ji 

possession of by multitudes of people, and treated in like 
fashion to the Corps LegislatiC Every room, hall, and corridor 
was filled with a babbling and gesticulating throng ; amateur 
orators seized the occasion to indulge in grandiloquent language, 
whilst National Guards and others employed themselves in 
wrecking everything that was suggestive of Imperialism, for 
which pursuit plentiful provision existed amongst the furnish- 
ings and documents of the palace. The Emperor's portrait 
hung on one of the walls : with especial zest it was stabbed in 
the vital parts prior to being utterly destroyed. The plebiscite 
tickets taken in May, representing the seven and a half millions 
of votes in favour of the Imperial policy, were seized and scat- 
tered to the winds. The demolition or disfigurement of the 
decorations and effects was as senseless as it was extensive ; 
but the human intellect is at times intensely engrossed when 
it can destroy aught which it has not made and does not 
prize, and its love of change overleaps considerations either of 
expense or of consequences. 

It was three o'clock when Jules Favre, Gambetta, Picard, and 
other Republican deputies arrived at the Hdtel de Ville. After 
haranguing the crowd, they withdrew to arrange who should be 
members of the new Government, which they never questioned 
should be formed from amongst themselves. The Socialists 
and revolutionary agitators, who had all participated in tlie 
events of the day, and were also now at the H6tel de Ville, 
thought they had a right to be included in the new power. 
Delescluze, for instance, Milli^re and F^lix Pyat, men in whom 
the common people put their faith, had they not a claim to 
office? Jules Favre thought not, and the decision virtually 
lay with him, for he enjoyed at the moment a great popularity, 
and the public swayed around his name.^ By force of this, by 
his age (6i), by his oratorical ability, and, not least, by the 
estimation in which he held himself, he appeared marked out 
to fill the chief position — that of President — in the new Govern- 
ment This office, together with that of Minister of Foreign 
Affiaiirs, Favre accordingly allocated to himself; Gambetta, Picard, 
Emmanuel Arago, and other Republican leaders, were provided 

* Acies, t i. p. i88. 

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Sunday, September 4/^, 1870 19 

with various departments and places. Etienne Arago, uncle 
of the last-named, was acclaimed "Mayor of Paris" by the 
populace on his arrival at the H6tel de Ville ; this nomination 
was duly confirmed by the nephew on behalf of the new 

Another arrival on the Place de I'Hdtel de Ville, greeted 
with similar cries of " Mayor of Paris," and with even greater 
enthusiasm than the preceding, was the Socialist marquis, 
Rochefort, who had been imprisoned some months before. 
Rochefort's release was the first action of the new Government 
— effected, even before the latter was completely formed, by an 
order to the governor of the prison Stc. P61agie to release all 
political prisoners : an order which was immediately complied 
with, the governor thus exhibiting that remarkable adaptability 
to revolutionary requirements which seems to be a characteristic 
of the French official mind. 

When the cries of " Mayor of Paris " resounded flatteringly 
around him, Rochefort was made aware that that functionary 
had already been appointed, and he magnanimously declined 
to interfere therewith. Favre was disquieted at the warm 
reception accorded to Rochefort, whose assistance he would 
rather have been without The popular will, however, must 
be acknowledged ; moreover, Rochefort was effusively welcomed 
by Jules Ferry and Floquet,^ who had just been appointed 
minister and deputy mayor respectively. These two desired 
Rochefort's inclusion in the Government, and a place had 
therefore to be found for him. 

A greater difficulty than this beset the Government in the 
question : " How to enforce their authority ? " They were self- 
installed rulers, and the populace was fickle : agreeing with 
them to-day, it might diss^ree to-morrow. The troops and 
National Guards had never been under their control : what if 
they refused to obey their commands ? A Government cannot 
rule by moral suasion alone. This dilemma had been foreseen 
by Favre when he spoke to Trochu a couple of hours before, 
and it was from Trochu that the delivery from it must come. 
As swiftly as was possible the general was sent for and 

' AcieSf t. i. p. 189. 

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20 History of the Paris Commune of liji 

presently appeared at the H6tel de Ville; he consented to 
form part of the Government, but insisted upon being its Presi- 
dent, so that the army might be safely brought over to the new 
power.^ Trochu was clearly indispensable, and his demand was 
consequently assented to — with which agreement the Govern- 
ment may fairly be said to have become constituted.^ It took 
the name of " Government of the National Defence " — a name 
suggested by a little, old politician, statesman, and author of 
European reputation, M. Thiers, and adopted because it reflected 
no political views, and was therefore not liable to estrange any 
particular party. 

This man Thiers had been a minister under Louis Philippe ; 
to him largely was due the erection of the fortifications surround- 
ing Paris. Originally Orl^anist, he had become a Republican of 
moderate views, and in the course of his long, varied, and respon- 
sible career he had given expression to two phrases which, for 
good or evil, clung to his name : " The Republic is the form of 
Government which divides France the least,'' and on a memor- 
able occasion he had stigmatised the people as " a vile multi- 
tude." Thiers was the only man of the Republican party who 
had had great official and diplomatic experience ; his intelligence 
and stability of character were unquestioned, and he might, if he 
had cared, have been at the head of this new Government ; he 
had even been offered, two days before, by the Empress Eugenie, 
the reins of power : * both overtures were declined. He antici- 
pated even worse calamities befalling France, and he refused to 
embroil himself in responsibility for future events at so critical a 
juncture. This can only be regarded as an unpatriotic action, 
dictated by a too jealous concern for his reputation. He, how- 
ever, gave the new rulers his good will. 

As for the Grovernment, it is impossible not to see that it has 
been blown together by a whirlwind of popular enthusiasm, such 

' AcUsy t. i. p. i86. 

* The members of the Government were : General Trochu, Jules Favre, 
Jules Kerry, Jules Simon, Emmanuel Arago, Gambetta, Cr^ieux, Gamier- 
Pag^, Picard, Glais-Bizoin, Pelletan, and Rochefort Other recipients of 
prominent positions were MM. Etienne Arago, Dorian, Magnin, Jules 
Gr^vy, etc. ; the entire number, with the exception of Trochu, being 
Republican politicians. 

• AcUSy t i. p. 178. 

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Sunday, September ^th^ 1870 21 

as gathers indiscriminately in its bosom the most mutually re- 
pellent particles, and sweeps them on for an instant in unison. 
How far these individuals will travel homogeneously, time 
alone can tell. They do not know yet whether they have one 
impulse in common ; there is no doubt they have many at 
variance. Juxtapose only the head and tail of this power, and 
note the contradictory elements in each and between them: 
Trochu, Orl^anist at heart, Imperialist by profession until this 
day, become a political chief without a name, yet withal of 
decided conservative instincts; and Rochefort, socialist and 
revolutionary to the backbone, who all his life has kicked against 
authority, and is now jerked into the necessity of upholding it. 
Between these extremes, multifarious views, untried, unknown ; 
a form of government which is neither personal nor constitu- 
tional, which is in fact no one knows what, except for its 
ostensible purpose of defence, and to what it may turn it is 
equally impossible to say. Even the socialistic Utopia of a 
Commune is in the thoughts of some of them — Rochefort already 
has suggested it, whilst the mayor, Etienne Arago, has taken it 
for granted that this new Government is the Commune,^ and 
has to be disabused of the idea by his superiors. 

Untroubled by any misgivings as to the concordance or 
utility of the work of its hands, the people of Paris felt and 
exhibited only intense satisfaction when it was established 
beyond dispute that the Napoleonic dynasty had fallen, and that 
a new Government was constituted. All the evening, and far 
into Monday morning, crowds, overflowing with uncontrollable 
joy, patrolled the streets and filled the boulevards ; they sang 
the Marseillaise or shouted out patriotic exhortations with 
noisy exuberance. Imperial eagles, or insignia over shops and 
in public places, were pulled down and destroyed ; soldiers had 
the Imperial emblems torn from their uniforms, whilst the hated 
gendarmes — the police — were molested wherever seen. In 
their mad frenzy men would passionately embrace each other, 
or commence to dance ; then, as insane people do, would sud- 
denly relapse into a state of perfect quietude and self-control, 
making a singular contrast to the efTervescence of the previous 

' Actes, t. i. p. 62. 

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22 History of the Parts Commune of i?>yi 

moment.^ Thus the wild hilarity went on, and the most 
momentous fact of all — was forgotten. The war, their defeated 
army and their imprisoned army, the mighty foe invading their 
native land, the thousands of fellow-countrymen that lay dead 
on the grim fields of battle, the greater thousands that were 
wounded, suffering untold agonies : all these things were for* 
gotten, and, for that day at least, not a hand's turn was taken 
towards mitigating such tremendous disasters. 

* Times correspondent. 

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SEPTEMBER ^th TO iZth, 1870 

THE order to release the political prisoners from Ste. P^lagie 
was speedily followed by a general amnesty for political 
offenders. It was convenient to the Government of the 
National Defence to consider that the offences thus wiped out 
had been directed only against the Imperial regime, and, as the 
new authority owed its existence to the disrepute into which 
the old had fallen, it could do no other thaii release the agitators 
and revolutionists who had been imprisoned under the Empire, 
and whom the working classes looked upon with admiration 
and approval. The amnesty also restored to French exiles 
the liberty to return to their native soil ; the bulk of these at 
once availed themselves of the privilege. Amongst exiles and 
prisoners thus repossessed of freedom, and who on September 
the 5th or 6th were again found in Paris in the full exercise of 
their liberty, were, in addition to Rochefort, Gustave Flourens ; 
Cluseret, the naturalized American ; Eudes, whose sentence of 
death was thus almost miraculously annulled; Delescluze, 
Grousset, and Vermorel, journalists ; Ferr^, Tony Moilin, and 
M^gy, with the other personages who had been sentenced by 
the High Court of Blois for participation in the complot of 

The restoration to political activity of these Socialists, and 
of many other persons who were either Socialists or advanced 
Republicans, was undoubtedly regarded as a sop thrown to the 
extreme party, to quieten their ambitions and reconcile them 
to their exclusion from high office in the Government The 
measure had, however, an effect the reverse of this. The 
Socialist leaders admittedly had had much to do with the 
revulsion of feeling that had recently grown up against the 

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24 History of tlie Paris Commune of iZyi 

deposed Emperor, though the culmination of that antipathy- 
was due entirely to the lamentable defeats sustained by the 
French army. They thought they had a claim to official 
recognition and responsibility, that they alone could eflfectually 
represent the immense artisan population of the country, and 
that a Government without them would fail to secure con- 
fidence or to exhibit energjy. They had, however, been ig- 
nored by the men now in power, and of their party only 
Rochefort — and he of aristocratic birth — ^had been included in 
the Government. Of working men, or their class leaders, there 
were none, and to this exclusion the latter, far from being 
pacified by gaol deliveries and repatriations, determined not to 
submit Rochefort, member of the Government though he was, 
assisted and guided this discontent, fearful lest his Governmental 
colleagues should turn out too conservative, and averse to the 
ideal Republic — or Commune — ^which he and the Socialists 
wished to set up. Side by side with the Government, Roche- 
fort, Flourens, and others of the extreme section, consulted 
together on the measures to be taken to exercise supervision 
over and influence upon it This was on the Monday, the first 
day after the inauguration of the new regime.^ 

Earlier even than this, the International Association had 
given evidence of its want of confidence in the Government 
On Sunday midnight it sent a delegation to the H6tel de Ville 
to declare its magnanimous intention not to attack the new 
power for the present, and to claim urgency for the adoption of 
various measures which, according to it, were of paramount im- 
portance. These measures included demands for municipal 
elections throughout Paris, abolition of all restrictions upon the 
press and public meeting, an elective magistracy, and suppres- 
sion of the prefecture of police.* These views were, after some 
delay, laid before Gambetta, the Minister of the Interior, who 
informed the deputation that many of the restrictions placed by 
the Imperial authorities upon the press would be removed ; as 
to the other matters, they were grave questions which the 
Government had not the right to entrench upon.* With this 

* Le (Ux»huit Mars^ p. 90. 

* Lefran9ais, p. 64. Actes^ t« i. p« 192. 

* Lefran^ais, p. 64. 

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September $iA to iStA^ 1870 25 

reply the Internationalists had to come away, but they were far 
from being satisfied. 

The dissatisfaction of the Internationalists, whose leading 
spirits were Varlin, Lefrangais, and Tridon, and of the revolu- 
tionary journalists (Jacobins) represented by Rochefort, Blanqui, 
and Delescluze, soon took active form. In each of the twenty 
arrondissements, or districts into which the city of Paris is 
administratively divided, these malcontents immediately 
organized public meetings, at which delegates, elected by 
acclamation were designated to form Committees of Vigilance, 
which should collect information in and make suggestions con- 
cerning the defence of their respective localities. From the 
twenty committees thus constituted a Central Committee was 
drawn, composed of four delegates from each committee, eighty in 
alL Here at once, it was contended, was a body — representative 
of Parisian workmen and of every district in the capital — which 
should direct and control the Government by the simple process 
of assembling and passing resolutions, which latter it thought the 
Government would not dare to ignore. 

This Central Committee located itself at the head-quarters of 
the International Association, Place de la Corderie du Temple, 
though it professed to be, and was, a distinct organization, in the 
sense of holding separate meetings and having no official inter- 
course with its co-locataire ; furthermore, many of its members 
were neither workmen nor Internationalists. On the other hand, 
a goodly number of persons were members of both bodies,^ 
and by means of these it was easy to establish an unofficial, 
though none the less effective, accord and intercommunication. 
The aims of the two bodies were similar, though the Central 
Committee was more openly political than the International 
Association. Both bodies were actively supported by the 
socialistic newspapers, and possessed amongst the working-class 
population a considerable influence 

The Committees of Vigilance in the arrondissements were 
not slow to test the extent of their power. They attached 
themselves to the various mairies (district municipal offices) to 

' For instance, the following : Lefrangais, Pindy, Malon, Vaillant, Demay, 
Longuet, Oudet, Johannard, Cl^mence, £. G^rardin, Babick, Beslay, Theisz, 
Duval, Avrial, Dereure, Frankel, Langevin, Trinquet, Serailler, Varlin. 

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26 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

which Republican mayors, in the place of the dispossessed 
Imperialist ones, had just been appointed by Etienne Arago ; 
they interfered with the discharge of the local administrative 
functions, and arrogated to themselves an authority equal to 
that of the mayors, whose orders were in fact frequently over- 
ruled or rendered inoperative by them. 

An individual action of a similar nature had taken place on 
the eventful 4th, and had been tolerated by the Government. 
This was the self-installation, at the Prefecture of Police, of a 
young law student named Raoul Rigault, as head of one of the 
departments in that establishment. Rigault — Socialist, Jacobin, 
Hebertist, sometime prisoner — was a man of reckless and defiant 
disposition, and the Government permitted the self-appointed 
official to stay, lest his removal should sharpen a sword for 
use against themselves. 

Such proceedings would have been impossible under any 
regular or firm authority, but the new rulers had scarcely 
greater claim to office than Rigault or the Vigilance Com- 
mittees, and they soon showed a lack of that firmness which 
the circumstances of the hour demanded. 

The Government however, at the outset, was little perturbed 
by the irregularity of its position. With unblushing effrontery 
it had taken upon itself tremendous responsibilities, as though 
it had been fitted by Heaven to discharge them. It sent out 
grandiose proclamations announcing to all France and the 
Continent the change of regime which had occurred, and ex- 
pressive of its foreknowledge of the immense influence which 
that change would exercise upon the prosecution of the war. 
It glorified the indomitable prowess of the French soldiers and 
people, and declared the fixed determination of the entire 
country — as emphatically stated by M. Jules Favre — not to 
cede one inch of territory nor one stone of their forts to the 
enemy. The French unanimity on this point was so striking, 
and the language employed by all parties was so strong and 
confident, that, had their enemy been of a similar tempera- 
ment to themselves, he would have perceived the futility of 
further fighting, and would have at once departed to his own 

Notwithstanding, however, the truculent and defiant attitude 

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September ^th to iStA, 1870 27 

of the Government— despite the imperative mandate, constituted 
by the overthrowal of the Empire and the unanimous wish of 
France, that the war should be carried on with the utmost 
vigour and that it should end only in a crushing victory over 
their foe, the amazing fact remains that not one of the members 
of the Government of the National Defence, from the first day 
of their official existence, believed in the possibility of success- 
fully defending Paris. ^ The full significance of this will be 
realized when it is stated that to surrender the capkal would 
at any time be tantamount to a total defeat Neither was the 
preservation of their country's integrity a thing which they 
hoped to secure.* Self-appointed defenders of their patrie, 
sustained by the nation only because they promised victory, 
they had already decided that defeat was inevitable, and they 
therefore possessed not the slightest moral or legal right to rule 
over France. Honourable men would at once have made 
known their opinions and have resigned their offices, but these 
dishonourable personages clung like leeches to their newly 
found positions, they deceived the people as to their real views, 
they foisted on the public high-sounding declarations of the 
certain victory which awaited their armies, and made ostentatious 
preparations for prosecuting the war and strengthening Paris ; 
and yet all the while in private conclave they meditated upon 
the best means of reducing the warlike enthusiasm of the 
capital, and of accustoming the minds of its citizens by easy 
gradations to the thought of that capitulation which alone was 
the certainty they foresaw. Such astounding duplicity was not 
without its causes. Love of power, hatred of the Empire, and 
desire to re-establish a Republic — these were the active prin- 
ciples which led the members of the Government, Trochu 
excepted, to embark upon such a culpable career. Trochu, 
accustomed to the exercise of power, neither inordinately hating 
the Empire nor ardently desiring a Republic, might have been 
considered the one strong man who would have frustrated such 
political machinations; but, alas, he also loved power and was 
ambitious, and his strength of will lay rather in declamation 
than in deed. The French people — and particularly that part of 

' AcfeSf t. L p. 202. ' /did,, 1 1. p. 63. Stance du soir da 5 Sept. 

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28 History of the Paris Commune of i^yi 

it that was encompassed within the walls of Paris — anxious to 
repel the invader, and drawing back not from any sacrifice that 
would serve to help this object, had no suspicion of the Govern- 
ment's insincerity ; itself believing in the successful prosecution 
of the war, it believed the lying braggadocio which emanated 
from those to whom it looked for guidance and in whose honour 
it trusted. 

The near proximity of a si^e could not longer be doubted 
by the denizens of the capital, for the victorious German was 
marching straight towards them, and in anticipation of his 
coming the Government adopted various precautionary 
measures. Of these were the despatch of a delegate Govern- 
ment* to Tours to carry on the administration of the country 
and raise war levies when Paris should be blocked by the foe ; 
the storing up of huge quantities of provisions and wines ; the 
strengthening of the forts and ramparts ; and the erection of 
barricades within the city walls, so as to form a third line of 
defence should by any means the first two be surmounted. The 
imminence of a siege caused the exodus of all persons who 
could aflford to leave the city, and the entrance of thousands of 
country people who came in for refuge; wearied and wounded 
soldiers from the great battle-fields on the frontier also arrived 
daily to seek asylum within the capital. 

The defence of the city was further strengthened by the 
creation of sixty additional battalions of National Guards, 
nominally of 1,500 men each. The thousands of citizens thus 
abstracted from their ordinary avocations, added to the 90,000 
National Guards created a month previously, completely broke 
up the usual trade and industries of Paris, and rendered it 
wholly given over to military purposes. This fact was so 
evident, and apparently so necessary, that it became incumbent 
upon the Government to issue a decree suspending all l^al 
actions and appeals, for, under existing conditions, it was 
impossible to keep commercial engagements or to pay debts. 

Thus the Government went on with their mockery of defence, 
and at the same time they prosecuted, with something like 
sincerity, the political operations on which their minds were 

* Composed of MM. Cr^mieux, Glais-Bizoin, and Fourichon. 

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September $th to iStA, 1870 29 

bent The substitution in Paris of Republican for Imperialist 
mayors has been adverted to ; a similar change of prefects 
throughout the country was also made. The police force which 
had done service under the Empire was withdrawn at Paris and 
elsewhere, and a patrol of National Guards charged with the 
duty of preserving the peace. Everything reminiscent of the 
late regime was destroyed or banished. Amidst the enthusiasm 
and the rage which had been manifested on the 4th, the tearing 
down of Imperialist emblems and the renaming of streets might 
be overlooked as a passing humour ; but, when the substantial 
punishment of deposition inflicted upon the Emperor had become 
an uncontested fact, it was puerile and contemptible to continue 
the indulgence of such petty and useless animosities ; neverthe- 
less, the Government took the lead in perpetuating these 
unmanly proceedings. A statue of Napoleon L, which stood 
at the round point of Neuilly, was pulled down by order of 
the Mayor of Paris, Etienne Arago ; the renaming of streets 
continued ; postage stamps were withdrawn because of the 
Imperial head upon them ; the private correspondence of the 
Imperial family was seized at Dieppe and returned to Paris, 
where it was overhauled by curious political scandal-mongers ; 
generally, whatever could be done to cover with obloquy the 
late ruler and his house was done. The National Guards 
assisted zealously in these performances, and caught the 
pusillanimous and intolerant spirit of their superiors. When, as 
was speedily the case, there were no more Imperial relics or 
insignia to destroy, the citizen Guards turned their attentions to 
an)rthing or anybody that they thought of suspicious appear- 
ance, and straightway secured it, or, if a person, arrested him. 
In one instance a party of Guards arrested their officer, because 
he had given utterance to some political sentiment with which 
they did not agree ; the result of this was that the officer was 
dismissed from his post, and the manifest insubordination of the 
men openly approved. 

This was but one indication among multitudes of the erratic 
and domineering spirit that animated the citizen soldiers. It 
was they — ^the people I— that had set up the Government and 
who upheld it ; in fact, as in theory, they were its masters. In 
a thousand ways they contested its orders and refused obedience, 

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30 History of the Paris Commune of i^yi 

and the Government could only protest uselessly or pretend 
not to see the affront The city was full of National Guards, 
and they were all much alike in indiscipline. The profession 
of soldier took the Parisian's fancy : to carry a gun, be absolved 
from work, and have a pittance provided for him — ^was it not 
glorious? Yea, and they were determined not to divest the 
profession of its pleasant features by a too vigorous obedience 
to Governmental behests. Their officers were like-minded to 
themselves, chosen by them, removable by them — in their power 
completely. The officers, however, did not object to this, for 
if it were agreeable to be in the rank and file, it was doubly 
so to wear the badges or stripes of commandant Officers 
multiplied in excess of battalions ; they nominated thems^cs» 
trusting to chance to enrol men subsequently ; thus it happened 
that orders were freely given out to arm battalions which had 
no existence ! ^ 

Officers were not more amenable to control than the men ; two 
of them, Cluseret and LuUier — both having formerly served in 
the regular forces — even came under the notice of the Prefect of 
Police, who was, however, powerless to remedy defects which had 
their origin in higher places. Another officer was the journalist 
Flourens, who persisted in calling himself a colonel, though 
there was not such a grade in the National Guards. Midst 
officers and men of this description, agitation was rank ; meet- 
ings were held at which the conduct of the Government was 
unrestrainedly criticised ; committees were formed, presumably 
for furthering in various ways the defence, but, like the Com- 
mittees of Vigilance, which were nominally civil, these military 
committees arrogated to themselves many functions to which 
they had no real claim, and were provocative of additional 
confusion and disorder in the already chaotic state of Parisian 
society. Universal suffrage and the equality of men were in 
practical existence; authority was a nominal factor, only 
effective when the wishes of the nominally inferior being 
happened to coincide with those of his nominal superior. 

From amongst the babbling conflict of opinion, suggestion, 
orders and commands that speedily arose in every quarter of 

* Actes^ t i. p. 199. 

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September ^th to iStA, 1870 31 

Paris, the recommendations of the Central Committee of the 
twenty arrondissements may be singled out, as emanating from 
a body of some general influence, and further, as a public 
evidence, to those who cared to note the fact, that such Com- 
mittee was actually formed and had begun its operations. It 
was on the i6th September that the first manifesto of this 
Committee was placarded on the walls and hoardings of Paris ; ^ 
it contained demands for the various measures which the Inter- 
national Association had laid before the Government on the 
5 th, and, in addition, for the municipalization of all food and 
liquors within Paris, in view of the si^e, and the apportion- 
ment of equal rations to each person by the authorities ; for 
the completion of the armament of the National Guards, and 
for various military measures relative to Paris, even to the 
employment by women and children of explosive engines: 
"Republican Paris being resolved, rather than surrender, to 
bury itself under its ruins." 

To these demands publicly addressed to it — to the less public 
but even more pertinacious requests and advice tendered to it 
by a heterogeneous multitude of counsellors, what could the 
Government do ? Anxious chiefly to prolong its young life, it 
had no thought of resigning ; to take the people into its confi- 
dence, it dared not ; to act with decision and vigour against 
indisciplinary elements was beyond its intellectual range; to 
make up its mind to a clear, precise, and patriotic course of 
action, it could not — there remained but to let things drift, and 
to trust, Trochu, to God, and the rest to fate or fortune, to get 
them out of the mire wherein they had landed themselves. 
This hesitating, deceitful, and weak-kneed Government tem- 
porised with malcontents, made pretences occasionally to check 

* Signed by forty-seven members, fourteen of whom were Cluseret, 
Demay, Johannard, Lefran^ais, Longuet, Milli^re, Malon, £. Oudet, Pindy, 
Ranvier, Vaillant, Jules VaU^ Genton, Gaillard. {Lrfran^ats, p. 73.) 

According to Malon, the signatories were thirty-two in number, and 
included the following : Avrial, Beslay, Chardon, Demay, Duval, Dereure, 
Frankel, Ferr^, Flourens, Johannard, Lefran^ais, Langevin, Longuet, Malon, 
Oudet, Pottier, Pindy, Ranvier, R^^re, Rigault, Serailler, Tridon, Thcisz, 
Trinquet, Vaillant, Varlin, Vall^s. (Malon, Troisiime ddfaite duproUiariat 
franqais^ p. 4ii quoted in Actes, t. i. p. 193.) 

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32 History of the Paris Commune (t/" 1871 

disorder and repress agitation, ignored what it was inconvenient 
to see, and flattered the populace with laudations and misled it 
by military operations of the shallowest description. 

For energetic and thoroughgoing fighting there was now 
abundant need and opportunity. The enemy was already in 
the vicinity of the capital, and Paris was shut in upon herself, for 
a few days only partially, but presently to be absolute. The 
approach of the Germans was necessarily in a scattered and 
piecemeal form, yet no strenuous endeavour was made to defeat 
them as they arrived — rather it was thought that they would 
defeat themselves through famine. Paris had food supplies for 
two months ; the invader, in a hostile country, hundreds of miles 
from his native land, could never get sufficient edibles to feed a 
huge army for so long a period ! Nursing its own indolence and 
insincerity by this comforting reflection, the Government, instead 
of trying its utmost to repel the Germans ere they had amassed 
their full strength around the city, barely did what it could to 
save appearances and to lull the Parisians into a sense of safety 
by repeated declarations of the impregnability of their ram- 
parts. Yet General Trochu had a quarter of a million regular 
and reserve troops in Paris, and an equal number of National 
Guards ; with half a million men something might have been 

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THE lack of straightforwardness, vigour, and unity which 
characterized the Government greatly added to the 
difficulties of a position which, even to a robust and healthy 
authority, would have proved of enormous perplexity. Open 
enemies encompassed the outskirts of the city and isolated it 
from the world ; within, unconcealed opposition, partly patriotic, 
very largely factious, arose from a hundred sources. The 
anomalous origin of the Government now began to produce 
additional inconvenience to it ; it could not claim to represent, 
by any indisputable evidence, even Paris, much less France, and 
it had too many opponents in the capital not to be continually 
reminded of the fact To put an end to the anomaly, by con- 
voking a National Constituent Assembly, which should either 
maintain the Government in its self-elected position or appoint 
another to supersede it, was a laudable desire entertained by 
some of its members, but one which could not be realized whilst 
the capital and a great portion of the country were beset by 
a huge attacking army, paralysing every action other than 
military. If national elections were to be possible, it was 
essential that hostilities should cease, at least for a while. 

Animated by the hope of arranging a truce with the enemy, 
and ambitious to score a little personal triumph, M. Jules Favre, 
secretly and alone, set out from Paris to discover the great 
Prussian Chancellor, Count Bismarck, whom he knew to be 
somewhere amongst the forces surrounding the capital. It was 
not a very difficult task to discover so important a person, and 
Favre obtained the interview he sought, and was also granted, in 
principle, the object he had at heart — an armistice, but on con- 
dition that the town of Strasburg — still being besieged — should 
be handed over to the besiegers and its garrison surrendered as 

33 jy 

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34 History of the Paris Commune of liyi 

prisoners of war. Favre wept ; his patriotic impulses were 
outraged by such a stipulation, which he declined to entertain 
for a moment ; the n^otiation was broken off, and he returned 
to Paris. There being no armistice, there could be no elections, 
and the Government of the National Defence could not escape 
from the irregular position into which it had so glibly rushed 
without counting the cost. 

Closely connected with the Governmental situation was the 
question of a municipal council for Paris, the agitation for which 
became daily more pronounced. This subject constituted 
another serious dilemma for the Government, for the demand, 
in the abstract, was just, and it was impossible to demonstrate 
any paramount inexpediency which it involved. The truth lay 
in the fact that an elected Council or Commune would occupy 
a stronger, because legal, position than the Government, and 
therefore, instead of being an inferior and local authority, it 
would be the superior, and would certainly claim to direct, not 
only the municipal affairs of the capital, but the national 
administration of France, and would thus become the real 
Government of the country. This was not an imaginary out- 
look. The Socialists and Revolutionists who agitated for a 
Commune advocated for it ever-widening powers and responsi- 
bilities veiled under municipal terms and patriotic appeals, but 
which clearly indicated the extreme lengths to which they would 
go, if their first demands were conceded. Manifestations for 
this and various other projects included in the Socialistic pro- 
gramme became of daily occurrence. They were inaugurated 
chiefly by a small clique of journalists — Delescluze, Blanqui, 
Flourens, Pyat, Milliire, Vermorel, Vall^s, with others, whose 
efforts, naturally, were lauded and supported by their respective 
newspapers and also by the International Association of 
Workers and the Central Committee of the twenty arrondis- 

All these leaders of revolutionary opinion, and almost every 
man whose loquacity with tongue or pen had procured him the 
applause of the working classes, had been elected officers of the 
National Guard ; thus it roughly followed that a Socialist officer 

* Actesy t. i. p. 201. 

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September 19M to the ^ist October, 1870 35 

commanded Socialist men. This community of thought fre- 
quently resulted in entire battalions of Guards publicly manifest- 
ing their political opinions ; the officers, whose duty would 
properly have led theta to repress and forbid any demonstration, 
acting openly in concert with their men, sometimes being the 
instigators of these proceedings and at other times following the 
evident wish of their subordinates. The battalions of National 
Guards most notorious for demonstrating in front of the H6tel 
de Ville were those commanded by the journalist Gustave 
Flourens, who was a man of excitable disposition, extremely 
ambitious, not devoid of intelligence, but lacking, in a remark- 
able degree, sobriety of thought He still dubbed himself 
" Colonel," and the Government, though alive to the absurdity 
of Flourens' claim, after refusing to bestow that particular rank 
upon him, conciliated him with the unique title of " major de 
rempart," with which Flourens' vanity had to be content 

Flourens was in other ways troublesome to the Government. 
He and his battalions demonstrated once again before the 
Hdtel de Ville on the 3rd October, renewing demands for the 
municipal elections, and for a levie en masse with which to 
repel the enemy. These requests were bluntly refused, and 
Flourens departed with his men to nourish fresh plans for 
compelling or inducing the Government to comply with his 

The Central Committee of the twenty arrondissements came 
to his aid, and by it an imposing demonstration was fixed to 
take place on the 8th October.^ The commandants of the 
National Guards, who were in sympathy with the Committee 
and Flourens, had intended to participate in the manifestation ; 
but a misunderstanding occurred in regard to its date, and 
they did not put in an appearance. Flourens, however, with 
about seven thousand men, arrived before the Hdtel de Ville, 
and was received in audience by the entire personnel of the 
Grovemment, to whom he set forth the aforesaid demands. 
With striking unanimity and firmness the Government again 
refused to grant the requests, and Flourens was sharply reproved 
for encouraging indiscipline by his proceedings— a reproach 

* Actes, t i. p. 201. 

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36 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^x 

so well merited and accurate that several of the officers who 
accompanied him signified their assent to it Indiscipline might 
cause the eventual defeat of their armies; this, however, was 
not the greatest calamity in the eyes of the Government that it 
might be productive of. The truth was ingenuously unfolded 
by Floquet, one of the deputy mayors, who, in the presence of 
the Government, said to Flourens, " You lose the Republic ; we 
founded it the 4th September; it will perish by your hand."^ 
Yea, the establishment of the Republic was, to these rulers, of 
more account than the nation's honour and safety. Flourens 
was discredited and displeased; petulantly he departed, and 
subsequently sent in his resignation, thinking to have it refused, 
as had been done on previous occasions. This time, however, 
it was accepted, though Flourens' deprival of officership was, 
like so many other things at that epoch, purely nominal ; the 
hotheaded and enthusiastic Belleville commandant still revelled 
in his title of "major de rempart," and conserved in every 
material way the control of his battalions. 

From these Socialistic manifestations and their practical 
futility one fact becomes evident : that the malcontents, despite 
their ostentatious proceedings, their public meetings, and press 
polemics, over-estimated their strength. The Government, what- 
ever might be its faults, was still trusted by the bulk of the 
people. The Socialists, by fomenting agitation and promoting 
disunion when the greatest unity was needed, made enemies 
where they might have found adherents, and even alienated 
some of their avowed disciples. These lessons were lost upon 
them ; instead of abandoning denunciation of the Government, 
they accentuated and embittered it, and laid plans for more 
effectual opposition in the future. 

Unfortunately for the Government and for France, the dis- 
satisfaction of the Socialists with their rulers had a basis more 
solid than that afforded by their own political aspirations. The 
fortune of war was still going against the French ; defeat fol- 
lowed defeat — on several occasions around Paris ; at Strasburg, 
which had finally capitulated on September 27th, after a heroic 
defence lasting six weeks ; at Athenay, on the loth October ; 

* Actes^ t. i. p. 201. 

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September 19M to the 31st October, 1870 37 

at Soissons, which capitulated on the i6th October. The most 
serious of these losses could not by any reasonable person be 
attributed to any wilful negligence of the central Government 
at Paris, nevertheless it had to bear the brunt of them. It was 
more responsible for the various defeats sustained in the vicinity 
of the capital, for it failed to put forth its strength as it might 
have done. Trochu lacked confidence in his troops; the 
National Guards especially were indisciplinary, inefficient, and 
unreliable ; even the mobiles and regulars answered not to the 
full military standard in drill and manoeuvring. To Trochu 
himself must be apportioned much of the blame for a con- 
tinuance of this state of things. He was half-hearted in his 
efforts to remedy defects, temporising, vacillating, and spiritless. 
Personally of undoubted courage, he lacked all the qualities 
that were needed at such a time to render him a worthy com- 
mander of men. The troops, designated for the most part to 
comparative inaction, to exercises and evolutions which seemed 
at once endless and useless, became disaffected, and encouraged 
in their disregard of orders; confidence in their officers and 
leaders began to wane, whilst the lack of enei^ and firmness 
shown by the Government produced a corresponding incohesion 
and powerlessness betwixt the various fighting units which 
made up the immense army in and around Paris. 

In marked contrast with this was the state of the German 
forces opposed to them. These exhibited the highest develop- 
ment of modern military training and intelligent direction. 
Their lines of investment were sixty miles in circumference, 
and, necessarily, extremely shallow at any given point The 
weakness and inconvenience resulting from this was, however, 
speedily obliterated by means of the telegraph wire, which 
connected every post along the huge circle of investment with 
the German staff headquarters at Versailles. Fighting occur- 
ring at any spot became immediately known to Count von 
Moltke, the Prussian commander, and reinforcements were 
despatched whenever necessary. The German troops were, 
moreover, models of discipline, courage, and endurance ; they 
were buoyant with the knowledge of an almost unbroken suc- 
cession of victories, and had, with justice, the utmost confidence 
in the ability of their great strategist and his staff. The phy- 

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38 History of the Paris Commune (?/' 1871 

sical obstacles attached to the besieging of so large a city as 
Paris, by so great an army, were overcome with steady and 
business-like application, and the arrangements made were 
based upon the assumption — ^which the French had lightly dis- 
missed as impossible — that the siege would last a considerable 

Paris was completely deprived of ordinary means of communi- 
cation with the outside world. News, however, still went in and 
out, in an erratic and unreliable fashion, by the aid of balloons 
and carrier pigeons, whilst many ingenious contrivances were 
invented to minimise, as far as possible, the compulsory isola- 
tion which had befallen the city. Among the balloon ascents 
the most notable was that on October 7th, when Gambetta, the 
Minister of the Interior, left Paris to take up at Tours the duties 
of Minister of War. The reverses in the provinces had been 
attributed to lack of energy in the delegate Government, which 
was comprised of old and unimpassioned men. Gambetta was 
young, eloquent, overflowing with patriotic zeal and fire: he 
would organize and inspire the national resistance to their foe. 
Thus did the Government continue the incitement to the people 
to rise quivering to expel the invader — being, nevertheless, 
hopeless of success. 

Another balloon departure from Paris was that of Count 
Kdratry, until then Prefect of Police, who had angrily quitted 
the councils of the Government because of its indecision and 
incapacity to cope with the disorderly elements existing in the 
capital.* Of these disorderly ones, perhaps the most pronounced, 
within K^ratry's jurisdiction, was Cluseret ; but the Government 
refused to sanction his arrest. However, after K^ratry's depar- 
ture, Cluseret also quitted Paris — not by balloon, but on foot, 
crossing unperceived the Prussian lines, by a good fortune which 
befell scarcely any other individual. He made his way to the 
south of France, where he presently became General-in-Chief of 
the National Guard of Marseilles.* To the office vacated by 
K^ratry, M. Edmond Adam was appointed. 

Shortly after these departures. General Trochu unfolded to 
the beleaguered citizens of the capital a plan which he had 
formed for freeing them from their thraldom. Though remark- 
' ActeSy t. i. p. 210. • Ibid, 

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September i()th to the ^ist October^ 1870 39 

able for nothing but commonplace simplicity, this plan, when 
first promulgated, was much talked about and admired. It 
consisted in the French provincial armies marching on Paris on 
a pre-arranged day and attacking its besiegers from the outside, 
whilst Trochu with his entire force should attack them from the 
inside ; thus taking the enemy, vulgarly speaking, between two 
fires, and doubtless making short work of him. A simple plan, 
effective enough in theory ; the Parisians delighted for a while 
in magnifying and extolling it Nevertheless, the inertia they 
were reduced to whilst their provincial army should be gathered 
together and their metropolitan one perfected, coupled with the 
unbroken rumours of reverses sustained here and there, sorely 
tried their faith in Trochu, and the infractions of discipline were 
not less frequent after than before the announcement of the 
" plan." Riotous conduct even occurred, and called for restric- 
tive measures. A court-martial was instituted for the summary 
trial and punishment of offenders, and various portions of the 
National Guard were transferred to other localities than their 
own. Despite which, discontent grew apace ; the people saw 
only the broad fact that, after a month's siege, nothing had been 
accomplished, and the enemy held them in a tighter grip than 
ever. General Trochu reproved their impatience — referred to 
the enthusiasm with which, in July, the war had begun, and 
to the disasters which had followed from the real unprepared- 
ness of the troops to engage in a great conflict. He urged the 
Parisians to wait until the right moment had arrived for making 
an effective onslaught upon their foe. 

This presumably prudent but utterly unsatisfactory advice 
left the citizens in the same discontented, querulous state ; their 
resentment was somewhat smothered, but was even more dan- 
gerous than when openly expressed. There was absolutely not 
one reassuring feature of a practical description in the existing 
situation. Even such comfortless condition tended to become 
aggravated. On October 26th, disquieting rumours prevailed 
regarding the safety of Metz, which, enclosing Marshal Bazaine 
and nearly 200,000 officers and men as well as considerable 
quantities of artillery, and protected by fortifications, was con- 
sidered invulnerable ; and the fact that it had been besieged for 
an even longer period than had Paris in no way detracted from 

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40 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

this estimate of its imposing strength. No authentic informa- 
tion respecting it had been received in Paris for weeks, but not 
the slightest misgiving had been felt, and it would have been 
deemed ridiculous even to dream of it succumbing to the enemy. 
Yet this hitherto unthought-of contingency was now rumoured 
as being about to occur, if, indeed, it were not already a fact 
" Treason ! '* rushed to the lips of the confounded Parisians, and 
bitter comparisons were drawn betwixt the ability of generals 
when serving an Emperor and when serving a Republic The 
next day — October 27th — the rumour appeared in the newspaper 
Le Combat — a journal conducted by Fdlix Pyat, who was one of 
the most rabid and venomous of the Jacobinical writers and was a 
man of paltry and cowardly character. Pyat printed the rumour, 
saying it was indisputably true, and that the Government knew 
of the occurrence which it referred to. The whole of this was 
denied the following day by the Journal Officiel of the Govern- 
ment, which enlarged upon the glorious past career of Bazaine 
and declared its confidence in his valour and patriotism. " As 
for Le Combat, " it continued, " the Government could, if it 
wished, suppress it, but preferred to leave its condemnation to 
the indignation of public opinion." Public opinion, thus incited 
to manifest itself, straightway, in the guise of a riotous crowd, 
proceeded to the office of Le Combat, destroyed whatever it 
could lay hold of, and would undoubtedly have maltreated 
Pyat had not that individual carefully kept himself in conceal- 
ment This affair seemed likely to blow over, the Parisians 
having, on the subsequent day — the 29th — for once some better 
news to interest them. A military report announced that on 
the 28th the French troops had gained possession of Le Bourget, 
a village about four miles to the north of Paris, the enemy 
having been surprised and driven off during the night 

The day after this gratifying news was published, F^lix Pyat, 
feeling stung by the Governmental denial of the rumour he had 
printed relative to Metz, revealed the source from which his in- 
formation had come, to wit, Gustave Flourens, who had received 
the intelligence from Rochefort, the Socialist member of the 
Government Could the rumour be doubted after that ? Not- 
withstanding so explicit a statement, Pyat's revelation was 
generally discredited, so prone is a people to believe that 

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31^/ October, 1870 41 

official announcements are always correct However, in the 
evening of the same day, news came to hand which, when 
coupled with Pyat's declaration, were of ominous augury for 
the Government. It transpired that, owing to want of reinforce- 
ments to support the victors at Le Bourget, the enemy had 
retaken the village and had made great slaughter amongst the 
French troops. Imprecations upon Trochu arose on every side, 
public meetings denounced him, at the cafes and on the boule- 
vards anger and indignation abounded, and throughout the night 
the passion which had been thus aroused showed no signs of 

The dawn of the 31st served only further to inflame it. Then 
it was discovered that, after all, the rumour about Metz having 
surrendered was true — an official placard at last testified to its 
accuracy. One hundred and eighty thousand more prisoners 
were to be added to the already huge number which the 
Germans had taken ! Another official announcement stated 
that M. Thiers was about to apply to Count Bismarck for an 
armistice, for the purpose of holding national elections and 
thereby placing the Government of the country upon a legal 
basis. Negotiating — compacting with the enemy : to ^he 
excited Parisians it appeared as a crime of the highest trea- 
son, no matter what the object to be attained. As if to add 
fuel to the fire of their indignation, the Government sought to 
palliate the discreditable reverse at Le Bourget by casting the 
responsibility for it upon the officer who directed the victorious 
attack, instead of upon his superiors, including themselves, for 
failing to send reinforcements and vigorously maintaining the 
position he had gained. Jules Favre complacently remarked 
that there was no need to be alarmed, for Le Bourget did not 
form part of the general system of defence. Alarmed } No, 
disgusted and humiliated! 

The position of the Government, inherently weak, became 
suddenly precarious at this fortuitous conjunction of losses and 
truce-seeking. Popular clamour and self-election had con- 
stituted it ; popular clamour and other egotists might depose 
it The indecision and nervelessness, worse than effeminate, of 
the men in power, increased the strength of the malcontents out 
of it, and the latter swiftly perceived that a golden opportunity 

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42 History of the Paris Commune of liji 

had presented itself for the realization of some at least of their 

The Committees of Vigilance were quickly convened in every 
arrondissement, and elected delegates who were to demand 
explanations from the Government and to insist that no 
armistice should be concluded. The officers of the National 
Guards met and consulted, but were undecided what line of 
action to adopt. Groups of citizens everywhere discussed the 
state of affairs, and it soon became evident that there was a 
general tendency to proceed to the H6tel de Ville to inter- 
pellate the Government, to infuse kito it fresh energy, or, if 
need be, to remove it At Belleville, Gustave Flourens as- 
sembled his tirailleurs, and they also arranged to march, armed, 
to the H6tel de Ville. The Central Committee also met, and, 
at Lefranjais' suggestion, decided to overturn the Government 
and proceed to the establishment of a Commune. 

So, towards midday, the Place de THdtel de Ville became the 
rendezvous of first one group of citizens or guards, unarmed, 
then another, until it was covered with a multitude of people. 
Some battalions of National Guards marched up to the Place 
in military order and with arms, but many battalions were 
represented only by delegates on peaceful missions bent 
Deputations from public meetings and various committees 
arrived, and were at once received in audience by a member of 
the Government ; but they were so numerous, and followed so 
quickly one upon another, that the reception room became 
crowded and the interviews confused and disorderly. Outside 
the building from the beginning, and now inside, as the throng 
became unmanageable, cries were raised of "Down with 
Trochu ! " " Vive la Commune 1 " " No armistice ! " and others of 
similar import. 

About one o'clock the various mayors of arrondissements 
arrived, in order to consult with the central mayor, M. Etienne 
Arago, relative to holding municipal elections immediately, 
which, in their opinion, were imperatively necessary to calm the 
excited minds of the citizens. In this view M. Arago con- 
curred, and he left the mayors to see the Government and gain 
its consent to the proposed measure. Eight members of the 
Government deliberated together in a room a little way off ; to 

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iisl October^ 1870 43 

them Arago explained his and the mayors' recommendation. 
Five members of the Government — Em. Arago, Favre, Ferry, 
Pelletan, Picard — approved it ; three — Gamier- Pagfes, Simon, 
Trochu — disapproved ; the proposal, having the support of the 
majority, was sanctioned, and Arago was commissioned to 
inform the mayors of the fact 

Meanwhile the crowd outside had become more tumultuous 
and exacting. Not content with being represented by delegates 
and deputations, nor in learning that the Mayor of Paris was 
largely in accord with the latter, it wished, itself, to enter the 
H6tel de Ville, and it gradually elbowed and pushed its way 
past the Guards who had been deputed to regulate and restrict 
admissions to the building, but ordered on no account to repel 
any attempted invasion by violence. This prohibition presently 
had for result the contemplated contingency : the crowd surged 
within the palace, thronged the halls, corridors, and courtyard, 
and constituted, in a very short time, a Babylonish bedlam. 
Various members of the Government had come separately to 
address the populace, but none of them received a respectful 

About two o'clock the Central Committee and various Com- 
mittees of Vigilance arrived, and were greeted with renewed 
cries of " Vive la Commune ! " and " A bas Trochu ! " Amongst 
these arrivals were the most notable leaders of Socialistic opinioii 
in Paris — Blanqui, Delescluze, Vermorel, Milli^re, Gabriel 
Ranvier, Lefrangais, R^gfere, Pillot, and Tridon. If bein^ held 
up one day to public scorn as an unscrupulous and unpatriotic 
inventor of lies and three days afterwards receiving the most 
authoritative confirmation of one's veracity constituted a hero, 
Fdix Pyat should that day have been one. Pyat, however, mani- 
fested great diffidence about showing himself ; his cowardice was 
accentuated by mistrustfulness of the people whom he flattered 
and excited. Nevertheless, he was sent for, and came, more by 
compulsion than voluntarily. 

The Central Committee and others of the advanced political 
party edged their way through the throng into the Hdtel de 
Ville, where they divided into two currents — one wending 
towards the Government room, and the other to the hall 
occupied by the mayors. In the latter place a lively altercation 

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44 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

soon ensued betwixt the mayors on the one hand and Blanqui, 
Delescluze, and Pyat on the other ; it was ended only by the 
civic authorities withdrawing from the room and from the 
Hdtel, where they deemed their utility for the present was over. 
They had not then received the Governmental reply which 
Arago had been authorized to deliver to them. Arago had been 
maltreated and delayed by the crowd in the course of his transit 
from room to room. However, the announcement was at last 
made that the Government had assented to the municipal 
elections being held without delay, and Arago, prompt to carry 
out this decision to its logical issue, went to his office — also 
invaded ! — and sent circulars to the twenty mayors informing 
them that the elections would be held the next day, November 
1st. Placards were ordered and printed, by which to make 
known the fact throughout the city early the following morning. 
Into the large hall of the H6tel de Ville, which had been 
vacated by the mayors and thronged by a madcap multitude, 
Rochefort, pale and agitated, entered and was recognised. 
Cries were raised for him, and amidst deafening uproariousness 
he was lifted on to a table ; it upset and he fell, but both were 
re-established, and Rochefort proceeded to address the crowd. 
Socialist and aristocrat, he had neither thoroughly amalgamated 
these antagonistic orders nor wholly divested himself of the 
natural one when he took up the acquired. He attempted first 
to describe himself as one of the people, but received instantly 
the lie direct ; amid increasing clamour he referred to the 
Government, to the elections, to the armistice and Thiers, at 
whose name the din became terrible. Rochefort could no 
longer be heard, and he descended from the table whilst angry 
menaces resounded against the unfortunate armistice negotiator. 
Another citizen sprang on to the table, and shouted out that 
the Government was deposed. Nominations of persons to 
succeed it were immediately bawled out from all parts of the 
room, every man declaring for his own peculiar predilection. 
A first list of twelve names was drawn up, including Blanqui, 
Delescluze, and F61ix Pyat; this met with some, but by no 
means general, acceptance. Other names were writ on paper ; 
every man that cared so to do drew up a list of names according 
to his own fancy. These heterogeneous and multifarious lists 

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31^/ October^ 1870 45 

were copied, hawked about, thrown out of windows to the 
crowd outside, alternately approved and condemned — the whole 
proceeding being enveloped in a confused tumult of noise and 

Elsewhere in the H6tel de Ville there reigned the same 
demon of uproar. No person or place was privileged ; even the 
lat^e hall where the Government sat was forced open and 
invaded, the mob in this instance being led on by Lefrangais 
and Vermorel. The members of the Government, now seven 
in number, were so hemmed in to the table around which they 
had been deliberating that they were unable to move, whilst 
the leaders of the crowd demanded the establishment of the 
Commune and the resignation of the Government, the latter 
in particular being urged with a vehemence that amounted, 
under the circumstances, to intimidation. The Government 
rightly refused to consent to demands urged in so violent a 

One of the provisional lists thrown from a window of the 
hall where the mayors had been fell upon Gustave Floure ns, 
who, attired in melodramatic military costume, had just arrived 
on horseback at the head of his battalions of tirailleurs. He 
grasped the paper, read it, observed the absence of his own 
name, dismounted, and entered the H6tel de Ville, followed 
by some of his men. Flourens quickly perceived that there 
was no general agreement among the unchecked and unheeded 
babbling and gesticulating mass of people, which thronged and 
overflowed in all directions; he thereupon drew up a list for 
the formation of a Committee of Public Safety, which, to the 
Jacobins, who were slavish would-be copyists of the great 
revolution of 1792-3, appeared the beau ideal of Governmental 
authority. Flourens placed his own name first, thus fittingly 
exemplifying his braggadocio character; then followed the 
names of F^lix Pyat, Mottu, Avrial, Ranvier, Millifere, Blanqui, 
Delescluze, Louis Blanc, Raspail — an old Revolutionist — 
Rochefort, Victor Hugo, and Ledru-Rollin. This list was 
acclaimed by the crowd surrounding Flourens, who, inflated 
by its plaudits, marched to the council room where the 
Government was confined and forced his way in. Jumping on 
to the table, he proclaimed the deposition of the Government 

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46 History of the Paris Commune of i^yi 

and the substitution therefor of a Committee of Public Safety. 
He read out the list of names which he held in his hands. Most 
of them passed uncontested ; those of Rochefort, Hugo, Blanc, 
and Ledru-Rollin were of doubtful acceptance. To the list 
was added the name of Dorian, a junior member of the Govern- 
ment, a man of modest and unpretentious ability, who had won 
the estimation alike of the working and the educated classes. 

Flourens next repeated the demand for the formal resignation 
of the Government, which was again refused, whereupon he 
declared that the members of the Government were prisoners, 
and should only leave the H6tel de Ville as such. This an- 
nouncement met with loud cries : "To Mazas! " " Shoot them! " 
" Finish them I *' At these shouts, a well-disposed commandant 
of National Guards, M. Ibos, took alarm for the safety of the 
Government, and went out to gain assistance. His battalion 
was not far off; he went to it, and returned with some sturdy 
fellows. Entering the Palace again, he forced his way past the 
guards whom Flourens had placed at the door of the room, 
leapt on to the table, and confronted with defiance the Belleville 
favourite. Only a few of Ibos' men had been able to follow 
their leader ; they formed but a handful against some hundreds 
of Flourens'. The position was critical, and an open conflict 
imminent. Suddenly, at a sign from Ibos, one of his followers, 
a man of herculean strength, seized General Trochu, lifted him 
from his chair, and carried him through the crowd to the door, 
which, at the same instant, was forced open by his comrades ; 
through the doorway and down the staircase the man with his 
burden tumbled and rolled rather than walked, forcing a 
passage by the impetus of his weight and that of his helpers, 
through the mass of humanity which blocked and opposed the 
way. Arrived at the bottom of the stairs, the path was clear, 
for the guards there were ignorant of the occurrences above ; 
they recognised Trochu, and voluntarily made way for him 
and his escort. Once outside the building the general im- 
mediately repaired to his quarters in the Louvre. 

In the mil^e which was occasioned by this rapid abduction 
of Trochu, Jules Ferry and Emmanuel Arago managed also 
to escape. The remaining members — Favre, Simon, Pagfcs, and 
Pelletan, with Generals le F16 and Tamisier, the latter being 

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31^/ October, 1870 47 

the commandant-in-chief of the National Guard — attempted to 
follow suit, but they were surrounded and held back until the 
door was reclosed and the hall again in undisputed possession 
of Flourens and his tirailleurs. 

Flourens was ill at ease. The Government was declared 
deposed and a new authority acclaimed ; there were, conse- 
quently, numberless orders to give and changes to make, and 
he knew not quite what to do. Blanqui was in the H6tel, 
not far away, and Flourens had sent repeatedly for him ; but 
he came not, and the messengers did not return. Blanqui, 
in fact, was himself arrested by a loyal battalion of National 
Guards, which had stationed itself betwixt the two large halls, 
in one of which were the Government and Flourens, and in 
the other he, Delescluze, and a host of their followers. This 
intervening battalion had performed signal service to the 
Government by preventing the two fractions of the invaders 
communicating with each other, and by intercepting and 
destroying the orders they sent forth. The first message from 
Flourens to Blanqui was permitted to go, but on the latter 
emerging from the room he was seized. After various in- 
effectual attempts had been made to rescue him, it was deemed 
advisable to endeavour to convey him out of the building ; but 
this project was frustrated by some revolutionary guards who 
were encountered in the courtyard, and who, recognising their 
chief, engaged with his captors. In the struggle which ensued 
Blanqui escaped. He went at once to Flourens and took up 
the direction of the revolutionary movement Orders were 
given for those National Guards on whom they could rely, to 
march to the Hdtel de Ville, which place was to be under the 
military command of Eudes, the murderer of the fireman at 
La Villette ; another order was for Raoul Rigault to seize the 
Prefecture of Police. A provisional municipal commission was 
drawn up ; it comprised 120 names, and included all the press 
revolutionary, socialistic. International and Central Committee 
leaders, or persons of any note amongst the working classes or 
with any following. A commission of urgency was formed, and 
it immediately ordered the seizure of the public ministries and 
offices and the mairies of the arrondissements ; orders of a 
military nature were also despatched to the various forts 

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48 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

surrounding Paris. This commission further busied itself in 
distributing places and positions amongst the legion of 
applicants who, regardless of their fitness, coveted them. The 
Committee of Public Safety, which had been so much talked 
of during the afternoon, was finally arranged. Flourens' list 
being too long to be acceptable, the committee was formed of 
five persons only — Delescluze, Blanqui, Milli^re, Ranvier, and 

Thus occupied, the night wore rapidly on to the revolutionary 
chiefs, slowly to the imprisoned members of the Government, 
and pleasantly enough to the insurgent National Guards who 
filled the H6tel. Hunger and thirst are natural enemies that 
must be yielded to, and, to satisfy or surfeit their demands, 
recourse was had to the extensive larders and cellars of the 
palace, which furnished edibles and liquors in excess of all 
requirements, whilst the insurgents experienced sufficient oppo- 
sition from the loyal Guards to add zest to their own pre- 
dominance and to afford an outlet for a mischievous and 
quarrelsome, though not, happily, bloodthirsty disposition. To 
the tumult and disorder of the afternoon and early evening 
drunkenness came to be added ; it perhaps had a beneficial 
influence ; certain it is that drunkenness can have a good effect : 
there is nothing in the world wholly bad. Midnight was near, 
when a notable change in the demeanour of the revolutionary 
leaders took place. 

Looking from the windows of the Yellow Hall, where were 
Blanqui and Flourens, some of their adherents had perceived 
from time to time the arrival of battalions of National Guards 
on the Place de THdtel de Ville, which, by midnight, was 
covered with an orderly assemblage, very different to the unruly 
multitude which had occupied that space during the afternoon. 
The purport and sympathies of the new-comers could only be 
surmised by the spectators in the interior, but gradually a 
feeling of insecurity came over thenL Presently one of the 
insui^ents, in alarm, said, " We are surrounded ; we are not the 

It was true. Picard, who had left the H6tel de Ville after 
the first invasion and before his colleagues had been hedged in 
to their table, had sanctioned the beating of the call to arms 

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31^/ October, 1870 49 

for the National Guard, and the result of this was that loyal 
Guards to the number of nearly sixty thousand, fully armed, 
were now before and about the H6tel de Ville, to put down the 
attempt which had been made to depose the Government 
Large though the following of the revolutionist chiefs was, it was 
but a fraction of the entire population of Paris ; great as was the 
dissatisfaction which the Government had aroused, it was not to 
be compared to the distrust with which the names of agitators 
like Blanqui, Delescluze, and Flourens was generally received. 

The presence of such imposing numbers of loyal Guards 
evidenced to the leaders of this movement that the tables were 
turned upon them, and that it was their position which was 
now critical ; to which must be added the position of the 
imprisoned members of the Government, who were still im- 
mediately surrounded by enemies, and whose lives would be in 
instant jeopardy should an actual conflict occur between the 
two sections of Guards. To conjure away both these menacing 
sittiations Flourens and Delescluze proposed that the members 
of the Government should be restored to liberty on condition 
that the chiefs of the revolutionary movement should be allowed 
to depart safe and sound from the H6tel de Ville. Before this 
stipulation could be considered, a man burst into the room and 
exclaimed in affright, " We are betrayed ! The Mobiles have 
entered by a subterranean passage ! " The Mobiles — Bretons, 
devoted to Trochu, himself a Breton, speaking only the Breton 
dialect, semi-foreigners in Paris — the name was synonymous 
with massacre! General le F16 declared that he spoke Breton, 
and that unless he were allowed to go and prevent these 
Northerners from invading the hall, none within it would 
escape. Le Fid's offer was accepted with eagerness, and he 
departed — encountered the Bretons in the courtyard just at the 
moment when an affray was about to commence, and happily 
succeeded in preventing it. From them no further danger was 
to be feared, but this could not be said of the thousands of 
Guards, under the temporary command of Jules Ferry, which 
were massed in front of the H6tel, all eager to get inside the 
building and to oust the intruders. The various entrances 
were closed against them, and M. Ferry disposed his men so 
as to force them open. 


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50 History of the Paris Commune of 187 1 

Meanwhile, within, the proposed agreement between the 
Government and the Revolutionists was not yet settled. 
Delesduze sent for Dorian^ the junior member of the Govern- 
ment previously referred to, and finally a sort of convention was 
drawn up by the former on behalf of his party and assented to 
by Favre, Simon, Gamier-Pagis, Dorian, and General Tamisier 
on behalf of the Government By this arrangement the 
municipal elections already convoked for that day — for it was 
after midnight, and November ist was entered upon — were 
confirmed ; furthermore, elections on the next day were to be 
held for the purpose of establishing, by popular voting, a 
Government of National Defence, the existing Government 
of course being eligible for re-election. The last clause in this 
convention stipulated that there should be no reprisals under- 
taken by the liberated Government against the leaders of the 
revolutionary movement This conciliatory compromise was 
further agreed to by Flourens, Milli^re, and, after some hesita- 
tion, BlanquL The next steps were to liberate the prisoners 
and evacuate the H6tel de Ville. The first of these measures 
met with a marked and unexpected opposition from Flourens' 
tirailleurs who guarded the prisoners and the doors. They 
refused to obey their leaders or to recognise the agreement 
made, and the members of the Government were compelled to 
remain prisoners. 

This action on the part of Flourens* men greatly complicated 
the situation. Delescluze and Dorian went out together to 
inform Jules Ferry of the compromise, and besought him, in 
order to avoid bloodshed, not to force an entrance. Ferry 
consented, and waited for two hours ; still the doors were 
closed. Wrangling and disturbance continued uninterruptedly 
inside ; on several occasions it seemed as if firearms would be 
made use of and fighting begun. Fortunately, however, physical 
weariness began to tell upon even the most ferocious and 
unyielding elements. The men who had persisted in keeping 
the members of the Government prisoners became gradually 
less defiant and more sleepy, so that, by about four o'clock, 
their opposition came to an end, and the prisoners were free. 
It was at the same moment that Jules Ferry, impatient at the 
long delay, forced open the doors which kept him from the 

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315/ October, 1870 51 

interior ; at sight of his resolute and disciplined men, the little 
army of insurgents fled. Ferry made his way without much 
trouble to the hall where his colleagues had been detained, 
arriving just as Blanqui, arm-in-arm with General Tamisier, and 
Flourens, were about to leave. The staircase and entrances 
were now held by loyal Guards, and there was no further 
difficulty about departure. The remaining members of the 
Government mingled with Millifere, Ranvier, and Delescluze in 
emei^ng from the hall, where for over twelve hours they had 
been imprisoned. Such conjoint exit of these political oppo- 
nents was a tacit evidence of the understanding that had been 
come to between them^ Before long, all the leaders of the 
movement had dispersed. It was a more difficult task to get 
rid of the sleepy and drunken citizens, who lounged or lay about 
as contentedly as though they had been in their own apart- 
ments ; by about five o'clock, however, this labour was accom- 
plished. The H6tel had suffered greatly by the invasion ; 
staircases, windows, furnishings and decorations were damaged 
everywhere ; many things were broken or irretrievably spoilt ; 
litter and dirt lay in profusion. 

The foregoing proceedings form what is known in French 
politics as the " affiair " of the 31st October; an inoffensive and 
intrinsically meaningless date being the most convenient label 
for Frenchmen to affix on their kaleidoscopical political events. 

* For pages 42-51 of text : Actes^ t i. pp. 210-222. 

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AS soon as Trochu, Favre, Picard, and Ferry knew that the 
bulk of the National Guards was with them, they re- 
pudiated the arrangement to which Favre, Dorian, and others 
of their colleagues had assented, and cancelled the preparations 
already made for holding the municipal elections. 

In place of elections, the Government ordered a plebiscite to 
be taken November 3rd, on the single question as to whether it 
was to be maintained in office or not This plebiscite resulted 
in an overwhelming affirmatory answer,* and thus the position 
of the Government was greatly strengthened, and it had now 
a tangible claim to represent Paris at least 

Making a tyrannical use of its newly confirmed power, the 
Government at once issued warrants for the arrest of the 
leading spirits in the affair of the 31st October — Flourens, 
Blanqui, Milli^re, F^lix Pyat, Lefrangais, Tridon, Ranvier, Pillot, 
Eudes, Vermorel, R^g^re, Jules Vallfes, journalist, Vesinier, also 
journalist, and Goupil being among the persons against whom 
this process was launched. Before, however, any of these 
warrants could be executed, another Prefect of Police had to 
be appointed, for the existing Prefect would not assist in so 
violent a contravention of the compromise which had been 
arranged in the early hours of November ist The new Prefect 
appointed was a barrister named Cresson, a friend of the 
minister Picard. Cresson executed the warrants where possible ; 
several of the persons he sought — Blanqui, Milli^re, Flourens, 
Goupil, R^g^re, and Vall^s — could not be found. Against 

' 557)976 votes in favour of the Government 
62,638 „ against „ „ 

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November ist to December 3 u/, 1870 53 

Delescluze no warrant was issued, personal favouritism on the 
part of Jules Ferry being apparently the cause of this singular 
exception.^ Pyat, Tridon, and two others, after a short de- 
tention, were released, their complicity in the affair of the 31st 
October having been very slight. The Government was un- 
desirous of bringing these prisoners to trial speedily ; it was 
sufficient for it to have them under detention where they were 
powerless to create further trouble ; moreover, even a Military 
Court was not precisely a machine for registering the wishes of 
the Government, and there was ever the risk that the trials 
might result in the acquittal of some of the agitators. 

In addition to these arrests, various officers of the National 
Guard were relieved of their commands because of the part they 
had taken in the revolutionary movement, and Raoul Rigault, 
who had temporarily imagined himself to be head of the 
Prefecture of Police, was dismissed absolutely from the staff of 
that department. 

The flagrant breach of the agreement made with the revo- 
lutionary chiefs that was involved in these arrests and in other 
reprisals of lesser note which the Government immediately 
undertook against its opponents, did not pass without open 
denunciation and resignation from some of the parties to the 
convention. Rochefort at once separated himself from his 
colleagues ; Etienne Arago, the Mayor, and two of his deputies, 
resigned their offices ; General Tamisier also relinquished, on 
the nominal ground of ill-health, the position of Commandant- 
in-Chief of the National Guards. To the latter office General 
Clement Thomas was appointed ; the successor to Etienne 
Arago as Mayor of Paris was found in Jules Ferry. 

To remove as far as it thought advisable every pretext for 
agitation, the Government ordered mayors and deputy mayors 
to be elected in the twenty arrondissements. This was very 
dissimilar to the Commune which the Socialists demanded, 
though it was put forward in substitution thereof. The elected 
in each arrondissement had no legal power of combination with 
other arrondissements ; their duties were limited strictly to the 
districts which elected them. They had no chief of their own 

* Actes^ t. i. p. 226. 

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54 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSji 

choice, as a Commune could have had, but were under the 
control of the central mayor, and, through him, of the Govern- 
ment It is not possible to quarrel with the refusal of the 
Government to grant a Commune under existing circumstances, 
though no words are adequate to condemn its vacillation, weak- 
ness, and falsity in regard to the events of the 31st October. A 
Commune, or Common Council, elected by armed electors, 
representing en bloc the city of Paris, would have had greater 
influence over the National Guards than the Government, and 
there would thus have been two armed authorities in the city, 
with every prospect of a conflict breaking out between them, 
and the horrors of civil war being added to those of war with 
the foreigner. The Government, however, seemed incapable of 
adopting a strong and defiant attitude to the Socialists on this 
point ; they permitted their love of power to play fast and loose 
with their convictions. It was with them, as it is with nearly 
all persons who jump suddenly into positions of responsibility, 
not upon their own merits, but by reason of extrinsic circum- 
stances: they imagine themselves possessed of all requisite 
ability, until actual experience rudely makes manifest their 

The elections in the arrondissements took place on November 
5th and 8th. Amongst the twenty mayors and sixty deputy 
mayors elected, the following appertained to the active Socialist 
party : — Delescluze, elected mayor of the 19th arrondissement ; 
Ranvier, mayor, and Milli^re, Flourens, and Lefrangais, deputies 
of the 20th arrondissement; Jaclard, L60 Meillet, Malon, 
Dereure, Miot, Oudet, and Perin, elected deputy mayors in 
various arrondissements. Ranvier, Lefran9ais, and Jaclard were 
at the time in prison, and Flourens and Milli^re were under 
police surveillance. The whole of the elect for the 20th arron- 
dissement being thus under the ban of the law, the Government 
nominated a Commission to control and direct its administra- 
tion, notwithstanding that the inhabitants of that quarter ob- 
jected to such a procedure. 

Out of the eighty persons elected, the total Socialist repre- 
sentation was twelve. This proportion was fairly in agreement 
with other indications of the relative strength of the extreme 
party at that period. There were, however, many of the other 

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November ist to December 3 u/, 1870 55 

sixty-eight mayors and deputies whose radicalism was of an 
advanced type, and between whom and the Socialists an accord 
on many important matters existed. 

The negotiations for an armistice, the rumour anent which 
had served to increase the discontent of the Parisians on 
October 31st, terminated on November 6th in failure, like the 
previous attempt by Favre. This was due primarily to the 
proposed revictualling of Paris, which Thiers had asked for and 
Bismarck had refused. The latter's refusal was in part also due 
to the revolutionary attempt that had occurred ; these Parisians, 
thought Bismarck, give them time enough, will defeat them- 
selves. Paris was beginning to feel the scarcity of food ; many 
of the ordinary edibles of life had completely disappeared. 
Wines and spirits there were in abundance, but of food only 
the coarsest could be had — horseflesh, salted meat, and bread 
of indifferent quality. 

The siege had lasted nearly two months, and the enemy, 
instead of being, as the Parisians had at the outset thought 
he would be, physically and morally enervated by prolonged 
exposure and inability to obtain sufficient nourishment, was 
stronger than ever, well fed, well housed, excellently managed, 
and in good humour with himself, so that a successful surprise 
on the part of the French was almost an impossibility. To 
such a high state of efficiency the French forces within Paris 
presented a continually increasing contrast ; they were all now 
suffering somewhat from an impoverished diet, from a mental 
depression caused by their enforced seclusion and the absence 
of encouraging news from the outside, and, worst of all, from 
the fatal tendency to indiscipline. Discussing instead of obey- 
ing orders was alarmingly prevalent, and the setting up before 
each individual of his political rights as a citizen rather than 
his military duties as a soldier. The public meetings which 
were held nightly in almost every arrondissement lai^ely con- 
tributed to this unhappy condition of things, for the audiences 
were all soldiers, and the speakers were invariably Socialists. 
The latter inculcated in forcible and declamatory language in- 
sistence upon their political claims ; found fault with the Govern- 
ment for inaction and treachery ; magnified and lauded the 
power of the people ; minimised and ridiculed the authority to 

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56 History of the Paris Commune of i^yi 

which they were subject; and advocated always the establish- 
ment of a Commune, which would respect and enforce the 
rights of the individual, secure equality for all, and inaugurate 
a universal brotherhood. The speakers doubtless believed what 
they said, and, in regard to the Government, they had some 
grounds for complaint ; but the great fault of Socialism in 
general, to which these particular devotees formed no exception, 
is that its survey of humanity, though often extensive, is always 
superficial. The socialistic orators knew not quite to what 
their harangues tended ; they were not sure about the necessity 
for strict discipline in the National Guards and Mobiles, anfl, 
as leaders of the people, their incertitude affected with a similar 
indifference the audiences which they addressed. At such a 
period it never occurred to them to sink all political questions 
until the end of the war, to unite loyally and manfully under 
the one direction which the Government of the National De- 
fence might indicate, and to repress to the best of their ability 
any and every attempt to introduce discord or create dis- 

The Government, it must be admitted, was itself largely at 
fault : firstly, in ever permitting the citizens to elect their own 
officers ; secondly, in sending out proclamations and manifestoes 
full of blatant, wordy rhodomontade, thereby giving an example 
of empty boasting which could not possibly be productive of 
good ; thirdly, in not from the outset exacting rigorous dis- 
cipline from all parties; fourthly, in failing to support the 
victors at Le Bourget ; and lastly, in again setting a pernicious 
example to the city by disavowing the arrangement entered 
into between Dorian and Delescluze. When a Government 
can so flippantly play falsely, who can wonder that honour and 
truth should be at a discount ? 

Thrown back upon their own resources by the failure to 
obtain an armistice, the Parisians redoubled their energy in 
the construction of barricades and earthworks wherever it 
seemed that such might be required. They imagined that the 
Germans could not long delay bombarding the city and attempt- 
ing to storm it ; it would have been something like a relief had 
this been done. Trochu's " plan " for raising the siege began 
to be laughed at — with such /clat had it been announced, and 

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November \st to December 31^/, 1870 57 

with such barrenness of result distinguished. It was, however, 
not generally known that the main reason for its sterility 
hitherto, lay with Gambetta, whose policy was to disr^ard the 
Government at Paris, and neglect its wishes, nurturing and 
forwarding his own immature and inexperienced ideas.^ 
Trochu's plan was, notwithstanding, still in existence, and its 
^uthor was seeking the opportunity to carry it into effect 

Away from the vicinity of Paris, the German armies con- 
tinued to gain towns and battles. Verdun capitulated on 
November 8th, delivering 4,000 prisoners and a large quantity 
of war material to the victors, and shortly afterwards Neu 
Breissach also capitulated, giving up 5,000 prisoners and more 
than a hundred guns. On November 17th Count K^ratry, 
marching with a force of Breton Mobiles in the direction of 
Paris with the intention of relieving it, encountered the Germans 
at Dreux, a town about forty miles to the west of the capital, 
and was defeated there, losing 200 prisoners. For this defeat 
K^ratry was subsequently superseded in his command. 

The Parisians were not aware of all these losses when, on the 
14th November, they received news of a victory gained four 
days before by their countrymen, under the command of General 
d'Aurelle de Paladines, at Coulmiers, a little place near to 
Orleans. This was a battle of some significance, for the Ger- 
mans evacuated the town of Orleans (which the French re- 
occupied), and retreated in the direction of Paris with all their 
war material. D'Aurelle had a lai^e force under him, and the 
retreating enemy should undoubtedly have been pursued and 
smitten hip and thigh, as it was in the power of the French to 
do. No pursuit was, however, undertaken ; and D'Aurelle, be- 
lieving himself to be realizing the wishes of Gambetta, as well 
as of his own predilections, simply ensconced himself in and 
about Orl^ans.^ Nevertheless, because of the unquestionable 
victory he had achieved at Coulmiers, he was made general- 
issimo of all the French forces outside of Paris. 

Another slight advantage over the enemy was gained by 
Riciotti Garibaldi, who, with his father, the renowned Garibaldi, 
and brother, had taken up arms on behalf of the French. 

* Actes^X, i. pp. 321-3. * Ibid,^ L iii. ist part, p. 15. 

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58 History of the Paris Commune of \%Ti 

Riciotti surprised the Germans at Chitillon - sur - Seine on 
November 19th, and captured a quantity of war material and 
prisoners, with which he withdrew, not being in sufficient 
strength to hold the town. 

Against these French successes, however, there is a continued 
record of German gains to be set On November 24th the 
fortified town of Thionville capitulated, delivering over 4,000 
prisoners and 250 guns, and three days later the fort La Fere 
was compelled to do likewise, 2,000 men and 70 guns in 
this case going to the victors. On the 28th November the 
resistance which Amiens had offered to their country's foe was 
overcome, and this quaint, ancient town was occupied by the 
invader. The same date also saw the defeat of General d'Aurelle 
at Beaune-la-Rolande, to which place he had at length ad- 
vanced en route for Paris. This defeat was notwithstanding the 
fact that the French forces greatly outnumbered the enemy's. 
For this reverse D'Aurelle shall also, as K6ratry, be removed 
from his command by the indignant and imperious Gambetta. 

The Parisians, dependent as they were upon the intermittent 
intelligence that might be brought by carrier pigeons or bal- 
loons, did not learn of these losses until some time after their 
occurrence. The success at Coulmiers had filled them with 
jubilance, and it intensified the demand for some decisive action 
on the part of their own military chiefs. The weakness of 
General Trochu's character becomes here apparent, for whereas 
up to this time his '' plan " had had in view a march from Paris 
to the north of France, and all preparations had accordingly been 
made in the north-west of the capital for the anticipated exit, 
now, by public clamour and Gambetta's demands, suggested by 
D'Aurelle's victory near Orleans, he swerves entirely away from 
his original project, makes Orleans, south of the capital, his aim, 
and transfers all preparations to the east of the city.^ Never- 
theless, something like decision and energy are infused into the 
proceedings, and a grand sortie is fixed upon for the end of 
the month, to which all Paris looks forward with anxiety and 

On the 28th November, lai^e masses of troops were gathered 

» Actes^ t i. p. 323. 

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November \st to December 31^/, 1870 59 

on the south side of Paris; two immense armies having been 
formed, one under the command of General Vinoy, the other 
under that of General Ducrot Guns, ammunition, and supplies 
were there also in readiness. To the National Guard, under the 
command of General Clement Thomas, was deputed the general 
safety and well-being of Paris, whilst the Mobiles and regulars 
should engage the enemy. 

To disconcert and, if possible, damage the Prussians, a heavy 
fire was opened upon them late at night from the forts on the 
south side. Feigned attacks were made in other directions to 
throw them off the scent, but the real attack was in the south 
by Vino/s army, which however, after some severe fighting, 
was forced to retire. The next day it was Ducrot's army that 
was to make an attack. Ducrot had prefaced the serious work 
he was about to undertake by the issue of a proclamation to his 
troops, in which he swore before the entire nation that he would 
either lead his army to victory or die in the attempt ; he might 
fall, but would never retreat. Gambetta, at Tours, when he 
knew of the sorties, was similarly inflated with prescience ; he 
telegraphed all over France that the hour of victory had 

Ducrot emerged from the wood of Vincennes and attacked 
the Germans on the road toward Villiers, a village about seven 
miles from the city boundary. He was met, and his advance 
stubbornly resisted. Fighting continued all the day of the 30th 
with tenacity on the part of the foreigners and desperation 
on the part of the French ; but in the end, at this particular 
place the Germans won the day and the French were forced 
to fall back. At other places a little to each side of Villiers, 
the French were more successful, taking Bry and Champigny 
from the Germans, after very severe fighting. There were 
also serious and stubborn contests at Creteil and Epinay ; but 
though great losses were inflicted by each party on the other, 
their relative positions remained the same. 

The next day, December ist, was devoted to a truce for the 
purpose of burying the dead and removing the wounded. The 
day following, whilst the French at Bry were quietly and 

' Actes^ t iv. p. 63. 

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6o History of tlie Paris Commune of i^ji 

unconcernedly preparing breakfast, the Germans suddenly 
appeared and attacked them, the French, being utterly un- 
prepared for a surprise, beating a hasty retreat The same thing 
occurred at Champigny, and these two places were once more 
in possession of the enemy. Later in the day, however, the 
French forts directed a terrible artillery fire upon them, com- 
pelling the enemy to evacuate the villages, and subsequently 
the French soldiers again took possession of them. The French 
also attempted to retake Villiers, but failed. The next day, 
December 3rd, the attempt to force the enemy's lines was 
relinquished, and the French troops were withdrawn. They 
had displayed conspicuous bravery in the majority of instances, 
and had suffered severe losses ; added to this there had been 
experienced, after the first day's battle, a great and unexpected 
fall in the temperature, so that for several days the troops, 
without sufficient protection, had camped upon an icy ground 
and been exposed to a keen frost Amongst the French 
soldiers who returned to Paris was General Ducrot, whose oath, 
taken before the nation, was thus proved to have been only a 
foolish boast He had exhibited courage and daring under fire ; 
but he was neither victorious nor dead — not even wounded. 

The victories of the French soldiers were so few that mention 
must be made of one gained by General Chanzy at Patay on 
December ist, though it was more than neutralized by defeats 
which he suffered on the 3rd, and, after several days' hard fight- 
ing, on the lOth. Garibaldi had also slightly checked the 
Germans at Autun on December ist German successes formed, 
however, almost an unbroken tale. From the early part of 
December they had re-occupied Orleans, entered Rouen and 
Dieppe, occupied Blois, received the capitulation of Montm6dy, 
captured Venddme, Nuits, and, on the 21st, Tours. From the 
last-named place the Delegate Government had previously 
departed, finding the German forces coming unpleasantly near ; 
it was now stationed at Bordeaux. 

Notwithstanding these numerous losses, and their own 
inability to break the human band which gripped them so 
firmly, the ardour and patriotism of the Parisians showed no 
diminution. The pangs of hunger were often felt ; the severity 
of the winter was extreme, and the absence of ordinary fuel 

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November \st to December 3 u/, 1870 61 

added to its rigours ; the seclusion from the outside world and 
the n^ation of all amusements depressed them, yet on one 
point there was absolute unanimity and a striking enthu- 
siasm. No capitulation for Paris! Other towns are smaller, 
weaker — ^they may succumb, but Paris is invulnerable, is the 
capital, and will fight to the bitter end. The Government, in 
its declarations, reflected this feeling. Jules Favre, when in 
September he declared and in November repeated ^ that not 
one inch of ground nor one stone of a fortress should be 
surrendered to the foreigner, only gave expression to the 
determination of all Paris and all France ; and yet, if that 
declaration were to be maintained, it could only be by inflict- 
ing an irreparable defeat upon their enemy, for the latter had 
observed no secrecy about his intentions to demand territorial 
and other compensation for the enormous expenditure and loss 
the war occasioned him. The Parisians, nevertheless, reiterated 
their refusal to consider any such contingency as possible, for 
the recent sorties had not satisfied them of their incapacity to 
deal with the foe. They urged the Government to make yet 
another attempt to break their fetters ; nay, they even threatened 
another 31st October, if their wishes were not complied with. 
They also will help in the work in a way they have not hitherto 
done : cannons for the National Guard are needed ; a public 
subscription shall be opened, a stall erected in front of the noble 
church of La Madeleine for the reception of citizens' donations, 
great or small, and cannons shall be bought. The thing is 
done ; subscriptions pour liberally in ; each battalion and each 
stafl* is eager to give its quota to the fund : ^ the cannons are 
bought ! 

Urged on by the resolutions passed at public meetings and by 
numerous clubs, the most of which were organized or controlled by 
the Central Vigilance Committee, Trochu decided upon having 
another sortie, this time from the north side of Paris. It com- 
menced on December 21st, but the Germans having captured a 
balloon that had been intended for the Delegate Government at 
Bordeaux, were aware of the project, and were therefore pre- 
pared for an attack ; they had, notwithstanding, no easy task 

' November 4th. Consequent upon the plebiscite in favour of the 
Government " Actes^ t i. p. 237. 

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62 History of the Paris Commune of i?>ji 

to repel it The hardest fighting occurred at Le Bourget, 
where the French fought with the greatest gallantry, gaining 
for a while some slight advantages, but before the close of 
the day being compelled to fall back. Desultory fighting took 
place on subsequent days, but some of the French soldiers were 
beginning to feel beaten, and lacked the confidence necessary to 
attack with spirit. 

Hitherto the Germans had not bombarded either Paris or 
the forts, excepting as a defensive measure. They changed 
their tactics on December 27th, and fired upon a newly erected 
fort, Mont Avron, with their guns, rendering it by the next day 
untenable ; this was also the case with the neighbouring village 
of Bondy. Both these places were occupied by the Germans as 
soon as it was known that they were deserted Other forts in 
the same direction — east of Paris — received a similar treatment. 
The bombardment, once begun, was carried on incessantly, and 
replied to with equal persistence by the garrisons of the strong- 
holds attacked. 

All this time most of the leaders of the 31st October affair 
remained in prison ; three of them, including Eudes and Pillot, 
in addition to those already named, were released towards the 
end of December. On the other hand, Flourens, on the 6th 
December, had been arrested,* after repeated efforts to effect his 
capture. He and Blanqui in the quarter of Belleville had been 
inaccessible to the agents of the Government. There they 
were supreme ; the entire arrondissement sympathised with 
and protected them; they walked about openly, defiant of 
Cresson's endeavours to secure them.* Had Flourens re- 
mained there, he might never have been arrested ; but he went 
outside Paris to the suburb of Creteil, and was then pounced 
upon and taken prisoner. The Belleville quarter was not alone 
in exhibiting flagrant disregard of the Prefecture of Police and 
its emissaries. Only five arrondissements out of the twenty 
would consent to receive police patrols:' the National Guards 
were their own police. The Government was, or permitted 
itself to be, powerless to secure respect for its officers and its 
wishes. Over and over again did Cresson complain to his 

• Actesy t. i. p. 81.. ' Ibid,, P'75' ' ^^'d. 

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November \st to December ^ist, 1870 63 

superiors of the insubordinate attitude of citizens and Guards 
towards his agents, and of his inability, without active and mate- 
rial support, to enforce the Governmental decrees; his com- 
plaints were merely noted, and shelved because of their incon- 
venience. Wholesale abuses could not fail to result from such 
an inept centre of authority. People did what they wished, not 
what they were told ; they regulated their own duties, served 
themselves as masters, and the Government was in reality^ 
their servant. 

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THE Jour de TAn was this year shorn of its festive character. 
Instead of universal happiness and merriment in the gay 
city, there were famine, heart-burnings, dissatisfaction, anxiety. 
The siege, two months of which were to have proved intolerable 
for the enemy, had now lasted three and a half months, and 
he thrived whilst they starved ; the " plan " of Trochu had 
failed, the sorties had failed, the provincial armies had failed ; 
the weather was exceptionally severe, the death-rate correspond- 
ingly high. Occupation was the dullest routine imaginable, 
whilst all manner of facts discouraged the idea of a successful 
resistance to their foe. Hope still lingered, but it had only 
itself for support. Thrown violently back from every chink of 
outlet from their bondage, the Parisians could only inveigh 
against the incapacity of their rulers, Trochu in particular being 
singled out by newspapers and populace to receive anathemas 
for want of energy and for feebleness. The charge was true. 
Trochu, though a brave and capable officer under a superior, was 
lacking in the decision and strength of character essential in a 
chief. He was scrupulous in satisfying his own conscience, and 
always succeeded in this mental self-justification, but the process 
of so doing completely stultified energetic and effective action, 
and narrowed his perception of things to his own personal 
radius, whereas he should have been oblivious of himself, and 
careful only of the wider and greater interests of the nation. 

The enthusiasm of the soldiers for actual fighting against the 
Germans was on the wane, especially amongst the citizens of 
Montmartre and Belleville, who mostly belonged to the working 
classes. It has been said that the latter took their guns and 
ammunition for service, not against the enemy, but against their 
own capitalists, should an opportunity arise to establish a Com- 


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Januaryy 1871 65 

mune. Much need not be thought of this; there are at all 
times, and in all countries, disaffected ones, desperate man- 
haters, who are ignorant of justice, impervious to kindness, and 
deaf to any compromise betwixt the conflicting theories of life. 
Some of these there were in Paris, and they leavened, by their 
speeches and writings, a population more considerable than their 
deserts. It nevertheless remained a comparatively small and 
impotent population : // can never, even with its rifles and 
ammunition, establish a Commune for a day, and its idle gossip 
and vain threatenings may be relegated safely both to the com- 
mon sense of the citizens at large, and to the particular atten- 
tions of those who act as police. If these do their duty — and 
why should they not ? — the empty vapourings of heated imagi- 
nations will escape merely into a cooler atmosphere, and be lost 
The utterances of such iconoclasts, however, are not to be 
confounded with the disapprobation manifested on all sides 
against Trochu and the Government, the expression of which 
fell more to the Socialist party than any other, only because it 
had the courage of its convictions, and the audacity to endea- 
vour to give them practical effect. 

Delescluze, at a meeting of the mayors at the Hdtel de 
Ville on January 5th, notwithstanding the presence of some 
members of the Government — amongst whom Favre^openly 
condemned the latter for inertia, and recommended that Trochu 
be superseded, and that greater powers be given to the munici- 

The supersession of Trochu had already been decided upon 
in ministerial councils ; Gambetta, Picard, Favre, Arago, impor- 
tant Republicans, all complained of their chiefs loss of popu- 
larity and of his military insuccess. He was to be dispensed 
with, but the question of replacing him was the stumbling-block 
which prevented the realization of their decision. Where to find 
a Republican general of ability ? Ducrot, Vinoy, and other lead- 
ing generab were never Republicans, s^^id had scant sympathy 
for that political complexion ; thus it was that Trochu remained 
at his post on sufferance.^ Of this the public had no know- 
ledge, and in the meeting of the mayors Jules Favre objected to 

* Actesy t. i. p. 239. 


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66 History of the Paris Commune ^1871 

the discussion of any such proposals as that made by Deles- 
cluze. A stormy scene ensued, during which Delescluze left the 
room. The next day red placards were found posted on the 
walls in various arrondissements, condemning the Grovernment, 
and again demanding the election of a Commune. These were 
issued by 140 delegates of the twenty arrondissements, and 
their names were appended thereto.^ Though the placards 
were speedily torn down by the police, they had the effect of 
causing General Trochu to make a notable declaration, viz., that 
the Governor of Paris — z>., himself — would never capitulate. 

The International Association of Workers, largely influenced 
by the energetic Varlin, also held several meetings, at which it 
was declared that the feebleness of the Government constituted 
an additional reason why they should become strong, and 
measures were accordingly adopted for the further propagation 
of their ideas in the arrondissements.^ 

The Government was stung by the reproaches hurled at it 
from all quarters ; it was spurred on also by the Prussian shells, 
which fell thickly in the city, and caused extensive damage and 
many deaths. The speedy termination of the siege was becom- 
ing daily more imperative ; the National Guards clamoured for 
a sortie en tnasse^ and the Government therefore decided to 
again attempt to break through the investing lines. 

The sortie, though not en masse — this was rightly judged to 
be a hazardous experiment, unlikely to be justified by results — 
was arranged on a grand scale. It took place on the 19th 
January, in the western outskirts of the capital, and is known as 
the battle of Buzenval. 

General Trochu was personally in command, and Grenerals 
Vinoy and Ducrot in subordinate commands. Eighty-five 
thousand men took part in it ; for the first time, and upon their 
own urgent insistence, many battalions of National Guards were 

' Among the 140 signatures the following may be mentioned : Babick, 
Beslay, Caullct, Champy, Chardon, ClAncnce, Dcmay, Duval, Garreau, Ch. 
G^rardin, Eug. G^rardin, Genton, Fortun^ Ferr^ Johannard, Lacord, 
Malon, Martclct, L^ Meillet, Tony Moilin, Oudet, Parisel, Pillot, Pindy, 
Pugct, R^^re, Sicard, Theisz, Tridon, Urbain, Viard, Vaillant, Vall^s. 

' Varlin, Theisz, Frankel, Pindy, and Verdure were actively concerned in 
this propaganda. 

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January, 187 1 67 

included in the fighting forces.^ Fortune favoured the French 
at the beginning of the day's work, both Ducrot's and Vinoy's 
divisions attaining distinct advantages over the enemy; the 
fighting went on stubbornly all day, the Germans losing, the 
French gaining ground, until towards night reinforcements only 
were needed to complete a decided victory. But reinforcements 
were lacking, and the bulk of the army on the field of battle 
had become a confused and unworkable mass, so that Trochu 
feared a great catastrophe would result should the Germans 
make a determined attempt to advance their positions. More- 
over, the Germans had received reinforcements both of men and 
artillery ; at the close of the day they were better able to fight 
than the French. Actuated by these considerations, Trochu 
gave the signal to retreat, and, after all, the day was lost 

The National Guards who had taken part in this serious 
encounter acquitted themselves variously: some exhibited 
unmistakable heroism and courage, whilst others shirked 
danger and evinced a cowardly inclination to retreat* 

The news of this last failure exasperated the Parisians. 
Maledictions upon Trochu came from every mouth, and the 
population seemed at last to have made up its mind that 
nothing good could come from him. Had he at once declared 
himself in favour of a levie en masse, which press and people 
looked to as a final means of deliverance, he might have 
retained his position; but such a crude and ungoverned idea 
Trochu refused to entertain, and from that moment his hours as 
Governor of Paris were numbered. With his colleagues and 
the whole city against him, to resign his functions would 
have been the most natural course to be taken; but with a 
stubbornness begot of his desire for self-justification, he would 
not resign in form, but compelled his colleagues to dismiss 
him.^ This dismissal took effect on January 21st, but it 
applied only to Trochu's military offices; he remained, at 
the repeated requests of some members of the Government, 
president of their Council To fill the military post thus vacated 
Vinoy was immediately appointed, with a notable difference in 
title : Trochu had been both Governor of Paris and Commander- 

* Actes, t i. pp. 240, 241. * Ibid. ' Ibid. 

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68 History of the Paris Commune of \%Ti 

in-Chief of the army of Paris, but his successor was appointed 
merely to the latter office.* Was it not enough to justify the 
assumption that this was a deliberate omission dictated by a 
recollection of Trochu's recent statement that the Governor of 
Paris would never capitulate — as much as to say, if capitulation 
must come, there at least shall be no official Governor of Paris 
to sign a treaty of submission to the enemy? 

Vinoy's appointment met with little favour in republican 
Paris. He was a worthy and courageous man, but had had the 
misfortune to have assisted in a military capacity the Emperor 
Napoleon, in his coup d'itat of 185 1 ; the fact was revived in 
an exaggerated and embittered form, and Vinoy was declared 
to be an '' accomplice " of Buonaparte, as though he had been a 
criminal, and it was averred that he would ride rough-shod over 
the people and oppress them, as had been done under the Empire. 

Public opinion had become so disgusted with the utter failure 
of the Government to ameliorate the calamitous condition of the 
city, that the Socialists thought again a favourable opportunity 
had presented itself to instal themselves in the Hdtel de Ville. 
Various societies of a semi-political character urged the Govern- 
ment to convoke a National Assembly, so as to make greater 
headway against the enemy ; others, of more socialistic ten- 
dency, made again the request for Communal elections. A 
meeting, held at Montmartre, on the evening of January 21st, 
decided upon making another attempt the next day to upset the 
Government, and Blanqui, who was there, promised his assist- 
ance. Delescluze also actively moved in the matter. He 
suggested to one Lavalette, who was a member of the Central 
Committee, to endeavour to secure the release of Flourens from 
prison. Lavalette at once obtained the services of a hundred 
armed Bellevillites — the quarter which had elected Flourens as 
a deputy mayor — and at midnight proceeded to Mazas prison 
and demanded the release of Flourens and other political 
oflfenders. The governor of the prison imprudently opened the 
outer door in order to parley with his interlocutors, when the 
latter rushed through the doorway and, being speedily in 
possession of the prison, at once released Flourens and some 

* Actes^ t. i. p. 242. 

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Jamuzry, 1871 69 

others. Flourens now headed the small armed force, and 
proceeded to the mairie of his arrondissement. This arron- 
dissement, it will be remembered, had been directed since 
November 8th by a Commission, all the elected mayors having 
laboured under the disqualification of legal process. The 
Commission had not anticipated any midnight attack, and the 
mairie was left unguarded, so that Flourens and company easily 
installed themselves within it Flourens wished to at once 
proceed to the H6tel de Ville and overturn the Government, 
then to organize a new army, and with it march against the 
Germans ; he sent messages to various commanders of battalions 
to come and join him, but only one of them answered. This 
hasty project had therefore to be abandoned, and the dark hours 
of the night were passed pleasantly enough with the aid of two 
thousand rations of bread and wine which were stored there for 
distribution to the famished people of the locality. Towards 
daybreak the nocturnal eaters were apprised that General 
Clement Thomas was coming in pursuit of them with a com- 
pany of custom-house officers, tried and reliable men ; they 
lingered not an instant, but vacated the mairie as quickly as 
they had entered it. 

Pursuant to the understanding arrived at the preceding 
night, shortly after midday of the 22nd there assembled 
various battalions of National Guards and a crowd of citizens 
in front of the H6tel de Ville. There were some hundreds 
of members of the International Association from Batignolles, 
under the leadership of Varlin and Bernard Malon ; Flourens 
with his Belleville tirailleurs ; numbers of those who had made 
up the Montmartre meeting of the previous night ; Delescluze, 
also at the head of a battalion of National Guards from La 
Villette. Blanqui was in a neighbouring caf^ and did not put 
in an appearance. The gates of the H6tel de Ville were 
closed, and for some time the people could do nothing but 
discuss the state of affairs amongst themselves. Eventually, 
some deputations from the battalions were permitted to enter. 
They were received by M. Gustave Chaudey, one of the adjuncts 
or deputies to the central mayor. The deputations requested 
that immediate municipal elections should be held. M. Chaudey 
could only promise to lay the demands before the Government 

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JO History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSyi 

— a response evidently unsatisfactory to the delegates and the 

An altercation commenced outside the entrance between 
the disappointed populace and three officers of the H6tel 
de Ville guard ; the crowd began to get excited, its orators 
made speeches to it, and, as successive deputations returned 
from their interviews with Chaudey bearing only the same in- 
definite reply, the expressions of disapprobation became ever 
more manifest. The last battalion of National Guards to 
arrive on the Place was the loist, commanded by one S^rizier, 
who, perceiving the three officers engaged, unsupported, in 
disputation with the people, instantly ordered his men to 
fire upon them, and this was done. One of the officers fell 
mortally wounded ; the two others were not struck, and made 
good their escape. Suddenly the windows of the H6tel de 
Ville were opened, and were filled with Breton Mobiles, who, 
seeing one of their staff" officers falling, fired upon the people, 
causing them instantly to fly in all directions. Some of the 
National Guards entered the houses opposite, from the windows 
of which they replied to the Bretons. Others took up positions 
at the corners of the street, and fired upon the Mobiles. A 
lively fusillade ensued and, although the Place de THdtel de 
Ville was presently occupied and cleared by other Bretons and 
loyal Guards, the firing lasted for nearly half an hour, and 
resulted in a death and wounded roll of from twenty to forty 
persons.^ The Government troops made various arrests — among 
them being Delescluze and S6rizier — and then strongly fortified 
the adjoining streets, planting them with guns and mitrail- 
leuses, and taking other precautions to prevent a renewal of 
the disturbance. 

This affair was stigmatized by the Socialists as a deliberate 
Government plan to assassinate the people, and Gustave 

^ Though the number of dead and wounded, at the utmost, is a perfectly 
manageable figure, it is wonderful what discrepancies exist in the various 
authorities as to the precise totals. Some even put the grand total at sixty, 
whilst the official account says, very indefinitely, a '* score *' of dead and 
wounded. {Ac/es, t. i. p. 248.) The official account would certainly not err 
on the side of exaggeration, and probably from thirty to forty persons were 
killed and injured. 

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January y 187 1 71 

Chaudey was generally credited, though erroneously, with 
having given the order to the Bretons to fire. The Government, 
on the other hand, was powerless to do its will. It issued 
numerous warrants for arrests, but could effect only a small 
proportion of them owing to the opposition of the Socialist 
municipalities, supported, as the latter were, by the citizen 
Guards of their respective districts. General Vinoy suppressed 
two newspapers which had taken a leading part in condemning 
the Government, viz., the Reveil^ directed by Delescluze, and 
the Cotnbaty directed by F61ix Pyat. He also ordered all the 
clubs to be closed, they being considered as hotbeds of sedition, 
agitation, and communism. Both these measures were of 
doubtful utility. There were plenty of other newspapers to 
carry on the work of ihose suppressed ; and as there was no 
prohibition of new journals, there soon appeared Le Vengetir 
under Pyat's auspices, and the Mot cPOrdre under Rochefort's. 
As to the clubs, their menj^bers met in the streets, and were 
more bitter than ever in their denunciations of Vinoy and the 
Government Presently their anger had other material to 
sustain it. 

The fears of the Parisians that their rulers meditated capitula- 
tion were well founded. The siege had now lasted over four 
months ; provisions of all sorts were almost at an end ; every 
sortie from within and effort from without to relieve the city 
had proved futile; the rate of mortality had latterly risen 
abnormally, owing to the deprivation of fresh food, the cold 
weather, and the Prussian bombardment. The Parisians, not- 
withstanding their sufferings, did not wish to surrender. The 
rumours of capitulation worried and exasperated them ex- 
ceedingly. They would fight to the end ; but the Govern- 
ment, less determined, less sanguine, and less sincere than the 
people, had already negotiated with Bismarck for an armistice, 
and had learned the terms upon which one would be granted. 
Paris was not alone involved in this. A continuance of pro- 
vincial defeats, some of a very grave nature, had rendered it 
imperative for all France now to make up its mind whether 
it were not wise to acknowledge itself vanquished, rather than 
prolong so disastrous a conflict The armistice which Jules 
Favre and Bismarck were now endeavouring to arrange was 

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72 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

with the object of decisively answering this question by the 
election of a National representative Assembly, which alone 
could say the last word. 

When Paris, on January 27th, learnt that negotiations for 
capitulating were far advanced, it was thrown into a state of 
feverish excitement It knew not exactly the terms, but rumour 
had it that the forts were to be delivered to the Prussians. It 
was equivalent to surrendering Paris itself! Some National 
Guard officers rapidly decided to prevent such ignominy. 
Brunei, colonel of a regiment de marche, having the support 
of thirty-five battalions, and Piazza, commandant of battalion, 
wrote out an order which they signed with the respective titles 
of "General-in-Chief of the National Guard," and "Chief of 
Staff," requiring the alarm to be given, to assemble the National 
Guards, then seize the forts, shoot the admirals who were in 
charge of them, and prevent their occupation by the Prussians. 
This order was sent round to various battalions of National 
Guards, and it was expected that from twenty to thirty bat- 
talions would respond. The order, however, fell into the hands 
of M. Cresson, the Prefect of Police, who promptly extinguished 
the project by causing the two pretended generals to be sur- 
rounded and arrested in a house in the Boulevard Voltaire. 
Some two or three hundred men turned up at the rendezvous 
appointed, but learning that their leaders were in prison, dis- 
persed. Cresson informed the Government of the affair, and de- 
manded that severe repressive measures should be taken against 
the inculpated persons. He asked for a court-martial, but the 
Government refused to grant it. Brunei and Piazza were sent to 
Vincennes prison, there to await trial before a Military Court 

The armistice was finally agreed to, and signed on the follow- 
ing day, the 28th. The chief conditions of it were : — 

Cessation of all hostilities throughout France for twenty*one 
days, and the immediate election of a National Assembly. 

The deliverance of the forts around Paris to German occupa- 

All garrisons of forts around Paris and the garrison of Paris 
to be prisoners of war, with the exception of 12,000 men, 
which would be left armed for service inside the city. 

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January, 1871 73 

The National Guards to retain their arms, and be charged 

with the preservation of order in the city. 
Revictualling allowed. 

The stipulation that the National Guards would be allowed 
to retain their arms was a solace to the members of the Govern- 
ment.* Had disarmament been required, it would have been 
difficult to have effected it, because it would have seemed to the 
Parisians an abject and humiliating sacrifice, which in all pro- 
bability they would have refused to assent to, and also because 
a certain troublesome portion of the community, of socialistic 
and revolutionary inclinations, would have been sure to decline 
to lay down their arms, really out of hostility to the Govern- 
ment, though ostensibly from the patriotic motive of not yielding 
to the Prussians. The disarmament of the National Guards 
was thus a hornet's nest which must undoubtedly some day be 
attacked, but which the Government hoped would lose its sting- 
ing properties the longer it was left untouched. This was the 
real meaning of the supreme solace which the permitted re- 
tention by the National Guards of their arms constituted for 
the Government. 

When the armistice was finally arranged, the Government 
found that it had only a nominal existence. Its origin, as well as 
its title, belied the assumption of authority with an admission of 
defeat, and its claim to govern ceased with the open abandon- 
ment of defence. The Government felt this, and was impotent ; 
the disaffected everywhere knew it, and took licence. The 
Government's refusal to grant Cresson a court-martial was 
actuated by a knowledge of its own moribund condition ; its 
authority was disr^arded, and in consequence it was not ex- 
erted even to the extent that it might have been. The clubs 
which had been closed only a week before, audaciously re- 
opened, and none dared to interfere. They and the newspapers 
clamoured for Delescluze and other semi-political prisoners, who 
had been sent to Vincennes, just outside the city, to be brought 
to a Paris prison — and they were brought. Now that revictual- 
ling was about to commence, sundry erewhile concealed articles 

* Le 18 Mars, p. 27. 

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74 History of the Paris Commune of \%T\ 

of food made their appearance for sale — they were instantly 
seized by whoever wished, and their owners maltreated for 
having hidden them. These violators of liberty enjoyed abso- 
lute immunity. So difficult was it to maintain any semblance 
of respect for authority that Cresson gave in his resignation as 
Prefect of Police, but withdrew it on the reproach of Vinoy, 
who said to him, " Do not abandon your post in the presence of 
danger! "1 

Even betwixt the members of the Government who were at 
Paris there were discord and conflict. By the intervention of 
M. Emmanuel Arago and General le F16, Minister of War, 
General Soumain, whose duty it was to institute the Council of 
War which should try Delescluze, was induced to sign an order 
of " No charge " in regard to that individual, and to send it to 
the Prefect of Police so that Delescluze might be set at liberty. 
Cresson did not obey the order, but took it to Vinoy and 
threatened his instant resignation if it were not withdrawn. 
Vinoy burnt the order, and went to the ministers Arago and 
Le Fid to demand the dismissal of Soumain from his position. 
This was done, but only after a stormy scene between Vinoy 
and the ministers, in the course of which the former thus ad- 
dressed Arago : " Man Dieu, Monsieur le Ministre^ I know not 
if you understand what are my powers as Commandant-in-Chief 
under the state of siege, but they are such that I can arrest the 
first comer in the street ; and I shall never permit any one that 
is under my orders to place an arrested person at liberty with- 
out my previous consent'' Delescluze remained in prison.^ 

Between the Government at Paris and its delegation at 
Bordeaux there was yet greater friction, brought on, one might 
say wilfully, by the too imperious Gambetta, who, having for 
some months occupied a position practically of dictator to pro- 
vincial France, knew not that there were limits to his sway — 
limits imposed even by that central authority which he had so 
constantly flouted, and which at that moment was but a shadow 
of power. Upon the cardinal question of the surrender of 
Paris, it soon became evident that Gambetta was at complete 
variance with his colleagues in the capital. When he was 

^ Le iS Mars, p. 46. * IMd,, p. 50. Acies, U i. p. 249. 

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February y 1871 75 

informed of what the latter had done, he was filled with 
indignation, and denounced them as traitors to their country. 
He would not hear of surrender, but clamoured with passionate 
vehemence for a continuation of the war to the uttermost Of 
his own authority he issued a proclamation to this effect He 
also issued decrees entailing elective disabilities upon former 
Imperialist office-holders or candidates. This was so sweeping 
and arbitrary a measure that even Count Bismarck took ex- 
ception to it, as tending to prevent the proposed National 
Assembly fully representing the country.^ The bellicose atti- 
tude of Gambetta also led to a suspension for twenty-four 
hours, by the Prussians, of the revictualling of Paris, and it was 
only by the Paris Government annulling the decree and pro- 
clamation of their fiery colleague that the withdrawal of the 
armistice itself was averted. In consequence of this condem- 
nation of his conduct, Gambetta resigned his office. 

Meanwhile, Paris was thrown into a turmoil of excitement 
over the elections to the National Assembly, which were fixed 
to take place on February 8th. The clubs all became electoral 
rendezvous^ the newspapers electoral propagandists. The 
general burden of speech and pen was the same eversnvhere : 
" Paris has been betrayed ; the Government are traitors ! Two 
hundred and fifty thousand men in the regular army, and more 
than that number of National Guards, and yet the citadel has 
been surrendered : it is a monstrous trickery, a terrible crime, 
and the Government ought to be arraigned. The guillotine 
has work to do ; erect it ! " Better use might certainly have 
been made of those armies at an earlier epoch, but it was 
now the mighty hand of famine that necessitated the capitu- 
lation. A few more days of the siege, and the full weight of 
that famine hand would have been felt. Not having been so 
felt, people treated it as though it were a chimera, and the 
frightful anguish it would have created in less than a week was 
unthought of. On all sides language was employed against 
the Government which stopped short of nothing, and repre- 
sented almost every unbridled thought that political animus 
can compass. It was the usurpation by every man of personal 

* ActeSy t vii. p. 319. 

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76 History of the Paris Commune of iZji 

infallibility, and the inferential irrefutable criminality of who- 
soever disagreed with him. 

Coincident with this outflow of verbal pestilence, there was 
an exodus from the city of numbers of its best inhabitants. 
The gates were now open, and ingress and egress were almost 
unrestricted* Thousands of well-to-do citizens — ^the most law- 
abiding, the most courageous, and the most sensible — were glad 
to leave their enforced seclusion and the military duties of the 
past five months and escape for a while to the provinces to 
recruit their health and to see their wives, families, or friends. 
The number of these attained, before the day of the elections, 
the enormous total of 130,000.* For them the elections were 
not of such moment as a change of scene and the sight of dear 
faces that for months had been only a remembrance. The 
people that remained in Paris belonged largely to the poorer 
classes, who could not afford to dispense with the small pay and 
rations allotted them by the Government, and could much less 
afford the expense of a journey beyond the city. Trade and 
commerce were absolutely at a standstill, and these citizen 
Guards were without their usual employment, and were likely 
to continue so to be, until, by a more or less gradual process, 
industry and business should resume their normal conditions. 
Finally, although Paris had capitulated, it was still an open 
question whether the war would be continued or not, and the 
uncertainty of this was a grim shadow which hovered over and 
prevented the resuscitation of trade. 

February 8th in due time arrived, and with it the elections 
throughout France. The early morning in Paris brought into 
view two declarations from members of the Socialist party. 
One was a requisition, found posted on the walls, for the 
accusation of all the members of the Government upon the 
charge of high treason ; it was signed by Raoul Rigault, Laval- 
ette (who had released Flourens from Mazas prison), and 
others. The other announcement was an article by Millifere in 
Le Vengeur, making certain very specific charges against Jules 
Favre — that he had represented to be his wife a lady who was 
really the wife of another, and that, consequent upon this, he had 

* Le 18 Mars, p. 58. 

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February, 1871 ^^ 

made various false statements in official documents in relation 
both to the said lady and to the parentage of the children he 
had had by her. It is easy to perceive that Milli^re's motive in 
publishing this on the election day was to discredit Favre and 
prevent his election. In this he failed, although Favre received 
nearly the lowest number of votes of the forty-three representa- 
tives who were elected for Paris and the Seine. Others elected 
were Delescluze, F^lix Pyat, and Rochefort, each by a consider- 
able number of votes. Millifere was elected, but was below 
Favre. Gambon, an old advanced Republican ; Bernard Malon, 
a young but well-known socialistic writer ; Tridon, the barrister ; 
Tolain, one of the founders of the International Association ; 
Vesinier, also pertaining thereto ; Cl^menceau and Tirard, 
mayors of the 1 8th ^ and 2nd arrondissements respectively, 
and M. Thiers were also elected. Varlin and Cluseret were 
amongst the non-elected. Delescluze was immediately released 
from prison, so that he might proceed to Bordeaux to take up 
his duties of deputy. He was, however, in ill-health, and sat 
little in the Assembly. 

The most notable result of the Paris elections was the almost 
total eclipse of the conservative or moderate element, and a 
correspondingly huge preponderance of socialistic and advanced 
republican deputies. With the exception of Favre, none of the 
members of the Government were elected. The demagogic 
whirlwind, which on September 4th had gathered them in its 
centre and scattered their adversaries, had now veered about, 
and they in turn were scattered. Cresson, the energetic Prefect 
of Police, saw danger in these results, and hastened to demand 
stringent measures to counter-balance the triumph of demo- 
cracy, and to maintain the peace which he thought to be in 
jeopardy ;^ the Government, however, was in a comatose state 
—could only, metaphorically, hold up its hands in despair and 
await the course of events. Such an imbecile set of rulers 
has seldom, in the history of the world, occupied the seats of 
power of a great nation. 

Its brief and inglorious career was now over : at the first meet- 
ing of the newly elected National Assembly at Bordeaux, held 

' Z/ 18 Mars, p. 59. 

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78 History of the Paris Commune of i2>Ti 

on February 12th, this weak-kneed Government resigned the 
functions it had selfishly usurped and had so little known how 
to use. It thereupon became the first duty of the nation's 
representatives to appoint a successor to the Government of the 
National Defence. 

The National Assembly, as a whole, did not reflect the 
advanced opinions of Paris, Lyons, Marseilles, Bordeaux, and 
the other lai^e towns of France, in which, the artisan class pre- 
ponderating, the elected of the people were chiefly Republicans 
or Socialists. The agricultural towns and districts included 
within them by far the greatest part of the French population^ 
and this portion of the people was still conservative and 
religious, and had elected men of similar beliefs to represent it. 
Thus it transpired that a huge majority of the deputies at 
Bordeaux held such old-fashioned yet powerful opinions, and 
were, moreover, of monarchical (Orldanist) leanings. One of 
the deputies was remarkably indicated for the chief position 
in the next Government by the number of constituencies which 
had elected him — twenty-five in the provinces, and Paris. 
This notable and, in parliamentary annals, unparalleled 
expression of confidence fell to the lot of M. Thiers, the old 
statesman who had refused to form the Government of the 
National Defence on September 4th. The National Assembly 
recognised the popular mandate by appointing Thiers chief of 
the Executive Power, with liberty to appoint his own ministers. 
This was tantamount to constituting Thiers an autocratic ruler, 
and such full power has rarely, if ever, passed, at the bidding of 
electoral multitudes, into the hands of a man who was seventy- 
three years old. 

Thiers* life had been spent in the channels and usages of 
diplomacy and government He was known to be shrewd, 
cautious, and skilful, whilst his general capacity was un- 
doubtedly of the first rank. For all these reasons, for his 
former service and allegiance to the Orl^anist dynasty, and for 
the moderation of his recent and present republican attitude, he 
was commended to the nation as the fittest man in France to 
whom to confide the most arduous and delicate task which ever 
befell a Frenchman — that of negotiating with their victorious 
enemy for terms of peace. 

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February, 1871 79 

This was the aim and end of the Bordeaux Assembly. It 
was evident to the majority of its members that peace had be- 
come essential ; defeats had accumulated upon defeats, and the 
utmost resources of the nation had already been called upon ; 
trade throughout the land was sts^nant, and the normal condi- 
tions of society were broken up and supplanted by a jumble of 
barbarisms which in more than one place threatened to create 
additional troubles. Unless their conqueror wished to blot 
them out as a nation or to impose conditions that should 
manifestly be outrageous, peace must be secured. 

Thiers' first actions were to nominate his ministers. He re- 
appointed Jules Favre to the office of " Foreign Affairs " ; 
General le F16 to "War"; Jules Simon to "Public Instruction," 
and R Picard was transferred from "Finance" to the "Interior"; 
General Vinoy and Jules Ferry were also retained in their 
respective posts. It may, in justice to Thiers, be said that at 
the time of these appointments he was ignorant of the real 
extent of the feebleness and incapacity which some of the above 
officials had exhibited during the preceding month. Looked at 
from another aspect, the re-appointments, of Favre and Le Fid 
in particular, were of slight account ; these ministers were no 
longer able to initiate policies, but were merely administrative 
instruments whose control and direction would be in Thiers' 

When Thiers had got his Ministry arranged, a considerable 
and increasing diversity of opinion existed as to what was the 
political character of his Government. That it might or could 
be Imperialist may be dismissed at once as out of the question. 
But was it Monarchical or Republican ? Thiers and his min- 
isters were personally republican, yet it was a momentous truth 
that France as a whole was not so. The Orl^anist representa- 
tion in the Assembly was two-thirds of the total, and it soon 
became manifest that this majority was intriguing for the re- 
establishment of a monarchy with an Orl^anist prince at its 
head. By the election of Thiers as Chief of the Executive 
Power it thought to prepare the way for such an advent Thiers 
himself, dependent on that majority, and not without ambition 
even in his old age of occupying perhaps a still nobler position 
than that he had now attained, coquetted with the Assembly, 

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8o History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

and was less decisive in the expression of his ultimate intentions 
than the Republicans required to completely reassure them that 
no such project as that suggested was entertained by him. 
Thus France found itself with an Assembly avowedly brought 
together for one object — to decide upon peace or war — and 
deliberating, formally, only upon that, but, informally and in 
segments, agitating and troubling itself over another bone of 
contention, as if the first-named were not enough for it to think 
about. In this condition we must leave it and return to events 
in Paris. 

On February 9th, General Vinoy, in accordance with the 
terms of the armistice, commenced the disarmament of the 
250,000 soldiers of the regular army that were encamped around 
or within Paris. This was a process to which these troops, more 
accustomed to discipline than the National Guards, submitted 
without outward demur. Inwardly, however, there existed a 
feeling of intense dissatisfaction because of the defeats, the 
capitulation, and the compulsory degradation they had now to 
undergo, the origin of all which they not unnaturally traced to 
the incapacity of the late Grovernment After disarmament, the 
soldiers were billetted upon the population. It was a step 
unavoidable, but it threw together two huge and distinct classes 
of people who were animated by a common discontent and 
repugnance to authority ; and it could not have other effect than 
to produce some sort of friendship and fellow-feeling between 
them, creating a bond of unity, however slight it might be, 
where there had been none.^ 

Twelve thousand soldiers were allowed to retain their arms, 
for service inside the city. There they are — 12,000 good men 
and true ; but there are nearly two millions of people to keep in 
order, and society is already in an unhinged state. The real 
force in the city is not vested in those 12,000 regulars, but in 
the 200,000 or more National Guards. 

* Le 18 Mars^ p. 56. 

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THE National Guards, however, lacked unity. In the 
elections of the 8th they had voted without common 
direction or understanding. The results were not wholly 
displeasing to them, yet it was thought that even better results 
might have been accomplished had the Guards been guided 
beforehand to greater uniformity of action. A meeting of 500 
delegates from various battalions had taken place on the 6th at 
the National Circus, with such an end in view ; but there was 
not time then to arrange and execute any plan by the 8th. A 
preliminary step, however, was taken : that of deciding upon 
another meeting for the 15th, and inviting, through the Press, 
all battalions of the National Guard to send delegates thereta 
This meeting was to be held in the large hall of the Tivoli — 
"Wauxhall" — 16, Ruede la Douane. Two at least out of the 
seven officers who signed the invitation to this meeting were 
members of the Central Committee ; their names were Vaillant 
and Courty. 

The Central Committee, the International Association, and 
the other republican and socialistic committees and assemblies 
were all at this time seeking for the same object — unity. Out 
of the weakness of the governing authorities went forth their 
strength, and they felt that they were strong, but, for want of a 
common organization and of a central directorate, their power 
was being wasted. All these bodies, in the persons of some of 
their members, were linked with all the others. They were all 
composed chiefly of National Guards ; all existed under similar 
conditions and were animated by similar sentiments ; they were 
elemental atoms fit for combination, and needed only bringing 
together for the incorporation to be effected. 

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82 History of the Paris Commune ^1871 

The meeting called for the 15th was duly held and numer- 
ously attended by delegates representing eighteen out of the 
twenty arrondissements of Paris. Preliminaries only could be 
then discussed ; a Commission was named to formulate in writing 
the base of a federation. For the next week the clubs and 
public meetings talked of nothing else. Additional poignancy 
was infused into the discussions and suggestions, by the 
announcement made that the Government intended to withdraw 
from a great number of the National Guards, and, before long, 
from the entire force, their pay of i fr. 50 c. (30 sous) per day. 
It was an intimation ominous not only of loss of income and 
subsequent distress, but of disarmament also— of that evil day 
which Jules Favre and coUes^ues had deferred under the vir- 
tuous and self-satisfying pretext that an armed National Guard 
was a solace to them. Protests against both the projected courses 
were freely uttered, and the desire for unity and federation was 
intensified. The condition of the National Guards was become 
so turbulent and frothy, so indisciplinary and uncontrollable, 
that their Commander-in-Chief, General Clement Thomas, and 
his Chief of Staff, resigned their positions on the i6th February. 
General Vinoy took up the thankless office of Commander for 
some days, pending the appointment of a successor to Thomas. 

The Tivoli, Wauxhall, was on February 24th the scene of 
another meeting of National Guard delegates, before whom 
there were laid the Statutes of Federation which had been 
drawn up by the Commission appointed on the 15th. These 
statutes were not then discussed ; renewed protests were made 
against any attempt to disarm the National Guards, and it was 
resolved to resist any such attempt by force. Apropos of the 
vacancy existing in the Chief Commandantship, a declaration 
was made that the National Guards would recognise only 
their own elected officers. The meeting finally closed with a 
determination to proceed to the Place de la Bastille, there to 
commemorate the Revolution of February, 1848, and render 
homage to its martyrs. This procedure had been suggested 
first by the International Association of Workers, and its idea 
was taken up with avidity by all kindred bodies. From ten 
o'clock in the morning to six o'clock in the evening, there was a 
constant succession of detachments of National Guards, officers 

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February 24/^ 83 

and bands of music at their heads, defiling at the foot of the 
column of July, which stands where the Bastille stood. Pennons 
were flying around the base of the monument ; crowns of 
immortelles were deposited there by the Guards as they passed, 
and from thousands of throats came the cry, that scarcely knew 
cessation, " Vive la R^publique universelle ! " 

The external unanimity of this manifestation was but the 
index to the internal unity of feeling which existed among the 
manifestants in regard to the two chief questions which revolved 
in the Parisian mind — There shall be a Republican Govern- 
ment, and, The National Guard shall be its army. The certainty 
of the former was not further assured after the lapse of a fort- 
night from the general elections ; the existence of the latter was 
already threatened, but the National Guard was determined to 
maintain them both. Public meetings, in almost every quarter 
of Paris, addressed by speakers who were not Guards, and by 
many writers in the Radical and Socialistic Press, wielding 
considerable influence among the bulk of the population, made 
the same demands and advocated them passionately. Wild 
rumours flew about that their beloved city was to be delivered 
to the Prussians ; that Thiers was secretly meditating a Monarch- 
ical restoration ; that Vinoy, who had helped a Buonaparte to 
coerce the people, would be base enough to execute a coup de 
force for an Orl^anist — against all which plotting, deceit, and 
treason there was only the National Guard to rely upon — and 
it was at last beginning to organize itself, to unite its atoms, 
and to become one immense armed body ! 

The Statutes of Federation provided for the establishment of 
a Central Directorate in the following manner : Every battalion 
was to elect four delegates (including its chief) to represent it ; 
the representatives of all the battalions in any one arrondisse- 
ment were to constitute themselves into a Council of L^ion, — 
there were thus to be twenty Councils of Legion in Paris. Each 
of these Councils was to depute four of its members (including 
at least one chief of battalion) to form part of the Central 
Directorate, which should thus, when fully constituted, be com- 
posed of eighty persons, elected by and representative of the 
entire force of National Guards in the city. Thus far in theory ; 
in practice it worked out not quite to such perfection, for some 

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84 History of the Paris Commune of I'i'ji 

battalions refused to join the federation. These, however, were 
not numerous, and they did not seriously affect the original plan. 
The Councils of Legion and Directorate could not all be elected 
in a day, and it was only by gradual though swift steps that 
their formation was completed. The Directorate, however, was 
constituted on or immediately after the 24th of February, and 
consisted of the provisional Commission which drafted the 
Statutes of Federation, augmented from day to day by the duly 
elected representatives from the Councils of Legion. This 
Directorate took the title of "Comit^ Central de la Garde 
Nationale," and began at once its work of organizing and 
directing. It must not be confounded with the Central Com- 
mittee of Arrondissements formed after September 4th, but 
this body, though it continued to exist, found no opportunity 
for pushing itself into the for^round after the establishment of 
the new Comit^ Central of the National Guard, and as most of 
its principal members became also members of the later and 
more important committee,^ it ceased to have much influence 
or activity. 

The manifestations at the Place de la Bastille were continued 
on February 25th. A new feature was the appearance of many 
of the regular soldiers and Mobiles, bearing crowns of immor- 
telles, which they deposited at the foot of the column of July — 
a silent proof of the harmony of thought between the civilian 
Guards and the soldiers of the line This agreement was so 
well understood to exist, that the evidence of it excited no 
comment ; it seemed only natural and brotherly. 

The following day was a Sunday — most propitious of days for 
Parisian demonstrations. The Place de la Bastille was thronged 
by a huge multitude ; the battalions which came to do honour 
to the Revolution of 1848 were more numerous than ever— one 
of them displayed a flj^ on which were the words *• The Re- 
public or Death." A police officer thought it his duty to note 
down the numbers of the battalions which defiled before the 
column : his action excited the ire of the crowd ; he was seized, 
beaten, bound hand and foot, thrown into the neighbouring 
canal St Martin by two chasseurs, his body forced under water 

* Of these were Babick, Pindy, Lacord, Viard, Henri Fortune, Ed. 
Vaillant, Antoine Amaud, Varlin. 

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February 26 tk 85 

by pikes, and made a target of for stones.* Twenty thousand 
people looked on applausively, though the actual murderers 
were an insignificant handful ! 

From assassination to maltreating a few Zouave officers who 
refused to salute the column, was a step backward ; it was taken, 
nevertheless, with energy. General Vinoy heard of the disturb- 
ances — but not before eight o'clock at night could he muster 
four battalions of infantry to put an end to the disorder, and 
these four battalions, remaining on duty until midnight, had by 
that time unlearnt their duty — the Mayor of Paris telegraphed 
to Vinoy, " On the Place de la Bastille your troops are absolutely 
mixed with the crowd and fraternising." * 

The same day witnessed the signing, by Bismarck and 
Thiers, at Versailles, of the preliminaries of peace betwixt 
Germany and France. The conditions imposed by the con- 
queror were exacting in the extreme — a war indemnity of 
;C200,ooo,ooo ; two provinces, Alsace and Lorraine, to be ceded ; 
Paris to be occupied by 30,cxxD soldiers; other demands of 
less import Thiers, feeling that it would be utterly ruinous to 
France to attempt to prolong a struggle which had already 
seriously crippled her, assented to these stern stipulations, and 
went off to Bordeaux to obtain the sanction of the National 
Assembly to what he had done. At Paris, the Sunday morning 
newspapers had published an announcement that the Prussians 
were to enter the city at midnight The news was false in 
regard to such early entrance, though true otherwise. The 
people were excited — abhorrence of the victorious foreigner 
grew to fever height ; and when Vinoy, in anticipation of the 
Prussian occupation, caused to be vacated those quarters of 
the city which were to be occupied by the Germans, the last 
lingering doubt, as to whether it were really to be, vanished, and 
the citizens, in whom the patriotism of Frenchmen was im- 
mensely augmented by the pride of being Parisians, felt keenly 
the humiliation which such occupation implied. General Vinoy, 
in withdrawing his forces from the Passy quarter, operated only 
upon the men ; the artillery, of which there were quantities in 
the broad Avenue Wagram and the Pare Monceau, he left un- 

^ Le iS Marsy p. 72. * Ibid,y pp. 73, 74* 

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86 History of the Paris Commune of i^ji 

touched, confident that the Prussians would act honourably, 
should they by any unforeseen eventuality come across it — for 
these places were outside the district which was to be occupied.' 
The Parisians had no such faith in their enemy, nor such 
exact knowledge as to the limits of his peregrinations. The 
forsaken cannons and mitrailleuses appealed to them with 
irresistible power. "Shall we allow the hated foreigner 
to seize these also — these, which we bought with our own 
money and have guarded with our own lives?" The excite- 
ment increased as the night wore on ; the new Comit6 Central 
of the National Guard, at this juncture largely guided by one 
Edouard Moreau, met and ordered the tocsin to sound ' and the 
cannons to be seized ; obedience to the behest was rapid and 
willing : from all sides the bells sounded an alarm and drums 
beat for muster ; fires were lit in the streets, and from far and 
wide National Guards poured in in thousands and surrounded 
the artillery. There were no horses, but, in default thereof, 
numberless willing hands and arms. Men harnessed themselves 
to the cannons and pulled, others pushed, and many pieces were 
thus drawn away. Towards the middle of the night some 
horses were procured and considerably expedited the work ; 
the ordnance was removed, some to the Place Royale,^ some 
to Belleville, to the Buttes Chaumont, to La Villette, and to 
Montmartre. The last-named place is, as its name indicates, 
a mount — a huge plot of rising ground terminating in a plateau 
which is inaccessible at one side, where it looks down upon an 
immense precipice. It is the highest point in Paris, and there- 
fore overlooks the whole city. To this great height, the cannons 
taken to that quarter were eventually brought, and a Mont- 
martre Defence Committee was formed to take charge of them. 
This committee held its sittings at the top of the mount, Rue 
des Rosiers No. 6, and at once directed trenches to be dug 
round the mount and fortifications to be begun. The National 
Guards at this place were not unanimous — one battalion was 
anxious and fearful at the turn events were taking, and wished 
to render back the cannons : all that it attained was a reprimand 
from the newly formed but powerful Comit^ Central. 

* Z> i8 Mars, p. 74. ^ Ibid.^ p. 75. ' Now Place Vosges. 

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February 2'jtk 87 

The same night of the 26-27th the prison of Ste. P^lagie 
was attacked by a column of National Guards, and Vermorel, 
Brunei, and Piazza, whose arrests have been recounted, were 
released. Profound agitation reigned in Paris until daybreak, 
but it then somewhat subsided, the anticipated invasion of the 
German army not having occurred. 

After daybreak, the cannons that remained in the Pare 
Monceau and neighbourhood were removed by Vinoy to the 
Luxembourg, at the south side of the river. Vinoy issued an 
appeal to the wisdom of the people ; Thiers also appealed to 
them to preserve their dignity and order — but of what use were 
mere appeals in the face of national misfortunes, national 
humiliations, national sacrifices ? The citizen Guards of Paris 
had utterly lost faith in their rulers, and felt that they must 
rely on themselves, and must prepare for any emergency, 
whether to fight the hated Prussians or other foe ! Armed they 
were, cannons they had now got, munitions of war they were 
getting and would get. Stolen were they ? Is it theft to take 
for the national use, or even the municipal use, that which has 
been stored up for the national or municipal benefit? The 
National Guards thought not — thought they had a perfect right 
to whatever ammunition they could secure, and they took all 
that came in their way. This 27th February they surrounded 
General Callier in the Pantheon quarter, and made themselves 
masters of three million cartridges.^ Another general officer. 
Admiral Saisset, having asked whether he could rely upon 
certain Belleville battalions that were nominally under his 
command, was answered by them, " We act only according to 
the instructions of the Comity Central,"* and they forthwith took 
possession of the powder magazines, which Saisset had been 
unable to leave under other guard. The Minister of Marine, 
in writing to the commander of the P^pini^re barracks, where 
were a number of marines, concerning whom an attempt to 
seduce them from their duty had been made, had no option 
but to say, " I have no force to dispose of." * There was but 
one effective force in Paris — ^the National Guards, and they gave 
allegiance only to their own Comit^ Central. 

* Le 18 Mars, p. 79. ' Ibid,, p. 81. ' Ibid,, p. 80. 

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88 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSyi 

At Belleville the agitation was increased by the facility with 
which the powder magazines had been secured. The people 
there became somewhat reckless— cut the telegraph wires and 
insulted some officers of a neighbouring district These things 
demanded a vigorous chastisement, but the authorities were too 
weak to do aught but repress their feelings, and withdraw their 
few trjDops entirely away, so that Belleville and adjacent M^nil- 
montant on the 28th February were left wholly to the care of 
the National Guards.^ 

The Prussian occupation of Paris was fixed to take place on 
March ist, and was to cover only a portion of the western 
district, north bank of the Seine, from the fortifications to the 
Place de la Concorde. Its sole object was to parade a vic- 
torious army in the capital of the conquered nation — ^to dispel 
the proud boast of the Parisians that their city was " sacred to 
the barbarians." The Comit6 Central had to decide what the 
conduct of the National Guards should be in actual presence 
of the enemy. It decided to counsel a quiet and dignified 
bearing — a decision undoubtedly dictated by the knowledge 
that any other attitude would procure a prompt and exemplary 
chastisement from their conqueror. The Comit^ Central caused 
placards ^ to be posted on the walls notifying its desires. Other 
placards, breathing intense hostility to the Germans, and 
loading them with abuse, also appeared, but they were without 
influence, the people generally being animated by the same 
prudent considerations as the Comit6 Central. 

The day of the enemy's entrance was a day of general 
mourning. Public edifices, shops and caf^s were closed, news- 
papers were not issued, windows were hung with black flags or 
the tricolour flag with black crape, and the statues in the Place 
de la Concorde were covered with black veils. Active life in the 
vicinity of the sphere of occupation was suspended. The German 
troops, 30,000 in number, commenced to enter the city at 1 1 
a.m., and marched leisurely and with brilliant appanage down 
the great avenues of the Grande Arm6e and the Champs Elystes, 

* Le 18 Mars, p. 82. 

' Signed by twenty-three members, thirteen of whom were Assi, Billioray, 
Babick, C. Dupont, Varlin, Mortier, Lavalette, F. Jourde, Ch. LuUier, 
Blanchet, H. G^resme, Viard, Ant. Amaud. 

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March \st — j^rd 89 

quartered themselves with deliberation and heeded not the 
scowls and unconcealed detestation which were visible on the 
faces of the natives. There they were to remain until such time 
as the National Assembly at Bordeaux sanctioned the prelimi- 
naries of peace which had been arranged between Bismarck and 
Thiers. Fortunately for the Parisians, on the same day as that 
of the occupation, the Assembly decided by 546 votes against 
107, to accept the terms to which Thiers had agreed. Ratifi- 
cation of the peace proposals by the Emperor of Germany took 
place on the 2nd March, and on the 3rd the German troops 
evacuated Paris. Several of the Paris deputies, considering the 
National Assembly unworthy of the French nation in having 
acceded to such humiliating conditions of peace, resigned their 
mandates as deputies and presently returned to Paris. Of these 
*' d^missionnaires " were Rochefort, Ranc, Malon, Tridon, and 

The 1st of March was an important day for the Comity 
Central, inasmuch as its internal organization underwent a 
double modification, the first and simplest being a fusion with 
the International Association, signified by the admission into 
its midst of four members of the International who had been • 
specially deputed by the latter body for the purpose.* There 
were, however, at least five persons who bore this dual relation- 
ship already, their names being Assi, Babick, Jourde, Pindy, and 
Varlin. The Comit6 Central usually held its sittings at the 
same address as the International, Place de la Corderie, even as 
the Central Committee of the twenty arrondissements had done. 
It is impossible, therefore, to doubt the close intimacy and con- 
nection existing between these bodies. The International, at 
this juncture, was not so avowedly militant as the Comit6 
Central ; but Varlin, in the former body, energetically declared 
the necessity for its members to be elected by the Councils of 
Legion to the Comit6 Central,* and his words commanded the 
approbation of a large majority of his hearers. 

The second modification the Comit6 Central underwent was 
the inclusion within it of officers of the National Guard of 
higher grade than chief of battalion. Many of these higher 

' Z^ 18 Mars (second part), p. 154. ' IbitL^ p. 153. 

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90 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSyi 

officers had been appointed by the Government, and all belonged 
to a social status above that of the existing members, for which 
reasons the Comite Central would have preferred to have had 
nothing to do with them. Policy directed otherwise. These 
higher officers also had a grievance against the Government, 
owing to their promised pay not being forthcoming. Repeated 
representations to Picard, the minister who had to deal with the 
matter, eliciting no reply of a satisfactory nature, some of the 
officers published in the papers a request for all their colleagues 
to meet them on March ist, in order to arrange for united action ; 
which meeting was duly held. The name which this com- 
bination of officers took to itself was that of the "Comit6 
F^^ral R^publicain " ; one Count Raoul du Bisson was its 
head. The jealousy of the Comit^ Central was aroused by the 
appearance of another Committee of National Guard officers, 
and it sent to the latter three delegates — Arnold, Bergeret, and 
Viard — to demonstrate the inadvisability of there being two 
directorates and the necessity for grouping all their forces into 
one in view of a common action.* The officers agreed, and 
eventually some of them were incorporated with the Comitd 
Central. By this amalgamation the Republican Federation of 
the National Guard was finally established. From this title, 
the National Guards soon came to be spoken of as " Federates" — 
a term which served to distinguish them from those Guards who 
had refused to join the Federation. 

At a meeting of the Comitd Central held on the 3rd of March, 
the statutes of the Federation were discussed and voted. A 
resolution was also passed to the effect that, should the seat of 
government be removed from Bordeaux to any other place 
than the capital, Paris would immediately constitute itself into 
an independent republic. This decision was a result of the 
rumours floating about that the National Assembly purposed 
transferring itself to Versailles. At the same meeting the 
following irrational declaration was acclaimed : ** The Republic 
is above universal suffrage."^ This phrase was doing much 
service at this epoch, and was being used to justify, to the 
socialistic mind, the employment of any measure, howsoever 

^ Le \Z Mars, p. lOO. * Ibid., p. io2. 

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March ist — ^rd 91 

extreme, that might be necessary in order to set up a republic. 
The phrase is redolent with inconsistency and folly ; it has only 
one logical issue, and that is to establish a republic by force, 
and a government, so established, would not be a republic but a 

Force, on a limited scale, the Comit6 Central was even then 
employing, by continuing to sanction and protect the pillage 
of ammunition and seizure of war material and stores. Whilst 
the Germans were entering the city on the ist of March, the 
federated Guards in other districts were laboriously bringing 
cannons and small arms into one of their strongholds beyond 
the Place de la Bastille — the Faubourg St Antoine. The 3rd 
of March, the military position of the Gobelins on the southern 
side of the river was surprised, its guard attacked and disarmed, 
and quantities of cartridges removed therefrom. This latter 
achievement caused M. Picard to issue an affiche^ in which he 
stigmatised as "anonymous" the Comit6 Central, and as 
" criminal " the acts which it authorized and encouraged.^ Yet 
he did not even attempt to repress those criminalities, and there- 
fore only publicly displayed the impotence of the Government. 
The Comitd Central replied at once to his affiche by another, 
wherein it denied its alleged anonymity, and affirmed that it 
desired to organize the National Guards so as to protect the 
country better than the regular army had been able to do. 
This was signed by twenty-five names.^ The chaise of 
anonymity against the Comit6 Central was untrue and begot of 
weakness and indolence. Its members were not men of great 
note or high positions, but it would have been a perfectly easy 
matter for the Government to have identified and laid hands on 
them all. The Government, indeed, was meditating taking 
some decisive action. The course of events in Paris was known 
to M. Thiers, and he was already arranging to send reinforce- 
ments to General Vinoy. He was anxious to send a force so 
efficient and numerous that its prestige alone would act upon 
the insurgent National Guards and induce them to lay down 
their arms. M. Thiers estimated that for this purpose 40,000 

* Le 18 Mars^ p. 87. 

* Including Arnold, Bergeret, Courty, Henri Fortun^ Lacord, Lavalette, 
Ostyn, Pindy, Varlin, and Viard. 

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92 History of the Paris Commune of i^Ti 

men would be required. Thirty-six thousand were already en 
route for Versailles, whilst the National Assembly, which would 
presently transfer itself there, so as to be near Paris, would be 
accompanied by other 6,000 men. 

M. Jules Favre, the principal member of the Government at 
Paris, was now alarmed at the power of the National Guards, 
and at the fact that they were not obedient to the Government, 
but rather arrayed against it He called from Bordeaux those 
deputies who were also mayors of arrondissements in Paris, and 
held a meeting at which they, with the other mayors and 
adjuncts, were present. The mayors who were also deputies 
were MM. Tirard, Cl^menceau, and Amaud de TAri^ge. These 
gentlemen, from the dispatches they had received, expected to 
find the city in open insurrection, and were astonished to 
discover no signs of trouble and the streets remarkably tranquil. 
*• The tranquillity is only apparent," said Favre ; " one cannot 
longer allow cannons to be moved about the streets." Cl^men- 
ceau thought the situation was not so grave as the Minister 
imagined ; he had been to the Buttes Montmartre — the arrondisse- 
ment of which he was mayor — and had there found the National 
Guards tired of looking after their cannons and only too willing 
to give them up. Another mayor, M. Vautrain, thought the 
danger lay not in the cannons, but in the Comitd Central. 
** Take the bull by the horns," he suggested, " and immediately 
arrest the Comitd Central." A giant, deprived at one stroke 
of its head, is suddenly rendered strengthless : so would the 
National Guards have been, had their entire directorate, by one 
swift blow, been removed. The advice of M. Vautrain was not 
approved ; it was too energetic for the feeble-minded counsellors 
to encompass. They decided to retake the cannons by smooth 
words (i ramiable\ and M. Cl^menceau, on his own suggestion, 
was to be the plausible negotiator with the Comit6 Central.* 

Since the resignation of General Clement Thomas, the 
National Guards had been without a nominal Commander-in- 
Chief. Acting on their own declaration that they had the right 
to elect all their officers, from the highest to the lowest, the 
Guards had, on February 28th, elected one Dassas, a member of 

^ Le \Z Mars^ pp. 110-112. 

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March T^rd — 6tk 93 

the Comit^ Central, to the vacant post of Commander-in-Chief— 
an appointment which the Government ignored, and which 
Dassas failed in any way to justify. The officer selected 
eventually by the Government to fill this invidious position was 
General d'Aurelle de Paladines, who, in November, had gained 
the victory over the Germans at Coulmiers. He arrived in 
Paris and took up the duties of Commander-in-Chief on the 
3rd of March, and Jules Ferry, the central mayor, thought there 
was no longer any peril to fear.^ D'Aurelle himself, however, 
speedily perceived that the situation was critical, that few 
battalions could be relied upon, that the bulk of the officers 
ranked themselves with their men, and that his appointment was 
scarcely anywhere favoured, and amongst the socialistic press 
was violently denounced and repudiated. On March 6th he 
was told that the National Guards elected their own chiefs, and 
that, as he was not elected by them, they would not recognise 
his authority. Thus was D'Aurelle as powerless as Vinoy or 
the Ministers. 

That the Government was reduced to such state of impotency 
was largely its own fault Deep and widespread causes of dis- 
satisfaction had existed, and continued to exist, which the 
nominal authorities had utterly disregarded, or had displayed a 
childish incapacity to deal with. The wave of indignation which 
the capitulation of Paris and the abject conditions of peace had 
set in motion, had far from spent its force, whilst the problem 
of how to restore the dislocated and almost inanimate trade of 
the capital was present with increased complexity, and received 
grossly inadequate and improper treatment The stoppage of 
the National Guards' pay, which, though not carried out, hung 
menacingly over them, was announced long before any number 
of the citizen soldiers could have obtained employment — now. 
as a direct consequence, instead of the Guards voluntarily 
relinquishing their martial profession and returning by degrees 
to their accustomed businesses, consonant with the gradual 
revival of trade, they had, as a body, refused to disband, and, 
by so doing, kept commerce and manufacture still stagnant 
Further trouble was threatening from the propriitaires^ or 

' IjciZ Marsy p. 106. 

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94 History of the Paris Commune of 1871 

landlords, of Paris, who, during the siege, had had to defer the 
collection of their rents, and who were now endeavouring to 
obtain them. Their worrying action was comparatively fruitless 
to themselves, but it served further to embitter the hapless 
tenants against all established Authority, under cover of which 
august name the propri^taires made their procedure. 

The cowardice which General Trochu and colleagues had 
shown on the day of the 31st October, and their incapacity in 
the conduct of the National Defence and in the maintenance of 
order, had been the original causes of the present indiscipline 
which characterized the National Guards, whilst the abandon- 
ment of the cannons near the quarter that was to be occupied 
by the Prussian army was a great oversight, even had it not 
resulted in any unforeseen events. A further want of insight 
and elementary prudence was manifested by the Government so 
late as March 7th, when the acute position of affairs in Paris 
could no longer be doubted. The Minister of War at Bordeaux 
issued a decree disbanding all the Mobile Guards throughout 
the country ; ^ these Mobiles, consisting of peasants and pro- 
vincial workmen, were mostly steady and reliable men, and 
their assistance in restoring order at Paris would have been 
invaluable. However, the decree goes forth, and the Mobiles, 
anxious to return to their homes, immediately seize the 
opportunity and go. On the other hand, the National 
Guards at Paris were being reinforced daily by various elements, 
some of which were not of high repute. Disbanded soldiers, 
Garibaldians, Franc-tireurs, and others, who had no claims upon 
them elsewhere, made for the capital ; adventurers and various 
revolutionary birds of passage, scenting excitement from afar, 
also flocked thither from all nations. 

The Government at Paris issued, on March 8th, a proclama- 
tion exposing the gravity of the situation there, and making an 
appeal to the wisdom and dignity of the people, whom it 
implored to profit by the terrible lesson taught by recent events, 
and to seek safety in knowing and respecting their duty. On 
the loth the National Assembly held its last meeting at 
Bordeaux prior to re-uniting at Versailles ten days later. 

* Le 18 Marsy^. 113. 

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March 8/ A — iii/i 95 

Strong representations made by M. Louis Blanc, a prominent 
Republican deputy, and by other Republicans, in favour of the 
Assembly returning to Paris, were futile. The moral cowardice 
which had been so notable in the Republican Ministers afflicted 
the Monarchical Chamber also. Its decision was regarded at 
Paris as a direct and intentional insult to the capital — an 
additional humiliation, which was the more keenly felt because 
it came voluntarily from their own countrymen and was unde- 
served. The radical and socialistic press of Paris raised a hue 
and cry against the monarchical deputies, and inveighed against 
them to the fullest extent of the writers* imaginations. Con- 
demnation of the political opinions held by the rural deputies 
came forth freely ; personal invectives and epithets were not 
wanting — amongst other things, the deputies were called farm- 
servants, cowboys, beasts, idiots. M. Rochefort, in his journal, 
the Mot (TOrdre^ stigmatised them as ^^ iT exhumis'' (exhumed 
remains) "of all the monarchies, condemned to found a 
republic," and, further on, gave a grandiloquent eulogy on the 
Parisians, to the following effect : " The people of Paris is the 
most enlightened of all peoples ; it has the consciousness of its 
moral value, knowing that when it speaks the world inclines itself 
to listen, and that when it marches the world rouses itself to 
follow."^ The vituperations of M. Rochefort and of several 
press writers of like or lower stamp, were suddenly cut short by 
General Vinoy, who, on March nth, suspended the following 
papers : Le Mot cTOrdre (Rochefort); Cri du Peuple (Jules 
Vall^s) ; Le Vengeur (F61ix Pyat) ; Le Pkre Ducliine (Vermesch 
and Alphonse Humbert) ; La Bouchede Per (Paschal Grousset) ; 
and La Caricature (anonymous). These papers had been 
incessant in attacking the Government and in advocating 
revolutionary measures. Simultaneously, a decree was issued 
again closing the clubs ; but this decree was even less efficacious 
than that issued in January, for the members of the clubs met 
outside their premises in lat^e numbers, held meetings, and gave 
inflammatory speeches practically the same as before.^ 

This period in March was also notable for the decision being 
announced of the Military Court which had had to judge the 

^ Le\Z MarSy pp. 119, 120. ' Ibid.^ p. 124. 

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96 History of tlu Paris Commune of 1^7 \ 

chief actors in the affair of the 31st October, and also those ina- 
plicated in the affair of the 22nd January. Events had moved 
apace since these "affairs" happened — so the Military adjudicators 
thought : * there was no need to punish any of the arrested per- 
sons, and they were, without exception, h'berated ;• only those 
few who had avoided arrest were condemned, by default, to 
various penalties, among them being Blanqui and Flourens, who 
were each sentenced to death. Blanqui was at the time ill at 
Cahors, but he was presently arrested and kept in a fortress. 
Flourens, who had for a long while been in partial concealment, 
had recently emerged therefrom, secure in the demagogic 
strongholds of Montmartre and Belleville from any attempt at 
arrest Both he and Blanqui issued red placards protesting 
against the suspension of the six newspapers, openly inciting to 
revolt, and appealing to the regular army to desert; these 
placards could only be pulled down in a few places where the 
Government had a sufficient following to permit of such a 
course being adopted.^ 

The incitement to the regular soldiers to desert was even 
more serious than the federated Guards' own rebellion. The 
Federates were conscious of their own imposing numbers, and 
knew that they had but one antagonist to fear — the regular 
army. Overtures to it had from time to time been made in an 
unostentatious way, but this appeal of Flourens and Blanqui 
was the first public intimation of the Socialists' design. The bil- 
letting of the disbanded soldiers upon the populace had thrown 
many of them into the revolutionary camp, and even officers, 
under the spell of the profound dissatisfaction and national 
humiliation which universally prevailed, cast aside their sworn 
allegiance and made common cause with the Comitd Central. 
These additions of trained officers and disciplined men were of 
great value to the Federates, serving to mould the latter into 
a better fighting form and providing a leverage against the 
Government and an example of desertion for others to follow. 

There could be now no doubt that the Comit^ Central had 
become the supreme power in Paris. The obedience to it of 

* Actes, t. i. p. 248. 

' Including Lefiran^ais and S^rizier. Vesinier and Ranvier had been 
released on parole, on January loth. * Z> 18 Mars, p. 125. 

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March lotk — 15M 97 

the federated Guards was complete and enthusiastic. A meet- 
ing held on March 15th at the Vauxhall, at which 2,500 dele- 
gates, representing 215 battalions, were present, testified at once 
to its unique position and to the unanimity of the huge army 
which it swayed. At this meeting the fusion with the officers' 
Federation was publicly proclaimed to be complete ; revised 
statutes were passed and general officers of the federate Guards 
appointed. Garibaldi, who had done his utmost for the French 
cause in the late war, and had received thankless treatment at 
the hands of the Bordeaux National Assembly, was elected 
General-in-Chief; he never accepted the appointment, nor had 
anything to do with the events in Paris. Charles Lullier (naval 
lieutenant), who greatly impressed the meeting by his eloquence, 
was appointed colonel of artillery ; and Eudes, Duval, Lucien 
Henry and others, chiefs of legion. This Henry, though only 
twenty-one years of age, had become noted by his open defiance 
of the Governmental authorities in the 14th arrondissement, 
the federates of which had elected him their chief. 

Meanwhile the question of the cannons at Montmartre and 
elsewhere remained unsettled, despite the amiable endeavours 
of M. Cl^menceau with the Comit^ Central. On March loth 
General d'Aurelle had sent envoys to Montmartre, he having 
been informed that the cannons would be surrendered to them. 
The envoys, however, were politely told to call again the next 
day, when the cannons would be given up. The next day they 
went again, with their teams of horses all ready, nothing doubt- 
ing ; but the cannons were not relinquished, and the horses were 
kept uselessly waiting all day. M. Thiers arrived at Paris on 
the 15 th, and immediately set himself to solve this question — it 
was already become a national one. Financiers told him that 
Europe would not lend France the money she would require to 
pay Prussia with unless these cannons were in the safe custody 
of the State.^ Merchants and manufacturers said it was im- 
possible to do any work until the cannons were removed from 
the streets. The cannons 1 — they superseded all other matters 

Thiers entered at first into friendly conversation with those 

* Le 18 Mars^ p. 13a 


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98 History of the Paris Commune of i^Ti 

who retained the cannons — some were willing to return them, 
others refused ; betwixt the two nothing could be done. The 
next day, the i6th, he again made friendly overtures to attain 
his object, but was again unsuccessful. At the Place Royale,^ 
near the Place de la Bastille, he sent a small body of mounted 
Gardes de Paris to surprise the federates and secure the cannons 
there held ; but the force was insufficient for the purpose, and 
the only result of the attempt was to cause the cannons to 
be withdrawn further eastward to Rue Basfroi, where they were 
less likely to be surprised or attacked.^ 

Thiers now resolved to immediately retake the cannons by 
force. He consulted his ministers, but from their puerile in- 
tellects it was hopeless to obtain anything decisive. They 
wished still to temporise with the federates, but the stronger 
will of the Chief of the Executive Power presently overcame 
their diffidence, and they assented to his project.^ This was 
on March 17th. The federated Guards were held in such little 
confidence that they were not made aware of what was to be 
done ; as an enemy, they were to be surprised. Neither were 
the mayors and adjuncts of the twenty arrondissements in- 
formed of the meditated attack — it was to be a purely military 
affair, and the utmost secrecy was observed in making the 
preparations for it General d'Aurelle, however, without giving 
any intimation as to the Government's intentions, received into 
his house at 11 p.m. the chiefs of about thirty battalions of 
Guards which were thought to be loyal, and questioned them 
as to what the conduct of their men would probably be in the 
event of a struggle for the possession of the cannons taking 
place. Without exception these officers gave practically one 
reply, "The National Guards will never fight against the 
National Guards."* There remained therefore only the small 
force of regulars with which to carry out the undertaking. 

The 12,000 soldiers which the terms of the capitulation per- 
mitted to remain armed in Paris were not at that moment at 
command. When the Prussians terminated their brief occupa- 
tion of the city, they also vacated the six forts situated on the 
south bank of the Seine — Forts Mont ValArien, Issy, Vanves, 

* Now Place dcs Vosges. * Le iS Mars, p. 131. Lefran^ais, p. 136. 

* Z> 18 Afars, p. 131. " /did,, p. 135. 

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March lylk 99 

Montrouge, Bic^tre, and Ivry — and these General Vinoy had 
garrisoned out of his 12,000 men. He had also apportioned 
several companies to act as guards to various columns of dis- 
armed soldiers, which had constituted a menace and encum- 
brance to Paris and had been sent away from the feverish and 
unsettled capital Vino/s original force of r^^lars was thus 
very much reduced. He had, however, received some reinforce- 
ments from the provinces of troops that had been formed only 
during the late war, and which could not therefore be called 
properly seasoned ; they were designated *^de marched' in con- 
tradistinction to " de lignel' the latter being older troops ; also, 
in the emergency, some of the disarmed soldiers still in Paris 
were hastily rearmed and served to augment his small army. 

The military execution of Thiers' resolve was confided to 
Vinoy, and the chief feature of the proposed attack was that it 
was to be made about four o'clock on the following morning — 
the 1 8th — that hour having been well chosen as being the most 
likely one for finding the federates who were guarding the can- 
nons wearied and tired with their night's watching.^ 

As the French Government could do nothing without a ver- 
bose proclamation, one was naturally drawn up and sent to the 
printers. A summary of its contents will be given at the point 
where the Parisian public becomes acquainted with it. 

The number of pieces of ordnance of all kinds which the 
National Guards had in their possession AVas 417 * — a formidable 
total; two-fiflhs of the number — 171' — were on the Buttes 
Montmartre; another two-fifths were distributed through La 
Chapelle, the Buttes Chaumont, Belleville, and M6nilmontant, 
these places being contiguous and forming together a closely 
knit area of about four square miles ; the remaining fifth was 
at Rue Basfroi — a locality not far removed from M^nilmontant. 
All these districts were inhabited and surrounded by a working- 
class population. 

' Le 18 Mars^ p. 135. ^ La VMU^ p. 240. 

* Rapport d^eftsemble,^. 18. 

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THE i%TH MARCH, 1871 * 

AT 2 am., in the darkness and silence of the night, the 
Government forces were marched off on their mission. 
The Place de la Bastille — centre for manifestations and riots — 
was first filled with some thousands of troops, to prevent at that 
spot any disorderly assemblage. Near by, in Rue Basfroi, sat 
throughout the night the Comit^ Central,* in ignorance of the 
proceedings that were in progress for the recovery of the 
cannons. M6nilmontant, Belleville, the Buttes Chaumont, 
were all in turn occupied by the Government troops, and the 
cannons thereat taken possession of without diflSculty : the 
attacking force arrived so unexpectedly and was so preponder- 
antly stronger than the small companies of federates that had 
been left to guard the artillery. Bill-posters accompanied tlie 
soldiers and pasted up on the walls copies of the Government 

Montmartre, which Generals Susbielle and Lecomte were 
deputed to seize, fell, as the other districts, an easy prey to 
Vinoy's admirable tactics. At this place a cordon of troops 
was first drawn round the mount, and companies of the 88th 
regiment de marche were told off to guard all the entrances 
thereto. Then two columns of infantry, each of about 340 
men, Lecomte at their head, wended their way to the two 
plateaus of the mount. A sudden rush was made upon the 
federates who guarded the cannons — a slight resistance met 
with — a few shots exchanged, then all was over, the position 

* To save a multiplicity of references, it may at once be stated that " Le 
18 Mars^^ pp. 133-187, forms the principal authority for the facts in this 
chapter ; where information has been drawn from other sources, they will 
be notified in the usual way. 

• La Commune de Paris, par St Pourille, dit Blanchet, pp. 9> 3'- 

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The \%th March, 1871 loi 

was taken, the federates made prisoners, and a more important 
capture effected in the persons of several members of the local 
defence committee with their papers. The latter prisoners were 
at once enclosed in the house, No. 6, Rue des Rosiers, which, 
only the day before, had been the quarters of the Comit^ 

Couriers were at once despatched to the Government, 
announcing the complete success of the enterprise, and Lecomte 
simply awaited the arrival of the necessary teams of horses to 
come away with his coveted gains. It was then five o'clock. 
The shots that had been fired awoke the slumbering denizens 
of Montmartre; they arose, formed groups in the streets, 
perceived the blow which the Government had struck, and 
perused by the dawning light Thiers' proclamation addressed 
to the inhabitants of Paris. This document reasoned with the 
people, told them they were deceived by the Comit6 Central, 
which gave out that the Republic was in danger, but it was its 
action alone which endangered it ; called upon the good to 
separate from the bad, and finally warned them of the conse- 
quences that would ensue if they disregarded that appeal, for 
force would be employed without a day's delay to procure a 
complete re-establishment of order. Could reasoning only be 
made mathematically demonstrable ! It would be idle to say 
that the proclamation had any of the desired effect upon its 
readers ; the exhibition of force which accompanied it was of 
easier assimilation, and the inference it contained to the 
Parisians was that the Government meditated a coup cPitat — 
that the people were again to be subjugated under an iron rule, 
and that they were being deceived and tricked, not by the 
Comit6 Central, but by Thiers. 

Six o'clock arrived, and with it broad daylight The teams 
of horses not having appeared. General Lecomte ordered some 
of the cannons to be removed with what few horses he had. 
This was done, the increasing crowd retarding rather than 
assisting the operation. Meanwhile, the Comit6 Central had 
learnt what had occurred, and one of their number, Blanchet, 
caused drums to be beat and the alarm bells sounded.^ The 


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I02 History of the Paris Commune (?/" 1871 

federate Guards turned out of their beds and assembled in the 
streets, where also were numbers of women and children. All 
thronged to Montmartre, and by seven o'clock an immense crowd 
had assembled there at the bottom of the hill, surrounding and 
impeding the cordon of soldiers and rendering the further 
removal of cannons almost an impossibility. The women, 
afraid at first to approach too near the armed cordon, became 
bolder by degrees, and eventually spoke to the troops — ^not in 
anger, but considerately, with the astuteness of diplomats. 
They must be hungry — ^had they breakfasted ? Of course not, 
it was only seven o'clock. Nevertheless, the authorities were 
charged with starving the soldiers, and, to show that the 
reproach was not an empty- phrase, practical measures were 
taken by the populace to feed them. Fed they were — hap- 
hazard, be it ; but the soldier was hungry, and tired of waiting 
with arms in hand ; he considered, at the moment, not the cere- 
mony of eating so long as there was something to eat. Bread, 
meat, and wine were brought out by hundreds of thoughtful 
women, and the soldiers became friendly and affable under the 
influence of the kindly attention shown to them. 

On the top of the mount a little altercation was proceeding 
betwixt M. Cl^menceau, the mayor of Montmartre, and General 
Lecomte, relative to the former's wish that one of the federates 
who had been wounded when the surprise was made, should be 
removed to a hospital. C16menceau's motive was doubtless 
humane, but to transport a wounded and blood-besmeared Guard 
through the crowded streets would have been the height of folly 
at that juncture. The general prohibited such removal, more 
especially as an army doctor was attending the man. Then 
Lecomte interrogates the mayor : " What is the meaning of 
all that noise I hear below?" "That," answers Cl^menceau, 
" proceeds only from the men of order, who are disposed to aid 
in the removal of the cannons; I will answer for the tranquillity 
of my arrondissement" Lecomte was reassured by these words, 
and Cl^menceau proceeded to his mairie. 

The time passed, and still the teams of artillery horses came 
not. Some one, there anent, had bungled ; orders had been 
at fault or their execution dilatory. Had the teams closely 
followed the troops, as they should have done, the entire 

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Tlie \Wi March, 1871 103 

business might have been accomplished by daybreak, whereas 
eight o'clock had arrived and the erewhile facile task had 
become, owing to the crowded and congested thoroughfares, 
most arduous and of uncertain termination. The broad Boule- 
vard de Rochechouart glistened with the bright bayonets of 
federate battalions ; the Place St. Pierre, bounded on three sides 
by high, dirty-looking houses and on the fourth by the abruptly 
rising mount, was surging and overflowing with humanity — 
soldiers, civilians, women and children, all intermingled and nigh 
inextricable. Presently, the throng began to climb up the hill 
by every conceivable way, over gardens, railings, houses, slopes. 
General Lecomte perceived the movement, and knew not quite 
what to think of it One of his commandants, Poussargues, 
demanded several times the order to fire upon the crowd, but — 
•* No ! let them be forced back at the bayonet's point" This was 
difficult to do ; the crowd pressed so closely that the bayonets 
could not be brought to position. The endeavour to carry out 
the order was seen by the populace, and the women at once cried 
out, " Would you fire upon us and our children ? " The soldiers 
hesitated ; one of their officers, revolver in hand, threatened 
them ; he was surrounded by the women, several of his men 
broke away from their ranks and openly deserted, whilst the 
others reversed their guns and lifted the butt ends into the air 
in token of sympathy with the people. 

Now without hindrance the latter clambered up the hill from 
all points of the compass, and arrived on the top plateau in 
swarms, so that the general's troops were paralysed and he him- 
self was enveloped in the flowing tide. He endeavoured to 
withdraw with his staff, but it was impossible ; he was insulted, 
his soldiers turned against and arrested him, and he was carried 
rather than conducted to No. 6, Rue des Rosiers, where the 
prisoners which he had made some hours before were located ; 
they were liberated, and he was installed for a few minutes in 
their place. Upon his refusal to sign an order for the troops to 
retire,^ he was escorted by the federate Guards to a public 
dancing-hall a little way from the bottom of the hill, the 
Ch&teau Rouge in Rue Clignancourt, and there, where there was 

* Rapport d^ ensemble, p. 20. De la Brug^re, p. 380. 

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I04 History of the Paris Commune of \%T\ 

a strong muster of citizen Guards, he was detained as a prisoner. 
Several of his officers were likewise sent there and guarded, the 
captain in charge of that establishment and of the prisoners 
being one Simon Mayer. 

The multitudes on the top of the hill, flushed with their 
success in winning over the Government troops to their side, and 
excited by their further achievements in the arrest of Lecomte 
and his officers, were now maddened by the sight of the wounded 
man whom Cl^menceau had wished to remove — no further proof 
was needed to convince them that Lecomte had intended to fire 
upon and decimate them. Two of his soldiers, recognised to 
have been policemen under the Emperor Napoleon, were beaten, 
lacerated, and left for dead in the Rue des Rosiers. Two horses 
belonging to Lecomte's staff", during the latter's retreat, stumbled 
and fell ; they were instantly pounced upon by the crowd, the 
living flesh torn and cut off* with sabres, bayonets, knives, and 
fingers, and straightway eaten, bloody and warm though it was : 
in a few minutes there remained only two skeleton-like carcases. 

Elsewhere at Montmartre, similar signs of fraternization 
betwixt the troops and the citizens were witnessed. The troops 
heeded not their officers' orders, raised the butt ends of their 
guns in the air, and cried, " Vive la garde nationale ! " whilst the 
federates ajpplauded vociferously, and responded by " Vive la 
ligne !" Otiier two officers of the 88th raiment de marche were 
arrested and confined by their men in a shop on the Boulevard 
Rochechouart, and, not far away — Rue Houdon — a captain of 
artillery was mortally wounded as a result of attempting to 
secure obedience to his commands. At the Tower Solferino, 
the usual exchange of fraternal greeting was followed by 
ominous cries of "Down with Vinoy ! " and "Down with Thiers !" 
Fraught with even more terrible significance was the fact that 
from the Boulevard Rochechouart to the new Collie Chaptal, 
barricades were commenced, intercepting the issue of all the 
streets from which Government troops might come. 

The Comit^ Central had not been idle. Though the Govern- 
ment action had come upon it by surprise, it was resolved to hold 
fast to the cannons, and it had already sent Bergeret, one of its 
members, to organize the federates of Montmartre, and Varlin 
to do likewise in the adjacent Batignolles, with the object of 

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The iSiA March, 1871 105 

nullifying the Government attempt The method adopted was 
not an open resistance to the troops, but an endeavour to win 
them over to their own side, and thus to gain their end with- 
out bloodshed or great difficulty. The success attending the 
Comity's design was as complete as was the failure of the 

It was nine o'clock when General Susbielle, part of whose 
men had also deserted, withdrew from Montmartre, with his 
staff and those who remained faithful. It was evident to him 
and to General Vinoy that, with such wholesale defections, and 
the consequent demoralization of the army, it would be useless 
to persevere with their project that day, and that as quickly as 
possible those soldiers who still remained loyal should be called 
away from the infectious area, lest they also fell a prey to the 
prevailing disorder. This was at once done as far as it was 
practicable, but some companies could not be communicated 
with and many others had already joined the citizen ranks. All 
troops that could be withdrawn were marched to the south bank 
of the Seine and concentrated on the Champs de Mars and at 
the Military School which faces thereto. Three members of the 
Comit^ Central who had been arrested early in the morning at 
Montmartre — Viard, Chouteau, and Prudhomme * — were incar- 
cerated in the depdt adjoining the Prefecture of Police. The 
Government, inert and blind as ever, could only issue a pro- 
clamation which was worse than useless, for it was never read by 
the Parisians that day, and it consumed time which might have 
been better employed. 

The streets and heights of Montmartre continued to be 
crowded with the excited populace, and the morning passed 
swiftly away amid the ferocious enthusiasm, the eating and 
drinking, the raising of barricades, and the occasional further 
arrests of officers and of some Government troops whose ideas 
of duty were firm and would not yield to the solicitations of the 
federates. Cl^menceau, who had learnt of the arrests, went to 
the Ch&teau Rouge to see about the principal prisoners, General 
Lecomte in particular. The mayor could do naught in regard 
to setting them at liberty, but he enjoined upon Captain Mayer 

' Du Camp, t. i. p. 63. 

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io6 History of the Paris Commune of \%T\ 

to attend to their wants and see to their safety, which the latter 
promised to do. The injunction was needed, for the later- 
arrived prisoners had been accompanied by angry, vociferating 
crowds, and the Chateau Rouge was surrounded by violent men 
and enraged women, who attempted every now and again to 
force an entrance so as to get at the objects of their hatred. 
The prisoners were kept waiting for the arrival of the Comit^ 
Central, which should judge them ; but the Comit^ came not, 
and no one seemed to know where it was, nor when it would 

Towards two o'clock, a line of federated Guards with bayonets 
fixed was drawn up in the garden of the Ch&teau Rouge, and 
Captain Mayer came to inform the officer-prisoners — all of 
whom, excepting Lecomte, were together — that he had orders to 
send them to the Rue des Rosiers, where sat the Comit^ before 
which they were to be brought Captain Mayer did not inform 
them of the fact that the written order he had received was 
delivered to him by a captain of National Guards whom he 
knew not, that the signatures upon it were undecipherable, and 
that the only recog^nisable elements of authority about it were 
a seal and a printed title of a Committee — which, however, he 
had no personal knowledge of. Nevertheless, to this unknown 
captain, and upon this unknown authority, he delivered the 
prisoners. Lecomte, calm and with a firm and dignified step, 
joined the other officers, who saluted him and to whom he 
returned the salute. The convoy of Guards insulted and 
threatened their prisoners ; the streets through which they 
passed were thronged with people, who uttered imprecations and 
menaces upon them, and made various efforts to get hold of 
them — efforts which were only repulsed by the strenuous and 
courageous resistance of the officers of the convoy. Painfully 
and slowly they climbed up the hill Montmartre. A thick fog 
enveloped it, but the crowd pressed everywhere and both saw 
and was seen, and the tigress-like women clenched their fists 
before the eyes of the unhappy prisoners, hurled oaths and 
insults upon them, and mercilessly declared that they were about 
to be killed. 

On arrival at No. 6, Rue des Rosiers, the prisoners, eleven in 
number, were hustled into a small and dark room on the 

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Tlie \Zth March, 1871 107 

ground floor, whilst the throng of turbulent and revengeful 
people crowded the courtyard in front and endeavoured to force 
an entrance into the house. An old, white-bearded man, a 
Captain Garcin, with a July decoration ^ upon his breast, who 
had during the morning displayed a cynical vindictiveness 
against the prisoners, now came forward to inform them that 
the Comity would decide upon their fate. Lecomte demanded 
to see the Comit^ immediately, and was answered that it was 
being sought. Meanwhile the clamour and frenzy of the popu- 
lace abated not, and the officer in charge of the convoy of 
Guards, knowing that the lives of the prisoners were at stake, 
made strenuous efforts to protect them from violence. 

Still the Comit^ arrived not, and the people, tired and 
incensed with waiting, broke the window-bars of the room 
where the prisoners were, and levelled their guns at them, 
Lecomte always being singled out as the main object of their 
hatred. The convoy of federates, to their honour, thrust the 
guns aside, endeavoured to soften the wrath of the angry popu- 
lace, and besought them to wait until the Comit^ arrived. But 
the crowd was in no mood to wait — it continued to push for- 
ward, and the pressure at last broke the window-frame down 
and opened a way into the room. Furious individuals rushed 
in, wildly shouting and gesticulating. Some of Lecomte's 
soldiers of the morning were there ; they picked out their 
general and roughly laid hands upon him. One struck him a 
blow, exclaiming, " You once gave me thirty days' imprison- 
ment ; I shall fire the first shot at you." 

Suddenly an uproar and hubbub was heard outside, so great 
as to overpower even the inside clamour. This was followed 
by a tremendous jostling in the courtyard, and then, in an 
instant, there was thrust into the room an old, white-bearded 
man, in civilian attire, with tall hat It was General Clement 
Thomas, lately Commander-in-Chief of the National Guards. 
He had had no military duties that day, but had come out as a 
private citizen to see what was transpiring at Montmartre. 
The action was unwise, for the federates entertained a deep 
animosity towards him on account of certain adverse reports he 

* Referring to the Revolution of July, 1830. 

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io8 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

had made relative to Flourens' battalions during the siege/ and 
also because of his endeavours to maintain discipline in the 
ranks. He was speedily recognised at Montmartre by his 
former subordinates who arrested him at Place Pigalle, took 
him first to the Chateau Rouge, and from thence to the Rue 
des Rosiers, where his arrival was hailed by the excited crowd 
with delirious joy. To the populace it was a further evidence 
that they were enacting a patriotic part in constituting them- 
selves a Nemesis for the punishment of all who were or had 
been arrayed against them. 

The fury of the federates became uncontrollably frenzied by 
this addition to their prey. The convoy officers defended the 
prisoners with despairing energy, conscious, however, of in- 
ability to protect them for long. A red-shirted individual, less 
fanatical than the majority, jumped on to a wall and harangued 
the crowd. " Place the generals at liberty : sully not the day 
by a crime ! " Replies from many throats had but one signifi- 
cance : ** To death ! To death ! " Still the red-shirted one 
persisted. " Institute a court-martial, then, and let them be 
properly tried ; " but the bloodthirsty citizens turned upon the 
speaker and threatened to treat him as a traitor. No words, 
were they from angel lips, could now restrain the madness of 
this people, though their mania can be intensified. A federate 
shouts out, " If we do not shoot them to-day, they will shoot us 
to-morrow ! " The probability of this is apparent : blows and 
exertions are redoubled, the protecting guard around the two 
generals is at length beaten down, and the crowd, like a wild 
beast that has broken loose from its chains, pounces upon the 
old man Clement Thomas, seizes him by the neck, pushes him, 
strikes him with fists and with gun ends, until he is hustled and 
knocked from the room into a garden at the back. Shots are 
fired upon him at close quarters by several guards and soldiers, 
each ambitious to be the first to wound him ; the blood of the 
unfortunate general flows freely, though he is still able to 
stand ; he is roughly placed against the wall of the garden, 
where for an instant he holds himself upright, hat in the right 
hand and the left hand shielding his face. Then an irregular 

* ActeSy t. i. p. 80 ; t. v. p. 463. 

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The \%th March, 1871 109 

fusillade commences, and he falls with his body doubled up. 
Not by any chance to leave their victim alive, these human 
hounds advance and again fire upon the fallen general at close 
quarters, also kicking him and striking the now lifeless body 
with the butt ends of their guns. 

The noise and the firing told the other prisoners unmistak- 
ably what had occurred. The vindictiveness of the people 
had been directed mainly against the generals, and therefore 
Lecomte fdt sure that he would be the next to suffer. He, 
however, maintained his calmness, handed over his money to 
his ofiicer, Poussargues, who was also a prisoner, and gave him 
some final injunctions in respect to his family. Lecomte then 
marched with such firmness and dignity before his assassins, 
that several officers amongst the latter could not refrain from 
giving him the accustomed military salute, which was acknow- 
ledged in due form by the general. Scarcely had he gone a 
few paces in the garden when a shot from behind brought him 
to his knees — he was raised and half carried to where the 
remains of Clement Thomas lay. At this point a dozen shots 
were fired into him — fired, as in Thomas's case, irregularly, 
and without the slightest pretence of judicial form or of any 
deliberate procedure whatever. Lecomte's body was also beaten 
and mutilated, and useless shots fired into it 

It was then half-past five. 

Drunken with blood and wine, passionate with hate, delirious 
with their achievements, mad with the moment's yield, and 
knowing neither past nor future, these biped brutes, in pan- 
demoniacal array, shrieking and shouting, men, women, and 
children confusedly joined together, many half-nude, and all 
entirely possessed with an uncontrollable hellish frenzy, danced 
round the dead bodies of their victims a dance of victory. 
Humanity has not yet become spiritualised — it is eminently of a 
material and brutish substance, and from time to time requires 
the chastisement which brutes receive. 

It had been the most violent members of the crowd who had 
made their way into the garden — the fact was of good augury 
for the ten prisoners who remained in the house. These 
anticipated each moment a summons for one or other of them ; 
but it came not, and their guard was still protecting them from 

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i£0 History of the Paris Commune ^1871 

the savage onslaughts of the people. The latter, knowing that 
the two generals were really murdered, b^an to be less violent 
and bloodthirsty ; and many federates, both of the convoy and 
others, who had not actually participated in the assassinations, 
became uneasy at the crime committed in their midst, which 
they had tacitly assisted in by not trying to the last extremity 
to prevent They were now more than ever anxious to save 
the lives of the remaining prisoners, and they closed up round 
them with renewed determination. By six o'clock they had 
obtained the consent of the mob to remove their prisoners to 
the Ch&teau Rouge, there to await the decision of the Comite 
Central. This removal was at once effected ; on the way, the 
escort and prisoners were met by M. Cl^menceau and Captain 
Mayer, who were coming to render assistance to the two 
generals. Their lives Mayer knew to have been in jeopardy, 
for at half-past four he had gone to the mairie to acquaint 
Cl^menceau with the danger of their position ; he had, moreover, 
obtained from the redoubtable Comit^ Central an order to set 
at large all the prisoners. The two generals had already been 
set free, both from that danger and from all others ! For them 
the double assistance came too late; Cl^menceau and Mayer 
could only proceed to the fateful house and view there the 
demoniacal scene still going on, whilst the ten prisoners and their 
escort proceeded to the Chateau Rouge as to a place of safety. 
These ten officers were liberated late at night, secretly and 
separately ; the attitude of the populace remained threatening, 
and it was not without danger that the ten eventually got away 
from so excited a district 

The rapid spread of the desertions amongst the regular 
troops, the complete failure of the Government enterprise, and 
the withdrawal of the soldiers to the south side of the river, 
came upon the Comit^ Central with even more startling sudden- 
ness than the fact of the attempt to retake the cannons. Its 
most sanguine ideas had never extended to the imagination of 
a victory so overwhelming, so speedy, and so easily attained. 
The magnitude of it at first embarrassed the Comite, and it 
scarcely knew what to do ; but so golden an opportunity for 
realizing their long-cherished desires for a Commune was not 
to be let slip, and, therefore, the decision was taken to possess 

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The \%th March, 1871 iii 

themselves of the external evidences of power as quickly as 
possible. Varlin and Bergerct had joined their respective forces 
at Montmartre, and, as soon as the retreat of the Government 
troops had left the way clear for them, they descended into the 
centre of the town and took possession of the Place Vend6me. 
Charles Lullier, gathering together some federates from various 
quarters and provided with authority from the Comity Central, 
made himself ubiquitous during the afternoon and evening, 
giving instructions, and seizing various public buildings. Most 
of the edifices on the north bank of the Seine were found 
already vacated by the Government, and their occupation was 
a matter of easy accomplishment. The Hdtel de Ville was, 
however, well guarded, and in its proximity there were extensive 
barracks which supplied additional soldiers to its defence. The 
federates were obliged to lay siege to it and await the course 
of events, neither party caring to precipitate an actual struggle 
in the absence of precise commands. 

The reports of the earlier events of the day, coming one after 
another to the Government — which sat in permanence, at the 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs — proved beyond a doubt to Thiers, 
Vinoy, and their colleagues, that a new revolution was in pro- 
gress. To attempt to stem it by declaring that the people were 
the victims of delusions, was an act at once facile and natural 
to these resourceless politicians, and thus another proclamation 
went forth denying the ''absurd rumour" which was being 
propagated, that the Government had meditated a coup d'iUU. 
This proclamation likewise was unread by the Parisians that 
day, and to issue it was a most frivolous waste of time. 

Thiers, Vinoy, and the War Minister, Le F16, all old men, 
and experienced in French revolutions, thought that the safety 
of the Government and of the Republic demanded an imme- 
diate departure both of the ministers and of the loyal troops to 
Versailles. The other ministers thought that such action was 
unnecessary, that the insurrection could be mastered without 
quitting Paris. However, Thiers again prevailed, and at half- 
past three o'clock, he, accompanied by a strong escort, left the 
Foreign Office and proceeded to Versailles, having first given 
emphatic instructions that the other ministers and all the troops 
were to follow him as soon as possible. The soldiers occupying 

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112 History of the Paris Commune of 1871 

the forts south of the river were also to be at once sent to 
Versailles, for the double purpose of preserving them from con- 
taminating contact with the insurgent troops and of forming a 
nucleus of the new army which, from that moment, Thiers saw 
it was of the first necessity to construct 

Thus was Paris at one stroke deprived even of the semblance 
of a Government, and delivered openly, by a confession of 
weakness that was beyond contradiction, to whosoever had 
strength or astuteness enough to seize the dropped reins of 
authority. The twenty mayors of arrondissements remained, 
and, after the Government, they ranked as the next l^itimate 
authority ; but hitherto they had been scrupulously confined to 
the municipal duties of their respective districts, and had had no 
experience of ruling in a body over the whole of Paris. How 
could they, at a moment's notice, in the midst of confusion, 
disorder, riot, and bloodshed, take up the comprehensive direc- 
tion of affairs which those whose duty it was found themselves 
unable to carry on? Were the mayors collectively a homo- 
geneous and united body, with one amongst them whom with- 
out hesitation they could elect as leader? Alas, they were just 
the reverse of this— a conglomeration gathered together in 
November, representative of all the various shades of opinion 
which by any means could be ranked under the generic term 
Republican. There was even a member of the Comit^ Central 
amongst them — Ranvier; another mayor, Delescluze, openly 
supported that Comitd ; a third, Cl^menceau, was friendly to- 
wards it Many others were as well disposed to it as to the 
Government Among the adjuncts, or deputy-mayors, there was 
a similar lack of experience in the highest department of govern- 
ing and of diversity in their political faiths. Nevertheless, it was 
upon these municipal officials, so ill-prepared for such a burden, 
that the mantle of legitimate authority in Paris had suddenly 
fallea They even had had no intimation of the projected re- 
taking of the cannons ; and though the defeat of the project 
and the dilemma of the Government were speedily blazoned 
throughout the city, it was only towards the close of the day 
that they could be assembled together to discuss their position 
and duties. The pacification and obedience of the National 
Guards being of the first importance and an essential preliminary 

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The i8/// March, 1871 113 

to any regular government of the city, it was decided by the 
mayors to petition Jules Favre, who was still in Paris, to nomi- 
nate M. Dorian as Mayor of Paris, in place of M. Jules Ferry ; 
Edmond Adam, to the office formerly held by him, of Prefect 
of Police ; and Colonel Langlois, an officer held in deserved 
general estimation by the National Guards, as Commandant 
of the latter, in place of General d'Aurelle de Paladines. 
These appointments, the mayors thought, would conciliate the 
National Guards and secure a restoration of public order. 
When these proposals were put before Favre, he, with some 
warmth, refused to entertain them, though he said he would 
consult with M. Thiers by telegraph and abide by his decision. 
The result of this was that Thiers left the matter to his minis- 
ters at Paris, and Favre and Picard therefore, hastily and with- 
out consulting their colleagues, divested General d'Aurelle of 
his position and appointed Langlois his successor. The offices 
of Mayor and Prefect they left untouched. 

Whilst the deputation of the mayors had been conferring 
with Favre, the H6tel de Ville came to be evacuated by the 
soldiers, who for some hours had held it against the federates, 
siege measures. These soldiers had received during the after- 
noon from Vinoy orders to withdraw from the H6tel, and from 
Picard orders not to withdraw, betwixt which conflict of au- 
thority the withdrawal was delayed until nine o'clock at night, 
and was then carried out with some slight bloodshed. M. Ferry, 
in quitting the place at half-past nine, wrote to the mayors : 
•* The Executive Power withdraws from me all the forces which 
defended the H6tel de Ville. I cannot defend it alone, but in 
the interests of fortune, of the bullion, and of the municipal 
archives, you must intervene to regularize or modify whatever 
happens." The mayors received the letter, and some of them 
gathered together a few battalions of National Guards for 
the purpose of taking possession of the H6tel de Ville and 
holding it on behalf of the Government It was nearly one 
o'clock in the morning of the 19th when these battalions arrived 
before the Hdtel and sent forward a deputation to enter it ; but 
they were too late — ^the federated Guards were in full pos- 
session of the building. The Comit^ Central had installed 
itself there at midnight, and the deputation and loyal battalions 


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114 History of tJie Paris Commune of 1871 

had simply to come away crestfallen and checkmated, for any 
idea of actual fighting between the two sections of the National 
Guards was utterly out of the question. The first members of 
the Comit^ Central to enter into possession of the Municipal 
Palace were Brunei, who had led the besieging force of federates; 
Gabriel Ranvier,^ the mayor of Belleville ; and Pindy, Inter- 
nationalist and carpenter. 

By this time most of the public buildings in Paris were 
occupied by federates and Comity Central delegates. At the 
Dep6t adjoining the Prefecture of Police, the three Comity 
Central members who had been arrested in the morning were 
delivered by LuUier.' 

The Comity Central, controlling as it did over 200,000 citizen 
soldiers, resisted practically by none, and with the nominal 
Government in flight, had no difficulty in now considering itself 
the master of Paris. Possession of the H6tel de Ville was the 
visible sign of its exaltation, and obedience to its wishes came 
easily and naturally from the federates who had voluntarily 
placed its members at their head. One of its first actions was 
that usual procedure of new regimes — the release of political 
prisoners, which was effected, without opposition, during the 

Thiers' ministers had left the Foreign Office at nine o'clock, 
being in some doubt as to their safety there. They met, first, in 
the house of a M. Calmon ; subsequently, at midnight, in the 
Military School, near the Champs du Mars ; at both places in 
secrecy. Though Favre and Picard were severely blamed by 
their colleagues for the supersession of D'Aurelle by Langlois, 
the appointment of the latter was acquiesced in, and a messenger 
sent to inform the mayors of the fact The mayors had made 
their rendezvous at the mairie of the 2nd arrondissement. 
Rue de la Banque. At this place, throughout the night, they 
assembled, with their adjuncts and various outsiders. Raoul 
Rigault ; Paschal Grousset, journalist, connected with the Victor 
Noir affair; Cournet, prot^gd of Delescluze, and Lockroy, a 
Republican deputy, were there, along with Langlois, when the 
news arrived of the tatter's nomination to the commandantship 

» Du Camp, t. i. p. 152. ' Ibid^ p. 63. 

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The \%th March, 1871 115 

of the National Guards. Rigault and Grousset, both of them 
in close intimacy with the Comity Central, declared that the 
Comit^ would be delighted with the appointment, and therefore 
the new Commander, accompanied by Coumet and Grousset, 
forthwith went to the Hdtel de Ville to receive from the Comit^ 
the confirmation of his office, without which it would be 
chimerical. How Langlois, whose loyalty to the Government 
was undoubted, hoped to reconcile that loyalty with any sort of 
allegiance to the Comit^ Central in the then position of affairs 
is nigh incomprehensible. His theoretical ideas had overcome 
the practical ; but the Comit6, whom he went to see, were not so 
visionary. They would welcome his appointment, truly, but 
only on condition that he held it from them, that he entirely 
deserted the Government and became a federate Commandant 
This, Langlois could not assent to, and his commandantship 
became at once a dead letter. The Comitd appointed one of 
their own adherents to the position ; this was Charles LuUier, 
the marine lieutenant. LuUier was a man of energy and am- 
bition ; his intellect was, however, too highly strung : it lacked 
solidity, and occasionally bordered on lunacy. 

During the dark hours of the early morning of the 19th, 
Favre, Picard, and the other ministers quitted Paris and went 
to Versailles, not, however, without drawing up still another 
proclamation, which was as useless as its many predecessors. 

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MARCH i^TH TO 277W, 1871 

THE dawn of Sunday, March 19th, heralded in what proved 
to be a day of brilliant sunshine, and it needed only this 
happy conjunction of holy day and beautiful weather to induce 
the Parisians to crowd into the streets and boulevards, the 
Champs Elys6es and Tuileries Garden, there to bask in the 
welcome solar radiance and to discuss the events of the previous 
day and the problems thereby created. The assassination of 
Generals Lecomte and Thomas were on every tongue, but they 
provoked wide differences of comment The partisans of the 
Government charged the Comity Central with having ordered 
the murders ; the federates maintained that only an act of 
justice had been committed, whether regularly or irregularly; 
others again declared that the two generals had by their own 
imprudences brought their deaths upon themselves. Among 
the two last-named classes of people there was no regret 
expressed, — the Government had declared war against the 
citizens, they said, and its officers had only experienced the 
last dread penalty of war. The flight of the Government was 
nowhere approved ; considered on the one hand as having 
selfishly flown from its responsibilities at a critical moment, and 
on the other as having been chased from power by the irresistible 
will of public opinion, it lost every atom of claim it ever had to 
the esteem of its supporters, or of respect — even of that which is 
given to a fallen foe who has been worthy of one's steel — from 
its adversaries. Those who still gave their adherence to the 
Government, did so, not from any regard for it, but from a sense 
of danger existing in the pretensions and deeds of the Comit^ 



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March \^th, 1871 117 

The latter body did not feel absolutely at its ease in the 
authoritative position it had suddenly jumped into. It had 
power, certainly, represented by the large army of National 
Guards whose elect it was ; but there were some thousands of 
other Guards who still adhered to the Government, and there 
was an exceedingly large section of the Parisian public which 
the Comit^ Central could lay no claim to represent. It felt, 
therefore, that its own powers needed regularising; should it 
remain at the H6tel de Ville, it must be by the unmistakable 
mandate of the entire electoral community. It was an anomaly 
it dared not contemplate, that it should attempt to rule the city 
by the immense armed force which it possessed, in disregard of 
those principles of Election and of Universal Suffrage, the 
recognition of which, up to that moment, every one of its 
members, and all its supporters in the Press and elsewhere, had 
enei^etically — even vehemently — demanded from the displaced 
Government There was also some misgiving in the minds of 
some members of the Comity as to the possible consequences of 
their usurpation of authority ; the collapse of the Government 
had been so unexpected and so complete, that they found them- 
selves thrust forward to a degree far beyond their anticipations 
and beyond what they would have wished, in that illegitimate 
manner, to go. Notwithstanding all which, the Comit^ Central 
was intensely covetous of power, and betwixt this covetousness, 
the fear of consequences and the devotion to their highly pro- 
claimed principles, are to be found the springs of their actions 
during the following week. 

Early on the Sunday morning the Comite Central issued a 
proclamation to the people, in which it stated that communal 
elections were to be held. A second proclamation, addressed to 
the National Guards, reiterated this statement and added, with 
an assumed modesty, that, the Government having been got rid 
oli they — the Comit^ — ^had fulfilled the mission with which they 
had been charged ; that it became the duty of the citizens now 
to elect representatives who should govern the city and establish 
the veritable Republic, to attain which result was all the recom- 
pense they desired ; until the elections, the Comit^ would con- 
tinue to hold the H6tel de Ville in the name of the people. A 
decree followed fixing the day of the elections for Wednesday, 

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ii8 History of the Parts Commune of 1871 

the 22nd. These three documents were all signed by the same 
persons, — twenty in number.^ 

A fourth and very lengthy document was issued by the 
Comity Central during the day. It was drawn up with great 
skill, and was for the purpose of explaining and justifying its 
deeds in face of the many calumnious reports that were afloat 
about them. Naturally, the Comit^ looked at things through 
its own and not its adversaries' eyes. Here are the salient 
paragraphs : The Comit^ Central " is not occult ; its members 
have placed their names to all its affiches. If they are obscure, 
they have not fled from responsibility — ^and it was great It 
has not manufactured disorders, because the National Guard, 
which has done it the honour to accept its direction, has com- 
mitted neither excess nor reprisals, and shows itself imposing 
and strong by the wisdom and moderation of its conduct." The 
Government, it declares, " has calumniated Paris and set the 
provinces against it — it has brought against us our brothers of 
the army — it has wished to force upon you a general-in-chief — 
it has, by nocturnal attempts, tried to take away our cannons, 
after we had prevented them from being delivered to the 
Prussians — ^it has, finally, decided to snatch from Paris its 
beloved crown of being the capital of France,** — ^to all which 
provocations the Comit^ Central has preached moderation ; 
** even at the moment when the armed attack commenced, it 
said to all, ' No aggression, and reply only at the last ex- 
tremity.* ** The Grovernment *^ has called us assassins : the 
bloody dirt with which they try to stain our honour is an 
ignoble infamy. Never a decree of execution has been signed 
by us ; never has the National Guard taken part in the execu- 
tion of a crime." Finally the Comit6 Central said to the people 
personified, " Here is the mandate that you confided to us ; at 
the point where our personal interest commences, our duty 
ends— do thy will. My master, thou art free. We, obscure 
for some days, shall re-enter obscure into thy ranks and 
shall show to the Governments that one can descend with a 
high head the steps of thy H6tel de Ville with the certainty 

* Including Assi, Billioray, Babick, C. Dupont, Varlin, Mortier, Lavalette, 
F. Jourde, Ch. LuUier, Blanchet, G^resme. 

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March i^th, 1871 119 

of finding at the bottom the clasp of thy loyal and robust 
hand." ^ 

The Comit^ Central took without delay various practical 
measures of importance. It sent delegates to the several 
abandoned Ministries ; Jourde and Varlin in particular to the 
Ministry of Finances. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 
Paschal Grousset, being a man of some intelligence and polish, 
was installed ; at the Ministry of War, Eudes had installed him- 
self; the business of the Prefecture of Police, a place of im- 
portance in the midst of social and political disarrangement, was, 
for the moment, transacted at the H6tel de Ville by Raoul 
Rigault and DuvaL Thirteen out of the twenty mairies were 
occupied by federates under Lullier's instructions, and various 
delegates were placed within them to act as mayors temporarily. 
The thirteen displaced officials were all antagonistic to the 
Comit^ Central. The palace of the Luxembourg was seized by 
Longuet, and barricades for its defence commenced in Rue 
Soufflot The printing office of the Government oigan, the 
Journal Officiel, was seized — ^henceforth that publication shall 
be an official or semi-official journal of the new rulers of Paris. 
Gustave Flourens was given a new and important command in 
the federate army, but for a while had no opportunity for dis- 
tinguishing himself. Bergeret, in recognition of his services at 
Montmartre, was made a Chief of Legion, and took the title of 
" General" 

Whilst federate generals were springing into existence, two 
generals of the regular army were betaking themselves away 
from the capital These were Macmahon and Canrobert, 
Marshals of France, who followed the Government to Versailles 
as soon as the murders of Generals Thomas and Lecomte 
became known, appreciating the fact that high military officials 
ran considerable danger by remaining in Paris. The reality 
of this danger soon became apparent Generals Chanzy and 
Langourian were travelling towards Paris from Tours during 
the night of the iSth-igth in ignorance of the events that 
had occurred in the capital Upon their arrival during the 

' This was signed by the twenty members of the Comitd previously 
referred to, and also by Ant. Amaud, Henri Fortune, G. Arnold, Viard, and 

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I20 History of the Paris Commune of liyi 

Sunday morning they were arrested and taken first to the 
mairie of the 13th arrondissement, and then to the prison La 
Sante. On the way to both these places an angjry and vocifer- 
ating crowd accompanied them, and, but for the determined 
attitude of L60 Meillet, the former adjunct but now self-installed 
mayor, and of S^rizier, chief of legion of the said arrondisse- 
ment, Chanzy and his companion would have fared badly at 
the hands of the excited populace. The prison was really a 
place of safety for them. 

At various places in the city, by order of the Comit^ Central, 
barricades and other defensive operations were carried on all 
day, sight-seers and promenaders being called upon to furnish 
their quota of labour. Montmartre and Belleville were thus 
turned into improvised fortresses, and the Place de la Hdtel 
de Ville was similarly entrenched, and fortified by numerous 
cannons. The city, as a whole, was remarkably free from 
disturbance or conflict, but occasionally the Government ad- 
herents came into actual collision with the insurgents. In one 
of these little affrays, Blanchet, member of the Comit^ Central, 
was wounded ; another member, named Sanglier, was arrested 
in the Passy quarter — ^the west end of Paris— the only part of 
the city where the Government supporters were as strong as 
or stronger than the federates. 

The regular soldiers that had been in Paris, and the Daudel 
brigade that had manned the six southern forts, were now all 
concentrated at Versailles, around Thiers, his ministers, and, 
prospectively, the National Assembly deputies, some of whom 
were already arrived in preparation for the resumption of the 
Assembly's sittings on the following day. The loyal National 
Guards in Paris numbered about 12,000, but they were left 
without chief, without pay, without orders, without any direction 
whatever from the fugitive Government, and they consequently 
possessed no cohesion. The mayors were in a similar posi- 
tion, but, upon the representations of two of them, MM. Tirard 
and Bonvalet, they obtained from Thiers during the course of 
the day full powers to govern the city provisionally, and an 
order on the Bank of France for 50,000 francs wherewith to 
pay the National Guards who stood aloof from the Federation.^ 
^ Le 1% Mars, pp. 182, 183. 

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March i<)tk, 1871 121 

A commander-in-chief for the latter was found haphazard in 
the person of a naval officer, Admiral Saisset, who, entering 
the Cafe Helder, and being recognised and acclaimed by the 
loyal citizens there, was besought by them to place himself at 
the head of the National Guards — a position of no mean 
gravity. Saisset assented, but on condition that his appoint- 
ment should be made by Thiers. Thereupon a delegation of 
four gentlemen departed at great haste for Versailles, obtained 
Thiers' sanction to the proposed appointment, hurried back to 
Paris, and, at ten o'clock at night, acquainted Admiral Saisset 

Notwithstanding the devolution of powers accorded to the 
mayors by Thiers, these gentlemen knew not what to do ; they 
were assembled in permanence, talked much, and specially 
nominated MM. Tirard, Dubail, and H^ligon to organize the 
resistance to the Comit^ Central. About four o'clock in the 
afternoon the Comit6 sent to inform them that it was disposed 
to give up possession of the H6tel de Ville and the mairies. A 
deputation of mayors at once went to secure the H6tel de Ville^ 
only to find that the Comit^ Central required prior assent to 
certain conditions. Five hours of lively discussion ensued, and 
eventually Varlin, Jourde, and Moreau returned with the depu- 
tation to the mairie of the 2nd arrondissement, to ask the 
mayors to make common cause with the Comity Central, the 
Comit^ retaining control of the National Guards, whilst the 
mayors should direct the municipal administration as heretofore, 
pending the result of the elections that were convoked for the 
22nd. To these propositions the mayors refused their concur- 
rence, holding that to give assent to them would be tantamount 
to recognising the legality of the Comit^ Central and of its 
actions — that which they could not, on any account, do. Again 
an angry and protracted discussion, in the midst of which 
Jourde passionately declared that the mayors' refusal to co- 
operate with the Comit^ Central would entail civil war, and, in 
that eventuality, if the federates were beaten, they would leave 
nothing standing upright, but would make of the country a 
second Poland.* Uninfluenced by this threat, the mayors 

* Delpit, pp. 19^3. * Le iS Afars, p. 195. 

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122 History of the Paris Commune of i?>yi 

would only undertake to lay before the National Assembly at 
Versailles a project of law which should accord to the National 
Guards the right to elect all their officers, and should also 
authorize the election in Paris of that municipal council which 
had been so often demanded and deferred. The delegates 
from the Comit^ Central at last promised to be content with 
this, and said that they would render the H6tel de Ville to the 
mayors the following morning at ten o'clock. 

During the day, and again at midnight, General Vinoy had 
been urging upon Thiers the unwisdom of the evacuation of 
the southern forts, especially Fort Mont Val6rien, which was the 
lai^est and strongest of the six, and, moreover, commanded the 
road from Paris to Versailles. Thiers had concentrated all his 
available forces around him, and was making strenuous exer- 
tions to obtain reinforcements from the provinces, and the re- 
turn of captured soldiers from the Prussians — all in view of an 
expected attack from Paris — ^yet Fort Val^rien, the key of the 
position, was left unoccupied for the federates to seize and 
by it to protect and secure their march to Versailles, if such 
they should attempt. The military eye of Vinoy perceived 
that this fort was a host in itself to whichever party possessed 
it, and he succeeded in persuading Thiers to reoccupy it, only 
in time to prevent its occupation by the federates. The Comite 
Central had thought of it, and on the 20th sent two battalions 
of federates to garrison it, but they were too late ; earlier in the 
day the Versailles troops had re-entered the fort, and the fede- 
rates, when they learnt the fact, quickly retired.* The remaining 
five forts — Issy, Vanves, Montrouge, Bic^tre, and Ivry — were, 
however, taken possession of by the Comit^ Central troops 
without any trouble, and they undoubtedly constituted strong- 
holds of terrible power for the defence of Paris on that side of 
the Seine. 

The loss of Mont Valerien to the federates was but one more 
evidence that the Comit6 Central had been utterly unprepared 
for its easy victory on the i8th, and was without pre-arranged 
plans for following it up to the best advantage. Thiers was in 
anxiety lest the federates should suddenly march upon him at 

' Le 18 Mars, pp. 184-187. 

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March i^th, 1871 123 

Versailles, before he should have been able to form a sufficient 
reliable force to pit against them. Had the Comit^ Central 
anticipated the events of the 18th, and considered that it would 
become imperative upon it to completely defeat the Govern- 
ment troops ere it could claim to have permanently established a 
government of its own, it would, in all probability, have blocked 
the exit of the Government and its force from Paris, and have 
at once precipitated a struggle in the city, which should have 
resulted in either one or other of the combatants' absolute 
overthrow. But March i8th surprised all parties in Paris, and 
the Comity Central the most The city was left to the in- 
surgents, who allowed the Government and the regular troops 
to depart without hindrance, being elated beyond measure at 
the mere possession of the capital. The forts vacated by the 
Government were so tardily occupied by the Comit^ Central 
that the chief of the six was lost to them. 

On both sides there was a remarkable absence of forethought, 
decision, and practical intelligence, and the final result of the 
mediocre guidance which hitherto the leaders have displayed 
no man can foretell There are two French powers in France, 
openly antagonistic, yet both averse to engaging in a bloody civil 
war, though it must come to this if Conciliation and Compromise 
fail to reconcile their contending claims. Thiers had decided 
that, if war should ensue, he would act strictly on the defensive 
until he should have amassed an invincible army — ^he would 
run no risk of further defeat by acting hastily. In forming this 
determination he at last exhibited sound judgment, and his mind, 
once made up, was not easily turned. In other respects, how- 
ever, Thiers evinced an indecision which rendered extremely 
difficult the task of his representatives in Paris. The absence 
of definite instructions to the mayors considerably complicated 
their position, and the instructions he sent to Admiral Saisset 
in the evening of the 19th were equally vague : *^ Do what you 
can ; I have no orders to give ; the mayors have my full powers."' 
Saisset had wished to act at once ; but to act 500 men and 
50,000 cartridges were required,* and these were not instantly 
forthcoming. Furthermore, word came to him shortly after 

' Z> 18 MarSy p. 207. • Delpit, p. 27. 

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124 History of the Paris Commune of iZji 

receiving Thiers' message that the Comit^ Central had under- 
taken to give up the Hdtel de Ville, and it was needful to wait 
until the morning to allow time for this important promise to be 

The morning came, and at ten o^clock the mayor 
Bon valet and his adjunct, Murat, went to the Hdtel 
de Ville to receive at the hands of the Cpmit^ Central the pos- 
session of that building. But the Comit^ Central had changed 
its mind ; it now declared that Varlin, Jourde, and Moreau had 
exceeded their powers, it refused to be bound by their under- 
taking, and it would not relinquish the coveted treasure which 
it held. Notwithstanding this breach of faith, the mayors still 
hoped to accomplish peacefully the task set before them. They 
specially requested the deputies of the Seine at Versailles to lay 
before the National Assembly the project of law decided upon 
the previous evening, and to secure for it urgency. The deputies 
did this, and ui^ency was voted. 

Possession of the Hdtel de Ville not having been given up, 
Saisset's way was now made clear for decisive action. He con- 
sulted the mayors, and laid down a simple plan for the concen- 
tration of his forces, and the gradual encroachment upon and 
swallowing up of the federates' positions, which the mayors 
generally approved. Saisset deputed five colonels to bring him 
400 men, each man with 160 cartridges and three days' food, 
and then he proceeded — he also — to consider the terms of a 
proclamation which he should issue to the Parisians. He doubts 
under what authority to represent his commission as being held 
— the Government is discredited, the mayors are feeble poli- 
ticians : shall he ignore them both and act on his own responsi- 
bility? Under which hesitating frame of mind first one and 
then another proclamation is drawn up, and by-and-by there are 
various documents published, all purporting to be the veritable 
and only one. All or none — it matters not ; proclamations and 
platitudes never yet ruled the world and never will. Whilst 
Saisset deliberates, others are acting. 

Tony Moilin, surgeon in the National Guards, had been 
deputed by the Comit^ Central to take possession of the mairie 
of the 6th arrondissement. He took it, but a few hours 
afterwards the municipal authorities . having got the assistance 

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March 20th, 1871 125 

of some loyal Guards, re-established themselves, and Tony was 
ousted. The latter then had recourse to Lullier, who sent two 
battalions to his aid, by means of which he once more installed 
himself in the mairie. He was, however, a second time expelled 
by the loyal Guards, who had also become reinforced during 
the evening. It was thus evident that in some quarters the 
loyal Guards could hold their own against the federates ; they 
were, however, scattered, and manifested a strong indisposition 
to leave their own arrondissements. Saisset's desire for con- 
centration was therefore not of easy realization. 

Close to the boundary of the 6th arrondissement, and whilst 
Moilin was being thrust in and out of its mairie, another self- 
installation took place, of greater note than the army suigeon's. 
This was Raoul Rigault's assumption of office as Prefect of 
Police, to which, in accordance with his wishes, experience, and 
aptitudes, he had been delegated by the Comit6 Central. Rigault 
was a journalist and law student, habitu^ of the police precincts, 
and had made acquaintance with the inside of a prison on more 
than one occasion for political offences. After having had some 
actual experience in the Prefecture during the months of 
September and October, he now returned to the establishment 
as its chief, and, being possessed of unlimited self-assurance, 
though his years were but twenty-five, he made his entry into 
the place without hesitation. The rooms were crowded with a 
mixed assemblage of federates and civilians of both sexes, but 
Rigault marched through them with the decision of a man 
accustomed to the place and as if he had commanded in it 
He straightway went to the great hall, knocked carelessly aside 
whoever chanced to be in his path, gracefully threw himself into 
the magistrate's chair at the top, and then, suddenly perceiving 
a man before him of different bearing to the rough and vulgar 
crowd, curtly addressed him, " What wish you, citizen ? " 
^* Sir," responded the man, " I have been sent for and am here 

accordingly." "You are " "The director of the dep6t." 

^* Ah yes, Cor^ is it not ? I know you. Very well, you are 
dismissed." " Sir, you have not the right to do that I hold 
my office from the Grovemment, which alone can remove me 
from it, and then only after the accomplishment of the necessary 
formalities." " Of what ? " jresponded Rigault cynically ; " I do 

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126 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^ji 

not make legality here, I make revolution. You wish not to be 
dismissed?" "I cannot consent to be so," answered Cor6. 
•' Very weU," returned Rigault, " wait" The new head of the 
Police hastily wrote a few words, raised himself, tendered the 
paper to Cor6, and smiling sardonically said, " Your position \s 
now regularised — ^you are dismissed, and arrested. Guards ! 
take this man to prison, and quickly. March I "^ 

Less masterful than this in form, but equally so in spirit, was 
the delegation sent by the Comitd Central to the Bank of France 
for the purpose of obtaining money wherewith to pay the feder- 
ates. The federates must be paid, else they would either refuse 
to do their service or, being armed, would help themselves where 
they could. The latter contingency was the most probable, 
and Jourde,. who headed the deputation, referred to it with 
emphasis as the main reason why the Bank should advance to 
the Comit^ Central one million francs ; in case of refusal, the 
Bank would be attacked. The Bank contained within its walls, 
value in one form or another to the huge total of three milliards 
of francs* (;£'i20,ooo,ooo). It also contained a garrison of five 
hundred employes — all armed, many of them former soldiers 
— wherewith to defend so vast a treasure. But the garrison, 
though reliable to the last man, could never hope to hold out 
against an attack by the federates, who outnumbered it by four 
hundred to one. The position of M. Rouland, the Governor 
of the Bank, was one of extreme difficulty, rendered somewhat 
less so by the knowledge, which the delegation shared as well as 
the governor, that there was deposited in the Bank, to the credit 
of the city of Paris, a sum of 8,826,860 francs.^ Had the right 
•of the Comity Central to represent the town been undisputed, 
there Would have been no difficulty in paying it the town's 
deposit ; but that right was seriously contested, and M. Rouland 
was averse to parting with a million francs, which, some future 
day, might be to pay again to the at present dispossessed civic 
authorities. However, to the argument of force, which Jourde 
plainly set forth, there was no answer, and the governor wisely 
consulted the safety of the establishment, rather than the 
principle of rightful ownership. The million was paid, and the 

* Fomi, pp. 45, 46. * Du Camp, t iii. p. 1 19. 

• IHd,^ t. iii. p# 131. 

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March 20///, 1871 127 

Comite Central delegates— eleven in number, including Varlin, 
Billioray, Arnaud, Assi, and Jourde— departed, well satisfied 
with the peaceful and successful termination of their mission. 

It was natural that, under the new order of things, the six 
papers suppressed nine days before by Vinoy should reappear, 
and add their quota in support of the Comitd Central, the 
promised Commune, and the new and glorious era of liberty 
which was about to commence. The other papers, however, 
which Vinoy had had no reason to interfere with, were some- 
what wedded to old ideas : they, at least, cared not for the new 
fancies. Thirty-one of the most influential of these organs 
consulted together, and drew up and signed a document which 
appeared as an affiche on the walls of Paris the next day ; in it 
they declared their opinion that the convocation of electors 
which the Comity Central had decreed for the 22nd was a usur- 
pation of authority, was null and void, and that no regard 
should be paid to it 

This was not the only afficlie of similar import which the 
Parisians found displayed for their perusal. Another, posted up 
in the neighbourhood of the Place Venddme, was signed by 
a captain of (loyal) National Guards named Bonne, a master 
tailor, who called upon the people to rally round him so as to 
form a dike wherewith to stop the progress of the revolution. 
Still another affiche^ made by a Captain Nivoley, on Saisset's 
behalf, implored the people to defend their menaced society. 
What with these, the mayors, the loyal Guards of Passy and 
elsewhere, and the respectable and law-abiding tradespeople, 
there were elements sufficient in Paris to have constituted a for- 
midable resistance to the Comit^ Central, had not the cowardly 
flight of the Government bereft them of a common head, and 
left to individual enterprise what should have been an organized 
and collective effort This disintegration was so pronounced 
that even the 400 men which Saisset had asked for could not be 
gathered together, so that the action he meditated taking had 
to be abandoned. A request he made to Thiers for soldiers was 
refused ^ — Thiers would not reduce on any account the daily 
increasing army focussed at Versailles. 

* pu Camp, t. ii, p. 1 5. 

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128 History of tlie Paris Commune of I'^ji 

The appeal of tailor Bonne met with some response. 

^^ ^' Crowds of well-affected citizens, unarmed, grouped 
themselves around his dwelling in the Boulevard des Capucins, 
from whence they started to patrol the boulevards north and south 
of the Seine, shouting, "Vive I'Ordrel" "Vive 1' Assembl6e ! " 
" A has le Comit6 ! " Being unarmed, they were not interfered 
with, and at the termination of their peregrinations they decided 
to meet again the next day in more imposing numbers. 

At the instigation of Raoul Rigault, who was not the man 
to hold any office as a sinecure, the President of the Court of 
Cassation, M. Bonjean, was arrested and imprisoned, not on any 
pretence of having committed either crime or fault, but merely 
for the purpose of holding such an important personage as 
a hostage, to be used if required as a lever against the Versailles 
<jrovernment. Singularly, there was at this moment a feeling 
growing up amongst the Central Committee of the twenty arron- 
dissements, that the arrest of General Chanzy had been ill- 
advised, and was likely to prejudice the popular cause. This 
Committee met in the evening, and formally appointed a deputa- 
tion ^ to assure the Comit^ Central at the H6tel de Ville of its 
support and adherence ; also, to advocate the release of Chanzy. 
Chanzy was not released, but he was perhaps fortunate in having 
the Comity Central to deal with him, and not some of its subor- 
dinates. One Ganier d'Abin, a commandant at Montmartre, 
had during the night shot four men that were brought to him at 
various intervals, and yet could report to the Comity Central 
that the night had been " calm and without incidents." > 

Another application was made to the Comity Central by 
C16menceau and Lockroy on behalf of the mayors. This was 
a request to defer the elections announced for the next day, so 
that the National Assembly at V-ersailles might have time to 
discuss and pass the project of law put before it by the deputies 
for the Seine, and thus regularise the proceedings. The Comit^ 
Central sulked at this demand, and would say neither Yes nor No 
to it Cl^menceau and Lockroy departed, and rejoined their 
colleagues, who issued a protest against the elections being held 

> Including Lefran^ais, Theisz, Ch. Beslay, R^g^re, Fcrr^, Vaillant, and 
£. G^rardin. 

> La VMU^ p. 288. Du Camp, t ii. pp. 8, 9^ 

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March 2isty 1871 129 

the next day, though they still endeavoured to keep on amicable 
terms with the Comit^.^ The latter, alive to the fact that such 
protest would go far to stultify any elections held in defiance of 
it, announced subsequently that they would be deferred until 
the 23rd. The Comit6 took this action with an ill grace, 
believing that the delay meant loss to it, and gain to the 

Hitherto the Comity, since entering upon possession of the 
Hdtel de Ville, had been wholly engrossed by such affairs as 
the elections, seizing the public ministries, and placing the 
municipal administrative machine into working order — the latter 
a task of much magnitude. Thiers had drawn after him to 
Versailles most of the public officials and heads of depart- 
ments, even to the hospital intendance staff, and the labour and 
thought necessary to provide fresh hands for the hundreds of 
positions thus suddenly vacated was, taken in conjunction with 
the still more important^military exigencies, sufficient to account, 
superficially, for a remarkable change which had come over the 
Comit^ Central. This change consisted in having practically 
forgotten the near presence of the German army of occupation. 
The bellicose attitude which the Comit6 Central and the 
federates generally had adopted towards the Prussians during 
and after the siege, had now been wholly abandoned in face of 
the more pressing question as to what attitude they could or 
should adopt towards their own countrymen at Versailles. Not- 
withstanding the superabundance of new duties, however, the 
total abeyance into which the Prussian occupation had fallen in 
the federates' minds cannot but be regarded as a significant 
indication of the shallowness of their patriotism. A further 
evidence of the same feeling was shown upon the receipt of a 
letter which, addressed to the " Actual Commandant of Paris," 
and signed by the General-in-Chief of the Prussian army, came 
into the hands of the Comit^ Central This letter stated that, 
pending the termination of the events now proceeding in Paris, 
so long as those events took not any hostile character to the 
Prussians, the latter would maintain a pacific and neutral atti- 
tude. The friendliness of this unexpected missive delighted the 

* Le 18 Marsy p. 214. 


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130 History of the Paris Commune of 1871 

federates, for they had not the slightest thought of making a 
fresh effort to save the honour of their country by renewing the 
war against the foreigner ; they were only too pleased to find 
that he did not meditate attacking them. Paschal Grousset's 
department of Foreign Affairs was at once brought into promi- 
nent requisition, in order that a suitable diplomatic reply should 
be sent to so important a communication. 

The evening of that day the federates flattered themselves 
that they were formally recognised to be an independent power 
by the German authorities, and the many difficulties which 
surrounded them appeared of diminished extent. Absurd 
rumours even took shape of an alliance betwixt them and the 
foreigner, though the latter was too astute to commit himself 
to any party whose mettle was not yet proved. The next 
day — the 22nd — was that appointed for the further demonstra- 
tion of the Friends of Order, as the followers of tailor Bonne 
designated themselves — and events connected therewith served 
to bring home to the federates the fact that the position of 
affairs, which had been mainly constituted by themselves, could 
have developments of a serious character. 

Around the Grand Hdtel and upon the lai^e Place 
de rOp^ra there assembled by mid-day some thou- 
sands of people, intending demonstrators and simple sight-seers 
being mingled together ; the former distinguished, however, by 
wearing blue ribbons in their buttonholes. Admiral Saisset, 
whose headquarters were at this particular place, was there, but 
to his mind a manifestation by so large a concourse of citizens, 
unarmed though they were, was inopportune and dangerous. He 
endeavoured to dissuade those at the head of it from persisting 
therewith, but his efforts were unsuccessful. After one o'clock 
the crowd began slowly to proceed down the Rue de la Paix, 
leading to the Place Venddme, at which spot were the head- 
quarters of the federated Guards, the commander there being 
Bergeret, whose chief officer was Count du Bisson. The object 
of the manifestants in proceeding thus into the hornets' nest — ^to 
endeavour to make converts by peaceable means — was doubtless 
laudable from their point of view, but the execution of it ex- 
hibited great lack of discernment and of discretion. Arrived at 
the entrance to the Place Venddme, their further progress was 

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March 22nd, 1871 131 

barred by a cordon of National Guards with bayonets fixed. 
General Bergeret summoned the ** rioters " to retire ; they did 
not do so, but engaged in discussion with the Guards that faced 
them. Drums behind were now beat to signal the federates to 
be ready. Suddenly a shot was fired, from whence has never 
been determined ; * then came the order from Bergeret's lieu- 
tenant, Du Bisson, to fire,' instantly acted upon — a volley 
poured into the crowd wrought death and injury in its midst. 
The manifestants rushed wildly away, and the firing continued 
till not a soul was to be seen in the street, whilst shops were 
quickly closed, and doors and windows that had been filled with 
sight-seers were shut and barred. Of the manifestants, thirteen 
were killed ^ and a similar number injured ; of the federates, two 
were killed and eight injured,^ among the latter being a member 
of the Comit6 Central. The fact that the federates suffered to 
this extent goes far to support their contention that many of 
the manifestants were really armed ; on the other hand it is 
stated that the federates, firing, as they did, with a vindictive 
eagerness, themselves caused the wounds of their comrades. 
The responsibility of the affair rests with both parties, for in the 
excited state of public feeling then existent, to create a mani- 
festation at such a point was a most rash undertaking, whilst it 
was repulsed with the thoughtless impetuosity of men who had 
not yet realized the deadly power of the weapons they handled. 

The Comit^ Central, though free from the reproach of having 
ordered or even suggested this slaughter, defended and upheld 
its officers. It was beginning to take a sterner view of its 
position ; the negotiations with the mayors were distasteful to 
it ; the latter, for the most part, acted in support of the Grovem- 
ment at Versailles, and the arrest of these municipals was 
openly advocated by some members of the Comit6. This 
severe measure was not decided upon, though an attempt had 
been made to seize M. H^ligon, an adjunct, which failed owing 
to the bold resistance made by him.** 

The mairies, however, of certain mayors who had been con- 
sidered friendly to the Comit^, and which had hitherto escaped 

* De la Brug^re, p. 34. • Du Camp, t. iv. p. 93. 

* Rapport cT ensemble^ p. 38. 

* L^an^ais, p. 164. La VMtd^ p. 296. • Delpit, pp. 53, 54. 

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132 History of the Paris Commune of liji 

being forcibly taken possession of, were now seized, one of the 
displaced officials being Cl^menceau. Tony Moilin, whose 
double expulsion from the mairie of the 6th arrondissement has 
been recorded, was at last firmly reinstalled there. The only 
mairies remaining unconquered were those of the ist and 
2nd arrondissements, the latter being the meeting-place of the 
mayors, and well defended by loyal Guards under Saisset's 
direction. There was no doubt that the Comit6 Central could 
have taken these two also, had it been so disposed. 

The federate predominance in Paris was indisputable ; both 
leaders and followers were conscious of the fact, and became 
braggart and overbearing in consequence. That morning a 
member of the Comit^ Central declared to the mayors that the 
comedy of negotiation had endured long enough ; * in the 
evening, Saisset, even in his own stronghold, was called a 
traitor by the man who had arrested Chanzy — L60 Meillet 
The Bank of France, notwithstanding its loyal garrison, recog- 
nised its real impotence, and again made large advances to 
Varlin for the purpose of paying the federates. 

Shortness of funds was a pressing difficulty to the Comity Cen- 
tral, despite the Bank's advances and the various receipts from 
octroi duties and other sources of income which the Comit6 now 
began to receive. At Varlin's suggestion, it was permitted for 
chiefs of posts to obtain what they needed by means of " requi- 
sition orders"' — a paper currency which should be redeemed 
when the finances of the new power were satisfactorily arranged. 
The rank and file of the federates felt the monetary trouble as 
much as their superiors, and were not over-scrupulous in respect- 
ing other people's property. Besides these, there were plenty of 
needy adventurers and scoundrels in Paris, so that, the police 
services being wholly disorganized, and also diverted from ordi- 
nary to special uses, it became necessary for the Comit^ Central 
to post up at the H6tel de Ville the announcement : " Thieves 
caught in the act will be immediately shot" 

Along with that announcement there appeared another rela- 
tive to the negotiations going on with the mayors. In it the 
Comit^ Central stated that the mayors and deputies were 

* Delpit, p. 55. • Du Camp, t. iv. p. la 

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March iind — 24/^, 1871 133 

doing all they could to impede the elections, and had declared 
civil war against the federates, but that the Comit^ Central 
would accept the struggle and crush the resistance. In con- 
sequence^ the elections would be finally deferred until Sunday, 
the 26th. 

The mayors and deputies certainly desired to delay the elec- 
tions, but only until such time as they could be held regularly 
and by authority of the National Assembly, which could not be 
before April 3rd. Some of them went to Versailles on March 
23rd, and, clothed in their municipal insignias, made a theatrical 
appearance before the Assembly, with the object of furthering 
their demands. Their application, however, was completely 
barren of results, for no concession beyond those previously 
granted would be given either by the Assembly or the Grovem- 

In this sitting of the National Assembly, ^ declaration made 
by M. Jules Favre deserves notice. Solemnly he demanded 
pardon from God and from men for the error which he had 
committed and the excess of confidence he had shown in per- 
mitting the National Guards of Paris to retain their arms after 
the capitulation. Let Favre's humiliation and eye-opening serve 
as a warning to all procrastinators and shirkers of unpleasant 
duties i It is wiser, nobler, grander, not to defer evil days that 
must sooner or later come, but to advance and quicken them, 
get them over and out of sight The sunshine which follows 
the storm is more beneficent and glorious than that which pre- 
cedes it. 

The day following — March 24th — ^there appeared upon the 
walls of Paris various proclamations, emanating from Admiral 
Saisset Their contradictions and sentimental flourishes are 
valueless, but enclosed within them was the limit to which the 
Government was prepared to go to put an end to the present 
strained situation. The Government proposals were : The 
recognition of the right of Paris to elect a municipal council ; 
National Guards to elect their own officers, from the general-in- 
chief downwards ; modifications in r^ard to the maturity of 
bills and a law to ease the position of small rent-payers.^ 

* Z^ 18 Mars^ p. 227. Lefran^is, p. 167. 

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134 History of the Paris Commune of 1871 

These proposals were accepted by the Comit^ Central, but it 
would not consent to wait until April 3rd for the municipal 
elections. It sent Brunei, one of its members, and Protot, to 
Admiral Saisset and the mayors to inform them of this ; but 
the latter, on their part, would not agree to the date of March 
26th : the time was too short, they said, to arrange for holding 
elections, if they were to be of any value. Brunei and Protot 
acquainted their colleagues at the Hdtel de Ville with this, 
whereupon Bergeret and Assi energetically demanded the rup- 
ture of the n^otiations, which seemed ever to be abortive and 
of indefinite termination.^ 

At the same meeting of the Comiti Central, the chief 
military power, which had erewhile been vested in Charles 
LuUier, whose restless and ambitious spirit had done much for 
the organization and successful employment of the National 
Guards since the i8th inst, was placed in abeyance, pending the 
acceptance of the position by Garibaldi, to whom it had been 
offered. It was, however, never accepted by him. Meanwhile, 
three generals of division were appointed, viz., Brunei, Eudes, 
and Duval. These immediately issued a proclamation which 
indicated a more determined and precise attitude on the part of 
the Comit^ Central : " All who are not with us are against us." * 
The time for halting or temporizing is going — if not already 

As for LuUier, he had been arrested and imprisoned earlier 
in the day. He had engaged in secret transactions with persons 
who had the ear of the Government at Versailles ; he had 
plotted to arrest the Comit6 Central, to deliver Paris to the 
Versaillais, to fill his own pockets, and to satisfy his inordinate 
ambition by the prospect of a still higher and less hazardous 
position than that he held. His capacities for such a delicate 
and important business were inadequate ; the secret leaked out, 
and his instant fall was the result, together with that of two of 
his accomplices. 

Though many members of the Comit6 Central were angry at 
the mayors' refusal to fall in with their wishes as to the elec- 
tions being held on the 26th, an open rupture was still avoided 

* Du Camp, t iv. p. 12. ^ Le 18 Mars^ p. 228. 

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March 24/A, 187 1 135 

and endeavours made to secure their assent to that date* The 
Comit^ felt that the authority of the mayors was more legiti- 
mate than its own. Could it but induce them to accept the 
date of the 26th, it would throw over the elections a mantle of 
legality which would otherwise be wanting, and at the same 
time it would show to the Parisians, who fully understood the 
question at issue, that the mayors had yielded whilst the Comit^ 
had gained their point. Precisely the reverse conclusion would 
be drawn if the Comit^ agreed to defer the elections until 
April 3rd, and such an inference might be fatal to its own 
success at the polls ; for, notwithstanding the assumed modesty 
which prompted the declaration that its task was accomplished 
and it was about to retire into the ranks, the Comit^ Central 
inwardly hoped and expected to be elected en bloc to form the 
projected municipality or Commune of Paris. Time was, how- 
ever, getting very short for the production of any concerted 
action, and therefore the Comit6 Central determined to expedite 
by force the negotiations which had dragged slowly along the 
path of argument It commissioned Brunei, one of the newly 
appointed military chiefs, to carry out its wishes. 

Brunei, at the head of four battalions of Guards, and with 
four pieces of artillery, proceeded to the mairie of the ist 
arrondissement, and demanded that it should be delivered up to 
him, or, that the mayors should agree to the date of the 26th 
for the elections. Both alternatives were at first refused by M. 
M61ine, the acting adjunct, and reinforcements were on the way 
to him from the mairie of the 2nd arrondissement, when he 
decided to parley with Brunei, as a result of which they finally 
agreed to compromise the question at issue and fix the elections 
for the 30th March. A document to this effect was signed by 
Brunei, and, in further token of the agreement, the whole of the 
municipal authorities at this mairie, wearing their insignias of 
office, accompanied Brunei, Protot, and the federated battalions 
to the mairie of the 2nd arrondissement The peaceable and 
conjoint procession thereto was hailed with joy by the citizens 
along the route, who thought that now at last all conflict 
between the mayors and the Comit6 Central was at an end. 
Arrived at their destination, Brunei and his battalions entered 
the large hall of the mairie, wherein were most of the mayors, 

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136 History of the Paris Commune of i%yi 

their adjuncts, and the aide-de-camp of Admiral Saisset 
After discussion, the arrangement come to by M61ine and 
Brunei was finally approved by all the authorities present, and 
the assembly adjourned until the evening.* 

But the Comit6 Central refused to ratify the arrangement ; it 
sent Ranvier and Arnold to the evening meeting of the mayors 
to inform them that Brunei and Protot had no authority to alter 
the date from the 26th to the 30th, and that the 26th must 
remain in force. This declaration stimulated controversy 
amongst the mayors ; there were those who wished to accept it, 
others who would not After six hours' abortive discussion the 
meeting broke up, the prevailing impression being that an open 
struggle bad become inevitable. Those of the mayors who had 
consistently opposed the Comit^ Central instructed one of their 
number, M. Dubail, to inform the citizens of Paris of the want 
of faith of the Comity, and of the insincerity and irregularity 
which would be sure to characterize the proposed elections.^ 
This was in the early hours of the 25th, 

At eleven o'clock the same morning, at the 2nd arrondissement 
mairie, surrounded by many of his colleagues, Dubail was busy 
correcting the printer's proof of his address to the citizens, when 
several deputies, including Cl^menceau, Lockroy, and Floquet, 
arrived from Versailles, and Ranvier and Arnold from the 
Comit6 Central. The subject of the previous night's discussion 
was re-opened. Ranvier and Arnold once again said : '' Will 
you convoke the elections for the 26th ? If so, we will render 
to you your mairies, and the elections will be conducted by 
you." It is the last offer: the decision, whichever way it be, 
will be momentous. Nevertheless, the mayors for whom Dubail 
act hesitate not an instant to re-affirm their refusal to yield to 
the Comity Central on this point Then Cl^menceau and 
Floquet speak up : " It is current talk in the lobbies of the 
National Assembly that the Due d'Aumale is about to be 
proclaimed Lieutenant-General of France." The ancient 
Orldanist proclivities of Thiers and the known Orl^anist 
majority in the Assembly rush to every one's thoughts ; the 
statement is credible — has not some such thing been rumoured 

^ LeiZ Mars^ pp. 229-232. • Ibid^ pp. 235, 236. 

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March 25M, 1871 137 

ever since February 8th ? The Republic is in danger ; better 
the Commune than a restoration of Monarchical despotism. The 
mayors, with the exception of two/ hesitate no longer ; they 
seize their pens and impubively sign the treaty of agreement 
with the Comit^ Central ; it is signed also by the deputies 
present, and by Ranvier and Arnold.* The negotiations have 
at last terminated, and the Comite Central has won the day. 

The Orl^anist rumour which played so great a part in this 
transaction had never any solid foundation for its existence, 
though, as a rumour, it undoubtedly prevailed. It originated 
from the irritation of some Orl6anist deputies at the proclama- 
tion issued by Admiral Saisset, in which they thought they 
discerned a veiled attempt at dictatorship by that officer ; ' they 
had, however, no intention of putting such irritation or the 
Orl^anist desires which sprung from it into Parliamentary form, 
and certainly had no power to give either feeling any practical 
effect. It soon became evident to them and to all the world that 
any thoughts of a Saisset dictatorship were utterly groundless. 
Saisset's vocation was, in fact, gone : the mayors no longer 
resisting, but according with the Comit^ Central ; Thiers, fussy, 
irritable, unmilitary, most indefinite in instructions, and refusing 
the least reinforcement; the loyal forces in Paris scattered 
and without outward mark by which to distinguish them from 
the insurgent — under such conditions it was idle to attempt a 
struggle which would have meant a certain defeat, or to keep up 
an appearance of resistance which could be nothing now but a 
hollow pretence. Saisset, that Saturday afternoon, lifted himself 
out of such an equivocal and untenable position by relinquish- 
ing the few buildings which he held, disbanding his troops and 
departing himself for Versailles, where he received nothing but 
reproaches for abandoning his task so swiftly. 

A further result of the agreement between the mayors and 
the Comity Central was the release of Generals Chanzy and 
Langourian, as also the liberation of the member of the Comit6 
Central who had been arrested by loyal Guards at Passy the 
same d^y as the generals. Chanzy was set free against the 
wish of the federate chiefs of the arrondissements in which he 

* Dubail and Hdligon. ^ Le \% MarSy pp. 237-239. 

» lbid.y pp. 237-239. 

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138 History of the Paris Commune of i9>Ti 

had been imprisoned, and they sought to re-arrest him. He, 
however, was apprised of the fact by Babick,^ a member of the 
Comity, and quitted Paris during the night with the utmost 
secrecy. He arrived the next day at Versailles. 

Consternation reigned at Versailles when the news of the 
Paris accord reached there. The mayors and deputies who had 
signed the agreement were strongly reproved by the ministers 
and the majority of the deputies of the National Assembly, but 
the extreme Republican section supported them, and M. Louis 
Blanc, appertaining thereto, brought forward a motion in the 
Assembly declaring that the mayors had acted as good citizens. 
This proposition, however, met with no encouragement ; a formal 
decision upon it was deferred until the following Monday. 

Sunday, the 26th, in due course arrived, and turned out to be 
a day of brilliant sunshine, like the preceding Sunday. Paris 
once again was en fite. Its inhabitants left their houses early 
in the day to drink in the warm sun rays, which were ever 
blissful and genial after the severities and hardships of the 
winter. Moreover, the elections were to be held ; everybody 
knew, and everybody was concerned in the fact The election 
of a municipal council had been constantly demanded since the 
fall of the Empire — ^it had at last arrived under circumstances 
questionable, but sufficiently l^al in the minds of the citizens 
generally, after the agreement of the mayors with the Comit^ 
Central. Had not Thiers given the mayors full powers? If 
those powers were ill-defined, and if the mayors had done what 
he disapproved — that was his fault, not theirs. Thus did the 
average Parisian voter look upon the matter ; there was no 
doubt that an agreement between legitimacy and illegitimacy 
had been arrived at, and that was the main fact for him. 

In regard to the text of that agreement, however, there 
were two versions placarded on the walls and hoardings for the 
Parisians to read. Both versions purported to be an exact re- 
production of the agreement which had been signed the previous 
day, but one was evidently inaccurate. The Comit^ Central 
version appeared first ; at the bottom of it were the names of 
thirty-two of its members as signatories : manifestly a super- 

^ Dals^me, p. 5. 

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March 26th, 187 1 139 

addition to the text, which was signed on its behalf only by 
Ranvier and Arnold. The object in thus placing on the agree- 
ment a full list of the active members of the Comit^ was that, 
on such a day, the names of these generally obscure men might 
be brought before the electors and voted for. This amplification 
alone, however, would not have perchance brought about the 
speedy correction which followed the publication of that account 
by the issue of a second version emanating from the mayors. 
The sting of the Hdtel de Ville version consisted in placing 
the Comity Central first, and the mayors and deputies after it, 
thus: "The Comit^ Central of the National Guard, to which 
are rallied the deputies of Paris, the mayors and adjuncts," etc 
The authentic version of the agreement, according to the 
mayors, commenced as follows : " The Deputies of Paris, the 
mayors and adjuncts, reinstalled in the mairies of their arron- 
dissements, and the members of the Comit^ Central of the 
National Guard," etc It was for the Parisians to judge between 
the two; each version called to the elections that day as the 
only means of avoiding civil war and of maintaining the 
Republic. The mairies, however, were not restored to the 
mayors ; only in a few instances did these municipal officers 
preside at the election bureaus; at the other places federate 
officers took charge. 

There appeared on the walls several other placards, one of 
which was also from the Comit^ Central. In it that body 
modestly reaffirmed that its mission was terminated, and it 
gave some exceedingly wise advice to the electors — that they 
should choose as their representatives only men who were 
modest, disinterested, actors — in contradistinction to mere word- 
spinners — sincere, honest, and of kindred sympathies and posi- 
tions to themselves. '' Surely," the Comit^ must have thought, 
** we who can give such magnanimous and sound counsel are 
the fittest persons to be elected 1 " 

A fourth address to the citizens was from the six deputies 
who had signed the agreement, justifying their action and asking 
the electors to terminate the conflict by their votes in such a 
manner that a recourse to arms might not be required. 

A fifth and very lengthy manifesto was issued by the Com- 
mittee of the twenty arrondissements, signed by Lefran^ais, Jules 

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140 History of the Paris Commune of liyi 

Vall^ and others, entering into a disquisition upon political 
and social matters, to induce the electors to vote for socialistic 

Further instructions and suggestions to the electors were 
afforded in the newspapers or journals. Those appertaining to 
the revolutionary party were couched generally in very vulgar 
language, which would not give ordinary people any pleasure to 
read. The people of Paris were, however, at this juncture not 
ordinary, but filled with the sophistries and prophetic powers 
which the Jacobinical writers used and extolled so freely. They 
were pleased to be flattered and spoken to In terms of appro- 
bation and encouragement ; like many simple persons they 
believed all that was printed was truth, and the lying and un- 
principled adulations of men like Pyat, Vall^s, and Vermesch 
sunk into the minds of the federates, and produced in them an 
exaltation of hope, which a small amount of reflection would 
have shown to be ridiculously beyond the limits of permanent 

The elections took place without any disturbing incident 
Each arrondissement was to elect one representative for every 
20,000 of population or fraction thereof over 10,000, and not less 
than one-eighth of the total number of voters was required to 
constitute an election valid. The voting went on from eight in 
the morning until midnight The results became known the 
next day, and were awaited at Versailles with as great anxiety 
as at Paris with eagerness. The broad result of the elections 
from the Versailles point of view was that Paris had called to its 
Common Council or Commune the rankest agitators, revolu- 
tionists, and Comit^ Centralists that it possessed, whilst men of 
moderate opinions, who were in friendly relations with the Ver- 
saillais, were represented by a comparatively small number — 21 
out of 86. Had the elections turned out differently, with the 
moderate and respectable element in a decided majority, the 
National Assembly might have overlooked the hated agreement 
and absolved the mayors from its displeasure ; but, the outcome 
of the compromise being the birth of a body of whose intense 
hostility there could be no doubt, the mayors and their unfortu- 
nate actions were visited with a prompt and formal condemna- 
tion. M. Blanc's motion, declaring that the mayors had acted 

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March 2ytk, 1871 141 

as good citizens, was almost unanimously rejected, and by this 
decision the elections at Paris were refused acknowledgment by 
the representatives of France, and consequently became illegal. 
M. Thiers immediately despatched messages throughout the 
country, stating that the Government was entirely a stranger 
to the agreement made between the mayors and the Comit^ 
Central, that the elections were without moral authority, and 
the country need not preoccupy itself with them, but need only 
have confidence. Order would be restored at Paris as else- 
where.^ The full powers with which Thiers had invested the 
mayors not nine days before were thus flatly disavowed, and 
the same repudiation of delegated authority came from the 
Chief of the Executive Power of France as had come from the 
obscure Comit^ Central. 

* Z^ 18 Mars^ p. 253. 

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Results and Analyses 

HE following is a list of the persons elected to the Com- 
mune, March 26th, 1871 : — 

1st Arrondissement 

2nd Arrondissement. 

3rd Arrondissement 

4th Arrondissement 

(H6tel de Ville) 
5th Arrondissement 

6th Arrondissement 

7th Arrondissement 

(Palais Bourbon.) 
8th Arrondissement 
(Champs Elys^es.) 
9th Arrondissement 

lOth Arrondissement 
(Enclos St Laurent) 
I ith Arrondissement 

1 2th Arrondissement 

13th Arrondissement 

14th Arrondissement 

Adam, Mdline, Rochard, Bar6. 
Brelay, Loiseau-Pinson,Tirard, Charon. 

Demay, A. Arnaud, Pindy, Murat, 

Clovis Dupont 
A. Arnould, Lefran^ais, C16mence, E. 

G^rardin, Amouroux. 
R^fere, Jourde, Tridon, Blanchet, 

Albert Leroy, Groupil, Robinet, Beslay, 

Parisel, E. Leftvrc, Urbain, Brunei. 

Raoul Rigault, Vaillant, A. Amould 

(duplicate election), Jules Allix. 
Ranc, Parent, Desmarest, E. Ferry, 

Gambon, F61ix Pyat, Henri Fortune, 

Champy, Babick, RastouL 
Mortier, Delescluze, Protot, Assi, 

Eudes, Avrial, Verdure. 
Varlin (duplicate election), G^resme, 

Theisz, Fruneau. 
L^o Meillet, E. Duval, Chardon, 

Billioray, Martelet, Descamps. 


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Election Results 143 

15th Arrondissement V. Clement, Jules Vallis, Langevin. 

i6th Arrondissement Marmottan, De Bouteiller. 

17th Arrondissement Varlin (triplicate election), E. Clement, 
(BatignoUes-Monceaux.) Ch. G^rardin, Chalain, Malon. 
1 8th Arrondissement Blanqui, Theisz (duplicate election), 
(Buttes Montmartre.) Dereure, J. B. Clement, Th. Ferrd, 

Vermorel, Paschal Grousset. 
19th Arrondissement Oudet, Puget, Coumet/ Delescluze 
(Buttes Chaumont) (duplicate election), Miot, Ostyn, 

Gustave Flourens. 
20th Arrondissement Bergeret, Ranvier, Gustave Flourens 
(M6nilmontant) (duplicate election), Blanqui (dupli- 

cate election). 

Total elections, 93 ; duplicates and triplicates, 7 ; leaving 86 
as the number of persons elected. The total number of electors 
inscribed on the lists was 481,970 ; • the total number actually 
voting was 224,197 — less than half : a fact which was made much 
of by the Government and its adherents at Versailles, as showing 
that the Commune did not represent even the half of Paris. 
The same argument was employed in r^ard to the agreement 
made between the mayors and the Comit^ Central, seven mayors 
only having signed it out of a total of 20, and thirty-two adjuncts 
out of 6a The argument was, however, shallow in both cases. 
Those who, from whatever cause, neglect or fail to attend to 
their legal duties have no ground of complaint if action is taken 
in their absence which they disapprove of. In no country 

* In only one of the many lists I have of the results of the elections does 
the name of Couraet appear. That is in De la Brug^re's account, p. 42. 
Even in the official Le iZ Mars and Rapport (jP ensemble it is absent 
Whether Coumet was really elected along with the other persons in the 
19th arrondissement or not, it is an undoubted fact that he formed part of 
the Communal body from the outset of its career, and the probabilities 
are therefore greatly in favour of his election. This instance is only one 
out of very many I have met with in the course of this work, where even 
a simple question of fact appears to be beyond the range of absolute denial 
or affirmation. I have not troubled the reader with details of these doubtful 
statements except in a few cases, trusting rather to use my own judgment, 
and to insert that which, after considering all the circumstances known to 
me, appeared most likely to be true. 

• Rapport (TensembUy p. 41. 

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144 History of the Paris Commune of i2>*ji 

governed upon the principle of electoral representation are the 
absentees taken into account — they are rightly judged to be 
amenable to the consequences of not voting and must suffer the 
dominion of those who voted. It is incontestable that numbers" 
of citizens in Paris did not vote, and also that the city had un- 
dergone a considerable denudation of its better-class population 
during the last nine months, first before the siege, then, and very i 
notably, after the capitulation, and lastly as a consequence of i 
the flight of the Government to Versailles. The last-named was 
the least important in the exodus. In regard to the first two 
occasions there had been ample time for the return of the 
absentees, who, however, had voluntarily remained away. 

In all the arrondissements except two, the prescribed eighth 
of the electors necessary to validate the elections was far 
exceeded ; the exceptions were in the 8th arrondissement, 
where Rigault, Vaillant, and AUix came under the eighth, and 
in the 15th arrondissement, where Langevin did. In none of 
these cases, however, was the deficiency great. 

The 86 elected persons may be conveniently classified under 
five divisions, but with the first division it may at once be 
stated that this history has very little to do, for most of the 
members comprised within it never sat in or formed any real 
part of the Commune, whilst those who, at the beginning, did 
form part of it, retired at a very early date, as will be notified in 
due course. 

Dimissionnaire Class. — Adam, M61ine, Rochard, Bar^ 
Brelay, Loiseau-Pinson, Tirard, Charon, Albert 
Leroy, Goupil, Robinet, Ranc, Parent, Desmarest, 
E. Ferry, Nast, Fruneau, Marmottan, De Bouteiller, 

Murat, Leffevre =21 

Twelve of these persons had been either mayors or adjuncts 
elected in November, 1870 ; they were Adam, Mdine, Brelay, 
Loiseau-Pinson, Murat, Albert Leroy, Desmarest, Ferry, Nast ; 
Tirard, Marmottan, Charon. The first nine of these had signed 
the agreement made with the Comit^ Central, and Tirard had 
given in his adhesion to it* 

Deducting the twenty-one members above-named, and also 

^ Le iS Marsy p. 246. 

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Election Results 145 

Blanqui, who was held in prison by Thiers, there remains a 
total of sixty-four persons, whose respective claims to popular 
favour may be roughly gauged by the division under which 
they fall. 

Members of tlie Comity CentraL-^A.rthur Amould, 
Antoine Arnaud, Assi, Blanchet, Brunei, 
Babick, Billioray, Bergeret, Clovis Dupont, 
Eudes, Fortund, Gdresme, Jourde, Mortier, 
Ostyn, Pindy, Ranvier, Varlin, Vaillant . . = 19 

Members of the International Association, — Amou- 
roux, Assi, Avrial, Beslay, Babick, Cl^mence, 
V, Clement, Chalain, Demay, Duval, Dereure, 
Frankel, Emile G^rardin, Jourde, Lefrangais, 
Langevin, Malon, Ostyn. Oudet, Pindy, Theisz, 
Varlin, Vaillant, Verdure . . . = 24 

Deduct Assi, Babick, Jourde, Ostyn, Pindy, Varlin, 

and Vaillant, found in both the above lists . = 7 


- =36 

Journalists. — Arthur Arnould, Chardon, J. B. Cle- 
ment, Cournet, Delescluze, Ferr6, Flourens, 
Gambon, Paschal Grousset, Miot, Filix Pyat, 
Protot, Rigault, Tridon, Verdure, Jules Valles, 
Vermorel =17 

Deduct Verdure and Arnould, found in preceding 

lists 2 

— =15 
Speakers at Club and Public Meetings, — Amouroux, 

Jules Allix, Champy, E. Clement, Demay, 
Descamps, Charles G^rardin, Ledroyt, L60 
Meillet, Martelet, Ostyn, Oudet, Parisel, 
Puget, R^g^re, Rastoul, Urbain . . . = 17 
Deduct Amouroux, Demay, Ostyn, Oudet, found 

in preceding lists 4 

— =^5 

Total ... 64 

The last division includes only those who do not fall under 

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146 History of the Paris Commune of \%T\ 

any of the others ; it is by no means exhaustive of . all the 
elected persons who were speakers at club and public meetings, 
for nearly the whole 64 members would come under this 

Twenty-eight persons out of the 64 formed part also of the 
Central Committee of the twenty arrondissements. Their names 
were Ant. Arnaud, Babick, Beslay, Champy, Cl^mence, Chardon, 
Demay, Duval, Ch. Gerard in, E. Gerard in, Ferr^, Fortune, Lefran- 
^ais, Malon, Martelet, L^o Meillet, Oudet, Parisel, Pindy, Puget, 
R^gfere, Ranvier, Theisz, Tridon, Urbain, Varlin, Vaillant, and 
Vallis. Thus it will be seen that the ramifications and connec- 
tions between the various members were very extensive. These j 
sixty-four elected might be said to form one huge family ofj 
different but real relationships. 

The political views of the sixty-four persons will be partly 
understood by what has preceded. The most moderate amongst 
them were advanced Republicans, following from which there 
came representatives of every shade of democratic, socialistic, 
and revolutionary opinion. The most revolutionary of the four 
divisions above given was that of the journalists or Jacobins, 
who followed, for the most part, the lead which Blanqui gave, 
and who took for their ideal the Commune and Committee of 
Public Safety of 1792. The most conservative — ^though this 
term is* completely misapplied to it— division was that of the 
Internationalists, who looked forward to the Commune as a 
means of raising and benefiting the oppressed and underpaid 
workman. They desired, nevertheless, to do this in as legitimate 
a manner as possible. 

Numbers out of each of the four divisions had suffered 
imprisonment or exile for political offences under the Empire, 
and at the hands of the quasi-Republican Government of the 
National Defence. Imprisonment for such offences more often 
defeats its object than attains it, and those members who had 
thus suffered were not held lowest in the admiration of the 
Parisian population. The most notable of these sometime 
prisoners were Varlin, Flourens, Assi, Delescluze, Malon, Le- 
fran^ais, Gambon, Miot, Pindy, Coumet, Vermorel, Tridon, 
and Eudes. 

Two features which markedly distinguish these sixty-four 

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Election Results 147 

members of the Commune from all other representative bodies 
of like account are their ages and their occupations. The ^ 
bulk of them were young, and many belonged originally to 
the working classes. Twenty individuals were aged between 
25 and 30 ; fifteen between 30 and 35. Not less than twenty- 
six were, properly speaking, workmen, whom the possession ^ 
of abilities above the average of their class had brought 
into prominence and influence amongst their fellows. The 
attainment of this result had been largely assisted by the 
oppressive prosecutions of the Empire, and the more recent war 
and siege, all which gave the men the opportunities of criticising 
and condemning th^ authorities, and placing in relief the in- 
justices and incapacities under which they suffered. Work of a 
different calibre now lies before them, and before the profes- 
sional politicians, barristers, painters, doctors, and journalists, 
who, with the workmen, make up the entire Commune — work 
that is not destructive only — that is comparatively easy of 
accomplishment — but constructive, which is difficult. 

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March 28M TD ARIS against France ; France against Paris : that 
-t was the situation. Paris, whose noisier elements 
had for so long time clamoured for a Commune — whose vital 
frame had been racked by the four months' siege, and its heart 
rent by the grievous capitulation and terms of peace ; which, by 
an amazing succession of supine acts on the part of its and the 
country's Government, had got rid, as if by magic, of the army 
that was directed to subdue it, and of the Rulers who had so 
little known how to rule ; which had accepted, during a week,, 
open government by men of no standing and of unknown 
capacities, who, by a mixture of force and falseness, aided by 
fortuitous circumstances, had obtained, as they thought, the con- 
sent of that Versailles Authority, which was still acknowledged 
to be head in the land, to the election of a Commune ; which, 
finally, had elected its Commune by such significant and imposing 
numbers that there could be no doubt that the elected were 
really and fully representative of its wishes at that moment 
This culmination of its hopes has, unhappily, ill-suited the 
nation's deputies at Versailles, whose fiat of Illegality has gone 
forth and has transformed a covert and reconcilable hostility 
into an avowed and irreconcilable breach. ** Order will be 
restored at Paris, as elsewhere." Is it to be civil war super- 
vening upon the horrors and vicissitudes of a national con- 
flict ? Paris is not ill-fitted for holding its own ; it has 
abundant stores of ammunition, a thousand pieces of artil- 
lery,^ over two hundred thousand federates,* the fortifica- 

* Rapport d* ensemble^ pp. 120-136. Exact number, 1,045 pieces. The 
great difference between this total and that given on p. 99 is accounted for 
by the artillery in the various forts and positions exterior to the fortifica- 
tions, which of course were not referred to in the former instance. 

• Rapport d^ ensemble f p. 117. 


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. March 2%th, 187 1 149 

tions — which even the Germans failed to surmount — and six 
forts, not perfect after their recent bombardment, but neverthe- 
less towers of strength. Its administration and public services 
are still greatly disorganized, but in this respect it is no worse 
off than its adversaries, who, suddenly flown to Versailles, 
where are neither the usual offices nor any records, and with an 
incomplete staff, are in a state of clerical dislocation and jumble 
which only the word chaotic can adequately describe. At 
Versailles, however, the work of reconstruction falls to practised 
hands, and there, rather than at Paris, is the re-establishment 
of administrative order to be first expected. 

Only in this disordered officialdom is the balance of power 
betwixt Paris and Versailles equal. At Versailles there are 
concentrated the will and the political intellect of France 
Some few large industrial provincial towns and their republican 
representatives favour the course which Paris is adopting, and 
similar communal movements are even in progress, at Marseilles 
and elsewhere ; but, compared with the rest of France, these 
expressions of support and sympathy for the capital are 
insignificant — the nation, as a whole, is overwhelmingly antago- ^ 
nistic to revolutionary Communes. This Commune of Paris must 
be put down, think the assembled deputies at Versailles, and 
the little man, Thiers, is eager to execute their wishes. How to 
do it is the only question. At Versailles there are the dis- 
credited troops withdrawn from Paris on the i8th inst. — 
demoralised, disorganized, distrusted : a nucleus less reliable than 
would have been a similar number of National Guards. To these 
have been, and daily will be added, prisoner troops returned by 
the German conqueror, and others gathered from the provinces ; 
but their spirits are flagged, and their enthusiasm for fighting 
their own countrymen is extremely doubtful. The French 
soldier is also politician, and in the present disturbed condition 
of political affairs it is impossible to say what opinions he may 
have formed, and what action he may take. There are other 
facts to be remembered : that advanced Republicanism, which 
approves Paris, suspects the sincerity of Thiers ; that there are 
Orl^anist intrigues and Imperialist hatreds directed against 
the existing regime, which latter is the forerunner of one knows 
not what ; that the stigma of the humiliating surrender to the 

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150 History of the Paris Commune of i^yi 

Prussians attaches to the Government, whilst its manifest in- 
ability hitherto to make itself respected in the capital lays bare 
the inference that it is not worth respecting — are these things 
not enough to cause any but the most clear-sighted or the most 
disciplined soldier to doubt whether, after all, Paris were not in 
the right and Versailles wrong ? Thiers feels this with the keen- 
est anxiety ; none better than himself realizes how weak hi^ 
position is. He is so conscious of it that he almost trembles 
lest the federates should march upon Versailles before his forces 
are sufficiently strong to present a bold front to them. Such a 
battle a few days ago could hardly have ended other than in a 
^complete victory for the Parisians, but they were slow to com- 
prehend the necessities of their unexpected success on the i8th ; 
now every day — yea, every hour — is of immense advantage 
to Versailles, and sees the work of consolidation, training, 
disciplining, further advanced, and the mobile, uncertain atoms 
of humanity rendered more compact and reliable. Such 
military operations are, at Versailles, in progress unceasingly, 
1/ and are characterized by the utmost energy ; on the other hand, 
at Paris, the federates take unkindly to discipline and trainings 
and their officers neither see the necessity for, nor possess the 
power to enforce army evolutions in any rigorous degree. This 
28th of March, Tuesday, is set apart as a holiday ; the forma) 
inauguration of the Commune is to be celebrated, and for such 
great event Paris must deliver itself up to gaiety and jubilance. 

Cannons sounding forth from the heights of Montmartre and 
Chaumont, and from the forts south of the river, had heralded 
in the day. Tht Journal Officiel published a list of the persons 
elected, and, in the same number, an article by one of them, 
Edouard Vaillant, which by its sinister import attracted univer- 
sal attention. This article advocated the assassination of the 
members of the former reigning French families. " Society has 
only one duty towards princes — death." Visions of the National 
Convention and the Committee of Public Safety rose in men's 
minds ; but, as dreams, they passed away and were forgotten. 

Preparations for the event of the day, which was fixed to 
take place at four in the afternoon, went on apace. The Hdtel 
de Ville was beautified — or disfigured — with red drapery, which, 
by intention, concealed the statue of Henri Quatre, and threw 

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March 28///, 1871 151 

into relief a new bust of Liberty procured for the occasion, ^ 
evidencing that the new regime was, even as others, symbolical 
and ostentatious. A platform was erected in front of the 
Palace, a table placed thereon, and an elevated seat supplied 
for the President. As the appointed hour approached, throngs 
of citizens and numerous battalions of National Guards arrived, 
and the bands of the latter beguiled away the time ; privi- 
leged citizens ' — in a theoretical Commune there are none such 
— took their places behind the table, and flag-holders ranged 
themselves at each side of it ; cannons from the neighbouring 
quays belched forth their thunders, and the people, full of 
enthusiasm, lifted up their voices with cries of " Vive la Com- 
mune ! " and " Vive la Ripublique ! " At a given moment, the 
thousands of National Guards that were marshalled before the 
Hdtel de Ville, placed their caps on the points of their bayonets 
and raised their guns in the air ; the elected members of the 
Commune made their way on to the platform, the non-elected 
of the Comit^ Central also were there, and finally, Ranvier, the 
president for the time being, occupied the chair reserved for him. 
Then, amidst renewed cheering, salvoes of artillery, bugle calls, 
and beatings of drums, the inaugural proceedings began. 

A list of the persons elected having been read out, Assi, 
amidst vehement plaudits, proclaimed the Commune and made 
a speech ; Ranvier and others also spoke, bursts of cheering 
interrupting, and all the resources of militant display assisting. 
After this came the defiling before the platforms of the 
various federated battalions, all to the cry of ** Vive la Com- 
mune!'^ but the throng of people was so dense that it soon 
became necessary to temporarily stop further influx. The 
parade, however, went on until seven o'clock, and not less than 
100,000 Guards took part in it. Thus, amidst commotion, noise, 
and excitement enough to stir any heart that was not framed in 
adamant, was the ornamental heading to the Commune writ 
within the minds of the enthusiastic populace, all forgetful for 
the moment of some other 100,000 soldiers gathered at Versailles, 
whose specific mission was to neutralize and annul that day's 

* Le Comity Central^ etc., par Aaguste Hardy, p. 4. 

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152 History of the Paris Commujie (?/" 1871 

After the inauguration ceremony, a meeting of the newly 
born Commune was held in the large municipal chamber of 
the Hdtel de Ville, but the whole of the elected persons were 
not present, no intimation having been sent them that a meet- 
ing was to be held.^ Such an intimation could only have 
proceeded from the Comit^ Central, but this body, chagrined 
at the extensive effacement it had experienced in the elections, 
abstained from affording any assistance to the new-comers. 
Despite its magnanimous protestations a few days before of 
having fulfilled its task, and of being about to retire into the 
ranks, the Comit^ Central felt keenly the subordinate position 
'^to which it was reduced by its comparative insuccess at the 
elections. // had wielded the real revolutionary power — ^the 
National Guards — and it was determined, come what might, to 
maintain its authority in that direction. Not blind to the slur 
that would be cast upon it were it openly to repudiate its 
published declaration, it declared itself dissolved, but imme- 
diately formed into another Comit6,* and there was no change 
in it, save that wrought by the election of some of its members. 

The H6tel de Ville was crowded with Guards, who smoked, 
drank, and ate with the utmost freedom and licence within the 
halls and corridors of the stately edifice. The elected members 
of the Comit^ Central, when arrived at the Council Chamber, 
found numbers of the other elected ones waiting for them, prior 
to commencing the sitting^ — a significant indication that the 
Comit^ Central, as such, was still haloed round with import- 
ance, and the fact was not lost upon them. 

There were then about sixty members present. The duty 
of commencing the proceedings was allocated to the oldest 
member ; this was Charles Beslay, a man seventy-seven years 
of age, who, besides being doyen of the Commune, was, perhaps, 
also its richest member. By profession he was a civil engineer, 
and had constructed railroads in France and Switzerland. He 
had often before been elected a representative of the people. 

Beslay's opening discourse contained one statement only 
which it is needful to refer to. He was defining the functions 
of the newly elected body, and stated "that the Commune 

* Lefran9ais, p. 179. * Rapport d^ ensemble^ p. 42. 

' Lefran^ais, p. 179. 

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March 28/A, 187 1 153 

would occupy itself with that which was local — the Government 
with that which was national";^ but, by implication, neither^ 
had any right to interfere in the peculiar domain of the other. 
Paris will govern itself — it will not brook the interference of 
Versailles in its internal aflfairs. 

The assembled Commune first passed a vote of thanks to the 
Comit6 Central for the part it had taken in recent events. It 
next proceeded to discuss the question of drawing up a procla- 
mation to the people. The discussion became disorderly and 
confused : in the midst of it Oudet started up and demanded in 
stentorian voice the arrest of Tirard, one of the former mayors, 
on the ground that he had been an accomplice in the capitula- 
tion of Paris by not having resigfned his mayoral office in pro- 
testation against it Delescluze, sitting next to Oudet, pulled 
that inopportune zealot to his seat again, and after a while the 
former discussion was resumed. Then Allix, one of the four 
persons who had received a less number of votes than the eighth 
of the electors, demanded to know whether he was to consider 
himself elected or not. Allix was a highly nervous individual, 
who had gained notoriety by a theory he had propounded some 
years before for procuring communication between friends at a 
distance. His theory was based upon a presumed sympathetic 
action of snails. It became the amusement of Paris for months, 
and its author a laughing-stock, which circumstance, however, 
did not prevent him posing as a friend of the people, and enlist- 
ing, in the recent elections, a small nunaber of sufTrages. A 
member of more account than Allix was in the same predica- 
ment — this was Raoul Rigault, who also asked if his election was 
to be considered valid. Because instant unanimity upon this 
question was not apparent, Allix became hysterically excited, 
whereupon Eudes, arrayed in his uniform of General, ordered 
him out, and the proceedings then calmed down.* The law 
which enacted that an eighth of the voters was required in order 
to validate an election, dated from 1849 ; upon this fact being 
mentioned, the assembly held that the Commune was not bound 
by any laws save its own, and it immediately declared the four 
elections which were in dispute to be valid. As a matter of 

* Lefran^ais, p. 182. • La VMU^ p. 325. 

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154 History of the Paris Commune of \2>t\ 

abstract right, any community may pass a law in the morning 
and repeal it in the evening, and if it may do this with its own 
offspring, it certainly may with that which it has merely in- 
herited ; but the inexpediency, and in fact absolute impossibility 
of continuing for long such a procedure, cannot be doubted. 
Happily, the Commune of Paris did not intend so sweeping a 
change as the universal application of the principle it had thus 
laid down. 
Apropos of the question of validation, it was subsequently 

/suggested in this sitting of the Commune, that none of its mem- 
bers could belong also to the National Assembly. Several of 
them did — Delescluze, Pyat, and Gambon ; Kane, Cournet, 
Tridon, and Malon had, but had resigned. Delescluze com- 
batted the suggestion, and it was dropped.* Another proposal 
was made that the Commune should constitute itself at once 
into a Council of War, in order more effectually to maintain its 
existence, and to propagate its principles. This suggestion was 
received with loud applause, but it was not discussed, nor any 
formal decision upon it taken. 

From the foregoing it is evident what was the general impres- 
sion of the members of the Commune as to the functions and 
position of the body to which they had been elected — that it 
was not a municipal council, but an independent state. Con- 
stituting itself superior to the laws of the country ; alleging 
^'incompatibility betwixt being Communal and National 
Assembly representative ; the suggested Council of War, which 
could be indicative only of the intention to prosecute war 
against their fellows at Versailles— an intention intolerable in 
a council presumably elected to form a municipal administration 
only. The National Assembly and Thiers had thrown down 
the challenge by repudiating the legitimacy of the elections, 
and the Commune had speedily taken it up — it would maintain 
its position as an independent Government for Paris, and was 
determined not to submit to other authority. 
Tirard had waited only for this inclination to become mani- 
, , fest ; it now being so, he arose and stated that he resigned his 
' membership of the Commune, on the ground that never, in all 

> La VMU, p. 325. 

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March 2%th, 1871 155 

the negotiations with or proclamations of the Comit6 Central, 
had there been any mention, or in his mind any thought of t/^ 
the proposed elective body being other than a municipal one 
pure and simple — it was now given a distinctly political cha- 
racter, and he had no mandate from his electors to form part of 
it. Paschal Grousset and Jourde angrily questioned Tirard — 
Was he for or against the Commune ? Had he not said at 
Versailles that persons entering the Hotel de Ville ran the risk 
of being assassinated ? Tirard answered his interlocutors with 
firmness — The Commune was against him, Versailles was against 
him : that was enough. The words he had used were, " When 
one enters the H6tel de Ville, one is not always sure to go- 
out" Again Delescluze diverted an awkward discussion — the 
projected proclamation was rebrought forward and presently 
Tirard went out, unmolested.^ 

The Tirard incident had ruffled the Communal mind — was it 
to become public .^ If so, would it not display the new legis- 
lators in an intolerant and unruly guise ? They were at their 
first corporate gathering — who could foretell what incidents 
subsequent .meetings might unveil ? The general question of 
the publicity or secrecy of the Communal sittings was thus 
brought to the fore and was debated with animation. There 
were advocates for both courses ; appeals to patriotism, to 
elementary rights, to the danger of too much speaking follow- 
ing publicity, and the danger of dictatorial action following 
secrecy ; finally, a vote was taken, the result of which was in 
favour of secret sittings. There should be published no reports 
of debates, but merely the decisions taken. 

Thus the self-vaunted enlightened Commune of Paris, which 
contemplated accomplishing such herculean labours as the 
complete overthrow of wealth's tyranny, the entire abolition of 
poverty, the institution of absolute equality, the removal of all 
injustices and the inauguration of a bright and glorious era 
which should perfect the principles of the great Revolution, and 
form a new landmark in the history of the world, was, at the 
outset of its career, enamoured of darkness, unappreciative of 
the truth that all Nature works in the light of day, and that 

* La VMti^ p. 326. Lefrangais, pp. 184, 185. 

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156 History of the Paris Commutie of i^yi 

man, metaphorically and literally, can healthily advance and 
work only in the light 

Neither did the Commune apprehend the actual impossibility 
of closing the mouths of each one of its members — the con- 
tingency of having traitors in its midst, or an admixture of 
weak people who cannot keep secrets, or ambitious ones who 
serve personal interests by divulging them. Between which 
and others, little of import transpiring in the secret sittings of 
the Commune has failed to become public knowledge ; there 
has chiefly been veiled and concealed only the lowness of tone 
exhibited by many members, the inelegance of the language 
employed, the petty animosities indulged in, and the verbosity 
of the speakers. It is charitable to pass lightly over these 
defects. The delinquents were often not men of polish nor of 
great education ; it is merely, for the sake of historical com- 
pleteness, needful to mention them. The Comit^ Central meet- 
ings had frequently been turbulent and uproarious, characterized 
by none of the dignity and self-control that one expects to find 
in authoritative assemblies ; the Commune, though it reached 
a higher level in this respect than its forerunner, still left much 
to be desired. It is, however, not by its debates, but by its 
decisions and actions, that the Commune, as all other bodies 
and persons, must be judged, and for this purpose all necessary 
information is at hand. 

At the conclusion of the Communal sitting the proposed pro- 
clamation to the people was still unfinished. Lefran^ais, Jules 
Vall^s, and Ranc were deputed to draw up one, which they did, 
but it was too mild in tone, and was rejected the next day when 
placed before the assembled Commune. At this second meet- 
ing Lefran^ais was elected President of the sittings for a week ; 
Ranc and Vaillant, assessors ; Antoine Amaud and Ulysse 
Parent, secretaries. These officers all came to be changed 
almost daily, so that there was never a real President of the 
Commune — that was contradictory to the assumed equality of 
the members — but merely a temporary chairman. 

At this meeting the duties of providing for the due administra- 
tion of the city of Paris, and for maintaining the army of federates, 
were allocated to various Commissions, which were as follow : ^ — 
* Lefran9ais, pp. 193, 194. 

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March 29/A, 187 1 157 

Executive, — Eudes, Tridon, Vaillant, Lefran^ais, Duval, F^lix 

Pyat, BergereL 
Miliiary, — Pindy, Eudes, Bergeret, Duval, Chardon, Flourens^ 

Finance, — V. Clement, Varlin, Jourde, Beslay, R^gire. 
Judicial — Ranc, Protot, LAd Meillet, Vermorel, Ledroyt^ 

Police, — Raoul Rigault, Ferr^, Assi, Oudet, Chalain, Charles 

Gcrardin, Cournet. 
Labour and Commerce. — Malon, Frankel, Theisz, CI. Dupont, 

Avrial, [Loiseau-Pinson,] Eugfene G^rardin, Puget 
Food, — Dereure, Champy, Ostyn, J. B. Clement, Parisel, Emile 

Clement, Henri Fortund. 
Exterior Affairs, — Delescluze, Ranc, Paschal Grousset, Ulysse 

Parent, Arthur Arnould, Antoine Amaud, Charles 

Public Works,— OsX,yx\, Bilhoray, J. B. CMment, Martelet> 

Mortier, Rastoul. 
Education, — Jules Vall^s, Goupil, Urbain, Leftvre, A. Leroy, 

Verdure, Demay, Robinet. 

The functions of each xA these Commissions were generally, 
but not precisely, determined ; there were none amongst the 
Commune who had the necessary experience to lay down 
rules, and who possessed the requisite authority to insist upon 
their observance, for the prevention of overlapping and con- 
flicting duties. There was also no absolute chief denominated 
for each department, though several members, already appointed 
to the same posts by the Comitd Central — whose appointments 
were invariably maintained — were tacitly acknowledged to be 
supreme. Thus, Jourde in Finances, Protot in Judicature, 
Rigault in Police, Paschal Grousset for Exterior or Foreign 
Affairs, were left practically masters of their respective depart- 
ments. The Executive Commission was meant to be the 
intermediary by which the decisions of the other Commissions 
should be enforced — it had a general power, but its duties were 
not more clearly defined than the others. 

By means of these Commissions nearly all the members of 
the Commune were provided with administrative labours. One 

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158 History of the Paris Commune of i%7\ 

■member, Loiseau-Pinson, following Tirard's example, on the 
59th resigned his seat ; others, who had never sat, sent in formal 
resignations, making, in all, fifteen out of the twenty-one mem- 
bers of the D6missionnaire class. The six remaining in the 
Commune were Ranc, Parent, Goupil, Fruneau, Robinet, and 

After the appointment of the various Commissions, the Com- 
mune set itself to deal with some of the questions which lay 
before it. The remuneration of its members was fixed at 
15 francs per day, the pay of the federates at 2*25 francs per 
•day, the cash for these disbursements still coming largely from 
the coffers of the Bank of France, which continued to suffer 
under the thinly veiled threat of force. The old man Beslay, of 
the Commission of Finances, interviewed the acting governor of 
the Bank, with whom he had some previous acquaintance, and 
advised him not to attempt resistance to the demands made 
upon him.^ Beslay understood the risk which the Bank ran, 
and desired to avert any calamity. From this date he became 
delegated by the Commune to the Bank, and his moderate and 
friendly attitude towards it was of incalculable value. 

Another decision taken by the Commune was to abolish con- 
scription for the army ; henceforth, the results usually attained 
by compulsory enlistment were to be secured by the more politic 
method of persuasive flattery. " All able-bodied citizens make 
part of the National Guard. No other force than it can be 
created within or may be introduced into the city." So ran the 
decree, breathing another blast of defiance to the Versaillais. 

The citizen army and the poor were the chief charges upon the 
Commune ; by the one it had been elected, whilst the trials of 
the other had, in an appreciable degree, contributed to produce 
the existing state of affairs, and those who benefitted therefrom 
could scarcely do else than mitigate the dire straits of the 
numerous persons who were sufferers by the dislocation and 
stagfnation of trade. Two acts of amelioration, which the 
National Assembly would have talked over for weeks, and 
probably then have rejected, were enacted by the Commune 
by simple decree : the sale of unredeemed pledges in the pawn- 

* Du Camp, t. iii. p. 168. 

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March 29/A, 187 1 159 

shops was suspended, and all tenants were relieved from the 
payment of rents for the October, 1870, January and April, 
1 87 1, terms. The latter was a crying need to some, unrequired 
by others ; the broad simplicity of the decree drew no dis- 

These decrees, which so swiftly cut the Gordian knot of red- 
tapeism, were almost as brief in contents as the resumes here 
given, and were signed merely, " The Commune of Paris." Who 
were responsible for them ? The entire Commune ; the in- 
tention being to sink individual differences and let the majority 
act as if it were the whole body, by which course the minority 
officially sanctioned what it really condemned. The design was 
full of a superior morality ; of a sense of duty that was not 
earthly, yet could never, with this particular body, be esteemed 
heavenly. Aerial theory drawn into mundane dwellings — it is 
too light, it will fly up again to its own free and unrestrained 
abode 1 Men cannot be governed by beautiful theories. 

The task to which the Commune had at first addressed itself 
— a proclamation to the people — was eventually, after much 
deliberation and many emendations, completed It does not 
concern us — professions of faith and promises are alike value- 
less in repetition : the Commune was a revolutionary body, and 
all revolutionists have great hopes and immense plans. The 
main feature about this revolutionary assembly is that it wields 
a huge power and possesses the second city in the world : 
it has an unexampled chance to realize the revolutionary dream. 
If it be but united in itself! The resignation of the fifteen 
members who were republican but not revolutionary has helped 
to consolidate the seventy who remain, nevertheless there are 
ominous signs of discord existing. The Comit^ Central had 
issued another proclamation to the people, forestalling the 
communal one. It was unexceptional in tone,^ but it publicly 
revealed the fact that the Comity had not retired into the ranks, 
that it still held sway over the federated Guards and showed no 
intention of relinquishing its authority. 

The Military Commission appointed by the Commune con- 
sisted chiefly of Comit^ Central men ; those that were not, were 

* Lefran^ais, p. 199. 

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i6o History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

friendly towards it. Three members of this Commission — Eudes, 
Bergeret, Duval — formed part also of the Executive ; it was to 
give these three the chief power over the National Guards, for, 
being at once Comit^ Central Generals and Communal military 
and executive chiefs, there could be no questioning their 
authority from either point of view. None of these three had 
had any military training, save what they had obtained during 
the siege ; they, however, possessed the confidence of the 
federates, which went for much, and were intensely hostile to 
the Versailles Government — a fact which told greatly in their 
favour with the Commune, as precluding the possibility of 
traitorous dealings such as LuUier had indulged in. 

Against treachery and spies the Commune was continually 
on its gfuard. Rigault was a huntsman of keen scent for persons 
of this description, and his watchful eye was over many who 
thought themselves free from suspicion. The Commune was 
not without traitors in its midst, for, though the Versailles 
Government had ceased to have direct communications with the 
usurper of authority in Paris, it was regularly supplied with 
accounts of its secret sittings from the beginning.^ Besides 
this, there were innumerable persons in Paris who were devoted 
to the Government cause, and who freely risked their lives by 
engaging in plots and intrigues having for their object the 
overthrow of the Commune. The chief commandership of the 
National Guard, an office still unfilled, was coveted by a general 
of the regular army, one Franzini, who pretended to the 
federates to be wholly devoted to them, but who really hoped 
to be able to utilise the position, should he obtain it, to the 
profit of the Versaillais.* Applications for authority to secretly 
represent Thiers in Paris already came to that high official 
from various quarters ; he was so averse to turning away any 
assistance, that nearly all the requests were more or less vaguely 
entertained and indefinitely granted. Hitherto, personal transit 
betwixt Versailles and Paris had been tolerably easy of accom- 
plishment, but the wealthy people of the capital had become 
alarmed at the course of events and were in rapid exodus, by 
feason of which Raoul Rigault caused the gates of the city 

* Du Camp, t. iv. p. 19. • Dals^me, p. 21. 

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March 29/^, 1871 161 

to be closed and exit to be obtained only by passports issued 
by his department. The awe which this man had already 
inspired by making numerous arbitrary arrests of gendarmes 
and others, whose only crime was that of refusing to bow down 
to the Communal Baal, was such that for would-be fugitives to 
go near him, was equivalent to entering the lion's den : many of 
them prudently declined to take the risk. After this it became 
more difficult to quit and re-enter Paris; however, the agents 
of Thiers, as well as many persons who were determined to quit 
the city, attained by subterfuge, bribery, or disguise, what it 
would have been highly dangerous to attempt effecting in a 
straightforward manner. The federates, even to the officers of 
battalions, were short of money, and few of them refused to be 
corrupted when they could secretly, and for apparently trivial 
purposes, receive a douceur. 

The Commune was aware of communications having been 
received from the Versailles Government by some of the officials 
who, after the i8th, had remained in their respective depart- 
ments, and whose assistance the Comit^ Central and its successor 
had been glad to accept in order to expedite the work of re- 
organizing the services. It now, by decree, prohibited, under 
pain of dismissal, all public servants from receiving any orders 
or messages from Versailles. Before, however, this decree and 
Rigault's passport regulations could be fully carried into effect,, 
the head of the postal department in Paris, with his staff and 
his postal registers, had secretly departed for Versailles under 
instructions from the Government, and Paris was left without 
either postal or telegraphic services. Loud was the complaint 
against this desertion of so important a branch of public work,, 
and a deputation of merchants and traders went to Versailles 
to petition M. Thiers to permit the renewal of the service ; but 
the head of the Government was obdurate and not prepared to- 
grant the least favour or convenience to Paris : the merchants 
were obliged to come away unsuccessful. The Commune 
appointed of their members, first Vermorel, then Theisz, ta 
reorganize the posts, the latter of whom did so with considerable 
ability, and in two days communication within Paris and the 
outskirts was to some extent restored. In other public depart- 
ments, however, confusion and disorder were still rampant. 


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1 62 History of the Paris Commune ^1871 

Perhaps the most notable and important disarray was 
evidenced in the administration of law and justice. Judges 
were not to be seen, cases were not proceeded with ; Justice 
seemed to be robed in mourning and was unapproachable. 
The judicial Commission appointed by the Commune had not 
yet reorganized the Courts — only two of its members, Protot and 
Meillet, were connected with the Law ; they were both young 
barristers and neither had had large practice. The control of 
the Police, so fruitful a source of injustice if in injudicious hands, 
was unfortunately in Rigault's, whose intellectual ability was 
undoubtedly considerable, though it unhappily included a 
masterful unscrupulousness. 

An ameliorating influence to the abnormal activity of the 
last-named personage must be taken into account. M. Bonjean, 
the President of the Court of Cassation who had been arrested 
by Rigault on the 21st, had contrived to cause to be sent to 
the regular officials and attendants at the various prisons in 
Paris instructions to remain at their posts as long as possible, so 
that they might watch over the prisoners brought there under 
Communal orders.^ 

The innuendo which lay beneath this was already amply jus- 
tified. Arrests under the Commune were being made without 
justification — Bonjean's and others, under the Comit^ Central 
regime, were but preliminary indications that a reign of in- 
tolerance was about to be inaugurated. The Communal body 
as a whole was intensely hostile to religious influences, and it 
-delayed not to give its opinions practical effect at the outset of 
its existence by suppressing all ecclesiastical services, functions, 
or payments that were under its control, and appropriating to 
its use all Church effects that it conveniently could. This 
preliminary administrative measure was speedily followed by 
a formal decree, separating the Church from the State and 
nationalizing ecclesiastical property. Theoretically, a State 
should not favour one class of its citizens more than another, 
— a tenet which a constitutional connection with the Church 
undoubtedly thwarts : the Commune rudely wished to trans- 
form theory into reality, regardless of the practical difficulties 

* Du Camp, t. L p. 68. 

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au, \ 

March ^is^, 1871 163 

which bristle around this subject All rational Government can 
only be a compromise betwixt conflicting interests ; but the 
Commune would have no compromises^t would have only its 
own will and that to the full. 

The realization of its wishes in this direction was confided to 
Rigault, than whom no more zealous servant in such a cause 
-could be found. To him, priests, prayers, and preachings were 
abominations ; already he had arrested a priest named Blondeau, 
without legitimate reason, and, fortified by Communal sanction, 
the arrest of priests became henceforth a daily occurrence, 
other ways than this, individual liberty and the possession of 
property were, within the region of Communal authority, become 
precarious treasures. Upon the least exhibition of disobedience 
•or opposition to Communal demands, forcible seizure was made 
both of persons and goods. On the other hand, the Comit^ 
•Central, in the last hour or so of its undisputed sway, had 
decreed, and the Commune had adopted, both bodies from the 
ardency of their devotion to the principle of individual liberty, 
the abolition of legalised prostitution,^ a thing which, whatever |/^ 
may be said about it in England, has at least the merit of 
keeping the streets of a huge capital clear from unabashed 
solicitation. The effect of the Communal action in this matter 
was to open the flood-gates of prostitution, and to produce a 
state of things immeasurably worse, from a social point of view, 
than that which it terminated. 

The rapid succession of these decrees, by which changes of 
some magnitude were thrown amongst the Parisians, caused a 
sense of bewilderment and unreality to pervade the minds of 
all citizens who were not Communists. To the federates and 
other followers of the new power the decrees were so many 
sops and boons, though they, having the administration of the 
city, the preservation of order, and the honour of their army 
to account for, needed firm and hardy treatment instead of 
indulgent gratification. The indiscipline which had character- 
ized so many of the National Guards during and after the siege 
continued with unabated virulence, though it took other shape. 
Rigid obedience, faithful performance of duty, carefulness to 

' Du Camp, t. iv. p. 13. 

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164 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSji 

avoid excesses, were as much as ever wanting, whilst individual 
initiative bubbled up in all manner of ways, unauthorized, irre- 
pressible, conflicting, pernicious, and tyrannical. Such disorder 
reigned in the arrondissements that the Communal delegates 
located in the respective mairies were unable to make headway 
with the accumulation of work owing to the unreliable humanity 
which was at their disposal for its furtherance. It became im-^ 
perative that men of greater authority should administer even 
these local duties, and therefore the Commune decided that 
henceforth its members should control and be responsible for 
the respective arrondissements which had elected them. This 
decision threw a treble burden of labour upon the people's elect, 
for they had still to attend the Communal daily meetings and to 
transact the business of the various Commissions to which they 
were attached. With almost every established system broken up- 
and nearly everywhere new employes to perform and new masters 
to direct work that both alike were unaccustomed to, it is not 
surprising that something — nay, that much — was neglected or 
improperly done, that confusion continued to reign, and, as a 
necessary consequence, that hardships and injustice were in- 
flicted upon numerous persons who were entirely innocent of 
having caused so great dislocation. 

Nevertheless, though there was such a large volume 
^ '^ * of practical work to get through, the Commune found 
or made time to discuss at considerable length the question of 
the freedom of the press and of association, this subject having 
been raised through the suppression, by Rigault, of the Figaro 
newspaper, the only offence of which had been to express 
opinions emphatically against the Commune. Many members 
of the Commune, under the reign of Napoleon III., and even 
during the last nine months, had suffered various penalties or 
imprisonments for press and association offences. In those days 
they had advocated the entire freedom of expressed thought 
and full liberty to band themselves together as their own desires 
dictated — now came the opportunity for passing a decree to 
give these views effect The debate being ended, the decision, 
by raising of hands, was arrived at ; it was not unanimous, but 
surprisingly opposed by nearly as many as supported it — voting 
by raising of hands seemed not clear and impressive enough for 

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April \st, 1871 165 

so important a principle ; voting by individual appeal will be 
made to-morrow : until to-morrow, then, be the decision deferred. 

The same day that witnessed the suppression of a literary 
adversary saw also an augmentation of the Commune's literary 
strength, in the person of M. Henri Rochefort, who, for some 
time past, had been in the provinces in ill-health. He now 
returned to Paris to resume, under more revolutionary auspices 
than usual, the direction of his journal, the Mot dOrdre, The 
next day this paper demanded the demolition of the statue of 
Marshal Ney, the old soldier who was so attached to the fortunes 
of the first Napoleon. Why not ? Did not the highly re- 
spectable Government of the National Defence upset the statue 
of Napoleon himself and throw it into the Seine at Neuilly ? 

Along with their hatred of things Napoleonic the Communists 
apparently forgot that they, at that moment, by the first neces- 
sity, were militants. A Napoleon, a Marshal Ney, would have 
been of incalculable service to them. Had they not an immense 
army of 200,000 National Guards, that, like all else public 
in the city, was out of joint and ructions, its training of the 
loosest, obedience of the slightest, and indulgence of the grossest 
character? These National Guards did not yet realize their 
position, nor the possible duty they might be called upon to 
fulfil. It had been, hitherto, the comedy — but will there not 
be a tragedy in the play ? One of the most beautiful armies 
that France has ever seen, according to M. Thiers' eulogy, is 
now congregated at and around Versailles — what is its business. 
Communists, but to deal death and destruction amongst you ? 
Are you prepared to do the same with it, or do you not in 
your inmost hearts expect the walls of your enemy's ranks to 
fall down at the blow of your trumpets, as the walls of Jericho 
are said to have done of yore ? Or have you still a thought 
that somehow your position will be made regular and your 
actions indemnified } If so, banish it, for the historian of the 
modern rival of Hannibal and Alexander has learnt from the 
great occupation of his literary life the virtues of at least one 
attribute — an uncompromising firmness. Thiers may have 
lacked perception of the true state of affairs at Paris a few 
weeks ago, but, his eyes being at last fully opened, his deter- 
mination on the main point has been taken and is inflexible. 

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1 66 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSyi 

However, though Thiers be like adamant, there are elements 
about him that are plastic ; conciliation with Paris is still advo- 
cated by many deputies who shrink from the horrors of a war 
with their own countrymen. A step must be taken which will 
show that Thiers' rigidity is real and not sentimentally opti- 
mistic — which will clinch the issue and render ridiculous, if not 
impossible, any further idea of compromise. Moreover, Thiers 
has received reports from Paris that the Comit^ Central medi- 
tates taking some action against Versailles.^ Be it — he will be 
first in the field. 

Upon the bridge of Neuilly, nearly two miles from the Paris 
fortifications^ and elsewhere in the same neighbourhood, the 
federates have erected barricades. They are an offence — they 
will retard the sometime advance upon Paris ; they must be 
demolished. Go then, Vinoy, with your Daudel brigade, your 
Gallifet chasseurs, and your republican Guards, break down 
their barricades— -and retire ; the march on Paris is not yet 

On Sunday morning, April 2nd, Vinoy, from the heights 
whereon stands the Fort Mont Val^rien — ^so narrowly escaped 
from being in the federates' possession — directed and viewed 
the operations. At half-past eight o'clock a detachment of 
gendarmes was sent forward to the bridge, where they came 
upon the federates' advance post The gendarmes summoned 
the federates to retire, and an army surgeon named Pasquier,. 
who was with the former, went forward, unarmed, to induce the 
federates to comply with the demand made upon them. The 
latter shouted, " Vive la Commune ! " and asked Pasquier and his 
gendarmes to come into their ranks — a request which was re- 
fused, whereupon a federate drew his revolver and shot Pasquier 
dead. The gendarmes fired, the federates replied with energy 
and were reinforced; the gendarmes fell back to give place 
to the soldiers of the line that were massed behind them. 
These, on their way to the bridge, passed the Courbevoie 
barracks, where also were federates. The latter turned out, 
raised the butt ends of their guns in the air, and shouted, " Vive 
la R^publique ! " " Vive la Commune ! " But these men of the 
line were obdurate ; they fell not down, like the walls of Jericho> 

* Rapport d^ensembUy p. 52. Le 18 Mars^ p. 272. 

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April 2nd, 1871 167 

at a shout, but turned smartly upon the federates and fired a 
volley into them, causing them to flee precipitately. They 
rushed into houses, from the protection of which they returned 
the fire. The gendarmes had also refuged themselves in houses, 
and took part in the conflict The federates, who had followed 
the retreating gendarmes, were obliged to fall back upon the 
bridge ; but at this point a stubborn stand was made, and fight- 
ing lasted for an hour and a half before the Versailles troops 
eventually broke down the resistance. Then the cannons and 
mitrailleuses from batteries on Mont Val^rien opened fire upon 
those Communists that were still inside the houses, and finally 
dislodged them. At mid-day the fighting was over ; the barri- 
cades were taken, and the federates who had defended them 
were in full flight for Paris. There were killed and wounded 
on both sides — not a great number, but enough to show that 
the tragedy had commenced — that the comedy, if it ever existed, 
must now vanish from every mind — Communal or Versaillais. 

When the sound of firing reached the ears of the Parisians, it 
awoke them from the dream of nonchalance which had erewhile 
clouded their senses. They knew not how the fighting went, but 
they knew that the dreadest of all armed struggles — civil war — 
was once again upon them. Presently news arrived from the 
scene of conflict. Victory ! It was doubted. The firing still 
went on. Anxiety was in every heart, and the morning wore 
on amidst trepidation and hope, and the turning out into the 
main thoroughfares of the entire force of federates, waiting and 
expecting the order to be sent forward. At last the arrival of 
fugitives at the Maillot Gate, and then of retreating battalions, 
put the true state of affairs before them. Rage and indignation 
leapt to the federates' faces at the cowardly aggression, as they 
termed it, of the Versaillais. They demanded, clamoured, from 
one end of the city to the other, to be led at once against their 
enemies. At the H6tel de Ville all was commotion and excite- 
ment. At two o'clock the Executive Commission issued a 
lying placard to inflame the passions of the citizens — out of 
charity, set down the lies to ignorance and to the agitation of 
the moment The drums beat the call to arms ; couriers ran 
hither and thither with orders which often conflicted ; batteries 
of guns were moved towards the ramparts, and provisions and 

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1 68 History of the Paris Commune of i^ji 

ammunition were served out to the troops. A feverish anima- 
tion possessed the federates, and every heart seemed eager for 
the fray. 

The Executive Commission met again at three o'clock. To 
decree the confiscation of whatever property existed in Paris 
belonging to the chief ministers at Versailles — Thiers, Favre, 
Picard, Dufaure, and Pothuau — and to declare these statesmen 
accused by the Commune was an easy task, and Rigault was 
entrusted with the execution of the mandate so far as concerned 
the material effects. But what to do with the federate army 
swarming in the streets 1 The Executive were not in accord on 
this question. There was the military and Comit^ Central ele- 
ment, Eudes, Bei^eret, and Duval, young and impetuous men, 
who demanded an instant march upon Versailles : the bat- 
talions were enthusiastic for it, and their wishes must be re- 
spected. On the other hand the civil element, composed of 
Lefran5ais, Tridon, Vaillant, Pyat, the first and last of whom 
were men of mature years and varied experience, counselled less 
hasty action. They said to the three militants : Reckon first 
your forces ; know what you have to dispose of, what arms, 
what stores, what accessories ; understand where reserve muni- 
tions are to be obtained ; make all preparations with care and 
thoroughness, then proceed to Versailles. These civilians were 
four against three — the majority, and they accordingly ordered 
the minority to carry out their commands.^ The Commission 
separated, after which the three generals made underhand efforts 
to win over to their views the two young civilians, Tridon and 
Vaillant. In this they eventually succeeded,^ whereupon, with- 
out consulting the other two members, an immediate march to 
Versailles was resolved upon. This was the easier of accom- 
plishment seeing that the Communal Delegate or official head 
of the War Department was Eudes, who had been appointed 
thereto only the day previously by a decree which also sup- 
pressed the position of Commander-in-Chief of the National 
Guards. The latter step was taken to avoid jealousy betwixt 
the various prominent Communal officers, several of whom con- 
sidered themselves qualified to act as supreme military chief. 

* Lefranqais, pp. 218, 219. ' Jbid,^ p. 223. 

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April 2nd, 1871 169 

Brunei, appointed General by the Comit^ Central on March 
24th, had adopted the title of "General-in-Chief," but his 
supremacy was short-lived, for he attempted to cancel an order 
which the Comit^ Central had transmitted to the chiefs of legion 
without his authority, and he was immediately divested of his 
office.^ If there was, therefore, any chief at all at this moment, 
it was Eudes, who combined Communal and Comit^ Central, 
civil and military authority, and with whom Bergeret, Duval, 
and other popular National Guard officers were in complete 
accord. Under these circumstances, and with the streets of 
Paris thronged by a mass of citizens eager to wreak vengeance 
upon their foe, a march upon Versailles was quickly realizable. 

Bergeret at once proceeded to Neuilly, where, the Versailles 
troops having retired, the Communists had recrossed the bridge. 
Presently a telegram was received at the H6tel de Ville from 
Louis F^lix Henri, a Communist staff colonel and a former 
military officer — whose services to the new cause had been of 
great value, stating that Bergeret himself was at Neuilly. No 
need for further alarm when Bergeret was in command ! Fede- 
rates who failed to perceive the grotesque flattery of the message 
were comforted with the thought that a great general was 
amongst them. 

The night was too near at hand to permit of anything being 
done that day, therefore the Champs Elys^es, the Boulevards, 
the Grande Avenue de Neuilly were turned into camps, bivouac 
fires were lit, food and wine consumed, and the dark hours 
passed away amidst sleeping, dozing, or talking, until the early 
break of the Monday's dawn gave the signal to march. 

Then the immense armed throng arose, shook it- 
self, and set off upon its journey, each battalion under 
the leader of its choice,* — this under Bergeret, that under Duval, 
others under Eudes or Flourens. They had their officers — 
again their own elect Orders were frequently given, but 
obedience was lacking, and the marching array was disorderly ; ^ 
entire battalions were still under the influence of the previous 
night's imbibing. 

An incident that occurred during the early morning illustrates 

* Rapport d* ensemble, P- 53- * La Virit^, p. 335. • Ibid., p. 336. 

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170 History of the Paris Comvzune ^1871 

the sort of discipline which prevailed. The chief of legion of 
the 17th arrondissement was one Louis Nathaniel Rossel, who 
had been a Captain of Engineers in the besieged army at Metz, 
had escaped from thence after the capitulation, was made 
Colonel by Gambetta, but reduced to his former rank by Thiers, 
in indignation at which he deserted the Government army and, 
on the 20th March, entered into Paris and offered his services to 
the Comit^ Central, who accepted them. Rossel was a man of 
capacity, ambitious and spirited, though, like so many Communal 
leaders, of immature age, being only twenty-eight years old. 

The troops under Rossel's direction had to march during 
the night from Paris to Courbevoie, there to join Bergeret and 
Flourens in the morning. On the way, a groundless alarm 
caused some of his men to fire their guns, recklessly wound- 
ing and killing some of their comrades ; then a battalion dis- 
covered it had had no cartridges served out, and for a long 
while it blocked the way in ill-humour ; many of the men were 
the worse for liquor. These facts presently induced Rossel, 
who, as a practical officer, knew the unreliability of such men 
for serious warfare, to sound a retreat. He was suspected 
of treachery and arrested by his subordinates, then by others 
released ; again arrested, and again released. A third time 
Rossel was arrested, and on this occasion he was taken back to 
the mairie of the 17th arrondissement, and thence to the H6tel 
de Ville ; at the latter place he was appreciated and under- 
stood, and was immediately and definitely liberated.* 

Such was the discipline prevalent throughout the Communal 
army. The officers whose military training had been the mush- 
room growth of six or seven months, were indulgent to their 
men and were therefore admired ; those who had served as 
soldiers for more than as many years had the greatest difficulty 
to procure anything like the obedience and order to which they 
had been accustomed ; they were often, as in Rossel's case, 
wrongly subjected to suspicion and insult. 

Nevertheless, if this huge camp of armed men caracoled in a 
loose rein and lacked the control of the bit, it supplied by its 
own superabundant enthusiasm the spur and the whip. The 

^ D'Esboeufs, pp. 52-5S. 

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ApTnl ird, 1871 17B 

federates were full of confidence and eagerness — ^both feelings, 
however, being somewhat due to reports which had been care- 
fully disseminated to the effect that the regular army was dis- 
inclined to fight and at heart wishful to join them ; also, that 
the fort Mont Val^rien, within range of which the bulk of the 
Communist forces must pass, was friendly towards them, or at 
the worst simply neutral. Felix Pyat was the chief authority 
for the first impression ; ^ as to the second, LuUier, before his 
arrest, had declared it* — Bergeret, even now, reaffirmed it,^ 
though both the Comit^ Central and the Commune knew that 
the guns of the fort had opened fire against them at Neuilly 
the day before. 

The army was formed into four divisions, the first, in order of 
position, being headed by Flourens, whose route to Versailles 
was to be to the north side of the fort Val^rien, passing Cour- 
bevoie, Nanterre, Reuil, and Bougival. Bergeret's was the 
second division, taking the east side of the fort, and passing 
Neuilly, Courbevoie, Puteaux, and Buzenval. Duval's was the 
third division, practically out of range of the fort, and taking a 
more southerly route, viA Sevres and Chaville. Southernmost 
of the four divisions was Eudes*, which was to go viA Fort Issy 
and Meudon. All were to unite at Versailles, and simultaneously 
attack the enemy there. The plan was Bergeret's. 

It was a little before seven o'clock in the morning when the 
first two divisions — which had made a junction at Courbevoie — 
separated and got fairly under way on their respective routes. 
Flourens* was nearly a mile away to the north side of the fort 
Val^rien ; Bergeret'^ about half a mile off on the southern 
side. The fort was absolutely silent and seemed lifeless. The 
troops of the second division marched on in a long, thin, but 
closely knit line in the best of spirits ; soon some thousands of 
them had passed the fort, whilst many more thousands were 

* Lissagaray's History^ p. 161. English edition. This is the only state- 
ment in Lissagaray's account which I have utilised. The whole of my work 
was written before I made any acquaintance with Lissagaray's, and after 
perusing the latter perhaps halfway through, and finding practically nothing 
within it but what I had in greater detail from other sources, I deemed it 
unnecessary to iinish reading it. 

' and • Lefran^ais, p. 221. La VcritL p. 336. 

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172 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSyi 

coming on. Suddenly two batteries of guns in the fort were 
unmasked, and a tremendous fire swept the mass of humanity 
below, in an instant cleaving the line in two and laying dead 
numbers of the unsuspecting federates. Shells burst amongst 
them, and the crackling mitrailleuses effected enormous destruc- 
tion before the surprised Communists could make any attempt 
to get out of the range of fire. Those who had passed the fort 
set off at a run — not for Versailles, but round about towards 
Flourens' route. The others behind it turned back and fled, 
shouting, " Treason ! treason ! " Bergeret, drawn in an open 
carriage by two horses, made some endeavours to stay the 
panic, but they were ineffectual, and, his horses getting shot, he 
also deemed it prudent to seek a place of safety. Thus ended 
the campaign of the second and most numerous division. 

The men of the first, under Flourens, were unmolested by 
the fort, but they heard the roar of its guns, and were greatly 
disquieted thereby. Before long some flying fugitives came 
upon them, and the disaster to Bergeret's division was made 
known. Flourens' men, straggling and scattered, hurried on, 
hoping to cross the Seine at Chatou, only to find on arrival 
there that the bridge had been cut Dismayed, incoherent, 
without leadership or discipline worthy of the names, the bat- 
talions rushed hither and thither, seizing every available path 
whereby to return to Paris, other than that which had brought 
them. Versailles troops, hitherto concealed in the fort and 
upon the heights, now emerged and pursued the discomfited 
Communists, taking several hundreds of them prisoners. Flou- 
rens was compelled to fly whither he could with only one officer, 
an Italian named Cypriani, to accompany him ; these two con- 
cealed themselves in a house at Reuil, from an upper window 
of which Flourens presently perceived a gendarme, who had 
tracked them to their refuge. Flourens fired, but the gendarme 
was not alone; his comrades entered the house and into the 
room where the two Communists were. Flourens shot at the 
first comer and wounded him, but the next instant the captain 
of the gendarmes, one Desmarest, with a single sword-stroke 
split Flourens* head in twain.^ To this quixotic revolutionist 

^ La Mort de Flourens^ par Auguste Hardy, p. 6. 

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Api'ii ird, 187 1 173; 

be paid the homage which is due to sincerity and to that devo- 
tion to an espoused cause which leads to and ends in death. 
Fiourens* companion, Cypriani, was wounded in the fray and 
taken prisoner. 

A few of the fugitives had managed to get across the river 
by means of boats. At a house in Chatou three of them were 
eating in fancied safety, when the Marquis de Galiifet and two 
squadrons of chasseurs suddenly pounced upon them. By this 
general's orders the unfortunate trio were immediately shot, as 
an example, he declared, which he hoped would be salutary.^ 

DuvaUs division had reached the heights of Meudon, and an 
advanced post even got to Chaville, within a mile or so of 
Versailles, but it and the main body were speedily encountered 
and driven back. The fighting, however, went on all day, and 
on the Communist side there was great loss. Many of the 
prisoners taken by the Government troops, being deserters from 
the regular army, or known to appertain to the criminal class,, 
were immediately shot.- 

Eudes' division had a similar experience to Duval's. Both 
divisions, at the fall of the day, were forced to take refuge 
either behind the extensive earthworks at Ch^tillon, which had 
been formed originally for service against the Prussians, or in 
the forts Issy and Vanves which were in the neighbourhood* 
These forts were found to be too inefficiently supplied with 
arms to be of any use save as a cover for a retreat^ The Ver- 
sailles troops were reinforced in the afternoon, but the augmen- 
tation came at too late an hour to be utilised with effect, and 
hostilities were consequently suspended until the next day. 
The Communist soldiers, commanded by Duval and Eudes, had 
fought with considerable courage and endurance, but the superior 
organization and training, the equal courage, and the sometimes 
ferocity of their opponents were elements which in every direc- 
tion told heavily against them. The supplies of provisions and 
war stores from Paris were also extremely defective, these 
necessities arriving either too late or at the wrong place.* 

The news of the disaster which had befallen Bei^eret's column 
arrived at the H6tel de Ville about nine o'clock, and several 

* Un Officiery pp. 227, 228. Lefran9ais, p. 215. 

' Un Offider, p. 130. ' and * Lefrangais, p. 222. 

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174 History of the Paris Commune of i^ji 

members of the Commune who were there at once went to the 
ramparts to endeavour to restore confidence and order in the 
ranks of the fugitive battalions — a work which was difficult of 
accomplishment. Later in the day the death — assassination it 
was called— of Flourens became known, and created a profound 
sensation. Nevertheless, lying reports of victories were received 
and propagated, and only those persons in official positions had 
any real idea of the state in which the federate army was. The 
Commune assembled during the day, and withdrew the military 
•commandments from Bergeret, Eudes, and Duval, for having 
•embarked, without authority, on such an enterprise, and a new 
delegate of war was appointed in place of Eudes. This was 
the Franco-American Cluseret, who at the time was at 
the War Office as Eudes' chief of staff. The three degraded 
-generals were also removed from the Executive Commission, on 
which they were replaced by Delescluze, Vermorel, and Cournet 
From this Commission, Lefrangais, disgusted at the deception 
practised on him by his colleagues, retired, and was replaced by 

The general diversion of attention to the military position 
outside the city profited Lullier by permitting him to escape 
from prison — an escape really connived at by the Commune, 
which was not yet without hope of turning Lullier's military 
capacity to account Lullier gathered a band of his adherents 
around him and remained in Paris, but he adopted at once a 
defiant and braggadocio attitude towards the Commune, and as 
a consequence any utilisation of his services by it was out of the 
question. At the time of Lullier's escape another leading 
Communist had just been imprisoned. This was Assi, a member 
of the Commune, friend of Bergeret, and occasionally chairman 
•of the Comit^ Central. His arrest was undertaken at the 
instigation of Rigault for no other reason than that he — Assi — 
had opposed any idea of marching upon Versailles, and also 
thought that the Commune was exceeding its functions.* The 
time for half-measures, in the Communal opinion, was gone, 
and those in favour of such could not obtain a fair hearing for 
their views, and even their personal liberty, as in this case, was 

' Lefranqais, pp. 223 and 224. * Du Camp, t. iii. p. 79. 

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April 4iA, 187 1 175 

Early in the morning of April 4th, the battle between the 
Versailles and the federate armies was resumed. Duval, with 
great energy, several times endeavoured to seize the plateau 
which crowned the village of Chatillon, but he was as often 
repulsed, and the artillery fire from the Versaillais told with 
terrible effect upon his men, the main body of whom retired 
from before it, leaving their leader, his staff, and about 1,500 
federates to be surrounded by the Government troops. The 
1,500 Communists, seeing the hopelessness of resistance, laid 
down their arms and were taken prisoners. At the Petit Bicetre, 
on the way to Versailles, to which place they were at once 
sent, they were met by General Vinoy, who asked if there were 
any chiefs amongst them. Duval at once stepped forward^ 
saying he commanded ; his action was followed by two under 
officers. Vinoy ordered a firing party to be formed, directed the 
three Communists to pass over towards a house, the front of 
which, singularly, bore the inscription "Duval, Horticulteur " ; 
they obeyed without hesitation, and placed themselves against 
the wall of the house ; the firing party followed, performed its 
duty, and the dead bodies of the three officers were thrown into 
a ditch that was near.^ The remainder of the prisoners were 
conducted to Versailles, where their arrival was hailed with 
much satisfaction, and their persons assailed with much abuse 
and contumely, repeated efforts being made by the populace 
to wreak summary vengeance upon them. 

The defeat of the federate forces was decisive and unqualified ; 
the dismay, the looseness of formation, the destroyal of all con- 
ceited notions of their own greatness and invincibility, were such 
that if Thiers had instructed his generals to march at once upon 
Paris, the city would have fallen an easy prey to him. Instead 
of doing this, he contented himself with maintaining his posi- 
tions in the suburbs, cannonading the western ramparts of Paris 
from Fort Val^rien, and husbanding his resources with the ki- 
tention of striking a final blow at a later date. Audacity is 
often mistaken for strength, but where there is strength, boldness 
increases it; it remains to be seen what became of Thiers' 
alternative of prudence. 

* La VMti, pp. 342-348. Un Officier, p. 133. 

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176 History of the Paris Cojnmune 0/ iSji 

At Paris the defeats became generally known, notwithstand- 
ing that the Commune suppressed three journals ^ which had 
been giving truthful accounts of the operations. Perverted 
versions of the fighting appeared in the Journal Officiel^ and 
the heroic deaths of Duval and his companions were again 
referred to as assassinations. Other papers revelled in the 
most vulgar language, expressive of the intense hatred towards 
the Versaillais which had now taken hold of the Communist 
breast. The members of the Commune, no less than their 
humbler followers, were stung with the defeats inflicted upon 
them at this first trial of strength, and were further maddened 
by the evident refusal of the Versaillais to hold sacred the lives 
of prisoners captured in combat. They could not yet chastise 
their foe, but they would intimidate him by a measure of 
retaliation which should force him to stay his hand. Rigault's 
anti-clerical vigour had already been productive of the im- 
prisonment of about a dozen priests, who were not of special 
eminence in their calling ; now, acting upon the instructions 
/of the Executive Commission, he seized the Archbishop of 
! Paris and his sister, Monseigneur and Mademoiselle Darboy; 
/ Monseigneur Surat, the Vicar-General of Paris ; the Abb6 
\ Deguerry, cur^ of La Madeleine, and other ecclesiastics of 
high standing — the most notable and beloved in Paris — and 
incarcerated them in the D6p6t, whence they were subsequently 
removed to Mazas prison. At the same time the houses of 
most of these priests were sacked. The arrests were made 
upon the flimsy pretext that the persons inculpated were op- 
posed to the Commune. The charge was perfectly true — the 
unfortunate priests had already every reason to be opposed to the 
new authorities. The real object, however, in arresting such im- 
portant personages was to keep them as hostages, whose lives 
could be sacrificed at any moment should the Versaillais 
continue to refuse the ordinary clemency of war to their 
prisoners. Archbishop Darboy, in particular, was seized as an 
equivalent to Blanqui, who was still in Thiers' hands, and over- 
tures were soon made to the latter for an exchange of these two 
individuals ; the Communists lacked a man of power to guide 

* Le Journal des Dibais^ Le Constitutionnely Paris- Journal. 

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April ^Ih, 1871 177 

them, and Blanqui was esteemed to be such and was earnestly 
wished for. Thiers, however, would not part with the revolu- 
tionary chief, even to place the Archbishop at liberty. 

Notwithstanding the civil warfare now actually 
opened, and despite the arrests of the priests, there 
were still in Paris men of position and intelligence who hankered 
after effecting a compromise between the combatants. Of 
these conciliators the principal were some of the mayors and 
deputies who had signed or had formally approved of the agree* 
ment made with the Comit6 Central ; they formed themselves 
into a league, with the title of The Republican Union for the 
Rights of Paris. A body of merchants, with a similar object in 
view, did likewise. The former group convoked a meeting at 
the Bourse for the 6th for the furtherance of their project, but it 
was promptly prohibited by the Commune. The latter declared 
that conciliation was treason ; more clear-sighted on this point 
than the well-intentioned but feeble would-be mediators, it 
knew that at Versailles there was no thought of concession, and 
that there were but two alternatives open to it — absolute sub- 
mission, or war to the end. The Commune had already gone 
too far, and the idea was too repugnant to it, to contemplate 
the former ; only the latter remained, and it, as all civil wars^ 
threatened to terminate, as it had begun, without mercy. The 
Commune was aware of the risks it ran, and accepted them. 
Neither should there be any doubt as to its determination to be 
quits with its adversary. Led by Rigault, Ferre, and Ranvier,* 
it formally declared by decree that any person suspected of com- 
plicity with the Versaillais would be immediately arrested and 
impugned before a special jury of accusation, which should state 
whether or not the prisoner was to be considered as a hostage ; 
those adjudged to be hostages would be liable to be shot, in 
the proportion of three to one, for every prisoner that was sum* 
marily shot by the Versaillais. The priests already arrested,, 
and others that came to be arrested day after day by the 
unremitting energy of unscrupulous Rigault, were detained as 
hostages clearly enough, though they were not, as the decree 
stipulated, brought within twenty-four hours before a jury to 

* Du Camp, t i. p. 75. 


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17^5 History of the Paris Commune of iSji 

.have the question of their liberty or detention decided. They 
were persons innocent of any crime whatever against the Com- 
mune, and their arrests were made in deBance of all modem 
civilized procedure, even as it exists in times of war. So 
strangely does the wheel of Destiny revolve, bringing in its 
course Injustice like a Nemesis. Often, in anterior periods, had 
ecclesiastical authorities perpetrated glaring acts of injustice 
and intolerance, causing the innocent to suffer, and blinding 
themselves by an infatuated zeal for the cause they represented ; 
now the wheel of Life has turned, and their successors are 
become innocent sufferers at the hands of men as frenzied and 
as intolerant as was ever priest or pope. Take heed, ye men 
of strong persuasions — which is naught but narrow-minded- 
ness — life is an equal balance, and it will have its measure for 
measure, if not in one age, in another. The intolerance of one 
sect is and shall ever be compensated by that of another. 
Priestly oppression has had its day, but the reverse has not yet 
come, as it will ; be assured that it will come. 

The arrests of the priests and the decree of the hostages 
decided several members of the Commune, who had with great 
diffidence participated thus far in its career, to sever their con- 
nection with it. These were Ranc, Ulysse Parent, Robinet, 
Lefbvre, Fruneau, and Goupil. They resigned ; their resigna- 
tions complete the list of d^missionnaires given on page 144. 
Ranc stated that he would continue to serve the Commune, 
though he re-entered the ranks. He was a man of some power, 
a friend of Gambetta, and had been, socially and politically, 
the most considerable personage in the Commune after the 
resignation of Tirard. His withdrawal and that of the other 
five members lessened whatever moral strength appertained 
to the Commune by removing from it its most moderate and 
sensible elements. On the other hand, these latter-date d6- 
missionnaires at best were men who did not fully know their 
own minds; they were timid, fearful, and irresolute. The 
Commune needed not such, and, by their abandonment of its 
conclaves, it gained in homogeneity, though it was, alas! far 
from possessing unity. Another member, F61ix Pyat, one of 
the most violently aggressive and revolutionary, equally cowardly 
and despicable, anxious above all things not to jeopardize his 

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April $th, 1871 179 

safety, had some days before wished to leave Paris,^ so as to 
€scape from the responsibility for actions which he, as much as 
any one, had contributed to produce. His colleagues, however, 
suspected his poltroonery, and refused to permit his departure. 

Not only in the high places of the Commune was there 
trepidation at the turn which affairs had taken. There was 
great eagerness among the federates to relinquish the duties 
of soldier, which had so suddenly become dangerous, and 
lacked the halo of success. The desertion of their cause was 
unexpectedly facilitated by an order which Cluseret, the new 
Delegate of War, had promulgated immediately upon his 
accession to that post. This was that all unmarried men, aged 
from seventeen to thirty-five, should form part of the battalions ; 
there followed a rapid voluntary elimination of the married 
and the elder men from the ranks, who were glad to seize such 
an opportunity for withdrawing. The order was speedily re- 
placed by another, altering the limit of age from nineteen to 
forty, and applying to married as well as unmarried men. But 
the depletion of the force had taken place, and it was impos- 
sible to secure the return of all who had left it Even many 
who were inside the limits of both these orders contrived 
secretly to evade service. 

The defeats of the 3rd and 4th had caused the Commune to 
alter its military plans ; it no longer meditated marching upon 
Versailles, or even engaging the regular troops that were en- 
camped in the suburbs nearer Paris. Cluseret opined that 
Paris was impregnable — ^had it not withstood the Prussians ? — 
and the Executive Commission agreed with him ; therefore 
they would remain on the defensive, they would drill and 
reorganize their forces, and meanwhile solicit aid from the 
great republican towns of France, which were known to have 
a kindred feeling for them. Already Amouroux, one of their 
number, had been sent to assist in the movement at Marseilles ; 
but his utility at that famous town was slight, and the revolution 
there had been quelled a few days after his arrival. From 
Marseilles there was little to hope for; there still remained 
the other large industrial towns, and Paschal Grousset, whose 

' Lefran<jais, p. 251. 

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i8o History of the Paris Commune of i^jt 

oiSce of Foreign Affairs was practically a sinecure — the Com- 
mune having no relations with exterior powers, save the very 
undiplomatic connection with the Versaillais — occupied himself 
in endeavouring to establish communications with the provincial 
revolutionary centres, to induce their inhabitants to rise against 
the National Assembly, and to support Paris: occupation 
which, it may at once be said, was of barren result, thanks to 
the watchful and now unhesitating energy of Thiers. 

The latter was aided in his campaign against the capital by 
the Communal decision to remain on the defensive. It per- 
mitted him to consolidate and reinforce his troops, to mature 
his designs without serious disturbance, and left him at liberty 
to strike a blow at his own time. The federates had rebuilt 
the barricades on the bridge of Neuilly, and were installed there 
in such force as Bergeret, who still commanded, considered 
sufficient to withstand any attack. These barricades the Ver- 
saillais determined to overthrow once for all, and on the 7th,. 
. Good Friday, the bridge was once more attacked. The federates 
made a bold defence of their positions, but they were out- 
numbered, overpowered, and forced back upon the fortifications, 
of Paris. The latter were shelled by the guns of Fort Val^rien ; 
a battery of guns was also erected on the bridge, and by it 
the whole avenue to Paris was swept, devastating the houses,, 
and rendering it impossible for the Communists to secure any 
shelter whereby to cover a readvance. As a result of this 
action the Versailles troops took up a nearer position to the 
city, and did not relinquish it Apparently because of the 
over-confidence which had resulted in failure to maintain his 
positions at Neuilly, Bergeret was removed from his command. 
His staff protested ; Bergeret refused to be removed, and he 
was therefore arrested. Underneath this arrest there lay more 
than was generally known. Bergeret, a man full of ignorant 
egotism, without an atom of ability, had ambitious ideas in- 
consistent with loyalty to the Commune. These were knowa 
to Cluseret and the Executive Commission, and they seized 
upon the Neuilly repulse as a convenient pretext for putting 
the conceited general out of the way.* 

* Dals^me, pp. 51, 52. 

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April ()tk, 1871 181 

Though this disputer of authority with the Commune was 
somewhat easily displaced, it was not so with another, which 
worked more insidiously and effectively than vulgar, unastute 
Bergeret. The Comity Central, controlled chiefly by Edouard 
Moreau, a man of intelligence, and whose more active members 
were G. Arnold, Boursier, Josselyn, Piat, Lisbonne, and Lacord, 
still maintained its influence over the federates, partly through 
being, like them, unmilitary and also by indulgently pandering 
to their wishes, the result being that little could be done by 
the Commune save what it agreed to. It had even, unasked, 
sent a delegation to the Ministry of War, to assist in the 
official transactions of that department, and neither Cluseret 
nor his chief of staff, Rossel, nor the Commune Executive, 
•dared to provoke an open conflict with the Comit^ by 
forcibly repelling its unwelcome representatives. The Comit^ 
further interfered with the exaction of rigorous discipline, which 
Cluseret and Rossel knew to be essential if a fighting force of 
any account were to be obtained from the disorganized and 
disobedient federates. In the Commune the Comitd Central 
had many friends amongst the Internationalists, whilst there 
was so little real unity in the other members of that body, and 
so little general comprehension of the necessity of such quali- 
ties as self-sacrifice, subordination, consolidation of and respect 
for authority, that it would have been in the highest degree 
unlikely that any emphatic condemnation of the Comit^ could 
have been obtained from it. Thus affairs went on, the Com- 
mune ordering and the Comit^ Central, in so far as the federates 
were concerned, controlling ; this course of conduct being sub- 
ject only to two modifying influences : Parisian public opinion, 
and the undoubted fact that both authorities were in pursuit of 
one great object — the defeat of the Versaillais. 

The position of commander in the west, rendered vacant by 
the imprisonment of Bergeret, was conferred upon one of the 
many foreign officers that were in the Communal army. This 
was a Pole named Dombrowski, forty-five years of age. He 
had taken part in the Polish insurrection of 1863, and, during 
the late siege of Paris, had distinguished himself to Socialistic 
€yes by his military criticism of General Trochu's efforts to 
raise the siege, for which performance he was imprisoned by the 

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1 82 History of the Paris Commune of iSji 

Government of the National Defence. That he had militaiy 
capacity was as undoubted as that he was courageous and 
active, and his promotion to what was the principal military 
command in the federate forces was well merited. 

There were many Poles besides Dombrowski in the Com- 
munal ranks; they were all men of much better calibre and 
knowledge of warfare than the members of the Comitd Central, 
and their services generally were appreciated, though occasion- 
ally the federates raised a brief outcry against the employment 
of foreigners in responsible positions. The Communal leaders, 
however, advocated the admission of foreigners to their service^ 
not merely because of their utility, but on the higher theoretical 
ground that the Commune was a Universal Republic which 
recognised no distinction of country or race. The Commune^ 
nevertheless, drew a very firm line against religions and adverse 
politics, so that its professed universality was never anything 
but an empty sound. 

Whilst the combatants, each for similar reasons, re- 
mained on the defensive, and the only actual fighting 
was of a skirmishing nature in the west at Neuilly, and, occa- 
sionally, in the vicinity of the forts in the south — to the com- 
mand of which Eudes had been appointed — the Commune 
busied itself in putting into practice, as far as it could, some of 
the principles which, in times of less responsibility, its members 
had pinned their faith to. The widows and children of the 
federates who had been killed in the recent fighting demanded 
consideration. They were without resources ; it was fitting that 
they should be provided for. A decree was voted, unanimously 
in this instance, giving to the widows a pension of 600 francs 
(;f 24) per year ; to each of the children under eighteen years, 
I franc per day (^14 12s, per year), also pensions to other 
dependent relatives of the deceased.* This was a generous 
measure, and it largely helped to prevent the disintegration 
going on in the battalions. There was a feature in this decree^ 
however, that, as emanating from any considerable authority, 
was absolutely novel in Christian lands. "Widow" signified 
the wife who had been duly married, and also the woman who 
had lived with the deceased without the sanction conveyed by 

* Lefrangais, p. 244. 

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April loth, 187 1 183 

legal or ecclesiastical ceremony — children of both kinds of 
unions were classed together as equal. The social habits of the / \ 
Parisian people were thus broadly indicated, and " Free love " 
received a civic sanction. There were political as well as 
abstract reasons for this course. It was essential to avoid 
offending the numbers of National Guards and women who 
lived together without marriage, and desirable also to distribute 
relief without discriminating in such a matter — and how could 
one discriminate when there was equal poverty and had been 
equal reliance upon the unfortunate dead ? LEhe abstract in- # 
fluence was the wish to strike a blow at religion, its ceremonies ^^ 
and its intrusions into all the affairs of life.^ 

The existing members of the Commune, without exception, 
were anti-religious, most of them intelligently so — convinced 
that a belief in the supernatural is not in accordance with 
modern knowledge, and, if not, religions which are professedly 
revealed must be untrue, and therefore of a baneful influence. 
By which logical considerations the Commune was moved to 
condemn and, as far as it could, to prohibit religious exercises 
and forms. It thought it was advancing the general welfare — ix 
ridding the world of superstition and inaugurating, for a second 
time and permanently, an Age of Reason. It specially desired 
that children should be educated only in regard to matters of 
fact, and not in philosophical and doctrinal subjects, so that 
when the young mind became mature, it might choose for itself 
what its beliefs should be. Pursuant to this idea, the Commune 
expelled from many schools the teachers of religion, and re- 
moved objects that recalled theological dogmas. Its opinion of 
the clergy generally was that they were " accomplices of the 
crimes of monarchy against liberty," and some adherents of the 
Commune hesitated not to stigmatise them as bandits and 

Raoul Rigault, the most zealous of secular zealots, experienced 
no compunctions or qualms when arresting priests and Church 
functionaries — which arrests continued, each day adding to the 
number of ecclesiastics in prison. Who could hope for con- 
sideration when the Archbishop had been arrested? Neither 
were the churches spared whose ministers had been imprisoned. 
* /> 18 Mars^ pp. 291, 292. 

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184 History of ttie Paris Commune 0/ 1S71 

They were taken possession of by an irreverent populace ; the 
reh'gious adornments were torn, broken, or disfigured; plate 
I and valuables were confiscated to the use of the Commune; 
clubs were formed within them, and were frequented largely by 
women, who were often addressed from the pulpit by members 
of their own sex, of whom Louise Michel and Paule Minck 
were the most widely known ; the people generally went to 
these churches in their ordinary attire and with perhaps less 
than their ordinary decency of behaviour — they ate, drank, 
smoked, spat, shouted, laughed, vulgarly discussed events, and 
conducted themselves with the utmost uproariousness and dis- 
regard for the associations of the buildings they had invaded. 
These proceedings were sanctioned by the Commune, notwith- 
standing that it had again published a declaration to the effect 
that it absolutely guaranteed individual liberty and liberty of 
conscience. So inflated do some persons become with the 
names of grand things, that they mistake the appellation for 
the thing itself! 

Religion was not the only nightmare upon the 
Communal brain — Napoleonism was another. The 
revolution of the 4th September had swept away the Imperial 
dynasty and most of its relics, but there still remained one 
gigantic monument in Paris testifying to its former existence 
and greatness; this was the immense column, 152 feet high, in 
the Place Venddme, which had been erected to the glory of the 
grand army of Napoleon I. The Commune had virtually decided 
to uproot the Venddme column on April 6th, whilst smarting 
under the sting of the defeats inflicted upon it by the Versailles 
troops, whom it stigmatised as the slaves and emissaries of a 
despotic monarchy, and therefore closely allied to an Imperial 
despotism. This decision was now publicly announced. So 
gigantic an act of suicidal vandalism had perhaps never been 
committed in the world's history, but it is due to the Commune 
to state that it did not originate the idea. That discredit re- 
mounts to the year 1848, and to that respectable but unpractical 
theorist, Comte ; it had been revived quite recently by other 
respectables, of whom one was the minister Picard ; another 
was a painter named Courbet, whose artistic sympathies were 
not repugnant to the suggested destruction of an artistic work ; 


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April I2tk, 1871 185 

a third was the leading writer of a very unrevolutionary paper, 
the Journal des Dubois} These patriotic people evolved their 
benign aspirations shortly after the deposition of Napoleon III., 
and it has been seen that the members of the Government 
of the National Defence were not superior to sanctioning a 
detestable prejudice, by themselves overthrowing and casting 
into the river one Napoleonic statue, whilst two others were, 
under their auspices, removed from their places and put away. 
Though these statues were of trivial size compared to the huge 
column of the Place Venddme, the principle involved was the 
same, and, much as the Commune desired to take to itself 
all the dishonour, which it thought to be honour, of initiating 
an entirely new line of action, it was merely a copyist on a 
<laring scale. The decree for the demolition of the Venddme 
column was signed on behalf of the Commune by Fdix Pyat. 
It was read generally with incredulity ; the anti-Communists 
felt sure that the speedy entrance of the Versailles army 
into Paris would prevent the possibility of putting it into 

The Government troops were now placed under the supreme 
command of Marshal Macmahon, who, on April nth, had a 
total force of about 110,000 men, including therein a large 
cavalry force. His chief generals at this date were Ladmirault, 
De Cissey, Vinoy, and Du Barail, each in command of an army 
corps. The plan of operations which Macmahon laid out for 
accomplishment consisted in seizing first the Fort Issy, which 
commanded the entrance into Paris by the gate Point du Jour, 
and then to force an entrance through the latter.* Here at 
once is seen the folly which Thiers committed in evacuating all 
the forts, which, instead of being auxiliaries of considerable 
power, were become active and weighty combatants to be 
subdued. The gate Point du Jour was on the north bank of the 
Seine, in a neighbourhood (Passy) friendly disposed towards the 
Government, easy of access from the outside, and close to the 
sheltering woods of Boulogne. The bulk of Macmahon's army 
was intended for service in this direction. A portion of his 
forces were, however, retained further north, at Neuilly and 

* Larousse. ^ Macmahon, p. 3. 

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i86 History of the Paris Commune t?/" 1871 

Courbevoie, where, on the Communist side, Dombrowski com- 
manded. The Polish general stubbornly held his position 
against the regular troops, though he was being gradually forced 
to retire nearer to Paris. 

The Commune anticipated that the eventual main attack 
would be made upon the western side of the city, though it 
knew not the precise point at which it would come. It erected 
batteries of guns in that quarter, by which to vanquish their foe,, 
should he succeed in forcing an entrance. It also meditated 
forming a second line of defence inside the ramparts by means 
of barricades — it had a Commission of Barricades, over which 
Rossel or Cluseret presided, largely for this purpose. It even, 
thought of undermining the streets near the fortifications with 
explosives and firing them by electric current,* but its scientific 
knowledge was at fault and the design ever remained in an 
embryo stage. There was, however, a Scientific Delegation of 
the Commune, the head of which was Parisel ; it investigated 
the composition of explosives, and called to its aid a noted 
chemical expert named Borme, who, devoted to the Versailles 
cause, quietly, though not without danger to himself, foiled the 
attempts made by his Communist employers to obtain a highly 
explosive compound,^ There were other adherents of the 
Government in Paris, secretly serving it whilst professing ta 
serve the Commune. One, De Montaut, was the friend of 
Urbain, the member of the Commune, to whose intermediation 
he on several occasions owed his life — for the avocation of spy 
in the midst of an enemy is ever hazardous. Thiers had many 
emissaries in Paris, who kept him informed of all that occurred, 
and who made repeated efforts to bribe Communal officials, sa 
as to facilitate an entrance into Paris by surprise — a project that 
was greatly encouraged at Versailles. Money was disbursed or 
promised freely; extensive, sometimes "full," powers were 
given to various officers who thought themselves able to circum- 
vent the Commune in its lair. Plans were designed with a 
looseness and haste which augured ill for their success, and, as a 
result, the National Guards in Paris who remained faithful to 
the Government, were distributed under almost multitudinous 

* Du Camp, t. iv. pp. 220, 221. De la Brug^re, p. 155. * Ibid.y p. 157- 

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April \2thy 1871 187^ 

clandestine commands, and not a tithe of them knew what the 
others were doing.* The Commune also had its spies, who were 
under Rigault's direction, and by means of them various minor 
plots and intrigues were intercepted and nipped in the bud. 

Rigault's department of Police was, apart from the actual 
conduct of the war, the most active and the most important 
under the Commune. There were so many suspicious per- 
sons to watch, antagonistic ones to arrest, and perquisitions to 
make ! Rigault could imprison almost whom he willed. A 
well-known Mexican banker, called Jecker, injudiciously went 
to the Prefecture of Police to obtain, under a false name, a 
passport wherewith to leave the city. He was recognised, 
and Rigault immediately ordered his arrest. That was on 
the loth April. On the 13th, Gustave Chaudey, journalist and 
former deputy mayor of Paris, was also arrested. Chaudey was 
charged with having ordered the fire upon the people from 
the windows of the H6tel de Ville on January 22nd. He was 
imprisoned as an ordinary criminal, which meant that even 
less consideration would be shown to him than was shown 
to the hostages. His arrest was directly due to the malevolence 
of the Communist journal Le Pkre Dticliine^ edited by Eugene 
Vermesch, which revived the false charge against Chaudey and 
demanded his incarceration. Other Communist papers also 
hounded on their leaders to adopt extreme measures, utterly 
regardless of consequences or of justice, excepting that to their 
jaundiced and purblind sight, whatever they advocated might 
seem to be just. The Mot d'Ordre^ Rochefort's organ, was in- 
cessant in pointing out houses and establishments where perqui- 
sitions should be made. The Cri du Peuple (Jules Vall^) was 
like a hungry hyaena, thirsting for the blood of the Versaillais ; 
and the Pere Due/tine was equally unrelenting, and lashed itself 
into a frenzied advocacy of intolerance. These papers were 
widely read by the federates, and had an unmistakable influence 
upon them. The population of Paris at this period was largely 
composed of ill-educated and unreflecting people, who had suf- 
fered enough real personal and national wrongs to create hatred 
against the Versaillais, and whose greatest fault was a too ready 

* Dals^me, throughout. 

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1 88 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

acceptance of dangerous opinions and counsels, from men who 
had ever rebelled against authority that was not their own. The 
ill example set by the Commune in making unjustifiable arrests 
and perquisitions was followed in many quarters of the city by 
persons of lower grade. The federates were armed — resistance 
to their demands was folly, and they had their way, supple- 
menting their more legitimate income by extortions of wine, 
food, and clothes, whenever the officer commanding thought 
necessary. Some over-active subordinates also made arrests, 
generally of former gendarmes, sometimes of spies or refrac- 
tories, and, in one case, of a batch of priests. The prisoners 
thus brought to Rigault were never straightway set at liberty, 
and thus the eager enthusiasts in the Communal cause were 
encouraged to act upon their own authority, and to look to the 
Commune merely for its official sanction to accomplished facts. 
The batch of priests referred to were arrested the same day 
as Chaudey. They belonged to the Convent of Picpus, situate in 
the east end of Paris. The original mover in this matter was 
one Fenouillat, who was commonly called Philippe, which was 
one of his christian names. Philippe was the chief of legion of 
the 1 2th arrondissement, and upon his own initiative he sur- 
rounded the Picpus Convent and searched it The convent 
was composed of two adjacent but distinct buildings, one for the 
monks and the other for the nuns — a conjunction which less 
acrid beings than was Philippe would be disposed to consider of 
a suspicious character. The priests, to the number of thirteen, 
were arrested and at once removed ; the search in their building 
[was productive of little of interest. In the nuns' habitation, 
} however, various discoveries were made, the rumour of which 
I presently resounded throughout the city. Parts of human 
I skeletons were found, as well as instruments alleged to be for 
< torture, and others said to be for the procuration of abortion. 
Of even worse signification were three females, who were in a 
' state of mental derangement, confined in cage-like huts. These 
' things were considered by the federates, by Rigault, and by 
Protot, the Minister of Justice, who personally came to examine 
into them, to prove beyond a doubt that the monks and nuns 
were guilty of immoral practices, and resorted to abortion and 
secret burials to prevent discovery ; that not only were tortures 

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April \ithy 187 1 189 

employed, but also forcible violation of women, and furthermore,, 
that persons were kept imprisoned within the convent walls 
under conditions so grievous that they became insane. There- 
upon the federate population of Paris became animated with 
intense indignation against the priesthood, and religions and 
their devotees fared even worse than before. That portion of 
the people which was not revolutionary but reactionary — an 
incorrect designation — felt that the tales of the Picpus atrocities 
were false ; but, at the moment, it was impossible either con- 
clusively to refute them or even to obtain a calm hearing for 
what might be urged against their credibility. The explanations 
given of the various discoveries were that the skeleton bones 
were remains from the convent burying ground, were at least 
a hundred years old, and had appertained to adults who had 
died naturally ; that the instruments were for legitimate sur- 
gical and therapeutic purposes only, the inmates of the con- 
vent ministering to the infirm and deformed ; finally, that the 
three crazy women had been idiots when received into the 
convent, and were maintained in a manner medically suited to 
their condition. The absolute truth or untruth of all the 
federates' contentions has never been determined, though some 
of them were undoubtedly the product of malignancy, and were 
erroneous. The main facts to remember are, that thirteen 
Picpus priests were imprisoned, and that federate Paris was 
convinced they had been horrible criminals. 

On the same day that the Picpus Convent was surrounded, 
the safety of the Bank of France was menaced, in a manner 
more threatening than hitherto. The Commune had found 
official documents evidencing that the Bank held the Crown 
diamonds, which were worth an immense sum of money. What 
belonged to the Crown, belongs now to the nation, or to Paris,, 
thought the Commune; we must have those diamonds. It 
sends Jourde, Varlin, Amouroux — who had returned from 
Marseilles — and Beslay, supported by a strong force of feder- 
ates, to demand that the diamonds be given up. The Bank 
replies it has not got them, and is then shown the official 
documents, which prove, as emphatically as paper can, that the 
diamonds are there. The Bank's sincerity is suspected, alter- 
cation and threatening murmurs break out from the federates,. 

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fgo History of the Paris Commune of i9>'ji 

and there is no knowing what terrible calamity may happen. 
The diamonds — where are they ? Have they been secretly 
removed beyond the Commune's reach ? By dint of much per- 
suasion and assistance from Beslay, it is eventually agreed to 
wait until the next day, and in the meanwhile to communicate 
with Versailles, and ascertain if it knows where the precious 
jewels are. Thus is the danger averted, and on the morrow it 
is discovered that the diamonds had been sent out of Paris long 
before the Communal era, to place them out of the way of the 
Prussians. The explanation is satisfactory, the Commune is 
appeased, and the Bank's position continues intact^ 

Up to this date the sittings of the Communal body, in accord- 
ance with their original resolution, had not been officially re- 
ported. Accounts, however, which often varied with one another, 
and which made public the existence of personal animosities 
and amenities within the supposed secret conclave, had appeared 
in some of the revolutionary papers. Publicity, therefore, having 
been found to be inevitable, was at last officially recognised, to 
the extent of declaring that reports of the sittings should in 
future be published in the Journal OfficieL These reports were 
much condensed, and they frequently glossed over or omitted 
altogether "scenes" and language which it was deemed im- 
politic to reproduce. The Commune, moreover, manifested a 
liking for resolving itself into a secret committee whenever any- 
thing was to be discussed relative to the military situation; on 
such occasions the reports abruptly terminated. The public was 
never admitted into any of the sittings. The first sitting officially 
reported was that of April 13th; among the members present was 
Assi, who had been imprisoned on the ist, and was liberated on 
the nth.* The reasons for his release were twofold : ist, there 
had never been any sufficient cause for imprisoning him ; and, 
2nd, the Commune was on the eve of applying for fresh sanction 
and support from the Paris electorate. The resignations of 
the twenty-one members of the d^missionnaire class ; the seven 
duplicate elections ; an error made in regard to the 19th arron- 
dissement, by which it had been deprived of a representative 
that was its due, and the deaths of Flourens and Duval, had 

* Du Camp, t. iii. p. 196. * Ibid,, t. i. p. 80. 

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April \\th, 1871 191 

rendered thirty-one Communal seats vacant. The elections to 
fill up the vacancies had been postponed from time to time, 
owing to the unanticipated defeats which the federate army had 
sustained ; they were now fixed to take place on Sunday, April 
1 6th, and were eventually held on that day. 

The Commune was in bad odour with the more reputable por- 
tion of the population, owing to the numerous summary arrests 
and perquisitions : in view of the elections, it announced that the 
arrests would be controlled, and Assi, who had some following 
amongst the working classes, was released. The announcement 
referring to the arrests was not made in good faith, but merely 
to serve political ends. Unauthorized perquisitions by federates 
were made to such an extent that a decree was issued by Vermorel 
prohibiting them, and threatening with imprisonment those who 
participated in them ; this had followed on an order from the 
Director of the Intendance prohibiting the requisition of wines 
^which had been without effect^ Thiers' house in Paris was 
searched, and his papers seized ; the Marquis de Gallifet's house 
also, and seizures made there ; these were both on April 14th. 
As to the arrests, so little was the promised control realized, 
that, on the day of the elections, one vigorous Communist, 
Le Moussu, a friend of Rigault's, but acting without instructions, 
closed most of the churches in Montmartre, and arrested num- 
bers of their clergy. His deeds were sanctioned and confirmed 
by the Commune. At one church, which had been forcibly 
occupied, even a funeral cortege was refused admittance.* Re- 
ligious liberty had become so precarious under this brief reign 
of the would-be Universal Republic, that people who would 
have gone to church were afraid to do so ; so many priests had 
been heedlessly imprisoned, that others might be excused for ] 
wishing to avoid a similar fate; many churches were without / 
ministrants, and thus throughout almost the whole of the I 
immense city there was a suspension of religious services. The ^ 
day was inauspicious in another sense. A party of federates, 
acting, as was customary, on their own initiative, had invaded 
the Belgian Consulate, made perquisitions, and even organized 
a ball within it' Had it been in any other house, the event 

' Du Camp, t. iv. pp. 1 19, 140. * Ibid,^ t iv. p. 197. 

* Journal Officiely April i8th. 

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192 History of the Paris Commune ^1871 

would have passed without reprimand from the Commune ; as 
it appertained to a foreign power, an immediate redress was 
undertaken, and an apology given. 

Such were the events, and such the Sunday on which the 
supplementary elections to the Commune were held. 

There was amongst the electorate no eagerness to vote, 
amongst the prominent revolutionists no anxiety to stand as 
candidates — for several of the vacancies there were, in fact, no 
candidates. Those who were voted for, excepting Garibaldi, were 
already in the thick of the Communal fray, and merely emerged 
a little more into public notice. The total number of voters was 
so small — about one-fifth of the whole, there being in several 
instances less than the prescribed eighth — ^that the Commune 
was placed in a dilemma. The conservative instinct in humanity 
is too strong to be easily cast aside, either at the dictates of 
reason or of expedience, and the Commune, notwithstanding its 
self-elevation above anterior laws, and its precedent validation 
of elections that were not in accordance with those laws, could 
not bring itself quickly or unaninwusly to validate those of the 
present series that were under the eighth. There were only 
eleven elections which were beyond dispute, though even these 
were barely above the required eighth ; the rest were consider- 
ably below. The Commune, by a majority of thirteen out of 
thirty-nine members, decided to validate all elections where 
a simple majority of recorded votes had been obtained. It is 
interesting to know who these thirty-nine Communists were, 
and how they voted on this question, for it broadly shows who 
were inclined to act with the strong hand, and who with some 
regard to legality. 

Voted for : Allix, Amouroux, Ant Amaud, Babick, Billioray, 
Blanchet, Champy, E. Clement, Delescluze, Demay, Dereure, 
Frankel, Gambon, Paschal Grousset, Jourde, Ledroyt, Martelet, 
Malon, Meillet, Protot, Ranvier, R^g^re, Rigault, Urbain, Vail- 
lant, and Varlin — 26. Against : Arthur Arnould, Avrial, 
Beslay, Cl^mence, V. Clement, G^resme, Langevin, Lefran9ais, 
Miot, Rastoul, Vall^s, Verdure, Vermorel — 13. 

Upon the principle thus sanctioned the following were 
elected : V^sinier, Cluseret (twice elected), Pillot, Andrieu, 
Pottier, Serailler, Durand, Johannard, Courbet, Rogeard, 

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April I J tk, 187 1 193 

Sicard, Briosne, Philippe (Fenouillat), Lonclas, Longuet, A. 
Dupont, G. Arnold, Menotti Garibaldi, Viard, and Trinquet — 
twenty persons, of whom Garibaldi, Rogeard, and Briosne 
never accepted their respective elections ; therefore the real 
addition to the Commune was seventeen persons, bringing up 
the available total of that body to seventy-nine. Rogeard and 
Briosne were editors of F61ix Pyat*s paper, Le Vengeur, and 
their refusal to accept a seat in the Commune was probably 
due to Pyat's influence. 

Of the seventeen new members there pertained to the Comiti 
Central^ G. Arnold, Pottier, Viard ; Committee of the twenty arron- 
dissementSy A Dupont, Cluseret, Johannard, Longuet, Pillot, 
Sicard ; Journalists^ Vdsinier, Andrieu, Longuet ; Speakers at 
Club and Public Meetings, Trinquet, Durand, Serailler, Philippe, 
Lonclas. Serailler, Johannard, Durand, and Pottier also be- 
longed to the Internationalist Associationu 

Courbet was the painter already referred to in connection 
with the Vend6me column. He was a man of supreme vanity 
and sententiousness, of some ability as an artist, but devoid of 
imaginative power and refinement. There was another painter 
in the Commune — Billioray. 

The results of these elections, and especially the small number 
of voters, afforded great satisfaction to Thiers and his entourage 
at Versailles, It was evident that the people of Paris generally 
did not support the Commune now, though they had un- 
doubtedly done so on March 26th. Notwithstanding this com- 
parative certainty before him, Thiers delayed making a decided 
attack upon the city because he was still not confident of possess- 
ing an irresistible army, and, ever cautious, he temporised until 
additional troops should have arrived wherewith to increase the 
force already under Macmahon's command. Thiers was hope- 
ful also — these elections seemed to support the idea — that the 
longer the final struggle was delayed the weaker the Commune 
would become, and the easier and with less bloodshed vanquished. 
The Versailles army was not, however, passive. It dug trenches 
at Chitillon, and erected batteries to play upon the forts ; the 
telegraph lines and the Orleans railway were cut, and offensive 
preparations so far advanced in the southern region that the 
Communal authorities ordered all the gates and roads on that 


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194 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSyi 

side of the river to be permanently closed. At the northern 
side a point of vantage, the Chateau de B6con, near Courbevoie, 
was seized on April 17th by the Versaillais ; it was immediately 
placed in a state of defence, and batteries erected in the 

These and other slight engagements, not followed by any 
definite result, had put the Communists upon their mettle, and, 
by that best of all teachers, experience, had produced in them 
greater coherence and stability. The swift punishment inflicted 
upon Duval, Flourens, and others — the terrible and not wholly 
untrue reports which arrived as to the complete heartlessness 
with which their comrade-prisoners were being treated by the 
Versaillais — a recognition of the fact that there was an end to 
the desertions of the regular soldiers, that there was no longer 
a raising of butt ends in the air and no more cries of frater- 
nity and accord, coupled with the violent and unscrupulous 
language of their leaders, who knew that only by a decisive 
Communist victory could their own lives be rendered safe : all 
conduced to form in the federate ranks an envenomed hatred of 
the Versaillais, which developed as time wore on and which was 
met by a corresponding animosity from their foe. Each to the 
other was held up as a trampler on the rights and liberties of 
the people, and every opprobrious term that a heated and 
malignant imagination could bring forth was utilised by both 
parties, wherewith to carry scorn, scourge, and ridicule. 

The uncompromising spirit that animated the combatants 
was shown by the contempt thrown upon the efforts of the 
Conciliators both at Versailles and at the H6tel de Ville. 
Delegates of the Peace Unions were indeed received at both 
places, but Thiers was insistent upon the Commune yielding up 
its pretensions and laying down its arms, whilst the Commune, 
by means of its official journal, merely stated that it had no 
answer to make to their representations. 

Meanwhile the Commune, amidst the confusion of war, the 
arrests and perquisitions, the dishevelled condition of the 
administrations and a fresh suppression of four journals,^ 
attempted to realize one more of its political ideals. On April 

* 1 8th April : /> Sot'r, La Cloche^ L Opinion Nationally Le Bien Public, 

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April i^th, 1 87 1 195 

17th it decreed that the workshops which had been temporarily 
abandoned (owing either to the siege or to the Commune) 
should be handed over to the workmen's co-operative societies 
for their common benefit It was a step towards another 
socialistic goal — property to belong to the State and not to the 
individual. There again the Commune took no heed of the 
multitude of difficulties which would beset the rational prose- 
cution of such a plan— if it can be rationally pursued. The 
entire civilized social structure, which, though only a mental 
edifice, is more durable, more valuable, more strong than all 
the material structures which man has made, rests upon the 
individual possession of property. The day may come when 
this condition of things will be reversed, but the reversal cannot 
be accomplished in a few hours, nor a year, nor perhaps a 
century. Great changes, whatever may be their nature, to be 
safe and reliable, must and will be of slow progress — exceedingly 
slow, compared to the span of life. The Commune was ignorant 
of such truths. 

The practical result of the decree anent the abandoned work- 
shops was of slight account, for pressing military requirements 
prevented the full execution of it Cluseret's administration of 
the War Department was being adversely commented upon. 
The federate forces were being slowly, yet it seemed surely, 
thrown back. There were no gains to act as a set off to their 
losses. The reorganization still left many grievous faults un- 
remedied, the commissariat and the war supplies being ex- 
tremely defective. Moreover, bodies of armed men were formed 
without authorization, and appeared more terrorising in manner 
than the ordinary battalions. There were "Avengers of Flourens " 
and "Avengers of Paris," composed mainly of roughs and was- 
trels. "The Children of P^re Duch^ne"was the euphonious 
title for a body of vagabonds, arms in hand ; " Scouts " of various 
names and "Turc6s*' of the Commune were other recently 
formed battalions,' in addition to " Free-shooters," ** Volunteers," 
and " Defenders." These and other bodies roamed about the 
city at their own fancy, and, though unauthorized, had no 
difficulty in obtaining the usual pay of the federates. To check 
some of the abuses which resulted from this state of things, and 
from the general insubordination and indiscipline, Cluseret 

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196 History of the Paris Commune 0/ i?>Ti 

thought the institution of a Court Martial would be of use ; 
by his wish, Raoul Rigault, in the Commune, demanded 
authority to establish one. It was granted ; Rossel, a martinet 
for discipline, was appointed president of the Court, and full 
powers, from the death penalty downwards, to it were accorded. 

Another military measure taken the same day — 17th — was 
to order a house-to-house search, for the ostensible purpose 
of preventing the secret entrance of arms, but really to disarm 
any National Guard who was hostile to them. The Commune 
also completely stopped the further exodus of persons who 
came under the military regulations, whilst even those who did 
not could only get passports by giving indisputable evidence 
that they were needed. 

On April i8th the Commune issued a decree relative to bills 
of exchange and other fiscal notes, the payment of which, 
suspended during the siege, could now be legally demanded, 
though trade and commerce were still so out of joint that few 
debtors were able to meet their obligations. It was necessary to 
do something to legalise the unavoidable and general inability 
to pay, and the Commune ordered that within a period of three 
years, starting from the following 15th July, all debts should be 
paid by twelve equal, quarterly instalments. It was an ample 
delay — greater even than the pressing occasion required. The 
next day a Communal manifesto appeared in the Journal 
Official^ endeavouring to reason the world into its own way of 
thinking, and concluding with the statement that the present 
conflict could ** finish only by the triumph of the Communal 
idea or by tha ruin of Paris." On the 20th the Labour Com- 
mission decreed the abolition of night work in the bakeries — a 
course which pleased a few, but offended many of the bakers 
in whose interest it was adopted. 

On the last-nam^d date the Commune altered its administra- 
tive and executive system. That hitherto employed had been 
found to be unsatisfactory, owing to there being an almost 
complete absence of definition of functions of the various Com- 
missions,^ and to the inability of the members to attend both to 
their central and local duties. It was also considered desirable 

* Journal Officiel^ April 21st, 22nd. 

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April 20th, 1 87 1 


that the recently elected members should participate in the 
official work of the Commune. Furthermore, it was found that 
the Executive Commission, as hitherto existing, was superfluous, 
for it could do nothing that did not properly belong to the 
functions of some other Commission. A complete readjustment 
and alteration of offices appeared necessary, and this was 
carried into effect by first annulling all the existing Commissions 
and then appointing one member to the head of each of the nine 
administrative departments, which nine heads should together 
form the Executive. Fresh Commissions would be appointed 
to assist them in their labours. 

The nine members chosen by the Commune for chiefs of 
departments were as follow : 










Foreign Affairs, 




Public Works. 




Labour and Exchange, 

The fact that Cluseret was maintained in the all-important 
office of War, did not imply that the discontent of which he 
was the object had suddenly ceased to exist. The difficulty was 
to provide a successor of better worth. Rossel, Cluseret*s chief 
of staff, appeared the fittest in point of ability, but he was in 
disfavour with the Comit6 Central, and the federates generally, 
by reason of the severity of the judgments which he gave in 
the recently established military court Disobedience, thefts, 
drunkenness, were faults in soldiers that Rossel could not toler- 
ate, and they were faults which, in the Communist army, were 
of exceedingly frequent occurrence. After Rossel there was 
Dombrowski, able and courageous — but he was a foreigner, and 
notwithstanding the effusive declarations of some of the Parisian 
leaders, the rank and file of the National Guards looked with 
suspicion upon any but Frenchmen occupying their chief 
positions of command. That Dombrowski had retained for even 

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198 History of the Paris Commune of i^yi 

a fortnight the high office in which he succeeded Bergeret, was 
an eloquent testimony to his courage and skill, which qualities 
alone had reduced the opposition that the appointment called 
forth. Both Dombrowski and Rossel had become antagonistic 
to Cluseret, partly from ambitious designs and partly by reason 
of the latter's want of energy. Cluseret remained strictly on 
the defensive, whereas the sole chance of improving the Com- 
munist position lay in prosecuting offensive tactics against the 
Versailles army whilst the latter was more or less immature. 

The jealousies and ill-feeling existing between the three 
military chiefs were but a sample of other discordances mani- 
fested amongst the Communist leaders. Immediately after the 
new Executive Commission had been appointed, members began 
to wonder whether they had done wisely in placing almost 
unrestrained power in its hands. Its duties and functions were 
as undefined as had been those of the Commissions it had 
superseded, and distrust, uncertainty, and confusion prevailed in 
regard to it These feelings were openly exhibited the next day 
(April 2 1st) in the Communal sitting, and as a result the fresh 
Commissions that were appointed were intended not only to help 
in working the departments, but also to control the Executive. 
Five members formed each Commission, and forty-five members 
were thus appointed to control the executive nine. It is of in- 
terest only to name the five forming the Commission of Control 
for War; viz., Delescluze, Tridon, Avrial, Ranvier, Arnold. 
Here again was the same absence of delimitation of functions 
— the Committees of Control tacitly understood that they were 
not appointed to supersede the Executive, yet they were in com- 
plete ignorance as to how far their supervision was to extend. 

At the last-named sitting of the Commune, a letter was read 
from F^lix Pyat in which he gave his resignation of member- 
ship, on the ground that he disapproved of the course which the 
Commune had adopted in validating the recent elections by a 
simple majority of voters. This action brought upon Pyat the 
wrath of Vermorel, who, the next day, engaged in a newspaper 
war with him, taunted him with his speedily got deliverance 
from prison after the 31st October affair, and declared that he 
was two-faced — advocating in the secrecy of the Commune the 
most violent and intolerant measures, which in the publicity of 

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April 22nd, 1 87 1 199 

his journal he denounced. As an instance : the recent suppres- 
sion of journals, due to Rigault's initiative, was energetically 
approved of by Pyat in the Commune, yet in Le Vengeur of 
April 2 1st he condemned the act. 

This matter led to a stormy incident in the Commune on 
April 22nd, Vermorel and Pyat engaging in a wordy conflict, 
the former demanding the latter's arrest, whilst another member 
suggested that Pyat should be accused and shot It was clear 
that Pyat's resignation was again only an endeavour to escape 
responsibility for his participation in the Commune. Not so 
minded was Delescluze, who exclaimed, "Think you, then, 
that every one approves that which is done here ? Ah well, 
there are members who, in spite of all, have remained and will 
remain unto the end, and, if we triumph not, they will not be the 
last to seek death, either at the ramparts or elsewhere." The 
Commune refused to accept Pyat's resignation, and that indi- 
vidual, beginning to see that he was running from a far danger 
to a near one, subsequently withdrew it, under the pretext that 
pressure from his electors induced him to.^ The discussion in 
reference to Pyat had been lengthy enough to excite the ire of 
Blanchet, who demanded less talk and more action. What 
about the Venddme Column? he asked. Demolition was 
decreed some days ago, yet nothing has been done.* 

Protot, the head of Justice, brought in at this sitting a decree 
relative to the juries of accusation before whom the hostages 
were to be tried. The jurors were to be drawn from the 
National Guards, and the office of accuser was to be filled by 
a Public Prosecutor and four substitutes, all of whom would 
have to be appointed. Then Bergeret's name was mentioned, 
and it was thought that the imprisoned general should be set 
at liberty. It was so decided : Bergeret was sent for and 
presently appeared once more in the Commune, acting a pro- 
fessedly magnanimous part by declaring that he entertained 
no vindictive feeling to any of his colleagues by reason of his 

Suspicion in the Commune was an increasing quantity. 
Rigault was an object of it, not unmingled with trepidation — 

* Journal Offidel^ April 23rd. • Ibid, • Ibid. 

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200 History of the Paris Commune of \%']\ 

he was himself so fearless and so powerful. The numerous 
arrests he had made perturbed the minds of his colleagues, not 
on account of the hapless prisoners, but because of their im- 
perious gaoler. Rigault*s power was becoming too sweeping ; it 
needed a curb. The Commission of Control appointed to his 
Department included three men of views as extreme as himself 
— Cournet, Ferrd, Trinquet— and was therefore not a control at 
all in the sense of modifying his action. Something, however, 
must be done to check his high-handed energy, and an oppor- 
tunity was seized, when Rigault was absent from the Commune, 
April 23rd, to do it. Many of the prisoners were kept in secret 
confinement, and it was impossible to interview them without 
Rigault*s permission — a favour difficult to obtain. The Com- 
mune therefore unanimously declared that each member should 
have the power to visit and interview prisoners. A unanimous 
declaration such as this, it thought, must be respected even by 
Rigault The day following, Rigault straightway demanded that 
the Commune should rescind its decision. " Secret confinement 
is immoral," protested Arthur Amould. " War also," replied 
Rigault, " and yet we fight." However, the Commune main- 
tained its decision, but this time by a vote which was nearly 
equal — a proof of the influence which Rigault's personality 
bore.^ The head of the police would not, however, suffer him- 
self to be thus gainsayed, and he immediately resigned his 
office. Cournet was appointed in his place, and, as an instant 
solatium, Rigault was deputed to fill Cournefs place on the 
Commission of Control. It was a jugglery of offices which left 
Rigault's influence unimpaired. The prisoners benefited little 
by the change. It was still very difficult for any of their friends 
to see them — even for those who knew members of the Com- 
mune, and who lacked neither perseverance, courage, nor tact in 
the pursuit of their quest. Rigault's overshadowing presence 
was still at the Prefecture — he was still a power to be reckoned 
with, and neither Cournet, his successor, nor Protot, the head of 
Justice, nor any of the members of the Commune cared to place 
themselves too violently in opposition to his wishes. The release 
of one notable prisoner, however, followed upon these events. 

' Fomi, pp. 48, 49. 

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April 25/^, 1 87 1 201 

This individual was Mademoiselle Darboy, the Archbishop's 
sister, and her freedom was directly due to the intervention in 
her behalf of Cluscret and Beslay. Rigault, two days after his 
resignation of the office of Delegate to the Police department, 
was appointed by the Commune to fill the new position of 
Public Prosecutor, as required by Protot, and the four sub- 
stitutes for that official, subsequently appointed, were men of 
Rigault's selection ; their names were Ferr^ (member of the 
Commune), Dacosta, Martainville, and Huguenot. It is clear 
from these facts that Rigault was still held in high repute 
by his colleagues. 

Meanwhile, the Versailles army had been increased by two 
army corps. Its batteries in the south were now ready, and on 
April 25th they commenced firing on the forts Issy and Vanves. 
These forts responded vigorously to the attack, and were 
assisted by the guns from the fortifications ; they also fired 
upon the fort Mont Val^rien, which naturally replied thereto, 
otherwise this day it would have remained silent. A truce had 
been arranged for Neuilly and neighbourhood by the benevolent 
exertions of the Conciliation leagues — the only tangible result 
these bodies had yet attained — in order that the unfortunate 
denizens of Neuilly might quit the cellars of their ruined houses, 
where, since April 2nd, they had been cooped up, afraid to 
venture out, often even for food — so continued had been the 
firing from the combatants. Thus this April 25th, whilst it 
witnessed the beginning of the cannon's roar in the south, 
brought also a temporary cessation of it in the west The un- 
happy, frightened, and hungered sufferers of Neuilly hurried from 
their abodes — which were no longer homes — and children, who 
had endured the three weeks' firing, were almost bereft of their 
reason by the ordeal. Pitiful indeed were the young girls who 
emerged that bright, sunny day from the Home for young 
Invalids at Neuilly — terrified beyond measure, ill, scrofulous, 
hungered, and cold, through no fault either of theirs or their 
attendants. The broad avenue of Neuilly was crowded with 
Parisians eager to extend their daily walk when they safely 
might. Among them was a girl — a prostitute, yet with a 
woman's heart — whose eyes filled with tears as she saw the 
abject children ; hastily undoing her mantle, she threw it to- 

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202 History of the Paris Commune ^1871 

wards them, with a cry, " For the little ones ! " ^ A strange 
contrast was presented on that road. Scores of thousands of 
Parisians enjoying an unwonted liberty, full of the pleasure and 
vivacity which are their characteristics, and here and there a 
family or a group of homeless, miserable, anxious people, 
surrounded by whatever boxes and baggage they could take 
away, walking, or upon every conceivable form of conveyance 
riding, to gain the protection of the Paris walls. The truce 
was for eight hours only, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. At the expiration 
of the time, hostilities were at once recommenced by the Ver- 

In the western district the recent movements of the Govern- 
ment troops had been very slight, and no advance made for 
some days. In the south, however, the village of Moulineaux, 
close to Fort Issy, was captured by the Versaillais on April 
26th ; they instantly set to work to fortify it so as to protect 
and further their advance. The cannonading of Fort Issy went 
on incessantly. Several of its guns were already silenced, and 
M^gy, the governor of the fort, felt himself in a position of 
some danger. 

Eudes was general commander of the forts. He had fixed his 
quarters originally in Fort Issy, then in Fort Montrouge ; finally 
he had departed altogether from the forts and was located in 
the Palais de la Legion d*Honneur, in the centre of Paris on the 
south bank of the Seine. At that palace he and the woman 
who passed as his wife began to live under gay surroundings, 
and, for Communists, with much brilliance, dispensing hospi- 
tality and arranging balls and fetes with great Mat and style. 
There, unperturbed by the roar of cannons and the vicinity of 
death, life was become more pleasant to him than it had ever 

The increasing strength and approach of the Versaillais began 
to alarm some of the Communist leaders, and, in default of 
military action, measures of vexatious retaliation were adopted. 
Up to the present the decree for the demolition of the Venddme 
column had almost been forgotten. Gustave Courbet revived 
the question at the Communal meeting of the 27th April, and 
demanded that the decree should be executed. Andrieu and 
^ Du Camp, t. ii. pp. 315-317- 

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April i^thy 1871 203 

Grousset, both of the Executive, said that the work of demoli- 
tion was already contracted for, and would be carried out at the 
earliest possible moment At the same sitting a decree was 
passed authorizing the destruction of the Chapel Br^a — an edifice 
erected to the memory of General Br^a, who was assassinated 
in 1848 by a revolutionist of that epoch. 

Whilst the Commune was thus engaged, the Freemasons of 
Paris were contemplating formally ranging themselves on its 
side. By consent of the Commune, a procession of some 
thousands of the fraternity departed from the H6tel de Ville 
on April 29th to plant the standards of their order upon the 
ramparts, and then to proceed to negotiate with M. Thiers for a 
peaceful settlement. Ranvier and Beslay, Communist brethren, 
accompanied the procession to the ramparts. When the nego- 
tiators displayed a white flag, the firing from the enemy ceased ; 
they planted their standards upon the ramparts near the Porte 
Maillot, and went forward to negotiate — saw M. Thiers, and 
made their proposals, which, like all others that had hitherto 
been made, were based either upon a recognition or an absolu- 
tion of the Commune. Thiers, however, would assent only to 
a complete and unconditional submission. The Masonic depu- 
tation returned to Paris, when, according to the terms of their 
prior arrangement, they were bound to side with and fight for 
the Commune ; there is, however, no reason to believe that the 
accession to the Communist ranks from this quarter was very 
great or of much practical account. The moral value of their 
action was, however, not to be despised, as showing that the 
Commune, notwithstanding the very questionable deeds which 
it had sanctioned and performed, was still looked upon by an 
intelligent portion of the Parisian people with trustfulness and 
expectancy of benefit Around the word "Commune" were 
undoubtedly grouped, to many French minds, ideal hopes of all 
that man would like — liberty, competence, happiness ; unfortu- 
nately, it was not comprehended that these blessings in their 
theoretical fulness or in any near approach thereto, are abso- 
lutely unattainable. Some people at Lyons at that moment, 
encouraged and incited by the Paris Commune, were meditating 
following the example of the capital and forcibly establishing a 
Commune — they will fail, not without bloodshed. Let them be 

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204 History of the Paris Commune of \%t\ 

felicitated on failing ! The poor caged birds, which are so free 
to fly all over their little prisons, long to escape therefrom. 
They know not, that to the most of them, escape would but 
mean suffering, and perchance death ! Oh that humanity would 
be content with a circumscribed freedom, which, if irksome, is at 
least safe ! 

The cessation of firing in the west of Paris during the journey 
of the Freemasons to and from Versailles was not understood by 
M6gy, the commander of Fort Issy, to whom no communica- 
tion of the Masonic project had been made. He thought a 
truce had either been arranged or was about to be, and, upon 
these slight grounds, he relaxed his vigilance. The Versailles 
troops were not slow to take advantage of this ; they advanced 
quietly to the trenches and grounds in front of the fort, and, 
using only their bayonets, they seized the cemetery of Issy, 
carried several formidable barricades and trenches, and forced 
back the federates, upon whom they inflicted great loss.^ M6gy, 
seeing the Versaillais in such unexpected proximity to the fort, 
took fright and precipitately left it* It was night, and the 
darkness covered his departure, so that his men were not aware 
of it. The next morning (April 30th) the garrison, unable to 
find their commander and perceiving the desperate position in 
which the fort was placed, lost courage, and they also, to the 
number of 300 men, left the fort For four hours it remained 
abandoned,^ though the Versaillais were unaware of the fact 
Cluseret, when he learnt of this, immediately took steps to 
re-man the fort, a task which was satisfactorily accomplished, 
and Eudes, with other members of the Commune, repaired there, 
and tried to instil confidence into the disheartened soldiers. 

Great indignation was expressed in Paris when it was known 
that the fort had so narrowly escaped being lost to them. 
" Treason " and " traitors " were the words that rose naturally to 
the lips of the National Guards, and deputations from numerous 
battalions appeared at the Hdtel de Ville to demand explana- 
tions and punishment to the guilty ones. Cluseret's direct 
responsibility in the aff*air was nil^ for the Executive Committee 
had not informed him of the projected Masonic manifestation, 

* Macmahon, p. 6. ' Lefran^ais, p. 284. 

8 La Viriti, p. 358. 

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April 30M, 187 1 205 

and he could not transmit to M6gy information which he did 
not possess. Nevertheless, because he was generally unequal to 
the post he occupied and had not obtained favour with the 
Comit^ Central, the occasion was seized to divest him of the 
position and to imprison him ; whilst M6gy, who was directly 
and severely culpable for abandoning the fort, was simply 
withdrawn from his command.^ 

A new Delegate of War was at once appointed in the person 
of Rossel, between whom and Cluseret there had recently been 
so much friction that the former had nominally resigned his 
office of Chief of Staff. One of his first duties as successor to 
Cluseret was to reply to a summons which had been sent by the 
Versaillais to Fort Issy to surrender, which, if agreed to within 
a quarter of an hour, all lives and liberty would be granted ; if 
not, the entire garrison would be shot. The Versailles officer 
who signed this peremptory notice chanced to be an old friend 
of Rossel's ; the fact is frankly implied in the latter's reply : 
" My dear Comrade, — The next time you send us such an 
insolent summons as your letter of yesterday, I shall shoot your 
messenger, conformably to the usages of war. — Your devoted 
comrade, RosSEL." Fort Issy, partly ruined though it was, still 
withstood the Versaillais efforts to capture it 

Cluseret had lacked energy — Rossel abounded in it. The 
Commission of Barricades, which under Cluseret*s auspices had 
done little, received an instant impulse under Rossel's. He 
ordered Napoleon Gaillard, a little, eccentric and oldish man, to 
construct barricades by which to form a second line of defence 
within the fortifications. Gaillard promptly set about the work 
— formed a battalion of 800 barricaders, and raised first one and 
then another of these defensive structures in a scientific manner. 
This little man was in immense love with himself at the 
authoritative position thus given him, and for the time being 
barricades ran through all his moments : eating, he formed 
models of them with his food ; drinking and walking, he 
thought of their construction ; sleeping, he dreamt of them — 
never a man was so absorbed in his work as he.* 

Rossel was as much alive as Cluseret to the defective state of 

* Lefran^ais, pp. 284, 285. * Du Camp, t. ii. pp. 320-323. 

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2o6 History of the Paris Commune of i^yi 

the Communal army, and, now that he was at the head of it, he 
determined to introduce the many reforms and reorganizations 
which were necessary. But at the outset he was handicapped 
by an impending change of Executive, which rendered it 
uncertain whether he would be maintained in his post. 

The Executive, which had been appointed on April 20th, had 
answered expectations even less than its predecessor. With 
the exception of Rigault, its members were weak, vacillating, 
and reluctant to undertake the responsibility of extreme 
measures. The Commissions of Control complicated and 
hampered the administration. Power, which on April 20th had 
been concentrated in nine heads, had, the next day, been 
diffused through fifty-four, without rule or regulation to guide 
them or to preserve harmony. No wonder that such a system 
of government should, in less than ten days, have been produc- 
tive of disputes, bickerings, overlapping of functions, and 
contradictory commands, the general result of all being that 
nothing tangible was accomplished. There was already no 
question as to its un workableness — the sole, but important, con- 
sideration was what to erect in its stead. The dissatisfaction 
which existed took shape in the Communal sitting of April 29th, 
when Jules Miot formulated a proposition for establishing a 
Committee of Public Safety, which should consist of five 
members, and to which should be given full powers. A stormy 
discussion upon this question lasted over three sittings, and a 
very important and strenuous opposition to the proposal was 
manifested by the more moderate members of the Commune, in 
whose opinion the Revolution of 1793 was unsuitable for re- 
production in 1 87 1, and who thought that any attempt to 
follow its example in regard to the Committee of Public Safety 
would be fraught with the gravest results. The Commune 
stood at the parting of the ways : until now a semblance of 
unity had covered its corporate actions — upon the issue of 
this question would depend whether or not that semblance was 
to be dispersed and an open rupture shown to the world. 
The decision was taken on May ist in an assembly of sixty- 
eight members, and the result was that forty-four voted for, 
and twenty.four against the proposed Committee of Public 

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May isty 1 87 1 207 

The division list is as follows : — For : Amouroux, Ant 
Arnaud, AUix, Bergeret, Billioray, Blanchet, Brunei, Champy, 
Chardon, E. Clement, Cournet, Demay, Dereure, CI. Dupont, 
Durandy Ferr6, Frankel, Fortune, Gambon, C. G^rardin, 
G^resme, Grousset, Johannard, Ledroit, Lonclas, Martelet, 
Meillet, Miot, Oudet, Parisel, Pillot, Pottier, Philippe. Pyat, 
Ranvier, R^gere, Rigault, Sicard, Trinquet, Urbain, Vaillant, 
Vesinier, Viard, Verdure — 44. Against: Andrieu, Art Ar- 
nould, Avrial, Babick, Beslay, Cl^mence, J. B. Clement, 
V. Clement, Courbet, E. G^rardin, Jourde, Langevin, Lefran^ais, 
Longuet, Malon, Ostyn, Pindy, Rastoul, Serailler, Tridon, 
Theisz, Vall^s, Varlin, Vermorel — 24.* 

The forty-four in favour of Miot's proposal were formed of 
thirteen Comiti Central members, seven Internationalists, eight 
Journalists, and sixteen Club politicians; the twenty- four against 
comprised one Comiti Central member, fifteen Internationalists, 
six Journalists, one Club politician, and Courbet, the artist. The 
chief deductions from these figures are that the members of the 
Comit^ Central and the speakers at Club and Public Meetings 
were, corporately, of a revolutionary bent, whilst the Inter- 
nationalists adhered as a body to their original character of 
social, but not ultra-revolutionary, reformers. The Journalists, 
as a class, were more extreme than the above figures show, for 
at least two of them, whose names do not appear in the above 
list of voters, were in favour of Miot's proposal ; these were 
Delescluze and Protot 

A Committee of Public Safety being thus decided upon, the 
Commune next proceeded to elect the five members who should 
form it. This operation devolved solely upon the majority, for 
the minority refused to take any part in it The elected five 

* These figures and names do not agree with the account published in 
the Journal OfficUl^ where the votes were given as being forty-five for 
and twenty-three against the Committee of Public Safety. The names 
given, however, for counted only to forty-two instead of forty-five. Even 
Du Camp, very complete and explicit though he usually is, has permitted 
an element of doubt to arise in regard to his own figures by the omission, 
doubtless accidental, of Oudet's name from the full list of members of the 
Commune, given at the end of the fourth volume. By including Oudet, the 
figures given in the text are arrived at from Du Camp's account, and make 
up the total of sixty-eight without hiatus. 

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2o8 History of the Paris Commune of \%T\ 

were Antoine Arnaud, L6o Meillet, Gabriel Ranvier, F^lix 
Pyat, and Charles G^rardin. The last-named was a friend of 
Rossers ; through him Rossel had been introduced to the 17th 

This new Executive did not do away with the old nine, who 
were left at the heads of their respective departments to carry 
on the work of administration. It superseded the controlling 
functions of the Commissions appointed on the 21st April, 
but left them their privileges of assisting in the departmental 
work ; it, being charged with full powers, was invested with the 
duty of directing the general policy of the Commune, more 
especially in regard to the war. 

In this connection it immediately confirmed Rossel in the 
post to which the former Executive had appointed him, and 
therefore Rossel's path seemed clear for carrying out the much- 
needed military reforms. There were, however, other obstacles 
in his way. A self-elected Committee of Artillery, acting in 
concert with the Comite Central, was at the head of that im- 
portant branch of the fighting power ; it talked much and did 
little. The artillery organization was the most defective in the 
whole army ; guns there were in plenty — but insufficient men, 
few horses, and divided commands, rendered them of scant 
utility. When Rossel notified his wishes to this Committee, 
requesting it to remedy defects, and showing it what ought to 
be done to make the artillery effective, the only response he 
obtained was deliberation without action. From the Com- 
mune itself he received no better aid. Refractory Guards were 
numerous and increasing, and it was imperative to take severe 
measures to stop this leakage of power ; but his proposals to 
the Commune met again with deliberation only. Drunkenness 
and open consorting with prostitutes was a prevalent fault. 
Rossel's order of punishment to such offenders was disobeyed, 
because the officers of the army were themselves delinquents.^ 
The Committee of Public Safety had no clear perception of the 
necessities of the moment, and Rossel was left to surmount his 
difficulties alone. His capacities were ignored ; his severity 
augmented the dislike with which he was viewed, and the 

* Du Camp, t. ii. p. 90. 

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May 2nd. 1871 209 

National Guards consequently took orders from their own 
elected Committees and not from the delegate of War. 

Whilst matters were in so discordant and feverish a condition 
at the Office of War, it is pleasant to record an instance of the 
head of a department receiving unanimous commendation and 
support at the hands of his colleagues. The recipient of this 
flattering esteem was Jourde, Financial Delegate. In the recent 
proposition for a Committee of Public Safety, Jourde, with his 
friends Varlin and Beslay, had voted against its establishment, 
and he carried his vote to a logical issue by resigning his office 
when the Committee had been appointed. At that moment he 
had already prepared a statement of the Communal finances, 
which the next day (May 2nd) he submitted to the Commune. 
It was a surprise to that body to find in one of its departments 
something like order and business capacity. Jourde's account 
of expenditure and income was as clear and precise, in point of 
figures, as a balance-sheet ought to be. So satisfactory was it 
considered, that the Commune would not hear of his resigna- 
tion, and, before the eulogiums poured upon him, his determina- 
tion, never very strong, yielded, and he accepted from the 
Committee whose existence he had endeavoured to prevent his 
re-appointment as Delegate to the Finances. The account pre- 
sented by Jourde covered the period March 20th to April 30th, 
and it stated that, of the Communal income, about 6 million 
francs had been discovered in the Government offices, 7f millions 
had been obtained from the Bank of France, and over 12 
millions had come from various sources, such as customs, market 
dues, tobacco factory, posts and telegraphs, etc. The amount 
received under the head of "perquisitions*' was slight — less 
than 9,000 francs ; but the ** perquisitions " really included many 
other amounts which were put down under different names. 
The expenditure was chiefly of a military character, 22 million 
francs going to the War Department out of the total of 25 
millions ; Justice, truly a dormant department, took only 5,50a 
francs; whilst the Police, a very active one, appeared for 235,000 
francs. The balance of cash in hand on April 30th was nearly 
a million francs ; on May 2nd this balance had increased to 
over two millions — from what particular source Jourde said not. 
The Communal finances were thought to be very flourishing ; 


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2IO History of the Paris Commune of i^ji 

Jourde*s auditors were not troubled with ethical or practical 
considerations of the immorality of perquisitions, compulsory 
advances, or the appropriation of monies that were left behind 
by the Government when it hastily packed itself off to Ver- 
sailles. Jourde, an accurate book-keeper and honest himself, 
was the creature of circumstances ; powerless, even had he 
wished, to say to the Commune, " This is not thine ! " 

Until recently, Jourde had been greatly assisted in the less 
clerical portion of his labours by Varlin, who also was a man 
of personal probity, and of strong and, in the main, honourable 
convictions. These men, though having millions of francs 
through their hands, lived unostentatiously and meagrely ; un- 
like some of the Communists, such as Eudes and Bergeret, who 
delighted in swagger, gaudy uniforms, and numerous entouragBy 
and who hesitated not to pilfer the public establishments they 
were in and to seize for their private use whatever they could. 
Another marked contrast to the latter set of people, of a mili- 
tary nature, was presented by Cluseret and Rossel, both of 
whom always appeared in plain, ordinary attire.^ " It is to 
blind the Versaillais to their identity," said some; it is to 
show their contempt for the communal Bombastes, knew others. 
At least one other Communal chief worked with as much suc- 
cess in his department as Jourde. This was Theisz, whose 
administration of the disorganized postal service drew forth 
commendation from all sides. The postal radius was limited 
to the capital and the suburbs in federate possession, and was 
thus extremely restricted ; it, however, required a man of energy 
and of intelligence to render even this small area useful in a 
postal sense, and Theisz, considering his previous lack of special 
knowledge of this work, accomplished great things. 

Finances, Posts : important establishments in ordinary times, 
but of subsidiary interest when the grim giant of War erects his 
head. The Commune might be said to have only one depart- 
ment — War; for, to establish its existence by force of arms 
being imperative, almost everything it did bore upon this car- 
dinal exigency. Its human material, notwithstanding defections 
and deaths, totalled up still to a huge number. According to a 

* Du Camp, t ii. p. 329. 

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May 2nd, 187 1 211 

report submitted on May 3rd to the War Office, the fighting 
force amounted to 190,425 foot and 449 cavalry.^ The paper 
representation of this formidable army was doubtless greater 
than the reality, the nominal strength of battalions being pro- 
bably given instead of their actual. Versailles, which would be 
sure to receive an account of these figures, was to be struck 
with awe ; federate Paris, still relying upon Communal promises 
and prc^nostications of victory, was to be encouraged and re- 
assured. Nevertheless, there was still a force which, had it 
been thoroughly organized and disciplined, led by capable 
officers, and wielded by an intelligent head, might ere then 
have scattered the Versaillais in all directions. All the moral 
essentials of success, however, were wanting to it The first 
nominal chief, Eudes, was totally deficient in capacity ; Cluseret 
was in all points his superior, yet he lacked the energy and 
decision that the hour demanded ; now Rossel, superior to 
Cluseret, possessing many distinguishing faculties, alive to the 
need for eradicating that indiscipline which threatened to be 
fatal to the Communist cause, and putting forth all his endea- 
vours towards the attainment of this object, has before him a 
task which only a master-mind can accomplish. Will Rossel 
prove himself such ? 

On the night of the 2nd May another plot had been afoot, 
by which the Versaillais had hoped to gain entrance into Paris. 
M. Thiers believed so strongly that the eventful time had 
arrived, that he slept or sojourned all the night at Sevres, in 
anticipation of the Dauphin gate being opened.* But the 
Communal spies had been alert, and had noticed a suggestive 
movement of Versailles troops towards the fortifications ; in 
consequence of their intimation that some attack was impend- 
ing, strict orders had been transmitted to the various guards at 
the exits that the drawbridges were not to be lowered on any 
account, nor any person permitted to go out These orders 
did not meet with absolute obedience — there were none that 
did — but suflicient regard was paid to them to prevent the 
plotters inside the fortifications from carrying out their design, 
and their failure rendered the projected entrance abortive.^ 

* Du Camp, t iii. p. 234. * Guerre des Communeux de Paris, p. 167. 

* Dals^me, pp. 205-209. 

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212 History of the Paris Commune of iZji 

The Versaillais were baulked ; perchance because of being so^ 
Thiers indulged the next day in a sarcasm at once malicious 
and cruel, utterly wanting in dignity and feeling. In the early 
morning of May 4th, Versailles troops to the number of 1,200 
bore upon the Communist redoubt of Moulin Saquet at the 
south-east end of the forts, surprised the federates, who were 
sleeping, killed 250 of them almost in cold blood, and took 300 
officers and men prisoners.* Thiers was elated. " Such is the 
victory," he wrote, ** that the Commune can celebrate to-morrow 
in its bulletins." ^ A victory of questionable glory ; let it 
rather be termed a butchery as heartless as any that a civilized 
people has ever perpetrated. 

The surprise entrance to the redoubt had been facilitated by 
the indiscretion of a federate officer named Gallien, who had 
carelessly divulged the watchword in a public caf6 in the neigh- 
bouring village of Vitry.^ A Polish officer, Wrobleski, who was 
general commander of the federates in the South, was also 
severely blamed by Rossel, for having on the preceding day 
quitted his post without orders. "By orders!" returned the 
incriminated officer; "F^lix Pyat ordered me to Fort Issy.*^ 
Pyat denied the assertion again and again, but the written 
order was produced and shown him, and denial was no longer 
possible/ Such was the confidence and the collaboration which 
Rossel experienced at the hands of this crafty and unprincipled 
member of the Committee of Public Safety. Wrobleski was 
exonerated, and maintained in his command. Fort Issy, to 
which Pyat had sent him, was receiving the brunt of the Ver- 
sailles attack ; the Government troops surrounded the fort with 
impunity, and the garrison within it were again beginning to 
feel alarm. Reinforcements were not sent them ; the Comit6 
Central neglected even to inform Rossel of how matters stood, 
and his position was such that he was compelled to rely upon 
the Comite Central both for information and for material. 
Hitherto, his requests for men had scarcely received attention,, 
yet he relaxed not his sternness nor his disciplinary measures. 
Some federates who had turned refractory he ordered to be 

* Macmahon, p. 7. 

' Despatch by Thiers, quoted in La VMUy p. 364. 

' La VMU^ p. 363. Lefrangais, p. 287. * Lefrangais, p. 29^ 

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May ^th, 187 1 213 

shot — the order was disobeyed because it devolved upon the 
Comit^ Central to carry it out ; nevertheless, the fact that such 
a drastic and unfraternal order had been given, added to the 
ill-will with which Rossel was viewed. 

The Committee of Public Safety, as the chief executive 
authority, should have supported Rossel against the Comite 
Central, but it failed to do so; it was misnamed, for it was 
considering not the public safety, but its own. The responsi- 
bility of directing the war unnerved it ; between the pretensions 
of the Comit^ Central and the rights of the Commune, as repre- 
sented by Rossel, it knew not what to do, wishing to reconcile 
what was irreconcilable, and to have a peaceful existence in 
the midst of war. A way of escape from its dilemma was 
formed as the result of its own weakness. On May 5th "the 
Comit^ Central came almost imperiously to offer its assistance 
to the administration of war " ^ — not that the present head of 
that department was in the least unable to transact his business, 
but that the Comit^, fortified as it was by the adherence of the 
entire federate army, and encouraged by the insipidity of the 
Committee of Public Safety, felt that an opportunity had 
presented itself, whereby it might more openly assume the 
reins of power and reduce Rossel's influence whilst increasing 
its own. The Committee of Public Safety accepted the offer, 
and formally handed over to the Comit^ Central the military 
administration, reserving to Rossel the direction of military 
operations. The guiding hand in this action of the Comit^ 
Central was Edouard Moreau.* 

Rossel was still Delegate of War, and the Committee of Public 
Safety still existed ; but the authority of the one was more than 
ever nominal, and the power of the other had been largely 

The same day that this occurred, Blanchet, the member of 
the Commune, was arrested at Rigault's instigation, because it 
had transpired that his name was assumed, his real one being 
Pourille, and that formerly he had been a Capucin monk, also an 
agent of police at Lyons, and had been condemned to a week's 
imprisonment for fraudulent bankruptcy in 1868.' Blanchet — 

* Letter of Rossel, dated May 9th. * Du Camp, t. iv. p. 97. 

^ Fomi, pp. 92, 93. Blanchel's pamphlet, pp. 22, 31. 

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214 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSyi 

or Pourille — was consigned to Mazas prison, the governor of 
which, recently appointed by Rigault, was one Garreau, a man 
of hard and unfeeling nature.^ 

On May 5 th there were also arrested and sent to the prison 
St. Lazare, ninety-one sisters of the religious community of the 
Sacred Heart ; * seven additional newspapers were suppressed,* 
and Bayeux-Dumesnil, who had been the original president of 
the Comit^ Central, but who had remained of moderate tenden- 
cies whilst it had rapidly advanced on revolutionary lines, was 
revoked from the direction of the mairie of the 9th arrondisse- 
ment, which he had wisely administered since April 5th.^ The 
Commune at this period also began to melt the gold and silver 
plate which it had derived from various sources — churches, the 
public ministries, and the H6tel des Invalides ; it was about to 
show that it was really an independent State, and would have 
its own coinage. For the same purpose ingots of silver were 
obtained from the long-suffering but prudent Bank of France, 
which institution still continued to supply money wherewith to 
pay the federates.^ From these facts it is evident that the 
Commune abated not one jot of its revolutionary ardour, and 
was determined to uphold its claims to recognition. On May 
6th a further curtailment of liberty took place by the prohibi- 
tion of military articles in the press ; ^ and another evidence of 
intolerance was shown by a decree being issued for the demoli- 
tion of the Expiatory Chapel in Rue d'Anjou. 

Contemporaneously with these things and with the arrests of 
priests, which still occurred from time to time, the Commune 
endeavoured to justify the expectations of those who looked to 
it to realize all the blessings of the democratic ideal. It estab- 
lished a finishing school for boys, modified the regulations of 
the public libraries and museums, and reformed the Opera, the 
Fine Arts, and the Bar. It dealt with many other subjects, and 
touched all with the superficial hand of ignorance. It requisi- 
tioned vacant apartments for the benefit of sufferers by the war,. 

* Du Camp, t i. p. 234. ' Ih'd,, t. i. p. 143. 

' Le Petit Moniteur^ Le Petit Journal^ Le Bon SenSy La Petite Presse^ La 
France^ Le Temps^ Le Petit National, 

* Du Camp, t. iv. p. 196. ^ Ibid., t iii. p. 217 ; t. iv. p. 121. 

* Ibid.y t. iv. p. 170. 

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May %th, 1871 215 

and it ordered a search to be made in the Archives for docu- 
ments incriminatory of the members of the Government of the 
National Defence. It is pitiful to have to record such a prying 
and contemptible measure as the last-named ; but, alas, the 
preceding Governments of France had shown in many instances 
examples that were equally unworthy of the occupants of such 
high positions. 

It is beyond dispute that the members of the Commune, as 
a whole, were men of narrow intelligences, sincere it might be — 
though even this is of doubtful acceptance in regard to several 
individuals — but totally unfitted to rule over so huge a popu- 
lation as two million souls. The inferior Communal authorities 
were like unto their superiors ; thus there was continually mani- 
fested a vein of puerility and prejudice, exemplified by selfish 
indulgence, confusion of commands, and intolerant oppression. 
High-sounding principles were adopted with bombastic rapture, 
but advocacy took the place of practice. Rossel in particular 
found this to be the case. His wrath at the Comit^ Central's 
want of action and undue deliberation was great and justified. 
**They started a project when men were necessary, and de- 
clared principles when acts were required." ^ On May 8th these 
tactics were prolonged to a point at which Rossel seethed with 
indignation. He had an execution company waiting for them, 
and was strongly tempted to take the law into his own hands 
and make short work of these word jugglers. It was the 
decisive moment of his life. 

He was the ablest man in the Communal service at this 
juncture, but was just one whit too scrupulous for the time. 
Even as De Broglie, eighty years before, had had his whiff of 
grape shot ready, but had hesitated to use it, so Rossel hesitated 
to take alone the initiative of a drastic step. But energy and 
severity are wanted — only they can reduce order from this 
chaos of indiscipline. Instead of shooting the windy delibera- 
tors, Rossel brought himself to their own level by permitting 
his indignation to expand itself in words. His annoyance was 
extreme, and apparently brought the Comit^ Central to their 
senses. " Bring me," he said, " twelve thousand organized men 

* RossePs letter of May 9th. 

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2i6 History of the Paris Commune of i^yi 

by to-morrow morning at half-past eleven, and I will proceed to 
the front and give battle to the enemy." * You do nothing but 
talk, and therefore the Versaillais gain upon us ; let us have 
action and they will lose. The chiefs to whom Rossel spoke 
promised to supply the 12,000 men as requested. 

In the meeting of the Commune that day, news of the fight- 
ing was asked for — nothing had been heard for three days. 
Eudes suggested sending to the Committee of Public Safety for 
information. R^gfere had already been there — it, like them, was 
without news. Jourde had a trouble to communicate ; he had 
received orders from a body styled the ** Republican Federation 
of the National Guard," which he averred he knew not This 
body had superseded Rossel, seized what cash there was at the 
War Office, and demanded more cash. Jourde wished to know 
whether the Commune or the Comit^ Central was in power! 
Avrial, appointed Director of Artillery some days ago by 
Rossel, was similarly circumstanced. He naturally imagined 
himself to be under Rossel's orders, but found day after day a 
Committee of Artillery which, he also averred, he knew not, 
and which gave him instructions and required his obedience. 
Ch. G6rardin explained what the Committee of Public Safety 
had done in regard to delegating to the Comit6 Central the 
duty of carrying on the military administration. Further com- 
plaints were made by Varlin, Avrial, and others. The Comite 
Central was in the ascendant, they said, and assumed all the 
externals of unassailable authority 1 its members wore a regalia 
similar to that of the members of the Commune ; they 
mounted horse, gave orders, and received plaudits of " Vive la 
Commune!" which surely should have been reserved for the 
genuine representatives of the people. The complainants were, 
however, in a minority ; the majority of the Commune, actuated 
by a confused blend of motives, none of which were creditable, 
accepted the explanation which G^rardin had tendered, and 
closed the discussion by ratifying the arrangement made by 
the Committee of Public Safety.* 

One result of the Comit^ Central's military incapacity soon 
became evident. Fort Issy, which should have been strongly 

' RossePs letter. * Journal Officiel^ May 9th and loth. 

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May gt/i, 1871 217 

reinforced in order to withstand the Versaillais attack, had been 
neglected, and the enemy had consequently almost surrounded 
it. Its garrison again took fear, and deliberated whether or not 
to evacuate the fort. The commander sent by Rossel in place 
of M^gy, was so emphatically against taking such a course, 
that he was expelled from the fort by the garrison, who them- 
selves abandoned it during the night of May 8/9th. In the 
morning the fort was occupied by the Versaillais, and the tri- 
coloured flag of the Republic hoisted upon it. 

Rossel knew not of this when at half-past eleven he awaited 
the arrival of the 12,000 men promised by the Comit^ Central 
They were not to be seen. At half-past twelve he learnt of 
the loss of Fort Issy ; still the 12,000 men were not to hand. 
By one o'clock about 7,000 men, badly equipped, turned up 
— not at all the same thing as what was promised. Rossel's 
patience was exhausted ; his chafed and unanswered spirit 
consumed and angered him ; he would endure no more. He 
caused to be posted up throughout Paris the following laconic 
announcement : " The tricolour flag floats over the Fort Issy, 
abandoned last night by the garrison" — it was the first inti- 
mation that the Commune or the Committee of Public Safety 
received of the fact * — and he wrote a letter to the Commune, 
in which he set forth the inaction, the incapacity, and the 
faithlessness of the Comity Central, as well as the conflict of 
authority between it and the Commune ; concluding by demand- 
ing for himself a cell at Mazas — he was well aware that im- 
prisonment was the only reward he would then receive. This 
letter he sent immediately to two newspapers which had been 
friendly disposed towards him, and in them it appeared in a 
very short time, and became public knowledge even before the 
Commune had received the original.* 

These impetuous and irritating actions brought upon Rossel 
the indignation of a large section of the Commune, a feeling 
which Pyat, who was chairman at that day's sitting, ever happy 
in stirring up hatreds and feuds, did all he could to augment 
Rossel's arrest was ordered by all the members present except 
three — Malon, Charles G^rardin, and Avrial — and he was con- 

* Lefran^ais, p. 291. * Jbt'd. 

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2i8 History of the Paris Commune 0/1871 

fided for safe custody to the Military Commission, which at this 
period included Charles G^rardin and Avrial in its number. 
Rossel's complaint against the Comit^ Central was endorsed 
with much energy by Delescluze, whose influence in the 
Commune was greater than that of any other individual, and 
by Jourde, whose protest against its interference he supported 
by resigning for the second time his office. The Committee of 
Public Safety, whose weakness had produced the present diffi- 
culty, was condemned, its resignation demanded and obtained- 
Before replacing that Committee, the Commune elected a 
successor to Rossel, being actuated to adopt this unexpected 
course of procedure by Pyat, who had ulterior aims in view. 

Rossel, in his contentions with the Comit^ Central, had 
laboured under the disadvantage of not being a member of the 
Commune. His successor should be a man clothed with the 
authority of a representative of the people, and able to hold his 
position against the encroachments of the Comite Central 
Such was Delescluze, their ablest and nearly their oldest 
member. Delescluze was chosen Delegate of War, and then 
Jourde was re-elected to his post of Finances. The minority 
members of the Commune, who had refused to vote for the 
Committee of Public Safety on May ist, remarked the fact of 
these appointments being made prior to the election of a new 
Committee of Public Safety. It was an evident renunciation, 
they thought, of giving full powers to that Committee. This 
was the impression Pyat had sought to disseminate in order 
to secure the full voting strength of the Commune in the 
formation of the new Committee. His ruse succeeded, and the 
minority on this occasion decided to take part in the elections 
for the Committee of Public Safety.^ Its influence upon the 
candidates elected was nit, for the majority took itself apart to 
choose its nominees,* and these were all elected when the voting 
of the combined sections was taken, whilst the minority, by 
participating therein, had formally sanctioned the principle 
which only eight days before it had repudiated. The names 
of the new Committee of Public Safety were Antoine Arnaud, 
Eudes, Delescluze, Gambon, and Ranvier. Eudes immediately 

* Lefran^ais, pp. 293, 294. * La VMt^y p. 370. 

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May gth, 1871 219 

announced that he and his colleagues would act upon the 
devolution of " full powers," which the Commune had accorded 
to the former Committee of Public Safety — and the minority 
members perceived the trap into which they had so guilelessly 
fallen.^ Delescluze was absent at the time; he subsequently 
declined to form part of the Committee, owing to the duties 
of War delegate which he had assumed, and to the fact that 
his health was far from being satisfactory. Billioray was elected 
in his place. Thus constituted, all the members of the Com- 
mittee of Public Safety, except Gambon, had appertained to 
the Comit^ Central, and all were in sympathy therewith. 

Before closing the sitting of the 9th May the Commune 
decided to meet only three times per week in future, instead 
of daily ; this was a sufficiently frequent assemblage after full 
powers had been deputed to a Committee. The additional time 
which the members of the Commune would thus have at their 
disposal was to be employed at their respective mairies in super- 
intending and directing the local administrations. To counter- 
balance this centrifugal arrangement it was decided that the 
Committee of Public Safety should sit in permanence at the 
H6tel de Ville. 

The Comit^ Central had presumedly been struck a blow by 
the appointment of Delescluze as Delegate of War, but it failed 
to alter its conduct, and immediately evidenced its determination 
not to do so by appointing Edouard Moreau as civil delegate at 
the side of Delescluze.^ Moreau was a man of ambition and of 
some sterling qualities, but he believed in the impotence of the 
Commune and the prior rights of the Comit6 of which he was 
the moving spirit. The new Committee of Public Safety agreed 
to this appointment ; when Delescluze complained of it, all that 
was done was to change the nominal functions of Moreau with- 
out in the least altering his actual position of surveillant and 
co-delegate at the War Office. At this moment Moreau was 
the practical dictator of the movements of the federate army ; 
but he was compelled, by virtue of the representative position 
of the Commune and his own lack of political influence, to 
wield his power under modest and even retiring auspices. 

^ Lefranqais, p. 294. * Du Camp, t. iv. p. 95. La VMUy p. 375. 

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2 20 History of the Paris Commune of iZji 

The detention of Rossel was of short duration. The Military 
Commission had confided his person to the care of Avrial, who, 
being friendly to Rossel, wished to be relieved of so invidious 
a duty. The day following Rossel's arrest, Avrial appealed to 
the Commune to receive Rossel and adjudicate finally upon 
him. The Commune assented, despatched Charles G^rardin to 
fetch Rossel from an adjoining room — and waited expectantly. 
As G^rardin did not return, a search was made, and it was 
then discovered that he and Rossel had vanished together. 
Bergeret was deputed to arrest the fugitives, but he never found 
them, though they remained hiding in Paris. 

Military chiefs — amateur, as Eudes and Bergeret, or pro- 
fessional, as Cluseret and Rossel — had been a failure in the 
conduct of the war, judging them simply by the standard of 
victories attained. It was now the turn of one to direct who, 
though he in former years had been a skilful duellist, laid no 
claim to be anything but a civilian. Delescluze possessed a 
brilliant, though somewhat narrowed intelligence; his public 
career, extending over forty years, had been chequered by im- 
prisonments and exiles, and relieved only by the estimation in 
which he was held by a great number of his fellow-countrymen. 
He had never sought wealth nor honours, but had striven 
nobly and with undiverted aim for the advancement of popular 
ideas, and what may be termed popular justice, in so doing, 
falling foul of monarchical, imperial, and even republican 
governments. Ever honest and upright, stoical and austere, 
his past was without serious blemish, and his sufferings and 
sacrifices compelled respect and admiration. His sincerity and 
belief in the righteousness of the Communal cause were, like 
Varlin's, unquestionable. His tolerance of and acquiescence in 
the various despotic and unjust proceedings of the Commune 
displays the faulty side of his intellect ; but this aberration was 
identified with his general policy, and was above the pettiness 
which characterized so many of his colleagues. 

Much was expected from Delescluze's occupation of the War 
Office. He was energetic, able, strong-willed, and possessed 
more prestige than any other active Communist On the other 
hand he lacked much experience in the art of governing and of 
disciplining men. He was first of all a litterateur: from the 

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May iithy 1871 221 

life avocation of journalist it is not easy at the age of sixty-five, 
to turn one's self successfully into a systematic and powerful* 
ruler of humanity. This was, however, what the Commune 
needed : it had too many mediocrities, too many light-souled 
bouncers ; too many commanders disputing one with another 
as to who should be pre-eminent — what it wanted was one 
strong iron hand. Even at this late hour, such a man might 
stem the tide of Versaillais successes, which is still slowly but 
undoubtedly flowing. Fighting has developed in the federates 
their redeeming qualities — without which are none — and there 
is no knowing what tremendous force they are capable of 
being welded into. Is Delescluze the man at last to organize 
victory ? 

The Versaillais were drawing nearer to the fortifications, and 
preparing extensive trenches and earthworks for their own 
protection. Sevres and St. Cloud were already occupied by 
them, the village of Vanves became so on May nth, and Fort 
Vanves seemed, in consequence, likely soon to share the fate 
of its neighbour at Issy. Nevertheless, the slow progress of 
the Government troops caused considerable dissatisfaction at 
Versailles, at which place it was thought that Paris ought ta 
have been entered long ago. Thiers had, by endeavouring to 
gain a surreptitious entrance, done his utmost to realize that 
thought, but all the plots and intrigues had miscarried. The 
efforts which the army was making could not, in the opinion 
of its military chiefs, be increased. The National Assembly^, 
however, did not accept this view in its entirety, and Thiers 
on May nth was questioned, urged, and badgered until he 
became petulant and irritated. The Assembly was turbulent 
and recriminatory ; it demanded a speedy termination of the 
conflict. "Accord me yet eight days," exclaimed Thiers in 
desperation, "and the task shall be accomplished." 

In Paris the Committee of Public Safety showed 
of what mettle it was made by deciding that Thiers' 
house should be demolished, and his goods divided amongst 
various institutions. The demolition and partition were begun 
forthwith, and in a few days only an unsightly ruin remained in 
Place Georges, where Thiers' house had stood. Thiers' " eight 
days" and this wrecking of his house breathed the same spirit — 

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22 2 History of the Paris Commune of xZ']! 

one wherein all conciliatory or generous feelings were completely 
absent It was this spirit which more and more dominated the 
mictions of the Commune. An example of magnanimity might 
perchance have modified its intensity, but from Versailles, whence 
alone such an example could come, there appeared nothing but 
wrath and vengeance. The Government and the Commune were 
in this struggle like two fighting cocks — mercy was an unthought- 
•of quality, and the death of one of the combatants could alone 
^nd the fray. The second Committee of Public Safety per- 
sonified this extreme bitterness and malignity almost to per- 
fection ; the one weak member was Billioray, who, however, 
was relentless enough for all ordinary purposes. It was partly 
goaded on to the adoption of this unmitigated hatred by the 
knowledge that in the impending supreme fight the Commune 
was practically certain to be defeated, and in that case its 
leaders would be sure to be severely dealt with. The Com- 
mune dared not acknowledge this openly : it showed a bold 
face to the federates, and exhorted them to fight stubbornly 
against their oppressors and the tyrannical monarchists, as the 
National Assembly was termed, and it endeavoured to cultivate 
Jthe idea that the Communal regime meant liberty, progress, and 
justice, whilst from the Versaillais only the reverse of these 
blessings could be hoped for. 

In pursuance of this aim it made a first gratuitous 

May \2th. , ,. ^ i , /- . . i 

delivery from the pawnshops of pledges that were 
under twenty francs value : a measure which benefited the 
poorer people of Paris, and glorified the federate cause in their 
-eyes. The whole policy of the Commune became one of Ex- 
pedience, and the higher virtues of civilization were considered 
-only so far as they served this end. At the instigation of 
Rigrault and Cournet, an attempt was at last made to force the 
Bank of France, for which the moment seemed favourable. The 
War Office was still in confusion after Rossel's departure; 
Beslay was ill, and a truculent servant was at hand in the 
person of Le Moussu, who had gained notoriety by closing 
•churches and unearthing skeletons. Le Moussu and a detach- 
ment of federates went upon their errand to the Bank, but 
the armed force within it showed no disposition to evade a 
4:onflict, and these federates were not anxious to precipitate 

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May \2th, 1871 223 

one, so the threatened attack passed away, and the Bank still 
remained a self-contained stronghold in the midst of enemies.^ 
Rigault's spleen was directed against Cournet for this failure, 
and Cournet's position was shaken. * Rigault was not a man 
to be trifled with, either in large or small affairs. Of the latter 
an instance occurred also on the 12th of May. 

The previous day he had caused to be arrested Allix, the 
member of the Commune, on the ground of his insanity, which 
had become palpable. The Commune released Allix, but 
Rigault, not ,to be overruled, rearrested him the next day on 
the charge of having broken the seals, which, by order of the 
Committee of Public Safety, had been affixed to the mairie 
of the 8th arrondissement, over which Allix had presided. 
This charge was perfectly true, but the offence was excusable 
and even justifiable, after the Commune had released Allix ; 
only a person of Rigault's vindictiveness would have ventured 
to rearrest him. Rigault, however, and the Committee of Public 
Safety were of like mind ; what one did, the other supported, 
and the Communal body, having delegated full powers to the 
latter, had left itself no grounds for interference either with 
this or any other action that it might choose to take. 

The ranks of the federates were greatly perturbed by an 
announcement made by the Committee of Public Safety that 
a terrible plot for the overthrow of the Commune had been 
discovered, but that numerous arrests of guilty persons had been 
made, and their punishments would be exemplary. Plots for 
the opening of one of the gates of Paris by underhand means 
were in constant operation, and their subversion was frequently 
unconsciously arrived at by officials of the Commune. On 
May 8th a plot had been intercepted, and one of the partici- 
pators in it — a federate colonel — arrested.* On May nth a 
Madame Veysset was imprisoned, though on no special charge 
— her husband was suspected of engaging in treasonable nego- 
tiations with the enemy, and in default of finding him his wife 
was secured. Veysset was, in fact, making endeavours to buy 
over to the Versailles cause Dombrowski, the Polish commander 

' Barges, p. 163. ' Du Camp, t. iii. p. 237. 

' Dacls^me, p. 225. 

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2 24 History of the Paris Commune of x^Ti 

of the western army of federates.^ On May 12th an alleged 
spy had been shot at Fort Bicfitre on very shallow evidence of 
his culpability. There was so much treason in the air, so many 
spies and traitors about, using false names and disguises, per* 
meating the federate army through and through, that the 
Committee of Public Safety meditated applying a stringent 
measure by which every person's identity and character should 
be instantly determined. 

Even the divisional commanders were suspected. Dom- 
browski has been referred to, but the others were not exempt 
from suspicion. To guard against treachery from these high 
officials, delegates from the Commune were ordered to ac- 
company them, ostensibly to associate the civil to the military 
element, in imitation of the great revolution of 1793, but really 
to watch the generals so that any attempt at treason might be 
instantly detected. Thus the member of the Commune Dereure 
was despatched to the side of Dombrowski ; Johannard to La 
Cecilia ; and L60 Meillet to Wrobleski. On May 13th another 
Versailles agent, a M. Lasnier, was arrested with a sum of 
nearly 30,000 francs upon him, intended for purposes of bribery 
amongst the federates. Another scheme, elaborated under M. 
Thiers* auspices, with which Lasnier was associated, was the 
manufacture of tricoloured armlets, which were to be distributed 
among the loyal Guards in Paris, and worn by them on the day 
when the Versaillais should enter the city, so that the good 
might be distinguished from the bad. By the treachery of a 
National Guard who was thought to be devoted to Versailles 
interests, this plan was revealed to the Commune, and was at 
once frustrated by the arrest of Madame Legros, who was 
manufacturing the armlets, and the seizure of her goods. After 
this the Committee of Public Safety issued a mandate requiring 
every citizen to bear upon him a card of identity which would 
be furnished by the police commissary of his district. This 
decree was of impossible execution, and serves only to show 
to what absurdities these administrators could commit them- 
selves. The day of extreme measures was arrived, and the 
Communal chiefs and their emissaries justified every conceivable 

* Du Camp, t. i. pp. 87, 89. 

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May 13M, 1871 225 

action by the magic wand of Expediency. To maintain their 
authority, to prolong their rule, to thwart and vex the Versaillais 
were the only considerations that had weight with them. War 
brings its own code of morals, which is barbaric from a bar- 
barous era — and recognises only one arbiter, Force. 

The feeling amongst the Communist leaders at this period 
was one of anxiety and disquietude. The fatal day of the 
Versaillais' entrance they all knew could not long be warded 
off, and thoughts of personal safety were not forgotten amidst 
the cares of political administration. That they would actually 
vanquish their adversary never seriously entered their minds, 
but they could not, or rather would not at the sacrifice of their 
own lives, withdraw from the course of action hitherto pursued. 
A similar feeling of uneasiness at the near approach of the 
final struggle beset the federates, amongst whom there was 
an increased repugnance to active service. 

A large number of men drew their pay, but disappeared 
afterwards. Domiciliary searches were made by the Comit6 
Central for refractories, but the people of Paris in many instances 
aided their escape, and it was impracticable to search every 
house. The glory of fighting for a Republic, a Commune, and 
Liberty, was on the wane, in face of the constant defeats which 
their army sustained and the absence of efficient leadership. A 
slight advantage gained by Dombrowski's men on the nth, at 
Sablonville, was the chief and almost the sole variation from an 
otherwise uninterrupted series of failures or at least of insuccesses. 
That the Communist soldiers fought well in many quarters was 
undeniable — the bare fact that they kept the Versaillais outside 
of Paris for so long a period proves their possession of consider- 
able stamina and courage. They were, however, being surely 
beaten. On the south side of Paris the Versaillais occupied, on 
the 13th May, the fort of Vanves — it also having been vacated 
by the federates. The possession of this fort and of Fort Issy 
enabled the Government army to inundate the walls of Paris^ 
near the Point du Jour, with shells. The inhabitants of Passy 
had already taken flight — the defenders of that quarter could 
no longer hold themselves upon the ramparts, but were forced 
to take shelter underneath. Many of the Communal losses 
were flatly denied by the authorities at the H6tel de Ville, but 


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226 History of the Paris Commune of liji 

the rank and file of the federates began to appreciate the un- 
reliability of these official dhnentis^ and to feel that they had 
espoused a losing cause. 

Even the Committee of Public Safety, bellicose and deter- 
mined as were its public utterances, felt a similar inquietude as 
to the eventual result of the struggle. Billioray manifested this 
anxiety before a partisan of the Versaillais, with a view, even 
then, to see whether a compromise favourable to the Commune 
might be effected ; but the reply he received was discouraging, 
and he realized that it only remained for the Communists to 
resist until death. ^ 

The Military Commission of Control was reformed with the 
hope that more pugnacious and ruthless members would 
strengthen the defence. The newly appointed were Bergeret, 
Cournet, G^resme, Ledroit, Lonclas, Sicard, and Urbain, an in- 
crease of two members over the original number, Cournet's 
presidency over the Police department had come to an end ; he 
had been replaced in that office on the 13th May by Ferr^, a 
man as pitiless as Rigault, and actuated by similar impulses. 

The Committee of Public Safety invited navvies, carpenters, 
mechanics and others to offer themselves to take part in the 
defensive works which were to be executed to supplement the 
scientific barricades erected by Gaillard. The latter structures 
were not appreciated by Delescluze, as, though they were strong 
and formidable, they were too regularly built to be of service in 
a street war, and in fact were as likely to profit the attackers as 
the defenders. 

Meanwhile the schism between the two parties in the Com- 
mune became accentuated. The minority day by day felt more 
aggfrieved at the conduct of the majority. The former had been 
entrapped in regard to the appointment of the second Com- 
mittee of Public Safety ; it was being systematically left to itself 
when purely social measures came before the Commune for 
consideration ; it found itself without even a consultative voice 
in the direction of the war, and it was ignored and insulted by 
the independent action of the majority, who met on other days 
than the appointed one? and debated amongst themselves the 

* Daudet, pp. 29, 30. 

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May iith, 1871 227 

current events, whilst on the regular days they failed for the 
most part to put in an appearance at the H6tel de Ville, con- 
scious that the minority were devoid of any real power. The 
15th May was the date of a regular meeting. The minority, 
having made up its mind formally to protest against the tactics 
of the majority and against the devolution of full powers to the 
Committee of Public Safety, signed a declaration to this effect, 
and eleven of the signatories attended at the H6tel de Ville at 
the usual hour, with the object of presenting it to the Commune. 
Only four or five members of the majority were there, and, 
after waiting an hour, the minority members withdrew without 
a sitting having been commenced. The declaration was sent 
to the press and appeared in the morning papers of the 16th. 
The signatories to it were : Beslay, Jourde, Theisz, Lefran^ais, 
E. G^rardin, Vermorel, Cl^mence, Andrieu, Serailler, Longuet, 
Arthur Amould, V. Clement, Avrial, Ostyn, Frankel, Pindy, G. 
Arnold, Jules Vall^s, Tridon, Varlin, Courbet. Malon also 
publicly signified his adherence to the declaration, making in all 
twenty-two declarants, of whom twenty had formed part of the 
minority on the appointment of the first Committee of Public 
Safety. Of the remaining two, one — Frankel — had voted in the 
majority on that occasion, whilst the other — G. Arnold — was 
absent. All of these signatories were engaged in the labour of 
Communal administration, and some of them — Jourde, Varlin, 
Beslay, Theisz, Andrieu, Frankel — occupied leading positions. 
They did not relinquish their work, but intended, according to 
the words of their declaration, to give effect to their protest by 
no longer presenting themselves at the Communal sittings ex- 
cept on occasions when the Commune might have to judge any 
of its members.^ This minority found itself drawn into the 
vortex of a revolution : not that social revolution which it had 
originally projected before its mind's eye, proceeding swiftly, 
firmly, and by a homogeneous and united populace, to the reali- 
zation of those grand plans for the amelioration of suffering and 
the rendition of justice, which had formed the Utopia of socialis- 
tic advocacy, attracting in its course all the hitherto scattered 
elements of reform, amalgamating and solidifying them, spread- 

■ Lefran^ais, pp. 301-304. 

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228 History of the Paris Commune of i%T\ 

ing from Paris to the provinces, from France to Europe, from 
Europe to the entire civilized world, and establishing once and 
for all the Universal Brotherhood of Man — not this, but a revo- 
lution that had become narrowed to the simplest and most primi- 
tive of ideas — a struggle for existence, and which travelled along 
the most inglorious of paths — Civil War, and which threatened 
to swamp, at one and the same time, themselves and their 
theories. Nevertheless, these men formed the pick of the Com- 
mune for sincerity and for a real desire to benefit the poorer 
portion of humanity. Neither were they without ability, but 
they, along with the entire Commune, lacked experience,, 
breadth of view, and, of first importance, a pre-eminent leader. 
The morning which exhibited to the eye of the 

May \6lh, _,.. , ^. .. -,^ 

Parisian the protest of the minority of the Commune,, 
brought him also, in the pages of the Journal Officiel^ an invita- 
tion to take part in a great f&te which was to have place that 
day — in other words, to witness the fall of the immense Napo- 
leonic monument in the Place Vend6me. Preparations for this 
culmination were at last completed, and the demolition was 
veritably to occur. Many people were incredulous, stupefied at 
the prodigious want of sense which the project displayed. Yet 
the column was undoubtedly to be deposed from its imposing 
position — it was already cut half through at the base, it was 
surrounded by scaffolding, and ropes and machinery were wait- 
ing wherewith, at the word of command, to pull it down. The 
denizens of the neighbourhood were in some alarm, lest the con- 
cussion which would be produced by the fall of such an immense 
weight should weaken the foundations or crack the walls of 
their houses. Windows were padded and shops closed every- 
where in the vicinity. The ceremony was fixed for two o'clock,, 
and a huge concourse of people assembled by that hour. 
Battalions of federates lined the square. Gaillard's barricade at 
the Rue de la Paix exit was partly broken down to permit the 
fall of the column. There was laid to receive the latter and to 
lessen the force of the impact a bed of rubbish and dung, these 
materials being purposely considered to be the most fitting ta 
receive the relic of so uncivilized and despotic an era as that 
which the column commemorated ! ^ Hostility amongst the 
' Lefran^ais, p. 327. 

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May i6ih, 1871 229 

crowd to the execution of the Communal decree had been anti- 
cipated, and Ferr^ had given instructions accordingly. The 
irritation was, however, more felt than expressed. A certain 
Comte de Cambis, a man of 78 years, who had lost a hand in 
the service of the Napoleon whose memory was to be so dese- 
crated, expressed his opinions highly and openly, and struck 
with his mutilated limb a federate near him who had declared 
that Napoleon was a coward.^ A lieutenant of Mobiles named 
Odelin, taking forcible steps to prevent the pursuit of the opera- 
tions, was straightway shot dead.^ These were the chief out- 
ward evidences of hostility. Various members of the Commune 
presented themselves at the spectacle — Bergeret himself in glit- 
tering attire ; F^lix Pyat, armed with two revolvers ; Ferr^, as 
head of the police ; Courbet, the artist who had advocated the 
demolition ; Ranvier, Fortune, Miot, and others. Rochefort in 
an open carriage passed to and fro at the top of the Rue de la 
Paix, an object of mingled suspicion and commiseration.^ Too 
aristocratic for revolutionary democracy, too democratic for con- 
stitutional plutocracy, he was distrusted in Paris, detested at 
Versailles. A man of grandiose desires, but continually tripped 
by his own calculating hesitancy. One even whispers that he is 
liable to be arrested by Rigault 

The breaking of a winch delayed the momentous event which 
was in every one's thoughts. A second machine was not at 
hand, and the delay caused thereby extended to over two hours, 
-during which several military bands regaled the crowd with 
their music. During this interval Simon Mayer, whose care- 
lessness on March iSth had so largely contributed to the 
assassinations of Generals Lecomte and Thomas, mounted the 
column, waved the tricoloured flag of France in his hands, 
then tore it and threw it into the air,* — the action being in- 
tended to signify that even thus was about to vanish all that 
history of France which the tricoloured flag was associated 

At half-past five preparations were ready for the finale. 
Profound silence and expectancy reigned over the vast multi- 
tude, and every eye was fixed upon the huge upright column, 

* Du Camp, t. ii. p. 286. * Barges, p. 1 7. 

» Du Camp, t. ii. p. 277. * Ibid.^ t. ii. p. 287. 

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230 History of the Paris Commune of 1^7 \ 

The turning of winches and the straining of ropes were heard, 
a slight oscillation of the monument was seen, then slowly it 
inclined forward, broke into three pieces, and fell upon the bed 
prepared for it. Loud shouts of " Vive la R^publique ! " and 
" Vive la Commune ! " burst forth from federate throats, the 
cordon of guards was broken, and the throng of people rushed 
on to the fallen trophy. Bergeret, standing on one of the pieces, 
made a speech ; Ranvier and Miot from the dismantled 
pedestal — over which now floated the Communal red flag — did 
likewise. Listen to these two. Miot : " Up to now our passion 
has been exerted only upon material things; but the day 
approaches where the reprisals will be terrible, and will strike 
that infamous reaction which seeks to crush us." Ranvier : 
"The Venddme Column, Thiers' house, and the Expiatory 
Chapel are only material executions, but the turn of the traitors 
and of the Royalists will inevitably come, if the Commune is 
forced to it." ^ 

The fall of the column produced less shock than had been 
anticipated. A slight tremor of the earth was felt, but not a 
window was broken nor apparently any damage done to the 
houses. As an object lesson in dynamics this toppling over of 
a huge monument was of slight account ; in its moral aspect it 
is of tremendous significance. The demolition was not intended 
to serve, and did not serve one useful purpose ; it was purely a 
wanton and deliberate act of vengeful spleen against an historic 
past that had emblazoned upon it the same name as that which 
bore the recently deposed Emperor ; moreover, the column com- 
memorated not so much Napoleon as Napoleon's army — ^that 
grrand army which was the pride of France, and whose sufferings^ 
endurances, and achievements, entirely apart from its leader, 
demand the highest admiration and respect : thus recollecting^ 
one begins to perceive the depths of folly and of stupidity 
which lurked in some portions of humanity, and paraded under 
the cloaks of Reason and Liberty. Intolerance will never 
be eradicated, whether under sacerdotal, political, or artistic 
auspices ; there it was, is, and will be to the end of time, kept 
in measured restraint for the most part, but ever ready to seize 

* Z.^ 18 Mars^ pp. 326, 327. Du Camp, t. ii. p. 294. Daudet, p. 65. 

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May i6th, 187 1 231 

an opportunity to break its bonds and assume the mastery. 
Despise it not wholly ; even it has a purpose to serve. All 
the virtues and excellences in man are counterpoised by equi- 
valent vices and imbecilities, even as the mountains of the 
earth do but equal the extent of its valleys. Nature is ever 
impartial. Take it to heart, you glorious nations of civilization 
— be at once Proud and Humble, for your Wisdom is linked 
with Folly, your Goodness with Cruelty, and your Genius with 

The fury of desperation began to show itself in the Commune. 
The angry menaces spoken after the fall of the column indicated 
the rage that was produced by the knowledge of the constantly 
tightening grip of the Versaillais upon the city. Despite the 
lying reports which the Committee of Public Safety and the 
Comitd Central daily circulated in order to mislead the federates, 
and to instil into them that confidence which only a succession 
of victories could have inspired, the members of the Commune 
knew they were losing ground and that defeat loomed threaten- 
ingly ahead of them. All their passions, their retaliative 
measures, and their exertions had failed to impede their enemy's 
progress, to retain or improve their fellow-citizens' sympathies, 
or to secure the much-coveted external aid. Several attempts 
in the latter direction had been made from time to time by 
Paschal Grousset ; but all had either met with no response, or 
the answer had been promptly circumvented by the watchful 
energy of Thiers. Many of the large towns of France un- 
doubtedly sympathised with the Commune, and even at this 
date all hope of transforming a mental into a material support 
had not quitted the Communist ranks. Once more, on May i6th, 
Grousset sent forth, by means of balloons, an appeal to the 
provinces — a final despairing cry for armed assistance. No more 
platonic professions of friendship — Rise up, Lyons, Marseilles, 
Bordeaux, and the rest of you — ^you have guns and ammunition, 
seize them. The time is for action. Paris will blow itself up 
rather than surrender — or it will transform itself into a cemetery 
and make of every house a tomb ! ^ 

The provinces were doing something — in the way of talking 

* Z^ 18 Marsy p. 325. 

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232 History of the Paris Commune of i%ji 

and writing. The league of the Republican Union still harped 
on Compromise and Conciliation, which to it, as to all other 
concatenations of Republicans or Socialists formed with that 
object, only meant that the Strong should bow down before 
the Weak — it got together at Lyons a gathering of delegates 
from various towns, which gathering did what it was convened 
for : sent a somewhat peremptory message to Thiers and the 
National Assembly at Versailles with the object of reducing 
the latter to a level with the Commune.^ 

Conciliation was, however, utterly chimerical. The Versail- 
lais had opened an immense battery of guns at Montretout 
(St. Cloud), with which they swept the western portion of the 
fortifications with a terrible and continuous fire — whilst the 
Communists had shown their lack of a conciliatory spirit, not 
only by the demolition of the Venddme column, but also by the 
suppression of six more journals * that had the unhappy faculty 
of telling something like the truth. Rigault and Ferr^ would 
not brook opposition so long as they could crush it. One of 
these journals had just been started by Vermorel — a minority 
member — in the hope of recalling the people and his colleagues 
of the majority to moderate ideas. Vermorel's own conversion 
to moderation came too late to profit either himself or the Com- 
mune. It had the result of jeopardising his liberty, and he 
knew he might be at any instant arrested. Should he fly ? 
No — flight was cowardly ; at whatever cost he would remain to 
the end. 

To guard against possible surprises, all railway trains 
arriving at Paris were ordered to stop for inspection 
at some distance from the fortifications — any train endeavouring 
to disregard this injunction would be instantaneously destroyed 
by the agency of explosives. Placards were posted through- 
out the city requiring all holders of petroleum and mineral 
oils to declare the same at the H6tel de Ville within forty-eight 
hours — a request which was largely complied with. Declaration 
by the holders of phosphorus and chemical products also was 
demanded, but to this invitation the wholesale chemists and 

* Z/ 18 Mars^ p. 324. 

• 15th May : Le Moniteur Vniversel^ VUnivers, L ObservateuTy Le Specta- 
teur^ VEtoile^ VAnonyme, 

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May \Tthy 1871 233 

■druggists turned a deaf ear. Parties oi fusiens — rocket-firers — 
were formed, this and the last-named order being under the 
authority of the Scientific Delegation of which Parisel was the 
head. The pursuit of refractories was carried on with increased 
ardour, women being employed in the work ; entire districts 
were surrounded by federates, whilst the search was prosecuted 
within them. The women thus utilized had offered their services 
to Delescluze, and he had not dared to offend them by refusing ; 
they were generally of a vile and brutal character — there were 
young women amongst them, but they were neither pretty nor 
gentle. These females were more like men, for they were 
entirely devoid of the charms which one usually associates with 

All these measures were undertaken with a determination, now 
become fixed in the minds of the Communist leaders, to defend 
Paris by all means and to the last extremity. In this general 
idea the minority of the Commune participated evenly with the 
majority. How it was to be put into shape was vaguely under- 
stood and as indefinitely expressed — it was an idea capable of 
such terrible expansion that few persons cared to reduce it into 
particulars. When it became known that the holders of phos- 
phorus and chemicals had not declared their possession of these 
products, as demanded, it was publicly notified that their goods 
were liable to be forcibly seized for non-compliance with the 
order, and Jules Vall^, in his paper, the Cri du Peuple, referring 
generally to this subject, made use of a significant phrase : " If 
M. Thiers is a chemist, he will comprehend us." 

The anti-religious mania, which in April had been so virulent, 
had recently been less obtrusive ; now it burst out again with 
its old vehemence and passion. Rumour had it that the church 
of N6tre Dame des Victoires, situated close to the Bank, had 
been the scene of miraculous occurrences, mysterious crimes, 
and so forth — it was enough. Rigault being informed of these 
reports, a battalion of federates was at once sent to the church, 
under the command of the skeleton investigator, Le Moussu, 
who invaded the building, imprisoned the priests whom he 
found there, broke the statues, destroyed the religious emblems, 
desecrated the tombs in search again for skeletons, pillaged 
everything of value, and turned the edifice into a federates' 

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234 History of the Paris Commune of i^ji 

pandemonium. Many bcndies were exhumed, and the next day 
the skeletons were publicly exhibited.^ 

Whilst that work was proceeding, the Commune had as- 
sembled — it was the day for a regular meeting. The majority 
members had read the published declaration of the minority 
stating that they would not again attend the Communal sittings. 
Much, therefore, to their surprise, there were present at this 
meeting fifteen out of the twenty-two signatories to that 
declaration ; viz., Courbet, Frankel, Pindy, G. Arnold, Vall^s, 
Jourde, Theisz, Vermorel, CI6mence, Andrieu, Serailler, Arthur 
Amould, V. Clement, Avrial, and Ostyn.* Had they recanted ? 
Frankel avowed that he for one had ; the others were less clear, 
and had not made up their minds. One thing from their action 
is evident — ^that such weak and indecisive intelligences are not 
the stuff from which to find men capable of steering a wise 
course through troubled waters. 

There was a full gathering at this meeting of the Commune, 
sixty-six members being present Urbain announced that an 
ambulance woman, whilst engaged in tending some wounded 
federates, had been first violated and then killed by Versailles 
soldiers. A gross charge, supported by scanty evidence. It 
was, however, sufficient for Urbain's purpose, which was not to 
avenge the ambulancUre, but to intimidate the Versaillais. 
In retaliation for the alleged violation and murder, he demanded 
the execution of ten of the imprisoned hostages within twenty- 
four hours. J. B. Clement supported the demand, and was 
about incidentally to ask a question of Parisel, the chief of the 
Scientific Delegation, when numerous members shouted, " Secret 
Committee ! Secret Committee ! " * Why were they so afraid of 
publicity in regard to Parisel's doings ? That innocent-looking 
Scientific Delegation ; what was it about ? 

The Commune returned to open meeting, and decided upon 
the immediate execution of the decree of April 5th referring to 
the hostages.* Rigault brought in a project of law to regulate 
the details of accusation and trial. The matter did not seem to 
be altogether on a sound legal footing, and Protot, the del^^te of 
Justice, was inclined, as befitting the head of the law, to exact 

* Du Camp, t. ii. p. 309. Un Officier, pp. 202, 203. 

» Journal Officiel, May i8th. » Ibid. * Ibid, 

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May \*]th, 187 1 235 

respect for the formalities of judicial procedure. Rigault, a 
stickler for ceremonial observances when it suited him, and 
equally regardless of such when it did not, overrode all objections 
by declaring emphatically that what the time required was a 
veritable Revolutionary Tribunal. The Commune lent itself to- 
Rigault's demands, and the fate of the hostages was virtually 
left with him. Jurors to the number of a hundred had already 
been drawn to form the '* juries d' accusation'^ \ drawn from the 
National Guards ; inspired with deep hatred of the Versaillais 
and their accomplices, amongst whom the hostages were 
reckoned ; to be led and harangued by a relentless and un- 
scrupulous Procureur, with the knowledge that their own lives 
were not safe if they failed to realize what was expected of 
them. These jurors were a hollow machinery for giving a 
semblance of judicial procedure to trials wherein the ruling 
motive will not be Justice, but a grim Expediency and Ven- 

Whilst the Commune deliberated that afternoon, news arrived 
that a terrible explosion of war ammunition, with most disas- 
trous results, had occurred at a large cartridge manufactory in 
the Avenue Rapp, Champ de Mars. A wave of consternation 
passed over the meeting ; the explosion was immediately 
attributed to Versaillais incendiarism ; the conviction was 
strengthened that extreme repressive measures must be em- 

The cartridge manufactory blew up at a quarter to six with a 
report so tremendous that it was heard miles off. The building 
was shattered to pieces ; neighbouring houses were wrecked,, 
and millions of leaden bullets, with quantities of other pro- 
jectiles, were sent hurtling through the air. The few persons 
who were inside the manufactory at the time were killed ; out- 
side, there were numerous killed and wounded, of whom many 
were women and children ; some of these were struck by the 
flying missiles a great distance away. A fire burst out, and it 
was with difficulty that some tons of powder which had escaped 
the explosion were removed from the flames which followed. 
Paris was horrified and panic-stricken ; the Communal authori- 
ties made some arrests and perquisitions — they were bound to 
do something. They made announcements that a Court-Martial 

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236 History of tJie Paris Comfuune ^1871 

was installed, that Justice would be speedily done, that an 
inquiry would be opened — the fact that an inquiry would be 
incompatible with swift Justice not being evident to them. Of 
all this nothing came ; the cause of the explosion remains to 
this day unknown, and therefore speculations are idle as to 
political motives being concerned with it. In all probability the 
affair was purely accidental. Since, however, the Communists 
freely accused the Versaillais of having caused it, it is but fair to 
remember that in the Communist ranks there were traitors as 
well as spies, and that, if the explosion was not fortuitous, it was 
as likely to be produced by one party as by the other. 

Even the Committee of Public Safety possessed a traitor 
within its midst. Billioray's anxiety had led him thus far. 
With other Communists, he had bargained to open the Point 
du Jour roadway to the Versaillais, who, disguised as National 
Guards, should arrive at that entrance during the night The 
plan was not completed owing to the faithlessness of one of the 
plotters, S^rizier, who, having received the price of his perfidy, 
was indifferent to the performance of that which he had bar- 
gained to do. Thus it happened that the disguised Versaillais, 
upon presenting themselves to carry out the arrangement, were 
received with a mitrailleuse fire and forced to retreat* The 
federates in the forts and on the ramparts were not to be easily 
surprised. Their watchfulness and exertions were redoubled, as 
they felt the supreme hour of conflict was drawing near. They 
returned the fire of the Versaillais* guns with energy, and it was 
largely to this fact that was due the extremely slow progress of 
the latter. The Government army, nevertheless, made some 
advances, chiefly under cover of the Bois de Boulogne, digging 
trenches and constructing heavy batteries wherewith to form a 
breach in the fortifications. Skirmishes between the combatants 
were of frequent occurrence, but of slight value or loss to cither 

On May i8th the Government troops, however, gained a 
signal advantage by carrying two barricades at Bourg-la-Reine, 
one of the most southern points in the fighting area, and seizing 
a mill at Cachan, close by, which had been made a place of 

' Un Officier^ p. 204. Du Camp, t. i. p. 195. 

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May \Zth^ 187 1 237 

defence; in thus doing inflicting considerable loss upon the 
federates, of whom a hundred were killed and forty-eight made 
prisoners.^ By this engagement, the Versaillais approached near 
to Arcueil and to the forts Bic^tre and Montrouge. 

Elsewhere — in the Bois de Boulogne — the federates had their 
own peculiar gain to record. A boy, fifteen years old, was sus- 
pected of having carried letters between Versailles and Paris, 
and upon interrogation he admitted he had done so, and had 
received Versailles money for his services. Johannard, the civil 
del^ate accompanying the general La Cecilia, and the latter,, 
agreed that the boy must be shot ; this was straightway accom- 

Inside the city, a further evidence of the merciless spirit which 
had come over the active Communists was seen in the publica- 
tion, by the Journal Officiel and another paper, of an appeal from 
two Montmartites for the formation of a battalion to be called 
" Tyrannicides," the members of which should by any means 
and in all countries endeavour to kill every scion of the royal 
or imperial houses which had reigned over France. The 
appellants were persons of no consequence ; the seriousness of 
their appeal rests in the publication of it by the professedly 
official organ of the Commune. 

M. Borme, the chemist whose services had been requisitioned 
in April by the Scientific Delegation, now experienced the 
danger of being even negatively an accomplice of Versailles. 
He was arrested, being at last suspected of having manipu- 
lated the chemical compounds so that no explosives could 
be formed from them. 

Another arrest effected was that of E. Clement, member of 
the Commune, who had been an agent of Police under the 
Empire. Aware that this fact, if known of his colleagues,, 
would secure his instant imprisonment, Clement had taken 
advantage of his position of member of the Police Commission, 
to which he had been appointed on May 13th, to search the 
archives of the Prefecture, so as to withdraw from them the 
documents relating to himself. In doing this he was discovered,, 
and Rigault at once sent him to Mazas prison. Clement made. 

* Macmahon, p. 12. * La VMte^ p. 395. 

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238 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

the sixth member of the Commune who had been arrested, his 
predecessors being Assi, Bergeret, Cluseret, Allix, and Blanchet 
If Rossel and Lullier be added, the list is increased to eight 
The two latter had each been at the head of the federate army, 
and Rossel had some claim to be considered a member of the 
Commune, for he had been a candidate in the elections held 
on April i6th, but had received too small a number of votes 
to be elected, notwithstanding which, he had taken part in 
the deliberations of the Commune during his brief tenure of 
the chief military position. It cannot be considered surprising 
that so many of the Communist leaders suffered some of the 
unpleasant consequences of the malevolence and distrust which 
so markedly prevailed. Every breath of adverse opinion was 
instantly stigmatised as treasonable and treacherous, and bold 
or indiscreet speakers either were, or ran an imminent risk 
of being, incarcerated and detained as hostages. Priests had 
not even to offer this slight excuse to justify their being ar- 
rested. One of the Communal magistrates, before whom, on 
May nth, the Abb6 Vautier had been brought, declared that, 
*' Before all, a priest is and must be culpable ; it is for him 
to demonstrate his innocence," ^ and this irrational antagonism 
was characteristic of the entire Police service under the Com- 
mune. When men can act like brigands to their opponents, 
they will not hesitate to act similarly towards their friends 
upon the least pretext 

The fate of the hostages began to excite alarm. Petitions 
were being signed amongst the religious communities for the 
release of the priests, for whose safety there seemed sufficient 
reason to fear, seeing that the Commune had determined to put 
into execution its decree of April Sth. Petitions, however, 
especially from such quarters, were useless instruments whereby 
to influence the Commune, which had practical considerations 
alone in view. It hoped, even yet, that the publication of the 
announcement relative to the hostages would cause the Ver- 
saillais to temporise, seek mediation, or somehow soften the 
rigour of their attitude, so as not to jeopardise the important 
lives which the Commune held in its grasp. Only in so far as 

* 5™« Conseil de Guerre, 19th Dec, 1872. Affaire Curd 

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May i()tk, 1 87 1 239 

the hostages formed a lever whereby to stay the progress or 
lessen the implacability of the Versaillais were they valuable to 
the Commune, and the more hostages, the greater were the 
chances, according to it, of making terms with its enemy. 

Upon this principle, and locally instigated by the 
loss inflicted upon them the previous day at Bourg- 
la-Reine and Cachan, L60 Meillet, the Governor of Bicetre, and 
S6rizier, each with a battalion of National Guards, surrounded the 
Dominican school of Albert the Great at Arcueil, and arrested 
there the entire community of Dominican fathers, pupils and 
domestics, to the number of thirty-nine persons. Of these, 
twenty-seven persons (males) were sent to Fort Bic^tre ; twelve 
females were despatched to Paris, to the prison St. Lazare.^ 

The Commune had now about 200 clerical hostages, and a 
much greater number laical, the bulk of the latter being ser- 
gents de ville and gendarmes, who had been arrested on and 
about March i8th, not at that time as hostages, for which they 
were scarcely important enough ; but they were clearly given 
that character on the day — May 19th — now under notice. Four 
juries of accusation had been formed and sat to adjudicate upon 
these unfortunate prisoners, who, at Rigault's demand, were 
brought before these juries so that a formal decision might be 
taken as to whether they were to be considered hostages or not. 
The judicial procedure employed was of the most superficial 
character. There were the presidents and the juries, all drawn 
from the National Guards; the Public Prosecutor, who was either 
Rigault or one of his substitutes, the prisoners and the public, 
the latter largely, if not wholly, of the Communist persuasion. 
The prisoners had no defenders, no friendly witnesses; they were 
swiftly examined and swiftly judged.^ They were all alike 
innocent or guilty, as one may choose to view it, but the juries, 
in order to give a similitude of discriminating justice, and to 
show that they were not there merely to mechanically register 
Rigault's demands, acquitted here one and there another, with- 
out there being any real foundation for drawing such a distinc- 
tion. That day and the next, thirty-six of these prisoners 
were, in this fashion, declared to be hostages.^ 

* Du Camp, voL i. p. 211. * Rousse, p. 29. 

* De la Brug^re, pp. 165-168. 

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240 History of the Paris Commune of 187 1 

Rigault's imperious will further showed itself by the sup- 
pression of ten more newspapers,^ and in the announcement now 
made that no new journals would be allowed until the end of 
the war. Rochefort's organ, the MotcVOrdre, also ceased to 
appear, not because of suppression, but because Rochefort and 
his secretary deemed Paris too insecure for them. They escaped 
from the capital and went to Meaux, a place about twenty-five 
miles off, to the north-east, occupied by the German forces. 
There they were arrested by a police commissary, handed over 
first to the German authorities, and by them transferred to Ver- 
sailles to M. Thiers. 

The only political papers now left in Paris were those that 
advocated the views of the majority of the Commune — views 
that exhibited neither mercy, moderation, nor calmness, but 
were as vindictive and unreasoning as a vengeful boy that has 
been whipped. Personal liberty had come to such a pass that 
scarcely any but Communists dared to venture in the streets ; 
trade and commerce, which before the Communal era had made 
some movement, though slight, towards a settling down and re- 
adjustment, were more than ever stagnant. The only activity 
was of a military nature, and this was spurred on by the 
incessant bombardment to which the fortifications were sub- 
jected. Thiers had said he would never bombard the city, 
and, nominally, this restriction was observed, though it was 
impossible to aim every cannon-shot with such accuracy that it 
should strike the ramparts and not fly over them. The Comit^ 
Central maintained its ascendancy over the administration of 
war, despite the objections of both Delescluze and the Com- 
mune, who were nevertheless compelled, by the exigencies of the 
situation, to tolerate much that they inwardly resented. 

The ill-concealed dissensions and antipathy betwixt 
these two governing bodies gave rise, on May 20th, to 
a joint public notification that there were no differences between 
them, but that from that date the Comit6 Central would enter 
into the functions of the administration of war — a palpable evi- 
dence of antagonisms and disagreements, seeing that theComit6 

* 28 Floreal : La Commune^ DEcho^ L Independance Franqaise de Paris^ 
LAvenir National^ La PatriCy Le Pirate^ Le Riptdflicairiy La Revue des 
Deux NfondeSy LEcho de V Ultramar ^ La Justice, 

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May 20thy 1871 241 

Central had formally been invested with these functions so far 
back as May 5 th. The document was signed, on behalf of the 
Communal Military Commission, by Bergeret, Champy, G^resme, 
Ledroyt, Lonclas, and Urbain, and, on behalf of the Comit6 
Central, by forty of its members, the first name being that 
of Edouard Moreau. The name of Delescluze did not appear 
upon it, and this constituted a significant omission, for it was 
the civil Delegate of "War who chiefly represented the Com- 
munal opposition to the Comit6 Central. Neither did the name 
of the Committee of Public Safety appear upon the document, 
and the statement it contained to the effect that unity existed in 
the administration of the war was therefore utterly delusive. 
It was the old fault of there being too many chiefs and too 
many aspirants for supreme authority, the result still being dis- 
organization and confusion. Could the rest of France have 
been blotted out of existence for a few years, the Paris amateur 
governors might have gained experience, learnt submission to 
superiors, and evolved from their midst one or two capable 
leaders of men ; but the fact cannot be too strongly brought 
home to all would-be reformers and rulers, that Nature will not 
be hurried in its efforts — that any attempt to produce in a week 
or a month that which demands the labour of years, or to estab- 
lish either law or government that has not slowly, widely, and 
deeply grown to be the wish of the people — will be sure to bring 
a reaction or a Nemesis in its train, more or less terrible, 
according to the extent of the rupture of natural law which has 
been perpetrated. 

The chief political error of the Paris Commune was of this 
character. It was eager to transform its own advanced views 
swiftly into practical existence, and it may be safely granted 
that the bulk of its members honestly believed that their views 
were for the welfare of the community. It, however, knew not 
the bear and forbear, the give and take, of good government ; 
it was inflated with self-esteem, despising and crushing instead 
of learning from adverse opinion ; it never realized that the 
regime of government is of less account than the govern- 
ment itself — that if it had used its splendid opportunity 
wisely and tolerantly it would have attracted to its support 
men who had hitherto held aloof, whereas by legislating and 


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242 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^ji 

acting wildly, intolerantly, impetuously, it had alienated much 
of the sympathy and good-will with which it started; in a 
word, it was much too hasty, having tried to jump its own 
generation into laws which might befit only the next or the 

The Commune had, moreover, committed a cardinal error by 
not from the beginning taking a firm stand against the pre- 
tensions of the Comitd Central, in whose hands the real re- 
volutionary power had remained throughout ; to whom also must 
be largely attributed the weakening of the force it controlled, 
by having permitted and even encouraged indiscipline. The 
day of account, however, is drawing near — the final struggle 
cannot be much longer delayed. In anticipation thereof 
barricades have been erected all over Paris — not the scientific 
semi-fortresses of Gaillard, but huge rough works, more 
suitable for the required purpose than that individual's con- 

As yet, between the four chief military authorities in Paris 
— Committee of Public Safety, Delegate of War, Military 
Commission, and Comitd Central — there was no plan of 
defence arranged — not even a commander-in-chief appointed, 
so stubbornly was the abolition of this post adhered to. Of 
the divisional commanders, there were Dombrowski and La 
Cecilia in the west; Wrobleski in the south; Eudes at the 
Palace of the Legion of Honour, and Bergeret at the Corps 
Legislatif. The main attack of the Versaillais could come only 
from the western side, yet there was no concentration of 
federates there to resist an attempt at entrance — nay, the 
ramparts and fortifications for a considerable extent were 
absolutely forsaken, owing to the severe cannonade which came 
from the enemy's guns. From the Point du Jour to Porte 
Maillot, the federates had disappeared ; Passy was deserted, 
and the Versaillais might have had an easy entrance at once 
had they known the state of affairs at this point. 

The members of the Commune were scattered all over Paris, 
each in his own arrondissement ; the federates likewise were 
distributed over the city. Concentration anywhere there was 
none ; each arrondissement was left to defend itself with its own 
proportion of soldiers, its own officers, and its own members of 

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May 20thy 187 1 243 

the Commune.^ We cannot agree to combine — we can agree 
only to separate ! 

The Bank of France also believed the eventful hour to be 
nigh, and was more chary of responding to the Communist 
demands for money, though it continued to yield to. their 
menaces, fearful lest the ang^ federates might refuse to obey 
their officers, and should force and sack the place of their own 
will. It, however, took the precaution of depositing all its 
bullion and paper money in its lowest cellar, and then blocking 
up with sand the staircase that led to it* The anxiety of the 
Bank was well founded. 

The federates must have their pay ; many, in fact, got more. 
In the Communal commissariat there were thieves so numerous, 
so systematic in their depredations, and so uncontrolled, that 
the Director of the Intendance informed Cournet that a saving 
of from two to three hundred thousand francs per day might 
be effected if thefts could be prevented.* Whereupon the 
Commune decreed Death to the Thieves until the end of the 
war.* The decree was never enforced, but there is no doubt 
that stealing was a prevalent practice among the federates, the 
most notable direction in which this inclination manifested 
Itself being in regard to wines and edibles, which were taken 
as a matter of course whenever opportunity offered. For this 
grave fault the common federate was less to blame than his 
superiors, who set him a pernicious example ; there is no army 
in the world that would be proof against such temptations 
under analogous circumstances. 

The acute danger to which the Bank of France was now 
exposed was but one symptom of the utter recklessness that 
had come over federates and their chiefs. A period of almost 
uncurbed power and indulgence appeared to be coming to an 
end, and the struggle of war involved in that finale did not 
appear so frightful to these unhappily obtuse intelligences as 
the contemplated loss of their unwonted privileges, which galled 
them exceedingly and made them reckless, so that their actions 
were frequently marked by complete indifference to conse- 
quences. One result of this spirit was the hatred shown to the 

' Lefran^ais, p. 315. * Du Camp, t. iii. p. 247. 

' La F/rrV/, p. 396, ^ Ibid, Du Camp, t. iv. p 88. 

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244 History of the Paris Commune of 187 1 

person of the United States Ambassador, who had throughout 
remained in Paris, and had exerted himself on several occasions 
to procure the release of prisoners or a mitigation of their 
hardships. Only on the i8th inst, ten of the female prisoners 
belonging to the Convent of Picpus were liberated at his 
request^ The federates resented his interference, and their 
anger went to such lengths as to call for the peremptory 
intervention of the commander of the German army of occupa- 
tion — the United States ambassador being in charge of German 
interests in Paris as well as those of his own country. The 
threatened international offence was averted, respect for German 
wishes surmounting, in Communist ranks, every other considera- 
tion. Only in this connection were there left to them any 
prudence or self-control ; in regard to the Versaillais their 
passions and venom was of unlimited malignancy. The 
demand made by the Scientific Delegation for information of 
the stores of chemical products and mineral oils was put into 
conjunction with various veiled and even open menaces as to 
the fate reserved for Paris should the Versaillais succeed in 
forcing an entrance. The fears thus aroused were transmitted 
to M. Thiers by persons of position and loyalty, in the hope 
of inducing him to come to terms with the Commune rather 
than jeopardise the immense treasures of art and architecture 
which Paris contained. Thiers was incredulous, he had heard 
these anxieties expressed before — nay, on all sides, people re- 
peated the same thing to him, but he believed it not: "the 
federates say they will do so and so, but they will never dare 
to do it." ^ These Communists are great boasters, talking high 
and acting low ; all their threats about destroying Paris are 
of the same strain and kindred — "they will never dare to 
do it" 

Thiers had one more opportunity for being conciliatory. On 
May 20th delegates from the Republican Union for the Rights 
of Paris went to Versailles to make another attempt at 
mediation. The Committee of Public Safety so far relaxed 
its bitter hostility to Thiers as to instigate this errand.' Even 

^ Du Camp, t i. p. 143. « Ibid,^ t iv. p. 272. 

' Le 18 Mars^ p. 331. 

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May lotky 1 87 1 245 

•at the eleventh hour it thought an acceptable compromise 
might be possible. But no ; the time had gone by for con- 
cession or conciliation, and Thiers refused to see the delegates. 
The final blow was about to be struck, and the issue was now 
with it and not with negotiation. Are not the eight days 
•expired which Thiers demanded from the National Assembly ? 
There is not yet a breach made in the walls of Paris for the 
Versaillais to pass through, but be sure its advent is not far 
removed. Thiers is a man of his word, and though precisely 
€ight days have not sufficed to witness the beginning of the 
€nd, eleven, or at the utmost twelve days, will certainly enter 
into that epoch. 

See ! at one o'clock this mid-day, the breach batteries, which 
have now been finished and armed, commence to belch forth 
their vomit of steel on to the hapless Portes Auteuil and St. 
Cloud, assisted therein by the guns from Forts Issy, Vanves, 
and Val^rien, and from the recently erected batteries of Montre- 
tout and Boulogne. The cannonade before had been de- 
structive, it is now terrible, ruinous^-driving away the last 
remnant of the inhabitants of Passy and Auteuil. Here, the 
shells fall like a torrential rain, four thousand in an hour,^ 
bursting and scattering their fragments all about ; wrecking 
not houses merely but streets, mixing and mingling in an 
indescribable confusion and debris all the things that one 
-associates with stability and comfort. The reply made by 
the federates from other parts of Paris to this frightful bom- 
bardment was weak and intermittent ; it scarcely merited to be 
considered a reply. 

Through the deserted streets near the fortifications at Passy 
a solitary man named Ducatel quickly walked and made 
observations, then swiftly came away. He was a surveyor of 
roads and bridges, and had previously been an officer of 
marines. Some twelve days before, Ducatel had departed from 
Paris by the St Denis gate, and had made the acquaintance 
of General Douay, commander of the Versailles fourth army 
corps, whose troops were preparing for the attack on the Point 
du Jour ; he had on that and on subsequent occasions given 

* Mottti, p. 47. 

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246 History of the Paris Commune ^1871 

the Versailles general valuable information relative to the 
federate defences in Passy and Auteuil, and had enabled him 
to rectify some errors of aim which the Versailles gunners had 

After making his observations, Ducatel again went his round- 
about and perilous way to General Douay, and informed him 
that Passy was deserted and the federates had all withdrawn 
from the fortifications ; a breach would soon be made in the 
ramparts, therefore be ready for any emergency ! Douay 
moved his troops nearer to the enceinte. At eight o'clock the 
heavy cannonading ceased for the night. 

At Neuilly and Sablonville fighting had been in progress all 
day, and also round about the forts Bic^tre and Montrouge. 
In all these places the Communists suffered loss. In the west, 
Dombrowski felt it was useless further to maintain the conflict 
outside the city walls, and he gradually withdrew his men into 
the interior. La Cecilia did likewise with his men from the 
Bois de Boulogne. In the south, Montrouge was suffering 
severely, the fort there was scarcely tenable. Notwithstanding 
which, despatches were published in Paris which stated that the 
Versaillais* attacks had been repulsed, with great loss to their 
enemy and an insignificant loss to themselves — statements which 
concealed the really critical position in which the fort was placed. 
The withdrawal of Dombrowski was dictated by military con- 
siderations — of this there is no need to doubt, though his con- 
duct can be viewed from another light. Veysset, whose agency 
had been adopted by the Versailles authorities, had made an 
arrangement with Dombrowski, whereby the latter and his staff 
were to be bought over for the sum of one and a half million 
francs, giving in exchange to the Versaillais the fortifications 
in an undefended state from the Porte du Jour to the Porte 
Wagram. Did Dombrowski accept this arrangement with 
sincerity or duplicity } However this might be, Veysset was 
the first to fail in keeping his respective share of the engage- 
ment, which, in his case, was to pay over an initial sum of 
money to Dombrowski. The reason for the failure was a suffi- 
cient one, but the Polish general was in ignorance of it. Veysset 
had been compelled, in his negotiations with Dombrowski — 
which necessarily had to be conducted with the utmost caution 

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May 20th, 1871 247 

— to employ as an intermediary a woman named MuUer. This 
woman betrayed him, and Veysset was arrested the 20th May 
by the agents of Ferr6, who, as well as Rigault, had been in 
search of him for some time. ^ 

* Du Camp, t i. pp. Zt, 89, 90. 

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First Day: Sunday, May 2ist, 1871. 

AT daybreak the breach batteries and all the chorus of 
surrounding artillery took up their thunder-song with 
undiminished energy. These works of man outrivallcd the 
natural elements by their tremendous booming and their dis- 
astrous power. No lightning's flash can accomplish such ruin 
as can the modern ordnance projectile. A few centuries back 
the thought would have been incomprehensible; even so the 
visionary and ridiculed idea of to-day may be realized in the 

Two members of the Commune, V^sinier, editor of the Journal 
Officiel^ and Lefranjais, the first president of the Communal 
sianceSy paid separately a visit of inspection to Passy. Each 
noted and reported to the War authorities the unprepared state 
of this quarter for withstanding an attack. Not any action 
however — save one, to be presently mentioned — for combating 
an offensive movement and for strengthening the defences of 
Passy was forthcoming. The belief in the impregnability of the 
fortifications still lingered, and, with the assurance that in the 
last resort Paris could hold its own in the streets, combined to 
perpetuate the Do Nothing policy in respect of Passy. 

Ducatel also revisited Passy, observed the dismantled para- 
pets, the crumbling battlements, the demolished barricades, the 
ruined gateways of St Cloud and Point du Jour, and a still 
larger area of deserted streets. The time seemed to him pro- 
pitious for an immediate entrance, and he set off in all haste to 
acquaint General Douay therewith. Scarcely proceeded more 
than a few minutes on his way, he reflected that to reach 
Douay by the St. Denis route would occupy some hours, whilst 


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First Day : Sunday y May 2ii/, 1871 249 

the journey was fraught with dangers and difficulties. He 
turned, ran back to the gateway of St Cloud, notwithstanding 
that the artillery fire was as heavy as ever, climbed to the top 
of a house, and perceived some Versailles soldiers not more 
than about seventy yards distant Descending, and seizing a 
rake handle from amongst the wreckage of a fallen house, 
he fastened to it a white silk handkerchief that served him 
for a necktie, then mounted to the top of the nearest bastion 
of the ramparts, and waved his improvised flag over his head. 
The shots fell like gigantic hail, thick and fast, and several 
times the clouds of dust they set up enveloped him, but he 
was undaunted and continued to wave his flag. Before long 
the signal was seen, and an intrepid officer, a frigate com- 
mander named Tr^ve, ran up to the fortifications, alone as he 
thought, but closely followed by a sergeant who was determined 
to guard him against any possible treachery. " Paris is yours," 
cried Ducatel, **all is abandoned, let your troops enter." Treve 
and the sergeant, Coutant, crossed, by means of a broken 
drawbridge beam, the moat which separated them from the 
ramparts, entered into Paris, verified DucateFs statement, then 
went back to their comrades. Engineers close at hand speedily 
advanced and constructed a bridge over the moat General 
Douay was apprised by telegraph of the occurrence, DucateFs 
name in some unaccountable manner being given in the mes- 
sage as Clement Douay informed the commander-in-chief, 
Macmahon ; orders were given to the forts and batteries to 
<:ease firing, and to the troops to advance. Douay, not know- 
ing the name of Clement, sent instructions to his soldiers to 
keep Ducatel under guard, for fear he was but leading them 
into a trap. Ducatel therefore had not the satisfaction of wit- 
nessing the entrance of the Versaillais en masse into Paris, 
which he had so notably contributed to bring about^ 

Two companies of the line, some sappers and artillerymen 
with 6 in. mortars, were the first to pass through the Porte St. 
Cloud. They were soon followed by two brigades of the same 
army corps (Douay's), whilst other corps, under Generals 
Clinchant, Ladmirault, and Vinoy, were coming up behind. 

* Du Camp, t. ii. pp. 370-378, 468-470. De la Brug^re, p. 178. Mac- 
mahon, p. 14. 

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250 History of the Paris Commune of yZ^ji 

When Douay entered into the city he immediately asked to see 
the supposed Clement, whereupon the mistake of name was 
discovered and Ducatel was set at liberty. By this time it was 
night, and about 20,000 Versailles soldiers were within the walls 
of Paris, occupying as yet only the deserted territory. 

Orders further to advance soon arrived. A division under 
General Verge marched forward to capture a formidable barri- 
cade on the Quai de Passy, Ducatel serving as guide. As they 
arrived near it, a few shots were exchanged, the federates 
behind shouted, " We surrender ! " and Ducatel boldly but im- 
prudently went forward to speak to them. He was instantly 
seized and carried off a prisoner.^ The barricade was then 
taken by the Versaillais, and advance made to the Place du 
Trocadero, where there was another immense barricade. At 
this point there were several battalions of federates, who had 
so little expected the Versaillais, that i,5CX) men were taken 
prisoners and the place secured almost without striking a blow. 

Other divisions of the Versailles army followed . the line of 
the ramparts, seized and opened the Portes Auteuil and Passy, 
outside which further troops were massed waiting for an 
entrance, and, by going behind the strongly fortified place of 
the Chclteau de la Muette — which during the afternoon had 
been Dombrowski's headquarters — possessed themselves of it 
with little trouble. The western portion of Passy and Auteuil 
were now in the hands of the Versaillais. To accomplish this 
result severe fighting had not been necessary ; the bulk of the 
federates flew at the first approach of their enemy ; it was clear 
that they were surprised at his proximity. It is further evident 
that Dombrowski's action in drawing the federates away from 
these strongly fortified places had contributed materially to the 
Versaillais success. Had the Chiteau de la Muette and the 
Place du Trocadero been defended in any way commensurate 
with their strategical unportance and their military resisting 
power, only a frightful struggle could have wrenched them from 
the federates. 

The sombre darkness of the night, the unexpectedness of 
their entrance and consequent absence of instructions, and 

^ Du Camp, t. ii. p. 380. 

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First Day : Sunday, May 2\st, 1871 251 

the need to augment their forces, necessitated a halt in the 
Versaillais' advance within the city ; the troops were on friendly 
ground in Passy and Auteuil, and though there were few of the 
regular inhabitants of these quarters to be found, it was reassur- 
ing to feel that no enemy lurked in ambush there. 

During the night a patrol established on the Quai de Billy 
had the good fortune to arrest two members of the Commune, 
Assi and Amouroux. The latter having given a false name for 
the purpose of evading responsibility, his identity was not 
discovered until subsequently. Outside the fortifications, both 
north and south of the river, troops were being brought forward 
in readiness to enter the city and to prepare for a further pro- 
gression in the morning. 

Meanwhile, how fared the Commune at headquarters on this 
eventful Sunday, the first day of the republican month Prairial ? 
Sundays under the Communal regime were still that which, in 
Paris, they were under previous regimes, days of enjoyment and 
relaxation. The weather was fine, military bands played in the 
Tuileries gardens and elsewhere, and some pleasant commotion 
was caused at the H6tel de Ville by the muster and parade of a 
novel fighting force, predestined, in consequence of Lefran^ais*^ 
and V^sinier's reports, to the Ch&teau de la Muette, there to 
engage and vanquish the " ignoble " Versaillais. This force con- 
sisted of sailor artillerymen on horseback — much eulogy was 
spent upon it as it manoeuvred before the members of the 
Commune on the Place de THdtel de Ville, and hopes ran high 
in the spectators' breasts. Later in the day it was despatched 
on its errand. Arriving in the neighbourhood of the Trocadero, 
it encountered masses of rushing federates, who shouted, " We 
are betrayed — Treason ! " it also took fright, turned about and 

There was a Communal stance in the afternoon, and members 
came in goodly array to participate in the conclave. Business 
was twofold. There was an order of the day relative to Cluseret,. 
whose imprisonment, in the opinion of many members, had 
lasted long enough. This subject was anticipated and regular. 
An unexpected topic formed the other and chief item of dis- 
cussion. In the Journal Officiel that morning members had 
been astounded to read an announcement signed by Grelier, a 

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252 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSji 

member of the Comit6 Central, stating that all inhabitants of 
Paris were invited to return to their dwellings within forty-eight 
hours, otherwise their titles of ** rente " and the grand4ivre would 
be burnt. The wealthy inhabitants of Paris were at Versailles, 
in the provinces, abroad ; it would be most difficult for any of 
these absentees, however near, to return at present, for ingress 
into Paris had been prohibited by the investing lines of the 
Government army. Moreover, this notice of Gr^lier's was 
published without the authority or knowledge of the Commune, 
and the latter was naturally indignant at the fact Jourde and 
Lefranjais made themselves the mouthpieces of this feeling, 
and the Committee of Public Safety was enjoined to take re- 
pressive measures against Gr^lier and his accomplices — a formal 
condemnation which satisfied the Commune's wounded dignity 
without entailing a conflict with its powerful auxiliary, the 
Comit6 Central. 

Jourde, as head of the Finances, was especially aggrieved that 
such a notice as Grelier's should have been issued. Confiscation 
of paper values and account books appeared of a different 
tenour to the accountant than mere confiscation of property, 
with which he had nothing personally to do. Jourde was, how- 
ever, anxious to preserve his department from the spoliating 
activity which circulated around him. In these latter days he 
had experienced on a gigantic scale the difficulty of making 
ends meet. At the one end were the various officers, delegates, 
representatives, commissions and what not, pertaining either 
to the Commune, the Comit^ Central, the War Department, or 
the Committee of Public Safety, all making demands upon him 
for that which was needful, and often for that which was redun- 
dant. Federates were exacting ; officials were pilfering and 
not exerting any control ; the last ten days had witnessed an 
expenditure of nearly half a million francs per day in excess of 
the average.^ At the other end were the receipts from octroi 
and market dues, tobacco manufactory, etc., all sadly insufficient 
to meet the disbursements ; there remained only the Bank of 
France, upon which he was compelled to make calls every day. 
Already the Town account therein was overdrawn to the extent 

* Du Camp, t. iv. p. 89. 

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First Day : Sunday, May 2\st, 187 1 253 

of more than six and a half miUion francs, and the Bank 
anathematised a system which was the antithesis of commercial 
honour. Between pacifying and answering the domineering 
holders of Communal orders to pay, and surmounting the in- 
creased antipathy of the Bank to yield to his demands, Jourde 
had been in a current of contested interests from morning till 
night. Not a few members of the Commune considered the im- 
munity of the Bank from seizure as an act of impolicy. Up to 
the 3rd of May the Commune had reaped from the Bank that 
which it had not sown, but to which, as representing the city of 
Paris, it was in some way entitled ; since that date, being unable 
to pay its way legitimately, unable to borrow because no one 
believed it would ever live to repay, it had exacted its demands 
only by the highwayman's method, " Your money or your life ! " 
To such a pass was the Commune come, whilst it nevertheless 
paraded and paraphrased the names of Liberty, Equality, Frater- 
nity, and Justice to an extent which showed that these were 
simply parrot-cries, learnt by rote, repeated without effort and 
without comprehension of their meanings. 

After the Grfilier incident and Jourde's grievances had been 
disposed of, the Commune discussed the affair Cluseret. It 
practically admitted that the evacuation of Fort Issy on April 
30th was not chargeable against the then Delegate of War. 
Having questioned Cluseret relative to certain rumours which 
tended to accuse him of treason, he was finally liberated on the 
understanding that he would assist in the defence of Paris. 

Whilst the Cluseret discussion proceeded, Billioray, in an 
agitated condition^ arrived and read a despatch which he had 
received from Dombrowski, stating that the Versaillais had 
entered by the Porte St Cloud into the city. It was seven 
o'clock at night ; the stance continued ; a secret sitting was held, 
at which the subject of discussion was to burn Paris rather than 
surrender it, but the result, if any was arrived at, is not known.* 
Business ended, the members went to their respective arrondisse- 
ments, in accordance with the decision arrived at on May 9th. 

The direction of the defences was left in the hands of Deles- 
cluze and the Committee of Public Safety. Dombrowski was 

* Evidence of Barral de Montaut before 3*"* Conseil de Guerre. 

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254 History of the Paris Commune ^1871 

in the western portion of Paris, meeting, or pretending to meet, 
the advance of the Government troops, whilst slowly and really 
withdrawing his forces towards Montmartre. The district 
where barricades and earthworks were formidable, and where 
the federates should have been massed in great numbers, was 
already denuded of men. Reliance was placed upon barricades 
and street fighting — that last and too familiar resort of Parisian 
democracy — upon individual impulse, opportunist strategy, and 
the grand principles of Communal freedom. Alas ! grand prin- 
ciples avail little when face to face with an antagonist who 
despises them. 

It was a melancholy condition of things for any body of men 
to be, by their own vanity, blindness, and impotency, reduced 
to— a condition immeasurably inferior to that of numerous 
barbaric races. During the night Delescluze was harassed by 
demands for reinforcements from the various arrondissements 
and from several officers ; each arrondissement considered itself 
the most important, each delegate or group of delegates in 
their own eyes were the most capable. Their requests could 
not be complied with ; all the federates which Delescluze had 
to dispose of were sent to the western front ; these were only a 
few battalions. The news of the Versaillais' entry was not yet 
generally known. Acting upon false information received from 
the Arc de Triomphe, Delescluze had contradicted the alleged 
entry, and, between the affirmation and the denial, the latter 
was more generally believed, as being more congenial to the 
federates* wishes. 

It was not so in the western portion of Paris. There the 
Versaillais soldiers had been seen, heard, felt ; and the affrighted 
federates, taken by surprise, rushed away from the Trocadero 
and La Muette, some across the river, others to the Tuileries 
Palace, trailing their cannons and accompanied by all their 
equipages, commissariat and attendants, spreading alarm wher- 
ever they went, and crying Treason and Betrayal. Of those who 
crossed the river were the federates who at the barricade on the 
Quai de Passy had seized Ducatel. Him they took to the 
Military School below the Champs de Mars. The alarm had 
already reached there, the place was in confusion, departure 
preparations were in swift progress ; nevertheless, the officer in 

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First Day : Sunday, May 2\st, 1871 255 

command, an Italian named Razoua, formed a Court-Martial, 
and Ducatel was by it promptly condemned to death. The 
sentence was not, however, immediately executed, the eagerness 
to vacate a place in such unpleasant proximity to the Versaillais 
overriding all other considerations. 

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Second Day : Monday, May 22Nd, 1871. 

At two o'clock in the morning the Versailles army had ob- 
tained entrance into Paris by the four gateways contigfuous to 
the north-western side of the river. It was necessary to open 
a way on the southern side to admit troops appertaining to 
General de Cissey's corps, which were drawn up outside the 
gates of Sevres and Versailles. A brigade of General Vinoy's 
army, itself just entered, was despatched across the railway 
bridge of Auteuil with mission to open the Sfevres entrance. 
On its way it encountered some resistance at the south side of 
the river, but the federates braved the attack made upon them 
for only a few minutes, and then rushed away up the Quai de 
Javel. Vinoy's men marched on and arrived at their destination 
just as a passage from the exterior had been effected by 
engineers of De Cissey's troops, who had made a narrow stair- 
way or ladder of timbers, over which, in single file, the fortifica- 
tions could be crossed. A company of these engineers, having 
surmounted this obstacle, launched themselves on to the rail- 
way and established themselves there before even an alarm had 
been sounded. The fortifications at this point also seemed to 
be deserted by federates, who had been unable either to endure 
or to reduce the bombardment which the place had been sub- 
jected to from Fort Issy and elsewhere. 

De Cissey's troops marched forward into Grenelle, after 
having opened the Porte Versailles. Marshal Macmahon 
formed his headquarters at the Trocadero, and, whilst the troops 
that had been on their feet all night took a brief rest, he 
arranged a plan of operations and informed each general of his 
respective share therein. The leading idea was to gradually 
force back the federates from the external positions of the city 
into the central, and from the centre to the east, by which 
means the fighting area would be compressed and the Com- 


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Second Day: Monday^ May 22nd, 1871 257 

munists surrounded. Thus, General Ladmirault was ordered 
to proceed along the line of the fortifications on the north 
side, whilst Generals Douay and Clinchant should expand into 
the interior parallel with him. A precisely analogous pro- 
ceeding on the south si^e could not be adopted, owing to the 
forts of Montrouge, Bicfitre, and Issy being still in Communist 
hands. However, Generals de Cissey and Vinoy were to ad- 
vance to the Champ de Mars and the Hdtel des Invalides and 
to seize the Montparnasse Station " if possible " ; it would there- 
fore be essential to follow the southern fortifications to a point 
beyond that already occupied.^ The three federate forts in this 
locality were laid under investment by detachments of De 
Cissey*s corps, which had been left for that purpose in their 
positions outside the city. 

Macmahon knew well what were the Communists' principal 
strongholds, viz., Montmartre, Place Venddme, Tuileries, and 
Hdtel de Ville, yet he did not intend attacking any of them 
this day, though they were all within a couple of miles distance 
and he had fully fifty thousand men at command, with large 
reinforcements close behind. There were numerous barricades 
in the way — viewing from the Trocadero, there appeared to be 
barricades in every direction — they would take time to sur- 
mount ; Macmahon, moreover, wished to drive the federates 
before him, and not to leave any at his back, whilst, lastly, 
though unavowed, he had become infected with Thiers' supreme 
cautiousness. Better a slow advance and sure, than a brilliant 
onset and run even a slight risk of disaster. We will not 
take this Communal bull by the horns — ^we will attack him first 
in the flanks and wound him there, then his head will be less 
dangerous and easier vanquished. 

Before six o'clock the troops were in motion again. Pre- 
sently the thundering boom of cannon and the arrival of 
projectiles in the neighbourhood of the Trocadero and Quai de 
Billy showed that the federates from their batteries on Mont- 
martre and the Place de la Concorde had set to work to repel 
their enemy. The impression thus produced was intensified 
before long. Two places of importance to the federates were 

* Macmahon, p. 18. 


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258 History of the Paris Commune 0/ i8yi 

taken with ease, but they formed about the last of which this 
could be said. These were the Arc de Triomphe, where the 
federates took flight upon the Versaillais* approach, running the 
length of the Champs Elys^es as fast as they could, trailing 
their guns — and the Military School, which the men of De 
Cissey's corps found unoccupied, the federates having evacuated 
it about two hours before, leaving for their successors an 
immense quantity of provisions and ammunition, and 200 
cannons. Razoua, the federate officer at this place, thought not 
of contesting elsewhere the Versailles army, with which, in fact, 
he also had had some underhand dealings — he went home, 
changed his attire, and escaped. Ducatel, sentenced to death, 
was left alone when the federates made off, and he had emerged 
from his prison house through a window before the Govern- 
ment troops arrived. A brigade of General Vinoy's corps took 
several barricades in Grenelle, and then, marching along the 
quays, seized the Ministry of Foreign Affairs — from which the 
Communal delegate Paschal Grousset was discreetly absent — 
and the palace of the Corps Legislatif. 

Another division of De Cissey's, starting from the Porte de 
Versailles, attacked first the Jesuitical College close at hand, 
where strong barricades had been erected, and then proceeded 
to the mairie of the 15th arrondissement, in Rue Lecourbe, where 
also were barricades. Both of these places were stubbornly 
defended by the federates, but without avail. In Rue Lecourbe 
two men were shot down who were not combatants, but because 
they had National Guard pantaloons on.^ 

Other portions of De Cissey's corps traversed the line of the 
southern fortifications as far as Porte de Vanves, which they 
opened, and they also took a barricade fortified by artillery 
which they found at the intersection of the two railways at this 
point. A regiment headed by Colonel Boulanger — a man 
destined in later years to achieve a renown beyond his powers 
to sustain — established itself on the railway behind the Mont- 
pamasse Station, whilst in the evening the station itself was 
seized and fortified by another brigade which had advanced by 
the Rue and Boulevard Vaugirard. This, with the occupation 

* Larousse. 

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Second Day : Monday, May 22nd, 1871 259 

of the Hdtel des Invalides, completed the day's operations on 
the south side of the Seine, giving to the attacking army an 
occupied area which stretched from the river near the bridge De 
la Concorde, almost in a straight line to the Porte de Vanves.^ 

On the north side of the river similar successes attended the 
Versaillais. The line of fortifications as far as Porte d'Asnieres 
fell into their hands, and among the important places or strong 
barricades which they took during the day were the Pare 
Monceau, the P6pini^re barracks, the Chaptal College, the Place 
de TEurope, the station St. Lazare ; the Palais de Tlndustrie 
and the Palais de TElys^e in the Champs Elys^es, at the two 
last-named places installing on the roofs sharpshooters, who 
directed a damaging fire upon the federate artillerymen in the 
Place de la Concorde and the Tuileries palace. The moderate 
programme which Macmahon had laid out for the day*s opera- 
tions was realized to the full : slowly, yet surely, he was recon- 
quering Paris. The western portion of the city was already 
freed from federates — except such as were prisoners, of whom 
there were several thousands. The Mayor of Passy reoccupied 
his mairie, and the Prefect of the Seine, Jules Ferry, also took 
up his abode and functions there for the time being.* 

Passy, the centre of the loyal National Guards, was now the 
scene of their emergence into activity after a long period of 
silent discontent and concealment. Despite the discovery and 
confiscation of the tricoloured armlets, there were numbers of 
these signs of loyalty exhibited on the arms of National 
Guards, and everywhere the loyalists were full of hope and 
<:ourage now that the Versailles army was in their midst In 
the 7th arrondissement, not far from the Hdtel des In- 
valides and other places to which the Versaillais had 
reached, a few score of National Guards, hastily gathered 
together by one Colonel Durouchoux, kept at bay a much 
greater number of federates the whole day, notwithstanding 
that they were yet surrounded by the Communists. Durouchoux 
received a shot in the neck which proved fatal. Not until half- 
past seven at night were his men reinforced by some scouts of 
the regular army.* 

* Macmahon, p. 20. • Daudet, p. 51. 

' Ibid,, pp. 53-56. 

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26o History of the Paris Commune of i^ji 

The demeanour of the Versailles troops entered into Paris was 
excellent They were mostly young men, but were character- 
ized by an unusual gravity, as if their business was distasteful 
to them. After enduring the hardships of a severe winter 
campaign, and, many of them, a humiliating imprisonment in 
Germany, all saddened with the knowledge that their efforts had 
been useless to preserve France from a terrible defeat, it was 
surely the extreme of bitterness to be requisitioned into fighting 
their own countrymen in their own beloved capital. There 
was, however, not the least trace of reluctance to obey orders, 
but, on the contrary, there were exemplary obedience, and con- 
siderable spirit and dash in attacking. The evil effects of hesita- 
tion or of tampering with the strictest ideal of duty was now 
borne in upon the soldier's mind as well as in that of his superior,, 
and there was consequently perceptible only a steady, unflinch- 
ing, and inflexible purpose, to have done with this Communist 
business as fast as ever orders would permit The troops 
already in Paris had had very little rest for thirty-six hours, and 
they doubtless were, at the close of this day, exhausted and 
weary. But only the half of the Versailles army had entered 
the city; the other half, unfatigued, might have been quickly 
brought forward, and the contest prosecuted without a moment's 
cessation. The vigour and intrepidity which had been already 
displayed by the troops would have warranted the commander- 
in-chief in pushing ahead with greater brilliancy and rapidity 
of movement than he chose to adopt. 

On the Communal side this had been a day of turmoil, feverish 
activity, and despairing effort From two o'clock in the morn- 
ing, the church bells had sounded an alarm, the drums had beat 
the call to arms, couriers were galloping along the streets 
conveying orders or seeking information, flying masses of 
fugfitive federates were coming in from the west and south-west 
cursing and angry — other bodies of federates were forming into 
array and being moved from one part to another, some to 
barricades to meet the Versaillais, and some to central and 
eastern positions, where it was determined to make a strenuous 
defence. The first surprise and the cowardly flights were things 
of the past — there was a hatred in the federates' breasts that 
spurred them on to fight, and, resistance once decided upon. 

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Second Day : Monday y May 22nd, 1871 261 

they were eager for the fray. These reactionist Versaillais — 
these monarchical, clerical, imperialist oppressors, these assassins 
and autocrats, military despots and political liars, who wish to 
crush the Commune and the Republic in order to re-erect a 
plutocratic and bourgeoisie government by which the rights of 
the people will be trampled on, and the people themselves shot 
down like vermin — these are they whom we federates detest with 
an ungovernable rage, and whom we shall slay without mercy. 
It was essentially a passionate and not a reasoned antipathy. 
The Communal members and journals had never appealed to 
nor given examples of calmness or juridical fairness, and the 
untempered emotions and hot-headed harangues which had 
been put before the ignorant and well-meaning but sadly misled 
federates were imprinted with the stamp of truth upon their 
feebler intelligences. 

At daybreak the members of the Commune on horseback 
went the rounds of their respective arrondissements, incited the 
federates to raise barricades at every point of vantage, and 
imparted to them their own animation and enthusiasm. Barri- 
cades, like mushrooms, sprang up in all directions in a few hours. 
The four corners of intersecting streets were the positions mostly 
chosen for them, and every conceivable article was utilised in 
their construction — paving-stones, sacks of earth, bales of cloth, 
household furnishings, bedding, carriages, carts, trees — ^any and 
everything that was at hand. Women and children vied with 
the men in activity and resourcefulness ; passers-by were com- 
pelled to work for a quarter or half an hour at the structures 
before being allowed to go on their way, and shops and ware- 
houses were called upon remorselessly to provide out of their 
stores materials wherewith to raise these improvised works of 
defence, the erection of which slackened not even when Ver- 
saillais shells and gunshots fell about in dangerous proximity. 

At six o'clock, as already stated, the booming of cannon from 
the heights of Montmartre and from the Place de la Concorde 
added a thunder-roar to the clanging of bells and the roll of 
drums. Then in a short while the street fighting began, and 
the sharp crackle of musket shots joined its resonance to the 
fniUe of sound. The federates, as we know, were uniformly 
unsuccessful in maintaining their positions. One after another, 

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262 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^ji 

barricades were taken or turned ; the possibility of the latter 
bperation evidently having not entered into the calculations of 
the federates, for they were invariably surprised by it. Prisoners 
were made most often at the turned barricades ; all were sent 
under escort to Passy, and thence to Versailles. At the barri- 
cades taken by direct movement there were more numerous 
dead and wounded. The federate loss was heavy ; the streets 
where fighting had occurred were strewn with bodies, to bury 
or remove which there was no serious attempt made. The 
defenders of the city fought bravely and tenaciously. It is 
affirmed on various sides that they were well primed with drink 
before being sent off to the encounter ; it is beyond doubt that 
wine and brandy were commodities freely obtained and freely 
used by the federates. But that these fighting men were drunk 
in any degree cannot be believed, for it is not consonant with 
the determined resistance which they offered nor with the 
casualties they inflicted on their opponents. The federates also 
were French, and it must not for even an instant be supposed 
that the Versaillais alone were courageous and the Communists 
wholly cowardly. The latter army certainly contained cowards, 
but these took care to keep in the interior of the town away 
from the fighting. Those who faced the foe were the best 
elements out of an admittedly heterogeneous force, and were 
not devoid of those soldier-like qualities which in past ages had 
raised the military renown of France to the highest altitude ; 
what they lacked mostly was outside of themselves — capable 
officering and generalship. Left to do battle mainly on the 
principle of individual enterprise, unschooled in discipline and 
the arts of war, incoherent and scattered units by fault of their 
leaders, it is a matter for wonder that, being attacked by a 
force of men of which none of these things could be said, they 
retarded its advance at all rather than that they were with 
difficulty beaten. 

A proclamation drawn up by Delescluze the previous evening, 
published in the Journal Officiel and placarded over the town 
this morning, fanned the flame of federate fury against the 
Versaillais, and transformed their irresolution into fixity of 
purpose. It was a spirited exhortation : — " . . . Place to 
the people, to the combatants, to the bare arms. . . . Citi- 

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Secofid Day: Monday^ May 22nd, 1871 263 

zens, your representatives will fight and die with you, if it be 
necessary, but in the name of that glorious France, mother of 
all popular revolutions, permanent home of the ideas of Justice 
and of Solidarity which must and will be the laws of the world, 
— march to the enemy and let your revolutionary energy show 
him that Paris may be sold/ but can neither be delivered nor 
vanquished." This appeal to arms was countersigned by the 
Committee of Public Safety, which body and Delescluze sat at 
the H6tel de Ville in permanence. 

Other proclamations and appeals were issued during the day, 
both by the various governing bodies located in the Hdtel de 
Ville, by many of the Communal members from the mairies of 
their several arrondissements, and by the few journals which 
owed their continued existence to their inflammatory articles. 
Nearly all these documents were of a passionate virulence, 
packed with misrepresentation, and declarative of a determina- 
tion to conquer the Versaillais in too frantic a manner to be 
accepted as indicative of anything but bravado. Deeply rooted 
purposes bind the tongue to deliberate speech ; it is only the 
semblance of conviction which can masquerade in a febrile 

Of more practical account was the appearance of Brunei at 
the head of 6,000 federates to defend the Place de la Con- 
corde.^ This position was occupied at about ten o'clock in 
the morning, and from that time the artillery stationed there 
boomed replies to the batteries erected by the Versaillais at the 
Arc de Triomphe. A shell from the latter burst on the Ministry 
of Finances and set it on fire, but Jourde, assisted by firemen, 
was able to extinguish the flames before much damage had 
been done. After this was accomplished, Jourde also repaired 
to the Hdtel de Ville and took up his quarters there. He this 
day received from the Bank another 500,000 francs, wherewith 
to pay the federates. 

At the H6tel de Ville, as elsewhere, were barricades and 
trenches, which, with numerous artillery and battalions of fede- 
rates, gave the impression of a fort rather than of a municipal 

* A reference to the heavy indemnity exacted by Germany at the close of 
the war. 

• Du Camp, t. iii. p. 76. 

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264 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iS^i 

palace. Throughout the day, inside and outside the building, 
there was incessant commotion, going to and fro of couriers, of 
federates, and of women, seeking and conveying orders or am- 
munition, of which latter there were large stores at the H6tel. 
It was a motley and disorderly paraphernalia. 

Early. in the morning an unknown man, charged with being 
a spy, was brought to the H6tel de Ville by a federate named 
Louis Imbert, accompanied by a vociferating and menacing 
crowd. This man had been arrested near the Military School 
before the Versailles army had arrived there ; on the way to 
the Hdtel de Ville he was beaten and otherwise molested 
by the excited people. He was taken inside the Hdtel de 
Ville — the proceedings there remain a mystery, but after a 
quarter of an hour's detention the man was rebrought to the 
open air, placed against a tree in the avenue which faces the 
main entrance to the Hdtel, and there shot.^ It was a sign 
that the Communist populace had eschewed half-measures ; 
just or unjust, they were terrible in their hatred of things Ver- 

The members of the Commune re-assembled in the forenoon 
at the Hdtel de Ville. F^lix Pyat, anxious for his personal 
safety, wished to negotiate with the enemy ; he found none to 
support his proposal, nor even to notice it.^ The members 
were preoccupied and perturbed — usually too prolific with 
words, speech seemed on this solitary occasion to have left 
them. A general understanding that the Committee of Public 
Safety should have full powers to carry on the defence was 
arrived at, then the members separated as on the previous night, 
each to his own arrondissement, without any effort having been 
made to combine their resistive action.* Many of them felt 
with Pyat that resistance was hopeless, yet they dared not avow 
it — had they not for two months opposed concession and 
submission, glorified the Commune, flattered the federates, 
condemned and needlessly angered the Versaillais, whereof the 
only logical outcome was now arrived? Were not already 
thousands of federates either prisoners, wounded, or killed, as 
a result of believing their leaders' alluring promises, and trusting 

* 3"* Conscil de Guerre, proems Louis Imbert Du Camp, t. iv. p. 1 53. 

* La VMf^, p. 402. » Ibid. 

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Second Day : Monday, May 22nd^ 187 1 265 

in their sincerity ? For these leaders now to avow the hope- 
lessness of their cause just at the moment when their personal 
safety became jeopardised, would be to condemn themselves in 
the eyes of their proUgis and dupes, who might turn against 
and rend them. Escape from their dilemma was not easy ; it 
was impossible to leave Paris as fugitives, owing to the German 
authorities refusing to allow such persons to pass the lines occu- 
pied by them. Ordinary means of exit from the city were wholly 
stopped, and there was no other course available to them but 
to take part in the struggle now going on, to openly counsel 
resistance, whilst secretly preparing for concealment or flight at 
the first favourable opportunity. These eventualities had not 
been unforeseen by the majority of the Communal and Comit6 
Central mefnbers — false passports and papers of identity, dis- 
guises and hiding-places, had been secured, even before the 
Versaillais entry into the city, so as to facilitate their escape 
at the final hour. 

It was in keeping with the character of such people that, 
though extremely punctilious for their own safety, they should, 
be regardless of the means by which it was maintained. Ber- 
geret, Eudes, and Urbain had not scrupled to abstract and 
secrete for their private use linen, plate, jewels, and other 
valuables which they found in the various Government offices 
and establishments to which they had been delegated. Eudes, 
feeling the end of his tenure of power to be nigh, was assiduous 
this 22nd May in furtherance of the same exploitation of pro- 
perty. Eudes and Bergeret again, and Rigault, Ferr6, Cournet, 
had lived sumptuously, and far in excess of the moderate pay 
which the Commune had allowed to each of its members ; the 
three last-named, having authority over the Prison Depdt near 
the Prefecture of Police, even requisitioned the female prisoners 
to serve their purposes at nights, returning them to the Depdt 
in the mornings.^ Examples such as these were not without 
emulants of a lower rank ; the Communal decree of Death to 
the Thieves, the complaints of Jourde as to the heavy increase of 
expenditure, and of Varlin as to the multiplicity of unauthorized 
•' requisitions," prove unmistakably the existence of an extensive 

* Du Camp, t. i. pp. 52, 86 ; t. ii. pp. 106, 107 ; t. iv. p. 48. 

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266 History of the Paris Commune ^1871 

system of pillage and pilfering for personal usages, even were 
outside testimony wanting — which, is not the case. 

All these things, however, sad and serious though they be, 
pale into insignificance before the gravity of other charges which 
weigh upon the members of the Commune. 

These men, whose ideas of government were the most primi- 
tive, whose warlike notions were not above those of the lowest 
races of mankind, who comprehended not the virtue of strategy, 
having not the skill wherewith to contrive it, who had precipitated 
and continued a struggle which had been a series of defeats, the 
vicissitudes of which offered not one hope of eventual victory — 
these men had determined and had already taken steps to 
revenge themselves for that final defeat which w«is sure to come 
Paris could not be held — then Paris would be burnt or blown 
up! From time to time threats and rumours had pointed to 
such an intention on the part of the Communists, but the idea 
was so gigantically abhorrent that few people believed the 
V- reports. Nevertheless, they were substantially true. Parisel 
and his Scientific Delegation had been engaged in the investi- 
gation of explosive compounds, both for this purpose and for 
the ordinary operations of war, but Scientists and Science had 
refused to open out their secrets for the furtherance of such an 
immense malignity, and the explosive idea was perforce aban- 
doned. There remained, however, petroleum and powder. Large 
quantities of these materials had been stored at the Palace of 
the Legion of Honour, at which place Eudes presided ; at the 
H6tel de Ville, where Pindy was governor ; at the Palace of the 
Tuileries, inhabited by Bergeret ; at the Church of N6tre Dame 
des Victoires, the invasion and plunder of which on the 17th 
May has been recorded ; whilst at the Prefecture of Police, 
where Ferr6 and Rigault reigned supreme, powder, cartridges, 
and petroleum sufficient for its destruction were obtained and 
placed in the cellars this day ^ (22nd). All was ready for the 
incendiarism — only the signal waited for ; even this could be 
dispensed with if the Versaillais approached unexpectedly, for 
the federates who were employed in moving and storing these 
highly inflammable materials knew perfectly well the object 

* Du Camp, t. iv. p. 235. 

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Second Day : Monday y May 22nd, 187 1 267 

which W51S in view. They recoiled not from such perfidious busi- 
ness, but were ardent in its promotion. The intense hatred of 
the Versaillais had given birth to a spirit of destruction which 
was as boundless as its progenitor was unqualified. All that 
the Versaillais love — all this beautiful Paris, shall not be theirs, 
if it cannot be ours. Speed, ye Versaillais, if ye would save 
your idolised city from a frightful calamity ! 

That fanatical hatred, mother of an inane destructiveness, 
which had already been productive of the demolition of Thiers' 
house and of the Vend6me column, now spilt its venom upon 
human life, in a way indicative of the virulence of the passion 
and the absence of that self-control which is the great feature of 
civilization. In a street which the Versaillais had during the 
morning passed through and searched, a federate soldier had 
managed to conceal himself and to evade discovery. For him, 
danger was practically over — notwithstanding which, having a 
gun in his hand, he could not forbear using it and he deliberately 
shot a twelve-year-old boy — a member of a Neuilly family which 
had refuged there — who innocently played on the opposite side 
of the street. Seized and taken before an officer of the Ver- 
sailles army at the Chaptal College, the federate's only reason 
for his action was that the child played with a hoop, which 
irritated him. The officer said to him, ** You are mad," where- 
upon the federate slapped his face and the next instant received 
his own death shot.^ 

Near the Palace of the Legion of Honour, M6gy, once 
commander of Fort Issy, friend and follower of Eudes, whose 
orders to commence burning operations he even then awaited,, 
excited, by his extravagant and plundering conduct in the 
mansion of the Comte de Chabrol, the ire of the latter's con- 
cierge^ a man named Thom6, who had remained in charge of the 
dwelling. The indignation of the concierge at last burst the 
bonds of discretion, and, among other things, he stigmatised 
M^gy as a stupid workman. M^gy straightway called a federate 
named Decamp, who without ado seized the unfortunate Thom^ 
placed him against a wall and shot him.^ 

At the Tuileries, as elsewhere, there was grand commotion 

* Du Can>p, t. ii. pp. 390-392. * Ibid,^ p. 126. 

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268 History of the Paris Commune ^1871 

relative to the erection of barricades. Some gamins^ full of 
excitement, threw themselves heart and soul into this unusual 
occupation. Up the Rue Richelieu there was a house undergoing 
repair, with scaffolding in front Thither ran these hoys to 
carry off the timber for their barricade. One M. Koch, a 
chemist in that street, from his doorway witnessed the arbitrary 
proceeding and, as an honest citizen, resented it and threatened 
to box the boys' ears if they did not make off. The boys went 
oflf, grumbling. Presently a band of federates arrived and 
arrested M. Koch, not before he had in self-defence brandished 
an empty flagon before them, which flagon, it was immediately 
said, contained sulphuric acid or some other deadly compound 
which the chemist had intended to use against them. Away to 
the H6tel de Ville with him — let him be judged by the Com- 
mittee of Public Safety ! The chemist, surrounded by an ever- 
increasing crowd which insulted and molested him and menaced 
the advent of even a worse contingency, was taken bareheaded to 
the municipal palace, into the presence of Gabriel Ranvier, one 
of the Committee of Public Safety, and of two members of the 
Commune whose names have not transpired. There the bruised 
and beaten prisoner, palpitating, almost bereft of his senses, could 
only reiterate, "There was nothing in the flagon," — a defence too 
simple and brief for his pitiless judges and unrelenting accusers. 
The hapless man was given over to the federates, to be shot in 
the cellar of the H6tel de Ville. Being unacquainted with the 
palace, they could not find the cellar, and dared not shoot him in 
the courtyard by reason of the ammunition stored there. "Back 
to the Tuileries ! " is shouted out, and away they go, an angry, 
vociferating, and disorderly crowd, with their victim in their 
midst On the way, three men in the street call out to 
them not to strike the unfortunate man — these three, one in 
frock coat and the other two in workmen's blouses, are instantly 
seized and joined as prisoners to M. Koch. Arrived at the 
Tuileries again, a court-martial is formed by Urbain, Bergeret, a 
federate captain named Etienne Boudin, and others, before which 
tribunal the four prisoners are brought The names of the three 
new ones are unknown, but the crowd had invented charges 
against them and their identity is of no import — it is sufficient 
to all^e that he in frock coat is a disguised priest, they in 

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Second Day: Monday, May 22nd, 1871 269 

blouses secret police emissaries, and to reaffirm the charge 
against M. Koch. What other evidence could be needed than 
this overwhelming concatenation of tongues, male, female, 
infantile ? Rather, it is impossible to do other than condemn, 
because this excited populace demalnds condemnation. Con- 
demned, the four prisoners are. Etienne Boudin forms an 
execution party in the courtyard, places his prisoners against 
the wall, forces the two supposed spies to kneel, disregards the 
cries of Mercy and Pardon, of appeals for wives' and children's 
sake which the four men utter in their last despair, angrily turns 
upon some of his soldiers who wish to save the condemned ones, 
commands the executioners to fire — and then, after this quad- 
ruple murder is, by an irregular fusillade, accomplished, cries 
out, "Vive la Commune ! " From the balcony of the Marshals' 
Hall, Bergeret, Urbain and others view the whole scene ; from 
this balcony also there comes a cry of " Vive la Commune ! " * 
As in the lamentable case of Generals Thomas and Lecomte, so 
in this, so far as M. Koch is concerned — an order from Deles- 
cluze arrives, when it is too late, for the chemist to be restored 
to liberty. The people's idea of justice is a swift, terrible and 
irrevocable judgment : save us from the people ! Better the 
law's delays than such promptitude. 

At about the same hour of the evening — six — another quasi- 
judicial execution took place not far from the Tuileries. A sup- 
posed spy named Valliot had been arrested, arms in hand, by 
some of the Avengers of Flourens, and consigned to the Dep6t 
adjoining the Palace of Justice until the sanction of Ferr^ could 
be obtained for his execution. That sanction was soon forth- 
coming, and Valliot wais taken from the Dep6t on to the Quai 
de I'Horologe and there shot* 

Ferr^, as head of the Police and of the prisons, and Rigault, 
as Public Prosecutor with an especial animus against ecclesi- 
asticism, had been revolving in their brains what it were best to 
do with the hostages held by the Commune. The chief of these 
had been detained in Mazas prison — a strong and extensive 
structure — until the preceding Friday, when an exception was 

> 3'ne Conseil de Guerre, 28th August, 1871. Du Camp, t. ii. pp. 190-198. 
Rapport (P ensemble f p. 151. 
' Du Camp, t. i. pp. 94, 95. 

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270 History of tJie Paris Commune of iZ^i 

made by the removal of Chaudey, the journalist and barrister, 
to the prison of Ste. Pelagic. This was done in response to 
the earnest solicitations of Chaudey's wife, who knew that at 
Ste. Pelagie her husband would receive better attention ; she also 
thought that he would be more likely to regain his liberty from 
it than from Mazas, the former prison being more open, less 
formidable, and known to be utilised only for prisoners under- 
going short sentences. 

Chaudey, then, for the present is apparently in less danger. 
Not so with the priests. Raoul Rigault has obtained an order 
from the Committee of Public Safety — ^signed by Ranvier, Eudes, 
and Gambon — for the removal of all hostages of importance froni 
Mazas to the prison La Roquette. This prison was situated 
further to the eastward, and was the usual abode of prisoners 
condemned to death. 

Before this order was carried out, Rigault received a visit from 
the president of the Parisian barristers, M. Rousse, who came to 
solicit at the hands of the fierce and powerful Prosecutor a per- 
mission to see in their prison the Archbishop of Paris, the Abb^ 
Deguerry, and the Pire Caubert. Rigault accosted his visitor, 
whom he did not know, at first with marked sternness ; when, 
however, M. Rousse declared his identity, the Communist chief 
suddenly altered his manner to one of famih'arity and affability. 
The permission sought was granted, and M. Rousse seized the 
opportunity to gain some information. " How many priests 
have you arrested ? " he asked ; to which Rigault replied, mixing 
strangely falsehood with truth, " I know nothing of it, but not 
enough. If people had listened to me, they would all be in 
prison'' Rigault subsequently said that the priests were in no 
immediate danger, at which M. Rousse remarked that perhaps 
an interpellation from Urbain— the member who in the Com- 
munal stance of the 17th May had demanded the execution of 
ten hostages— might force his hand. To this Rigault replied 
contemptuously : ** I fear not Urbain's interpellations ; I fear 
not any interpellation. The affair will come on only when you 
give me the tip " {vous me feres signe)} Ah, thought M. Rousse, 
you will wait a long while ere I give you a signal to expedite 

* Rousse, p. ^^, Forni, p. 102. 

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second Day : Monday, May 22ndy 1871 271 

the trial of the hostages. M. Rousse departed, and made his 
visit to Mazas, where he saw the three hostages whom he had 
requested permission to visit. 

Later in the day Rigault, accompanied by his assistant; 
Gaston Dacosta, also visited Mazas, and showed the governor 
of the prison, Garreau, the order for the transference of hostages 
to La Roquette. From the prison register these three officials 
drew up a list of the hostages which could be denominated 
"important" First on the list was the Archbishop Darboy, 
then M. Bonjean, a president of the Court of Cassation ; the 
banker, Jecker, was seventh, the Abb6 Deguerry was ninth ; in 
all fifty- four names were writ, of which thirty-eight were priests, 
and the remainder described as secret agents or police officers. 
At nine o'clock at night two large carts were brought to the 
prison, and in these vehicles forty out of the fifty-four selected 
hostages were conveyed under escort to La Roquette. The 
remaining fourteen were left at Mazas for the time being, 
cartage accommodation for them having been unprocurable.^ 

The prison of La Roquette had been reinforced in the morn- 
ing by the arrival of six companies of federates, under the com- 
mand of a Captain Verig. The governor of this prison was 
named Francois ; he had been appointed to the position through 
the agency of a brother of Ranvier. A crowd had assembled to 
greet with threats and maledictions the forty unhappy men, as 
the lumbering carts drew up in the courtyard of the prison. 
With scant formalities, the prisoners were taken charge of by 
Francois, Verig and some of the principal officers of the prison, 
amongst whom were two named Mounier and Ramain. They 
were enclosed separately in cells, the furnishings of which were 
more meagre than was customary ; thrust in in the dark, it was 
not until daybreak that they could examine their narrow apart- 
ments. When some of the hostages asked to be supplied with 
a chair, Ramain cynically responded that it was not worth 
troubling about for the short time they would be there.^ 

At the prison of La Sant6, situated in the south-eastern 
portion of Paris, there were 147 hostages, mostly gendarmes 
and police agents, but including also some priests. Caullet, 

' Du Camp, t i. pp. 248-254. * Ibid. 

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2 72 History of the Paris Commune of \Z*]\ 

the prison governor, though of course a Communist, was 
different to the governors of Mazas and Roquette. He was 
anxious to save the hostages that were under his care from the 
malevolence of his superiors. In the early morning of this day 
a large quantity of powder and war ammunition had been 
brought to him to be stored in the cellars of the prison; it 
would have endangered the lives of the hostages, and Caullet 
refused to receive it Later in the day an order came from 
Ferr6 by which the governor was commanded to shoot all the 
gendarmes, sergents de ville, and "secret Bonapartist agents," if 
the Versaillais should have the audacity to attack the prison. 
Caullet gave an acknowledgment for the order without remark, 
but nevertheless resolved to disregard it. Late at night 
Serizier, who was chief of legion of the quarter where La 
Sant^ stood, entered the prison, and demanded if Ferry's order 
had been carried out No : the order was conditional, the con- 
dition was not yet arrived. Further satisfaction than this 
Serizier could not obtain, and he departed, full of anger and 

At about the same hour, in the opposite part of Paris (Mont- 
martre), Lefran^ais and Alphonse Humbert, one of the editors 
of the Pire Ducltine, came upon Cluseret. who had been given a 
command, under General La Cecilia, in that neighbourhood. 
The two civilians proposed to accompany Cluseret, but the 
latter seized a favourable moment and escaped from them and 
from further participation in the Communal embroglio. His 
hiding-place was not far from the spot where Lefran^ais and 
Humbert last saw him.' 

At Versailles, the National Assembly, moved to enthusiasm 
by the successful entry into Paris, declared by acclamation that 
their troops and the Chief of the Executive Power — M. Thiers — 
deserved well of the country. The army — yes, for it was now 
reliable, obedient, and energetic ; but Thiers' eulogy cannot be 
said in a word. The National Assembly, characteristically 
French, was hasty ; had it waited two or three days, other feel- 
ings than those of success and laudation would have stifled its 
acclamation, and superseded its sense of gratitude to its chief. 

* 6^ Conseil de Guerre, Feb. 8th, 1872. Du Camp, t L pp. 202, 203. 
' Lefran^ais, pp. 320, 321. 

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Third Day: Tuesday, May 23RD, 1871. 

During the dark hours of the night which separated Monday 
from Tuesday, the operations of the war were suspended. Both 
combatants needed rest Wounded federates lay in palaces and 
houses never meant for hospitals ; camp fires were lit, around 
which the Communists talked and dozed ; women of a class 
were not wanting, and these, even in this dread hour, infused 
some gaiety into the minds of their wearied and perturbed 

The chief aim of the Versaillais attack in the morning was to 
be Montmartre. To this stronghold of the Communists Dom- 
browski had withdrawn his men ; here also was La Cecilia. On 
the hill there were scores of cannons ; beneath it, on the Place 
St Pierre, w«is an enormous barricade strongly fortified; the 
boulevards Clichy, Rochechouart, and Ornano, which bounded it 
on the south and east, were hemmed in with barricades and 
defences. It was a position easy to defend — most difficult to 
take. The cannons on the brow of the hill formed the greatest 
obstacle — they nearly all pointed towards the interior of Paris, 
from which direction the Communists thought the attack would 
come, and towards which the cannons had the previous day 
belched forth their fury on to the quarters occupied by the 

At four o'clock, the attacking forces were on the move. One 
division — Grenier — of the ist Army Corps, General Ladmirault, 
took the route of the fortifications as far as the railway goods 
station near La Chapelle, taking barricades and freeing entrances 
on its way ; then turning sharply to the right, it traversed the 
Rue Poissonniers as far as Rue Mercadet, where numerous barri- 
cades blocked the way.^ Fierce encounters took place betwixt 
Communist and Versaillais — at one of these, occurring at the 

* Macmahon, p. 21. 

273 T 

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2 74 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

corner of Rue Myrrha and the Boulevard Ornano, Dombrowski 
received a wound in his stomach which speedily caused his 
death. He had been twice previously wounded. Whether the 
fatal wound came from the Versaillais, or from the Communists 
themselves, will perhaps never be definitely known.* It is. how- 
ever, certain that Dombrowski, shortly before receiving his 
death- wound, had been accused of treason by his men, and had 
been practically deserted by them.* This is admitted by Ver- 
morel, who was along with Dombrowski, in the funeral oration 
which, the next day, he came to deliver over his friend.' That 
Dombrowski was a traitor to the Communist cause there can 
be little doubt ; but his treachery was of a humane character, 
dictated by a consciousness that stubborn resistance could not 
alter the inevitable final defeat, and would but increase the 
number of dead and wounded. The particular treachery charged 
against him by his men appears to have been his failure to pay 
over to them certain sums of money which he had promised, 
this failure being of course owing to the imprisonment of Georges 
Veysset, already recorded. Distrust, deceit, treason — here at 
Montmartre, and elsewhere in the Communist ranks. Never 
was there a cause professing so wide a brotherhood, with 
so little mutual confidence. 

A brigade — Pradier — of the Grenier division branched off 
from the main body along the Rue Mercadet, and advanced 
slowly under a plunging fire from the heights, to the cemetery 
of Montmartre, which it entered. Another division — Laveau- 
coupet — also marched along the fortifications as far as the Rue 
Mont-Cenis, up which it went, dividing into the Rue des Saules, 
and thus approaching the hill. 

The fifth army corps — General Clinchant — attacked Mont- 
martre from the south. An immense barricade at the Place de 
Clichy, which had withstood a simple fusillade the whole of the 
previous day, was now brought low by a piece of artillery, and 
taken. The mairies of the 17th and i8th arrondissements were 
also possessed. 

The hill of Montmartre was now surrounded by the Govern- 
ment forces. The federates, fighting furiously and savagely, 

* Du Camp, t. i. p. 91. ' Ibid, » Daudet, p. 137. 

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Third Day : Ttiesday, May 2ird, 1871 275 

were alternately beaten and beating ; losing a barricade, then 
retaking it, and again losing it — driven eventually from the 
main boulevards into the minor streets, refuging in and fight- 
ing from the houses, whilst their foe steadily and even angrily 
pursued and closed in upon them, dislodging them from their 
shelters, and leaving few loopholes for escape. The carnage 
was dreadful ; quarter to a combatant was refused — there was 
no time to parley, no escort to be spared just then to look after 
prisoners. Nearly all the defenders of the barricades were 
killed, among them being not a few women, who had shared in 
the fighting. 

Finally the Pradier Brigade, headed by volunteers of the 
loyal National Guards, got the lead up the hill, and was the 
first to arrive at the summit ; soon to be followed by others. 
The red flag of the Commune which floated from the Moulin de 
la Galette was replaced at one o'clock by the tricolour flag of 
France, and announced to all who saw it that Montmartre, " the 
grand fortress of the Commune," ^ was conquered. Over a 
hundred cannons and large quantities of war stores and ammu- 
nition fell into the viotor's hands, and nearly 3,000 prisoners 
were taken, many of whom had changed their clothing in the 
hope of evading capture. 

The federates who were able to escape from Montmartre flew 
to Belleville, another stronghold of Communism, and presently 
the artillery on the Buttes Chaumont fired across to the hill of 
Montmartre, but this fire was speedily replied to by the Ver- 
saillais and silenced. Elsewhere, however— notably from the 
cemetery of Pire Lachaise — the Communists had free play for 
their guns, which they directed on those parts or buildings of 
Paris that were occupied by their enemy. 

Other parts of the city than Montmartre were attacked by 
other forces. General Douay's troops, expanding further into 
the centre, took several barricades up to the Rue de la Fayette 
(lower portion), and the church of N6tre Dame de Lorette. 
The mairie of the 9th arrondissement and the Grand Opera 
House also fell into his hands with comparative ease. Not so 
the Rue Royale and the Place de la Madeleine, which Douay's 

' Macmahon, p. 22. 

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276 History of the Paris Commune of i^ji 

right wing attacked. Here tlie federates were in strong force. 
A formidable barricade across the top of the Rue Royale faced 
the beautiful church of La Madeleine ; at the bottom of the 
street were the Ministry of Marine and the defences of the 
Place de la Concorde. In the Ministry Brunei had his head- 
quarters, and it w«is also used as a hospital for the wounded. 

General Douay divided his troops for this attack into two 
portions, one to arrive at the Place de la Madeleine by a north 
route, and the other by a south. The former experienced much 
difficulty in carrying out its instructions, and several severe 
encounters with the federates delayed its progress ; the latter, 
finding it imprudent to follow the open street, crossed gardens 
and houses of the Faubourg St. Honor6 in order to arrive at the 
Rue Royale and upwards to La Madeleine. 

The day advanced ; the firing of artillery and small arms was 
incessant: Brunei and his battalions heard it and were dis- 
quieted. The crackling noise approached. About three in the 
afternoon a few Versailles soldiers fired from the windows of a 
house in the Place de la Madeleine down the Rue Royale. The 
fire was returned by the federates from behind their barricade, 
and an exchange of shots continued for some time. The Ver- 
sailles troops increased in number ; they were also drawing near 
by the Faubourg St Honors, and Brunei, fearing his retreat 
would be cut off from behind, ordered the Rue Royale to be 
burnt, for which contingency provision had been made. Petro- 
leum was stored in the Ministry of Marine, and a further supply 
was even then on the way thereto. This inflammable oil was 
served out in buckets, cans, and other utensils to the federates ; 
it was spilt over doors and windows, down cellars and inside 
the houses — and set fire to. Three women, who had caroused in 
that vicinity since the preceding day, in a frenzy of exaltation, 
took the lead in the nefarious business. Two cannons in the 
Place de la Concorde were turned from pointing up the Champs 
Elys^es to the Rue Royale ; they were charged with inflammable 
matter and fired upon the doomed houses, the quicker to expe- 
dite their destruction. Fire pumps were also requisitioned to 
pump petroleum on to the upper floors, but these apparatus did 
not work satisfactorily. Before setting fire to a certain wine 
merchant's establishment the federates were careful to extract 

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Third Day : Tuesday, May 23^^, 1871 277 

the wine stored therein ; it was removed to the Ministry of 
Marine for consumption at greater leisure. The porters, con- 
cierges, and tenants of the Rue Royale — far short of the full 
number normally appertaining to the street — rushed about dis- 
tracted, and some few who, uncontrollable in their emotion, 
ventured to withstand the incendiarists, were either shot down 
or otherwise maltreated. In one of the condemned houses, seven 
persons who had refuged in the cellars to be out of the way of 
the fighting met even a worse death by fire. The street was 
ablaze ; the federates shouted, " Vive la Commune ! " Later in 
the evening they danced and imbibed their wine, indifferent to 
the miseries they had caused and to the fearful carnage of 
which Paris was the scene ! 

Meanwhile General Douay's troops have approached the Rue 
Royale by St Honors route, and are already at the top of the 
Place de la Madeleine. The federates found within these two 
points have no way of escape : they rush into the church of 
La Madeleine — is it they, the priest hunters, to seek sanctuary ? 
— and barricade the doors. The Versaillais are after them un- 
daunted, break open the doors and force their way in. Several 
hundreds of federates there are enclosed, but the Versaillais' 
ire is aroused, the resistance from their own countrymen has 
been too stubborn to permit mercy or any other magnanimous 
feeling finding a place in their excited minds, and they fall upon 
the refuged federates with vengeance and without pity. Nearly 
all are left dead or disabled on the church floor.^ 

The night was then come: Douay's troops, at least, were 
exhausted with their day's work, and further advance was out of 
the question, though just a stone's-throw off lay Brunei and his 
battalions, only the blazing Rue Royale being between. 

The real strength of Brunei's position, however, lies in the 
artillery in the Place de la Concorde, which, commanding the 
Champs Elys6es, effectually prevents any combined action on 
the part of the Government troops down that broad avenue. 
The proximity, however, of the Government forces renders 
Brunei dubious sis to the advisability of remaining where he is — 
he sends to the H6tel de Ville for instructions, and receives a 

* De la Brug^re, pp. 246-250. Du Camp, t iii. pp. 82-86, 347. Daudet, 
p. 60. Macmahon, p. 23. 

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278 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

reply that he is to evacuate the Ministry of Marine and then 
blow it up. The order has the Committee of Public Safety 
stamp upon it — and Communal minds attach sis much reliability 
to a simple stamp sis to a written signature — it is incontestable. 
In the Ministry, however, there are 107 wounded men, many of 
them too grievously hurt to permit of their removal, and the 
surgeon attending them is not a federate, and is naturally 
anxious to save both the wounded and, if possible, the building 
from destruction. Brunei, also, is not inhuman, and he recoils 
from the idea of exploding a building which bears at this 
moment the sacred character of a hospital. Yet a sense of 
obedience somewhat singular in the man who was so openly in- 
subordinate on January 27th, impelled him to endeavour to get 
the order of the Committee of Public Safety altered or cancelled, 
rather than straightway to disobey it. He sent again to the 
H6tel de Ville for instructions, which, up to midnight, he had 
not received.^ 

On the south side of the Seine the Government troops advanced 
their positions with difficulty. Barricades appeared before them 
in every direction, and the fire from the Communist forts, which 
was directed on the Versaillais inside the city as well as on those 
outside, in many instances formed a serious impediment, and one 
which could not be directly encountered. In most of the engage- 
ments the fighting was severe and protracted. In only one case 
of any importance did the federates abandon their position ; this 
was at the Place St. Pierre (Petit Montrouge), where they were 
in danger of being surrounded. The results of the day's work 
were, however, uniformly in favour of the Versaillais, whose line 
of occupation, at night, stretched from the Rue du Bac, where 
it intersects with the Rue de TUniversit^, along the Rue de 
Crenelle, Rue de Rennes, Montparnasse station and ceme- 
tery, Avenue de Maine, and the fortifications as far as Porte 

The complete and swift victory over Montmartre elated 
Thiers and caused him to overlook the really moderate extent 
of his army's achievements. He instantly sent out to the 
provinces a despatch containing the good news, and stating that 

* Du Campi t. iii. pp. 87, et seq. 

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Third Day : Tuesday, May i^rd, 1871 279 

if the struggle was not finished that day there was every like- 
lihood of it being ended the morrow at latest. Yet at that 
moment not more than two- fifths of Paris had been conquered — 
at the same rate of progress it would take at least until Friday 
to repossess the whole city. Prophecy is a hazardous thing to 
indulge in publicly ! 

The advance of the Versaillais might have been more rapid 
than it was. The army possessed all solid and sterling qualities, 
but it lacked one of the utmost importance to make a campaign 
short : enterprise. The extreme cautiousness of Thiers and the 
refusal to court the least risk of a chance defeat, leavened the 
entire force in Paris, and contributed greatly to the comparative 
slowness of its action. In some cases barricades defended by 
a ridiculously small number of federates, kept the attacking 
party at bay for hours and even a day, when a dash forward 
would have at once revealed the meagreness of the defence and 
have secured the positions in a few minutes, and with less loss 
of life than was actually incurred. The slow advance gave time 
for the erection of barricades and indirectly strengthened the 
resistance — a swift sharp career through the centre of the town 
on the preceding day would have paralysed the federates, and 
averted many sad events. Instead of these dashing character- 
istics, there was an army exhibiting exemplary obedience, but 
neither asking nor being allowed any latitude — the experience 
of March i8th was too recent to permit of this. Both officers 
and men were strictly subordinated to the precise instructions 
given out by their superiors, even up to the generals and 
the commander-in-chief, who also was guided and limited by 
Thiers. Thiers alone, like a little god, obeyed his own impulses, 
which, though mainly right, were sometimes markedly wrong. 

If the gain of Montmartre produced joy at Versailles, its loss 
caused a stupor of consternation amongst the Communist 
leaders. The news was carried by Vermorel on horseback to 
the H6tel de Ville at a break-neck pace, though he had never 
ridden horse before.* The information he bore at once dazed 
and maddened the various authorities located in the municipal 
palace. Montmartre, their stronghold, taken ! The cry of 

' Lefran^ais, p. 323. 

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28o History of the Paris Commune of 1871 

Treason again rose to their lips, a parrot cry as ever, for they 
knew absolutely nothing of Dombrowski's questionable conduct 
and had no real warranty for thinking of treason. Delescluze, 
usually master of himself, strode to and fro in agitation, 
repeating in a broken voice, " Fire, fire, fire everywhere ! " * 
Placards were printed and posted throughout those portions of 
the city still under their control, appealing to the soldiers of the 
Versailles army to desert, in repetition of their conduct on 
March i8th ; but the day of desertions was past, save amongst 
the Communists themselves, many of whom foresaw the inevit- 
able defeat and disappeared from the scene as soon as they 
could do so unnoticed. Another placard was similarly posted, 
commanding all window blinds and shutters to remain open and 
declaring that any house from which proceeded a single shot or 
aggressive act against the federates would be instantly burnt. 
These two notices were both signed by the Committee of Public 
Safety, the former by the full number, viz., Arnaud, Eudes, 
Billioray, Gambon, and Ranvier, the latter by the four, 
excepting Billioray. Other notices of a less general but like 
character were also promulgated by Delescluze, Ranvier, and 

The feverish words of Delescluze, " Fire everywhere," showed 
the dominating idea in the Communal mind at that moment. 
In all probability Delescluze did not mean his words to be 
understood other than as exhorting a resource to fire for purely 
military defensive measures, though it is difficult to divine what 
benefit could accrue from any fire that did not protect by 
encircling the federates — and a ring of flame with Communists 
within and Versaillais without was impracticable. Military 
considerations however, in the minds of the Committee of 
Public Safety and of some few other Communists, bore no 
comparison in importance to the thought of wrecking and 
ruining Paris, so that the Versaillais should have a city of 
ashes for their conquest and should have to mourn over a 
victory as for a calamitous defeat. "Fire everywhere!" In 
Delescluze, Communal intelligence reached its highest develop- 
ment ; in him there was greater earnestness and power than in 

* Du Camp, t. ii. p. 396. 

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Third Day : Tuesday ^ May 27^rdy 1871 281 

any of his colleagues. His words seemed to sanction the 
wanton and spiteful destructiveness which roamed rampant 
through the puerile minds of those surrounding him ; there 
was no longer hesitation in commanding incendiarism to leap 
out of its lair. We have seen already how Brunei set the Rue 
Royale on fire ; this was the first conflagration to order : on 
Eudes will fall the reproach of the second. 

Eudes, however, merits some further recognition in this 
connection. Though not the first to command the match to 
be put to the inflammable materials stored up for incendiary 
purposes, he had been undoubtedly the chief in advocating the 
adoption of preparations to this end, the most violent in 
clamouring for Paris to be burnt and the most venomous in 
hatred of the Versaillais. His overweening vanity marked 
him out in his own estimation to be a leader of men — now he 
is playing his rdle ! let him lead where only brutes will follow. 

Between five and six in the afternoon Eudes was in the Rue 
de Lille, in his usual gay military attire and on horseback, 
directing the preliminary operations of spilling petroleum on 
the walls and floors of the Palace of the Legion of Honour, the 
Palace of the Council of State, the barracks and other extensive 
Government buildings situated between the Rue de Lille and 
the Quai d'Orsay. With him was M^gy ; the federate Decamp, 
who had shot the concierge Thom^ the preceding day, and an 
Algerian Spahi whom Eudes had delighted to attach to his 
entourage. Five women, whose names were Marchais, Papa- 
voine, Retiffe, Masson, and Suetens, formed the principal agents 
by whom the incendiary matter was distributed.* The Ver- 
sailles army was close at hand, but to give it battle like men was 
the furthest thought from these federates' minds. Petroleum 
and powder having been scattered and daubed about to a 
sufficient extent, Eudes raised his sword — at this signal a 
clarion sounded and a federate officer fired his revolver on a 
little rivulet of oil which had run out from the courtyard of the 
Legion of Honour Palace and thus set it on fire. A flame ran 
along the oil into the Palace and the incendiarism was com- 
menced. At the same time the other buildings which had been 

* 4"« Conseil de Guerre, Sept. 4th and 5th, 1871. 

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282 History of the Paris Commune of 1%"]! 

similarly prepared were also set on fire, after which Eudes with 
his followers departed from the scene and withdrew to the H6tel 
de Ville.^ Fire ever scoffs at difficulties — here its path was made 
easy. The flames enveloped the huge structures with rapidity, 
destroying countless historical and official documents that were 
stored therein, and sending forth huge clouds of smoke into the 

The malevolence of the federates ended not even with this 
triumph of barbarism over civilization. Some of Eudes' men 
took matters into their own hands and began to set on fire the 
private houses of the Rue de Lille and the Rue de Bac. The 
occupants of these rushed out in a frenzy of despair, protesting, 
but it was useless ; neither the lamentations of women nor the 
cries of children were yielded to. Petroleum was spilt, and doors 
and windows broken so that the fire might more easily rage. 
From house to house, almost the entire length of the street, the 
federates, fire mad, carried the inflammable liquid and set it 
alight. During the night, twenty-two private houses or shops 
of the Rue de Lille and seven of the Rue de Bac were all blazing 
and adding their lurid glare to the immense conflagration of 
the official buildings.* 

Bergeret, at the Palace of the Tuileries, the historic residence 
of the Napoleons and of other Kings of France — for which 
reason it was detested by the Communists — had similar business 
on hand. Returning from the H6tel de Ville in the afternoon 
he called together his chief men, of whom let there be named 
Victor Benot, a colonel, Etienne Boudin, a captain, and 
Kaweski, a colonel — coarse and vulgar individuals, whose titles 
ill represented the status in life for which alone they were fitted. 
Bergeret communicated to these men the decision of the 
Committee of Public Safety, and his own wish, that the 
Tuileries should be burnt, and commanded them to make 
preparations accordingly. His hearers were eager to assent 
to the diabolical design and at once set about its execu- 
tion. Barrels of powder were placed in the centre of the 
palace, and throughout all the rooms buckets of petroleum, of 
liquid tar, and of other inflammable matters were scattered^-on 

* Du Camp, t ii. pp. 127- 131. * Mottu, p. 8. 

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Third Day : Tuesday, May i^rd, 187 1 283 

walls, floors, carpets, furnishings. The articles removed from 
M. Thiers' house by order of the Commune were here stored — 
so much the more to burn ! The Palace was of huge extent ; 
not until nine o'clock at night were all the apartments duly 
saturated with oil, sprinkled with powder or daubed with tar, 
but, this preparatory work being at last finished, no time was 
lost in setting the place on fire. Squads of federates with 
lights fixed at the end of long poles, started the conflagration 
at each end of the building, leaving the centre, where the 
powder was massed, to be reached by the fire itself. Quickly 
the flames burst out and seized one more massive palace for 
its prey. They crept on from ends to centre, enveloping the 
whole structure with a resistless giant-like power. Towards 
midnight the barrels of powder exploded with a tremendous 
report, shaking the ground, shattering the masonry, and grimly 
expediting the ruin of the beautiful and costly edifice.^ As a 
spectacle, the sight was magnificent beyond compare. Flames, 
120 feet high, shot above the burning roofs, and the sky was lit 
up with a bed of awe-imposing fire. 

It was not until about nine o'clock at night that the existence 
of the various fires became generally suspected in and around 
Paris, for the ordinary transmission of news was wholly sus- 
pended, and the lamentable truth could only be guessed at 
when the unwonted red tongues of flame and the lurid glare of 
the sky became visible through the darkness. All over Paris 
the immense red luminance was seen, showing in relief huge 
clouds of black smoke, which, in their turn, served only to 
reveal with greater vividness the hideous fire monster beneath 
them. Parisians who were not Communists stood aghast at the 
sight, and wondered whether the repeated threats to burn the 
city were really being transformed into facts, despite their 
repellent character. Amidst the gloom, the trepidation, and 
the anxiety of the hour there sounded continually forth the 
crackling reports of firearms and the dull heavy boom of 
artillery, for the combat in the region where the fires were ceased 
not with the darkness, but prolonged itself into the night The 
fires burnt without hindrance : it had been to stultify oneself to 

* Du Camp, t. ii. pp. 200-210. 3"** Conseil de Guerre, affaire Benot, Nov. 
1 2th, 1872. 

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284 History of the Paris Commune of i^ji 

permit efforts to be made to extinguish that which had been 
purposely lit, and the Commune committed no such incon- 
sistency. The firemen in Paris had been prohibited from leaving 
their quarters : at the risk of being shot they were compelled to 
be passive spectators of conflagrations which they longed to 

This day, destined to have such a mournful yet theatrical 
termination, witnessed also some lugubrious scenes of another 
description. Quick-set suspicion alighted upon two more un- 
fortunate individuals, innocent of any complicity with the Ver- 
saillais, but nevertheless arraigned with all speed before Courts- 
Martial and condemned to death. One of these was arrested 
on the Place de la Bastille and taken to the Petite Roquette, 
where a Court-Martial sat. A vociferating crowd denounced 
him as a gendarme, and the crowd's ears had to be tickled with 
his blood. Escorted to Rue de la Vacquerie, at the side of the 
Grande Roquette, the man was shot both by the federates of 
the escort and by a woman named Marceline Epilly, who had 
indeed claimed to have the privilege of shooting first* The 
second case was that of a railway employ^, bearer of business 
letters, who was arrested in the neighbourhood of Fort Ivry 
and was taken to that fort charged with being a spy. A 
hastily improvised Court-Martial, formed of the chief officers of 
the garrison, sentenced him to death, and in a very short time 
the sentence was carried out.* 

Raoul Rigault, the one strong-willed man of the Commune, 
has also some deeds to lay claim to in this day's record. Mind- 
ful of the approach of the Versaillais, he forgot not to remove 
the fourteen hostages from Mazas to La Grande Roquette for 
whom on the previous night there had not been sufficient 
cartage accommodation procurable. He also sent to the 
prison of La Conciergie an order to deliver up to him thirty-four 
gendarmes who were there enclosed. The old officials, fearing 
a sinister result attending upon compliance with the request, 
falsely told the messenger that the thirty-four gendarmes had 
been already removed to La Roquette, and they showed the 

* Du Camp, t. iv. pp. 233, 234. 

' 11"^^ Conseil de Guerre, 29th June, 1872. Du Camp, t. iv. p. 154. 

* 14"* Conseil de Guerre, 9lh October, 1872. 

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Third Day : Tuesday, May ij^rd, 1871 285 

unsuspecting emissary some apparent evidence that the state- 
ment was correct^ Lies are rarely justifiable in this frail and 
imperfect world, but let him alone say they are never so, who 
has never erred. Martyrs and heroes have died rather than 
foresworn themselves — all honour to them ; but it is a far 
different case when the safety of other lives hangs upon the 
issue. The question of absolute truth, regardless of conse- 
quences, is one not to be judged by ethics, but by circum- 

The thirty-four gendarmes, then, were passed over and 
remained at the Conciergie, which place, close by the Prefecture 
of Police, where Rigault's quarters were, was nevertheless 
unassociated with judicial punishments of a serious nature, 
and Rigault troubled his brain no further about it. Moreover, 
were not the Palace of Justice, the Prefecture, and other 
buildings thereabouts to be burnt when the fitting moment 
arrived ? — fire would complete any unfinished work. 

The prison of Ste. P^lagie was more in Rigault's thoughts. 
There was the lawyer and journalist, Chaudey, who had par- 
ticularly excited Rigault's animosity. Delescluze also con- 
sidered Chaudey as a personal enemy, by reason of some little 
peccadillo that the Delegate of War had committed in his 
younger days, of which Chaudey had knowledge.* 

This 23rd of May was a notable day for Chaudey — it was 
the anniversary both of his marriage and of the birth of his 
only son. At great danger, across barricaded streets and 
through flying missiles from the contesting armies, Chaudey's 
wife had come to see him ; she besought from Augustin 
Ranvier, the governor of Ste. P^lagie, permission to dine with 
her husband that day in honour of the double event which it 
called to remembrance. Chaudey joined his entreaties to hers, 
but their efforts were futile ; the hard-hearted governor was 
obdurate, and the anniversary meal had to be eaten apart 
from each other, amidst a sadness unrelieved by the cheering 
radiance that the granting of this slight favour would have 

Towards eleven o'clock at night Rigault appeared at the 

* Du Camp, t. i. pp. 123-125. ' Daudet, p. 109. 

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286 History of the Paris Commune of i^yi 

prison and informed the officials that Chaudey and three 
gendarmes also enclosed there as hostages were to be 
instantly shot, in compliance with the Communal decree. 
Chaudey was first called, and an execution company of eight 
federates formed. He expostulated, but to no avail. He was 
marched to the spot where the execution was to take place, 
and thought to move the implacable Rigault by appealing to 
him for the sake of his wife and children : again useless. 
Chaudey was placed upright beside a wall, Rigault raised his 
sword as a signal and the eight federates fired, but only one 
ball struck the prisoner, and that inflicted only a slight wound. 
Chaudey waved his right arm and cried, " Vive la R^publique ! " 
then various officials of the prison came close up and discharged 
gun and revolver into him, blowing part of his head away before 
they finished.^ Chaudey's wife had left her husband, saying, 
" Until to-morrow " ; on the morrow she appeared and was 
told her husband had been transferred to the Prefecture. Not 
until the 2Sth did she learn that that "To-morrow" would never 
arrive ! 

Having settled Chaudey, Rigault had the three gendarmes, 
by name Bouzon, Capdeville, and Pacotte, brought in front of 
the dead body of the journalist, and there shot — an operation 
no more skilfully performed than in the previous case, but as 
determinedly completed, one Preau de Vedel, the " librarian " of 
the prison, being among the most callous of the human butchers. 
It is a small matter, after killing a man, to rifle his pockets — 
but, as showing the heartlessness and criminality of these 
federates, it is worth recording that they appropriated from 
Chaudey's dead body whatever articles of value they found 
thereon, whilst the bodies of the four were disposed of with no 
more regard than if they had been so much filth.* 

Massacres within walls and without ! The few non-combat- 
ants who perished, victims of political passion and intolerance, 
excite perhaps more sympathy than the many federates and 
soldiers who died by the ordinary processes of war. The latter 
class, and the federates in particular, might now be reckoned 

* Rapport (T ensemble f p. 152. Du Camp, t. i. pp. 1 61-164. 

* Du Camp, t. i. pp. 161-164. Daudet, pp. 11 2- 116. Rapport d* ensemble^ 
p. 153- 

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Third Day : Tuesday, May 23^^/, 1871 287 

in thousands. The streets were strewn with dead bodies in 
frightful array, left where they fell, uncovered, untended. There 
was enough to do to remove the wounded and alleviate their 
suffering : those past mortal aid received not mortal care. Who 
shall tell in its fulness the horrors of war ? Detached episodes, 
singular occurrences, individual losses, are here and there writ — 
but the sum total of pain, of grief, of bereavement, of poverty, 
misery, blighted lives, and cheerless homes : it is incompre- 
hensible. Yet will men go on fighting and killing each other. 
Human life, on a war footing, is not of more account than brute 
life. War is, in truth, only a recurrence to the original brutal 
condition of man, when he also roamed the world as the wild 
beasts of the earth yet do, and his life was accounted not more 
precious than theirs. All the refinements of scientific imple- 
ments for the more speedy slaughtering of antagonists will never 
render of war a thing civilized, or convert the deliberate putting 
to death of one's fellow into anything but a deed distinctly and 
irrefutably marking our kinship to brutes. This heritage from 
a former era has remained irreducible, whilst intelligence has 
wonderfully grown, but Intellect cannot remove the foundation 
upon which it rests, mental and corporeal war being in principle 
the same; even Christianity, that gospel of Peace and Good- 
will, has spread and develope^iJ by the aid of the sword, without 
which it had never been what it is. Civilization has brought 
with it an aggravation of the evil it has been powerless to sub- 
due — it has rendered death, to our eyes, a fearful thing. We, 
more sensitive than our ancient ancestors to emotions of love, 
more keen of life because of the artificial pleasures which are 
introduced into it, more worked upon by considerations of a 
future existence — look for the first time upon death — so placid, 
so mysterious — with awe and convulsive throbbings. The 
b^inning of life — lost in the far-off vistas of prehistoric creation 
— and the ending — ever present — are alike unfathomable, and 
it is not more wonderful to imagine lifers spontaneous existence 
than it is to understand its absolute annihilation. Birth we 
wonder not at, for it is an offshoot ^life : it is the same essence, 
no more mysterious than that which it sprung from ; death, 
however, has no parentage, it has no succession : it is a thing 
aloof, grim, repulsive, silent, motionless — foreign and antagonistic 

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288 History of tJte Paris Commune of 187 1 

to our whole nature, yet irresistible and therefore fearful. But 
so mouldable are our temperaments, that we become accus- 
tomed even to this frightful adversary ; familiarity with it breeds 
often contempt, ever indifference ; were it otherwise, there would 
be neither wars nor undertakers. 

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Fourth Day: Wednesday, May 24TH, 1871. 

A FEW minutes after midnight, the messenger whom Brunei 
had sent to the Hdtel de Ville for instructions, returned with 
the message that the Committee of Public Safety reaffirmed their 
order to bum or blow up the Ministry of Marine, and that a 
company of federates was already on the way thither to remove 
the wounded Brunei did not further contest the order, but 
gave certain instructions to a subordinate, and then, with the 
bulk of his forces, evacuated the various positions he held, 
without being observed by the Versaillais, and retired to the 
H6tel de Ville. 

Presently there arrived the federates who were to remove 
the wounded ; another band of federates proceeded to spill 
petroleum and otherwise prepare the building for burning. To 
delay the first proceeding was to delay also the second ; this 
the surgeon in charge endeavoured to do, though with only a 
partial success. The Ministry was eventually got ready for the 
projected incendiarism, when the lighting up was averted by 
the stratagem of one of the permanent officials — attached to 
the Versailles cause — who, representing that the building was 
already surrounded by the enemy, first frightened the incen- 
diarists into concealing themselves in the upper part of the 
structure and then took steps to counteract and destroy the 
preparations they had made. After many exciting incidents, 
the Ministry was at length saved from further danger by the 
arrival, at five in the morning, of Admiral Pothuau, Thiers* 
Minister of Marine, and a few naval officers and men, who 
searched the building for federates and put to death all of 
them that were found. A little later, other Versailles troops 
arrived and took possession of neighbouring positions.^ 

The Place Venddme had been also evacuated by the federates 

* Du Camp, t. iii. pp. 91-98. 

289 u 

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290 History of the Paris Commune of 187 1 

when Brunei withdrew his men from the Ministry of Marine, 
though there, as in the latter case, the Versaillais were not 
aware of the fact until some hours afterwards. The Place was, 
however, occupied between two and three o'clock in the morn- 
ing. The flames from the burning buildings on both sides of 
the Seine spurred on and exasperated the Versaillais. Another 
immense block, the Ministry of Finances, in the Rue de Rivoli, 
was now on fire, lit by whose order or by whom is not known. 
Ferr6, the delegate to the Police, is charged with having 
ordered it, but on evidence which is unreliable. However, 
petroleum had been made use of, for the smell of this oil was 
unmistakable when the Ministry was entered, as presently was 
the case, by the Versaillais, and efforts made to save from the 
fire the most valuable papers and books. On the roof and fifth 
floor the fire raged furiously, whilst the lower part of the build- 
ing was comparatively untouched, though, singularly, on the 
second floor, furniture was discovered burning in the rooms, 
whilst neither the ceilings nor the partitions were attacked.^ 
The latter fact was a clear indication of incendiarism, though 
the former pointed rather to an external cause such as the 
bursting of a shell — even as on the Monday the roof had thus 
been set alight. It was impossible, however, to extinguish this 
fire, for not only were the water cisterns in the Ministry empty, 
but the water conduits were stopped up.* The whole building 
and an immense quantity of official documents, which could 
not be removed in time, became a prey to the flames. When 
Jourde learnt of the fate which had befallen the Ministry in 
which he had been chief, he wept He, at least, was innocent 
of incendiarism. 

Other fires came to be kindled in the vicinity of the Louvre 
by Bergeret's followers. Bergeret "himself," having accom- 
plished the destruction of the famous palace of the kings and 
emperors, sought not for further glory and went into conceal- 
ment whilst he could, lest the Versaillais should fall upon him 
and cut short his career without ceremony. His officers, how- 
ever, were not so quickly satiated with the exciting novelty 
of authorized incendiarism. After having supped with their 

* and • s"' Conseil de Guerre, 21st and 22nd August, 1871. 

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Fourth Day: Wednesday, May 2^tk, 1871 291 

chief they betook themselves to the Palais Royale, where a 
federate colonel named Boursier, with others, was preparing 
the way for lighting up another conflagration, in accordance 
with instructions received from Eudes during the night. 
Petroleum, there, as elsewhere, was the principal inflammagent 
employed. It was the Palais Royale, properly so called, which 
the federates sought to destroy, and not the quadrangular array 
of shops and restaurants commonly meant by that name. 
About three o'clock in the morning the fire was kindled in three 
different parts of the palace ; the flames spread with amazing 
rapidity and soon enveloped the greatest portion of the block. 
The proximity of the fire to the Bank alarmed the officials .there, 
and they, with some well-disposed citizens, took steps to check 
the flames, though this was a proceeding involving consider- 
able risk, because the federates who prowled about the streets 
hesitated not to shoot down any person who tried to stop the 

Colonel Boursier, Victor Benot, and Kaweski, having achieved 
their mission at the Palais Royale, crossed over to the Imperial 
Library, situated in the buildings adjoining the Louvre, taking 
with them some vessels of petroleum. Similar preparations 
were made at this place, and at four o'clock the fire was lit 
there also, the result of it being to destroy over 90,000 volumes, 
many of them being exceedingly choice and rare.^ 

The Louvre was now in great jeopardy, both from the last- 
named fire and from that of the Tuileries, which was spreading 
along the roofs in the direction of the famous museum and 
picture galleries. To save this priceless collection of antiquities 
and paintings — ^forming, more than did anything else in Paris, 
the nation's pride — the Marquis de Sigoyer, commandant of 
a battalion of infantry stationed at the Place de la Concorde, 
took upon himself to act without orders, and proceed thither 
with his men. Though the quays were being swept with a 
federate fire from the Pont Neuf, he contrived to get into the 
interior squares of the Tuileries and in face of the Louvre — 
made, with his men, a chain by which water was obtained in 
all sorts of buckets from the river, and, by daring and energy, 

* Du Camp, t. ii. p. 211 ; t iii. pp. 265-272. 

' De la Bnig^re, p. 207. Du Camp, t. ii. p. 213. 

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292 History of the Paris Commune of i2>Ti 

managed to stay the progress of the fire.* In the Rue de 
Rivoli, a line regiment also came upon the scene and assisted 
to quell the fire from that side. Furthermore, the chief of the 
Parisian fire brigade, with a numerous staff, arrived, by com- 
mand of Marshal Macmahon, and took over the operations of 
quenching the conflagrations — a work which could be attended 
to wherever the Versaillais were and the federates were van- 
quished. One city's fire brigade, however, even were it wholly 
unhampered by a relentless warfare and by deliberate and 
murderous obstruction, was manifestly insufficient to cope with 
these tremendous furnaces. Already help was telegraphed for 
from- the provinces ! 

The fire demon was let loose as he never before had been. 
When once so fearful a deviation from civilized usage is made 
as to authorize for spiteful political purposes a systematic and 
extensive incendiarism of the most noble buildings, the most 
important documents, and most valuable artistic and industrial 
treasures, a return to brute life has been accomplished more 
pronounced even than brutal warfare. It was a change welcome 
enough to certain individuals who chafed under the self-control 
and subjection which civilization imposed upon them. Many 
of the Communists, from Eudes, Bergeret, and their colleagues 
down to the simple federate, were such, and, the chief men 
having set the example and the Committee of Public Safety 
by its orders having sanctioned arson as a principle of 
practiques, the lower grades of federates were not slow to 
apply the principle when and where it pleased them. Thus 
it is impossible to trace directly to the Committee of Public 
Safety or to any leading Communist evefy incendiarism that 
occurred in Paris at this period, but it is equally impossible to 
refrain from visiting that Committee and its fire-brand col- 
leagues with the moral responsibility of almost every one. 
Some few fires may have arisen through the bursting of shells, 
and, in such a reversal of the usual conditions of existence, from 
other hands than Communists', but these allowances taken 
together would affect only an insignificant trifle of the fires 
which have been and are yet to be recorded. 

* Du Camp, t. ii. pp. 235-242. 

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Fourth Day: Wednesday y May 2\th, 187 1 293 

Since the dawn of the 24th, a fire had burst out at the 
Carrefour de la Croix Rouge, near the Boulevard St Germain ; 
several houses in the Rue de Rivoli were ignited before the 
federates quitted that locality ; about six o'clock in the morn- 
ing, the extensive emporium known as the Tapis Rouge, at 
seven o'clock, the Lyrique Theatre, and, later in the day, the 
Theatre Porte St Martin were each invaded by federates, prepared 
with petroleum, and set on fire. These were all big conflagra- 
tions, adding a huge quota of flame, smoke, and destruction to 
the horrible pandemonium already existent. A cloud of smoke 
was forming over the centre of the town, and beneath it flames 
seemed rampant everywhere, lighting up the dead bodies that 
lay about and in some cases charring and consuming them, 
whilst still the battle betwixt federate and Versaillais raged 
furiously at a score of places at once, and human blood flowed 
as freely as beasts' blood in a slaughter-house, with tenfold 
attendant agony and repulsiveness. 

The unexpectedly stubborn resistance which the Versaillais 
had met with, had, even before the fires commenced, almost 
exhausted their patience and rendered them, fighting against 
countrymen, savage and merciless. The wanton destruction of 
national property and monuments that was now made evident 
turned the last vestige of endurance into a remorseless thirst for 
vengeance, and from this moment mercy, consideration, quarter, 
were things unknown to the attacking army. P'ederates, armed 
or unarmed, were shot or sabred relentlessly ; those who had 
already been taken prisoners were marched through the streets 
and to Versailles with absolute indifference to every feeling of 
humanity, neither natural necessities nor bodily weaknesses being 
regarded ; loiterers were shot straightway, recalcitrants on the 
instant received their death-blow. The non-Communist popu- 
lation of Paris in the parts of the city delivered from Communal 
rule, now rose up in a frenzy of revenge against the federates. 
Absurd tales passed from mouth to mouth that bands of 
women were parading the streets spilling petroleum and setting 
fire to houses. It is easy to understand how such a report 
should be spread, becayse some women had undoubtedly been 
petrouleuseSy as they were called ; there were, however, no 
bands of women such as the rumour referred to. Nevertheless, 

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294 History of the Paris Commune of \%T\ 

the statement was credited and acted upon ; every woman seen 
with a can, bottle, or other vessel was arrested, and a clamorous 
crowd demanded her death ; in many instances this awful 
climax was reached.^ Federates who sought to escape by 
disguise or concealment were denounced to the Versaillais 
soldiers, and were shot without further ado. Every Versailles 
soldier almost — certainly every petty officer — had in his own 
hands the life or death of any suspected person ; and whilst it 
was terribly easy to arouse suspicion, it was tremendously 
difficult, before an excited and exasperated people, to show 
that it was groundless. 

On the side of the federates there was a similar implacability 
shown. True, there continued to be extensive desertions of the 
faint-hearted or more calculating elements, but this merely left 
the residue of a more determined character, which fought 
resolutely and doggedly, notwithstanding that it was being 
continually beaten and forced back. Let it not be forgotten 
that the federate was but a National Guard called into exist- 
ence only during the past twelve months, more civilian than 
soldier, with the martial instinct, but not the military training. 
It must be admitted that he shunned an open field, fought best 
behind the shelter of barricades and houses, and generally ran 
away if by chance he were surprised by the enemy where there 
was no intervening structure to affi^rd him some protection. 
Nevertheless, his bravery was beyond question — ^the thousands 
slain and wounded on both sides prove it up to the hilt It 
might almost be said that he fought for fighting's sake, for 
what gain could he now hope for, driven from half the city by 
a conquering army infuriated with rage and vengeance ? He 
was the dupe of his leaders, who encouraged resistance at a 
safe distance ; up to this point not one of his elected repre- 
sentatives had been even wounded in the struggle that had rent 
the city already for seventy hours, though some few had been 
arrested. Upon him has ever fallen the brunt of their political 
manoeuvres, whilst they — miserable cowards for the most part — 
selfishly glide into their pre-arranged hiding-places, don their 
disguises, or, of those who are yet active in the fray, keep them- 
selves carefully out of the battle range. 

* Du Camp, t. ii. p. 402. Lcfran^ais, p. 355. 

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Fourth Day : Wednesday, May 24//^, 187 1 295 

Tangible evidence of the break up of the Commune was not 
wanting. The Hdtel de Ville, the possession of which prior to 
March i8th had been so coveted, and which since that date 
had been the principal symbol of Communal as it had long 
been of popular authority ; to which the eyes of federate and 
workman turned as to a fetish ; which in times past had ruled 
France and had exerted no inconsiderable influence even on 
European events : this auxiliary of power — a stronghold materi- 
ally as well as sentimentally — was vacated in the early hours of 
the morning by all the Communal authorities and officials, 
except Pindy, the governor, and a few chosen men. The 
retreat was operated secretly, for the 6,000 federates guarding 
the H6tel knew nothing of it.^ The reasons for thus vacating 
without the semblance of a struggle such a formidable position 
were threefold, and applied to the withdrawal from the Tuileries 
and other places, as well as to this. First there came the selfish 
consideration of personal safety, ever paramount to the majority 
of the Communist chiefs ; then came the conviction that they 
could not hold their ground against the Versaillais ; lastly was 
the fiendish desire to avenge their defeat in the most stinging 
manner possible by consigning the vacated buildings to the 
flames. Yea, even the Hdtel de Ville was doomed to this — for 
such purpose were Pindy and his men left behind. The 
municipal palace shall be burnt, notwithstanding all its old 
associations and symbolical significance — equally regardless of 
the vast piles of important civil documents which therein are 
contained ! 

There was an abundance of material wherewith to carry out 
this incendiarism : stores of powder and petroleum. Barrels of 
one and kegs of the other were placed alternately throughout 
the structure; the petroleum kegs were opened and the con- 
tents allowed to run out, carpets and floors being thus saturated 
with the oil ; then, at about ten o'clock in the morning, a 
match was applied, and speedily the building was in a blaze, 
burning with amazing rapidity and virulence.* Lefran^ais and 
Eugene G^rardin came up at the commencement of this con- 
flagration, being themselves innocent of any participation in it, 

* Lefran^ais, pp. 325, 331. De la Brug^re, p. 218. 
' Du Camp, t. iv. p. 245. 

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S96 History of the Paris Commune of iZ-ji 

and gave instructions to the federates to withdraw immediately 
to the Place de la Bastille, lest the explosion of the powder 
which they knew to be stored in the cellars should cause them 
injury or death. The barricades were forsaken accordingly, 
but only a small part of the federates went to the designated 
spot; most of them seized the opportunity to go to their 

The Comit^ Central, in these last days, showed more homo- 
geneity than the Commune. The latter had had no regular 
sittings since Sunday and no deliberations worthy of the name 
— nothing but confused, disorderly discussions, in which the 
strongest-lunged were heard the best, and proposals of all sorts 
came one on top of another, burying themselves by their 
multiplicity and having only a vehement wrangling for a 
funeral oration. The former was more compact, though it 
also could not be denominated other than disorderly and 
excited. Nevertheless, it had held frequent sittings in its 
location in Rue Basfroi, and had had numerous negotiations 
with the Republican League for the Rights of Paris, from which 
it apparently expected great results. The League had also, 
each day this week, endeavoured to secure by peaceable means 
a termination of the sad conflict This morning, representa- 
tives of both parties were hovering about the H6tel de Ville, 
anxious and hopeful even then to arrange a compromise, and 
the Comite Central had just placarded a last manifesto on the 
walls, proposing terms of settlement with its adversary. Alas, 
for the intelligence exhibited by both these bodies ! they each 
insisted upon absurd conditions of absolution for the Commune 
and dissolution of the National Assembly.* They were 
ridiculous requests — fit only for a victorious and not a defeated 

The Comit^ Central had, however, some misgivings as to the 
incendiarisms; it wished to prevent some new conflagrations 
for which orders had already been given, to wit, the Grenier 
d'abondance, the National Printing Office, the National Archives, 
and the Arsenal. It placed counter orders in the hands of the 
League, but left to the latter the duty of distributing them at the 

* Lefrangais, pp. 331, 332. « La VMi^^ p. 411. 

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Fourth Day : Wednesday, May 2/^th, 1871 297 

various places denominated.^ The Comitd Central had, in fact, 
lost influence over the federates,* whose irritation and excita- 
bility was supreme — the latter had literally taken the war into 
their own hands, and there was no moderating control over them 
— they might be intensified in their passion, but could not be 
lifted out of it save by a crushing defeat. To such lengths do 
laxity, tolerated indiscipline, and gross flattery lead ! 

The League for the Rights of Paris took the counter orders, 
and was successful in saving the respective buildings from fire 
at least for that day, though it was impossible to foretell what 
the morrow might bring forth. 

Orders had also been sent from the H6tel de Ville to burn 
the Bourse and the cathedral of N6tre Dame ; the destruction 
of the first was never attempted, owing to the proximity of the 
Versaillais, but the second was nearly accomplished. Three 
wood piles were erected by the federates inside the venerable 
and beautiful cathedral, and they were ignited during the morn- 
ing. Fortunately the medical staff of the hospital H6tel Dieu, 
close by, were on the look-out for such an event, and when it 
became evident that the fire had been placed to the building, 
they rushed out to extinguish it, being assisted therein by a few 
well-disposed people — including a fireman — who were thereabout. 
Their efforts, prosecuted under difficulty, were finally successful, 
and the ancient cathedral suffered only trifling damage.* 

About the same time — 11.30 am. — a tremendous explosion 
was heard over a large portion of the city. It was caused by 
the powder magazine in the Luxembourg Gardens having been 
blown up by the federates, occasioning great destruction of 
property in the neighbouring Rue Vavin. Later in the day, 
another explosion of powder occurred in the Panthdon quarter ; 
it had been rumoured that the Pantheon was to be blown up, 
but happily the Versaillais arrived there ere such a design was 
placed in execution. 

The He de la Cite was the scene of further excesses, even 
when the Versaillais were within sight of it, and the battle 
raged on each of its sides. Here, at the western end, stood the 
extensive block of buildings wherein Rigault and Ferr6 had 

* I^ 18 MarSy p. 333. ' La VMU, p. 411. 

" Du Camp, t. iv. pp. 212-214. 

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298 History of the Paris Commune (?/" 1871 

their peculiar location and province— the Palais de Justice, the 
Prefecture de Police, the Depdt, and the Conciergie. The two 
latter places were full of prisoners, some of whom were objects 
of special thought on the part of Ferr^. 

At eight o'clock in the morning, Ferr^, accompanied by some 
of the "Avengers of Flourens," went to the Dep6t, where 
Geoi^es Veysset was imprisoned, and caused him to be brought 
out. Veysset, on seeing Ferrd, immediately said, " When I was 
arrested, I had 20,000 francs on me ; I wish to know what has 
become of them." "Be not uneasy," replied Ferre, "we are 
about to settle all accounts at once." The " Avengers of Flou- 
rens " closed around the prisoner and marched him to the open 
space beside the statue of Henri IV. on the Pont Neuf, Ferre 
accompanying. At this point, the latter ordered the execution 
party to fire; this was done, and the dead body of Veysset thrown 
over the embankment into the river. Then said the Police 
Delegate to those around him, " He deserved to be struck by 
the justice of the people: you see, citizens, we do everything 
openly." ^ Veysset was not a hostage ; his death is regrettable, 
but it was a contingency the risk of which he had knowingly 
ran and the advent of which had been bravely borne. 

About an hour after this occurrence Ferr6 entered the Pre- 
fecture of Police, again accompanied by " Avengers of Flourens " 
and some officials, and requested that certain prisoners, whom 
he specified by name, should be brought before him. One of 
the names he called out was that of Joseph Ruault, a stone-cutter, 
who had been arrested on suspicion of being a secret Bonapartist 
agent, and who was also credited with having given information 
of the complot of bombs for which so many Communist leaders 
had been tried before the High Court of Blois in the preceding 
July. This Ruault was in the prison of La Roquette, having 
been one of the forty hostages removed thereto from Mazas on 
the 22nd inst. There was, however, another Ruault confined 
in the Prefecture, and he was undoubtedly placed in great 
danger by Ferry's request An official of the Prefecture named 
Braquond, suspecting Ferry's sinister design, circumvented the 
latter's wishes by a dexterous deceit, whilst the " Avengers of 

* Du Camp, t. i. pp. 98, 99. 

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Fourth Day: Wednesday, May 2d^th, 187 1 299 

Flourens " occupied themselves in making the wood-work of the 
Prefecture easily inflammable by the free use of petroleum. A 
similar operation, under the supervision of Rigault, was being 
effected at the same time in the Palais de Justice. At eleven 
o'clock the Prefecture was set on fire in the upper floors ; the 
flames spread and were witnessed with affright by a mass of 
men and women who were imprisoned in the Depdt, and who 
thought they were about to be burnt alive. The women 
screamed — at which Ferr^ commanded Braquond to make them 
hold their peace. Braquond, instead of doing this, gave orders 
to the attendants to open all the doors and set free the 
prisoners. This done, he put himself at their head and re- 
turned to meet Ferr^ but the latter, with his associates, had 
disappeared. The Prefecture burned, the Palais de Justice 
burned ; the Dep6t, the Conciergie, and the marvellously 
enchanting Holy Chapel escaped. The people whom Braquond 
had liberated were compelled to remain in the Depdt all day, for 
the streets on either side were swept by a constant fusillade 
between the combatants ; however, their freedom was made 
secure in the evening by the arrival of the Versaillais.^ Among 
those who thus regained their liberty was M. Borme, the 
explosive expert, who had misled the Scientific Delegation. 

Two other prisons were relieved the same day by the arrival 
of the Versaillais, viz., La Sant^ and St. Lazare, and the 
prisoners liberated, among them being the Madame Legros who 
had been arrested for making tricoloured armlets. The gover- 
nors of each of these establishments were arrested, though, 
beyond being Communists, there was not much to lay to their 

The Versaillais advance during the day was, at the south of 
the Seine, limited to the Luxembourg and Pantheon quarters 
in the centre, and the Pare de Montsouris and Insane Asylum 
in the outer circumference. Their approach to Luxembourg 
had been the signal for firing the powder magazine, and they 
had to attack the palace under a hail of balls and a heavy 
artillery fire from a battery in the Rue Soufflot After the 
Luxembourg was secured, efforts were directed to the Pantheon, 

* Du Camp, t i. pp. 99-112, 126, 127. 

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300 History of the Paris Commune of \2>ji 

which was strongly fortified and defended. This locality was 
the centre of the hot-headed youthdom which studies in Paris 
and becomes the feeding-trough of successive revolutions, and 
of which, in the Commune, Rigault was the most notable 
representative. The entire army in the South was in the after- 
noon concentrated on this spot; it was eventually taken, but 
the approaches to it were more stubbornly contested than the 
Panthdon itself, the federates at which flew in dismay when they 
saw their fancied secure place invaded by the enemy. They 
were, however, almost completely surrounded, and merely ran 
from one danger to another. The carnage was dreadful, the 
Place du Pantheon was strewn with bodies, and the house door- 
ways, into which the hapless federates had rushed for escape, 
were blocked up with the dead.^ One of the killed was Piazza,* 
who had joined Brunei in the futile attempt to create an insur- 
rection on the 27th January. 

A little while before this result had been attained, the 17th 
battalion of infantry, on their way to the Pantheon, saw enter 
hastily into a house a federate, who, by his uniform, was 
evidently a commander. They fired upon, but missed him. 
Quickly gaining the house, a corporal and a few men from the 
battalion entered it also, arrested the proprietor, and demanded 
to know where was the federate officer who had just gone in. 
The man declared he was upstairs, and that he could not 
escape, as there was no other outlet from the house than the 
front ; he went upstairs to find him. The federate was Raoul 
Rigault ; the house was his place of concealment, which during 
the^ whole Communal era he had retained unknown to any of 
his colleagues and his identity unknown even to the proprietor 
of the house. The latter individual found Rigault at the top of 
the staircase and told him the circumstances. Rigault at first 
wished to escape by the roof, but the other refused to permit 
this, saying, truly enough, that the soldiers would shoot him^ if 
Rigault went not down. Rigault, after a moment's hesitation, 
replied, " Be it; I am not a coward," and he descended the stairs, 
met the corporal, and gave him the sword and revolver which he 
bore. He was surrounded by the soldiers and marched off towards 

' Daudet, p. 92. ' Rapport cP ensemble, p. 1 10. 

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Fourth Day: Wednesday, May 24/A, 1871 301 

the Luxembourg. On their way, a Versailles colonel came upon 
the party and asked who the prisoner was. Rigault answered 
haughtily, "It is I, Raoul Rigault! Down with assassins!" 
The corporal instantly applied his revolver to Rigault's head 
and said, " Cry : Long live the army ! " " Long live the Com- 
mune ! " was the answer, and the next instant Rigault fell, shot 
through the head ; one of the soldiers sent a second shot into 
his heart Thus died a man whose delight had been to practise 
oppression and injustice under the guise of modern progress ; 
whose ideal of life was inconsistent with any other human 
existence than his own, for, logically applied, it meant the 
extermination of all who opposed his will. Rigault's body was 
lain beside a barricade in the street — Rue Gay-Lussac — where 
he fell and where his hiding-place had been ; women came and 
trod upon his belly and bruised his face, all ghastly with blood 
and death, hurling from their mouths coarse epithets and brutal 
oaths ! * 

The Algerian Spahi appertaining to Eudes' staff also met with 
his death at the hands of the Versaillais on the south side of 
the Seine. He was shot in Rue Gribauval, not far from the 
scene of his incendiarist exploits of the preceding day. 

Further south — Rue de Moulin des Pres, off the Boulevard 
d'ltalie — a life, wholly innocent of participation in the struggle, 
was sacrificed by some federates belonging to the loist battalion 
of National Guards, the commander of which was S^rizier, the 
friend of Ferr6. The victim was a chemist called Dubois ; he 
lived in a blind alley to which he had given his name. A 
barricade having been erected outside his dwelling, the federates 
had wished the previous day to enter his garden and utilise the 
wall therein for their defensive purposes. Dubois refused to 
permit this, and unwisely added words which further angered 
the federate to whom he spoke. In retaliation, his house was 
now forcibly entered : Dubois from the staircase threw sulphuric 
acid upon his attackers, but one of them, a youth of nineteen 
years named Rouillac, rushed up the stairs and killed the 
chemist with a gun-shot After this the federates appropriated 
what monies and wines there were in the house ; they hung the 

* Daudet, pp. 138, 139. Fomi, p. 58. De la Bnig^re, p. 230. 

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302 History of the Paris Commune ^1871 

dead body of Dubois outside the balcony overlooking the 
garden, and from the latter place made it a target at which they 
threw broken bottles and fired their guns.^ 

On the north side of the Seine, besides St Lazare prison, the 
Versaillais advance covered the church of N6tre Dame des 
Victoires, the Bourse, the Bank — which was thus at last relieved 
from any further Communal importunities — the railway stations 
of the Northern and Eastern lines, the Post Office, and finally, 
towards nine o'clock at night, the Place de rH6tel de Ville. 
The H6tel de Ville was still burning furiously, as also were 
most of the other great furnaces that had been lit, so that 
at night, Paris appeared to be wholly in flames, and members 
of the National Assembly with crowds of other people as- 
sembled on the Mont Valdrien and other heights external to 
the city to witness the unprecedented and fearful spectacle. 

Near to the burning H6tel de Ville was the Lobau barracks,* 
where were a number of federates. How they came to be 
there when the barricades before the H6tel were deserted, 
and what was their number, cannot be stated. The fact that 
is to be recorded concerning them is that they were all shot, 
and their number was such that it seemed a wholesale butchery 
to massacre them.' The instructions given this day to the 
Versaillais officers to shoot down all federates,* was akin in 
its thoroughness to the slaying of the Irish by Cromwell, but 
there were many officers who continued to make prisoners 
instead of dead carcasses, otherwise the slaughter would have 
been even greater than it was. 

The real cause of this terrible severity lay with the Communists 

* Gazette des Tribunaux^ July 7th, 1872. Du Camp, t. iv. pp. 159, 160. 

' Called now the Caserne Napol^n. 

' There is no doubt whatever in my mind of the accuracy of this state- 
ment, for a multitude of writers refer to it, but in such general terms that 
any one of them could scarcely be cited as precisely authorizing the words I 
have used. It must be recollected that this massacre was accomplished by 
the Versaillais within walls — and therefore without disinterested witnesses, 
and it is a matter of notoriety that it has been impossible to obtain a precise 
account of all the summary executions effected by them : the indubitable 
inference being that the French authorities, if they possess the information, 
are afraid to make it public. 

^ Du Camp, t. ii. p. 421. 

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Fourth Day: Wednesday, May 2\th, 1871 303 

themselves — to reduce to ashes the most precious building in 
the capital of France, from mere wantonness and ill-will, was 
enough to steel even the kindest heart against them. Each 
fresh conflagration that the Versailles troops encountered, in- 
tensified their anger and precipitated its outburst upon whatever 
federates came first to hand. Thus the burning ruins of the 
H6tel de Ville was the direct incentive to the Lobau massacre. 

Without a pang of regret had the revolutionary Communists 
quitted the noble edifice, which, with such pompous display, 
they had formally entered eight weeks previously. From it they 
had gone to the mairie of the nth arrondissement, situate Place 
Prince Eugene ^ in the eastern quarter of Paris, where their 
personal safety was rendered more secure by the circumambience 
of a friendly population. More than half of the active members 
of the Commune had by this time disappeared into concealment; 
of the remainder, moving in and about the nth arrondissement, 
there were, of the Committee of Public Safety, Arnaud, Gam- 
bon, and Eudes; Delescluze, utterly bowed down by the 
untoward events of the day, averse to the wholesale incen- 
diarism which had taken place, but powerless to withstand his 
young and self-willed colleagues ; Jourde, still guarding the 
•distribution of the federate pay out of the last forced requisition 
made on the Bank ; Ferr^, delegate to Police, brooding over 
the designs respecting the hostages cherished by Rigault and 
himself; Protot, delegate to Justice ; Pindy, late governor of the 
H6tel de Ville ; Cournet, proUgi of Delescluze, ex-delegate to 
Police ; Lefran9ais, first president or chairman of the Commune ; 
Jules Vallfes, who had written, " If M. Thiers is a chemist, he 
will understand what we mean " — yea, the meaning is clear now, 
•even to unbelieving Thiers — and of the less known members, 
Dereure, Mortier, Verdure, Longuet, G. Arnold, Frankel, Marte- 
let, Serailler, Champy, Avrial, Eugene G6rardin, J. B. Clement, 
Viard, and Chardon. 

Elsewhere, active still in the Communal cause, were Ranvier, 
who appertained to the Committee of Public Safety ; Varlin, 
L60 Meillet, Phillipe, Brunei, Theisz, Ostyn, Pottier, Trinquet, 
and Vermorel. Thirty-five members, out of an available total of 

' Now Place Voltaire. 

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304 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

seventy-four. Even these thirty-five shall for the most part 
dwindle imperceptibly away, gliding into nooks and comers to 
escape the consequences of their actions. 

The twenty-five members congregated within the precincts of 

the nth arrondissement mairie were no longer a Commune; 

they talked, gesticulated, gave orders, and received reports, in 

the midst of and even creating inexpressible confusion. 

Countless plans were suggested with the utmost passion and 

virulence; but they lacked feasibility and strength. The 

members possessed only their individual influence ; collective 

authority was gone — the vaunted solid unit "The Commune 

of Paris " was a bubble visibly burst even to the near-sighted 

federates. The latter would now, on the slightest suspicious 

circumstance, turn upon a Communist chief as soon as upon a 

Versaillais ; they also were " chemical products " of a peculiar 

character, and a spark, from whatever quarter it might come, 

would cause their latent energy suddenly to expand, scattering 

to the'winds friends and foes alike. Thus was it with the Comte 

de Beaufort, Communist, as Rochefort, despite his nobiliary 

rank ; he had formerly been orderly officer to Cluseret, and was 

still connected with the Communal War department. On his 

way along the Boulevard Voltaire to the mairie where Deles- 

cluze and colleagues were, Beaufort excited the ire of the 

federates through whom he passed for no other reason than that 

he was of superior bearing to themselves. A cry was raised 

that he was a Versaillais ; he was seized and promenaded on 

the shoulders of federate sailors, whilst women molested him 

with scissors. Delescluze chanced to see the affair, and knew 

how it would in all probability end. He endeavoured to gain a 

respite to the unfortunate, as a first step towards securing his 

safety. In vain ; Delescluze was disregarded as though he were 

himself but a simple guard ; De Beaufort, after undergoing more 

than an hour's torture, was taken to a piece of vacant ground 

near by and shot.^ 

Powerless to restrain passion ; able only to feed it Various 
orders of an incendiary character emanated from the mairie of 
the nth arrondissement, signed, as a rule, by subordinates^ 

* Du Camp, t. i. pp. 258, 259. 

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Fourth Day: Wednesday, May 24M, 1871 305 

who were anxious to emerge in any fashion from obscurity into 
some sort of consequence. Orders to collect chemical and 
inflammable materials in a church close at hand ; to burn 
houses from which any opposition came, and, to the artillerymen 
on the heights of the P^re Lachaise and the Buttes Chaumont, 
to fire on the central parts of the city, such as the Bank and 
Bourse — two of the principal institutions which had escaped 
incendiarism. Promises of support were also sent to federates 
who, in various quarters, were contending with the Versaillais, 
raising hopes which it was impossible to realize ; these were 
supplemented by exhortations to hold out to the end — " if you 
do your duty, the Commune is saved " — and the infatuated and 
infuriated simples often did hold out to the end, whilst the wily 
ones who issued the request kept afar off. Considerations of 
humanity weighed not with these quondam leaders ; they were 
already defeated to a sufficient extent to place beyond the least 
shadow of doubt their ultimate total defeat — driven from the 
west, the centre, the heights of Montmartre, and nearly all of 
the south, with not a solitary advantage to place as a set off to 
these tremendous losses : it was enough to have made honour- 
able men pause and confess themselves vanquished, so that 
human blood might not needlessly be shed. There was, how- 
ever, so little aptitude in the Communal members for genuine 
sentiments, and such absence of discrimination betwixt justice 
and injustice, that even an excessive sacrifice of men's lives, so 
long as they were not their own, appeared to some of them to 
be of trifling value. 

Under circumstances such as Paris now found itself in, and 
with the chief members of the Commune delivered from all 
feelings of humanity, the hostages who remained in their posses- 
sion were unlikely to receive any clemency at their hands. Not 
only the members who still participated in the struggle, but the 
whole Commune had either directly or tacitly approved of the 
arrest of the hostages, and, in like manner, had sanctioned the 
principle of executing them ; there were not wanting some 
amongst them who were determined that their decision of the 
17th May should be carried out The active incendiarists, 
for instance — Eudes, Ferr^. Pindy — were each capable of emula- 
ting Rigault's example. In addition to these there were, at 


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3o6 History of the Paris Commune of \%Ti 

the nth arrondissement mairie, others who accepted to the 
full their share of responsibility in extreme measures : Gambon, 
Arnaud, Mortier, Cournet, Viard. Of the remainder, eight 
appertained to the majority of the Commune, and were not 
likely to offer resistance to their more violent colleagues ; thus, 
out of the twenty-five members which the mairie harboured, 
sixteen at least belonged to the rabid revolutionary section. 
Conscious that this representation cleared the path for him, 
Ferr^, as head of the police, took the initiative to bring the 
question of the hostages to an issue. A court-martial was 
formed, presided over by a federate officer named Genton, who 
had been a Communal magistrate, to decide how many and 
which of the hostages confined within the prison La Roquette 
should be executed. Eventually six was the number selected, 
of which Archbishop Darboy, President Bonjean, and the Abb^ 
Deguerry were specially denominated to form part, so that 
there should not be any chance of these three escaping. An 
execution company was immediately formed from amongst the 
Avengers of Flourens, who thronged the passages and precincts 
of the mairie ; headed by Gabriel Ranvier and Genton, joined 
by M6gy and by a federate captain who had been sent by Ferr^ 
to bear witness to the execution, this company wended its way 
up the Rue de la Roquette to the prison. It was then about 
seven o'clock in the evening. Arrived at their destination, they 
were received by Fran5ois, the director of the prison, Verig, and 
other officials. After some obstacles, trifling to men such as 
Ranvier, Genton, and M6gy, had been disposed of, the list of six 
names was made complete by the addition of the P^res Allard, 
Clerc, and Ducoudray, all men of high ecclesiastical position in 
Paris. Other obstacles supervened : some of the prison officials 
were not quite so plastic in regard to the suggested execution 
as the federates whose fury had been aroused in battle ; even 
the governor, Francois, seemed ill at ease, and presently returned 
alone to his office ; however, all hindrances were finally removed, 
and under the guidance of a brigadier named Ramain, the 
execution party mounted the stairs to the first floor, guarded 
the way whilst the six hostages were severally called from their 
cells, and then marched the latter down another stairway into 
the prison garden. Here the federate leaders discussed the 

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Fourth Day : Wednesday, May 2\th, 1871 307 

advisability of performing their business at that spot or going to 
one more secluded. Whilst they talked, the six hostages knelt 
together and prayed, at which some of the federates scoffed. 
Religion is nowhere more potent than in affording consolation 
to the suffering and the persecuted. Let it not be denied to 
those who can receive it ! 

Another place was decided upon, and the procession retook 
form, Ramain still guiding, and the Archbishop immediately 
following him. Having en route to descend a few steps, the 
venerable prelate ran lightly down them, turned round, and, his 
five companions being then all on the steps, raised his right 
hand and pronounced the absolution. Then he offered his arm 
to President Bonjean, who also was aged and was moreover in 
weak health. Having gone some distance, they came to a railing 
which was locked, and Ramain did not succeed in opening it 
promptly. Whilst they stood waiting, the Archbishop tried to 
reason with the federates, but he was at once accused of having 
acted against the people and against liberty. " I have always 
loved the people ; I have always loved liberty," he replied, to 
which a federate returned, " Your liberty is not ours ; you 
aggravate us." The party moved on again, and presently came 
to the end of the prison furthest away from the entrance. Here 
was a spot secluded enough— before them, there stood a huge 
towering wall erected to prevent any prisoner escaping, behind 
them the gaunt, silent prison ; on all sides invisible to other 
eyes than their own. Ramain, the guide, also had disappeared, 
and there remained but the hostages and their executioners. 

The six prisoners were arranged against the high wall in the 
order in which they had been placed in their cells ; the firing 
party was in position a little way off, in it were M^gy, Verig, 
and a federate named Lolive, all ready to fire : Ranvier gave 
the word of command, and a first volley of forty or more guns 
was discharged into the hapless hostages ; then a second volley. 
Five of the hostages were dead ; the Archbishop still stood 
upright, holding up his hands as if to bless his assassins. Lolive, 
in shooting at him, said, " Here is our benediction," and Verig 
went close up to the Archbishop and completed the work. It 
was then about eight o'clock. The executioners went away, 
leaving the six dead bodies lying as they had fallen. During 

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3o8 History of the Paris Commune of i%ji 

the night Verig, Ramain, and others went to the cells which 
these hostages had occupied and possessed themselves of what- 
ever articles they found therein that were worth taking, then 
they went with lanterns to the dead bodies and searched them 
also. After this operation had been performed with some need- 
less brutality, the bodies were carelessly lifted into a hand-cart 
and conveyed to the cemetery of P^re Lachaise, where they 
were thrown into an open trench.^ 

This most sinister day had witnessed incendiarisms of an im- 
mense extent of property and of unprecedented value ; a bloody 
battle had raged throughout its duration ; political animus had 
occasioned the death of two citizens of the highest social 
position, whilst others, scarcely less eminent, had also perished, 
innocent victims of intolerance; massacres of federates had 
revealed the brutal instinct even on the Versaillais' side ; minor 
offences against civilization were rampant in all Communal 
quarters, and an indescribable tumult, disarray, and upheaval 
of ordinary conditions of existence everywhere prevailed ; the 
whole constituting a day's record which perhaps is without 
parallel in modern history. 

* Du Camp, t i. pp. 260-274. Barges, p. 194. Rapport d* ensemble^ pp. 

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Fifth Day: Thursday, May 2STh, 1871. 

Paris scarcely knew day from night The now thick, black 
cloud of smoke which hung over the Seine, and on either side of 
it, obscured the daylight and intensified the horrors of an awful 
drama. The air was hot with the fires raging in every direction ; 
close, through the cloud above and the absence of wind ; fetid, 
with the stench arising from human blood which lay in con- 
gealed pools along the streets and splashed upon houses, and 
from the dead bodies which still remained where they had fallen 
or had been merely removed from one open place to another. 
Additional though smaller conflagrations had been ignited by 
the federates during the night in the eastern district. Viewed 
from a distance, the sight was majestic and terrible, never to be 
forgotten : in the midst of it, the terror and stupefaction were 
almost beyond human endurance. Men cried because of it, and 
because in no other way could they reduce the severe tension 
under which their hearts and minds laboured. The earliest lit 
fires still burnt on ; the more recent devoured with yet un- 
whetted fury all that which the malign incendiarists had 
intended for destruction. On all sides were heard the roar of 
the flames, the breaking of timbers, and the crashing in of roofs 
and walls. The devastation was so tremendous, and the agent 
employed to effect it so fearful a foe to fight, that it seemed to 
the awe-struck Parisians almost past credence that the creatures 
who had set in motion such a formidable power should be of 
the same nature and language as themselves. 

Efforts to counteract the fires were now, however, widespread 
in those parts of the city from which the Communists had been 
driven. Firemen had arrived from various provincial towns and 
from Belgium to assist in the work. Prisoners of the Commune, 
liberated by the Versaillais, were required to help at the pumps, 
as also were passers-by. There was indeed no lack of willingness 


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3IO History of the Paris Commune of i2>Ti 

on the part of the well-disposed Parisians to give to the utmost 
of their labour in this work ; but the fires had got too strong 
a hold, and had been too well prepared beforehand, to be easily- 

This day the Versailles army retook possession of the forts 
Montrouge, Bic^tre, and Ivry, rather by its adversary's cowardice 
than its own prowess. The Communist governors of these forts 
foresaw that their retention would presently precipitate a com- 
bat at close quarters, and they had no doubt as to who should 
emerge victorious from such a struggle. The evacuation of 
the forts was therefore decided upon, this course being assented 
to by Delescluze. In regard to the forts Bicdtrc and Ivry, it was 
intended to blow them up, so that they should fall into the 
hands of the Versaillais merely as useless ruins. The Delegate 
of War had sent an order to this effect to Ragowski, the Polish 
commander of Fort Ivry. At this place there were four distinct 
powder magazines, and they were connected by means of a fuse. 
The evacuation having been completed, the fuse was ignited, 
and one of the magazines immediately exploded with a great 
concussion, causing considerable destruction in the vicinity ; the 
falling masonry, however, extinguished the connecting fuse, and 
thus the fort suffered less damage than had been intended.* 
The garrison which left this fort consisted of over two thousand 

Fort Bic^tre had been also doomed to destruction by pre- 
arrangement between its governor, L^o Meillet, and the general- 
in-chief of the federates in the south, Wrobleski.* The plan 
was frustrated by the near approach of the Versaillais to the 
fort, a fact which at once caused the garrison to pack up its 
goods in hot haste and speed off into the city — much to. the 
relief of the Dominicans and their employes who, arrested ori 
the 19th inst, were still confined in the fort, and who nov^ 
thought that their liberty was about to be regained. However, 
though L60 Meillet forgot about these prisoners, his friend and 
companion, S^rizier, remembered them, and sent a detachment 
of federates to bring them into the city. A few, being Belgians, 
were released ; one managed to escape on the way. The others, 

1 I4'»« Conseil de Guerre, Oct. 7th, 8th, 9th, 1872. 
* Du Camp, t. iv. pp. 156, 157. 

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Fifth Day : Thursday, May 25/^, 1871 311 

to the number of twenty, of whom five bore the distinguishing 
costume of the Dominican order, were brought into Paris, amidst 
the hues and cries of a crowd whose hostility was instantly 
aroused at the sight of the hated clerical robes. It was still 
early morning, and the battle in the streets was being waged 
with violence close to the Avenue d*Italie, along which the 
prisoners were hurried, passing within a stone's-throw of the 
spot where the chemist Dubois had been murdered the day 
before. In this neighbourhood was situated the federates' 
strongest remaining position in the South — La Butte aux 
Cailles — and it was being energetically attacked by the Ver- 
saillais. The prisoners were taken first to the mairie of the 
13th arrondissement, but the enemy's shells fell about too 
freely to remain there, and thence they were removed into 
S^rizicr's disciplinary prison, No. 38, Avenue d'ltalie. Here 
were incarcerated already nearly a hundred federates arrested 
by S^rizier's orders, either on account of indiscipline or of 
suspected complicity with the Versaillais. This prison was in 
charge of one Louis Boin, nicknamed Bob^che. S^rizier's first 
intention had been to get the Dominicans shot at the barri- 
cades by the enemy's bullets, but this design miscarried. 

One of the notable places in the 13th arrondissement de- 
fended by S^rizier and his men was the celebrated Gobelin 
tapestry manufactory. The approach of the Versaillais rendered 
their tenure of it precarious, and the establishment was aban- 
doned after having been set on fire, in accordance with orders 
given by S^rizier. Later in the day S^rizier received news of 
further losses inflicted on the Communists by the Versaillais : 
this aroused his passion afresh, and he called for men of •* good- 
will " to follow him, to break the heads of the priests. Some 
federates and two women, all armed, answered to his call : they 
repaired at once to the prison house, the door of which they 
faced, Bob^che went inside and summoned the calotins — 
skull-caps— to come out and save themselves, then he stationed 
himself outside on the pavement From this position he 
ordered the Dominicans and their followers to emerge one by 
one. One P^re Cotherault was the first to respond : the men and 
women of "good-will" were ready to receive him, and he was 
laid low ere he had gone three steps from the door. Then 

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312 History of the Paris ComntMne of iZ^ji 

came the Pere Captier — one of the shining lights of his order 
in Paris — who, turning first to his companions and saying, 
" Let us go, my children, for the good God," ran out suddenly 
and across the street to avoid the fusillade. He was followed 
as quickly by the remaining eighteen prisoners, all bent on 
escape. The assassins were not thus to be baulked ; they gave 
chase to the fugitives, hunted them out from behind trees, 
doorways, or the lateral streets into which some had fled, 
whilst from the windows of the surrounding houses women 
applauded their efforts, and men shook their fists at the 
unhappy runaways and laughed at their terrorized flight. 
Eight of the hostages managed, by agility or good fortune, to 
escape. The remainder were all run to earth, and shot in the 
Avenue d*Italie, close to the Chapel Brea, the demolition of 
which the Commune had decreed, but which was yet intact. 
The names of these victims were : priests — Captier, Cotherault, 
Bouvard, Delorme, Chateigneret, Gauquelin ; employes — 
Volant, Gros, Marcel, Catala, Duitroy, Cheminal.^ One of the 
eight who escaped, a young man named Petit, was subsequently 
found dead in the streets, but whether he had been killed in 
battle or assassinated was never discovered.* 

After this business was concluded, S^rizier returned to the 
prison and instituted a court-martial for the trial and disposal 
of some of the other prisoners that were there. Barely, how- 
ever, had the preliminary formalities been settled than he was 
informed that the Versaillais approached and were already in 
the Avenue d'ltalie. S^rizier instantly left the room, crossed 
the avenue, and disappeared in one of the houses which com- 
municated with the Avenue de Choisy. The federates also 
flew in various directions, though for them successful flight was 
difficult of accomplishment, for the Versaillais had surrounded 
the avenue. The formidable Communist position of the Butte 
aux Cailles, the artillery fire from which had dominated the 
Versaillais all the day, had at length been carried, and there- 
after approach to the mairie of the 13th arrondissement 
from the western side became possible. At the same time, and 
to the same mairie, another portion of the Versailles army 

* Du Camp, t. i. pp. 214-219. Larousse. Rapport (C ensemble^ p. 161. 
« Ibid 

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Fifth Day : Thursday^ May 25/^, 1871 313 

arrived by a northern route. The southern line of the fortifi- 
cations was also entirely now in the hands of the Versaillais. 
The federates grouped about the Place d'ltalie, finding their 
enemy in front and behind them, rushed off in disorder, but 
escape was almost impracticable, and hundreds of them were 
made prisoners.^ 

The last refuge of the Communists south of the Seine was the 
Place Jeanne d'Arc, at one end of which a strong barricade had 
been erected. To this the Versaillais arrived in the evening, 
and a conflict was rendered unnecessary by the submission of 
the 700 federates who were there. ^ Thus at the end of the 
day the whole of Paris and of the forts at the south side of the 
river were in possession of the Government troops. 

North of the Seine the Versaillais were not so fortunate. 
Along the quays fronting the He St Louis a severe cannonade 
went on all day, in which two gunboats joined from the river. 
These gunboats until the day before had formed part of the 
Communal naval force — a marine very limited and never of 
much use to the federates ; they had been repossessed without 
much trouble. 

In this vicinity stood the immense warehouses, about 400 
yards in length, known as the Grenier d*abondance, which had 
been saved from fire the preceding day by the combined action 
of the Comitd Central and the Republican League. The latter 
body was now enveloped in the Versaillais lines, and ceased 
thenceforth to be able to pursue its mediatorial action. The 
Granary of Abundance was rightly named, for it contained 
tremendous stores of provisions and other merchandise. To- 
wards it the Versaillais approached, and some few of them even 
entered it, whereupon the preparations previously made for 
burning the building were instantly utilised. It was set on fire 
by the federates, and then evacuated. The flames speedily 
gained undisputed possession of the huge premises, and formed 
an impassable barrier betwixt the combatants. The Versaillais 
wished to cross the Arsenal canal, but were unable to do so in 
face of the violent artillery fire which came from batteries 
established on the Boulevard Bourdon and on the bridge of 

* Macmahon, p. 30. * Ibid, 

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314 History of the Pans Commune of i^ji 

Austerlitz, the aim of both which converged on the canal 
bridge and its approaches. Between the canal and the bridge of 
Austerlitz the federates had erected a formidable barricade, from 
which they swept the quays of both banks of the river ; on the 
south bank one Versaillais battery had already been silenced, 
and had had to be replaced by another. The federates worked 
their guns with the utmost energy and considerable precision ; 
they kept their enemy at bay, and taxed all his available re- 
sources in that neighbourhood. 

It was, however, imperative, from the attacking point of view, 
to oust the federates without delay. The gunboats at full 
speed proceeded ahead of the army, and swept with their 
mitrailleuses the barricade and bridge of Austerlitz, whilst the 
infantry engineers, thus protected, threw a small footway over 
the canal. Upon this hastily constructed bridge the soldiers, 
having arrived thus far by gliding along the steep bank of the 
river, could cross and mass themselves ready to advance. The 
latter operation being accomplished, order was sent to the 
Versaillais batteries to cease firing, and then the troops ran 
along the river bank, under the bridge of Austerlitz, up on to 
Quai de la Rapde, and attacked the federates from behind — 
whence the conquest was easy and speedily attained.' After 
this the gunboats and troops proceeded to the next bridge across 
the Seine — Bercy — and vanquished the federates at that point 
with comparative ease. Their approach to the neighbourhood 
of Bercy had been the immediate cause of further incendiarisms. 
Phillipe, the member of the Commune for this district, had 
prepared the mairie and church of his arrondissement — the 
1 2th — for fire in case of need. The need was now, to his 
mind, come, and he therefore set both these buildings ablaze, 
and then went off to headquarters at the mairie of the nth 

The Lyons railway station, Boulevard Mazas,'* was next 
seized by the Versaillais. It and several houses in the neigh- 
bourhood were set fire to by the federates before being vacated. 
By this time it was night. Opposite the station stood Mazas 
prison, which the Versaillais were anxious to relieve on account 

* Du Camp, t. iii. pp. 102-105. Macmahon, pp. 31, 32. 

« Du Camp, t. iv. p. 204. * Now Boulevard Diderot. 

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Fifth Day: Thursday, May 2^ih, 187 1 315 

of the numerous hostages and prisoners it contained. These, 
to the number of nearly five hundred, had practically been 
free the whole day. Owing to the war in the streets, it had 
been impossible to provision the prison as usual ; the last 
scrap of food had been devoured the day before; barricades 
and fighting had enveloped the prison all this day ; the 
governor, Garreau, had not received the orders for transfer- 
ence of more hostages to La Roquette, as he had anticipated ; 
under which circumstances the prisoners had been given in the 
morning liberty to go out. About a hundred had immediately 
availed themselves of this opportunity ; one of them was 
Blanchet, otherwise Pourille, the member of the Commune, who 
at once went into concealment so as to avoid the Versaillais. 
The other persons who left the prison placed themselves in great 
risk of being struck by the deadly missiles which flew about 
on all sides ; some of them were forced by federates to join 
in defending the barricades, and at least one met his death 
whilst so doing. Those who remained at Mazas were become 
buoyant and confident at the proximity of the Government 
troops — a spirit which the non-Communist attendants of the 
prison shared, and which presently led to the arrest and confine- 
ment of the governor, Garreau, by his subordinates. 

Shortly after the Versaillais had taken the Lyons station, 
they crossed over to Mazas and repossessed themselves of it. 
Garreau, the governor, was sent for and straightway shot.^ The 
hostages received food from the soldiers, and were no longer in 
danger. Among them was M. Cor^, whom Rigault, on the first 
day of his entrance to the Prefecture, had arrested. 

The Versaillais had now advanced to within close contiguity 
of the Place de la Bastille. Mazas was not far from it on the 
eastern side, whilst on the western, the Government troops were 
even nearer. To the latter portion of the Versailles army had 
been assigned the task of taking the Place de la Bastille in this 
day's operations ; but the plan was not carried out, owing to 
the late hour of the night at which arrival near the Place was 
made. Several federate positions, however, from 200 to 400 
yards distance from it, were seized. The most notable of 

* Du Camp, t. i. pp. 239-241. 

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3i6 History of the Paris Commune of iZji 

these was the Place Royale/ which was carried with much 
brilliancy by the 26th battalion of Chasseurs, commanded by 
the Marquis de Sigoyer, whose energy had contributed so 
materially to the preservation of the Louvre from fire. The 
attack on the Place de la Bastille was to occupy the first place 
in the following day's operations, and Sigoyer was anxious to 
reconnoitre beforehand that formidable position. About mid- 
night, unacquainting any one with his intentions, he went forward 
to try and get a view of the Place. He got as far as the corner 
house at the juncture of the Boulevard Beaumarchais and the 
Rue de la Bastille, when a federate, who had been concealed in 
the shade of a gateway, felled him to the ground with the butt 
end of his gun. Sigoyer was killed at the instant ; his clothes 
were rifled of their valuables and his body left near by.* 

The last but most important achievement of the Versailles 
army this day was the taking of the Place du Chateau d'Eau.* 
Next to Montmartre, this was the most formidable position 
that the Versaillais had had to encounter. Immense buildings 
on the north-east side of the Place formed, when united by a 
strong barricade, a defence of the utmost strength. The ap- 
proaches to the Place, in every direction that the Versaillais 
could arrive by, bristled with barricades and strongholds and 
were defended by large numbers of federates. Communists 
from all parts of Paris had flocked thither, and among the 
rank and file there was no lack of fighting energy. Weirdness 
and intensified horror were imparted to the struggle by fresh 
incendiarisms — not tremendous in extent, as in other cases, 
but still enough to display the fire demon with repellent bold- 
ness. The theatre of the Porte St. Martin burned already ; to 
it were added several houses in the Boulevard Prince Eugene,* 
the Rue Turbigo, Rue de Bondy, Rue Chateau d'Eau, and other 
streets. As the conflict advanced, extensive damage was done 
by the artillery, and in this neighbourhood broken or cracked 
walls, roofs, doorways, and windows became almost as plentiful 
as sound ones. 

During the fighting at the Chateau d*Eau, Brunei, the in- 
cendiarist of the Rue Royale, was wounded, though not fatally, 

' Now Place Vosges. ' Du Camp, t. ii. pp. 248, 249. 

' Called now Place de la R^publique. ^ Now called Voltaire. 

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Fifth Day: Thursday, May 25/^, 1871 317 

and placed hors de combat A prominent member of the Comit^ 
Central, Maxime Lisbonne, who had formerly been an actor, 
was also wounded. He was, moreover, taken prisoner by the 

Eventually, the Place du Chateau d'Eau and the various 
positions west of it, with some to the north, were occupied by 
the Versaillais, the federates being driven further to the eastward 
into the quarters of Belleville, M^nilmontant, and La Villette. 
The general fighting — in which, on the attacking side, nearly 
forty thousand troops participated — though severe and pro- 
longed, offered not any features of special interest Deaths, 
wounds, and human carnage generally, alas, were but every day 
and almost every hour occurrences in this most bloody week ! 

Not far from the Chateau d'Eau was the mairie of the 
nth arrondissement, still the headquarters of the Communal 
remnant Disorder, confusion, babble, and discord were even 
more rampant than before. Cohesion there was none, calmness 
nowhere, initiative or resolution — unless to save their own 
miserable bodies — equally lacking, save in three instances to be 
duly recorded. Defeat beyond remedy was already inflicted 
on the Communal cause, yet its leaders would not, as men, 
acknowledge the fact and take its legitimate consequences, but, 
as ill-natured children, they raged within themselves and racked 
their brains as to how they could harass their enemy, or how 
best they could secure his indulgence for their own persons. 
There were still in their power about fifteen hundred prisoners 
in the two prisons of La Roquette, the bulk of them being 
soldiers confined since the i8th March for sharing in the 
memorable attack on Montmartre. A plan was imagined and 
certain steps taken whereby these captives should be transferred 
from the Roquette to the mairie and church of Belleville (20th 
arrondissement), and their lives held as a leverage by which 
to compel consideration from the victorious Versaillais. 

The attack on the Chateau d'Eau and the approach of the 
enemy towards the Bastille, evidenced to the Communists that 
the mairie of the nth arrondissement was no longer a safe place 
for them. They decided to quit it and to fall back on the 
aforesaid mairie of Belleville. Prior to this transfer being 
effected, Delescluze, who, amidst all the tumultuous throng of 

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3 1 8 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSji 

federates and chiefs surging within and around the mairie, had 
retained the most composure and directive capacity, walked up 
the Boulevard Prince Eugene to inspect the works of defence at 
the Chateau d'Eau ; after which he entered a house near thereto, 
where he paced to and fro in deep thought There was no 
hiding from himself the fact that he had now arrived at the end 
of a long political career, and that the end was failure to achieve 
that for which he had fought. The Communal movement, 
which had started with such fair promise of brilliant success, was 
expiring — its own diseased and corrupted body being power- 
less to repel an external foe. He, Delescluze, who had done 
much to bring it to life, would expire with it — had he not said, 
on a memorable occasion, that there would be at least some 
members of the Commune who would not be the last to seek 
death, either at the ramparts or elsewhere? He was getting 
old and was in weak health : say it not to imply that he was 
bent upon earning a cheap glory by giving unto Death a life 
which was already at Death's door — ^it was not that. His 
ailment was not necessarily serious, but it and his age together 
banished completely from his mind the hope of ever being able 
to retrieve his lost steps. Younger men might still have looked 
into the future as unto a golden harvest to be reaped, but he 
had sown and reaped, though his sheaves were but of weeds. 
His career was done. 

Delescluze returned to the mairie, after an absence of two 
hours. He had been missed, naturally ; so prominent a person- 
age could not fail to be thought of, whether present or absent. 
The distrustful federates concluded that Delescluze also had 
disappeared, like so many of their leaders, to flee from the 
personal consequences of defeat, and even his return could not 
eradicate on the instant the false impression. He was taunted 
with his absence, insulted, and even menaced with blows by the 
federates and under officers. Delescluze took his cane and his 
hat, which he had just laid down, and, moving towards the 
door, said to his assailants and auditory, " You are all only a 
rabble ; not one of you is capable of going out to get killed." 
Vermorel started to his feet and said, " You deceive yourself, 
Delescluze ; I can go." Delescluze went out and retraced his 
way towards the Chateau d'Eau, followed by Vermorel, and by 

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Fifth Day: Thursday, May 2^th, 187 1 319 

several federates who were determined to see that the Delegate 
of War did not escape. Arrived near to the Chateau, he 
stopped : a federate behind, thinking he was about to hide or 
shelter himself, fired on him ; the ball only grazed Delescluze's 
skin. Delescluze shrugged his shoulders with an air of disgust, 
and moved forward again. Presently a ball from the Versaillais 
struck him in the side, and he fell, mortally wounded. His 
body lay there for a day and a half before it was discovered by 
the Versaillais.^ 

Vermorel also was seriously wounded. He was first taken to 
the house of an absent friend, by whose domestic he was 
subsequently delivered to the Versaillais, and by them removed 
to Versailles, where, three weeks after receiving his wound, he 

Such were the losses inflicted this day upon the remnant of 
the Communal body. Within the latter the spirit of vindictive 
reprisals was still active, and was productive of some tragic 
events. Early in the day, upon an order signed by Ferre, Genton, 
the president of the Court- Martial, extracted from the prison 
La Roquette the Mexican banker, Jean Baptiste Jecker, and, 
assisted by Francois and Verig, of La Roquette, and two other 
federates, took him to a bare, uninhabited space beyond the 
cemetery of Pere Lachaise and there shot him. At the Belle- 
ville mairie, not yet the shelter for the broken-up Commune, 
Trinquet, delegate to the 20th arrondissement, presided, and 
administered what he conceived to be justice. Before him there 
was brought a regular soldier named Rothe, who had refused 
to join the federates, both because he was ill and because he 
had no sympathy with them. His illness was put down to 
pretence, and his refusal to fight was speedily resolved into a 
sentence of death, passed by Trinquet. Rothe wajs delivered 
into the hands of the federates, and shot in the courtyard of the 

Later in the day two National Guards were brought before 
Trinquet, condemned to death for neglect of duty, and shot* 
Cases similar to this had not been of infrequent occurrence 
during the last few days. Indiscipline amongst the federates 

* Du Camp, t. i. pp. 288-298. ' Lefrangais, p. 337. 

' and * Du Camp, t. ii. pp. 336-338. 

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320 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSyi 

had been so rank and had received such tolerance, that it was 
not possible now, even in such an extremity, to secure obedi- 
ence. Punishment of death was at last, when too late to have 
practical effect, resorted to. 

The federates had now only the north-east portion of Paris 
in their hands. They were crowded back to their last strong- 
hold. At midnight the mairie of the nth arrondissement was 
finally vacated, and that of the 20th further eastward con- 
stituted headquarters. The members of the Commune still 
visible, confusedly talking, but few doing aught else, were Ferr6, 
Varlin, Jourde, Eudes, Billioray, Arnold, Lefrangais, Miot, 
Dereure, Avrial, Oudet, J. B. Clement, Cournet, Frankel, Babick, 
Johannard, Ranvier, Protot, Vall^s, and Phillipe. Some mem- 
bers of the Comitd Central also were there, and these, now that 
Delescluze was dead, usurped the functions of War Director. 
It was the Comity Central which, more than any other body, 
had contributed to reduce the Delegate of War's authority to 
a minimum ; that office, though now unreservedly in its own 
hands, was not destined to stem, in any appreciable degree, 
the calamitous tide which was irresistibly encircling the 
Communal domains. 

During the evening and night fresh fires were ignited in 
various streets in the eastern part of the city, mostly of private 
establishments. Hour by hour the retreat of the federates was 
marked by an ever-wider extension of the fire region, and the 
number of conflagrations now raging or smouldering in Paris 
must have numbered close upon two hundred, many of them 
being fires of tremendous magnitude. It might well seem from 
a little distance as if the entire city were in flames ! 

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Sixth Day : Friday, May 26th, 1871. 

In the western portions of Paris, locomotion was become free. 
In the centre, wherever there were fires, efforts were made 
without cessation night or day to extinguish them. Timid 
people who had secluded themselves in cellars and out-of-the- 
way places whilst the fury of battle whirled around them, 
now emerged with relief from their concealment, to gaze 
thunderstruck on the scenes of death and desolation which 
everywhere met the eyes. Some of the dead bodies were 
being removed, though most still lay about. The latter in 
unfrequented streets were the prey of prowlers, men impervious 
to any gentle feelings, who thought only of purloining from the 
dead whatever article was of value. 

Exit from and entrance to the city were still prohibited 
^yithin the territory occupied by the Versaillais, save for military 
purposes. This was partly to prevent the operations of war 
being impeded, and partly to render impossible the escape of 
Communists. Notwithstanding this rigour, and an almost 
equal rigour on the part of the federates, numbers of Com- 
munist leaders, whether of the Commune or of the Comit6 
Central, contrived to quit the city. One who had disguised 
himself and hoped to avoid discovery was Edouard Moreau, 
the leader of the Comit6 Central. He, however, was seized 
this day, taken before one of the Court-Martials instituted by 
the Versaillais for the summary trial of prisoners, tried, con- 
demned, and speedily shot. Others, to aid them in their 
escape, set afloat rumours that they had been killed. Some 
Communists, fortunately for them, sadly for other poor indi- 
viduals, were supposed to have been actually shot by the 
Versaillais. Near the Champs de Mars, a person was de- 
nounced by a crowd as being Billioray, and was instantly shot, 
despite his despairing denials of the statement. Afterwards it 

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322 History of the Paris Commune of liyi 

was discovered that his name was Constant, and that he was 
a man who meddled not with politics. Another person was 
taken for Jules Vallfes, and shot near St. Germain d'Auxerrois. 
Neither of these men were armed, and should at most have 
been arrested and not shot straightway. A third person, whose 
name was Vaillant, was thought to be the Communist of that 
name, and narrowly escaped being shot He was sent on to 
Satory, near Versailles, to join the thousands of prisoners 
already there, and the mistake of identity was subsequently 
discovered.^ It is to be feared that there were many such 
cases which have not come to light. Condemnations were 
hastily conceived and immediately executed. Even the 
federates and their chiefs, though they massacred innocent 
hostages, were more appreciative of human life than the Ver- 
saillais ; they knew the value of the lives they were taking, 
whereas their enemy seemed now to be utterly oblivious to 
any extrinsic worth attaching to Communist existences. True, 
they had received provocation to the last degree — it had 
swallowed up in many of them the superficial finenesses of 
civilization, and had laid bare the reality of human brute- 

An incident which occurred to-day in the Luxembourg 
quarter will further illustrate this. It shall be told almost word 
for word in the language of one of the principal actors in it, a 
Versaillais captain named Garcin — a man who needs no greater 
condemnation than that unwittingly supplied by himself It 
will be remembered that the southern portion of Paris was at 
this date wholly conquered, and that there was therefore reason- 
able ground for some subsidence of passion. 

One of the deputies sent by the district of the Seine to the 
National Assembly on February 8th was Milliere, whose sym- 
pathies had ever been with the Commune, but whose active 
share in its doings was of the slightest description, not even 
extending to articles in the press, though he was a journalist 
He was arrested in the house of his father-in-law, Rue d'Ulm. 
by two soldiers, at one of whom he fired his revolver. They 
brought him before Capt Garcin, who, with a Versailles general, 

* Larousse. 

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Sixth Day : Friday^ May 26^^, 1871 323 

was in a restaurant in Rue Tournon. A great crowd, angry 
and vociferating, had accompanied Milli^re, and wished to 
lacerate him, but Capt. Garcin took care that the crowd did not 
effect its desires. Garcin asked, " Are you really Millifere ? " to 
which the person interpellated replied, "Yes, but do you not 
know that I am a deputy ? " " It is possible," said Garcin, 
•" though I believe you have lost your character of deputy." ^ 
Garcin then told Milli^re that the general's orders were he was 
to be shot The following dialogue ensued : — Millifere : " For 
what reason ? " Garcin : " I know you only by name, but I 
have read articles of yours which have revolted me ; ^ you are a 
viper, such as one treads under foot You detest society." — 
^* Oh, yes ; I hate this society." — " Very well, it is going to 
remove you from its midst — you are about to be shot" — " It is 
summary justice, barbarous, cruel ! " — " And all the cruelties 
you have committed, go they for nothing ? Anyhow, since you 
admit yourself to be Milli^re, there is nothing else to do." 

Garcin then gave orders for Millifere to be taken to the steps 
of the Pantheon. This was done, Garcin accompanying. The 
latter informed Milliire that the general's orders were that he 
was to be shot kneeling and asking pardon from Society for the 
ill he had done. Milli^re refused to kneel, whereupon Garcin 
repeated that such was the order, and not otherwise would it 
be carried out. Milliere opened his vestments and exposed his 
chest to the firing party. "You are theatrical," said Garcin, 
*' and wish people to talk of how you died ; die tranquilly, that 
is of better worth." Milliere replied, " I am free, in my own 
interest and in that of my cause, to do what I wish." He was 
again commanded to kneel, but would only do so when forced 
down by two men. He cried out, " Vive Thumanit^ ! " and was 
about to utter a second cry when his body was riddled with 
balls and he fell dead on the Pantheon steps.* Later in the 
day Madame Milliere was arrested and sent to Versailles a 

* This was incorrect; Milliere had never actually resigned his deputy- 
ship, though he had thought of so doing and had ceased to assist in the 
National Assembly deliberations. 

* The reference here is undoubtedly to Milli^re's article in Le Venguer of 
Feb. 8th, see page 76. 

* Larousse, quoting Captain Garcin's statement 

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324 History of the Paris Commune 0/ i%Ti 

prisoner — for no other reason than that her husband had been 

The operations of war undertaken to-day by the Versaillais 
for the first time followed the design of surrounding the 
federates. The latter were now in a somewhat circumscribed 
area, bounded by the fortifications on the east, the Bassin de 
la Villette and Canal de I'Ourcq on the north, the Canal St 
Martin, Boulevard Richard Lenoir, and the Place de la Bastille 
on the west, and the Faubourg St Antoine, Place du Trdne,^ 
and Cours de Vincennes on the south : a total superficies of 
about five square miles. Within this space the principal 
federate positions were the Place de la Bastille, Place du 
Tr6ne, the Round point of Villette, Place Prince Eugene, 
the Buttes Chaumont, and the Pere Lachaise, the two last- 
named places being formidable artillery strongholds, owing to 
the high ground thereat. The batteries of these hilly, and in 
the case of the Buttes Chaumont almost inaccessible, spots had 
not ceased to pour their venom of shot and shell over the 
conquered portions of the city, though the damage they accom- 
plished was less than might have been expected from so 
continuous a bombardment 

The Place de la Bastille was the first object of the Versaillais' 
attack. It was found to be impenetrable on the western side, 
so massive were its defences, and so skilful its defenders, who 
fired not from behind their barricades, but from the windows of 
the houses. However, the Versaillais obtained, near the forti- 
fications, access to the Vincennes railway, and marched along 
its line, despite a heavy fire directed upon them by the federates. 
This railway led right into the Place de la Bastille by means of 
the terminal station there, and the Government troops, supported 
by those which, the night before, had taken Mazas and the 
Lyons station, forced an entrance into the Place, and were thus 
able to attack the federates from behind. About the same time 
the western contingent, profiting by the disarray which this on- 
slaught threw the federates into, crossed the barricades at the 
end of the Boulevard Beaumarchais, and seized several other 
barricades at the opposite side of the Place.^ These operations 

* Lefran^ais, p. 352, quoting Le Figaro du 31 Aoiit, 1871. 

• Now Place de la Nation. ' Macmahon, p. 35. 

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Sixth Day : Friday, May 26th, 1871 325 

were not completed without great slaughter — at the barricade 
Rue de Charenton alone, over a hundred bodies were subse- 
quently counted — and the capture of large numbers of federates. 
Those of the defenders who could escape flew to the Place du 
Trdne ; whilst numerous fires bursting out from the Rue de la 
Roquette and from other houses in the vicinity attested the 
unimpaired vitality of the incendiarists. 

The western contingent of the Versaillais, in the course of its 
■duty above referred to, came across the body of the Marquis de 
Sigoyer, who had been missed from his battalion during the 
night. The dead officer was lying near to a burning house, 
close to the spot where he had fallen. The hands were charred 
and other portions of the body burnt, and the horrible impres- 
sion was immediately conceived that Sigoyer had been soaked 
in petroleum and burned alive by the federates, on whose heads 
there was now no atrocity too great to be laid.^ Proof of 
how the burns were caused cannot be adduced, for no one was 
witness of the occurrence, but the probability is strong that 
burning debris from the house near by had fallen upon and 
burnt the body.^ 

From the Place de la Bastille an advance was directed, at 
two in the afternoon, on the Place du Tr6ne, where another 
formidable barricade was in existence, protected by outlying 
barricades and entrenched positions, which had first to be 
demolished by the Versaillais artillery, ere approach to the 
Place itself could be obtained. Proceeding by all the streets 
at their disposal, west, south, and east, and at the same tim,e 
pushing forward along the line of fortifications, the Versailles 
troops finally, though not until the dark of evening arrived, 
drove the federates from the Place. They could not, however, 
occupy it, for it was soon swept by the federate batteries 
stationed near the nth arrondissement mairie, and it remained 
untenable during the night. 

* This impression was quickly expanded throughout Paris, and aroused 
intense indignation. The Communist denials of its accuracy were of course 
disbelieved. Maxime du Camp, whose version of Sigoyer's death and bums 
has been adopted in the text, to the exculpation of the federates from the 
odious charge of burning alive, certainly cannot be accused of any Com- 
munist sympathies. 

• Du Camp, t. ii. pp. 247-249. 

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326 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSyi 

Further north, other divisions of the Versaillais had had 
equally tough work in hand. The federates, though being 
gradually conquered, fought stubbornly; when ousted from 
one position they rallied in another, and the process of con- 
centration which the Versaillais tactics forced upon them 
served to maintain their numbers and their fury, notwith- 
standing their ever-diminishing territory. They were now being 
driven ever on to higher ground, and this gave them a great 
advantage over their adversaries and enabled them to hold 
out longer than they could otherwise have done. Their 
batteries on the Buttes Chaumont and P^re Lachaise were 
to-day employed in firing on the northern portions of the 
Versailles army, which were continually within their sight 
and range — this artillery fire was no mean auxiliary to the 
federate defence. Incendiarism here, also, was not forgotten. 
The federates, defeated in various places around the Canal 
St Martin and the Bassin de la Villette, relinquished not their 
hold on the immense warehouses, bonded stores, and sugar 
refinery that lined the water-sides, and some equally extensive 
workshops belonging to the Carriage Company of Paris, with- 
out setting fire to them. The last-named establishment con- 
tained enormous stores of provisions which had been laid up 
by the Government of the National Defence in anticipation 
of the siege, had remained there throughout the winter, not- 
withstanding the food famine which prevailed, and even to 
that moment had not been used — now they became a prey 
to the flames, and every atom was destroyed.^ Also at the 
same place 732 carriages, quantities of tools, as well as the 
whole of the buildings, were devoured by the fire.* These 
conflagrations, lit at various periods of the day, all of them 
close together and seemingly one vast furnace, ranked amongst 
the greatest of the week, and at night lit up with an additional 
sea of flame the surrounding sky, making the hearts of the 
Parisians once more beat with violence and trepidation, for 
they knew not when these stupendous incendiarisms were to 
come to an end. 

* Du Camp, t. i. p. 284, quoting the words of M. Ducoux, the President 
of the Administrative Council of the Carriage Company. 

* /did. 

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Sixth Day : Friday, May 26tk, 187 1 327 

The federates who had been engaged in producing one of 
these fires found their means of exit from the burning building 
blocked by the sudden approach of the Versaillais. Summary- 
justice was meted out to them. Many were shot, others fell 
victims to the flames of their own ignition, and but few out of a 
total of one hundred and fifty escaped.^ 

The Versaillais, in this northern region, did not gain a great 
extent of ground, but they prepared the way for attacking, 
on the following day, the Buttes Chaumont, the height of which, 
and the artillery upon it, rendered it a position demanding 
the fresh energies of the morning rather than the wearied 
exertions of the night. Some of the federates, driven during 
the afternoon from their barricades in advance of the Buttes, 
fled further inwards, and arrived at the Belleville mairie and 
other places neighbouring thereto. There they had some in- 
fluence on the course of events. 

The Belleville mairie — 20th arrondissement — was situated 
opposite the church of St. Jean Baptiste in the Rue de Paris.^ 
It was somewhat north of the centre of the federate area at this 
moment, but was nevertheless surrounded by a friendly popula- 
tion and was beyond the range of the Versaillais, whose nearest 
position was about a mile distant, the formidable Buttes Chau- 
mont intervening. Here the Communists were yet masters, 
hanging on to their political existence by the last thread, and 
still determined that their ruin should not be unavenged. Here 
perambulated, like caged brutes, the Committee of Public Safety, 
and various members of the Commune and of the Comit6 Central. 
The prisons of La Roquette were still in their power ; they 
were some distance off, and there was no knowing how soon the 
Versaillais might take them. The decision arrived at the day 
before to transfer the hostages from these prisons to the 
Belleville mairie and church was not yet carried out. The 
hostages were numerous, but the federates available for escort 
were few; however, a company of about thirty-five federates, 
headed by Emile Gois, commonly called Grille d'Egout — a 
friend of Eudes and of M6gy — was got together and despatched 

' Dc la Bnig^re, p. 251. 

* Called now Rue de Belleville. The present mairie of the 20th arrondis- 
sement occupies a totally different site. 

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328 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^i 

to La Grande Roquette, provided with a vague order signed 
by Ferr6 to the director of the prison, to deliver up to the 
escort as many hostages as it could bring.^ 

Francois, the governor of La Grande Roquette, received the 
order, and immediately gave instructions to the brigadier 
Ramain, and to an under brigadier named Picon, to fetch, from 
opposite wings of the prison, the priests, the gendarmes, and the 
sergents de ville ; also four civilians whom Gois designated, 
and who were alleged to have been secret police agents under 
the Empire. Of these four, one was the Joseph Ruault whom 
Ferr^ had vainly called for at the Dep6t on the 24th. The 
names of the other three were Dereste, Largilli^re, and Greff. 
Ramain called the civilians and the priests according to a list 
which Frangois had given him. Eleven priests answered to 
their names : Olivaint, Caubert, De Bengy, Radigue, Tuffier, 
Rouchouze, Tardieu, Planchat, Sabatier, Benoist, Seigneret 
These and the civilians made fifteen. 

Picon called the gendarmes and the sergents de ville. Ac- 
cording to his list, there were thirty-seven of the former and 
fifteen of the latter. These men were not of the simple docility 
of the priests ; they were suspicious, and demanded to know for 
what purpose they were required, but their fears were allayed 
when Picon replied that there was no more bread in the prison, 
and that they were about to be taken to the Belleville mairie to 
receive food and be set at liberty. 

In the grand hall the two parties of hostages met, forming in 
all sixty-seven persons. Too numerous, thought Gois, for his 
slender escort — they might rebel, and gain the upper hand. 
The fifteen sergents de ville were therefore sent back to their 
cells, and the total was reduced to fifty-two. The thirty-seven 
gendarmes or gardes de Paris included the thirty-six who had 
been brought before Rigault's juries d*accusation on the 19th, 
and by them declared to be hostages ; the thirty-seventh had 
equally been brought before a jury d'accusation, but had been 
acquitted, notwithstanding which — probably by oversight or 
mistake, which were of frequent commission by Communal 
officials — he had been sent to La Roquette along with the 

* Du Camp, t. i. p. 301. Rapport (T ensemble^ p. 162. 

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Sixth Day: Friday^ May 26M, 1871 329 

others.^ Another hostage, similarly transferred to La Roquette 
in error, was the priest Seigneret 

The fifty-two hostages were surrounded by the escort, and an 
exit was then made from the prison. A crowd of women and 
old men which had assembled outside the gates greeted them 
with sympathetic glances as they turned into the Rue de la 
Roquette and commenced to ascend its gradient. This un- 
expected compassion showed itself to such extent along the 
route taken by Gois, that he asked the commander of a federate 
battalion which defended a barricade in the Boulevard de M6nil- 
montant for extra men to increase the escort The request was 
complied with, and a company of federates, officered by one 
Dalivoust, was added to the escort Presently the attitude 01 
the population through which the procession passed underwent 
a change : from kindliness or apathy, it became hostile. Stones 
began to be thrown at the hostages, insults and objurgations 
addressed to them, and from more than one voice, " Death to 
the calotins ! " rang out Always on rising ground, the bulk 
of the city lay behind and beneath them. At the market in 
the Rue de Puebla,* a mass of sightseers were gathered to 
gaze on the unprecedented view which Paris presented — fire, 
smoke-clouds, the roar of artillery, and the crackling of smaller 
arms combining to form a picture to the eye and ear of thrill- 
ing and fearful import The escort, with its hostages, stopped 
also to witness the spectacle. Whilst they thus stood, they 
were joined by some of the federates previously alluded to, who 
had been driven from the outer Belleville barricades at the west 
of the Buttes Chaumont into the centre. These, perceiving the 
gendarmes and priests under escort, immediately exclaimed, 
^* Deliver us the prisoners, and we will shoot them." The escort 
restarted its journey, and in a short while arrived before the 
Belleville mairie. Here Gabriel Ranvier stood waiting to re- 
ceive it The hostages were sent inside the building, and, as they 
passed, Ranvier said to them, " You have a quarter of an hour to 
make your wills, if you wish." Whilst the hostages were se- 
cluded for a few minutes from the attacks of the crowd, the 
latter increased in volume, as also in blood thirstiness and gaiety. 

* Du Camp, t. i. p. 235. • Now Rue dcs Pyr^n^s. 

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330 History of t/ie Paris Commune of i2>'ji 

The entire locality became aware of the hostages' presence, and 
imagined only that they were prisoners taken that day in battle, 
though, had their real character been known, it is doubtful 
whether any different treatment would have been accorded to 
them. In anticipation of the shooting process, a cortege was 
promptly elaborated under military and vs^abond auspicies. A 
vivandUre^ dressed in the semi-masculine attire which was not 
uncommon amongst the federate female attendants, sword in 
hand, rode astride a horse, whilst clarions and drums arrived 
and ranked themselves behind her. Federates of all classes 
came from hidden places, women from their gossip, and children 
from their play, levity and vulgarity showing from nearly every 
countenance. What were they come for to see — a popinjay, a 
mountebank, or a carnival? Yea, a carnival, in the original 
signification of the word, with the substitution of human for 
bestial blood. Were not these women the descendants of those 
of '93 who stood at prison doors and hacked to pieces the un- 
fortunate prisoners who, thinking to regain their liberty, emerged 
therefrom? At such moments there is no redeeming feature 
in them. 

Not long had the crowd to wait for the reappearance of the 
hostages. The gendarmes and gardes de Paris came first, 
followed by the civilians and the priests. They were surrounded 
by federates, who were pressed on all sides by the unmilitary 
element of the crowd, of which each unit was eager to deal his 
blow and launch his insult upon the unhappy hostages. Ranvier's 
parting words to Emile Gois were instructions to shoot all the 
hostages at the ramparts. Away went the procession up the 
Rue de Paris, headed by the vivacious equestrienne and other 
women, enlivened by the clarion notes and drum rolls, whilst 
sundry individuals danced, sang, and exhibited every indication 
of festivity and hilarity. The pace was brisk; the hostages 
perspired under it This was the least of their sufferings : the 
throwing of stones, blows from guns and sticks, coarse ribaldry, 
and merciless talk of the fate in store for them, were agonies of 
greater account. 

Arrived at the top of the Rue Haxo, the head of the pro- 
cession stopped, whilst the tail of it continued to move on, re- 
sulting in a compression of the crowd, and the destruction of 

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Sixth Day: Friday, May 26th, 1871 331 

whatever order had up to then been preserved. The stoppage 
was actuated by indecision as to the precise spot to which to 
convey the hostages. Finally the staflF office of the military 
section in which they found themselves was fixed upon, and 
thither the procession, now become tumultuous and passionate, 
turned. Their destination was situated No. 83, De la Rue Haxo, 
and went generally by the name of "city of Vincennes"; it 
was a customary meeting-house for federate officers and men, 
and at this moment several such were within it, including two 
meml>ers of the Commune — Oudet, lying wounded in a room, 
and Varlin, whose bravery, energy, and activity during these 
bloody days had been incessant The principal federate officer 
now left in the Communal service was a member of the Comit6 
Central named Hippolyte Parent, who called himself Delegate 
of War — he also was there. Others, notably Victor Benot, who 
had helped to burn the Tuileries, were in the vicinity. 

Onward came the rabble escort, pushing and maltreating the 
hostages, and preceded by the noise of its own ominous tumult 
Arrived at the sectional office, the hostages, some of whose faces 
were covered with blood, were forced down an alley leading into 
a quadrangular garden ground, followed by the crowd, which 
clamoured incessantly for the deaths of its victims. Varlin, 
perhaps the most sincere and the most honourable of all the 
Communists, was affrighted at the spectacle, and at the terrible 
massacre which it foreboded. Passionately he threw himself 
before the hostages, as if to protect them, and cried out to 
Parent, " Men of the Comit6 Central, since you are the masters, 
show that you are not assassins ; let not the Commune be dis- 
honoured — save this people from itself, or else all is finished, 
and we are no more than convicts." Parent answered not ; the 
blood-mad federates replied for him, contemptuously saying to 
Varlin, " Go, advocate ; those men appertain to the justice of 
the people.*' Varlin despairingly tried again to speak, but he 
was not listened to, and some of his friends by force removed 
him from the enclosure. The hostages were pressed by the 
crowd against a wood barrier which separated them from a 
house that was in the first stages of erection— beyond the barrier, 
a wall, barely eighteen inches high ; then an unfinished excava- 
tion for a cellar, then another wall, about twelve feet high. For 

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332 History of the Paris Commune of iZyi 

eight months this embryo structure had been left untouched, 
owing to the war ; the cellar cavity had been meanwhile trans- 
formed into a place of ease for the neighbouring humanity. 

After a few moments' hesitation, an impetus was given to the 
crowd by the sudden arrival of Victor Benot, who cried out, 
*' To Death, to Death ! " The crowd on the impulse pushed in 
unison, the wood barrier gave way under the pressure, and the 
hostages were precipitated into the space in front of the little 
wall. Here the vivandibre — who had descended from her horse 
— struck the first death-blow at one of the hostages. So fair an 
example was a reproach to the males — these at once followed 
it by gun and revolver shots. Federates, perched on adjacent 
walls, shouting with all their might, fired on the hapless 
hostages ; Hippolyte Parent from a balcony viewed the whole 
scene with nonchalance, hands in pockets and cigar in mouth ; 
cries of "To Death!" resounded, and there were none to protest 

Massacre, pure and simple, was not sportive enough for these 
animals ; they compelled the gendarmes to leap over the tiny 
wall and fired upon them, as sportsmen do upon birds, whilst 
they were in the air. One garde de Paris was not without a 
sarcastic politeness towards his persecutors even in the face of 
death ; this man saluted the murderous crowd and said to it, 
" Gentlemen, long live the Emperor ! " The next instant he fell 
dead upon a heap of bodies, dead and dying. Some priests 
who were ordered to leap the wall refused, whereupon a feder- 
ate, laying down his gun, seized each of the recalcitrants and 
lifted them over the wall, amid the applause of the crowd ; they 
were then shot. The last priest resisted this proceeding ; he 
seized tight hold of the federate, and they both fell to the 
ground — the murderers were too impatient to wait until their 
comrade disentangled himself, and he was shot along with the 
priest. The last of the fifty-two hostages remaining unshot 
had fainted from the awful strain upon his nerves ; he was 
lifted on top of the heap of the massacred, and a general volley 
finished him also. 

The hostages were not all dead ; movements in the heap 
showed the existence of life somewhere. Two federates and a 
woman commenced then to trample on the bodies and to fire, at 
random, shots into them. Still, movements underneath the top 

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Sixth Day: Friday, May 26/^, 1871 333 

layer of bodies told of vitality unquenched. Then a federate 
cried out, "The bayonet ! " and immediately bayonet thrusts in 
superabundance were sent into every body until life was un- 
questionably extinct from all. This butchery was almost 
beyond conception in its horrible excess of means for the end 
desired. One of the bodies had received sixty-nine shots, 
another seventy-two bayonet thrusts ; all were pierced and shot 
to a frightful degree. 

The next day the dead bodies were rifled of their belongings, 
and were then thrown into the afore-mentioned cellar cavity, 
regardless of the excrement therein contained.^ 

* Du Camp, t. i. pp. 301-316. Rapport ^ensemble, pp. 162-166. 6*"*^ 
Conseil de Guerre, I2th-2ist March, 1872. Larousse. 

There is a conflict betwixt these authorities in regard to the number of 
hostages included in the above massacre. In the 6""= Conseil de Guerre 
proceedings, the commissary of the Gk>vemment stated that forty-seven 
hostages had been extracted from La Roquette and forty-seven bodies 
recovered. The Rapport tPensefnble agrees with this number on p. 162, but 
on p. 166 it gives a full list of the names of the victims, and these make a 
total of forty-eight. Larousse, who was in Paris at this period, and who, as 
a collater of facts, is probably without equal, says that the number of 
hostages killed was fifty ; but he parenthetically adds that the official report 
states forty-eight, by which he evidently meant the list of forty-eight names 
above referred to. Du Camp alone makes the number fifty-two, and I have 
adopted his version ; not that I wish to make the case against the Com- 
munists as black as possible, for my only desire is to get at the facts, whatever 
they may be — ^but because Du Camp wrote a few years after the other 
authorities, and in all probability was in possession of further information 
than they. Moreover, Du Camp is, as a rule, most precise and reliable. In 
scores of instances I have found him confirmed and corroborated, and in 
ver>' few have I had occasion seriously to question his accuracy. On each 
of these occasions I have expressed my doubts in this work — the reader may 
therefore judge for himself how few and what they are. 

Du Camp gives presumably a full list of the fifty-two hostages, but unfor- 
tunately he also has erred somehow, and there are only fifty-one names. 
However, in the list of forty-eight names in the Rapport d^ensemble, there is 
one — Weiss — which Du Camp has not got ; by adding it, the list of fifty-two 
names is made complete. Thus constituted, it is as follows : — 

Gardes de Paris and gendarmes : Bermont, Breton, Brancherdini, Bodin, 
B^lamy, Carlotti, Chapuis, Cousin, Colombani, Coudeville, Ducros, Dupr^, 
Doublet, Fischer, Four^s, Geanty, Garodet, Keller, Mananni, Marchetli, 
Marguerite, Marty, Mouill^, Mougenot, Millotte, Poirot, Paul, Pons, Pauly, 
Pourteau, Riolland, Valder, Valette, Villemin, Weiss, Lacoze, Blanchon 
= thirty-seven. Add four civilians and eleven priests, as given in the text, 
and the total of fifty-two is made up. The spelling of the forty-eight names 

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334 History of the Paris Commune q/" 1871 

Of sheer indifference to human life and insensibility to suffer- 
ing, the latter even more callous than the former, this massacre 
of the fifty-two hostages is one of the most glaring exhibitions 
in civilized history. These murderers were men and women 
who in ordinary times were civilized ; civil, polite, may be not 
brutal, having parents and being themselves parents, with more 
or less of affection passing from and to them; see what they are 
capable of in extraordinary times ! We also, being human and 
civilized, are essentially similar to them : the cause of Excess is 
Licence, and Licence is often paraded under the name of Liberty, 
of which it is a barbarous augmentation ; wherefore, slacken 
not the reins of government, nor suffer Authority to be slighted ; 
self-control is efficacious only so long and so far as there is a 
superior outer control upon us. 

given in the Rapport ^ensemble is here adopted ; in many instances Du 
•Camp's spelling is different, though not sufficiently so to prevent the names 
being identifiable with those given above. 

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Seventh Day: Saturday, May 27TH, 1871. 

The Versailles army made strenuous eflforts to-day to complete 
their task and end the combat, but they were not able to 
do so, notwithstanding that the ground occupied by the feder- 
ates was now very limited and that they were hemmed in on 
all sides. On three sides were the Versaillais ; on the fourth, 
beyond the fortifications, was the German army of occupation, 
which resolutely arrested all fugitives and handed them over to 
the French authorities. The difficulties the Versaillais had to 
encounter were become intensified ; barricades were multiplied 
with marvellous rapidity, every street possessed one, many 
streets several, and all were to be taken separately and partly 
demolished to permit the passage of the troops. In addition to 
this, the federates, who never dreamt of surrendering en bloc^ 
fought furiously, sometimes to their disadvantage, as when they 
fired in such quick succession as to be unable to aim with 
accuracy. The tenacity with which they contested every inch 
of ground maintained at fever-height the anger of the Ver- 
saillais, and the battle became in its last hours even more 
bloody and relentless than before. The streets leading to 
Belleville, where this day the combat chiefly raged, were strewn 
with the slaughtered ones, blood flowed in rivulets, and evidences 
of carnage and conflict were seen on almost every house and at 
every step. 

The Buttes Chaumont formed the principal object of attack. 
On the north-west face those heights were practically insurmount- 
able, therefore the plan arranged was to take them from behind 
and in front at the same moment To get the troops into the 
necessary positions for carrying out this plan, much fighting had 
to be encountered and numberless barricades taken, and it was 
not before six o'clock at night that these preliminary operations 
were completed. During this time the artillery on top of the 


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336 History of the Paris Commune of i^ji 

Buttes had suffered severely from the Versaillais artillery on the 
heights of Montmartre, which for three days past had energeti- 
cally combatted its rival of the Buttes Chaumont. To-day, in 
addition, a cannon and a mitrailleuse were got to play upon 
the Buttes Chaumont from the fortifications behind them and 
almost in a line with the fire from Montmartre ; thus, the 
federates had to endure two opposite fires at once. At six 
o'clock the signal to charge was sounded, and the Versaillais, 
from west, north, and east, rushed to the encounter and made 
themselves in very short time masters of the Buttes, seizing also 
a great quantity of ammunition and of guns.^ 

From the southern line occupied by them, the Versaillais 
advanced northwards along the ramparts as far as the Porte 
de Bagnolet to the cemetery of the P^re Lachaise, which they 
occupied,^ and up the Rue Puebla, to the mairie of the 20th 
arrondissement, which they also took. The federate leaders had 
already retreated from this refuge to the Rue Haxo, where they 
were still in strong force. 

The bulk of the Communists at the end of the day were 

* Macmahon, pp. 37-40- 

* It appears almost impossible to determine the precise character which 
the re-occupation of the P^re Lachaise took. Communist writers invariably 
represent it as a most terrible struggle, thousands of federates being slain 
within the cemetery. This view, after allowing for exaggeration, is not 
inconsistent with the official report of Marshal Macmahon, which merely 
states, p. 40, "A battalion of the ist regiment of marine infantry advanced 
against a barricade which inconvenienced it and went as far as the P^re 
Lachaise, where it encountered an energetic defence ; but it was sustained 
by two battalions of its brigade and by a regiment of the Faron division, and 
thus maintained itself in and became master of the cemetery." On the 
other hand, Maxime du Camp declares (t. i. pp. 338-343) there was no 
battle at all inside the cemetery, that the place was occupied at first by 
merely five men, who explored it and found it vacated, excepting a few 
federates, who fled at the first shots fired at them ; that these fiv^ men were 
subsequently reinforced by nine, which fourteen occupied the cemetery until 
eight at night, when they were joined by three companies of another regiment 
The Versaillais troops engaged in this work, according to Du Camp, would 
be less than 400 ; according to Macmahon, they would number over 3,000. 
It is impossible to reconcile the two accounts, and unfortunately there are 
no other authorities of equal weight to appeal to. Moreover, not one of the 
authorities. Communist or other, was present at the P^re Lachaise at the 
time, and therefore all accounts are equally dependent upon second-hand 

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Seventh Day: Saturday, May ijth, 1871 337 

driven into a territory not larger than a circle a mile in diameter. 
Outside that circle one or two groups of Communists were still 
found defending barricades which the Versaillais had hitherto 
been unable to take. Of these latter positions the chief were 
at the mairie of the nth arrondissement and in the Faubourg 
du Temple. 

The federates still held possession of the two prisons of La 
Roquette. During the day Ferr^ had arrived at La Grande 
Roquette, and had evidently wished to remove more of the 
hostages. Two of the prison attendants, indignant at the fate 
which had befallen the hostages extracted the preceding day, 
determined, if possible, to prevent a recurrence of such a 
massacre. They counselled the hostages and the criminals to 
barricade their respective divisions, to refuse to answer if they 
were called, to resist to the last extremity any attempt at force, 
for in these measures alone lay any hope of safety. These 
attendants, by name Bourguignon and Pinet, also concealed 
the keys which opened the iron doors of the prison sections, and 
thus put an additional obstacle in the way of withdrawing the 
hostages. The prisoners carried out these counsels, and when 
Francois, the governor, and Ramain went to bring the hostages 
from their cells, they found it impossible to get to them. 

Ferr^ was incensed at this unlooked-for revolt, but left to 
Ramain the task of surmounting it, and occupied himself in 
superintending the removal of the soldier prisoners from the 
Petite Roquette to the church of St. Jean Baptiste, in 
furtherance of the plan previously decided uf)on, by which to 
force from the Versaillais terms of clemency. This transference, 
affecting over 1,400 men, was carried out without hindrance 
during the afternoon. It was at night when the Belleville 
mairie, opposite the church, was seized by the Versaillais, and 
from that moment the soldiers enclosed within the church were 
freed from any further danger. 

Having completed the removal of the soldiers, Ferr^ returned 
to La Grande Roquette to see about the hostages. Ramain had 
not been able to secure them, neither by coaxing, promises^ 
intimidation, nor even an attempt at setting fire to the 
barricaded sections, which fortunately resulted in nothing worse 
than an unpleasant smokiness. Ferr^ contrived a method more 


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338 History of the Paris Commune of \%t\ 

original. He sent to the real criminals and promised them 
their liberty if they would cry, " Vive la Commune ! " These 
convicts, possessing no settled principles, eagerly complied with 
so trifling a request, and Ferri was as good as his word. They 
were, however, required, in return, to assist the federates who 
guarded the prison in overcoming the resistance and the 
improvised defences of the hostages. For this purpose they 
united with the federates in the front part of the building, where 
also were Ferr^ and Francois. The cemetery of the P^rc 
Lachaise was close by, and thither the Versaillais soldiers were 
approaching on various sides at that moment. Suddenly a cry 
from the prison crowd was heard, " There are the Versaillais ! " 
and immediately, criminals, federates, chiefs, all fled, this way 
and that, each anxious to save himself and forgetful of all else. 

The prison was free, but the Versaillais were not yet marching 
to it. Some of the hostages, who had perceived, without quite 
understanding, the flight of their keepers, presently emei^ed 
from their cells and made for the entrance, shouting to those 
who still remained shut up that they were free and should make 
their escape. These replied, " No — come back, you will be killed 
•outside." The advice was disregarded, and the hostages went 

Four of these were the archdeacon of Paris, Monseigncur 
Surat ; M. B^court, a priest ; M. Houillon, a missionary, and a 
Government employ^ named Chaulieu. They went together 
along the deserted Rue de la Roquette into the Rue des Boulets, 
in order to gain the Boulevard Prince Eugene. Arrived near 
the Rue de Charonne, they were stopped by a party of feder- 
ates, who asked who and what they were. Monseigneur Surat 
innocently revealed that he was a priest and had come from 
La Roquette. Thereupon the four were reconducted back as far 
as the exterior wall of the prison La Petite Roquette, at which 
point a young and pleasant-faced girl, holding a poignard in her 
hand, amused herself by pressing its f)oint against the arch- 
deacon's breast, causing him to recoil, whilst she continued to 
advance. Then this girl seized her revolver and fired it into 
the prelate's right temple, whence the ball crushed through the 

* Du Camp, t. i. pp. 3 18-3 3a 

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Seventh Day: Saturday y May 2ytk, 187 1 339 

eye-sockets and the nose, producing a horrible disfigurement; 
another shot was sent through the body below the heart MM. 
B^court and Houillon were also shot at the same place ; 
Chaulieu was fired at, but not struck— he ran off, was pursued, 
turned, seized the sword of one of his pursuers and with it gave 
three or four slashes, then was recaptured, taken back to where 
the bodies of his companions lay, and shot.^ 

These were the last hostages who suffered death at the hands 
of the Commune. Yet there are still deaths to record : the 
Versaillais, pitiless in their vengeance, were in the thick of 
massacre, as terrible, if not quite so cruel and barbarous, as any 
the Communists perpetrated. Lives of citizens were of no more 
worth at this juncture than the lives of dumb animals — per- 
chance not of so much. It needed only a breath of suspicion, a 
denunciation, founded or unfounded, and the victim thereof was 
taken with brief ceremony to the human slaughter-house at the 
Lobau barracks, from whence he never came out alive. The 
Versaillais Court-Martial, sitting at the Chatelet Theatre, has per- 
haps the bloodiest reputation laid to its charge, though of it, as of 
the other Military Courts, there are no available statistics of con- 
demnations or executions. There is, however, no doubt that its 
judgments were most relentless, and that scores or hundreds of 
persons, National Guards and others, were shot by its orders often 
upon the scantiest evidence. This was not the expiation that 
Thiers had declared would be enforced upon the Communists, a 
rigorous expiation, but proceeding "in the name of the law, by the 
law, with the law." * Neither was Thiers' complaint in regard 
to the death of Commandant Sigoyer, who he alleged had been 
shot " without regard to the laws of war " — even had it been 
substantially true — ^justifiable, for his own soldiers had exceeded 
both his wishes and their commander-in-chiefs orders, and had 
been guilty of many excesses and unauthorized executions, 
which far surpassed the solitary instance of like nature wherein 
Sigoyer lost his life. 

However unrealizable impartiality may be in the heat of a 
national struggle, it is not useless to point out to a later genera- 

' 6"* Conseil de Guerre, 20th April, 1872. Du Camp, t. i. pp. 331-336. 
Rapport if ensemble^ p. 1 70. 
* Thiers* speech in National Assembly, May 22nd. 

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340 History of the Paris Commune of iZ^x 

tion of people the fact that the Versaillais and the Communists 
were alike implacable, revengeful, and cruel. In the former 
case these feelings showed themselves in somewhat more orderly 
and regular fashion than in the latter, but they nevertheless 
constituted an exhibition of exactly the same spirit, such indeed 
as it is only natural to expect from the same race of people. 

A welcome indication of a return to the normal conditions of 
existence was seen in the southern portion of Paris this day, by 
a commencement being made to disarm the National Guards 
and the population generally — a needful measure which only 
M. Jules Favre's cowardice had prevented being accomplished 
in February. To him, more than to any other individual, 
remounts the responsibility of rendering possible the Commune. 

Among the persons arrested — for arrests were constantly 
being made — was Tony Moilin, whose exploits in regard to the 
mairie of the 6th arrondissement were duly notified. Since that 
time he had returned to his former occupation of surgeon in the 
National Guard, and had not otherwise assisted the federates. 
Being now denounced by a neighbour, he was taken before the 
Court-Martial sitting at the Luxembourg, and condemned to 
death, but respited for twelve hours at his urgent request, in 
order that he might marry a woman' with whom he lived, and 
who was far gone in pregnancy. 

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Eighth Day : Sunday, May 28th, 1871. 

It was two o'clock in the morning when Moilin was married. 
The official who performed the ceremony was Herisson, the 
mayor, to oust whom on March 22nd from the mairie had been 
Moilin's task. The latter, like a brave fellow, thought not of his 
own impending death, but sought only to console the unhappy 
wife who so soon was to become a widow. At five o'clock, the 
time of respite expired, and Moilin was shot. 

It was precisely at the same hour that the Versaillais army 
on the other side of the river took possession of the prison La 
Roquette, and finally liberated the hostages. Verig, who was 
known to reside in the neighbourhood, was sent for and 
promptly shot; the other participators in the massacres of 
hostages could not be found at that moment. 

The entire troops in the region occupied by the Communists 
were on foot at daybreak, anxious to at last complete their 
labours. The Rue Haxo was early in their possession, and with 
it 2,000 prisoners and a considerable quantity of artillery. The 
Communist leaders, who had retreated to this part as to a last 
refuge, were gone — scattered in all directions, most of them to 
seek places of concealment Jourde and Varlin wandered the 
streets of Paris all night and all day. Jourde had dispensed his 
last money to the federates on the preceding day. Varlin's 
share in this final disbursement was about ;f 12, which had had 
to be forced upon him, for he said he had no longer need of 
money : he wished to die. 

Varlin made no effort to conceal nor to disguise himself; the 
failure of the Commune, by which he had so greatly hoped to 
emancipate the workmen from their burdens, had stricken from 
his soul whatever worth life might have had. Aimless, friend- 
less, hopeless, footsore and weary, mind and body heavy with 

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342 History of the Paris Commune of iZji 

needed sleep, yet powerless amidst distracting thought to rest, 
he at last, in the broad light of midday, in a thronged square — 
Montholon— where Versaillais patrols and soldiers were on 
every side, sat down, heedless of whatever consequences might 
accrue to him. 

After having been seated for some time, a priest passed him, 
stood and gazed intently an instant upon him, then went to a 
Versaillais officer, of whom there were plenty about, and informed 
him that Varlin the Communist was there. Varlin was at once 
arrested. This officer had not authority to deal with any member 
of the Commune, and therefore conducted Varlin, under escort, to 
the general's quarters, which chanced to be on the hill Mont- 
martre. As they approached the hill, crowds of women and chil- 
dren gathered around the escort, and began to insult the prisoner. 
His identity was known, for Varlin, when interrogated, proudly 
declared his name. Were these the same inhabitants of Mont- 
martre who, two months before, nonplussed and vanquished the 
regular troops, and, later in the same day, hounded on to their 
deaths Generals Thomas and Lecomte ? It is surely blood they 
seek — whose, it matters not Cries of "Kill him ! " were heard ; 
stones and dirt were thrown upon him. It became difficult for 
the small escort to protect their prisoner, who, however, was 
calm and firm, though pale. Anathemas, false charges, and base 
threats continued to be hurled into his ears as the mount was 
ascended. Having reached the top, they entered the Rue des 
Rosiers — ^yea, it is the crowd's wish that Varlin should be 
killed even where the two generals were— this bloodthirsty 
populace ! He was taken into the general's quarters, submitted 
to a brief inquiry, and ordered to be shot, whereupon the 
frenzied people demanded that he should be first promenaded 
round the Butte. That happily was denied them ; Varlin was 
taken to the topmost point of the hill and then shot, his courage 
and passivity being markedly distinct to the end. Thus died 
one more of those members of the Commune whose destiny it 
was to receive their death-wounds during these dread eight 
days of May; there were only four of them — Rigault, Delescluze, 
Vermorel, Varlin ; the last-named being, in honour, modesty, 
and sincerity, the noblest, not only of these four, but of the 
entire Commune. 

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Eighth Day: Sunday, May 2%ih, 1871 343 

During the morning, whilst the final struggles were proceed- 
ing at various points betwixt Versaillais and federates, ever to 
the advantage of the former, some wholesale massacres were 
committed by the victorious party in the cemetery of Pfere 
Lachaise and in the prison of La Petite Roquette. One hundred 
and forty-eight federate prisoners, who had been confined in 
Mazas, were taken thence to the cemetery, and there shot 
in batches of ten at a time ; at the Petite Roquette, even a 
larger number perished similarly, two hundred and twenty-seven 
there being shot.^ Where, in these instances, enters the law — 
civil, not military law — to which Thiers referred so distinctly ? 
We are beyond the fever-heat of battle, in this Sunday — beyond 
the least vestige of uncertainty as to the ultimate end of the fight : 
there is no need for such terrible reprisals, not the shadow of 
an excuse or palliation for them ; they remain, and shall ever 
remain, an indelible stigma upon the conduct of the Versail- 
lais army, a stigma which affects its officers from the highest 
rank to the lowest These frightful and almost cold-blooded 
massacres at last aroused the Government from its indifference, 
and measures were taken to put a stop to them, but their 
complete cessation was not arrived at without trouble.* 

By three o'clock in the afternoon, every federate position in 
Paris was taken and the whole city was possessed by the 
Versaillais. In a house in the Rue St Maur, the body of 
Augustin Ranvier, governor of Ste. P^lagie prison, and brother 
to Gabriel Ranvier, had been found, suspended by the neck. 
He had committed suicide in order to avoid being shot The 
last barricade taken was that of the Faubourg du Temple and 
the Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, at which about sixty federates, 
headed by a member of the Comit^ Central named Piat, seeing 
the hopeless nature of the struggle, surrendered themselves. 

Marshal Macmahon notified the completion of his task to 
the Parisian public in a proclamation notable for brevity and 
the absence of the usual French bombastic rhodomontade — let 
It be here given in extenso, in appreciation of these singular 

' Henri Martin's Histoire de France, pp. 417, 418. Du Camp, t ii. p. 421. 
' Martin, ibid. 

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344 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSji 


" Inhabitants of Paris,— 

••The army of France is come to save you. Paris is 
freed. Our soldiers have carried, at 4 o'clock, the last positions 
occupied by the insurgents. 

'•To-day the struggle is terminated ; order, labour, and security 
begin anew. 

•* The Marshal of France, Commander-in-Chief, 

••Duke of Magenta. 
•* Headquarters, 28/>4 May^ 1871." 

The following day. May 29th, the last Communal position 
fell into the hands of the Government troops. This was the fort 
of Vincennes, which, by virtue of its situation, had been wholly 
passive during the eight weeks' struggle. It surrendered after 
a vain and unpatriotic endeavour on the part of its com- 
mander to induce the Germans to occupy the fort and to 
distribute passports to enable its officers to quit France under 
German protection. Such was the final act of the last vestige 
of authority left of the Commune — it forms one more proof 
of the absolute falsehood of the statement which the Comit^ 
Central, prior to March 1 8th, promulgated so assiduously that its 
action and existence were due to and directed against the foreign 
••barbarians" who had conquered their country. The Com- 
mune might well proclaim in itself the Universal Republic, for 
it was without any feeling of national pride or honour. Only 
the dumb have a universal language, and only the outcasts — 
actual or prospective — of society can own a universal republic. 

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THE Commune, borne into existence by a current of sup- 
posed patriotism, which was only a cloak to cover the 
design of revolutionary reforms, nevertheless embodied in that 
design an idea which had vitality and which yet lives : the idea 
that the poor are deprived of their birthright by the selfish action 
of the rich. Some truth therein lies — say not how much or 
how little ; it is a subject not to be treated in a single sentence. 
The Commune treated it with a fatal immaturity of thought ; 
this, with its manifest incapacity to subjugate and to control its 
forces, with its inherent discords, its vanities, its follies, its 
deceits, struck it from the first moment of its corporate exist- 
ence with an incurable disease, which would speedily have 
caused its destruction, even had not an external foe actually 
crushed out its life. It is now, after a two months' career, dead. 
Its remains merit a brief attention. 

Of the state of Paris after the 28th May little need be said. 
The fires, great and small, lit during the five days May 23rd 
to 27th, amounted to the gigantic total of two hundred and 
seven, and the damage thereby occasioned to several millions 
of pounds value. In addition to these, many houses, churches, 
and other buildings were wholly or partially destroyed by the 
artillery fire and small arms. Not less than two hundred pre- 
cincts come under this second category. Many of the burnt 
buildings smouldered for days after the Commune's expiry, 
whilst the streets were strewn with debris of all kinds — from 
the damaged buildings and from the barricades. 

Dead bodies of federates also remained lying about for days 
ere they could all be buried. Hundreds of the burials were 
made en masse^ and effected in any vacant space that was at 
hand, though these were only temporary interments, necessitated 

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346 History of the Paris Commune o/ iSyi 

by the foul odour that emanated from many of the putrefying 
carcases. The total number of the federates killed during the 
week, in battle and by summary process, will perhaps never be 
known with accuracy. The lowest computation fixes it at 6,500,"^ 
but there is much reason to believe that this figure is gfreatly 
inadequate. From ten to twenty thousand more probably 
covers the total. The Versaillais losses, during the entire period 
of the Communal war, consisted of 877 killed, 6,454 wounded^ 
and 183 missing.* The disparity between the Versaillais and 
the Communist fatalities is due partly, of course, to the greater 
skill, discipline, and precision of the regular soldiers, but it also 
points emphatically in the direction of the wholesale massacres 
which blasts the reputation of the victorious forces. Had the 
Germans been guilty of one-tenth or one-twentieth the summary- 
executions against the French which the Versaillais were guilty 
of against the Communists, they would have been by united 
Gallic opinion denounced in the most indignant and outraged 
language. As it was, notwithstanding the clemency and the 
consideration shown almost everywhere by the Prussians for the 
prisoners they took, the French writers called them barbarians,, 
and stigmatised them by opprobrious terms. The real bar* 
barians were the French themselves. He who permits anger to 
blind his eyes and defeat his reason is always the first to be the 
actual perpetrator of that which his blindness and prejudice 
falsely imagined to exist. 

Long after the struggle had terminated, arrests of federates 
and others continued to be made. Domiciliary searches, 
denunciations, and the ever-widening knowledge of the Ver- 
sailles authorities as to individual participations in the insur- 
rection, contributed to bring within the power of the law persons 
who for months and even years had escaped its attentions. 
However, with slight and, numerically, unimportant exceptions,, 
the whole of the prisoners were taken within a period of ten 
months after the end of May, 1871 ; these numbered 38,578.* 

The bulk of this huge total was taken during and immediately 
after the last week in May ; the treatment accorded to it, after 

' M. Du Camp, t. ii. p. 426. 

' Macmahon, p. 44. 

' Rapport cP ensemble^ p. 262. 

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making all reasonable allowances, was inconsiderate to an 
extreme degree. The camp at Satory, near Versailles, to which 
in the first instance the prisoners were taken, had no proper 
accommodation for so large a number. Prisoners were hoarded 
together in masses, overshadowed not only by armed men, but 
by guns and mitrailleuses. The slightest sign of mutiny was 
quelled by death ; subordination and obedience were enforced 
with the severest rigour, whilst humanitarian notions were com- 
pletely disregarded. When, in the month of June, batches of 
prisoners were removed from Satory to pontoons in various 
ports, the removal was effected with similar brutality of 
method; in fact, these human beings were treated even worse 
than cattle would have been. 

Out of the total of 38,578 prisoners, 36,309 were subjected to 
a more or less rigorous examination, and all the particulars of 
their respective cases were classified and arranged by military 
ofiicers deputed to this duty.^ The remaining 2,269 ^i^e thus 
accounted for : 1,090 were liberated after a simple questioning ; 
967 died before their cases could be inquired into; 212 were 
transferred to the civil authorities. Of these 2,269, h9S7 were 
men, 235 women, and 77 classified as children — presumably 

The 36,309 prisoners are set out in all manner of statistical 
wajrs in the official report presented to the National Assembly 
in 1875, which comprised all proceedings up to the end of 1874. 
The periods, or method, of their arrest are divided into five 
categories, viz. : — 

Before the entry of the troops into Paris 
During the eight days' struggle in Paris 
Fugitives handed over by the Prussians . 
After the termination of the struggle 
In the provinces 

^ Le Rapport (T ensemble^ p. 297, etc. 
• Ibid,y p. 262. 
» Ibid,y p. 261. 





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348 History of the Paris Commune ^1871 

They are further classified as follows : — 

Persons holding official positions in the Com- 
mune • 438 

National Guards of 16 years of age and upwards 29^09 
„ „ under 16 years ... 93 

Persons, not National Guards, who had parti- 
cipated in the insurrection. (This cate- 
gory includes the irregular bands of men 
alluded to on page 195) .... 5,105 
Women of 16 years age and upwards . . 819 

Girls under 16 years 4 

Boys „ 16 „ unattached to the National 

Guards 441 

36,309 ^ 

Of this total, 7,460 had, prior to the Commune, suffered 
punishments for crimes or had been under police surveillance. 
There were 1,725 foreigners amongst those arrested ; they 
included 27 Englishmen, 17 Americans, and 81 Germans; there 
were much larger proportions of Belgians, Italians, Swiss, Dutch, 
and Poles.* 

After an average detention of five months, 23,727 of the 
prisoners were liberated on an ordnance of non-lieu^ or no 
charge.^ The remainding 12,582 were to await trial The two 
Military Courts in active existence at the end of May, 1871, 
were totally inadequate to cope with such a quantity of accused 
persons, and fresh Military Courts, until twenty-six were in 
operation, were rapidly created. Contemporaneously, a second 
Court of Revision was appointed to assist the permanent one in 
adjudicating upon such sentences as might be appealed against 
Furthermore, a Commission of Pardons was nominated by the 
National Assembly on the loth July, 1871, for the purpose of 
generally reviewing cases that might be brought before it, with 
a view of exercising, in the name of the nation, the prerogative 
of pardon. This Commission was the outcome of a widespread 
feeling in France that the military authorities had acted with 

' Le Rapport tTensentbley pp. 256-259. * Ibid,^ p. 263. ' Ibid,^ p. 297. 

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Conclusion 349 

unnecessary harshness, and that, having exterminated the 
Commune, clemency might be introduced in regard to the 
final disposal of the prisoners. 

The results of the trials of the 12,582 prisoners were that 
2445 were acquitted and 10,137 sentenced to various penalties, 
95 being of death, and the others varying from perpetual hard 
labour or transportation to simple police surveillance.^ The 
10,137 condemned comprised 9,950 men, 132 women, 54 boys, 
and I girl under 16 years of age.* 

Amongst the women were the five incendiarists who helped 
to prepare the Palace of the Legion of Honour for fire ; also 
Louise Michel, the revolutionary publicist. 

The main classes of offences charged against the condemned 
persons were three in number ; the following is a comprehensive 
outline of the prisoners in each class :— 

Offences against public order, i>., all 
relating to the purely political side 
of the insurrection 

Offences against the person : murders 
or attempted murders, wounding, 
sequestrations, etc. 

Offences against property : theft, pil- 
lage, damages, incendiarisms 

Men . 9,262 

Boys . 




Girl . 


Men . 


Boys . 




Men . 


Boy . 




10,137 ^ 

The Councils of Revision received 2,962 applications for 
sentences to be reviewed; of this number 139 sentences were 
annulled.^ Many others were reduced in severity, notably in 
regard to the condemnations to death, 72 of which were com- 
muted.' The twenty-three persons executed up to the end of 
1874 included the following : — 

Ferrd, member of the Commune, for complicity in assassin- 

* Le Rapport d^emembUy p. 297. * Ibid,^ p. 315. ' Ibid,y p. 315. 

* Ibid,y p. 302. * Ibid.y p. 297. 

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350 History of the Paris Commune 0/ iSji 

atton of the hostages and incendiarism ; executed 28th Novem- 
ber, 1 87 1. 

Phillipe, member of the Commune, for incendiarism ; executed 
22nd January, 1873. 

Rossel, Delegate of War, for bearing arms against France ; 
executed 28th November, 1871, 

S^rizier and Boin, for assassinating the Dominicans of 
Arcueil ; both executed 25th May, 1872. 

Rouillac, for murder of the chemist Dubois ; executed 6th 
July, 1872. 

Herpin Lacroix and Lagrange, two federates, and. Verdaguer, 
a sergeant of the 88th regiment de marche, for participation in 
the assassination of Generals Thomas and Lecomte ; executed, 
the first-named on the 23rd February, and the others on the 
22nd February, 1872. 

Boudin, for Tuileries incendiarism ; executed 2Sth May, 1872. 
Chiefly for participation in the massacre of hostages in the 
Rue Haxo : — 

Aubry, executed 2Sth July, 1872. 

Bdnot, „ 22nd January, 1873. 

Dalivoust, „ 27th July, 1872. 

De Saint Omer, „ 25th July, 1872. 
Frangois „ 25 th July, 1872. 

For assassinating the hostages in La Roquette : — 
Genton, executed 30th April, 1872. 
Lolive, „ 1 8th September, 1872. 

For assassination of Chaudey : — 

Preau de Vedel, executed 19th March, 1872. 

For murder of Comte de Beaufort : — 

Denivelle, executed 19th September, 1872. 

In addition to the two members of the Commune who were 
executed, and to Vermorel, who died at Versailles, other mem- 
bers fell into the hands of the French authorities — some of them 
during the eight days of May, as recorded ; others within a few 
weeks afterwards, these being invariably either under disguise 
or in concealment ; others, again, after a lapse of many months. 

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Conclusion 351 

The following is a list of those arrested, excluding the three 
above-named : — 

Ant Arnaud, Assi, Amouroux, G. Arnold, Billioray, V. 
Clement, E. Clement, Courbet, Champy, A. Dupont, C. Dupont, 
Paschal Grousset, E. G6rardin, G^resme, Goupil, Jourde, Pillot, 
R^gere, Rastoul, Trinquet, Urbain, Verdure. These all were 
sentenced to various penalties, varying frona hard labour and 
transportation for life to three months' imprisonment ; two also 
had fines to pay. Ulysse Parent, Lefbvre, and Descamps were 
arrested, and placed upon trial ; they were, however, acquitted, 
their participation in the Commune having been of the slightest 
description. The other members of the demission naire class, 
excepting Ranc, were not subjected to any legal proceedings 
whatever. Ranc, though he remained in Paris for some time 
after the fall of the Commune, was not arrested, owing, it was 
said, to favouritism ; moreover, seeing that he had resigned his 
functions so early as April 6th, it was claimed for him that he 
stood in the same category as the other d^missionnaires. 

The principal feature in the sentences of the arrested mem- 
bers of the Commune was the rarity of the death penalty. All 
these members had been charged with attempting to change 
the form of government — and though the attempt had failed, 
it had occasioned the deaths of thousands of soldiers. The 
attempt was, before its close, if it had not originally been, an 
open rebellion against France : surely, it being attended with 
such dire consequences, it would have been only justice to have 
shot every member of the Commune that had remained therein 
after the first battle. The leniency of the treatment accorded 
to the leaders of the insurrection can only be accounted for by 
the mercilessness which the Versaillais had exhibited towards 
the simple federate during the heat of the final struggle. Com- 
munists had then been so pitilessly massacred en bloc that a 
revulsion of feeling had set in, testified to first by the creation 
of the Commission of Pardons, and subsequently by the sen- 
tences passed upon the arrested chiefs. The latter, practically, 
did not suffer legal punishment at all for the political attempt 
they had made to erect an independent Government at Paris. 
The charge was certainly included in the list of offences for 
which they were arraigned, but it was substantially the specific 

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352 History of the Paris Commune of 1871 

deeds of incendiarism, pillage, and murder for which the severest 
sentences were passed. 

Twelve months after the fall of the Commune, when the 
Military Courts and authorities generally were beginning to be 
relieved from the intense congestion of judicial business which 
had endured until then, attention began to be directed to the 
members of the Commune and others who had fled from France 
or had otherwise avoided arrest The authorities possessed 
evidence incriminatory of all the principal fugitives, and, in 
accordance with French practice, proceedings were taken and 
sentences pronounced, notwithstanding the absence of the in- 
culpated parties. This method of procedure took no account 
even of the death of several of the persons. Thus, trials were 
held in regard to Rigault, Delescluze, and Varh'n, and sentences 
of death passed upon them. Tridon died at Brussels on 31st 
August, 1 87 1, and appears to have escaped judicial pursuit 
Beslay, in recognition of his services in preserving the Bank of 
France from spoliation, was assisted to leave the country, and 
also was not troubled by any legal process. There were, how- 
ever, fifty living members of the Commune, who, not being 
procurable in person, were tried and sentenced by " contumacy," 
and the judges in these instances dealt out the useless penalty 
of death with flippancy, thirty-nine members being thus con- 
demned, whilst the remaining eleven were sentenced to imprison- 
ment for life. The following are the names of the fifty con- 
tumacious : AUix, Avrial, A Arnould, Andrieu, Babick, Blanchet, 
Bergeret, Brunei, Cluseret, Chardon, Cournet, J. B. Clement, 
Cl^mence, Chalain, Demay, Durand, Dereure, Eudes, Frankel, 
Ch. G^rardin, Gambon, Henri Fortune, Johannard, Lonclas, 
Longuet, Langevin, Lefran^ais, Ledroyt, Martelet, Mortier, 
Meillet, Miot, Malon, Ostyn, Oudet, Pindy, Pottier, Protot. 
Puget, Parisel, Pyat, Ranvier, Ranc, Sicard, Serailler, Theisz, 
Vall^s, Viard, V^sinier, Vaillant Ranc was eventually pro- 
ceeded against, not in respect of his participation in the Com- 
mune prior to April 6th, but because it was discovered that his 
resignation on that date was more pretence than reality, and 
that he had actively assisted in Communal work at least up to 
May I2th.^ The whole of these contumacious members of the 
» 3mc Conseil de Guerre, October 13th, 1873. 

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Conclusion 353 

Commune were in exile, mostly in England, Belgium, or Swit- 

Of the members of the Comit^ Central forty-five were arrested 
within the period covered by the Official Report above alluded 
to, and thirty«nine remained contumacious,^ the latter including 
most of the important persons. Among the former were Charles 
LuUier, Maxime Lisbonne, and Grfilier, all of whom were re- 
cipients of life sentences.* 

Of those Communists who were neither members of the 
Commune nor of the Comitd Central, M6gy, the friend of Eudes, 
requires mention, as one who eluded the vigilance of the Ver- 
saillais. Of Journalists falling under the same category, ten 
were arrested, and received sentences ; they included Roche- 
fort and his secretary, Mourot. Contumacious proceedings 
were taken against several others. 

The Commission of Pardons terminated its labours at the 
end of 1875. It had received over 6,500 applications for 
clemency from prisoners sentenced by the various Military 
Courts. Somewhat less than half of these applicants received 
either a partial or total commutation of their respective punish- 
ments, so that the preceding statistics of judicial results become 

* Rapport d' ensemble, pp. 254 and 342. 

* The Rapport (T ensemble is very disappointing in its information in regard 
to the members of the Commune and Comit^ Central. Of the latter there 
is no complete list, and only a very few names, whilst the former are, in 
respect of their sentences, scattered through numerous pages. With the 
full knowledge of every case possessed by the French authorities, it would 
have been a simple task to have given a tabular list of the Commune and 
Comit^ Central, with the final results. So far as the Conunune is concerned, 
the deficiency can be satisfactorily supplied ; but it is difficult, perhaps impos- 
sible for any unofficial writer to give complete accounts of the members of 
the Comit^ Central who were arrested and of those that escaped. More- 
over, the Rapport d*ensemble is strangely lacking in consistency. In the 
only place (p. 43), prior to the fall of the Commune, where it refers to the 
number of persons comprised within the Comit^ Central, it states they were 
thirty-nine. In the judicial results of the Military Courts, as given in the 
text, it makes them eighty-four, without there being the slightest explanation 
of the increased number. The latter total is doubtless correct ; the former 
is manifestly incorrect, for, at the date (March 26th) at which it is given, 
there were at least sixty-nine members of the Comit^ Central (including 
those elected to the Commune), according to a list which I have drawn up 
from various sources. 

A A 

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354 History of the Paris Commune of i^ji 

considerably modified by these substantial acts of grace On 
the other hand, the number of persons executed for offences in 
connection with the insurrection ultimately rose to twenty-six.* 

After the fall of the Commune, various civil law suits were 
instituted, which referred more or less to it Of these only one 
need be cited It was an action for libel brought by M. Jules 
Favre, in 1871, against ah individual whom he accused of having 
supplied MlUifere with the information which on February 8th 
had been published in Le Vengeur relative to Favre's private 
life. The latter was compelled, in open court, to confess 
that Milli^re's statements were correct, and that he, Favre, had 
been guilty of swearing gross falsehoods in official documents. 
Milliere had been shot, in all probability, more because of the 
presumed scurrility of those statements than of anything else ; 
they were true, and, in regard to a public man, their publication 
was justifiable. The whole affair inculcates once more the 
lesson that hasty retributions are swift and often irremediable 

Ducatel, for having at the risk of his life apprised the Ver- 
sailles troops of the deserted state of Passy, received the Cross 
of the Legion of Honour. A public subscription was also 
opened for his benefit in the columns of two newspapers ; this 
brought him a sum of 1 1 1,000 francs. Finally, in January, 1872, 
he was given by the Government a minor appointment, which 
he held for some years. 

The International Association of Workers, whose share in the 
agitation which preceded the Commune was so considerable, 
was in March, 1872, declared by the National Assembly to be 
an illegal combination, and to belong to it was made a penal 

Isolated arrests of federates and Communists continued to be 
made even so late as 1877, and sentences passed By that 
time, however, other influences than those of repression and 
punishment were at work. The General Elections held in France 
in 1876 resulted in there being an imposing majority of Re- 
publican representatives in the National Assembly. Until then 
the existence of the Republic had been precarious ; it was now 

* Du Camp, t. i. p. 224. 

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Conclusion 355 

assured. Repeated propositions had been previously made for 
-a general amnesty for the Communist prisoners and exiles ; but, 
in face of a monarchical chamber, nothing in this direction could 
be accomplished. However, with the advent of a republican 
majority the projected amnesty gained strength, and public 
opinion in France was gradually brought round to approve of 
It. In March, 1879, a partial amnesty was decreed ; by it all 
the fugitives except 400, and all the prisoners except about 300, 
were restored to the full privileges of French citizenship. On 
the 1 2th July, 1880, a full amnesty was accorded, and the whole 
of the Communists, prisoners or exiles, could return to France 
and liberty. Most of them did so. By that time nearly the 
whole of the devastation wrought during the last days of the 
Commune had been repaired, and Paris had become the bright 
and gay city again ; the Venddme column was re-erected, and 
most of the public buildings where incendiarisms had occurred 
were rebuilt. 

In the year at which the world has now arrived, very few of 
the personages are alive who have played a prominent part in 
these pages. It may interest the reader to know that Cluseret, 
Vaillant, Jourde, and Paschal Grousset are of these ; they are 
all deputies in the existing French Chamber. Ranc and Roche- 
fort continue their avocation of journalist General Trochu, 
though little heard of, is also living. 

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To Members of the Commune and Comiti Central^ 
and other primipal personages. 

Adam, A. 142 ; 144. 

AUix, Jules ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 144 ; 
145 ; queries his election 153; 
vote re April elections 192 ; 
votes for Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 
arrested 223 ; escapes 352. 

Amouroux ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 145 ; 
sent to Marseilles 179 ; in Paris 
189 ; vote re April elections 
192 ; votes for Com. Pub. Sa£ 
207; arrested 251; sentenced 


Andrieu ; mbr. of Com. 192 ; 193 ; 
Head of Pub. Wks. dept. 197 ; 
re Vend. CoL 202 ; votes agnst. 
Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; signs 
minority declar. 227; 234; es- 
capes 352. 

Arago, Emmanuel ; member of Gov. 
of Nat De£ 18 ; 43 ; 46 ; 65 ; 

Arago, Etienne ; acclaimed Mayor 
of Paris 19; 21; 26; 29; 42, 

43, 44 ; 53. 
Amaud, Antoine ; member of 
Comiti Central 84 ; signs 
placard 88 ; signs C. C. pro- 
clamation 119 ; mission to 
Bank 127 ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 

145; 146; first secretary 156; 
Ex. Aff. Commiss. 157 ; vote 
re April elections 192; votes 
for Com. Pub. Saf. 207; mbr. 
of same 208 ; 218 ; 280 ; 303 ; 
306 ; arrested and sentenced 


Arnold, G. ; Com. Cen. delegate to 
Com. Fdd. R^p. 90; signs C. 
C. affiche 91, and proclamation 
119; negotiates with mayors 
136 ; signs agreement 137 ; i8i ; 
mbr. of Com. 193 ; Com. Contr. 
for War 198 ; signs minority 
declar. 227; 234; 303; 320; 
arrested and sentenced 351. 

Amould, Arthur ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 
145 ; Ex. Aif. Commiss. 157 ; 
vote re April elections 192 ; 
contends agnst Rigault 200; 
votes agnst Com. Pub. Saf. 
207 ; signs minority declar. 227 ; 
234 ; escapes 352. 

Assi ; signs C. C. placard 88 ; In- 
ternationalist 89; signs C. C 
documents 118, 119; mission to 
Bank 127 ; demands rupture of 
negotiations 134 ; mbr. of Com. 
142 ; 145 ; 146 ; proclaims Com- 
mune 151 ; Police Commiss. 


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157; imprisoned 174 ; released 
190, 191 ; arrested 251 ; sen- 
tenced 351. 
d'Aurelle de Paladines, General ; 

57 ; 58 ; 93 ; 97 ; 98. 

Avrial ; Internationalist and Central 
Committee member, 25 ; signs 
C. C. manifesto 31 ; nibr. of 
Com. 142 ; 145 ; Lab. and Com. 
Commiss. 157 ; Exec Com. 174; 
vote re April elections 192 ; 
Com. Control for War, 198; 
votes against Com. Pub. Sa£ 
207 ; in trouble 216 ; 217, 218 ; 
220 ; signs minority declar. 227 ; 
234 ; 7Pi ; 320 ; escapes 352. 


Babick ; Internationalist and Central 
Committee member 25 ; signs 
placard Jany. 6th, 66 ; member 
of Comit^ Central 84 ; signs 
placard 88; 89; signs C. C. 
documents 118, 119; mbr. of 
Com. 142; 145; 146; Jud. Com- 
miss. 157; vote r(^ April elections 
192; votes agnst Com. Pub. 
Sa£ 207 ; 320 ; escapes, 352. 

Bank of France ; advances money 
to federates 126, 132, 158; 
menaced, 189; amount advanced 
up to April 30th 209 ; 214 ; 
attempt to force it, 221 ; 243 ; 

Bar^ ; 142 ; 144. 

Bazaine, Marshal ; 10; 11; 39-41. 

Beaufort, Comte de, 304. 

Benot, Victor ; 282 ; 291 ; 331, 332 ; 

Bergeret ; Com. Cen. delegate to 
Com. Fdd. Rdp. 90 ; signs C. C. 

affiche 91; organizes federates, 
104 ; joins Varlin 1 1 1 ; Chief of 
Legion and General 119 ; com- 
mands at Place Vend6me 130, 
131 ; demands rupture of nego- 
ciations 134 ; mbr. of Com. 143; 
145 ; Exec, and Milit. Commiss. 
157 ; 160 ; marches on Versailles 
168-172 ; removed fr. command 
and Exec. 174; arrested 180; 
released 199; votes for Com. 
Pub. Sat 207 ; 210; 226; 229, 
230; 241 ; misappropriates, 265; 
266 ; condemns four prisoners 
268, 269 ; incendiarist 282 ; 
conceals himself, 290 ; 292 ; es- 
capes 352. 

Beslay ; Internationalist and Central 
Committee member 25 ; signs 
C. C. manifesto, 31 ; signs pla- 
card Jany. 6th, 66 ; 128 ; mbr, 
of Com. 142 ; 145 ; 146 ; opens 
first stance 152 ; Fin. Conuniss. 
1 57 ; delegate to Bank 1 58 ; 189, 
190 ; vote re April elections 192 ; 
aids release of Mdlle. Darboy 
201 ; accompanies freemasons 
203 ; votes agnst Com. Pub. 
Saf. 207 ; 222 ; signs minority 
declar. 227 ; assisted to escape 

Billioray; signs C. C. placard 88, 
and documents 118, 119; mis- 
sion to Bank 127 ; mbr. of Com. 
142 ; 145 ; Pub. Wks. Commiss. 
157 ; vote re April elections 
192 ; 193 ; votes for Com. Pub. 
Saf. 207 ; mbr. of 2nd such Com. 
219 ; its weakest mbr. 222 ; 226; 
a traitor 236 ; 253 ; 280 ; 320? 
arrested and sentenced 351. 

Bisson, Count Raoul du ; head of 

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Com. Fed. R^p. 90 ; fires on 
demonstrators 131. 

Blanc, Louis ; 95 ; 138 ; 140. 

Blanchet ; signs C. C. placard 88 ; 
sounds the alarm loi ; signs C. 
C. documents 1 18, 1 19 ; wounded 
120 ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 145 ; 
vote re April elections 192 ; 199 ; 
votes for Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 
arrested 213 ; escapes 315 ; es- 
capes Vers. 352. 

Blanqui ; revolutionary journalist 4 ; 
instigates La Villette outbreak, 
11; 25; 34; action on 31st 
Octr., 43, 44, 47-51 ; warrant 
for arrest of, 52 ; 62 ; aids revolu- 
tionary design, 68 ; sentenced to 
death by default and arrested 
96 ; incites soldiers to desert 
96 ; mbr. of Com. 143 ; 145 ; 
his release desired and refused 
176, 177. 

Boin, Louis,* 31 1 ; 350. 

Bonjean ; 128 ; 162 ; 271 ; 306 ; 307. 

Borme ; chemical expert 186 ; 237 ; 

Boudin, Etienne ; 268, 269 ; 282 ; 


Boursier ; 181 ; 291. 

Brelay ; 142 ; 144. 

Bnosne ; 193. 

Brunei, Colonel ; instigates revolu- 
tionary project and is arrested 
72 ; released 87 ; enters H. de 
V. 1 14 ; negotiates with mayors 
134-136 ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 
J 45 ; offends Comitd Central 
169; votes for Com. Pub. Saf. 
207 ; defends P. de la Concorde 
263 ; first incendiarist 276-278 ; 
280 ; 303 ; wounded 316 ; es- 
capes 352. 

Central Committee of 20 arrondisse- 
ments ; origin 25 ; manifesto 
31 ; 34 ; arranges demonstration 
35 ; action on 31st Octr. 42, 43 ; 
demands sortie 61 ; supports 
Comit^ Central 128 ; members 
elected to Commune, 146, 193. 

Chalain ; mbr. of Com. 143 ; 145 ; 
Police Commiss. 157; escapes 

Champy ; signs placard Jany. 6th, 
66; mbr. of Com., 142; 145; 146; 
Food Commiss. 157; vote re 
April elections 192 ; votes for 
Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 241 ; 303 ; 
arrested and sentenced, 351. 

Chanzy, General; 60; 119, 120; 

Chardon ; signs C. C. manifesto 
31 ; signs placard Jany. 6th, 
66 ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 145 ; 
146; Milit Commiss. 157 ; votes 
for Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 303 ; 
escapes 352. 

Chaudey, Gustave ; receives deputa- 
tions 69 ; object of a false im- 
pression 70; arrested 187; is 
shot, 285, 286. 

Charon ; 142 ; 144. 

Chouteau ; 105 ; 114. 

Cl^menceau ; elected deputy TJ ; con- 
sulted by Favre 92 ; 97 ; re- 
assures Lecomte 102 ; 105 ; 
visits scene of murders 1 10 ; 
112; applicn. to C. C. 128; 
expelled from mairie 132 ; 
facilitates agreement with may- 
ors 136. 

Cldmence ; Internationalist and 
Central Committee member 
25 ; signs placard, Jany. 6th, 66 ; 

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mbr. of Com. 142 ; 145 ; 146 ; 
vote re April elections 192 ; 
votes agnst Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 
signs minority declar. 227 ; 234 ; 
escapes 352. 

Clement, E. ; mbr. of Com. 143 ; 
145 ; Food Commiss. 157 ; vote 
re April elections 192 ; votes 
for Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; arrested 
by Rigault 237; arrested by 
Vers, and sentenced 351. 

CMment, J. B. ; mbr. of Com. 143 ; 
145 ; Pub. Wks. and Food Com- 
miss. 157 ; votes agnst. Com. 
Pub. Saf. 207 ; 234 ; 303 ; 320 ; 
escapes, 352. 

Clement, V. ; mbr. of Com. 143 ; 
145 ; Fin. Commiss. 157 ; vote 
re April elections 192 ; votes 
agnst. Com. Pub. Saf. 207; 
signs minority declar. 227 ; 
234 ; arrested and sentenced 


Cluseret ; letter to Varlin 6 ; am- 
nestied 23 ; untractable 30 ; 
signs C. C. manifesto 31 ; quits 
Paris 38 ; 77 ; Delegate of War 
174 ; orders re service 179 ; 
arrests Bergeret, 180; 181 ; 186; 
mbr. of Com. 192 ; 193 ; ad- 
verse comments upon 195 ; 197 ; 
198; aids release of Mdlle. Dar- 
boy 201 ; re-occupies Fort Issy, 
204; is imprisoned 205 ; 210; 
211; released, 253; conceals 
himself 272 ; escapes 352. 

Comit^ Central de la Garde Nationale; 
origin 84; orders seizure of 
cannons 86; counsels reserve 
88 ; fusion with International 
89 ; with Comit^ F^. R^p. 90 ; 
replies to Picard 91 ; supreme in 

Paris 96 ; action on i8lh March 
100, 104, no, 114, 115 ; its posi- 
tion 117 ; conduct from March 
19th to 27th 118-141 ; members 
elected to Commune 145 ; dis- 
solves and reforms 152 ; issues 
proclamation 159 ; sends deleg. 
to Wardept. 181 ; 208; neglects 
to give information 212 ; en- 
croaches on War administration 
213 ; dilatory 215 ; maintains its 
position 219, 240 ; misgivings as 
to incendiarisms 296 ; usurps 
functions of War delegate 32a, 


Cor^; 126; 315. 

Courbet, Gustave ; advocates demoli- 
tion of Venddme Col. 184 ; mbr. 
of Com. 192 ; 193 ; revives Vend 
Col. question 202 ; votes ag^t 
Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; signs min- 
ority declar. 227 ; 229 ; 234 ; 
arrested and sentenced 351. 

Coumet ; implicated in Complot 
of Bombs 8 ; amnestied 23 ; 
deputy demissionaire 89 ; 1 14 ; 
mbr. of Com. 143 ; 145 ; 146 ; 
154; Police Commiss. 157; 
Exec Com. 174 ; head of Police 
dept. 200 ; votes for Com. Pub. 
Saf. 207 ; 222 ; 223 ; removed 
from Police 226 ; 243 ; lives 
sumptuously 265 ; 303 ; 306 ; 
320; escapes, 352. 

Courty ; 81 ; 91. 

Cr^mieux ; 12 ; 20 ; 28. 

Cresson ; Prefect of Police 52 ; 
complains of powerlessness 62, 
63 ; arrests Brunei and Piazza 
72 ; his resignation and its with- 
drawal 74 ; refuses to set Deles- 
cluze at liberty 74 ; demands 

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stringent measures, which are 
refused ^^, 

Dalivoust ; 329 ; 350. 

Darboy, Archb. ; 176; 271 ; 306, 307. 

Darboy, Madmlle. ; 176 ; 201. 

Dassas, 93. 

De BouteiUer, 143 ; 144. 

Deguerry, Abb^ ; 176 ; 271 ; 306. 

Oelescluze, Charles, editor of La 
Reveil^ 8 ; amnestied 23 ; 25 ; 
34 ; action on 31st Octr., 43, 44, 
47-5 ' ; not arrested 53 ; mayor 
of 19th arr. 54 ; condemns 
Government 65 ; suggests 
Flourens* release 68; demon- 
strates before H. de V. 69 ; ar- 
rested 70 ; his journal suppressed 
71 ; elected deputy ^^ ; released 
from prison ^^ \ 112; mbr. of 
Com. 142, 143; 145; 146; 153; 
154; Ex. Aff. Commiss. 157; 
Exec. Com. 174 ; vote re April 
elections 192; Com. Contr. for 
War 198 ; 199 ; 207 ; complains 
of Com. Centr. 218 ; Delegate 
of War 218 ; 219 ; critical notice 
of, 220; 226; accepts female 
assistance 233 ; 240 ; 253 ; 254 ; 
issues proclamation 262; 269; 
" Fire everywhere" 280 ; 303 ; 
tries to save Beaufort, 304 ; 310; 
seeks death 317-319 ; 351. 

Demay ; Internationalist and Central 
Committee member 25 ; signs 
C. C. manifesto, 31; signs placard 
Jany; 6th, 66 ; mbr. of Conu 142 ; 
145 ; 146 ; Educ. Commiss. 157 ; 
vote re April elections 192 ; 
votes for Com. Pub. Saf. 207; 
escapes 352. 

Dereure, implicated in " Complot of 
Bombs* 8 ; amnestied 23 ; In- 
ternationalist and Central Com- 
mittee member 25 ; signs C. C. 
manifesto 31 ; dep. may. of arr. 
54 ; mbr. of Com. 143 ; 145 > 
Food Commiss. 1 57 ; vote re 
April elections 192 ; votes for 
Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 224 ; 303 ; 
320 ; escapes 352. 

Descamps ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 145 ; 

Desmarest 142 ; 144. 
Dombrowski ; commandant in 

West, 181 ; 186 ; 197, 198 ; 223 ; 

224 ; 225 ; 246 ; 250 ; death of 

Dominicans, massacre of, 311, 312. 
Dorian ; 20 ; 50. 
Dubail; 121 ; 136, 137. 
Ducatel, 245-250; 254, 255; 258; 

Ducrot, General ; foolish boast 59, 

60 ; 66, 67. 
Dupont, A. ; mbr. of Com. 193 ; 

arrested and sentenced 351. 
Dupont, Clovis ; signs C. C. placard 

88, and documents 118, 119; 

mbr. of Com. 142 ; 145 ; Lab. 

and Com. Commiss. 157 ; votes 

for Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; arrested 

and sentenced 351. 
Durand ; mbr. of Com. 192 ; 193 ; 

votes for Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 

escapes 352. 
Duval ; Internationalist and Central 

Committee member 25 ; signs 

C. C. manifesto 31, and placard 

Jany. 6th, 66 ; chief of Legion 

97 ; transacts Prefecture work 

119; General of division 134; 

mbr. of Com. 142 ; 145 ; 146 ; 

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Exec, and Milit. Commiss. 157 ; 
160; Marches on Versailles 
168-173; removed from Com- 
mand and Exec. 174 ; death 

Empress Eugenie, 10; 17. 

Eudes, Emile ; condemned to death 
1 1 ; amnestied, 23 ; 47 ; arrested 
52; released, 62 ; chief of Legion 
97 ; self-installed at War Office 
119; General of division, 134; 
mbr. of Com. 142 ; 145 ; 146 ; 
orders Allix out 153 ; Executive 
and Milit. Commissions 157; 
160; Marches on Versailles 168- 
173 ; removed fr. command and 
Exec. 174 ; commander of forts 
182; lives in state 202; 204; 
210; 211; 216; mbr. of 2nd 
Com. Pub. Saf. 218 ; misappro- 
priates 265 ; 266 ; 280 ; in- 
cendiarist 281 ; 292 ; 303 ; 305 ; 
320 ; escapes 352. 

Favre, Jules ; republican leader 4 ; 
makes overtures to International 
Association 4 ; meets Trochu 
17 ; member of Gov. of Nat. 
Def. 18 ; declaration r.? territory 
26 ; seeks Bismarck 33 ; his 
complacency 41 ; approves im- 
mediate elections 43 ; held 
prisoner in H. de Ville 46 ; 
assents to compromise 50; re- 
pudiates it 52 ; 61 ; dissatisfied 
with Trochu 65 ; negotiates 
armistice 71-73 ; charged with 
falsehood, etc. tj ; elected de- 

puty, 'j'j ; reappointed minister 
by Thiers 79 ; alarmed, 92 ; 
petitioned by mayors, 113; 114; 
quits Paris 115 ; demands par- 
don from God and men 133 ; 
declar. accused by Com. 168 ; 
confesses to false swearing 


Federates ; origin of the term 90. 

Ferrd, Theophilus ; imprisoned 
8 ; released, 23 ; signs C. C. 
manifesto 31 ; signs placard 
Jany. 6, 66 ; 128 ; mbr. of Com. 
143 I 145 ; 146 ; Police Com- 
miss. 157; 177; 200; assist, 
prosecutor 201 ; votes for Com. 
Pub. Saf. 207 ; head of Police 
dept. 226 ; 229 ; 232 ; arrests 
Veysset 247 ; lives sumptuously, 
265 ; 266 ; shoots Valliot, 269 ; 
wholesale order to shoot prison- 
ers 272 ; 290 ; shoots Veysset, 
298 ; incendiarist, 298, 299 ; 
303 ; 305 ; order re Jecker 319 ; 
320; order re Haxo massacre, 
328; revolt of hostages 337, 
338 ; executed, 349. 

Ferry, E. 142 ; 144. 

Ferry, Jules ; member of Gov. of 
Nat. Def. 19 ; approves imme- 
diate elections, 43 ; escapes from 
H. de Ville, 46; commands 
Guards and forces entrance 
49-51 ; repudiates the com- 
promise 52 ; favours Delescluze 
53 ; Mayor of Paris, 53 ; 79 ; 
message to Vinoy 85 ; reassured 
93; quits H. de V. 113; re- 
enters Paris, 259. 

Floquet ; 19 ; 3^ ; 136. 

Flourens, Gustave ; flight from Paris, 
7 ; amnestied 23 ; 24 ; calls 

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himself " Colonel " 30 ; signs C. 
C. manifesto 31 ; two demon- 
strations 35 ; 40 ; part in affair 
of 31st Octr. 42,45-51 ; warrant 
for arrest of, 52 ; elected dep. 
may. of 20th arr. 54 ; arrested 
62 ; released 68 ; captures and 
vacates mairie of 20th arr. 69 ; 
demonstrates before H. de V. 
69 ; sentenced to death by de- 
foult 96 ; incites soldiers to de- 
sert, 96 ; given command 119; 
mbr. of Com. 143 ; 145 ; 146 ; 
Milit Commiss. 157 ; marches 
on Versailles 169-172 ; death 

Fortune, Henri ; signs placard 
Jany. 6th, 66 ; member of 
Comit^ Central, 84 ; signs C. C. 
affiche 91, and proclamation 
119 ; mbr. of Com, 142 ; 145 ; 
146 ; Food Commiss. 157 ; 
votes for Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 
229 ; escapes, 352. 

Frangois, 271 ; 306 ; 319; 328 ; 337, 

338 ; 350. 

Frankel ; Internationalist and Central 
Committee member, 25 ; signs 
C. C. manifesto 31 ; active In- 
ternationalist, 66 ; mbr. of Com. 
142 ; 145 ; Lab. and Com. Com- 
miss. 157 ; vote re April elec- 
tions 192 ; 197 ; votes for Com. 
Pub. Saf. 207 ; signs minority 
declar. 227 ; 234 ; 303 ; 320 ; 
escapes, 352. 

Fruneau ; 142 ; 144 ; 158 ; 178. 

Gaillard ; signs Central Committee 
manifesto 31 ; constructs barri- 
cades 205. 

Gallifet, Marquis de ; salutary ex- 
ample 173. 

Gambetta, L^on ; declares Napoleo- 
nic dynasty at an end 16 ; mem- 
ber of Gov. of Nat. Def. 18 ; re- 
ceives International deputation 
24 ; leaves Paris for Tours 38 ;. 
his egotistical policy 57 ; pres- 
cience 59 ; dissatisfied with 
Trochu, 65 ; denounces his- 
colleagues and is dismissed 


Gambon ; elected deputy 77 ; mbr. 
of Com., 142 ; 145 ; 146; 154 ^ 
vote re April elections 192 \ 
votes for Com Pub. Saf. 207 ; 
mbr. of 2nd such Com. 218,. 
219 ; 280 ; 303 ; 306 ; escapes,^ 

Garibaldi 57 ; 60 ; 97. 

Garibaldi, Menotti ; 192 ; 193. 

Garibaldi, Riciotti ; 57. 

Gamier-Pag^s ; member of Gov. of 
Nat. Defence 20; disapproves 
immediate elections 43 ; held 
prisoner in H. de Ville 46 ; as- 
sents to compromise 50. 

Garreau ; signs placard Jany. 6th, 
66 ; gov. of Mazas 214 ; 271 ;. 

Genton ; signs Central Committee 

manifesto, 31 ; signs placard 
Jany. 6th, 66 ; presides over 
crt.-mrtl. re hostages 306 ; 319 ? 
executed, 350. 
G^rardin, Charles ; signs placard 
Jany. 6th, 66 ; mbr. of Com. 
143; 145; 146; Police Com- 
miss. 157 ; Ex. AfE Conmiiss. 
157; votes for Com. Pub. Saf. 
207 ; mbr. of same, 208 ; ex- 
plains its action 216 ; 217, 218 ;: 

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flight with Rossel, 220 ; escapes, 

O^rardin, £. ; Internationalist and 
Central Committee member 25 ; 
signs placard Jany. 6th, 66 ; 
128 ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 145 ; 
r46 ; Lab. and Com. Commiss. 
157; votes against Com. Pub. 
Saf. 207 ; signs minority declar. 
227 ; 295 ; 303 ; arrested and 
sentenced 351. 

-G^resme ; signs C. C. placard 88, 
and documents, 118, 119; mbr. 
of Com. 142 ; 145 ; vote re April 
elections 192 ; votes for Com. 
Pub. Saf. 207 ; 226 ; 241 ; ar- 
rested and sentenced, 351. 

•Glais-Bizoin ; 20 ; 28. 

Gois, Emile ; 327-330. 

•Goupil, Dr. ; warrant for arrest of 
52 ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 144 ; 
Educ. Commiss. 157; 158; re- 
signs 178 ; arrested and sen- 
tenced 351. 

Grdlier, 251, 252; 353. 

•Grousset, Paschal ; paper war with 
Prince Buonaparte ; imprisoned 
7 ; amnestied 23 ; La Bouche 
de Fer suspended, 95 ; 1 14 ; 
delegate to Foreign Office 119; 
replies to German commandant 
130 ; mbr. of Com. 143 ; 145 ; 
questions Tirard 155 ; Ex. Aff. 
Commiss. 157; 179, 180; vote 
re April elections 192 ; 197 ; re 
Vend. Col. 203 ; votes for Com. 
Pub. Saf. 207 ; appeals to pro- 
vinces, 231 ; 258 ; arrested and 
sentenced 351. 


H^ligon ; organizes resistance to 

C. C. 121 ; his arrest attempted 
131 ; dissents from agrewnent 
with C. C. 137. 
Haxo, rue, massacre in j 327-333. 


Ibos ; 46. 

International Association of Work- 
ers ; origin, 2 ; Executives dis- 
solved and imprisoned, 4 ; aims, 
4, 5 ; delegation to Gov. of Nat 
Def. 24 ; headquarters 25 ; 34 ; 
82 ; declared illegal 354 ; mbrs. 
elected to Commune 145, 193. 

Jecker ; 187 ; 271 ; 319. 

Johannard ; Internationalist and 
Central Committee member 25 ; 
signs C. C. manifesto 31 ; signs 
placard Jany. 6th, 66 ; mbr. of 
Com. 192 ; 193 ; votes for Com. 
Pub. Saf. 207 ; 224 ; shoots boy 
237 ; 320 ; escapes, 352. 

Josselyn ; 181. 

Jourde, F. ; signs C. C. placard 88 ; 
Internationalist 89 ; signs C. C. 
documents 118, 119; delegate 
to Finances 119; visits mayors 
121 ; menaces Bank 126; mbr. 
of Com. 142 ; 145 ; questions 
Tirard 155 ; Fin. Commiss. 
157; 189; vote re April elec- 
tions 192; 197; votes agnst 
Com. Pub. Saf. 207; makes 
financial statement, 209, 210; 
in trouble 216; 218; signs 
minority declar. 227 ; 234 ; 
252 ; extinguishes fire 263 ; 
265 ; 290 ; 303 ; 320 ; his last 
disbursement, 341 ; arrested and 
sentenced 351. 

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KAratiy, Count ; 38 ; 57. 
Koch, chemist ; 268 ; 269. 

Lacord ; signs placard Jany. 6thy 
66 ; member of Comit^ Central 
84 ; signs C. C. affiche 91 ; 

Langevin ; Internationalist and Cen- 
tral Committee member, 25 ; 
signs C. C. manifesto, 31 ; mbr. 
of Com. 143 ; 144 ; 145 ; vote re 
April elections 192 ; votes agnst 
Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; escapes, 

Langlois, Col. ; 113-115. 

Langourian, General; 119, 120; 

Lasnier; 224. 

Lavalette ; releases Flourens from 
prison, 68 ; demands accusation 
of Govt. 76 ; signs C. C. pla- 
cards, 88, 91, and doctunents 
118, 119. 

Lecomte, General ; attacks Mont- 
martre 100-102 ; arrested 103 ; 
murdered 106, 107, 109. 

Ledroyt ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 145 ; 
Jud. Commiss. 1 57 ; vote re 
April elections 192 ; votes for 
Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 226 ; 241 ; 
escapes, 352. 

Leiibvre, 142 ; 144 ; 157 ; 158 ; 178 ; 

Le F16, General ; held prisoner in 
H. de Ville, 46 ; released, 49 ; 
intervenes on Delescluze's be- 
half 74 ; reappointed minister 
by Thiers 79 ; disbands Mobiles 
94; III. 

Lefran^ais ; Internationalist and 
Central Committee member 25 \ 
signs C. C. manifesto, 31 ; par- 
ticipates in 31st Oct. affair 42,. 
43, 45 ; arrested, 52 ; elected 
dep. may. of 20th arr. 54 \ 
released, 96 ; 128 ; 139 ; mbr. 
of Com. 142 ; 145 ; 146 ; draws 
up proclamation 156; Exec. 
Commiss. 157 ; prudent counsel 
168 ; retires from Exec. 174 ; 
vote re April elections 192 ; 
votes against Com. Pub. Saf. 
207 ; signs minority declar. 
227; 248; 252; 272; 295; 
303 ; 320 ; escapes 352. 

Legros ; Madame, 224 ; 299. 

Leroy, A.; 142; 144; 157. 

Lisbonne, Maxime ; 181 ; 317 ; 353. 

Lockroy; 114; 128; 136. 

Loiseau-Pinson ; 142; 144; 157; 

Lolive 307 ; 350. 

Lonclas ; mbr. of Com. 193 ; votes 
for Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 226 ; 
241 ; escapes, 352. 

Longuet ; Internationalist and Cen- 
tral Committee member 25 ; 
signs C. C. manifesto, 31 ; 
seizes Luxembourg, 119; mbr. 
of Com. 193 ; votes agnst. Com. 
Pub. Saf. 207 ; signs minority 
declar. 227 ; 303 ; escapes, 

LuUier, Charles ; untractable 30 ; 
signs C. C. placard 88 ; insur- 
gent colonel 97 ; seizes public 
buildings iii ; releases C. C. 
members 114 ; apptd. Comdt 
of Nat. Gds. 115 ; signs C. C. 
documents 118, 119; occupies 
mairies 119; 125 ; "is arrested 

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134; 160; 171; escapes, 174; 
arrested and sentenced 353. 


Macmahon, Marshal ; in Franco- 
Prussian War 10, II, 14; 
quits Paris 119; in command 
of Versailles army 185 ; plan of 
attack 256 ; 257 ; 259 ; 292 ; 
notifies termination of struggle 

343, 344. 

Malon ; Internationalist and Central 
Committee member 25 ; signs 
C. C. manifesto 31 ; dep. may. 
of an*. 54 ; signs placard Jany. 
6th, 66 ; demonstrates before H. 
de V. 69 ; elected deputy 77 ; 
d^missionaire 89 ; mbr. of Com. 
143 ; 145 ; 146 ; 154 ; Lab. and 
Com. Commiss. 157 ; vote re 
April elections 192 ; votes agnst 
Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 217 ; 
adheres to minority declar. 227 ; 
escapes, 352. 

Marmottan ; 143 ; 144. 

Martelet ; signs placard, Jany. 6th, 
66 ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 145 ; 
146 ; Pub. Wks. Commiss. 157 ; 
vote re April elections 192 ; 
votes for Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 
303 ; escapes, 352. 

Mayer, Simon ; captain of Chiteau 
Rouge 104 ; delivers his prison- 
ers 106 ; brings assistance too 
late no ; ascends Vend6me col. 

M^gy; implicated in "Complot of 
Bombs " 8 ; amnestied 23 ; 
gov. of Fort Issy, 202 ; aban- 
dons fort 204, 205 ; order 
shooting of Thom6 267 ; in- 

cendiarist 281 ; assassinates 
hostages 306, 307 ; escapes, 


Meillet L^ ; dep. may. of arr. 54 ; 
signs placard Jany. 6th, 66 ; 
arrests and protects Chanzy and 
Langourian 120 ; 132 ; mbr. of 
Com. 142 ; 145 ; 146 ; Jud. Com- 
miss. 157 ; 162; vote re April 
elections 192 ; votes for Com. 
Pub. Saf. 207 ; mbr. of same 
208 ; 224 ; arrests Dominicans, 
239 ; 303 ; 310 ; escapes, 352. 

M^ine ; 135 ; 136 ; 142 ; 144. 

Michel, Louise ; 184 ; 349. 

Milli^re ; signs Central Committee 
manifesto, 31 ; 34 ; participates 
in 31st Oct affair 43, 48, 50, 51 ; 
warrant for arrest of, 52 ; elected 
dep. may. of 20th arr. 54 ; 
charges Favre with falsehood, 
etc. 76, 77 ; elected deputy, n ; 
is shot, 322, 323; post-mortem 
justification 354. 

Miot, Jules ; dep. may. of arr. 54 ; 
mbr. of Com. 143 ; 145 ; 146 ; 
vote re April elections 192 ; 
prop, for Com. of Pub. Safety, 
206 ; votes for same 207 ; 229 ; 
Vend. col. speech 230 ; 320 ; 
escapes 352. 

Moilin, Tony, implicated in " Com- 
plot of Bombs " 8 ; anmestied, 
23 ; signs placard Jany. 6th, 
66; deputed to 6th arr. mairie 
124, 125 ; installed there 132 ; 
is shot 340, 341. 

Montaut, de ; 186. 

Moreau, Ed. ; member of Comit^ 
Central 86 ; visits mayors 121 ; 
181 ; 213 ; civil delegate to war 
219 ; 241 ; is shot 321. 

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Morlier; signs C. C. placard 88, 

and documents 118, 119; mbr. 

of Com. 142 ; 145 ; Pub. Wks. 

Commiss. 157 ; 303 ; 306 ; 

escapes 352. 
Moussu, le ; closes churches, etc., 

191 ; attempts to force Bank, 

222 ; invades Notre Dame des 

Vict. 233. 
Murat ; 124 ; 142 ; 144. 


Napoleon III. i ; 8 ; 9 ; 14 ; 16. 
Nast, 142 ; 144. 

Oudet ; Internationalist and Central 
Committee member, 25 ; signs 
C. C. manifesto, 31 ; dep. may. 
of arr. 54 ; signs placard, Jany. 
6th, 66 ; mbr. of Com. 143 ; 
145 ; 146 ; demands Tirard's 
arrest 153 ; Police Commiss. 
157; votes for Com. Pub. Saf. 
207 ; 320 ; wounded, 331 ; es- 
capes 352. 

Ostyn ; signs Com. Centr. affiche 91 ; 
mbr. of Com. 143 ; 145 ; Pub. 
Wks. and Food Commiss. 157 ; 
votes agnst Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 
signs minority declar. 227 ; 234 ; 
303 ; escapes 352. 

Parent, Hippolyte ; 331, 332. 
Parent, Ulysse ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 

144; first secretary 156; Ex. 

Aff. Commiss. 157; 158; resigns 

178 ; arrested and acquitted 35 1. 
Parisel, Dr. ; signs placard Jany. 

6th, 66 ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 

145 ; 146 ; Food Commiss. 157 ; 
head of Scient. Deleg. 186 ; 
votes for Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 
forms fus^ens 233 ; 234 ; malign 
purposes 266 ; escapes 352. 
Pelletan ; 20 ; 43 ; 46. 
Phillipe,(Fenouillat); invades Picpus 
convent 188 ; mbr. of Com. 193 ; 
votes for Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 
303 ; incendiarist, 314 ; 320; ex- 
ecuted, 350. 
Piat, 181 ; 343. 

Piazza ; promotes revolutionary at- 
tempt and is arrested 72 ; re- 
leased 87 ; shot, 300. 
Picard ; member of Gov. of Nat. Def. 
18 ; approves immediate elec- 
tions 43 ; sanctions the call to 
arms on 31 Octr. 48 ; repudiates 
the compromise 52 ; dissatisfied 
with Trochu, 65 ; reappointed 
Minister by Thiers, 79 ; 90 ; is- 
sues affiche <)i ; orders retention 
of H. de V. 113; 114; quits 
Paris 115 ; decl. accused by 
Com. 168 ; 184. 
Pillot ; participates in 31st Oct. af- 
fair 43 ; arrested, 52 ; released 
62 ; signs placard Jany. 6th, 66 ; 
mbr. of Com. 192 ; 193 ; votes 
for Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; arrested 
and sentenced 351. 
Pindy ; Internationalist and Central 
Committee member 25 ; signs 
C. C. manifesto 31 ; signs pla- 
card Jany. 6th, 66 ; active In- 
ternationalist 66; member of 
Comit^ Central 84 ; 89 ; signs 
C. C. affiche 91 ; enters H. de V. 
114; mbr. of Com. 142; 145 ; 
146; Milit. Commiss. 157; votes 
agnst. Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 

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signs minority declar. 227 ; 234 ; 
266 ; incendiarist, 295 ; 303 ; 
305 ; escapes, 352. 

Pothuau, Admiral ; 87 ; 168. 

Pettier; signs Central Committee 
manifesto, 31 ; mbr. of Com. 
192 ; 193 ; votes for Com. Pub. 
Saf. 207 ; 303 ; escapes, 352. 

Protot ; attends International Con- 
gress, 3 ; implicated in "Complot 
of Bombs " 8 ; negotiates with 
mayors 134-136 ; mbr. of Com. 
142 ; 145 ; Jud. Commiss. 157 ; 
162 ; visits Picpus 188 ; vote re 
April elections 192 ; 197 ; juries 
of accusation 199 ; 200 ; 207 ; 
234 ; 303 ; 320 ; escapes, 352. 

Prudhomme 105 ; 114. 

Puget ; signs placard Jany. 6th, 66 ; 
mbr. of Com. 143 ; 145 ; 146 ; 
Lab. and Com. Commiss. 157 ; 
escapes, 352. 

Pyat, F^ix ; journalist 34 ; an- 
nounces the fall of Metz 40 ; 
participates in 31st Oct affair 
43, 44 ; arrested, 52 ; released 
53 ; his journal suppressed — 
starts another 71 ; elected de- 
puty, 77 ; le Vengeur suspended 
95 ; 140 ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 
145 ; 154 ; Exec. Commiss. 157; 
prudent counsel 168 ; dissem. 
false rumour 171 ; seeks to leave 
Paris 178 ; signs decree for de- 
mol. of Vend. Col. 185 ; 193 ; 
resigns and withdraws resign. 
198, 199 ; votes for Com. Pub. 
Saf. 207 ; mbr. of same 208 ; 
dispute with Wrobleski 212 ; 
animus agnst. Rossel 217 ; ruse 
218; 229; anxious 264; escapes 

Ranc ; deputy d^issionnaire 89 
mbr. of Com. 142; 144; 154 
draws up proclamation, 156 
Jud. Commiss. 157 ; Ex. Aff. 
Commiss. 157; 158; resigns 
178; 351 ; escapes 352. 

Ranvier, Augustin, 285 ; 343. 

Ranvier, Gabriel ; signs Central Com- 
mittee manifesto 31 ; partici- 
pates in 31 Oct. affair, 43, 48» 
51 ; arrested, 52 ; elected mayor 
of 20th arr. 54 ; released on 
parole, Jany. 10, 96; 112; en- 
ters H. de V. 114; negotiates 
with mayors 136 ; signs agree- 
ment 137 ; mbr. of Com. 143 r 
145 ; 146 ; presides at inaugura; 
tion 151 ; Milit. Conmciiss. 157; 
177 ; vote re April elections 
192 ; Com. Contr. for War 198 ; 
accompanies freemasons, 203 ; 
votes for Com. Pub. Saf 207 ; 
mbr. of same 208; 218; 229^ 
Vend, col speech 230 ; 280 ; 
303 ; assassinates hostages 306, 
307 ; 320 ; orders shooting of 
hostages 329, 330 ; escapes 

Rastoul, Dr. ; mbr. of Com. 142 ; 
145 ; Pub. Wks. Commiss. 157 \ 
vote re April elections 192 ; votes 
agnst. Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; ar- 
rested and sentenced 351. 

R^g^re ; signs Central Committee 
manifesto 31 ; participates in 
31st Oct affair 43 ; warrant for 
arrest of 52 ; signs placard 
Jany. 6th, 66 ; 128 ; mbr. of 
Com. 142 ; 145 ; 146 ; Fm. Com- 
miss. 1 57 ; vote re April elec- 
tions 192 ; votes for Com. Pub. 

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Saf. 207 ; 216 ; arrested and 
sentenced 351. 

Rigault, Raoul ; self-installed at 
Prefecture, 26 ; signs Central 
Committee manifesto, 31 ; 47 ; 
dismissed fi-om Prefecture 53 ; 
demands accusation of Govt. 
76; 114; transacts Prefecture 
work 119; enters Prefecture 
125 ; arrests Bonjean 128 ; mbr. 
of Com. 142 ; 144 ; 145 ; queries 
his election 153 ; Police Com- 
miss. 157 ; prevents exodus, 160 ; 
162 ; foe to religion 163 ; ar- 
rests priests 163; suppresses 
journal 164 ; arrests Assi, 174 ; 
arrests Archbishop and others 
176; 177; 183; arrests Jecker 
187 ; 188 ; vote re April elec- 
tions 192 ; 196 ; 197 ; resigns 
office 199, 200 ; Public Prosecu- 
tor 201 ; 206 ; votes for Com. 
Pub. Saf. 207 ; arrests Blanchet 
213 ; 222 ; arrests Allix 223 ; 
232 ; 233 ; 234 ; arrests E. CM- 
ment, 237; 239; 240; 247; 
lives sumptuously, 265 ; 266 ; re- 
moves hostages 269-271, 284 ; 
shoots Chaudey and others 285, 
286 ; incendiarist, 299 ; 300 ; 
shot, 300, 301 ; 352. 

Robinet ; 142 ; 144 ; 157 ; 158 ; 178. 

Rochard ; 142 ; 144. 

Rochefort, Henri ; imprisoned 7 ; 
released and enters Gov. of Nat. 
Def. 19; 21 ; discontent there- 
with 24 ; 25 ; divulges informa- 
tion re Metz 40 ; action on 31st 
Oct. 44 ; resigns oflSce 53 ; starts 
U Mot d'Ordre 71 ; elected de- 
puty, 77 ; d^missionnaire, 89 ; le 
Mot tPOrdre suspended 95 ; de- 

mands demol. of statue 165 ; 
suggests perquisitions 187 ; 229 ; 
escapes and is arrested 240 ; 
sentenced 353. 

Rogeard 192, 193. 

Rossel, Louis Nath. ; arrest and 
release of 170; 181 ; 186; Presid. 
of Crt.-Mart 196; 197; 198; 
Delegate of War 205 ; obstacles 
to reforms 208; 210; his su- 
periority 211; 212; encroach- 
ments of Com. Centr. 213 ; his 
indignation 215; 216 ; resigns 
217 ; arrested 217, 218 ; escapes, 
220 ; 238 ; executed, 350. 


Saisset, Admiral ; experiences in- 
subordination 87 ; apptd. Com- 
mandant of Nat. Gds. 121 ; in 
dilemma 123; plan of action 
124; fails to obtain forces 127; 
130 ; 132 ; his proclamations 
^IZ\ 134 ; quits Paris 137. 

Sanglier, 120 ; 137. 

Serailler; Internationalist and Cen- 
tral Committee member 25 ; 
signs C. C. manifesto, 31 ; mbr. 
of Com. 192; 193; votes agnst. 
Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; signs 
minority declar. 227 ; 234 ; 303 ; 
escapes, 352. 

S^rizier ; precipitates deadly conflict 
70 ; arrested 70 ; released 96 ; 
protects Chanzy and Langourian 
120; plot to open gates 236; 
arrests Dominicans 239 ; 272 ; 
massacres Dominicans 310- 
312 ; incendiarist 311 ; executed 

Sicard ; signs placard Jany. 6th, 66 ; 
B B 

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mbr. of Com. 193 ; votes for 
Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 226 ; es- 
capes 352. 
Sigoyer, Marquis de ; 291 ; 316 ; 

Simon, Jules ; member of Gov. of 
Nat. Def. 20 ; disapproves im- 
mediate elections 43 ; held 
prisoner in H. de Ville 46 ; 
assents to compromise 50 ; re- 
appointed minister by Thiers, 

Soumain, General ; 74. 
Surat, Mgr. ; 176 ; 338- 

Tamisier, General ; held prisoner in 
H. de Ville 46; assents to 
compromise 50) departs with 
Blanqui 51 ; resigns office 53. 

Theisz ; Intemationalisft and Central 
Committee member 25 ; signs 
C. C. manifesto 31 ; signs pla- 
card Jany. 6lh, 66 ; active Inter- 
nationalist 66 ; 128 ; mbr. of 
Com. 142, 143; 145^, 146; Lab. 
and Com. Commiss. 1 57 ; re- 
organizes postal service 161 ; 
votes agnst. Com. Pub. Saf. 
207 ; elicits commendation 210 ; 
signs minority declar. 227 ; 234 ; 
303 ; escapes 352. 

Thiers, Adolphe ; declines oflfice 20 ; 
negotiates for armistice 41 ; fails 
to obtain it 5$; elected deputy 
n^ 78 ; Chief of Executive 
Power 78 ; appoints his minis- 
ters 79 ; signs peace prelimin- 
aries 85 ; %T \ reinforcements 
for Paris 91 ; attempts to retake 
cannons 97-101 ; abandons Paris 

III; 113; grants full powers to 
mayors 120; appts. Saisset Com. 
Nat Gds. 121 ; vague instruc- 
tions 123 ; refuses men to Saisset 
127 ; 129 ; repudiates elections 
and the agreement 141 ; 149; 
offers of assistance to, 160; with- 
draws postal service 161 ; 165 ; 
clinches the issue 166; dec!, 
accused by Com. 168 ; prudence 
175 ; declines to release Blanqai 
177 ; 180 ; 185 ; papers seized 
191 ; delays final conflict 193; 
visited by freemasons, 203; 
anticipates the end of war 211 ; 
Moulin Saqfuet despatch, 212 ; 
demands "eight days"; house 
demolished 221 ; 224 ; incredu- 
lous 244 ; 245 ; acclaimed by 
Nat. Ass. 272 ; prognostications 
278, 279. 

Thomas, General Client ; Com- 
mander-in-Chief of Nat Gds., 
53 ; 59 ; »i^ pursuit of Flourens, 
69 ; resigns 82 ; murdered 107- 

Tirard ; elected deputy ^^ ; consulted 
by Favre 92 ; obtains full powers 
from Thiers 120 ; organizes re- 
sistance to C. C. 121 ; mbr. of 
Com. 142 ; 144 ; resigns I54i 


Tolain, 77. 

Ttidon ; attends International Con- 
gress, 3 ; Internationalist leader 
25; signs Central Committee 
manifesto 31-; participates in 31st 
Oct affair 43 ; arrested, 52 ; re- 
leased 53; signs placard Jany. 
6th, 66 ; elected deputy il ; 
d^missionaire, 89 ; mbr. of Cool 
142; 145; 146; 154; Exec 

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Commiss. 157 ; assents to march 
on Versailles 168 ; Com. Contr. 
for War, 198 ; votes agnst. Com. 
Pub. Saf. 207 ; signs minority 
declar. 227 ; dies at Brussels 

Trinquet ; Internationalist and Central 
Committee member, 25 ; signs 
C. C. manifesto, 31 ; mbr. of 
Com. 193; Police Com. of Contr. 
200; votes for Com. Pub. Saf. 
207; 303; 319; arrested and 
sentenced 351. 

Trochu, General ; Governor of Paris 
II ; encounters Favre 17 ; Presi- 
dent of Gov. of Nat Def 20 ; 
21 ; 27 ; his forces 32 ; y] \ his 
"plan" 1% ; denounced 41 ; dis- 
approves immediate elections 
43 ; rescued from H. de Ville 
46 ; repudiates the compromise 
52 ; alters plan 58 ; sorties .59, 
61 ; condemned by people 64 ; 
supercession decided upon 65 ; 
declaration on Jany. 6, 66 ; com- 
mands sortie 66, 67 ; dismissed 
as Governor of Paris 67-. 


Urbain ; signs placard Jany, 6th, 66 ; 
mbr. of Com. 142 ; 145 ; 146 ; 
Educ. Commiss. 157 ; vote re 
April elections 192 ; votes for 
Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 226 ; de- 
mands exec, of hostages 234 ; 
24! ; misappropriates 265 ; con- 
demns four prisoners 268, 269 ; 
arrested and sentenced 351. 

Vaillant ; Internationalist and Cen- 

tral Committee member 25 ; 
signs C. C. manifesto, 31 ; signs 
placard, Jany. 6th, 66 ; National 
Guard officer 81 ; member of 
Comitd Central 84 ; 128 ; mbr. 
of Com. 142; 144; 145; 146; 
sinister article in Jour. Off. 1 50 ; 
first assessor 156; Exec. Com- 
miss. 1 57 ; assents to march on 
Versailles, 168 ; vote re April 
elections 192 ; 197 ; votes for 
Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; escapes 

Vall^s, Jules; signs Central Com- 
mittee manifesto, 31 ; 34 ; war- 
rant for arrest of 52 ; signs 
placard Jany. 6th, 66 ; Cri du 
Peitple suspended 95 ; 140 ; 
mbr. of Com. 143 ; 145 ; 146 ; 
"draws up proclamation 1 56 ; 
Educ. Commiss. 157; violent 
journalism 187 ; vote re April 
elections, 192 ; votes agnst Com. 
Pub. Saf. 207 ; signs minority 
declar. 227 ; significant phrase 
233 ; 234 ; 303 ; 320 ; escapes, 

Varlin ; assists in founding Inter- 
national Assocn. 2 ; acquaint- 
ance with Cluseret, 6 ; Central 
Committee member 25 ; signs 
C. C. nuinifesto, 3I ; influences 
International 66 ; demonstrates 
before H. de V. 69 ; 77 ; mem- 
ber of Comit^ Central 84 ; signs 
placard 88; 89; signs affiche 
'91 ; organizes federates ^04 ; 
joins Bergeret 1 1 1 ; signs C. C. 
documents 118, 119; delegate 
to Finances 119$ visits mayors 
\2\ \ mission to Bank 127 ; 
suggest requisition orders 132 ; 

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mbr. of Com. 142, 143 ; 145 ; 
146; Fin. Commiss. 157; 189; 
vote re April elections 192 ; 
votes agnst. Com. Pub. Saf. 
207 ; his probity 210 ; complains 
of Com. Centr. 216 ; 220 ; signs 
minority declar. 227 ; 265 ; 303 ; 
320; tries to prevent Haxo 
massacre 331 ; is shot, 341, 342^ 

Vedel, Preau de, 286 ; 350. 

Verdure ; active Internationalist 66 ; 
mbr. of Com. 142 ; 145 ; Educ. 
Commiss. 157 ; vote re April 
elections 192 ; votes for Com. 
Pub. Saf. 207 ; 303 ; arrested 
and sentenced 351. 

Verig ; 271 ; 306-308 ; 319 ; 341. 

Vermesch ; Le Plre DuchSne sus- 
pended 95 ; 140 ; causes arrest 
of Chaudey 187. 

Vermorel ; amnestied 23 ; 34 ; par- 
ticipates in 31st Octr. affair 43, 
45 ; arrested 52 ; released, Zj ; 
mbr. of Com. 143 ; 145 ; 146 ; 
Jud. Commiss. 157; 161 ; Exec. 
Com. 174 ; vote re April elec- 
tions 192; Pyat*s resignation 
198, 199 ; votes agnst. Com. 
Pub. Saf. 207; signs minority 
declar. 227 ; journal suppressed 
232; 234; 274; 279; 303; 
fatally wounded, 318, 319. 

V^sinier ; journalist, arrested 52 ; 
elected deputy jy \ released on 
parole prior thereto, 96; mbr. 
of Com. 192 ; 193 ; votes for 

Com. Pub. Sa£ 207 ; 248 ; es- 
capes, 352. 

Veysset, Georges ; 223 ; 246, 247 ; 

Viard ; signs placard Jany. 6th, 66 ; 
member of Comitd Central 84 ; 
signs placard, 88 ; del^ate to 
Com. F^. Rdp. 90 ; signs C. C. 
affiche 91 ; arrested 105 ; re- 
leased 114; signs C. C. pro- 
clamation 119; mbr. of Com. 
193 ; Head of Food dcpt 197 ; 
votes for Com. Pub. Saf. 207 ; 
303 ; 306 ; escapes 352. 

Victor Noir affair 7. 

Vinoy, General ; 59 ; 66, 67 ; Com- 
mander-in-Chief of army in 
Paris 68 ; suppresses two news- 
papers and doses clubs 71 ; 
altercation with ministers 74 ; 
79 ; disarms soldiers 80 ; Com- 
mander-in-Chief of Nat. Gds. 
€uL interim 82 ; sends troops 
to quell disorder 85 ; prepares 
Paris for German occupation 
85 ; 87 ; suppresses six news- 
papers, 95 ; troops in Paris 99 ; 
seizes cannons, 100 ; withdraws 
from Montmartre 105, and from 
Paris III, 113; secures reoccu- 
pation of fort Mt Val^rien 122 ; 
attacks federate position 166 ; 
shoots Duval and others 175 ; 
185 ; 249. 


Wroblcski ; dispute with Pyat 212 ; 

Butler & Tanner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London. 

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